Jay Z, Ye, Snoop Dogg, Drake, A$AP Ferg, Tyler, The Creator and even Micheal Jackson among others have been blessed with blinged-out jewelry from Ben Baller. The Los Angeles-based legend within Hip Hop culture is more than just a maker of extremely expensive ice. Baller (real name Ben Yang) has a rich history as a music producer, record label executive, actor and mogul.
Now, the bling god has partnered with audio device manufacturer Master & Dynamic for a gaming headset that provides luxury styling that made him a household name with performance to back it up.
This comes through a special Ben Baller edition release of the MG20 Wireless Gaming Headphones from the company set for release April 29 exclusively through popular live video stream shopping app NTWRK.
Ahead of launch, we spoke to Baller to see what brought him in contact with Master & Dynamic and what his goals were with the release of the MG20.
Looks are important, but so is performance
“I wanted a timeless look,” said Baller of the $450 (£429, around AU$625) gaming headset. “Something that’s almost post-modern and futuristic; blended the adult to the youth. We got the leather, we got the matted gold. I didn’t want it to look cheap. I want it to look nice aesthetically. It’s sort of like gold rims on a Ferrari and Ferrari made them.”
The MG20 maintains the aluminum and magnesium build with lambskin leather material that made the original such a favorite. However, this version features black with gold trim alongside the Ben Baller insignia outside the ear cups instead of M&D’s logo.
Performance-wise, the headset retains the 7.1 surround sound headphones and custom 50mm Beryllium drivers in addition to a detachable boom mic.
In our review, TechRadar contributor Cliff Joseph called the MG20 a “ terrific set of headphones for all-round entertainment ... with high-quality sound and design, and versatile connectivity features that work well for both gaming and listening to music". All of that remains to be true with Baller's collaboration.
Leveling up the style of gaming peripherals
This isn’t Baller’s first time entering the audio hardware space. The self-proclaimed audiophile was one of the first early influencers used for Beats as he closely worked with Dr. Dre since his early days as an executive at Priority Records. Matter of fact, he even iced out a pair of Beats headphones for Ocho Cinco.
Baller’s link to Master & Dynamic began through Kevin Durant gifting him a pair of the audio company’s collaboration with French luxury apparel brand Louis Vuitton. Once he started his Behind The Baller podcast, the relationship with the Master & Dynamics grew closer.
“So I started messing with them,” explained Baller. “ And honestly, these are the best headphones I've ever used, hands down, period. As far as pure sound, as far as everything goes, this is the best.”
It also helps that Baller has spent the past five years as a member of FaZe Clan, has a son who’s a fan of video games from Minecraft to Fortnite and even appeared in Take-Two Interactive’s NBA2K series. These experiences while building up his knowledge of the gaming industry contributed to what he wanted to do with his take on the MG20.
“I know that there's a side where you see somebody's gaming headphones and they light up, there's LED lights here and there, and I think that's cool for my kids,” Baller said. "And then it's me though. I like a little fun here and there, but I need something a little more grown and sexy.”
What is NTWRK? It's like HSN for Gen Z
According to Baller, releasing the Ben Baller MG20 through NTWRK comes through a relationship that’s already seen him dropping fancy items including a gold money bill counter and vacuum sealer.
“NTWRK is like the executive personal assistant to me, to my life, but also the executor of my dreams,” explained Baller. “Everything that I need done from shipping, fulfillment center to development, to design, to packaging, to, again, proposals and execution, it's all done there. And if you look at the app, there really isn't a better app out there, period.”
Founded by Jimmy Iovine’s son Jaime Iovine alongside Aaron Levant and Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, one could consider NTWRK an app-based store in the vein of Home Shopping Network except for Gen Z and millennials. Billie Ellish collaborated last year on an art print drop and Drake was reportedly an investor. Baller said that the launch of the headset with a major brand like Master & Dynamics through NTWRK works because he’s already established a presence there.
“I know that I have a team there,” Baller said. “I have people that will expedite things for me. “With other companies, I don't know what my splits are. I don't know what this is and that. It's just like I almost end up pushing everything I have with NTWRK.”
For someone who has watched Hip Hop evolve for over 40 years, Baller has watched the culture and gaming industry slowly hold hands from niche pastimes to global phenomena. Now, both blending of cultures have allowed both athletes and rappers to link up with esports organizations like FaZe Clan, Snoop Dogg's inclusion in Call of Duty, and dozens of other cross-collaborations both in-game and in real life.
Baller is riding the wave of popularity that connects the two worlds together, but in his own way he represents a new shift into other aspects of Hip Hop linking with ancillary aspects within the audio and gaming industries. Dre may have helped pave the way with Beats, but Baller is bringing a new level of style to gaming headsets.
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