Hero: Lyor Cohen

The Music Man

If you have ears and a soul, chances are you already love most of the music Hero: Lyor Cohen has helped bring to life, from hip hop legends like Run-DMC, Jay-Z, Kanye West to the masters of other genres, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mariah Carey, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash and Slayer, just to name a few. As one of the greatest American music industry executives that ever lived, Cohen has been breaking the rules and shaping the music industry for decades, running major labels like Def Jam, Rush, Warner Music Group and his current brainchild, 300 Entertainment.

Cohen says he learned the basics of the music business from Jam Master Jay, and he would go on to broker Run-DMC’s endorsement deal with Adidas (the very first of its kind for a rap group), with similar deals for LL Cool J and Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince to follow. So basically, Cohen paved the way for Beyonce’s $50 million Pepsi deal and all those delicious Super Bowl performances. Thanks, Lyor!

The California-born entrepreneur was also the first to broker deals with Youtube and Spotify, no easy task in the tumultuous and ever-changing business landscape that has thrown music and technology into bed together.

Recently, Cohen told “The Guardian UK” that in addition to Jam Master Jay, his biggest formative influences were Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, and if he’s remembered at all, he wants to be remembered for protecting his artists. When asked how he feels about having a rich life in music, Cohen exclaimed that it was, “Glorious! Amazing! I pinch myself until I’m bruised.” Respect.