Meet the Black Angeleno Entrepreneurs Featured in Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z's New Video

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Meet the Black Angeleno Entrepreneurs Featured in Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z's New Video

"I am Black ambition, I am always whisperin'," begins the new Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z collaboration, "Entrepreneur."

The song, released on Thursday to coincide with a Time magazine cover package on "The New American Revolution," is a tribute to the Black entrepreneurs across the world who push on in the face of systematic disadvantages.

Williams and Jay-Z, both entrepreneurs and investors themselves, use the video to highlight Black founders and their hustle from Adé Neff, owner of Ride On in Leimert Park, to Denise Woodward, the founder of Partake Food, which Jay-Z's Marcy Venture Partners help lead a $1 million investment.

"They keep telling me I will not," the lyrics continue. "But my will won't listen."

Directed by L.A.-based Calmatic, who produced Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" video as well as commercials for companies like Uber and Sprite, the video spotlights several Los Angeles startups, founders and entrepreneurs that have created opportunities and upended typical media narratives of Black men and women.

There's actress Issa Rae, who filmed her first web series on the streets of L.A. and is "literally building her empire on those same blocks."

There's Debbie Allen, the founder of Tribe Midwifery that provides home births for Black women, who are more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. There's the Compton Cowboys, whose South L.A. group mentors youth and rescues horses. There's Six Sev, a Los Angeles artist, designer and entrepreneur. And there's also a tribute to slain rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, who spent his investment dollars in South Los Angeles.

Then there's Sole Folks, the South L.A. retail incubator for young designers, part of accelerator Grid110's South L.A. 2020 cohort. The outfit offers a program for young designers and artists in nearby communities and operates under the nonprofit Back Owned and Operated Community Land Trust. It runs a 12-week program for millennial entrepreneurs to source, brand and launch their own designs at pop-up shows.

The music video comes amid a push to create more capital for Black-owned businesses in the wake of the George Floyd protests that forced a conversation on longstanding inequities.

Black Americans make up nearly 13% of the U.S. population, but account for only 3% of its wealth. There are only three Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, and just 1% of venture-funded startup founders are Black.

The song and its chorus, "Black Man, Black Man," is a call for more ownership and in turn more wealth creation.

The over five-minute video gives a panorama view of Black entrepreneurs around the world and those who excel in their field with captioned clips of their stories: Princeton's first Black valedictorian, creators of the first Black anime studio in Japan, a woman who started her own line of household cleaning products and a Broadway star who bought the plantation where his ancestors were once enslaved.

Adé Neff, whose bike shop Ride On opened in 2017, walked by the "Entrepreneur" filming crew two weeks ago, right after they finished shooting the clip of Sole Folks next door.

"How come I'm not in the video?," he said to the crew.

That's all it took.

Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.

"Well you're right, let's do it," they told him. "It was right on time," Neff reflected, "because they hadn't put away their equipment."

Neff didn't know whose project it was, or even when the video would be released. He asked anyway. "A closed mouth doesn't get fed," he quipped. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.

On Thursday, a friend sent Neff the clip. In the video, he raises his right fist above his head just like the store's logo behind him. "I was just being me," he told dot.LA. The gesture is a nod to the Black Power movement.

Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.

His friends are still texting him about it. In Leimert Park, people who know Neff's shop stop him on the street saying "I saw you in the video."

"It looks like it's getting a lot of talk behind it. It's doing its thing," Neff said. "It's letting people know that we're out here, we're doing stuff. We don't have to wait for anyone to come to us. We're out here doing it."

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups
March Capital founder Jamie Montgomery. Illustration by Dilara Mundy.

Santa Monica-based venture outfit March Capital announced Feb. 3 that it raised its largest fund to date, a $650 million investment vehicle that will be used to back up to 15 startups focused on delivering new uses of artificial intelligence.

Read moreShow less

The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

When launching and running a startup, your board of directors is one of your most valuable assets. If you already understand why you need a board and how to structure your board, it may be tempting to think you can cross that item off the list. But building a board is just the beginning. Now you’ve got to get down to business—together.

Read moreShow less

This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M
This Week in ‘Raises’:

While it was a slow week of funding in Los Angeles, security vendor Saviynt managed to score $205 million that will be used to meet the company’s growing demand for its converged identity platform and accelerate innovation.

Read moreShow less