You started the mixtape collective Tapemasters Inc. in the glory days of the mixtape, how were you able to make it a household name with so much competition?
We took a real strategic approach and planned out how we were going to make it successful when it was conceptualized. Personally, I was a student of the mixtape game. I loved it and really followed the Clue’s, the Whoo Kid’s, the Kayslay’s etc. pretty religiously. I knew there was no way we could get to that level nor did we really want to be in the same vein as them. My partners and I had a lot of inside connects as far as getting new music, but we decided that if each mixtape had a theme to it with well known credible hosts, the public would be forced to take notice and we built our name off of that. We were really serious about making Tapemasters Inc. into something special and analyzed all of the different DJ’s approaches and capitalized off of the advantages that we had. I had to really be aware of what’s going on in the market because things move so fast with mixtapes, that if you get caught slipping, you’re going to get short changed.
With all the mixtapes distributed for free today are you happy you stopped at the right time?
100%. It was really perfect timing when I decided that I had enough and let my partners carry the torch. I had just gotten so fed up with chasing the music and always trying to be ahead of the next DJ. The key to it is making a real impact. It’s pretty aggravating when you think you have that record and you are about to drop it on your tape and then you see DJ so and so with it which takes your whole game plan back a step. So the reward in that really didn’t motivate me to keep pressing on. I was really passionate about it when I started, but when you lose that passion you know it’s time to move on to something bigger and better. However, it clearly planted a lot of seeds that are sprouting now with people whom I have met in the past and learning how the music business works from the inside. Some of the lessons learned doing the mixtapes really prepared me for what I’m doing now.
Is the mixtape market too saturated right now?
Probably, bottom line is that it’s just not exciting anymore. I don’t even care to pay attention to it and that was something that was my bread and butter. It was a unique culture to me when Clue and Whoo Kid were beasting on everybody, when the Diplomats came out with vol 1 – 5 and all that, but now it’s just a bunch of rats in a bucket with no class. There are a couple DJ’s like Mick Boogie and Drama that still keep the flame lit, but that’s really it.
Now you have Spliffington Management, who do you manage and what do you look for when signing a producer?
I have the best producers in the game that should be on every single album coming out, hands down!! I’ll take you to the bank on that. However, due to the overabundance of saturated fat that’s weighing down the business (meaning incompetent producers, artists and A&R’s) they only get to shine on select releases. I have Freebass, I.N.F.O., Pro-V & Streetrunner. To be honest when I look for a new producer, they really have to be bringing me something different, something that’s going to make me want to keep blasting the music on repeat when I first listen to it. I have dealt with so many producers and heard so many beats in my time. I know what can sell and what can’t. In order for a producer to become successful at this, the product he has to bring has to be different from the competition because there is just too much out there. New producers are very limited to the degree of music that will be able to separate them in the ears of someone who is looking to use that music to create the best possible song. There are a lot of biases against new producers and in order to overcome that, it just has to be special. That’s not knocking any producer but a producer is absolutely nothing without an artist to record the song. It’s very difficult to sell a beat today just on the strength of the music before the artist has tried to demo or write to the music. That’s why relationships and timing are so paramount in becoming a successful producer. Most producers are the creative source of the music and not the source of business to connect all of the dots, which is why my job is very important. I look at my situation as almost having a starting lineup of 5 players and I am the coach. There are a lot of parallels between that analogy and the rapport between my clients and I. We work together for the same goal and the respect is there on both sides of the coin. I want to see all the hard work they have put in pay off.
Young producers don't always have the knowledge of the game, how do you make sure they don't get lost and taken advantage of in this industry?
When you’re on the outside looking in, your perception is very often different when the tables are turned. You have to experience things first hand to truly understand them and your obviously going to make mistakes which you can learn from to better yourself in the future. The knowledge I gained through my research and experiences is there to assist my clients so we all can benefit. I have to protect my investments and make sure their best interests are at hand. I have a lot of communication with my producers and go back and forth about all decisions that will be made and at the end of the day, we come to a joint conclusion which makes the most dollars and sense. I take so much pride in their work and believe that it is the best that it makes me go the extra distance for them. You need good people on your team that you can trust, specifically: a powerful lawyer, an aggressive publisher, and people that will be able to open the right doors for you.
Is it easier to deal with producers than artists?
I think so, there’s less to worry about when it comes to producers. This industry is very much built on superego’s and producers that I’ve been around for the most part are humble, the way it should be.
What are the biggest placements you've done in 2007?
My guys have done tracks pretty much across the board this year. Streetrunner has been on a tear over the last year and he’s setting himself up to really be at the top for a long time. He did “Gossip” “Cry Out” “1 Night Only” “Lets Talk It Over” “I Run with Trouble” “Rapapumpum” all for Lil’ Wayne. My other producer Pro-V worked on “Hello Brooklyn” for Jay-Z which features Wayne. Bigg D produced that record and Pro came in and contributed some elements on there. We did 2 records on Fabolous’ latest album “Yep, I’m Back” which Freebass produced and “This is Family” produced by Nova, a new producer from Seattle whom I consult for. That’s some of the more recent stuff they’ve produced.
Tell us about your upcoming placements
There are a lot of records that we are waiting for to come out and things that are just getting finished now. I really don’t like to speculate on them, but all I can say is that the placements are going to keep getting bigger and better. Stay tuned.
What have you learned from being an A&R for Diplomat Records?
I was an assistant A&R over there for a bit which allowed me to see and be involved in the process of how the music is created from scratch, being in the studio with the artists and taking in the different personalities that I had never dealt with before, seeing how the business was run and things of that nature. My main responsibility was dealing with mixtapes and producers, which is how Spliffington Management came to life. It gave me the confidence I needed and built a lot of relationships that I may not have been able to reap the benefits of if I wasn’t in that position. If you work for a company that is at the top of their field, it puts stripes on your sleeves. I just soaked everything up that I was exposed to being around the Diplomats for a couple of years and took the best out of it and applied it to other avenues that I would cross in the future. Not everything that glistens is gold, don’t be fooled!
You're also working on Alchemist's upcoming LP, Chemical Warfare, how did this come about?
I had always paid attention for some reason to the music Alchemist was creating when I really got into hip hop. I don’t know if it’s because we have some things in common or because he’s got a unique type of sound with his beats again and again that I like. I had bumped into him a few times over the years and I reached out to him when Cam was doing his “Killa Season” album and got Al to produce the song “Wet Wipes” which came out great. We kept building and he really liked the direction I was going with my company and other things I was doing, so one thing led to another and he got me on board to help him put his new album together. I have a role in the direction of the music for the album is going, using my relationships with artists to get them on certain records, marketing ideas, choosing beats to use for the album; basically just making his job easier. It’s working out very well because the album is out of here! The fans really might not be ready for this one.
What is Alc's vision for this album?
The vision is to step it up from the last one. This is only his second real album. He’s done a lot of mixtapes since then which are basically like albums the way he puts them together, but this is really just number 2. So he’s picking up where he left off and going even crazier this time and that’s what he’s doing. The album is pretty gutter and hard, a lot of the beats are going to put people in shock because Al’s got a new style that nobody has ever heard before. He’s just using the same formula as the last one but it’s just more potent.
You alsodo some of the marketing for the LRG clothing brand on the east coast; tell us about
I specialize in cross branding LRG with people in the music business which spans from hooking up artists with gear down to special co-branding collaborations. The marketing team at LRG is really special and the backbone of the company. Kevin Delaney and Woodie White are 2 individuals at the company that really keep the blood pumping and are responsible for much of what you see from LRG in the media and so forth. Opportunities obviously come my way because of my position in music which is great because I'm able to push the brand forward. Marketing is about being creative and strategic to get a product to appeal to the masses aligning it with the right people spawning longevity. LRG was built on creative marketing from the ground up working with artists that were relatively unknown and staying loyal to the consumer. We are working on something now that is going to be especially exciting for producers out there, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Definitely look out for our Spring advertising campaign which features NFL rookie of the year contender Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, DJ Toomp, B.O.B. and more.
With declining album sales, how important is it for an artist to get endorsement deals?
Well it seems like everyone is doing that. You see Fat Joe and Baby doing commercials with Cadillac and Chevy to appeal to that market. You see Young Jeezy doing commercials for Boost Mobile. The list goes on. These corporate companies have millions to spend on marketing and look at hip hop artists as being tastemakers for the multicultural consumer whom are able to bridge that gap to reach the populous and compel him or her to buy that product. I think it’s getting a little bit out of control now that hip hop has become the mainstream. I just want to see unique approaches when doing an endorsement deal, but that is the challenge of the business. LRG has always made an effort at branding our clothes with artists and people who are true to what they do, just like the clothing itself.
Can you give us examples of product placements you've made?
I’ve gotten several artists I deal with in LRG advertising campaigns such as Jim Jones, Alchemist and more. I’ve been able to get the clothing on numerous artists seen on television and in print magazines. I’ve done several LRG promotional mixtapes. I’m also now working with IBF Junior Welterweight boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi in getting him taken care of with LRG of for his upcoming title defense January 5th on Showtime. The clock keeps ticking!
So keep paying attention for Spliffington Management (www.SpliffingtonManagement.com) and my producers, as well as L-R-G (www.L-R-G.com).