How a Domain Name Registry Company Is Elevating the Hip Hop Community and Culture

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Beyond its focus on .HipHop domain names and website addresses, Dot Hip Hop is honing in on IP ownership, empowering artists, and uplifting the community via financial literacy.

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Photo Credit: Dot Hip Hop

Dot Hip Hop is a domain name registry with a seemingly simple tech proposition. But beyond its focus on .HipHop domain names and website addresses, Dot Hip Hop is honing in on IP ownership, empowering artists, and uplifting the community via financial literacy.

On its surface, Dot Hip Hop has a simple business model. The company facilitates the ownership of .HipHop domain names and website addresses for artists, labels, or anyone tied into the hip hop community or culture of hip hop. Dig a bit deeper, however, and this is a company that’s all about advancing hip hop culture and empowering its creators.

“There’s a lot to the story of our dedication to the community and the culture,” Managing Director Monte Cahn told Digital Music News, who noted that .HipHop domain names offer an opportunity to gain greater ownership over musical creativity. “We’re trying to re-educate people about the importance of having your own intellectual property, your own identity, utilizing it properly, and being able to monetize it.”

Cahn also points out how most people wrongly believe that they own intellectual property rights simply because they’re using Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter to post their content. “These platforms own everything that you do and say. You can be cut off and deleted and even hacked by others while using these platforms,” Cahn explains.

According to company CMO Scott Pruitt, “Artists with a .HipHop domain name gain a digital identity that aligns with hip hop.”

Speaking about the history of hip hop artists in general, Cahn highlighted how artists’ ownership was compromised by the original contracts signed with agents and record labels. “That’s what we’re about, giving ownership rights back to the hip hop community and culture. For artists, DJs, MCs, a record label, or even somebody that loves hip hop,” Cahn added. Just recently, Dot Hip Hop joined forces with DMN to accelerate their mission.

Ajene Watson, also a Managing Director of Dot Hip Hop, relayed that the company is aiming to elevate hip hop culture in three ways: provide ownership via equity, promote economic opportunity via financial literacy, and redistribute wealth through a corporate community investment program.

“We are creating an environment where the culture can own equity in Dot Hip Hop, LLC — the registry that holds the license to operate the .HipHop extension. Secondly, we’re promoting financial literacy and economic opportunity by teaching the community about digital real estate — researching, analyzing, buying, developing, and selling these domain names,” Watson explains.

Watson also highlighted how the third, equally important goal of wealth redistribution ties into what the company is doing, adding, “A portion of our revenue actually goes to the endeavors of the culture — whether it’s money going into financial initiatives like the Biz Markie’s Just A Friend Foundation, ‘For The Culture Fund’ by Beats, Rhymes & Relief, even diabetes associations, retirement funds for hip hop’s founders, and other actions that uplift the community, like education, et cetera.”

Watson further states how Dot Hip Hop is focused on continually developing this model and ‘anticipate that funds will ultimately go into a trust, and then be dispersed appropriately.’

“We’ve built this into our business process to ensure that the community is fed by their own efforts, and every registration increases community value and opportunity,” Watson concludes.

Pruitt believes many hip hop artists don’t fully grasp the concept of top-level domains, or the extent to which they allow artists to strengthen their brands.

“What’s on the right side of the ‘dot’ can actually relate to what’s on the left side of the ‘dot’ and that makes for a much better brand,” Pruitt explained.

Comparing .HipHop with other domains and domain extensions, Pruitt points out a notable distinction, saying, “.HipHop is an open extension so anybody can go and register a .HipHop domain name, but others may come with a few restrictions. You might have to provide articles of incorporation or fill out Nexus forms to attest that you’re a legitimate music business, or work within a specific industry.”

Pruitt also highlighted that the domain .HipHop is capable of representing a global community that isn’t limited to just music, but can also include dance, graffiti art, contemporary art, gaming, sports, fashion, attitude, general business, and a way of life.

“Hip hop is everyday life, and .HipHop can represent a global community of over 1 billion people, whereas most other internet extensions don’t represent any specific identity or inclination.”

It’s not everyday that branding decisions and domain name extensions are mentioned in the same sentence, but Pruitt sees an untapped connection. “This is a more meaningful domain. It gives everyone an opportunity to match what they represent — hip hop. The address will allow people to automatically make the hip hop association.”

Pruitt says Dot Hip Hop also aims to tackle the animosity that can exist between different rappers, camps, and groups. The company is also dedicated to supporting hip hop-related charities.

“We want to be the catalyst that brings people within the hip hop community together. We want to help encourage a camaraderie so they can start to lay aside all the beef and disagreements. With a .HipHop domain, they’re not saying that they’re East Coast or West Coast. They’re not saying that they’re Bronx or Queens, it’s their hip hop,” Pruitt claims.

An illustration of The Notorious B.I.G. at the Gracie Mansion, where the mayor of New York hosted a reception to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop. Sponsored by Dot Hip Hop.

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An illustration of The Notorious B.I.G. at the Gracie Mansion, where the mayor of New York hosted a reception to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop. Sponsored by Dot Hip Hop.

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An illustration of The Notorious B.I.G. at the Gracie Mansion, where the mayor of New York hosted a reception to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop (Photo Credit: Dot Hip Hop)

As part of the company’s mission, Dot Hip Hop aims to support charities ‘to help out people in the inner city.’ Pruitt says this ideology is built into the core philosophy of their business, adding, “We’re here to help strengthen the hip hop community and its founders and the people who really made hip hop happen.”

On August 11th, the Mayor of New York hosted a breakfast reception at Gracie Mansion to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of hip hop. The event was sponsored by Dot Hip Hop.

New York City mayor Eric Adams flanked by hip hop luminaries at the Gracie Mansion event (photo: City of New York).

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New York City mayor Eric Adams flanked by hip hop luminaries at the Gracie Mansion event (photo: City of New York).

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New York City mayor Eric Adams flanked by hip hop luminaries at the Gracie Mansion event (Photo: City of New York).

At Gracie Mansion, Mayor Eric Adams spoke passionately about how the last 50 years have changed the cultural landscape. “Hip hop was more than just music. It changed the attitude. From block parties to carrying crates of records, to music in the park, to having to draw your own flyers, to doing the $5 event, the $3 cups, to trying to be able to make your music real and having to deal with some of the contracts. Look at it 50 years later, and the mayor of the most powerful city on the globe is a hip hop mayor.”

Guests at Gracie Mansion included Sha-Rock, Kool Herc, Kool DJ Red Alert, Ralph McDaniels, and many others. As part of their tie-in, Dot Hip Hop gave .HipHop domain names to major hip hop artists that were being honored at the event.

Alongside several other celebratory events throughout August, Dot Hip Hop also sponsored Beats, Rhymes & Relief for a three-day event called The Battle Royale at Times Square on August 13-15th. Beats, Rhymes & Relief For The Culture Fund is a charity organization that utilizes the arts to raise awareness and support for global humanitarian relief projects.

Pruitt explains that the event featured a competition amongst various pillars of hip hop — beatboxing, DJing, MCing, graffiti artists, and breakdancing — adding, “It was the first time ever that the city of New York had a hip-hop-related event right in Times Square.”

Dot Hip Hop also sponsored Beats, Rhymes & Relief for a three-day event called The Battle Royale at Times Square.

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Dot Hip Hop also sponsored Beats, Rhymes & Relief for a three-day event called The Battle Royale at Times Square.

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Dot Hip Hop also sponsored Beats, Rhymes & Relief for a three-day event called The Battle Royale at Times Square (Photo: Dot Hip Hop)

Watson highlighted Dot Hip Hop’s plans to collaborate with schools to bring financial literacy and education to teenage students and their parents. “We spoke with an NYC police captain and have committed to doing this at least twice a month for this school year, all across the city,” Watson relayed, further adding that education, awareness, and financial literacy will help diminish crime.

“We’re getting a lot of opportunities to provide support. Not just with money, but with social support in the community,” stated Watson.

As a result of that ambition, Dot Hip Hop sponsored the GOAT Classic event on August 19th, featuring a basketball clinic for kids ‘to give back to the community with basketball games and music.’ Moreover, the domain registry company has aligned with the Biz Markie’s Just A Friend Foundation to sponsor the Pencils and Dreams school supply drive.

“We're getting a lot of opportunities to provide support. Not just with money, but with social support in the community,” stated Watson from Dot Hip Hop.

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“We're getting a lot of opportunities to provide support. Not just with money, but with social support in the community,” stated Watson from Dot Hip Hop.

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“We’re getting a lot of opportunities to provide support. Not just with money, but with social support in the community,” stated Watson. (Photo: Dot Hip Hop)

The company has also joined and offered support to other organizations such as the Hip Hop Alliance, headed by Kurtis Blow in collaboration with Chuck D, KRS-One, and other hip hop legends. Pruitt says the Hip Hop Alliance support is part of broader efforts by Dot Hip Hop to establish social benefit programs such as healthcare plans for some of the original hip hop artists that were misrepresented by record companies — with some still not owning their intellectual property.

At the end of the day, Dot Hip Hop is all about community, associations and partnerships, monetization, and seizing control over IP.

Focusing on that aspect, Pruitt recalled how Cahn, ‘a near-thirty-year domaining industry vet,’ reshaped the domain name game in the 90s. Cahn purchased and sold domain names — in a manner similar to physical real estate investing.

Cahn participated in the first million-dollar domain name sale by reselling wallstreet.com for $1.03 million. Later that same year, Cahn sold autos.com for $2.2 million. These historic sales positioned Cahn as a key figure in the early multi-billion-dollar industry involving the buying, brokering, auctioning, and sale of domain names.

Pruitt explains why a similar opportunity might be up for grabs again, and why this aftermarket for .HipHop domain names exists. “Every domain name is a unique piece of property. It’s digital real-estate driven by scarcity and value.”

To prevent potential squatters from registering artists’ names, Dot Hip Hop has reserved tens of thousands of .HipHop domain names to protect established hip hop artists, songs, and labels from profit-seeking flippers.

Jeff Neuman, Chief Operating and Legal Officer of Dot Hip Hop, says, “We want the person who buys the domain name to actually be the one using it, and have the right to profit from it.”

Neuman — like Cahn — has also been involved in the domain name industry since its early beginnings. Neuman used the domain name system to safeguard brand owners’ intellectual property rights. Dot Hip Hop also relayed that most of the intellectual property enforcement mechanisms used by brands today against domain name owners ‘were either created by Neuman directly, or through working groups that he either led or actively participated in.’

Neuman says, “We want .HipHop to grow responsibly.”

Pruitt added, “When .com came along, there was essentially a land grab and now around 200 million .com names are registered — and buying and selling .com domain names is a multi-million dollar business. Right now, .HipHop has just under 2,000 registrations.”

With an eye on the evolving future of domain names, art, branding, and the live music performance arena, Pruitt reveals that the company has launched Web2 and Web3 integrations.

“When someone registers their domain name in .HipHop, they also gain the functionality of Web3 without having to use a third-party website address,” Pruitt explains, adding, “You’ll be able to mint and create NFTs right from our website. Put in your .HipHop address and claim the blockchain or Web3 version of it.”

Hip hop artists that are keen to be early adopters of the .HipHop domain extension can register at www.Get.HipHop. Besides securing the domain as digital real estate, artists can personalize their website, create custom email addresses, and even set up a cryptocurrency wallet address through the new Web2 to Web3 bridge interface.

Most ICANN-accredited registrars now carry .HipHop domains. Now, the big opportunity is to broaden awareness of an asset that may become threaded into the future global footprint of hip hop culture.