Curated by Warren “LACK OF FLAWS” Griffin
Black Creatives, Executives, and Professionals continue to be the life force of music
entertainment companies. Their leadership and influence affect what are heard, seen
and consumed not only in the U.S but around the globe. It is not always fully respected
or properly compensated, but that doesn’t dampen the passion and drive that so
many Black professionals bring to the table – to the music industry marketplace –on
a daily basis.
Covering Black Music Professionals has been a central part to what we do here at
Music Industry Quarterly; but as we close out 2020, and just as we did earlier this
year with our “Executives To Watch List,” we want to highlight these 20 Black Executives,
who were selected for their outstanding contributions to the cause and culture.
Stay tuned as we will soon be conducting 20-minute zoom interviews with these
THE EXECS (in alpha order)
AL MCLEAN, VP, PUBLISHING, EMPIRE PUBLISHING
Heading up Empire’s new publishing division is Al “Butta” McLean,
who joins the indie giant from Kobalt Music Publishing where he steered their Urban department with signings like Slip N Slide, DJ Premier, Childish Gambino, Mike Will Made it, Noah “40” Shebib, and others. Empire CEO, Ghazi, has stated that Empire Publishing will revolutionize the way publishing has been handled for artists and creatives. Butta’s deep roots in A&R, Management and Publishing make him the ideal candidate to lead the charge.
ANDRE BENJAMIN, SVP, FINANCE AND STRATEGY, VYDIA
Vydia’s new SVP has a proven track record of providing exemplary stewardship at each stop along his journey. Having held key executive posts at Goldman Sachs, CoStar Group, and now his senior position at Vydia, Benjamin is a seasoned leader who focuses on corporate growth and long-term strategy. Since joining the video content management platform, Benjamin has assisted in the establishment of Vydia’s three-year financial plan, corporate processes for efficiency and long-term success.
BIANCA EDWARDS, MARKETING DIRECTOR, ROC NATION
Dot connector, mover and shaker are just some phrases that sum
up Bianca. Graduating from Belmont University, and earning her Masters in Executive Management from St. John’s University to directing marketing efforts for Roc Nation and artists like Rapsody, Infinity Song and Buju Banton is no small feat. Known for her relationships and ability to work with talent of all types, makes Bianca a key person to watch. Previously a talent booker for BET Networks, Viacom and Complex, her contact list is ever growing. She continues to provide her clients and projects with a superior advantage in breaking into the marketplace.
BRITTANY PERRY, MANAGER, CREATIVE A&R, SONY ATV
Brittany has stormed onto the A&R scene with several notable signings since joining Sony ATV. Breakout artist Rod Wave, TikTok sensation Tiagz and viral hit producer Reuel are among a few of her acquisitions to date. Her forward-thinking approach to scouting talent will keep her at the forefront of tomorrow’s sound. Brittany is also running her creative collective, TrapHaus, which focuses on songwriters and composers on the rise.
CHIEF JOHNSON, SR. MANAGER ENTERTAINMENT MARKETING, PUMA
Hailing from Colorado and a former member of a rap group, Chief made the transition to Los Angeles, where he turned a day job into a lifestyle that impacts the culture at large.
Chief has held positions at GreyOne, Crooks & Castles, and Young and Reckless. Since being at Puma, he orchestrated a historic partnership with the late Nipsey Hussle. Chief has also played an integral role in the launching of RMR with CMNTY RCRDS (community records) in conjunction with Warner Records.
COURTNEY COUCH, MARKETING DIRECTOR, ATLANTIC RECORDS; FOUNDER, C.LUXE
What makes Courtney unique is her willingness to approach each project with fresh eyes and an open mind. A few highlights from C.Lux, Courtney’s agency are, Disney’s Black Panther, Travis Scott, Undefeated, Adidas, Puma, Hennessy, Footaction and more. She is a beast and she’s not stopping anytime soon. Atlantic is lucky to have her and we’ll be watching for her handy work in the near future.
DRE LONDON, CEO, LONDON ENT; MANAGER FOR POST MALONE
Quietly and off the radar, Dre has managed Post Malone, the No. 1 streaming artist in the world, and helped amass sold out tours and brand partnerships. Dre is now
hard at work building out London Ent, which is a management, label and production company representing producers, writers and artists, in addition to Post Malone. Born overseas in the UK, we’re excited to see what Dre draws up next for his clients and company.
ELLIOTT WILSON, CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER, TIDAL
Elliott Wilson might be one of the greatest voices in Hip-Hop history to have never been behind the mic. This man has represented the culture and provided artists with a direct
opportunity to convey their side of the story directly to the public. He has held high posts at iconic publications like XXL and The Source, before going on to launch Rap Radar. Elliot makes the list for the exciting additions he’s made to Tidal’s original editorial offerings and curator made playlists.
ERICKA COULTER, VP, A&R, EPIC RECORDS, CO-FOUNDER, THE BASEMENT LA
Songwriter turned A&R, Ericka has proven herself to be a creative force in and out the booth. Her creative fingerprints can be seen on artists such as Rick Ross, 21 Savage, Jidenna, Keyshia Cole and others. Ericka’s feel for what’s next has a new crop of acts set to breakout on Epic in early 2021. When she’s not running sessions, coordinating mixes or plan-ning a new release, she’s curating her brand The Basement LA. More recently Ericka has partnered with AudioMack and Color of Change for a Voter Education Initiative.
JR MCKEE, HEAD OF DIGITAL SALES AND REVENUE, ALAMO RECORDS
Recently appointed Head of Digital Sales and Revenue for New York based Alamo Records, JR McKee’s unique approach to breaking artists in today’s climate lands him on our list. A multi-faceted executive with A&R, Marketing and Streaming experience, JR has worked alongside Lil Durk, K Camp, Q Money, YFN Lucci, Jacob Latimore, and countless other artists. His understanding of return on investment, analytics and building a listening fanbase on multiple platforms makes him the modern-day sales superstar.
LARRANCE DOPSON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, 1500 OR NOTHIN’
Starting as a founding member of the band 1500 or Nothin’, producer/musician Larrance “Rance” Dopson toured the world playing alongside artists like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Rick Ross and more. He has turned his attention to his legacy project, The 1500 Sound Academy in Inglewood, CA. The facility houses everything from studios, classrooms, rehearsal space, writing rooms and office space. In addition to educating tomorrow’s creatives, Rance finds time to stay in the studio producing records and Executive Producing albums for Trippie Redd, Coi Leray, and others.
LARRY JACKSON, GLOBAL CREATIVE DIRECTOR, APPLE MUSIC
Continuing an already impressive run as an A&R Executive overseeing projects for Alicia Keys, Mario, Santana, Chief Keef, Carly Rae Jepsen, to name a few, Larry transitioned to help Launch Apple Music in 2014. As Apple’s Global Creative Director, he has his hands in everything from Apple Music’s awardwinning brand commercials to playing a key role in launching Apple Music 1 (formally named Beats 1). He really is a “conduit to the culture.”
MARC BYERS, GENERAL MANAGER, MOTOWN RECORDS
Having settled into his role of General Manager at Motown, Marc Byers brings years of executive management, creative stewardship and a deep understanding of urban culture. Working directly alongside Motown President, Ethiopia Habtemariam, the company is ushering in a new era that has meant acquiring new staff, establishing company culture and strategy for the future. Things are paying off as Motown is having a resurgence due to its venture with Quality Control (Migos), and Lil Baby.
NORVA DENTON, SVP, A&R, WARNER RECORDS
Chi-Town native, creative and lifestyle executive Norva Denton makes the list for his fast ascension at Warner Records, based on the success of YFN Lucci, Wale, the new signing of Freddie Gibbs and new R&B vocalist Gallant. Norva’s approach to A&R is refreshing and allows artists to fully express themselves, while having a trusted ear to advise on creative strategy and lifestyle opportunities. This marketing acumen was sharpened during Norva’s tenure at Universal as an Artist Development Rep.
SAINT HARRAWAY, SVP, A&R, REPUBLIC RECORDS
Starting his career interning at the legendary Bad Boy Records, Saint quickly learned the tricks of the trade honing his ear and eye for talent. Now, Senior Vice President at Republic Records, he has been leading the charge on breakout acts Coi Leray, Aminé and Ski Mask the Slump God. Saint has a very hands-on approach and is frequently in the studio with his artists. He is often seen at photoshoots, lifestyle events, performances supporting and connecting dots for his acts.
SICKAMORE, SVP, A&R, INTERSCOPE RECORDS, HEAD OF MUSIC, CACTUS JACK
Sickamore has introduced us to a new kind of creative executive. While maintaining his SVP of A&R and Creative Director post for Interscope Records, Sickamore is also Head of Music of Travis Scott’s creative house, Cactus Jack. His A&R expertise can be seen all over artists like Sheck Wes, Travis Scott, YG and others. He once managed a little-known female rapper from New York named Nicki Minaj. Sickamore has shared his creative insights at historic colleges and universities like Harvard, UCLA, USC and NYU’s Clive Davis School of Music.
STEVE “STEVE-O” CARLESS, THE SC COMPANY, REPUBLIC RECORDS
As an innovative and strategic tastemaker, A&R and creative thinker, it was a no-brainer to put “Mr. Behind the Scenes” on our list of executives. Steve has worked his way up from humble beginnings in New York to working alongside the late Nipsey Hussle; from assisting with the launch of The Marathon to overseeing strategy for the iconic brand. In between Steve has found time to A&R projects for artists like YG, 2 Chainz, Jeezy, Gunplay and Lil Durk. If you’re not familiar with Steve-O, get hip.
SYDNEY LOPES, HEAD OF HIP-HOP AND R&B, ARTIST MARKETING, SPOTIFY
Sydney has managed marketing initiatives and activations for brands such as Target, Equinox, American Express and a host of superstars that include Travis Scott. For Travis’ Astronomical virtual concert, Sydney and her team contributed to amplifying the project by focusing on driving engagement to Travis’ highly active 44m audience and Spotify’s numerous hip-hop and gaming playlists. Over the years Sydney has used her expertise to oversee the production of award-winning content across multiple forms of media.
WAYNE HAMPTON, CO-FOUNDER/CBO, CREATE MUSIC GROUP; CEO, HAROLD’S CHICKEN, LOS ANGELES
Entrepreneur, Music Executive, and Restaurateur only begin to describe Wayne Hampton. He’s made a name for himself working with artists like Famous Dex, Sean Garrett, Lil Durk, Lil Reese, and others. Wayne is co-founder of Create Music Group, a leading rights management and distribution company, recently listed at No. 2 on Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Company in the U.S. Bringing his roots with him to Los Angeles, Wayne recently opened Harold’s Chicken West Coast, a Chicago staple, in the heart of Hollywood. Stop by for a visit.
YOUNG JAS, MEDIA PERSONALITY, 97.9 THE BOX (HOUSTON)
H-Town nights might not ever be the same. Young Jas aka “Jas with the Juice” holds down weeknights on 9.79 The Box. More than just an on-air personality, Jas is also a writer and overall growing media maven. Jas has been heard on news networks like Fox 26 in Houston where she contributes an honest, raw and much needed perspective on music, lifestyle and pop culture. She’s definitely a star on the rise!