The son of Spring Records' Jules Rifkind, Steve found an early affinity to R&B and Rap music growing up in Merrick, Long Island. The elder Rifkind ran the R&B label in the 1960s and 1970s, whose clients included James Brown and Millie Jackson. In his youth, Steve worked for his father at Spring, even working as a promotion man on "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" by the FatBack Band in 1979, widely regarded as the first rap song ever recorded (it beat Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight into record stores by weeks). After leaving Spring Records, Rifkind re-located to Los Angeles where he managed the R&B group New Edition from 1986-1988.
As the CEO and founder of Loud Records in 1991, Rifkind positioned himself as a major tastemaker in a new era of hip hop music and culture. Designed as a bi-coastal hip-hop label focused on "street-themed" hip-hop, Loud was influential in launching the careers of several hip-hop stars in the early and mid-1990s; most notably the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Three 6 Mafia, and Big Punisher. With Loud, Rifkind used the techniques he had developed at SRC to bring his artists success in branding and cross-promoting themselves. Among others, Loud's holdings included a film division and a clothing line.
Loud's success led to Rifkind's selling 50% of the company to RCA in 1996. In July 1999 Loud moved to Sony. Loud launched its film division in 1999, signing a multi-year pact with Dimension/Miramax. Loud Film's first and only project, Paid in Full (a film on which Brett Ratner, Jay-Z, and Damon Dash were partners with Rifkind) was released in 2002.
Today Rifkind is still deeply involved in the hip-hop and R&B world. After losing the Loud records name after a sale to Sony in 2002, Rifkind started Street Records Corporation (a second SRC). Early artist signings included platinum-selling southern rapper David Banner, as well as R&B singer Akon. In 2003, Rifkind joined the Universal/Motown Records group as Vice President.
In 2007, Rifkind acquired limited rights to the Loud Records name from Sony and released the Wu-Tang Clan's 8 Diagrams under the Loud banner.
Along with operating SRC, and his ever expanding roster of corporate clients, Rifkind's latest ventures include investments in Coalition Music Group, a Reggaeton label, as well in Kid's Block, an educational DVD series for children featuring music by the Trackmasters production team. 2008 saw the foundation of the Rifkind Thal Group (RTG), a technology marketing company. Its first client is SanDisk a data storage products inventor and manufacturer.
The Street Team promotional model as pioneered by Steve Rifkind is based on the simple principle of word of mouth advertising coupled with the touchstones of what makes "urban cool.” The street team is fundamentally based on knowledge of the urban subculture on the part of the marketer and what the potential consumers relate to. "Nobody should put out a record before they know what the street thinks." Says Rifkind.
Steve has 3 kids, Alex, Caroline, and Ryan
Aside from his numerous business ventures, Steve Rifkind is involved in several philanthropic activities. Camp Excel, founded in 1996 with childhood friend, Psychologist, Dr. Gary Altheim, is a week-long overnight camp for underprivileged children struggling with learning disabilities.
Steve also sponsors and coaches the Delray Blazers, his son’s youth basketball team, in Del Ray Beach, FL. In 2008 they won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Florida state championships.
Rifkind is also a sponsor of breast cancer charities, donating the profits from his “Think Pink Rocks” concerts to breast cancer research and treatment. The first “Think Pink Rocks” event in September 2008 was hosted by Queen Latifah and featured several SRC Records artists.