Astoic Management is best known for their work with one of the most popular video games to date: NBA2K.
With Ronnie2K as their client, co-founders Lonnie Anthony and Rob Martin III have found their niche in providing creative direction to a number of rappers and celebrities in the game.
J. Balvin, Lil Pump, Migos, Nav, Fabolous, Travis Scott, and are among the many artists who rely on Astoic’s expertise.
With a background in fashion, they were able to merge the worlds of entertainment, art, and gaming, bringing in notable figures such as Jerry Lorenzo of Fear of God, Rhuigi of Rhude, Don C of Just Don, and Tracey Mills of Visitor On Earth. While the relationships are noteworthy in itself, it’s important to highlight their relentless work ethic and the grind it takes to secure plays within the industry.
Last year, both Lonnie and Rob spent 6 months locking in Offset’s deal with Caffeine, featuring iconic episodes of gaming with various professional athletes, where the loser has to eat something outlandish.
On the cusp of unveiling an upcoming partnership with New Era, they are striving to transform Astoic Management into one of the top agencies in the world.
AllHipHop caught up with Lonnie and Rob to discuss how they first came together, what they did with Ronnie2K as a client, their relationship with Offset, and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and more!
AllHipHop: You guys met in elementary school, playing basketball. What were those early days like?
Lonnie: We actually have been friends since the 3rd grade. We grew up in a small town called Paso Robles where we played high school basketball together. From there I went to Cal State Northridge where I played D1 basketball and Rob briefly attended fashion school in Downtown LA. During my college days, I was more interested in buying sneakers and customizing them to resell on eBay and to my teammates. Originally, we always talked about doing fashion, which we did for 2 years starting in 2016. Then we transitioned into day to day management, where we saw there was a niche for our knowledge in the gaming space, as well as fashion and tech. A lot of the artists weren’t monetizing in other industries besides music, so we leveraged the knowledge we acquired over the years in the gaming space to really help these different artists capitalize on other industries. Now we are a full scale talent agency.
Rob: Ronnie2K was our first client, we helped him monetize his brand. We did creative direction for him as an entity, as well as all of his social media channels. We also did a lot of consulting for the NBA2K video game and franchise as a whole.
AllHipHop: How did you guys meet Ronnie2K?
Rob: Ronnie is one of our best friends, we actually met in Vegas in 2014. We ran into him, we both had tables next to each other at OMNIA. We exchanged numbers, kept in touch. He knew we did fashion, he was always interested in that. We ended up moving to LA. He was in the Bay Area, but always back and forth to LA. We started styling him, that grew organically into social media curation and management. We started consulting NBA2K as a whole: who to implement in the game, which artists to scan, etc.
Lonnie: Ronnie asked us to help monetize himself as a sole entity, as an influencer. Build out his brand away from 2K. He wanted to learn more about fashion, become fashionable, and grow out his relationships within that space with different rappers and athletes. He had us help consult in cultural integration, because he couldn’t keep up with who the best new rappers were or who really played 2K. Once they saw the feedback on how much the community loved having the different artists scanned in, they wanted to take it a step further and begin integrating fashion brands. That’s when we suggested using Jerry Lorenzo to start, because of his partnership with Nike. Building on that, we began integrating some of our friends such as Tracey Mills with his brand Visitor On Earth, Rhuigi of Rhude, and Chaz Jordan of IhNomUhNit.
AllHipHop: How did you know these people?
Rob: From being fashion designers and doing luxury backpacks. We did a partnership with the NBA and NBPA back in 2018, where we had a luxury pop-up shop at the London in West Hollywood. Over the course of 4 days, we sold out of all our products.
Lonnie: We built a lot of relationships during those fashion years. We met a lot of people through different parties and networking in LA. In the fashion world, designers tend to stick together and pick each other’s brains on where fashion is going and upcoming trends.
AllHipHop: How did you guys get so good in the gaming world?
Rob: We were gamers back in the day. I used to play Halo professionally.
Lonnie: I played Gears of War and was ranked in the top 30 NBA2K players in the world.
Rob: We’re pretty known in the community because we used to build rosters. Back in the day, 2K didn’t have the ability to create All-Time team rosters. Lonnie and I would create all the different players from those eras, even NBA players who weren’t already in the game. We’d upload it for other people to download and get millions of downloads. Eventually they saw how much of a want it was in the community. Down the road, they ended up implementing it.
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AllHipHop: What does it mean to lock in the deal with Offset and Caffeine?
Rob: With any partnership we do, our main goal is to really create a moment. We really wanted to make sure the vision Offset had was to be executed correctly, to connect with his audience in a way that’s never been done before. We did a streaming deal where fans can watch him play and see how good he actually is at the game. But his biggest thing was to also show people that a lot of artists use gaming as an outlet, because they struggle with the same things everybody else does. Mental health is an important thing he likes to talk about due to the fact he actually lost a gaming friend to suicide. These kids may not be the best athletes, they might get bullied in school, but when it comes to gaming, it’s all inclusive. Everybody can game. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life, it allows you to escape.
Lonnie: That’s really what it’s all about. Creating an outlet where everybody can come together no matter what. When you’re gaming, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do offline. You could be playing with Kevin Durant and you don’t even know it’s him, because he’s playing under his random gamer tag. It’s a different community where people can do what they love and be who they want to be without judgement. It’s relieving to not have to worry about the stressors of the outside world, or what people might think of them in reality.
AllHipHop: Why did it take 6 months to lock in?
Lonnie: The show aspect. We executive produced Bet With Set, creating a show where Offset can bring on different friends and bet with them while competing on different gaming titles. Offset had different guests like Dez Bryant (former Dallas Cowboy) and Mike Williams (Los Angeles Charger) come on and play popular titles such as NBA2K, Mortal Kombat, and Madden. While the viewers were watching, the fans were able to choose what the bet was. For that episode, the loser had to eat a Sandwich of Doom with different things that the fans could choose from: octopus, cow tongue…
Rob: Chocolate syrup, hot sauce, soggy bread. It was crazy.
Lonnie: It allowed the fans to really feel involved, as well being entertained at the same time. The fans chat, Offset can see it and respond. It gives a whole different fan engagement, that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get elsewhere. Similar to going to a concert and then a meet & greet, it’s a totally different experiment and level of engagement. That’s what took so long. We had to make sure the vision we all had collectively was executed perfectly.
AllHipHop: All that’s on Caffeine’s platform?
Lonnie: Yeah, that was actually our debut episode. We also did a live episode on Miami Beach during Super Bowl Weekend, where we created a full-on carnival and had 30 foot billboards all over Ocean Drive. We had the Migos, Slim Jxmmi, Machine Gun Kelly, and Ric Flair playing carnival games in front of a live audience with random people walking down Ocean Drive and spectating. We’ve done some crazy things.
AllHipHop: What are your greatest memories from the shoots?
Rob: The pure joy of seeing something we talked about collectively for so long finally manifest. Really seeing the feedback and the way the community interacts with it. That’s the greatest feeling. Seeing their reaction and giving them the ability to feel closer to one of their favorite artists.
Lonnie: When somebody as big as Offset lowers that shield, you get to see how regular he truly is. There’s one episode where he takes off his jewelry and puts his arm up to his shoulder in a bucket of cow eyeballs. Most people would be like what!? It’s being able to show people that artists are regular human beings like everybody else.
AllHipHop: Talk about the New Era deal and what that means to Offset.
Rob: It means a lot with everything going on in the world currently with the Black Lives Matter movement. As a culture, we’re the most unified we’ve been in a long time. The things Set went through, growing up in Atlanta and being a part of the neighborhood, tieing in that it’s always been for the culture. How can we continue to push the culture forward? That’s always been the message for Offset. With his charity work and foundations, he’s always been really big on being a positive role model. Being a father and holding down the household. There’s a stigma in the black culture that we don’t necessarily have fathers. He really prides himself on the fact that this isn’t true and there actually are really good fathers. That’s why he did the album the way he did it.
Lonnie: The main thing is to highlight the history of black excellence in Atlanta and the Braves as well. Back in the day Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record and he received death threats because of it. To Offset, this collaboration really shows people that anything is possible. He really came from the Northside of Atlanta and has been through a lot throughout the course of his life. Your setbacks never define you, they help you grow into a better person. It’s crazy to be able to see where he’s been to where he is now in 2020. He’s one of the biggest artists in the entire world and he’s doing a partnership with the MLB and his hometown Atlanta Braves. It’s insane.
AllHipHop: You guys have made 7 figures off your company. What does that mean to be strong black males in the industry?
Rob: It’s always something we’ve worked towards. A lot of artists and people in different industries have set the tone. Jay Z and Diddy showed us that it’s attainable and possible. We always talk about being another example of that.
Lonnie: Super blessed! We talk about it all of the time. A lot of people don’t know the sacrifices we have had to make along our journey. It’s all been worth it though. No matter where you come from, where you start or how small your hometown is, it’s possible to make an impact. It may not be right away but trust in your gift and it will make room for you. If you have a purpose, you’re working hard and staying focused, anything is possible. You never know what can transpire. Looking back on our journey, we’re extremely grateful.
AllHipHop: What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
Rob: Consume yourself in it and find out what your strengths are. You don’t have to be good at everything, but there is always a way to provide value. Figuring out how you can solve a problem for people is the key. The money is just a product of that. So many agencies don’t necessarily care about the talent, but we pride ourselves on checking in with them mentally, their goals, and what their vision is for themselves. We just execute.
Lonnie: If you have a dream, don’t tell anybody what that dream is. They will tell you it’s crazy…because it is crazy. You have to be crazy to change the world. Put your head down and work because you never know when the next blessing is coming around the corner. One day we woke up and thought it was a regular Monday. We didn’t know we’d be representing Offset a day later as a client.