By Opportunity Zone Magazine Staff
Rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris and radio host Charlamagne Tha God paid tribute to fallen rapper Nipsey Hussle on Capitol Hill this month while promoting efforts to draw OZ dollars to black communities around the country.
“Everybody knows that Nipsey was pretty much the founder of the idea to bring everyone together,” T.I. told lawmakers. “For us to come together, we can impact so, so many more communities and spread our efforts so much wider.”
Around the country, entertainers and fund managers are joining forces to promote the OZ program. Hussle’s former business partner, David Gross, is working with T.I., Charlamagne, and Minnesota Timberwolves athletes Derrick Rose and Luol Deng to spearhead a new OZ venture called the Our Opportunity fund.
Before Hussle’s death, Gross had already inked their first OZ deal, paying around $2 million to acquire a Los Angeles strip mall where the pair planned to build a commercial and residential space.
“This is the quintessential Opportunity Zone investment,” says Gross. “The law is supposed to support ground-up entrepreneurship, giving opportunities and jobs to all communities and improving the neighborhood.”
Now Gross and his partners plan further investments in about 10 cities, using celebrity partners to create momentum for their projects.
On the East Coast, MPAC Solutions founder Michael Anderson, who raps under the name President, is taking a similar approach as he raises $200 million for an initial round of OZ investments focusing on New Jersey, New York, Georgia and North Carolina.
Anderson frequently uses album tours and musical events to create awareness of OZ opportunities in distressed communities.
“I play my album, people relax, and we demonstrate our strategy,” he explains.
Celebrities can help deliver community buy-in, but that goes both ways: a real commitment to community is the key to securing celebrity partnerships, Anderson says.
“One of the reasons why athletes and entertainers talk to us is because we’re genuine,” he says. “We don’t just talk about investment and impact — we bring the rich to the poor, and vice versa.”
The OZ program represents a chance to transform communities, and celebrities can help turbo-charge that process, both empowering and revitalizing communities, Anderson argues.
“If we can take the energy of hip hop and apply that to a niche concept like Opportunity Zones, that’s how we can make the collective consciousness aware of this transfer of resources,” he says.