Aimer Amour 2012 Year in Review
Ca$h Out On Patience & Consistency
Amir Windom J. Holiday Nรถne
A IMER A IMER Table of Contents
The Epic Records/Based Loaded artist CA$H OUT speaks with AimerAmour about the pressure to live up to the success of his last hit; his experiences with legend LA Reid and advice for aspiring artists. Ca$h Out follows up on the his last mixtape, “It’s My Time” by titling his debut album “Patience” because, “…just taking my time is all it took”. Well, the wait is over. Pg. 12
The GRAMMY Award Winning Record Executive on the current state of the music industry, responsibilities of an A&R and the difference between Success and Significance. Pg. 8
Back with his new hit, “Sign My Name”, J.Holiday shows that he hasn’t strayed from catchy hooks coupled with his soothing voice nostalgic of his idol, Marvin Gaye. 2013 is J.Holiday’s for the taking. Pg. 15
The newest addition to BET Music Matters campaign. The New York native discusses her international single “Miss Ceile” and how her upbringing helped to shape her eclectic tastes. Pg. 20
2012 Year in Review
Senior National Director of Mix Show Promotions at Universal Republic Records on branding, knowing a hit when he hears one and the relationships necessary to break an artist’s record. Pg.16
NEW SERIES: LET’s EAT!
For the inaugural review Lifestyle Editor Jackie Hall visits DC hottest new venue CAUSE: The Philantropub and interviews the Founders on the inspiration behind the socially conscious hot-spot. Pg. 22
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS So many people have been a blessing to me throughout my journey but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some particular people that helped to make this issue possible. In addition to being major supporters and contributors to the magazine. Moving forward I will do a better job of showing gratitude but this is a start...! This Issue is Dedicated to Amir Windom: You’ve answered a prayer. Thank you for your mentorship. Courtney Lowery: When I call for content you answer! I’m eternally grateful for your continuous support of the mag from the beginning! I’m striving to make you proud. Vashon Straws: You’re soooo wise and insightful, I really enjoyed our interview. I still owe you a photo shoot! I hope we can start fresh in the New Year! Sydney Margetson: You definitely believe in reaching back and helping the next in line. You’ve made such a difference in my life and the lives of many others! Sydney Jane: There would probably be no AimerAmour if you hadn’t brought the vision to fruition (x33!) James Artis: You’ve been one of my biggest cheerleaders. You’ve always seen and expected greatness from me. Thank you. Ashley Chrisman: For taking the time to mail me a card to say “Happy Anniversary” to the magazine! You go above and beyond as a friend. Mercy & Tia: For taking time out of your busy schedules to help bring the Brand Launch Party to fruition. Those late night meetings mean the world to me! I’m so happy to have such powerful ladies on my team! Dan & Jackie: Thank you for believing and wanting more for the brand. I love you both so much! 2013 is ours!
Confidence. Commitment. Confetti.
pick it back up again. Regardless was a series of of the artist or tastemaker I’d highs and lows. I became legal and interview, it never seemed good graduated from college. I stepped enough. When in reality, I didn’t off the stage, degree in hand, but feel confident enough to publish no full time job after priding myself what I’d done, make mistakes, get constructive criticism and then off a resume filled with nurture AimerAmour to greatness. prestigious companies and international experience. After Since graduation, I’ve learned that several months without income, I I am in control of my actions and found myself depressed, applying my happiness. I’ve learned for fast food jobs and eventually entertainment journalism, working in retail. I also graduated photography and videography from a series of relationships I make me happy and I’m capable had for years. I felt alone-I didn’t of doing them all, proficiently, when have a sense of direction, I didn’t I’m not sabotaging my efforts with love myself or have any interest in self-doubt. my magazine. A brand I had work tirelessly to build while in college, I As of recent, I’m now happier than second-guessed its ability to thrive I’ve been in a long time. I have a outside of the walls of my dorm great team of people that believe room. in me and most importantly, I This issue is a collection of believe in myself and AimerAmour. interviews I’ve done throughout I’ve had ample time while at my 2012 when I would pick the retail job folding jeans and hanging magazine up, put it down, then t-shirts to re-evaluate what I want
out of life. I’ve realized that everything starts with me executing my ideas and seeing my visions to fruition. I hope the New Year also helps you to take control of your life and accomplish a goal you’ve have in mind for a long time but keep delaying. You are capable! Just be confident and committed to seeing it to completion! Thanks for reading! (Throws Red Confetti!)
Sincerely, Zon D’Amour Founder/Editor-In-Chief, AimerAmour
THE AA TEAM JACKIE HALL Lifestyle Editor
Jackie Hall is a force to be reckoned with. She is from Silver Spring, Maryland and a graduate of The University of Maryland. As the Lifestyle editor of AimerAmour.com, Jackie, now a Washington, D.C. resident, brings viewers an exciting look at all the world has to offer around them; in food, fashion, music and the arts. A true people person, Jackie has rubbed shoulders with renowned celebrity artists in the entertainment industry and can make anyone comfortable and feel as though they have been friends with her for years. Jackie’s passion and lust for life is sure to keep viewers entertained. @realjackiehall
Aladdin is a native Washingtonian and On-Air personality for WPGC 95.5. Upon graduation with his BA in Broadcast Journalism from Bowie State University, he flipped an internship with WPGC into a board-op position and then served as a producer for the nationally syndicated radio the Donnie Simpson Morning Show. Though Aladdin is one of the most sought after hosts in the DMV area he finds ample time to give back to his community as a member of several service based organizations including, TASA: Teens Against the Spread of Aids that proves HIV prevention in the District. @aladdindaprince
Zon D’Amour is an Alumna of Howard University with a BA in Film/Electronic Studio. She is the Founder/Editor-In-Chief of AimerAmour.com. Born in Los Angeles, California, D’Amour was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. D’Amour is diligently working to expand AimerAmour’s online presence in addition to establishing a scholarship foundation for African American males interested in pursing communications in college. Post graduation, directing music videos, producing her own television series and relocating to London are amongst D’Amour’s short term goals. @AimerAmourMag
Watch Our TOP interviews of the year LIVE on AIMERAMOUR.com RIGHT NOW
I. A$AP ROCKY
Rocky has raised the bar for all other upcoming rappers with his debut mixtape LIVELOVEA$AP, and the subsequent signing to Sony/RCA/Polo Grounds Music for $3 million. Regardless of how his life has changed since the signing and his new found fame, when asked about the pressure he feels being at the forefront of his “A$AP Mob” Rocky comments, “There’s no pressure…I want this to be the next Death Row Records where you have a Snoop that can do his own thing, you have a 2Pac that can do his own thing, you got Dr. Dre…I don’t want it to be a bunch of miscellaneous [people] that roll with me...” (More on AimerAmour.com)
II. DIGGY SIMMONS
On how his fans inspire his music: “…When [my fans] tell me I inspire them to do this or that and then seeing them make their dreams come true and work towards what they want to do; their ambition inspires me. On his first embarrassing moment: “…New York Stream Tour last year, I fell off the stage. That was pretty crazy! But there were security guards down in the pit so they just picked me back up…”
III. TREY SONGZ
On the state of “love” in R&B music: “….[Love songs] may not get the success that they use to, but I think it’s still here and there’s a need for more of it. I don’t think it’s dead, but it’s definitely dying…” On his relationships being incorporated into the album on songs like “Playin Hard”: “…That’s a song that’s very vulnerable and very true and of course it has real sentiment for me…”
(More on AimerAmour.com)
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DO THE RIGHT THING IN 2013!
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At the youthful age of 27, Amir Windom has experienced unprecedented success as a Record Executive, Music Supervisor Television and Film projects. From working on award winning albums with artists such as Trey Songz, Kanye West, T.I, Lupe Fiasco and B.o.B to name a few; Windom’s creative genius always yields impressive results. Windom also lends his creative mind in developing marketing campaigns for notable brands such as Kodak and Adidas. AimerAmour speaks with Windom about his ‘Significance vs. Success’ motto; How artists can better prepare themselves for the music business; Using his creative genes to build global brands; And how he’s trying to be legendary like Quincy Jones… and have people leaving the movie theater saying… “The music in that movie was off the chain!”
Photo Credit: Maya A. Darasaw
Interview by Zon D’Amour
AimerAmour: You frequently say, “Be more than be more than successful, I want to be SIGNIFICANT.’ I want to leave a legacy that matters; I want successful, be significant”, can you explain your definition of success versus significance? to leave a legacy that my family can be proud of. The success part is winning GRAMMY’s, having platinum Amir Windom: One day I was on a plane, I was in my plaques, ‘money, cars, clothes, the o’s, I suppose’ early days and I was trying to figure out what I was go(laughs). The significance is when you improve the ing to do to be unique. What’s going to be my legacy? lives of others around you. That’s how a legacy is built What was I doing differently that others weren’t doing? beyond the money and success of someone’s career. What am I bringing to this industry that doesn’t already Those who have truly done things to enhance the lives exist? And it just hit me; I hear so much about people of others are those who really go down in history as wanting to be successful… but what about those that the most memorable. That’s how I differentiate success want to be? And I thought, ‘Wow that’s deep, I want to from significance.
AA: How do you create marketing strategies to get fans to buy music when they can just get it for free?
process. When you had company over and they would look at your record collection, they would say ‘damn, your record collection is tight!’. That made them feel good. It was like having 1st place trophies on the wall. AW: If you wanted to fly to LA right They would be in their house shining now, you can’t just go online and records up like it was some brand get a free flight. You can maybe buy new leather shoes. I’m trying to get 10 flights and then get one free… There are often buy one get one free that same since of pride back when it sales at grocery stores. Key point… comes to buying and marketing in the You have to buy one… then get one music industry. We have to get people to free…. But the music biz… Very change their mindset from ‘GIVE US different. The music biz is the only industry where if there’s an album or FREE’ to more so “GOBO”. “GOBO” song that you want, there are tons of is something I created which stands file sharing sites where you can get it for “Get One Buy One”. You have to for the free 99. And because of this, give away free music because that’s what consumers are used to, but I it’s hard to think sales will just jump back up, if we don’t change the mind also think we have to start marketing to them that if you like what you hear, set of consumers. buy it as you would buy food or shoes In our parents’ generation, that you like. I’m working with several people took pride in the buying
record industry organizations so that we can put more marketing communication out to the public that simply encourages that consumer buying model. So many people say ‘I love music, it’s my life! I wake up to it everyday!’… however… these are the same mofo’s who aren’t supporting their favorite artist in the slightest. They aren’t spending any money on the thing they say they love. And we know that when you love something… you invest time, energy and resources into. We’re trying to get people back to investing into music, into artists and into the creative arts as a whole. It’s basic strategic marketing that I’m focused on, to get consumers back into the buying mindset.
“So many come people come up to me and say ‘Man I done put out 10 mix tapes and nobody signed me yet!’…The music industry is absolutely not a sprint and you have to be in the mindset that there is no set course on how to succeed.” AA: Is there anything in your career that you would have done differently? AW: I’m not one to say I’d do things differently. Life is about not letting your past spoil your future. My advice for up and coming artists and anyone who wants to be in the record biz or entertainment biz….Truly understand that the music industry and the entertainment industry as a whole is a marathon. It’s absolutely not a sprint. That race that people normally go get snacks during… The 10,000 meter race…
Where it seems like they just keep going and going and going… That’s the record biz. A lot of people want to jump in and be the star sprinter in the 100 and 200… The record and entertainment biz greats are excellent distant runners. So stock up on the Gatorade, Red Bull and Nike’s. I also believe you have to be in the mindset that there is no set course on how to succeed. If you wanted to be a doctor, you know you have to major in bio pre-med in undergrad, go to med school, do a residency and there’s a good chance you’ll end up a doctor. In the music
business… there’s no set course/ path that will guarantee success. I don’t think people understand that. So many come people come up to me and say, ‘Man I done put out 10 mix tapes and nobody signed me yet!’ You have to have a passion and a love for this business because you’re going to get a lot of disappointments. You should have the mindset of, ‘No success is attained without struggle’. You’re going to have to struggle, which in my opinion is not only a part of the game, but a part of life. 9
AA: You’ve said that as an A&R, you’re only looking for ‘GRAMMY Award winning talent’. So many up and coming artists say they’re “hustling” and “grinding” but it isn’t yielding results. What are they doing wrong and what should they be doing to place themselves in a better position to get signed? AW: This industry is a lot about timing and luck. Sometimes it’s not that anyone doesn’t have talent or their doing anything wrong, but I do think a lot of artists are only preparing themselves to just get in; have one or two songs played on the radio… Get famous for a little while… Pop bottles, Meet models… And… Within two years… Their moment of fame has disappeared. I don’t think they’re really building themselves for longevity. And that’s where the problem lies. Did they really do all that alleged grinding for years… To just to get in for a hot sec, and be gone in a hot sec… AA: What artists and/or producers that have built their brand outside of music would you advise other artists study? AW: Pharrell Williams has always been the person in this industry that I’ve admired the most. He truly has a lot of God given ability; he’s an extreme visionary with his music and his creativity. He approached the
Probably one of the biggest, not even mistakes [an artist can make] is just lack of preparation. They need to take more time to learn the business. How can you dominate a business if you don’t truly understand it? I don’t understand how people want to try to get into this business and don’t understand publishing and royalties and how they get paid. I also think you have to learn to differentiate a Hobby from a Career… I look at the music business like professional sports. People in that industry have God given undeniable talent. They came out the womb ready to shoot a basketball. They fined tuned an enhanced their God given talents… But, the point is… They had a gift. I can’t just jump into the NFL because I’m fast and strong. You have to have some skill level. You have to have God given ability and a relentless work ethic to compliment it. Some people think work ethic is ‘I stay up all night’. Skill level is about working hard, but it’s also about being intelligent and knowing the business. You might stay
up all night and make music, but who are you going to market it to? How are you going to develop your fan base? Who do you know? Have you gone outside to develop your contacts and your networks? What have you done outside of just making music? I think that’s where a lot of artists fall short, they think the talent is just going to speak for itself, but, it doesn’t work like that. Talk doesn’t always get you the success you desire. It isn’t all about talent all the time. Sometimes it’s about the communication aspect. How are you getting out there and making people like you? Not just because your music is good, but as a person. It’s easy to just sit in a studio and talk to a mic all night, but is it easy for you to go out and talk to random strangers… that you don’t know… that you want to like your music? Nowadays, consumers support artists not only based on their music, but the person behind the music. The personality, what you have in common, how you personally connect with people, etc.
music industry from a different standpoint. He didn’t want to be known as just a hip-hop producer. He’s created so much diverse music for so many people in various genres. And of course he started one of my favorite bands of all time, N.E.R.D. Pharrell has helped advance the music careers of so many others… He’s found a way to keeps his hands everywhere, but in a neutral standpoint
where he can never be classified. Mos Def is another person who’s God given talent was music, but also knew he had a lot of other talent. And he didn’t just jump into it, he went to acting classes and studied other people he admired to see what’s making them great. He and Pharrell are so versatile to the point where you can’t put them in a box, they’re just entertainers.
“I think that’s where a lot of artists fall short is they think the talent is just going to speak for itself but it doesn’t work like that.” AA: How does your work as a Music Supervisor for feature films differ from your work as a record executive? AW: Being a music supervisor is a bit more challenging than the record business because you have to have an imagination like a kid and a vast musical library of ALL GENRES, programmed in your head. First step is to read the script to truly understand the essence of the movie. I read to script to mentally visualize the scene. I envision the scene in action and from there, songs start popping in my head. (Sidenote: As I listen to music in general, I always try to visualize the perfect scene where this song would fit. This helps when I’m actually working on a film or tv show) From there, I get the blank
scenes with no sound or music behind it. I looked to see what happened before the scene and what’s going to happen next. The music has to compliment both. Then I have to figure out if there is a song that already exists that can truly fit this scene. Now… it’s not like I can go into the computer and type ‘emotional R&B song’ and think the perfect song is going to pop up… This is where having that mental musical library comes in handy. You have to have sounds and songs in your head. You have to see things in that scene that brings out particular sounds or song trigger points. For example: If I’m working on a scene where it’s about to get to a very climatic point, I’m thinking about songs that have high chimes, cellos or dramatic transitions. To me, it’s more about the
instrumentation first. Once you figure that out, you can start thinking about what songs may have the lyrical content to compliment the scene. Keep in mind, this is if a song already exists that can fit the scene. If not, you have to have create it from scratch. You have to develop the song concept and musical direction first, before you bring in composers. Then you have to have contacts that you know can deliver the type of song you need. From a production standpoint: vocalists, writers, instrumentalists, choirs, score directors, symphony orchestras, etc… You have to know all these kinds of people and you have to know exactly who can deliver the kind of song you need, if you have to create it from scratch. Music supervision is definitely a fun challenge for me every time.
Windom has worked with countless artists including Trey Songz, Kanye West, T.I. and Lupe Fiasco.
AA: You’re a proven tastemaker within your field, you have GRAMMY’s, platinum plaques, extensive experience in the music and movie industry-what do you have left to accomplish? AW: I’ve been blessed to see a lot of amazing things and work with a lot of amazing people in my short 27 years
of life, but I’m never content. Some times I ask myself if I’m over doing it. I’m always trying to figure out how I can be more than successful, but significant. I’m looking at more ways to reach the world and work on global projects. I’m continuing to expand my music supervision skills, so I can continue to work on other projects. I’m always looking for new talent, not
just in the music world. I think most industry people will tell you, we have extreme ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and it’s hard for us to just focus on one thing. But the ADD causes me to continue wanting to keep trying to get to the next level in life. So ADD ain’t always a bad thing. Ha. 11
A|A COVER STORY
“Got a condo on my wrist girl,
I’m CASHIN OUT. Got a condo round my neck girl,
I’m CASHIN OUT…” (From “Cashin Out” by Cash Out)
With a number 1 single on Billboard that went Gold to remixes by Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Fabolous and Akon, Ca$h Out has been having an amazing rookie year. The Atlanta, Georgia, native is confident that consistency in his music and television appearances will ensure he’s more than a one-hit wonder. The Epic Records/Based Loaded artist speaks with AimerAmour about the pressure to live up to the success of his last hit, his experiences with legend LA Reid and advice for aspiring artists. Ca$h Out follows up on the success of his mixtape, “It’s My Time” by titling his debut album “Patience” because, “…just taking my time is all it took”. Well, the wait is over.
The Year Of
AA: With “Cashin Out” being such a big single, is there any pressure to create your songs with a certain formula to maintain the “Cashin Out” momentum? CO: Every record isn’t going to be a “Cashin Out”, every record isn’t going to be number one. I’ll be able to do what “Cashin Out” did by just staying consistent and getting [on the charts] in the top 20 then the top 10 bracket and working my way up. You never know what might land on number one spot but it’s about staying consistent. Your name needs to be relevant in
AA: Are there any pressures coming from Atlanta with it being the home of so many successful artists including OutKast, Future, Waka Flocka and T.I? Does it feel like yet another ATL rapper is over saturating the game or have people embraced you? CO: It’s a lot of rappers but you have to separate yourself. You have to be in that bowl of fish that can really rap and make hits at the same time. There are a lot of rappers but a lot of people can’t make hits. I know a lot of good rappers but it’s hard for them to make a song for themselves. They
Will A Fool, B Wheezy, DJ Montay, Sonny Digital, a lot of great young producers on there. It’s a great body of work, KE got the pop track and it’s not like the mixtape “Its My Time” that I dropped full of club bangers. [With “Patience”] I dibbled and dabbled and put different music on there, you’ll hear a great body of work. When you hear it, I think you’re gonna love it, you should love it, you will love it. AA: What are your pop tracks about?
“There are alot of rappers but alot of people can’t make hits.... This is a hard job, I’m just gifted and blessed that I can do it with ease and confidence.” that top 20 category. Have people say ‘We see Ca$h Out all the time. Every time a song drop it’s on the charts’, that’s consistency. AA: Advice for aspiring artists? CO: You have to have a loyal team behind you and keep GOD in whatever you do. Your buzz is going to start with where you’re from so your legwork in the streets has to be crazy as far as getting to know the DJs and radio personalities in your city-that’s where I started.
sound good on the remix and on features but it’s hard to stand alone. This is a hard job; I’m just gifted and blessed that I can do it with ease and confidence. AA: Tell me about the album, producers and features. CO: The title, “Patience” came from me being patient, just taking my time and that’s all it took. French Montana and B.o.B are on the album. I’m working on a couple more features but I don’t want too many, I want it to just be about me on this first album. I definitely, got spins on there.
CO: I’m singing on everything. When you hear it, you’ll say ‘I didn’t expect this!’ I’m not gonna give too much insight, but cop the album and you’re gonna hear everything I have to deliver. AA: You’re singing! So…you got vocals? CO: Yeah I got vocals! I’m trying to get better but I definitely got the vocals that’ll maintain and get me by. Like Drake, he has those vocals that just mellow out. He wasn’t hitting those Miguel high notes or nothing like that but he has crazy good R&B songs and that’s me.
A|A COVER STORY
A|A COVER STORY
AA: Any interests in your own entrepreneurial endeavors? Possibly starting your own label and signing artists? CO: Definitely when everything gets above ground on my end as far as the independent side. We’re pushing what I have going on as far as endorsements, acting and whatever comes to me. I’m gonna be prepared to take any challenge and knock it out and show my real talents. I can do anything cause I brought it from the streets to the rap game and when you’re in the streets, you adapt to the hustle and providing-when one things low, you’re on to the next thing and you transcend that to the music and the entertainment business. AA: How did you and Wale create your new single “Hold Up”? CO: [Wale] actually heard the song on my mixtape. Beat Billionaire who did the beat is on Maybach Music Group (MMG) too so when Wale heard the song, he said he had to get on it. He went in the studio and knocked it out ASAP. We presented it to the world and they accepted it. AA: Do you have any tours planned for “Patience”? CO: The next tour I want to get on is something that’s worth getting on-something that’s worth my
time. [A tour] that’s worth me not worrying about the money, I’m just going for the look. I need one of those Maybach Music Group (MMG) or Wiz Khalifa or something like that that’ll bring a different fan base. As far as urban, I got that, so when I get on a tour I want to get on something that’s a different crowd that never knew about Cash Out and bring that fan base into my world. Right now I’m on my own lil Cashin’ Out tour. I’ve been on the road since February. At the end of this year we’re doing the colleges and tying the build that [fan base] up. I’m getting as many tv looks as possible as far as MTV with a couple videos we’re about to do. We’re going hard before the album comes out in hopes of doing some exceptional numbers. AA: What’s been your experience with the legendary LA Reid since signing to Epic Records? CO: It’s all work and no play and you definitely have to go hard. LA Reid loved what my team, Bases Loaded, brought to the table as far as “Cashin Out”. We didn’t sit at LA Reid’s table and pick that song, we already had it going in Atlanta and in the Southeast Region and that’s what made [LA Reid] call us up to Epic Records. All he had to do was put his muscle behind work we had already done and that’s what
pushed “Cashin Out” to number one. We already had everything laid out. [The next single] “Hold Up” is starting the way “Cashin Out” did in the South East region, and after seeing this, [LA Reid] is getting behind it again. We’ve already laid it out. The video was done, the music was brought, we make everything easier for the label. (*Editor’s Note: On December 18th Ca$h Out released the mixtape, “Keisha”. His debut album, “Patience” will be released later in 2013!)
A|A COVER STORY
Five years after the Billboard #1 hit, “Bed”, J. Holiday is back with his new hit, “Sign My Name”. The single is reminiscent of the catchy hook and melodies that first made Holiday a house hold name. Fans of J. Holiday may also feel nostalgic listening to his new material as Holiday channels his idol, Marvin Gaye with his soothing vocals. The Washington, DC native discusses his hiatus, politics in the music industry as well as his new music, movie and television projects. Interview by Aladdin
J. HOLIDAY A: The last time I saw you was in 2009 after you released your second album “Round 2” then you faded to black. Everyone wants to know where you’ve been and how’ve you been? JH: Lets just say life is a crazy thing. This music thing, it’s a job like any other and you go through your trials and tribulations within your job like I’m sure everyone does… Just dealing with the politics, you know…but I try not to focus on that too much, I’m back with the new music. I’m here, I haven’t gone anywhere, my voice hasn’t gone anywhere. A: There are a lot of people that want to get into the music industry, can you talk a little about the politics and how things can go awry? You know you were on the top of the world and then it seemed like the label wanted to go in a different direction. JH: Man you just go through that. Sometimes its hard to agree to disagree in this industry. Somebody always feels as if their opinion is the one that counts. So that’s pretty much what you deal with and you just have to stick to your guns. But don’t stick to your guns if you’re not a good artist! Good artists are the ones that end up shining through all of the trials and tribulations…[In terms of advice] work at your craft; know your business and don’t get caught up in the hype.
Interview Cont. on Page 19
Senior National Director of Mix Show Promotions at Universal Republic Records,VASHON “RAP” STRAWS on branding, knowing a hit when he hears one and fostering the necessary relationships to break an artist’s record. The veteran music executive has lent his expertise to the success of records for Drake, Nicki Minaj and Kelly Rowland to name a few. Straws also discusses his interests outside of music which include giving back to his community and inspiring others to live life with a purpose. AA: Can you break down your job title and some of your day-to-day responsibilities?
VASHON “RAP” STRAWS Interview by Zon D’Amour
get the records added to rotation, its not like they’re walking in with a brand new song that the staff isn’t familiar with. [My job] includes sending out music on a daily basis, getting feedback from the DJs daily and figuring out ways to get artists, especially developing artists, out there to the masses at a price that doesn’t kick our teeth in i.e college shows, partnerships with different companies to do different promo events. There are a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, a lot of late nights even in the clubs
servicing the records when we get them because its not just radio, its different lifestyles that you have to attack. Different artists music is going to deal with different lifestyles; some could be strip clubs, some could be regular clubs, some could be alternative lifestyle clubs. But anywhere I could get the record out and heard, you’ll see me. That’s the bulk of it. There’s always inner office things that arise everyday but ultimately it’s about getting those records out there to break these artists.
we try to troubleshoot that before it gets out to the public. Its kind of tough now because of the internet but we try to bottle that up before it even comes out. In some cases that I’ve been in, it doesn’t always happen like. Like the “Massive Attack” record for VS: If we feel like we don’t have the Nicki [Minaj], as a label, we sat back right record or maybe the record might and waited for Cash Money to deliver be too extreme or not strong enough, this record that we hadn’t heard that
Sean Garrett had hyped up to be such a great record. It was a good record and a huge video but it wasn’t what she [Nicki] needed at the time so we couldn’t move fast enough to replace that record with something else. We finally caught up with it and that’s when we came out with her follow up record [“Your Love”] pretty quick. So disappointments do happen.
VS: I’m a Senior National Director at
Universal Republic. I service the records. More or less get all the records started on a Mix Show level which is specialty programming shows i.e the DJ shows when you listen to radio. We get the radio programmers, music directors and the public familiar with the records. So when the field staff goes out and try to get ads and AA: What do you do after a song doesn’t do well on the charts to try and prevent the “flop” from tarnishing the creditability of the artist and the label?
AA: Before the release of “Channel Orange”, Frank Ocean was signed but ‘independently’ released a lot of his own music. If more artists are taking matters into their own hands, what is there left for you to do? VS: Don’t be fooled, a lot of those
guys make friends in the building or make friends with promo people that help service those records to radio, the DJs, etc. A lot of artists aren’t doing that themselves. There are some [artists] that will definitely do the leg work and get their own thing cracking but overall a lot of that stuff isn’t the artists servicing the record or the doing the work. Ultimately, a good record has life, it has legs. As an artist, if you make one of those tracks and lets say you have one AA: Hypothetically, if you get a new Drake record and you don’t like and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘This is not hot’, do you still have to push it because its Drake? Or for another example, the new Nicki Minaj is um…
radio friend, they may give it to another friend that passes it along and anything can happen. Now do I think my job is dying? I’m not going to sit on camera and say that; not because I don’t see some validity. You can have somebody push buttons and send records but establishing and nurturing these relationships and doing what everybody that has this title does, you can’t eliminate the position or have a robot do it and expect to succeed. There’s certain work that has to be done and as long as people have to interact and there has to be real relationships, we’ll be fine. If there was a resurgence in record lablels, that would open up more jobs for people to do what I do; but being that its downward, there’s less opportunity but this position will be there.
talking about the DJs; so I knew we had one. Two days after we sent the record out, I went to a party in NYC, the DJ played the record and you could hear the crowd singing ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’. Two days after the record went out. I knew it [“Find Your Love”] was going to be a smash record. To speak on Nicki’s “Roman’s VS: (Laughs) I have to push it Revenge”, that’s her because it’s my job. I have to push a understanding her audience, that’s record I love with the same intensity just a set up record. It was giving her of the records that I might not like hip hop fans that want to hear her do but I know are going to do well. With Drake, that hasn’t happened yet. Most more rapping, its giving them a taste of his records I knew would translate. of that before she goes ahead with the broader bigger sounding record. I can remember hearing “Find Your So she’s not forgetting her core base Love” for the first time and I’m like before she branches out. Now that ‘Damn this sounds like an R.Kelly record, something R.Kelly would have song wasn’t designed to be a song you hear on radio all day everyday. done in the past’. I sent that record Aspiring artists and consumers out, sat at my desk and in no less than five minutes the phone calls and shouldn’t be fooled, understand it’s a business. You have to understand emails were coming in on how much people are very strategic and that the people loved that record. I’m usually equals out to success.
“...An artist will think they have the urban base on lock so now its time to branch out and do more. But you have to know when the time is right to spread those wings. You have to be aware of the pace that you’re moving at. You don’t want to move too fast and fall two steps further back than where you were.” 17
Vashon “Rap” STRAWS a broader fan base. But as far as Kelly Rowland alone, she has to build that up. She has to start from the bottom. Even though she had somewhat of a head start with the group she was apart of, she still had to take it back to the basics. Urban [radio] is the platform that dictates what’s hot and VS: I was fortunate enough to work what’s not. Urban records may not sell with Kelly [Rowland] during the Sony a lot, it may not be the most played Urban days so I saw that process and format on radio either but we dictate we she came over to Motown I worked what’s cool, what’s moving in the with that project as well. Identifying streets and what people want to hear. with the audience that you’re trying to [Kelly Rowland’s] next record, wasn’t reach is key. Her “Simply Deep” album as urban so those fans may not have had a lot of that music was geared hear it or might not have gravitated towards a different audience. The “Mo- towards it as much. It was a broader tivation” record was geared towards record, it was rhythm record, the an urban audience. She kind of catered temple was more fast pace. it towards her people and her people A new artist shouldn’t be were very receptive to it. A lot of times discouraged; it just goes back to your artists make bigger sounder records brand and identifying who you’re or try to appeal to a different audience targeting with your music. And as you because Destiny Child’s music reached grow you want to say cool, an artist AA: Why is it that some artists, for example, Kelly Rowland, who found success when she was apart of a group, can’t seem to cross over as a solo artist and get radio spins?
will think they have the urban base on lock so now its time to branch out and do more. But you have to know when the time is right to spread those wings. You have to be aware of the pace that you’re moving at. You don’t want to move too fast and fall two steps further back than where you were. New artists need to know, there’s no formula, just identifying where you’re at and where your trying to go with your career. It took Destiny’s Child a while for consumers to look at them as an amazing group. So for Kelly [Rowland] it’s no different. Beyonce was the lead so people wanted greatness from her and all she had to do was deliver and she did. But Kelly or Michelle, when you’re not the forefront artist, its different, but I think they’ll figure it out and have success. Kelly’s had a few different music and fashion type shows. It’s about finding your lane and finding what works for you.
“I can remember hearing “Find Your Love” for the first time and I’m like ‘Damn this sounds like an R.Kelly record, something R.Kelly would have done in the past’. I sent that record out, sat at my desk and in no less than five minutes the phone calls and emails were coming in on how much the people loved that record.” AA: What are your career goals for yourself?
not 100% what it will be, but it has to be fun. I think I’m here because I followed a fun path. Everything is hard VS: First and foremost continue to work but I’ve always followed the fun. grow in the music business. It would be At times it can be stressful but I have a great if I could eventually be the VP of fun job. Promotions. If I can transition into A&R Something that I would like to and wear both hats, that would be cool. do that would be personally fulfilling I love sports as well. I could even see is working with kids. I want to give my myself transitioning into something in time to a cause that means something the sports world, which is still to a person that’s less fortunate. I entertainment, or in the beverage and want to do something will help inspire alcohol world. Whatever it is and I’m others. It doesn’t have to be huge or
change the world, but I just want to inspire others to do something positive and believe in themselves. I’m a spiritual guy, I’ve been blessed and I acknowledge that every day. I don’t throw my religion on other people but I think it shines I think it resonates through me. A lot of people have given up and that’s the easiest thing to do is to give up in life. I think wanting to help people from my mother. Instead of just talking about it, I’m going to go out and do it.
A: Well how did that affect you personally because you have the family, you have to make sure the kids eat… JH: For a second, I was to the point where I didn’t want to do this anymore but when something is in your heart, it’s your passion and you have to just go with it. Some things you cant just put down because they keep following you around so you have to do it. A: In this time off, what have you been doing? Have you been writing for other artists? Did you pick up another career in the mean time? JH: Naw, I’ve been raising my daughters and recording. I’m just focusing on J.Holiday right now. I’m not even thinking about writing for other artists, I have to get my whole thing back in order and that’s all I’ve been doing. A: Do you have any projects outside of music that you’re working on? JH: I’m writing a movie right now and I’m working on a TV show that going to be a live debate forum. There are so many things that can be done in this industry that I think a lot of people don’t try to tap into because its always about what you’re wearing, what you’re driving and how much money you have. There are so many things that can be tapped into and that what I’m trying to do. A: Anything you’ve been through that we’ll see put on paper and on the big screen?
J. HOLIDAY cont’d
JH: Possibly, especially since I cut my hair, they might let me play Marvin Gaye now and I would love to do that.
A: You’re back with a new single, “Sign My Name”; what was the inspiration going into the studio? JH: Reintroducing myself. “Sign My Name” has a few meanings. It’s obviously a sexual song, that’s self explanatory but its also me signing my name as far as R&B is concerned. If you didn’t know I was R&B before, you’re definitely going to see it on this album. I’m just trying to make sure that people know I’m still out here and trying to get some new fans. A: With the evolution of music and R&B being a little faster and upbeat-there’s a lot of fist pumping going on right now, what are your thoughts on that? JH: I think there’s room for everybody. But we have to, especially in urban music make sure that everything Gladys Knight, Marvin Gaye, Patti Labelle and Luther Vandross did and fought for coming up, that shouldn’t get lost in the sauce. A: Do you think love is being lost when a lot of songs focus on money, cars and materialistic things? JH: Yea, its really no love in music anymore. You’re going to hear it in my music and on my album, but I can’t speak for anyone else.
“Sign My Name” has a few meanings. It’s obviously a sexual song...but its also me signing my name as far as R&B is concerned. If you didn’t know I was R&B before, you’re definitely going to see it on this album. I’m just trying to make sure that people know I’m still out here...
After her 1st performance on BET’s hit series, 106 & Park, AimerAmour sits down with songstress NÖNE to discuss the meaning behind her international hit “Miss Ceile”. The New York native is the newest addition to the BET “Music Matters” Campaign. “Music Matters” is known for selecting the best up-and-coming artists and providing them with an amazing platform to promote their talent. Nöne is in good company amongst the initiatives successful and GRAMMY nominated artists including Elle Varner, Miguel, J.Cole and Marsha Ambrosius. Nöne gives her insight on being an independent artist, her transition from behind the scenes to center stage and give advice for aspiring artists on the importance of believing in yourself.
NÖNE (pronounced Know-Knee)
AA: Can you explain the context of you song, “Miss Celie” for people who haven’t seen the music video? N: My producer Anthony Giles wrote
a song called “Miss Celie” that was inspired by a photo shoot that I did with my makeup artist Tamara Delbridge and J. Shotti who co-directed the [music] video. It’s a celebration of makeup! In the glam world when we say, ‘Her face is beat’ that means she has a really great face of makeup. That’s where “Ms. Celie says beat her” came from. You know the famous line from “The Color Purple”, what advice did she [Celie] give to Harpo? She said ‘Beat Her’! So we’re quoting it, but we’re using it as a euphemism for something else. We’re not promoting violence in anyway, I wouldn’t hurt a fly! “Ms. Celie says
beat her” is all about the makeup world. It’s just a clever little play on words. I really love that song and it was a fun video.
AA: You’ve coined your music as being “Supermodelmusik”. How would you describe that genre? N: “Supermodelmusik”. was created
by my producer Anthony Giles. He’s a really big fan of fashion particularly Givenchy. He would watch fashion shows on mute and create tracks to them. So when you listen to our music, “Supermodelmusik” you feel like you’re about to strut on a runway. “Supermodelmusik” isn’t just for super models, we want everyone no matter what size or walk of life, male or female, gay or straight; when you listen to it, your strut is different,
you feel fierce and you’re ready to take on the world. “Supermodelmusik” is about a celebration of life. Being yourself and not holding yourself back to make others comfortable. It’s about living to shine. AA: What’s the meaning behind your stage name? N: I got it from something my mom
always used to tell me when I was younger. She used to go out to clubs a lot and as she was getting ready, I was so fascinated by that world so I would say ‘Where you going mommy? Who you going with?’ And she would say “N.O.N.E” which basically meant “None of your business”. So that’s where I got that name from. I love it because its short, concise and simple but I think it’s powerful at the same time.
A: Are you an independent artist that’s looking to get signed? What are you working on that your fans can look forward to? N: I’ve been having this debate over the years
and I’ve found that even though the internet has opened many avenues for me to reach my audience, its a lot easier for male rappers and rock bands because a budget isn’t that necessary. They can roll out of bed, put a t-shirt on and do a show. But for a female independent artist it would be great to have a budget. Right now the budget is me and my day job financing everything so its about being resourceful because we make sure that ever time I step out, it looks like I have one [a budget]. But yes, eventually I would like to have a record deal. Right now we’re on our grind, we’re getting the word out and I’m really excited. I have enough [music] for an album which will called, “Live to Shine”. My producer Anthony Giles and I co-write everything together. Right now we’re working the single “Miss Celie” and I’m so happy to announce that it’s playing in 50 countries on BET International so we’re looking forward to it making a splash world wide. We’re also pushing the “How 2 Treat Ya” single produced by Kevin McCall. AA: How has being from New York influenced your artistry? N: I was born and raised in South Side Jamaica
Queens, New York. I also lived in Ravenswood projects which is just a block, maybe two blocks away from Queenbridge where a lot of known rappers came from like Mob Deep and Nas. It was a little rough growing up. I moved around a lot with my mom and little brother so it was really difficult for me to latch on and make friends. I was always that shy, quiet kid just drawing in my notebook, writing poems, reading lots of books and I kind of created my own world from that. While
everyone was listening to hip-hop, I was listening to rock and jazz and even opera sometimes.Everything that I was listened to growing up has definitely influenced my sound. AA: Is there anything that you wish you would have known when you first started that you would tell an aspiring singer? N: What I wish I would have known then that I know now is a
new discovery for me and its finally how I found my voice. You have to believe in yourself. People can tell you all day, ‘You’re so good’ but its not until you really believe that you’re special that you become special and become the artist that you are in your head. A lot of singers, we imagine how we want to be, but then when we [perform] we hold back because we wonder what people are going to think. Once you let that go, you start doing it for yourself and for the pure love of it and stop caring what anyone thinks. Just believe that you are special; that is the most important thing.
You can follow her on Twitter @MsNoNe, on Facebook at NoNeMusic and on Instagram at NoNePix.
AimerAmour Magazine -Presents-
LET’S EAT! With
For the inaugural review, AimerAmour Lifestyle Editor Jackie Hall and Editor-In-Chief Zon D’Amour had the phenomenal opportunity to spend the day at DC’s hottest new venue CAUSE: The Philantropub. Conveniently located on 9th St. NW (between U St. & N Florida Ave) CAUSE caters to the young professionals and DC natives from the U Street corridor area as well as a collegiate demographic being walking distance from the illustrious Howard University. Join AimerAmour Lifestyle Editor, Jackie Hall for an in-depth interview with Founders Raj Ratwani, Nicholas Vilelle (below) and General Manager Katie Newell in out next issue.
Katie Newell, General Manager (top row, left) Nicholas Vilelle, Co-founder (top row, right) Justin Matlack, Bartender (second row, left) Kyle Burgess, Server (second row, right) Mahatma, Cocktail (third row, middle) John Jarecki, Managing Director (third row, right)
Adam Litchfield, Executive Chef (last row, middle) Emily Chao & Teri Noll, Servers (last row, right)
a|a aimeramour magazine
2012 Year in Review Issue All Graphic Design By: Zon Dâ€™Amour Model: Ty Jackson
From AimerAmour: YingEdge Photo Shoot Clothing Designer: Bishme Cromartie Photo Credit: Stephen Miller