Like father, like son, like grandson—Jadakiss keeps it all in the family for his new grind.
BY RALPH BRISTOUT
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Kiss Café
In the year that hip-hop is celebrating its 50-year anniversary, rap icon Jason “Jadakiss” Phillips is ringing in a milestone of his own. October 18, 2023, marked one year since the Yonkers-bred emcee diversified his decorated portfolio with a fresh new project grounded in loyalty, legacy, and a love for coffee—Kiss Café.
Ever since the launch of its first offering, Beijo (the Portuguese word for “kiss“)—a medium-dark roast arabica sourced from Central America—the Kiss Cafe line, which incorporates the Grammy-nominated rapper’s name in its blends, has wowed celebrities like Tamron Hall and earned endorsements from fellow coffee enthusiasts and music industry veterans alike. But the one achievement Jadakiss is most proud of is the fact that he’s experiencing this journey alongside co-founders he can literally call family—his father, Bob Phillips, and son Jaewon Phillips.
Unlike most launches, the mission of Kiss Café isn’t to provide yet another line of coffee for consumers. Instead, it’s to uplift them with something a little closer to home. “It’s authentic, it’s genuine, and it represents family and camaraderie, which is not something always shown from our community,” Jadakiss says. More than a company, this is an extension of the Phillips family’s trusted connection to the coffee industry, which goes back four decades. Before Jaewon could trace back to his first sip or Jadakiss could call back to the numerous orders of a butter roll with a light and sweet coffee before school, they attribute their long-standing love of coffee to Bob Phillips’ years of service in the industry.
As the patriarch of the family, Bob, 70, has been a longtime member of the coffee industry. His résumé dates back to 1977, boasting major contributions for Fortune 100 companies, including General Foods Corporation, which, as one of the country’s biggest food producers at the time, was home to Maxwell House. From there he worked on virtually everything the coffee business has to offer, from logistics to production, sourcing, roasting—the list goes on. “I was so intrigued by the commodity,” he says. In 1998, Bob launched Caturra Corp., an importing and trading firm that specializes in international green coffees, where he still serves as CEO and president. To hear him tell it, it’s all as exciting to him now as it was years ago. “The industry is constantly evolving,” he says. “Every day I learn something new about this product, even though I’ve been doing it for 40 years.”
From Music to the Coffee Industry
Naturally, that excitement propelled his desire to one day be in business with his family. But those dreams hit a snag after his son was bit by the hip-hop bug. “When he told me about it early in the game, I was like, ‘This guy’s tripping,’” Jadakiss jokingly recalls. “He was always telling me, ‘Yo, we got to do something. You got to get your own coffee.’ But I wasn’t interested. I thought it was corny in the beginning.”
With his son busy trading rhymes, Bob focused on his grandson. “I learned how to grind coffee, roast coffee at a young age,” says Jaewon about his early days spent working with his grandfather. A Clark Atlanta University alum, he remembers being hesitant at the thought of working in an office, but branding held his interest. “The idea has always been in the air—getting it done more so was the surreal part,” he says.
The family pulled it together in 2020, after Jadakiss appeared on Verzuz, the hit-for-hit music series launched by producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. That battle produced the infamous #JadaDrunk meme, which compelled the elder Phillips to go back to the drawing board. “We wanted to make a legitimate project,” Jadakiss says. They looped in creative partners Set Free Richardson and Liza Goncalves of Compound to help conceptualize what Kiss Café represents now: three generations fostering heritage and history through coffee. “This is for my grandkids,” Bob says while beaming. “All I have to pass on to the next generation is what I’ve learned over the last 40 years.”
A Fresh Start
Three generations creating generational wealth—the story speaks for itself. But quality is the real megaphone for the Kiss Cafe brand: Delivering consumers the freshest coffee possible is the family’s top priority. “Our emphasis is to deliver a fresh product every day,“ says Bob, who handles the sourcing and importing from Honduras, Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil. “We’re putting coffee in the hands of the consumer that’s seven to 10 days from roast date. You can’t buy that from the supermarket.”
With a new blend hitting coffee tables soon, Bisou (the French word for “kiss“), this family business is busy brewing.
“The product speaks for itself, but the story is what pulls you in,” adds Jaewon, and Jadakiss agrees. “They like the idea of generational wealth, three generations,” Jadakiss says. ”They can appreciate that. Now we just gotta work it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ralph Bristout (he/him) is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer who has written for Billboard, XXL Magazine, REVOLT TV, as well as WWE. He is also the author of a children’s book, Yes, Sweetie Pie.