Robert Houston II, aka Black Pegasus, achieved success as a rapper when he was still in his teens. By age 23, after placing second in a rap battle in Cincinnati, he had forged a solid national presence in the hip-hop world.
Today, at 38, he still performs, but he also is an entrepreneur who owns several profitable businesses, including BKG Promotions, Mount Olympus Studio and Brass Knuckle Entertainment — and he aims to expand his hip-hop empire in the future.
Houston was born into a military family stationed in Germany and moved to the Springs when he was 10. He grew up listening to a variety of music, from the classic R&B his black father loved, to the Christian music and Latin tunes that reflected his mother’s heritage, and started mimicking the hip-hop and rap videos he saw on MTV at 13.
After attending Mitchell High School, he worked in a variety of entry-level jobs, including positions at Independent Records, Casa Bonita (a furniture store) and “every telemarketing company under the sun.”
Since 2003, though, Houston has supported himself entirely through music. He’s recorded 10 studio albums, two mix tapes, a couple of collaborations and 25 music videos.
You’ve been based in Colorado Springs for a long time. What keeps you here?
Originally it was just that I was stubborn, and I kind of based it off the concept with hip-hop that we haven’t struck oil or gold yet. So that’s the concept — when we strike oil, I want to be one of the first people involved. And the other thing is, I have this real competitive stubbornness and when people told me, ‘You need to move to L.A., you’re really very talented,’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m talented here too.’
The third one would be family. Being in a military family, we traveled everywhere, and this was the first place I called home.
You started out writing and performing, and now you own several businesses. Talk about the businesses you run.
The most lucrative business is my concert promotion company. I don’t own a venue, but most of the people I work with own venues. I’m kind of a freelance contractor. We buy shows; I rent the venue, whether in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Denver and Grand Junction, or I co-promote with the venue owners and we throw concerts.
And you also have a studio?
I started the studio; we’re getting close to three years. Because of my schedule touring, I wasn’t able to get in the studio as much. So at first I was like, I need to build a studio where I can go whenever. Then when I found some engineers who would record me, because I’m not a tech guy, I just thought, why don’t we just open this up to the public and keep things moving.
Do you primarily work with hip-hop artists?
At the moment, yes. We’d like to expand, and we have the equipment to expand, but also with my niche, it’s like I’ve created something where I work with a lot of hip-hop shows, and we’re creating services for artists. Out of the studio we also have a photography company.
Right now, I outsource video production, but with the capital we have, we’re working on creating a video production company, so it’s like it’s a one-stop shop for services in this technologically driven era. You have to have something to offer they can’t get, which I look at as quality, but also you have to get in the price range of the economy. So we’ve created some things and found some people with talent and we’re able to work with artists that have a different type of budget.
And then there’s the business of you.
I would say the recording studio, my concert promotion company, me as an artist, because I still make earnings as an artist touring and headlining my own concerts. Then my publishing company, which I publish myself and a few local artists. After that, it’s really the marketing. So, like me marketing myself and other local artists, that’s something in itself as well.
How did you learn what you needed to do to get to where you are now?
Honestly, if it was one word, probably failure. My business acumen came from failing as an artist. I remember those shows where you have your album release party and five people show up. And that night you cry because you put so much into the music. I didn’t know I was learning from these guys, but listening to people like Jay Z, they’re throwing these little keys in their songs. It almost is in your subconscious, and you start realizing, ‘Hey, I’ve got to put things together.’ For me it was just trial and error. I’d start creating these formulas that I didn’t even realize were formulas, and they just started to work.
The other thing was the simplicity of being a broke, starving artist. I was a starving artist from 2003 till about 2008 or 2009. Once I started promoting concerts, I was like, ‘I’m not just getting by, I can actually make money,’ and something just clicked. Would I love to just be on a tour bus, catered to, eating great food, showing up, a thousand people singing my lyrics? Of course. But out of necessity, survival and failure, I was forced to evolve.
What do you see as the next level for your career and your enterprises?
So I really peaked with my music in 2007 till about 2009, like I was getting all of the big shows. I was the guy in town. Now I still have the reputation, but I don’t always get the looks that I was getting back then. However, my businesses have never been better. I think it’s just, I’m going to grow these businesses. They’ll get stronger, and I’m probably going to develop new businesses and also try to diversify. You put on small and medium shows; now it’s time to get into arenas. I think growing the promotional company on the side of throwing bigger concerts, that’s really the focus because that’s where I’ve seen the most gains. As long as I’m passionate about making music and performing, I’ll still do that.
How do you think the business of music is different from other businesses?
There’s two parts to the music industry. There’s the corporate side that you can run just like any business. There’s a structure for good business, and you can do that in the industry. If you’re running a restaurant, the base of the business is the same, you’re just selling something different. You’re like, ‘Hey, we have this many artists, we’re making this much off their publishing, our overhead is this, how much are we bringing in?’ But for an artist to blow up as an artist, there’s luck, there’s timing, there’s relationships — there’s things you can’t duplicate, and you can’t create luck and timing.
What advice would you give to young artists who are just starting out?
There’s so much advice I’d give them. I’ve noticed artists rarely listen — they start young, so a lot of time it falls on deaf ears. But the one thing that got me the furthest is discipline. I never got into partying, and sometimes that kind of hindered my relationships. But being disciplined in your personal life will also show up in your music life. You’re not going to be able to leave your [day] job unless you’re disciplined.
I took the dive in, and that’s why I’m successful. I was faced with this choice: go on tour for a week with this group Dilated Peoples, or continue working at this furniture store. And I said, ‘Hey, the time is now.’ I dove in, but from there, I sold CDs. I couldn’t go out after the show and buy pizza. I saved the money and bought more CDs, and then I tracked my profit and paid my rent, and it took discipline.
It sounds like you’ve always had a plan or at least a vision.
Yes. I always wanted to be the best at whatever I did, especially the music. My goal was always to keep the bills paid, myself and my family fed, and it blossomed into more than that. It just was embedded in me that there’s no time to waste, no money to waste, and these were the things I was focused on.