REAL GANGSTERS MOVE IN SILENCE, AND BROTHERS CHAKA ZULU AND JEFF DIXON HAVE QUIETLY AMASSED A MINI ENTERTAIN MENT EMPIRE TO BE RECKONED WITH WORDS BY ALLEN WOOD5
Ebony Son Entertainment, along with its record label arm, Disturbing Tha Peace, is easily one of Hip Hop’s most successful companies to debut in recent memory. But brothers and Ebony Son co founders Chaka Zulu and Jeff Dixon are quick to point out that records are only one component of their evolving empire, which also includes management, marketing, consulting and film production companies. The entertainment moguls and go getters have already churned out multi plat inum plaques for Ludacris and Chingy as well as a gold DTP album. But sit down with Chaka and Jeff and you’ll realize that they’re far from satisfied.
“We study the Ice Cubes and Jon Singletons,” says Chaka, who also serves as vice president of Def Jam South and co CEO of DTP. “We’re producing films. Next is franchising major businesses in different cities. We’re doing an independent A&R company where any label can bring us a project, so we’re helping other people make hits.” Both native New Yorkers, the siblings were exposed to the music industry before birth. Grand Puba of Brand Nubian is their cousin, they are related to the (Tupac) Shakur family, and their mother sang back up for renowned South African performer Miriam Makeba. “ Miriam’s the one that told my mother she had to name me Chaka Zulu,” Chaka recalls. “My stepfather played saxophone for Gil Scott Heron. I was on the road with Gil, Kool and the Gang, Sun Ra. And I grew up across the street from Red Alert in Harlem.”
By the time Chaka majored in marketing at Clark Atlanta University, his older brother was deciding whether he wanted to remain corporate at Xerox or tackle the entertainment field. Opting for the latter, Dixon interned under former Def Jam President Lyor Cohen and at Ruff Ryders, where he soaked up everything in his path.
“You gotta watch anything that you get into, see where things are going right and going wrong and where you can make it better,” says Dixon, who also serves as vice president of DTP.
Having already worked with Heavy D, done independent marketing for EA Sports and Sprite, and scored early endorsement deals with Tommy Hilfiger and Puba, Dixon had struck a chord. And after Chaka graduated from college, he quickly became the man in Atlanta. He was hired as music programmer for the city’s new Hip Hop station, Hot 97.5, where he would bump into Ludacris, who had already founded DTP and was trying to get his demo played. The two decided to put their creative minds and companies together. “We’re blessed to have artists that understand our motto,” Dixon explains. “We just work hard. We’re hustlers.” With Chaka already locking down Atlanta, it was only a matter of time before he hooked up again with Jeff, who was already well known in New York’s industry circles.
In the four years since Ludacris debuted with the hit single “What’s Your Fantasy?,” the hard work has paid off. With offices in both New York and Atlanta, DTP is looking to become a major label entity along the lines of what LaFace used to be to the South. Along with DTP Films, they’ve even started a rock imprint, DTP Rocks. “We want to be along the lines of those classic boutique labels, like Def Jam, Motown and LaFace, that grew into something major,” says Chaka. “We wanna make DTP a worldwide brand.”
“Anybody can get money,” adds Jeff. “We’re trying to establish wealth. We’re gonna stay motivated until we can get to a level past Russell Simmons. It’s scary!”