Jermaine Stone. Courtesy, Cru Luv Wine
For entrepreneur and festival founder Jermaine Stone, “wine and hip-hop” isn’t just an event name or a catchy tagline but the lens through which he views the world—one that encourages unlikely collaborations. An NYC native, Stone always works to highlight his Bronx origins, which birthed a love for hip-hop, and he keeps home in mind, no matter how far in the world he travels in pursuit of good wine. We caught up with him to discuss his love of two seemingly disparate interests and why he decided to merge them into the Wine and Hip-Hop Festival, which takes place in November.
How do you explain what do you do?
Jermaine Stone: I run Cru Luv, which is a creative agency dedicated to blending wine and hip-hop in organic ways. I do that through consulting for different brands, different countries and anyone that wants to bring wine and hip-hop culture together.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of hip-hop. Has it always been a major part of your life?
JS: Absolutely. The first thing that I ever seriously considered doing was hip-hop. I grew up in a Jamaican household. Jamaicans have this weird affinity [for] country music, so it was a lot of Dolly Parton and Randy Travis being played in my house. Then my cousin came from Jamaica with a tape that said “rap” on it. That moment I always compare to watching color TV for the first time. I just loved hip-hop immediately. Now it’s a hobby, but it’s absolutely my first love.
What was your experience of growing up in the Bronx? Is there a movie, TV show or song that resonates with it?
JS: If I had to pick a song that resonated with me growing up in New York City, it would be “New York State of Mind, Part II,” just because it almost felt like Nas told all these stories that anyone that lived in New York could relate to. It felt like he was describing me and my core group of friends at certain parts in the song. Even though he was talking about Queensbridge, it hit home so much.
Has being from the Bronx colored your affinity for wine?
JS: The Bronx has always had a strong Italian influence. My dad was in the construction field and worked with a lot of Italians. So, you know, as soon as I started getting into the wine space, they thought it was the coolest thing in the world. But I also really enjoy having the knowledge of wine. Like different wines from around the world, I pair with the foods I grew up loving. I highlight them and enjoy them that much more with wine. That’s been my favorite part of enjoying wine in the Bronx these days.
Do you have a perfect meal and wine pairing?
JS: Can I give two? The old Jermaine would have spätburgunder, a German pinot noir, with Jamaican beef patties and coco bread. And bougie Jermaine would have some white Burgundy (Chardonnay) from France, escargot and roasted chicken.
Jermaine Stone. Courtesy, Cru Luv Wine
Tell me about your podcast, Wine and Hip-Hop.
JS: When I left the wine auction world, I didn’t plan on being primarily focused on media. I was really focused on the operations side, but I utilized the podcast as a way to stay relevant. But it was a passion, and there became more and more of a need for that style of media. The entire ethos of my company, although it’s around wine and hip-hop, is more than that. It’s about people. It’s finding those things that we relate on.
Coming up as a young person in wine, I realized that even though I was presenting a certain way, because I had wine knowledge and credibility in the wine industry I was often treated differently—with a little more respect. And [people in the industry] were able to see me for who I was as opposed to a stereotype. So one of the things I try to do is own my stereotype, to acknowledge it, but also highlight the fact that I’m a lot more than just the stereotype. Hip-hop has made that stereotype palatable. And now that you’re interested enough to have a conversation, I can show you that I’m so much more than that. Wine has done that as well with people from other cultures, for me. You know, the older white dudes that I would assume one thing about, because they’re putting me on about wine, the thing that we have this shared bond over, I’m able to see them in a completely different way. It’s a revolving door of culture.
Have you spent significant time away from NYC? If so, how has it shaped you?
The past few months, I’ve been on the road. Traveling so much has made me appreciate the Bronx. I just love the people. You get this unique sense of how real the people are. There’s just certain elements about the Bronx that I’ve appreciated so much more from traveling. Like, sometimes I go chill at a park in the Bronx and write in my journal just to catch the vibes; that’s a more recent thing inspired by all the travel.
Tell us about the Wine and Hip-Hop Festival.
JS: Our second festival is approaching. It is the most amazing, genuine and thoughtful mashup of wine and hip-hop events. We curate panels, tastings and concerts that educate people [about] both cultures. One event I’m excited about is the Hustler Panel. I mix in one hip-hop artist with a bunch of different hustlers from the wine industry to share their knowledge and talk about how their industries are related.
We have amazing sommeliers introducing the wines. A big part of enjoying the wine is the presentation—when that sommelier starts to say all that cool, complicated language that you don’t quite understand, but it sounds good and the wine tastes good. We’re going to be doing that with some dope beats and some dope artists. And that’s the tip of the iceberg.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
JS: The goal is to change the perception of Black men in America. That’s the goal, to highlight how similar we all are and bring us together as a people. I love my city, and I just want to put on for it.
The 2023 Wine and Hip Hop Festival takes place November 19 at Piggyback NYC, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Visit www.wineandhiphopfestival.com for more information.