Mike Tyson wants a piece of your ear

With a new Def Jam-affiliated record label, Tyson is trying to kick Suge Knight's ass

Published April 8, 1999 9:03AM (EDT)

Mike Tyson would like a little piece of your ear and a chunk of your wallet. The prizefighter, still jailed for a 1998 assault, announced Tuesday that he is partnering with hip-hop moguls Def Jam to create a new vanity record label for himself.

Tyson joins several other jocks who have made forays into the new convergence of sports and entertainment. Magic Johnson owns a record label and a management company, as well as movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas runs a label called Undeniable Entertainment. And so far no one has figured out how to pry Shaquille O'Neal, whose rap skills match his crappy free-throw shooting, away from the mike stand.

The Tyson approach looks different from the Magic Johnson method. Johnson entered into music at the top, securing contracts with successful acts like Boyz II Men and Mase, at least on the management level. Tyson, at least initially, is attempting to break unknowns. According to the New York Daily News, Tyson Records has signed deals with both Doni, who is supposedly a Brandy-Monica knockoff, and a teenage "crooner" named Centell.

The question is whether the name recognition will pay off. Sports Business Journal Editor John Genzale thinks it can. "The value of the sports stars name becomes a value in itself, and that's a fairly new phenomenon," he says. "The name in itself can be used to create wealth."

Not to mention image: Back in the heyday of gangster rap, Death Row's Suge Knight spent years developing a reputation as a street tough who wasn't afraid to kick ass or threaten physical violence to push a business deal through. Tyson, after all the heavyweight belts, assault convictions and prison terms, is already a thug's thug. Not to mention, he's probably learned a thing or two about unorthodox business practices from a real master: Don King. Call it a hard-knock life.

By Jeff Stark

Jeff Stark is the associate editor of Salon Arts and Entertainment.

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