Jorge Peniche is a photographer, entrepreneur, journalist and cultural staple in the hip-hop industry.
His story brought him from being an undocumented immigrant from Mexico City, to the creative mind behind some of the most recognizable images, logos and marketing campaigns in hip-hop’s ever-dynamic existence.
“I think for me growing up undocumented so-to-speak, I didn’t really know until
I was about 17 or 18 when I tried to get a job,” Peniche said. “Fortunately for me I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit that allowed me to find loopholes and to make
money legally, but I couldn’t get a job, so I started doing e-commerce on eBay.
Fortunately for me, it worked out. I believe things happen for a reason, and I
think that is one thing that happened for a reason.”
Peniche boasts an impressive body of commercial photographic and design work through designing mixtape covers like Nipsey Hussle’s The Marathon, The Marathon Continues and Crenshaw, to album covers like DJ Quik’s The Book of David, Schoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions and Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap, to designing billboards in collaboration with people like Nas and companies like Young & Reckless.
In addition to his commercial pieces, his photographs that don’t make covers or billboards explicitly document the everyday lives of artists, icons and common people with such a raw filter that one cannot deny the authenticity of the subjects.
Needless to say his eye for capturing substance and personality through photography has gained favor with pop-culture’s emerging names and its elite.
“I used to sell sneakers on eBay,” Peniche said. “That led me to another site that would showcase cars, shoes, jewelry, women and pretty much anything that a man age 13-30 would be interested in. One of the people that would post a lot was Ben Baller … As a very impressionable 17 or 18 year old, I wanted to know what it was he did. So we got in contact over time … we built a relationship, he brought me into this situation where he was working with DJ Skee to produce an event showcasing exotic cars and boats. A few weeks later Skee called me up saying that he had Game in the studio working on a project called The Black Wall Street Journal Vol. 1. I showed [Game] some of the photos, he liked them and he wanted to come through. I’ve never been one to turn down an opportunity like that.”
Through his extensive work in many hip-hop circles and his documentation of West Coast hip-hop, he eventually came into a relationship with Nipsey Hussle in 2008, which would lead to a business partnership that has implemented some of the most revolutionary marketing in the recorded music industry.
In October, Hussle, along with Peniche and All Money In Records, released a physical copy of a free mixtape for $100. Not only did it create waves in the media world that covered hip-hop, but it caught the attention of Jay-Z, who purchased 100 copies, and was mimicked by artists like Eminem, Wu-Tang Clan and Daft Punk who implemented similar marketing strategies in their releases after they had seen the success the “Proud2Pay” campaign had.
“‘Proud2Pay’ is a pretty revolutionary business model,” Peniche said. “We were giving music away for free. That’s just what people do. Our generation grew up with Napster. Our generation grew up with Limewire. And then the younger generation grew up with Torrents. It went from downloading single songs, to downloading entire albums,to downloading entire discographies. To charge those generations who have been downloading music for free, forcefully? Why not give them a choice? That’s why we gave them a choice. If you give them music that motivates them or moves them in some way, usually people are going to want to reciprocate that love because it moves them and it impacts them.”
The business savvy and vision of Peniche is truly remarkable for someone who started by selling sneakers on eBay.
While Peniche and Hussle are by no means done evolving or even close to tapping their full potential, Peniche urges young people to be decisive in the pursuit of their dreams.
“In our culture we always want to be number one, and so if we can’t be number one we don’t want to be number two or number three,” Peniche said. “The only person you’re in a race with is yourself. The success of other people or the lack of success of other people doesn’t necessarily impact your end-game. It doesn’t pay your bills. It shouldn’t make you feel any better or any worse. Be proactive about finding your passions. Once you have a general idea, you can’t be afraid to try it out. It’s really that simple.”
The full interview can be read here.
Pictured from top to bottom: The Black Eyed Peas; Tyler, The Creator; Lil Wayne; Game; Nipsey Hussle; Jay Rock; Kanye West; YG; and Kendrick Lamar.
[All photos courtesy of Jorge Peniche]