Find out what the music industry elite had to say at the Billboard 2019 R&B Hip Hop Power Players Red Carpet.
Last week, Billboard’s executive director of R&B/Hip Hop, Gail Mitchell, and Vibe’s VP of Culture, Datwon Thomas hosted Billboard’s Second Annual R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players Reception. The industry’s finest gathered under one roof to honor “the top 100 artists and executives who define hip-hop culture today.” Young M.A. and Casanova performed, and a few select individuals were awarded for their contributions and achievements. Steve Parmon, President/COO of Parkwood Entertainment was awarded Executive of the year and Def Jam Recording’s VP of A&R, Steve “Steve-O” Carless accepted the Impact Award for Nipsey Hussle. We spoke with a number of label executives, artists and managers about how to succeed in the industry, what they’re currently working on and what they’re looking forward to.
The Knockturnal: Who is the first artist you broke, or helped break?
Kei: It’s a combination of either Key! or 21 Savage, obviously 21 Savage I was with him for 4-5 years, we kinda started from 3,000 to 6,000 Instagram followers to now, but with Key!, Key! Kind of helped me hone in some of the skills that I had as a manager, that helped prepare me for 21 Savage so I would say a combination of the two of those guys.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us about who you’re working on now?
Kei: I’ve been highly focused on the label, Sincethe80s, we have a joint venture with Motown/Capitol, shoutout to Ethiopia, she believed in us even without a roster and they gave us an opportunity to launch a label. It’s myself, Barry and Zeke who manage Earthgang and J.I.D. and then we’ve got four or five fire artists, across all genres not all hip hop which is exciting for me because I grew up listening to everything. I’m really excited to break an R&B act, break a band, like really take it to the next level.
The Knockturnal: What are you looking for in an artist?
Kei: Really anything that’s unique and different and preferably something from a fresh canvas, I typically like to take an artist that doesn’t have much going on, under 5k Instagram followers, under 5k on Twitter, but has the potential and just helping them flesh out their vision and execute.
The Knockturnal: If I’m an artist, what’s the best way to get your attention?
Kei: I think it’s uniqueness, tone and knowing how to use the internet. I think there’s a lot of kids that are really smart on the internet like Lil Nas X being a good example of someone that just really knows how to utilize social media in a proper way to get in front of people and I think that if you can do that, even if you don’t have a lot of followers, I think that I’ll take notice especially if your style is unique.
The Knockturnal: Where does your passion for music come from? Did you have a lot of musical influences in your upbringing?
Ghazi: My passion for music started when I was probably 5 or 6 years old, I bought this rock tape and fell in love with this record that was on the radio and then within a couple years I discovered RUN DMC jumped into hip-hop and my life kind of changed from there. Thats when I was introduced to break dancing, producing, djing, graffiti and everything else that make the culture what it is today, but I’ll segue into artists that we’re working with right now that I’m really excited about. We do have another XXX album coming very soon, so I’m very excited about that. It’s something that I’m really passionate about, but obviously something that’s really gut-wrenching and heart-warming at the same so that’s been an experience.
The Knockturnal: How involved has his family been with the release of his posthumous project?
Ghazi: Incredibly involved, his mother’s an incredible human being, she’s very passionate, detail-oriented. She’s really quickly learned the music business and it’s been pretty fascinating to watch her and honestly, spending time with X and seeing how fascinating of a human being he is, it’s obvious where he got his DNA from, because his mom’s a lot like him. She’s been incredibly involved, honestly she brought this whole thing into existence, obviously the music was there, but it was her passion and dedication to her son that made it what it is.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about your relationship with X, how long you knew him and his music?
Ghazi: I knew him since he was about 18 year old, I signed him when “Look At Me” was popping on SoundCloud. He was in jail. I used to talk to him in jail via his attorney. We had sent him a deal memo when he was in jail and he decided to do a deal with us. He called me from jail one day and said, “I’m gonna do your deal.” I said, “Why? You got another bag on the table that’s a lot larger than mine from a major label?” And he said, “because their deal makes me a slave and your deal makes me a partner and I’m betting on myself and I believe in my talent and I think you’re the right person to turn me up.”
The Knockturnal: Obviously there was a lot of controversy at the time you signed X, what motivated you to sign him with the given circumstances?
Ghazi: I’ve been around the streets my entire life, he was a 16-year-old kid when all that happened, he was an 18-year-old kid when I signed him and it’s our job and duty as human beings and as the elders to bestow wisdom on the children and to help them become better human beings and I’m not here to vilify people I’m here to rehabilitate and help people grow as human beings.
The Knockturnal: Who are some of the acts or projects you’re currently working?
Ghazi: I just came off this Money Man and Peewee Longway project that’s doing excellent for us, that’s a passion proejct, I love Money Man and Peewee they’re like Yin and Yang they’ve got different personalities. We f***ed up the streets in Atlanta and did a crazy promo campaign out there, rap trains, buses did a crazy strip club takeover, the streams are growing rapidly. They got a cult fanbase, especially Money has a real cult fanbase. If you look at his YouTube comments and look at how people dissect his lyrics- the engagement is pretty unbelievable. I talked to him yesterday he told me he was in Hawaii, he might go to the hills and smoke some marvelous s*** in Hawaii and make a whole album out there. It’s why I love him so much he’s willing to venture off and do other things like the man grows weed on his own farm and grows food on his own farm and he’s just a highly intelligent, interesting individual, outside of that obviously Mozzy is very much a staple at the company, someone we believe in heavily and we believe is the future face of the company.
The Knockturnal: Congrats on the debut album! Can fans expect a tour on the way?
Young M.A.: There’s definitely a tour in the works, can’t officially throw that out there yet, but stay tuned, definitely more visuals, more music, acting, other things can’t get into detail about.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us more about the music you’re sitting on or currently have recorded, but unreleased?
Young M.A.: I’m sitting on a lot of music that didn’t make the album that I worked on from three years ago, the year after that, the year after that, I worked on so many songs, so to me I call it recycling, it’s like recycling old bars, old music, and enhanced to kind of make it sound like today’s music, but I got mad joints that I can just re-finesse.
The Knockturnal: Who you’re currently listening to and who do you think is next up?
Young M.A.: There’s so many artists out, so many that you never even heard of, but they be lit. There’s this one dude from Brooklyn his name is Korleone, that really ain’t get no recognition yet, he got some dope music, he doing his thing, and this other guy named Max_YB, he’s from Jersey City and he’s fire and they young kids, but thats the move now, the SoundCloud wave and all that. These kids got some dope music man so definitely shoutout to them two, they’re two that I actually listen to. There’s so many artists that I can’t even keep up.
The Knockturnal: What advice do you have for developing artists who aspire to be like you?
Young M.A.: Be prepared to be independent, Being Young M.A. is being an independent artist you know what I mean? Of course you can’t be me, but if you wanna follow the routine and how I got to where I got to then you definitely have to be an independent artist mentally and physically, it’s not easy, it’s hard, but you have to be prepared for that you have to be prepared to work nonstop through you, not through anyone else and you need have a strong team, that’s like the number one thing when you are an artist, whether you’re signed or not, you always need to have the right and strong team surrounding you, making sure you don’t make stupid decisions and making sure you making the right decisions financially.
The Knockturnal: Just spoke to Young M.A. who spoke very highly of you, can you tell us about how she got put on to your music and your first time meeting her?
Korleone: It happened from a mutual friend, one of my day-ones from my hood, Brownsville, Yerr Eli, that’s one of her mans, I know y’all know him from the song, “Yerr Eli thats my guy,” yeah that’s my guy. They was in LA and he was just playing my music, didn’t tell her nothing at all, he was just playing my music cause he loves it and she heard a song and he kept playing one song and she was like, “Why you keep playing this song?” And he was like that’s my mans from Brownsville and she was like, “Nah that sound like … it sounds like a radio song already.” Coming up from where I’m from in Brownsville, we don’t get too much recognition and she was like, “I gotta talk to him, give me his IG, give me his number” and she hit me on IG.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about what you’re currently working on and how much support you’ve gotten from her and her camp?
Korleone: I mean I definitely got a lot of support, her manager Reem, is my manager so we definitely working. I just dropped a song, my single, “Tonight” from my EP. It dropped October 1st and the video for that is coming next.
The Knockturnal: When can we expect your EP to drop?
Korleone: At the end of the fall or early winter, for a fact.
The Knockturnal: What’s good? What have you been working on since the last time we spoke?
DDG: I’ve got an album coming out November 1st, it’s going to be the biggest album in the world.
The Knockturnal: What’s the single you’re pushing?
DDG:The single I’m gonna be pushing is called “PUSH.”
The Knockturnal: Anything else you can tell us about the project? Any features?
DDG: Its a few features on there, it’s a secret go check them out, Valedictorian dropping November 1st.
The Knockturnal: What do you have on the way?
Young Dirty Bastard: Expect my new album!
The Knockturnal: What’s the single you’ll be pushing?
Young Dirty Bastard: The single’s gonna be called “Barsun,” that’s my name B-A-R-S-U-N
The Knockturnal: Was it recorded all out here? Can you talk about the production a little bit?
Young Dirty Bastard: Shoutout to Lowkey for being there for me all the time, shoutout to Divine we out here grinding.
The Knockturnal: What does it feel like to see a whole new generation discover your father and his legacy through the Hulu series?
Young Dirty Bastard: I think for the fans, it’s something they never had a chance to experience, because they only had music before, now they get to relive it through a different type of art and vision, it’s different than a music video, it’s theatre.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us about you’ve been working on?
Phresher: Just working on my new project, got a new single coming out. January my project comes out, A-Boogie, Lil Baby, everybody on there?
The Knockturnal: Who are some of the producers on there?
Phresher: We got a lot of producers man it’s going to be crazy though.
The Knockturnal: What’s the name of the single and can we expect a tour to follow?
Phresher: “All The Smoke” featuring NLE Choppa and tour coming, but we ain’t gonna talk too much about it, gotta keep some secrets. We gonna go crazy 2020.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about your role on Growing Up Hip Hop and what to expect this season?
Madina Milana: You can expect a roller coaster ride, a lot of drama. I be tryna school the kids on what it is and keep it real with everybody and sometimes people can’t really take the realness and it becomes confrontational, but at the end of the day I’m gonna always keep it 100 with everybody. We have a lot of talented kids on the show, but unfortunately there’s a lot of drama that goes on between me and just everybody it seems so I’ve just been dealing with it because I’ve got tough skin.
The Knockturnal: Do you feel like being a woman in the industry is more challenging and that women in the industry are expected to have tougher skin?
Madina: Absolutely and I’m always trying to outdo myself just to stay on top of my game because the game keeps changing, so we’re always learning, we’re always evolving and as a strong woman I’m here for it.
The Knockturnal: What are you currently working on outside of the show?
Madina: Right now a lot of people have been hitting me up for management so I have a company called F.A.M.E., it stands for Facility of Arts, Music and Entertainment. My seminar’s gonna be coming soon so that everyone who’s looking for management can come and register and learn how to make their dream a reality. This is for all entertainers, actors, models etc. I also have my jewelry line, and I just wrote my first screenplay.
Photo Credit: Billboard