The music business was, and remains, a predatory business — a fact that Ruff Ryders CEO Joaquin “Waah” Dean knew to be a fact when he first founded the now-legendary hip hop label back in 1997. Starting out as a management firm for The LOX and DMX, the label went on to launch the careers of Eve and Swizz Beatz (real name: Kasseem Dean, Joaquin’s nephew, who served as the in-house producer for the label).

But Dean said that he, his brother Darrin “Dee,” and his sister Chivon were well prepared for the challenges because of their upbringing.

“Working in the music industry constantly has you moving at will, which is very similar to the streets,” he told AfroTech. “Being able to have solution-driven ideas to aid in the day to day of an organization will go a long way with decision-making. Bridging the gap between the politics, music industry, and the community is what I plan to do with the Ruff Ryders 2 The Rescue Foundation.”

In an open letter, Dean said that he established the foundation because he felt today’s economically disadvantaged Black youth were not being afforded educational and entrepreneurial opportunities that were available to more affluent youth and from other races. This reality, coupled with the same familial spirit that made Ruff Ryderz a nearly-indomitable label in the 1990s, Dean formed the Ruff Ryders 2 The Rescue Foundation.

“Our legacy is to be a visible, reliable presence in the community and to develop leaders who will have an indelible, positive impact on our society. In other words, our goal is to engage the youth of these streets, teaching them better ways of communicating with one another and creating a positive dialogue with everyone involved in the community. The moves we’re making to ensure our legacy are to build programs that can be replicated within urban communities,” he said.

In addition to entrepreneurial seminars and talent shows, the Foundation will be offering a 24-hour community watch program, which alleviates the stress of needing a police force that — to put it euphemistically — could cause more problems than they solve. The Foundation will start the program in New York State — specifically, in towns like Yonkers, Rochester, Newburgh, and Mount Vernon — before expanding their efforts in different states.

“The mission is to reach out to our youth with the offer of professional, entrepreneurial mentoring programs within their community where they can acquire the practice-based knowledge and hands-on experience, to ultimately build their own enterprises. We plan on teaming up with professionals within each city mentioned as well as others in the near future as our program expands,” he said.

And Dean also said that he hopes parents and other community leaders will get involved with the Ruff Ryders 2 The Rescue Foundation. But, above all else, he hopes that others who aspire to be like him follow the same life philosophy that has guided him for more than 30 years.

“Be true to yourself. Always believe in yourself and what you seek to do with your dreams. There will be times where people may think your ideas are out of this world or unattainable but the key is to motivate the individuals around you to have faith and it will always work out for the best,” he said.

Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.