AJ and SJ Jackson are not your typical brothers. Not only are they identical twins, but they are businessmen who are seeking to make a difference in young artists’ lives with their website, The College Of Hip Hop (TheCollegeOfHipHop.org).
I crossed paths with the twins because I own a domain name/website that has a similar name (CollegeHipHop.com).
We felt each other out to make sure we were on the same page in terms of working to differentiate our brands in the marketplace, while peacefully co-existing together. We even coming up with some ideas to work together in the future.
Once we figured that out, I took a little time to get to know the brothers. Not only do they have a cool product, their past is just as interesting as well.
While their brand may be relatively, new, AJ and SJ Jackson are no strangers to Hip-Hop.
The Jackson brothers grew up without their parents involved in their lives, and started getting into serious trouble together by the age of 10, which landed them a stint in juvenile prison.
But thanks to Hip-Hop, the brothers evolved into young men with outstanding work ethics, despite the absence of any parental figures in their lives throughout their formative years.
The Jackson's hustled for years as members of the underground rap group "Identical," a group that was influenced by Esham, Eazy-E and Ice Cube, which landed on the cover of Murder Dog’s 18th Anniversary Edition.
But AJ and SJ wanted something more, and after earning Associate Degrees, they decided to quit rap and develop something that aspiring artists could use as a utility and gain knowledge from.
So, the brothers set about coming up with a solution they felt would address the market’s needs. After authoring their first book “10 Steps to profit from your Passion.”
AJ and SJ Jackson have set their sights on conquering the app world, with the launch of their latest offering, The College of Hip Hop App (TCOHH.org).
The brothers are aiming to turn their app into a one stop source for entertainment education and teaching new artists the business skills they will need in an ever-evolving industry.
The app teaches users seeking knowledge about the intricacies of the business with a number of tools for learning about copyrights, publishing, working with ASCAP and BMI, setting budgets and more.
AllHipHop.com: Where are you guys from?
SJ: We are from a place called Inkster, Michigan. We are 20 minutes out of Detroit. The thing about Inkster is, the group The Marvelettes, who had the song "Please Mr. Postman,” a black billionaire named Don Barden is from there, we got Tyrone Wheatley who is from Inkster Michigan and Olympic gold-medallist Earl Jones, so Inkster has put out a lot of good talent.
AllHipHop.com: So what was it like growing up in the area? In school and particular for you guys?
SJ: We grew up with not your typical “rough story.” We've been on our own since we were 14 years old. We had to be responsible at such an early age.
AllHipHop.com: Why were you guys on your own at such an early age?
SJ: Conflict in the home, my mom wasn't doing well physically, and we were a handful. We were two twin boys. By the time we were 10-years-old, we were rapping and catching cases.
AllHipHop.com: What? Catching cases at 10?
SJ: The first case we ever caught was together, when we were in third grade. And it was for felonious assault. I had a knife, and I pulled it out on somebody.
AllHipHop.com: Where was your father through all of this?
SJ: My father was a drug addict, so he was in the streets and my mother had got sick, it was just us to do whatever we wanted. We had guidance, but we were looking up to the older guys that were 14, 15, and emulating them, and that's how we grew up, around older guys.
By the time we touch high school, were living on our own, paying our own bills, and there were no curfew and there were no "no's.”
AllHipHop.com: Wow, this doesn't fit the image I had of Inkster after hearing all of the names that came from the city, but tell me a little more about the city.
AJ: There are two projects in a two-mile radius of each other. It's middle to low-income. Our city exists because of The Ford Motor Company. The CEO, they didn't want the black people and the whites to go to school together. There's a city in Michigan called Allen Park. The white people who worked at Ford Motor Company, they moved to Allen Park, So there two schools to go to. The Black people that were coming from Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, they migrated to Inkster and their kids went to Inkster schools. That's why we (the city) even exists. So the Black people and the white people’s children would not integrate at school.
AllHipHop.com: So what did you go through catching a case at the age of 10?
SJ: Go to juvenile court, and you sit in front of like a magistrate. It's really just the kitty jail. Instead of sending us to juvenile, we were on probation for a little while. We walked that down, got off probation. The thing about my brother and I, is that we were super smart, but were never the ones to play with. You got to think, we are identical twins. So anytime anybody ever came to fight us, they would need at least four people, anytime anything ever happened, it always had to be a multitude of people, to deal with us for the simple fact that I was born with my best friend. So our reputation has started to grow, we were running with the big boys, we were rapping, we were getting in trouble, but when you see us, we were these two little dudes.
That's all we knew. But now that we have kids, we have conversations like, “there's no way I would want my 10-year-old doing that.” But at the same time, there's no way I would change some of the things that happened to us in our life, because that's what made us who we are and that's what gave us our grind.
AllHipHop.com: In high school, you had your own jobs and your own apartment so you were funding your own lives?
AJ: Yes, in high school we had a four bedroom home, so it was weird for us to hear people say things like "I have got to ask my mom." And then they come over our house and people really couldn't believe it. I remember when I was a senior in high school, my English teacher still lived at home with her parents. And I didn't live at home with mine.
But we worked hard, and had jobs. We were never drug dealers. Seeing what crack did to my father, no matter how much money, we were on the other side of that.
We were not above doing anything, and we can work with our hands thanks to my grandfather and so no matter how much money, we were on the other side of that.
AllHipHop.com: So did you guys actually go to college?
SJ: Yes but after high school, We didn't go directly to college. I have an Associates Degree in information technology and technical writing, and AJ has an Associates Degree in business, in addition to a little studying for secondary education.
But we didn't go straight to college after high school, we went to the community college which everybody knows is like "13th grade."
AllHipHop.com: So how did you guys create this app/brand?
SJ: We were rappers. The name of our group was "More Identical." We had been going to all of these music conferences for years. It was the beginning of the Ohio Hip-Hop Awards week. We were staying and watching everybody perform and checking out the panels.
But when the panelists came to talk about the actual business, all the rappers always leave. Doesn't matter where it's at, or who is throwing it [the conference]. We were driving back, and we decided we didn't want to rap anymore. We wanted to push the culture forward.
On our neighborhood, we were the guys people came to about information on BMI, and ASCAP and publishing. We were the guys to come to get if you had an independent deal on on the table, we might help you write your contract. One Christmas, my dad asked us "What do y'all want?" I told him we wanted these two books, The Koran and "This Business Of Music” by M. William Krasilovsky and Sidney Shemel.
AJ: Once we decided we weren't going to rap anymore, we started working on TheCollegeOfHipHop.org (TCOHH.org). Before we released the app, it was a subscription-based site. But people weren't gravitating towards it. So we released a book in 2015, titled "10 Steps to Profit From Your Passion." The app was the gradual evolution.
AllHipHop.com: So what is the concept of the app?
AJ: The app contains weekly information, as well as a section for seminars. So you can listen to audio seminars, just plug it up and listen. So right now we have free information on copyright laws, BMI, ASCAP, encoding, and business tax ID’s.
There's also a resource guide. The guide takes you to all of the forms that you need. The basic concept of TCOHH.org’s app is to be a one stop shop for entertainment education.
AllHipHop.com: What can people gain by downloading the app? Is it free? If they have to pay with you they get it if they pay for it?
AJ: It's free. And what you gain from the app is knowledge. When you deal with an artist, their favorite go to line is "my manager does that." We cannot understand why someone is in a business and they are not educated on that business.
SJ: I can't go to a doctor if he's not been educated. This business has all kinds of hard stories. You know the big thing is "you get f##ked on your first deal." You never really hear other people say that. So we said, “the only reason you got f##ked is because you don't know your worth and you don't know your worth because you're not educating yourself.” So we are going to educate you on these things.
I hate when people say the rap "game." That's why you're getting the results you're getting, because you're treating it as the rap “game.” No, it's the entertainment business.