Industry Spotlight: Hustle 101

Ain’t nothing janky about the promoters these young filmmakers are documenting. The hottest college parties in the country go down in the ATL—right in the heart of Atlanta University Center—and these aren’t your normal weekend benders. College students from across the country travel to Atlanta each year to get down and busy, and students as […]

Ain’t nothing janky about the promoters these young filmmakers are documenting. The hottest college parties in the country go down in the ATL—right in the heart of Atlanta University Center—and these aren’t your normal weekend benders. College students from across the country travel to Atlanta each year to get down and busy, and students as young as 19 are making bank. Twenty-two-year-old Donte Murry and 19-year-old Michael Cooke, directors of the underground “reality movie” Hustle 101, expose the inner workings of college party promotions and competitive culture promotion teams have created in Atlanta. Respect their How did you guys come up with the idea for the movie?Donte Murry: What I thought in the beginning was a unique opportunity to put something on film that’s never been captured before. To see 18/19-year-olds making so much money and they’re throwing like $3,000 off the stage in a night that just really intrigued me. And I figured that in our culture that would intrigue other people. The deeper I got into it, the more I wanted to know, film more and show people. Originally we wanted it to be a reality show, I was actually talking to some producers at BET and they couldn’t really get a visual of what we were saying. So long story short, instead of waiting on somebody, we took matters into our own hands and came up with this film. And we just knew we could get it out there one way or another. Party promotions happen in cities all across the country. What is your movie, Hustle 101, showing us that we’ve never seen before or don’t know about?Murry: Well, Atlanta’s really unique in the sense that our movie isn’t just about party promotions, it’s about college party promotions. Really there’s nowhere else like it because in Atlanta you’ve got a little over 100,000 college students. What makes Atlanta really unique is that three or four years ago they raised up entry ages to get into a lot these clubs to the age of 21 and up. So, all these older promoters completely gave up on the college game. So that’s why in the past four years, you had college students coming in taking over this huge market and making like $30,000 in a night. I haven’t seen anybody coming close to what these kids are making in Atlanta right now. There’s a real interesting thing that comes about when you have a 21-year-old wearing a $10,000 chain on his neck and he has 50 people under him that will do anything to wear his shirt and be on his team. Do you see a parallel between these promotion teams and gang culture?Michael Cooke: This at its core is a positive. We didn’t have to put a spin on it. These pretty much African-American people in this party promoter scene are making money legally, and they’re making a lot of it. We in no way associate it with gang culture. We associate it more with the lifestyle of fraternities, how you want to be part of something.Murry: To answer your question, no. It’s kind of a very complex film when you get into it. I would say yes in the sense of the excessive attachment to materialism and being flashy and that drawing people in. Not necessarily the violence that can go along with gang culture, but the camaraderie that you see – how they would do anything to be part of that team. Murry: Right. It reminds of me a lot of the music game and the entertainment industry. Seeing how people would do anything because that’s the way they want to be and that’s what you see with a lot of these party promotion teams. They snatch up these freshmen right when they come in and these freshmen will do anything. Because [imagine] you’re coming out to school in Atlanta and you’re from South Carolina and you see a guy that’s two years older than [you] who throws about $3,000 a night. Who throws out money you can’t make in a whole semester, you say, “Man, I wanna be that,” so you’re gonna do anything it takes to become that. “I’ll do whatever, I’ll do anything” – the length some of these kids will go to be on some of these teams is just These teams are like celebrity entourages, so what do you think it is that attracts these kids to the celebrity?Cooke: You’re in a college and, basically, all these people you have an association with them whether you have class with them or you see them three or four times a day just walking around on the promenade. Now these people know your face like, “Wait, you’re the dude that threw that party… wait, you’re the guy that’s always up on stage…wait, you’re the one who had the chain,” and all these people start following you and relate that back to celebrity. It’s almost like immediate gratification because your fans are right there. They compliment you on a daily basis, they give you props on a daily basis because these are the people you see – it’s pretty much like being with your fans 24/7.Murry: I intern for DJ Drama in Atlanta and I’ve seen more artists come in and out of that office than the average person, and instead I’ve seen these students be more groupie-ish with these party promoters than I’ve seen with some of these artists. It’s instant gratification, it’s all of those things you see on TV – money, flashy cars, jewelry, but it’s right in front of you so you wanna get close to Why do you think these college party promotions are so popular on black college campuses?Cooke: Well, look at America as a whole, take the way all colleges, not necessarily black colleges, are built in general. Atlanta is … you have Spelman, Morehouse, Clark, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Emory, a little out further you have UGA, you’ve got Bauder College, you’ve got all these colleges and they’re so close together. The fact of the matter is I’ve seen white party promoters; I’ve seen party promoters of other races it’s just predominately the way the AUC is made up of mostly African-American and minorities, that’s where the party promoters, the majority of them, are coming from. Murry: I think that another real big distinction [that] it comes down to is [the] swag. To be a good party promoter you’re whole business is based off of drawing people to you. That’s why people wear jewelry, that’s why people throw out money, that’s why they all have 40 girls around who will do anything that you ask them to do because it’s all about image. I think that’s something at black colleges and black people as a whole, I mean, we gravitate already towards people who are like that. I think it’s just a natural extension on all collegiate campuses. I think it really just comes down to that whole swag factor, though. Speaking of women, what role do these females usually play on these promotion teams?Murry: One girl we covered is a girl who just joined a big promotions team in Atlanta called Hit Squad. She was just absolutely smitten, but she just couldn’t put it into words for us. We were like, “Why are you joining this team?” And she was like, “Well, you know, they give so much money, and they making so many moves.” And we were like, “Are you making money?” And she say, “No, but I will.” At the end of the film she quits the teams. And she says something that’s so provocative; it was symbolic of a lot things that we were trying to show in the film. She goes, “You know what I’m done with it, but I’m sure they’ll find somebody just like me.” And she’s right, they just found 40 new girls. And once she found out her real role and the purpose that she served, she was gone. It’s interesting to see her throughout the film take that descent though. Beyond the partying part of it, are these promoters doing other things to help their communities and customers?Murry: We had one team they did something real admirable. They threw one event and took all of the money and sent it AIDS Awareness in Africa. That was Sky High. We get e-mails all the time from people saying that was so admirable. You’ve got someone in this culture that says they realize that they’re reach is so big, “Why am I not going to use it? Instead of throwing $3,000 off stage, why won’t I take all this money and send it to people who could really use it.” What are you two working on for the future?Cooke: I’m a filmmaker and photographer. Currently, I’m working the Raw Report right now that’s a DVD Hip-Hop magazine. We’re doing a couple of music videos. I do their music videos; I do their photo shoots. I’m just keeping it moving trying to get to the next step. Using Hustle 101 as a platform to launch myself from and both me and D still have projects we’re working on together. And D’s probably doing something spectacularly amazing right now. Murry: Our thing is we’re ready to take over the game all up on a whole new scale. We figure if we can do this on a $1,000 budget, then projects and movies we have coming out in the future [are] only gonna be up on another level. We’ve got a lot of ideas that we just want to get out to the public and hopefully, they’ll eat it up the same way they did with Hustle 101. Learn more and purchase Hustle 101 at