11 Comments Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
How did Harlemâ€™s hypest hype man become hip-hopâ€™s shrewdest negotiator?
How did you sign three different label deals simultaneously?
My solo deal at Koch wasnâ€™t an exclusive deal, meaning I could do business wherever I wanted. I thought I was going to get a deal with Warner Bros. after my second album, [Harlem: The Diary of a Summer], but Kevin Liles had something different in mind and offered me an executive position as director of A&R for Warner Music Group. He told me, â€œMusic is not forever. You can do business forever, though.â€ So I learned the game. I think he didnâ€™t believe in my [ability as an artist] until I did â€œBallinâ€™,â€ and that really hurt them bad. So Kevin gave me the distribution deal on Asylum. From there, I went around to all the major labels, and nobody wanted to give me the money I thought I deservedâ€¦ Lo and behold, Hip Hop [Kyambo Joshua] brought me to Columbia and said, â€œWeâ€™re gonna make it pop.â€ Rick Rubin was smart enough to trust Hip Hopâ€™s judgment and ultimately gave him the OK to cut the check. Iâ€™ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, as far as being able to run business in a major way. Iâ€™m about to give â€™em my point of view, our point of view. And I think weâ€™re pretty good. I think we might be better than Death Row.
So it paid to hold out until you got the deal you felt you deserved.
You donâ€™t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate. Thatâ€™s business. Most people feel they deserve the world, but they negotiate for nothing and end up feeling like they got jerked. Thatâ€™s why I was able to have three deals and an executive position and whatever I wanted to do at my beck and call. Thatâ€™s what I negotiated.
Did you acquire your business savvy strictly in the streets?
I graduated six months early from high school. I went to a career skills and training organization that helped my business sense, so Iâ€™m a little more hip to business than the average person coming into the game. It was a half-a-day thing so I could come back, be outside, hustle. N***as was still in school. At 17, I started making $30K a year doing clerical work in a law firm. After work Iâ€™d go on the block with my suit on and hustle crack. Then I stepped full-fledge into the streetâ€”all the way in, deep. At 18, I was full-blown gone.
How did you coerce Damon Dash into coming back?
It wasnâ€™t too easy. To have him right here helps my brand out a lot. Itâ€™s like two major corporations joining together. We both know what it takes above anything to succeed. We know what it takes to start your own movement, build a brand and turn it into a conglomerate. We both been through similar things with people we consider to be our close friends, even brothers. Iâ€™ll tell you, you never know who your friends are until you and your friends get money. Ya dig? But for a hustler, you shake it off and do something different.
What did you learn from Camâ€™ron about business?
Never mix friendship with business.–Laura Checkoway
To read the full interview, check out KING’s big 50th issue–in stores now!
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