By Mary Worrell
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that most people want to be number one in something. They want to lead a successful company or team, own their own business, and be a leader. But behind all great leaders and cultural influencers are behind-the-scenes advisors and friends. No one’s an island.
Rasheed Young is happy to play second fiddle to his bosses and friends Rev Run and Russell Simmons. “Man B” as he likes to call himself. The almost-40-year-old New York native will proudly rattle off comparisons of himself to TV butlers like “Benson” or Geoffrey from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
“I’m president of Run Athletics, but I like to leave that title alone because I’m such a renaissance man. I like to call myself a consigliere,” Young said. “I’m the man behind the bosses.”
It’s this willingness to serve and work where needed without a clear reward in sight that brought Young from the streets of Hollis Queens in New York City, looking for the next big rap act, to an office alongside some of the biggest names in hip-hop history.
While Young hadn’t yet found his passion, he went to Jamaica College to try and find it. He started out majoring in accounting, but was a terrible mathematics student. “My biggest game was talking my way through things,” he said. “All my friends were musicians at that moment and all I could do was wait for the next tour or party.”
His college career came to a halt Dec. 12, 1992. “That was when I woke up. My mother was murdered,” Young said.
Without a father and having just lost his mother, Young was in a daze of grief. “I was looking at the coffin and saying ‘I need to finish college for my mother,’” he said. “I have to grow up.”
For nearly five years Young tried to overcome his grief and finish college with a degree in-hand. “I was no long interested in finding rap’s new act. I just wanted to graduate. Period,” he said.
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He switched from the math struggles of his accounting major to marketing and worked a number of office jobs, including a brief stint as a junior accountant for Time Warner. “Here was this black kid not knowing what he’s doing,” he recalled. “I talked my way into so many jobs and places and charmed my way into situations. The bosses loved me. They wanted me around.”
But Young quickly realized the mundane nature of corporate culture wasn’t for him. With one last paycheck on the way, he packed his bags and picked up a ticket to the Dominican Republic where he stayed for a month before heading to Miami for six more months. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going or why, but he just felt the need to leave the city.
A friend eventually convinced Young to drive back to New York with him. Soon after returning to New York, a friend asked Young to join a clothing company venture that would utilize the musicians and rappers in Young’s network to wear and market the business. The company, Cash is King, launched in 1998.
The business did well, but Young knew it needed a big name behind it to be anything more than a small-time venture.
“Artists at the time were figuring out they were good ambassadors for brands and I knew I needed the power of somebody big behind CIK,” he said. “That group, for me, was Run-D.M.C.”
A bit of serendipity would bring Young and Rev Run together and start their long-time, mentor-friend business partnership. Young read a magazine article featuring rappers and their houses and realized the house where Rev Run and his wife lived was right around the corner. Young wrote a long letter to Rev Run begging Run-D.M.C. to back the clothing line.
“I sent it overnight by Fed-Ex, knowing he would open it,” he said. “The story goes Rev threw it in the garbage, but his wife Justine told him God was telling her to call this kid back. The next day I got a voicemail from Rev Run.”
Young gathered the courage to call Rev Run back and pitched his Cash is King business and tossed out the idea for Run Athletics, which seemingly came out of nowhere in the meeting. “That’s when I knew God was involved,” he said. That idea would soon make it onto the desk of Run’s brother Russell Simmons.
Apprenticeship with Russell Simmons
Young expressed interest in one day becoming a president within Russell Simmons’ (Rev Run’s brother) company, and so Russell instructed him to sit with company presidents, learn all he could about the business, and pay attention.
And so Young did sit and learn for over a year. He began working alongside Marcie Corbett, President of Rush Communications in September of 2001 and worked primarily on Phat Farm Footwear.
Young remembers the day clearly when he finally got to sign paperwork for his new office and new position at Run Athletics. “It was the best day of my life,” Young said. “I told Russell ‘I’ve been working for you for a year and three months and I haven’t gotten paid a nickel.’” Apparently, Young said, Russell had no idea the eager entrepreneur had been coming to work with no pay and so he had the accounting office strike Young a hefty check.
“It was so big it made my head spin,” Young said. “I always went to work, never thinking about what I didn’t have at that moment. I knew there was a pay off at the end.” Young used the money to buy a car, an engagement ring for his now wife, and move them into an apartment in the city.
“We found a place in Castle Village. I saw Laurence Fishburne outside the building and knew this must be the right neighborhood,” he said. “It wasn’t what I was used to. It felt like a step up.” Each day now starts with Young cooking breakfast for his two young boys and taking them to school, getting his daily call from Rev Run for bits of wisdom, and walking into his office at Run Athletics.
“I’ve acquired a lot more wisdom from Rev than I could have gotten from anyone. His first lesson is to sit down and shut up,” Young said. “I have the will to do more, but sometimes God wants a man to be still and stand. I’m still a student every day.”
And so he continues to work tirelessly, not daring to rest on his laurels after securing the presidency and office he told Russell Simmons he wanted years ago. Although Rasheed’s face is recognizable from his television appearances on Run’s House, where he’s often seen consulting Angela and Vanessa Simmons’ on their Pastry venture for Run Athletics, he still tells people he works in the mailroom when asked what he does for the company.
“I always had great intentions and I always knew you were rewarded somehow, whether big or small,” he said. “There’s a method to my madness. It’s the characteristic that built me.”