Actor and rapper LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells brand has raised $8 million in a Series A funding round.
Investors in the round, led by Raine Ventures, include venture capital firm M13, Willoughby Capital Holdings (the family office of billionaire Daniel Och), and Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang.
Among the other investors are Paul Rosenberg, the CEO of Shady Records, and NBA icon turned savvy tech investor Andre Iguodala. Rock The Bells’ current investors include leading music industry entrepreneur Irving Azoff, billionaire Mark Cuban, Egon Durban Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., actor Chris O’Donnell, Greg Maffei, and Piedmont Capital Partners.
The company, founded in 2018 as an online store for Hip-Hop culture and merchandise, has grown into a multimedia brand. The money raised will be used to further invest in its direct-to-consumer business, particularly in the areas of content, commerce, and consumer experiences.
Named after a track from LL Cool J’s 1985 debut album Radio, Rock The Bells is led by former BET executive James Cuthbert, who joined the company earlier this year.
The cash injection will also be used to build an executive team to serve alongside Cuthbert.
In a statement announcing the funding round co-founder and CEO, LL Cool J said: “It’s an honor to be supported by such a distinguished group of investors. This funding will help us accelerate our growth and team-building efforts to make sure we can further uplift the people and culture at the forefront of Hip-Hop through exciting e-commerce collaborations, storytelling, and experiences.”
Alongside the funding round, the company said that Raine Ventures managing partner Gordon Rubenstein, LL Cool J Inc. COO Claudine Joseph, and Thai Randolph, president, and COO of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud, will join its board.
The money raised for Rock The Bells follows news earlier this year that LL Cool J is now investing in crypto startups.
The rapper and entrepreneur is part of a high-profile roster of limited partners backing North Island Ventures’ newly revealed $72 million VC fund.
Founded by Glenn Hutchins, co-founder of $39 billion private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, Hutchins’ son James Hutchins and former Digital Currency Group investor Travis Scher, has been quietly making VC investments in crypto and blockchain projects since early last year.
Among LL Cool J’s first ventures as a tech entrepreneur was his company Boomdizzle. In 2012 it launched its flagship product, My Connect Studio, described as a Google Docs for music. It allowed artists and producers to digitally record, edit and produce music in real-time, even if they were thousands of miles apart.
Main Image: LL Cool J, Austin City Limits 2016 (photo credit: Jenn Kriscunas