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Bengals at Work: Derrick Jackson, ’08

Bengals at Work: Derrick Jackson, ’08

Posted: September 19, 2019

Derrick Jackson’s road to success proves that one’s starting point neither limits nor determines the destination.

“I’m from the East Side of Buffalo, and it didn’t have to go this way for me,” Jackson said, reflecting on his life in the city. “It could’ve easily gone a different way.”

Having worked in marketing and communications for highly influential organizations and businesses, Jackson, ’08, has profoundly translated the academic skills he harnessed at Buffalo State College into his professional realm.

Perhaps the greatest example of this is his role of handling strategic partnerships, marketing, and communications at Griselda Records, a label founded by Buffalo rapper Westside Gunn and now affiliated with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation

“I’ve been around the world’s top CEOs; I know the power of ‘no,’” Jackson said. “Go after what you want, be intrepid, furious, and persistent—and don’t settle.”

His decision to attend Buffalo State was influenced by his familiarity with the campus throughout his life. Having also been involved in programs like Upward Bound while still in high school, he said, the path to Buffalo State was already paved, although the college wouldn’t be the first one he’d enroll in.

Upon graduating from McKinley High School in 2003, Jackson attended Alabama State University for a semester, intent on playing Division I basketball, but he ultimately transferred to Buffalo State a semester later.

While at Buffalo State, Jackson was actively involved in campus life as a member of Kappa Alpha Psi while also serving on the fraternity’s board, in addition to serving on the African American Students Organization board and participating in the Student Union Board, which allowed him to coordinate events both on and off campus.

“If you go to Buff State or any college, you’re going to pay the mandatory student activity fee whether you use it or not,” he said. “It was kind of an ‘own your own experience’ situation.”

At the time, the newly implemented communication studies program allowed him to explore different communications concentrations within majors he had previously considered.

“I took my COM classes very seriously, because that was my thing,” he said. “I knew I wanted to work in entertainment, but I had this indie mentality.”

A self-proclaimed “student of the hip-hop culture,” Jackson curated his knowledge by studying the inner workings of the music industry, from reading liner notes in CD cases to observing the operations of a record label in Miami, producing local shows, booking talent, and attending large concerts.

 In 2012, he began as an entry-level coordinator for emerging programs at a global community that promotes growth and success among innovators across fields.

He was appointed a year later to lead the association’s global student entrepreneurship program, a competition designed to support student entrepreneurs who run for-profit businesses while pursuing college educations.

Jackson’s role served as a catalyst to how he would operate within the music industry. By traveling across the globe, conversing with entrepreneurial minds, and scouting the next generation of leaders, what he was doing became much larger than where he was at.

“This is transferable across any industry,” he said of his experiences. “The only thing that changes is the product. I just took all that, and I’ve been applying it to music and the artists I want to work with.”

Soon after, fellow Buffalonian and Griselda Records CEO Westside Gunn would make an ask that would require Jackson to move figuratively and literally into new territory yet again.

“The turning point was, I interviewed for a job, they were about to give me everything I wanted, and then Westside Gunn called me and asked, ‘No pressure, can you move to Atlanta?’ I had to make a decision for myself right then and there,” he said.

Reflecting on his experiences at Buffalo State, Jackson noted some of the best ways to prepare for success as a student, including pursuing internships, cultivating professional relationships, building an independent platform, and being ambitious in all things.

“Shoot your shot,” he said. “You miss a hundred percent of shots you don’t take.”

Ultimately, Jackson’s purpose spans far beyond the confines of a single field. With a zeal for entertainment, business, and philanthropy, he aims to set a bar all his own.

“My interests are so much broader than the music industry, but I want to be one of the most legendary hyphenates in that industry to ever do it,” he said, “because I know that I see things from a different perspective, and I can pinpoint the opportunities for growth and scale in any endeavor I’m passionate about.

“I feel like I can start thinking about those things because it’s realistic for me now.”

Photograph by Alexander H (@CreativeConnect)

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