All Def Digital, the Russell Simmons-founded hip-hop, comedy and culture media company that ceased operations and laid off its staff this summer after running out of money, is getting a rebirth of sorts.
All Def’s assets, including its intellectual property, content library and social-media channels, have been acquired by Culture Genesis, a Santa Monica-based digital studio and tech startup focused on “remixing technology for authentic urban culture and entertainment.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Culture Genesis was founded in February 2018 by former Apple biz-dev exec Cedric Rogers and Shaun Newsum, an alum of Vevo and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). Investors include rapper-actor-entrepreneur T.I. “Tip” Harris; Jason Geter, founder of Grand Hustle Records, which is T.I.’s label; NBA All-Star Baron Davis; and venture-capital firms Betaworks and Mucker Capital.
Culture Genesis plans to reboot All Def shows like “Dad Jokes,” “Great Taste,” “Arts & Raps” and “Traffic Jams,” while infusing new programming into the brand, including a visual series of T.I.’s “ExpediTIously” podcast. “We’ve been filming that and archiving it since the beginning [of the podcast], to find the right partner for the video series,” said Harris.
Rogers said the plan is to combine the interactive platform developed by Culture Genesis with All Def’s programming, with a new All Def app in the works. The new programming will be monetized via ads and sponsorships, with select originals available on a pay-per-view basis. Culture Genesis also hopes to sell shows to subscription streaming platforms or TV networks.
“Our company was founded on bringing out experiences that would be live and interactive — something the audience has never seen before,” Rogers said. He said the market for urban and multicultural remains underserved: “We believe we can really deliver value to the audience. We have so much green space in front of us.”
Culture Genesis’ first project was “TriviaMob,” an HQ Trivia-style show with questions specific to hip-hop culture that let players win cash prizes. Then the company had inked a pact with All Def for an interactive version of All Def’s “Bar Exam” show, in which up-and-coming artists guess the performer of a song based on a few bars of music.
Pictured (l. to r.): Jason Geter, T.I., Shaun Newsum, Cedric J. Rogers. Photo courtesy of Culture Genesis
Midway through Culture Genesis’ “Bar Exam” project, All Def entered into an “assignment for the benefit of creditors” (aka ABC) restructuring. The asset sale was handled by accounting and consulting firm Armanino. “The process was not just financial,” Rogers said. “It also was who they felt would be a good owner for the brand.”
While All Def’s employees aren’t part of Culture Genesis’ acquisition, Rogers said his company was already working with some All Def talent, including comedians KevOnStage (Kevin Fredericks) and DoBoy (Anthony Belcher Jr.). “For us, bringing back All Def is not that difficult,” said Rogers.
Geter said that the big opportunity with All Def from his perspective was getting “an engaged, relevant audience right away.” Harris added that the deal will provide a new outlet for original content built around music and other areas: “I believe as creators of content, we always have ideas in the pipeline.” (T.I. sparked controversy after he said on a podcast last month that he has taken his teenage daughter to the gynecologist yearly to make sure her hymen was “still intact”; health organizations have noted there’s no such test to verify virginity.)
Founded in 2013 by Simmons, All Def Digital began as a YouTube network in partnership with DreamWorks Animation’s AwesomenessTV and delivered content across multiple internet platforms while also developing original programming for distributors including HBO and Facebook.
After its restructuring this summer, All Def Digital’s previous leadership moved on to new roles: former CEO Chris Blackwell is now senior VP of creative content and development at Republic Records. Simmons, who stepped away from his involvement with All Def Digital in 2017 following sexual-assault allegations against him, is now president of Gushcloud International, a digital talent agency based in Singapore.
Rogers declined to reveal how much funding Culture Genesis has raised. According to Crunchbase, the startup has received $400,000 in funding.
All Def had raised about $18 million from investors including WPP Ventures, Allen DeBevoise’s Third Wave Digital Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Nu Horizons Investments, Greycroft, e.ventures and Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital.