‘NBA 2K20’ Soundtrack Needs YOU: Steve Stoute Will Add 10 Songs from Unsigned Artists

What does the mogul want to hear? ‘Bars. I want bars.’

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Steve Stoute (right) speaks at ComplexCon’s “How NBA 2K Is Cultivating What’s Next in Culture” panel on July 20. / Eddie Quinones for ONE37pm

When you want worlds to collide, you call Steve Stoute to hammer out the differences until they look like they belonged together in the first place. He helped get Jay-Z a sneaker deal with Reebok in 2003 when deals like that were almost exclusively for athletes soaring above the rim in the NBA. Now, the 49-year-old mega mogul and innovator is looking to pair the successful NBA 2K gaming franchise with new recording artists. 

On July 20 at this year’s ComplexCon, NBA 2K revealed the 50-track soundtrack for the upcoming NBA 2K20 game. The star-studded album features a range of artists—such as Billboard chart titans Drake and Ariana Grande, burgeoning artists J.I.D and Nav, as well as the late Nipsey Hussle. But for the first time, as part of the soundtrack reveal, Stoute’s UnitedMasters company is partnering with 2K on a worldwide search for ten songs from unsigned artists to be added to the game’s already stellar soundtrack. 

Stoute spoke with ONE37pm before he appeared on ComplexCon’s “How NBA 2K Is Cultivating What’s Next in Culture” panel to discuss what a song has to have for him to want to it on the 2K20 soundtrack and how hip-hop and games have always been hand in hand.

For the search, artists will be able to submit their tracks on the UnitedMasters app and have their songs judged by Stoute, members of the 2K team and a celebrity panel of judges. Artists can start submitting records to the iOS app starting August 1. Stoute’s expressed aim for the new app is to “give artists a record label in their pocket.”

The ten best tracks will be selected over time, and the 2K team will “keep putting in new songs throughout the season.” If you’re an artist thinking you’re going to catch Stoute’s attention with vocal tricks and catchy hooks, you might want to go back into the studio. 

“Bars. I want bars. I want it to feel right,” Stoute said.

The soundtrack for the basketball video game behemoth is nearly as anticipated as the ratings of the players. Jay-Z, Travis Scott and Pharrell Williams are just a few of the hip-hop artists who have dedicated time curating playlists for these games because music can be discovered wherever there are attentive ears. 

“I’ve been working on this [partnership] for the last six months,” Stoute said. “I have a couple of things I’ve been working on. We believe newer artists deserve to get their music out there in many different ways. The NBA is one of them. NBA 2K is another one.”

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The audience at the “How NBA2K Is Cultivating What’s Next in Culture” panel. / Eddie Quinones for ONE37pm

Stoute has been involved in the music industry since NBA Jam was considered cutting-edge, and the NBA 2K soundtrack has already solidified its place as a cultural hub for discovering new music. “I’ve heard songs [on NBA 2K] first many, many, many times throughout my life,” Stoute said. ”It’s a way to help break artists and get artists’ music to people who have never heard of them before.” Stoute can’t remember a time when hip-hop and video games weren’t both in his life: “In 1982, I was 12. That year I started buying hip-hop tapes and I got an Atari 2600.”

Exposure is the main draw for the unsigned artists selected for a game franchise closing in on 90 million games sold, including 1.23 million sold in the first week for NBA 2K20’s predecessor—NBA 2K19— last year. Stoute has a history of turning that sort of exposure into a launchpad for future stars.

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Steve Stoute surprises NLE Choppa with a platinum plaque for his song “Shotta Flow.” / Eddie Quinones for ONE37pm

Stoute created UnitedMasters to disrupt the music industry by helping artists become successful without a record label. He credits the company with breaking new artists Lil Tecca, Tobe Nwigwe and NLE Choppa. Tecca’s “Ransom” music video has racked up more than 48 million views since May. Choppa and Nwigwe each have songs on the NBA 2K20 soundtrack.

Choppa believed in Stoute and UnitedMaster’s potential for star minting so much that the 16-year-old rapper turned down a $3 million record deal in February to partner with the company. Less than half a year later, Choppa was surprised with a platinum plaque for his song “Shotta Flow” onstage at ComplexCon from Stoute himself. 

“I think we are the talk of the industry when it comes to independent artists,” Stoute proclaimed.

You can indulge in the NBA 2K20 soundtrack now on Spotify. The game is set to hit shelves on September 6, a month before the 2019-2020 NBA season commences. 

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Read Next: Steve Stoute’s Startup Teams Up with NBA to Turn Artists into Champs

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