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As a former football standout, Mickey Wright had a promising future. He excelled on his high school team and later joined the Memphis Samurais, a semi-professional team in the North American Football League. He had dreams of progressing in his career and was poised to make it to the next level, but unfortunately he suffered a major setback along the way. “I had a tryout to go play for the Oklahoma Wranglers, an arena league team, but right before the tryouts I fucked up my groin,” Memphitz laments. “They offered me another opportunity to tryout at the next training camp, but that was right around the time my dad had got murdered and it was then that I realized my dreams of going to the NFL weren’t a reality.” With this epiphany, Memphitz packed his bags and left Memphis for Manhattan. He enrolled in IAR, an engineering school where he spent 18 months learning the intricacies of recording and studio work. Though he graduated from IAR, being an engineer was never his intention. Immediately following his commencement, Memphitz became intern at Arista Records. “My counselors were like, ‘You just went to school for 18 months for engineering. Why do you want to work at Arista?’” remembers Memphitz. “But the real me was not behind that board. I couldn’t do that. I knew I could make it if I just got in the door [at Arista]; I didn’t care what I was doing. At first I was just dubbing videotapes, but it wasn’t long after that when everything started happening.” Everything really started happening for Memphitz when he met his future business partner, attorney Glenn Delgado, who was then the Vice President of Business Affairs at Arista and secretly wanted to start his own label. “I was looking at how labels were run, and I said to myself, ‘I know I can do this better,’” recalls Delgado. “I saw Memphitz running around Arista, doing his thing, so I pulled him in my office and said, ‘Look, I’m trying to start a label. I think you have the same passion as I do. I need you on the creative end, and you need me on the business end. Why don’t we partner up?’” Within a week of their initial meeting, Delgado and Memphitz not only partnered up, but had already conceived a company name, a roster of artists, and a budding musical empire. Today, four years since the two combined to form Hitz Committee, the company is reaching success of great magnitude, and largely due to the Memphitz’ success as an A&R (with the likes of T-Pain, Huey, Chris Brown, UGK, The Youngbloodz, J-Kwon, and Asia Cruz, among others) HC is now in a great position for negotiating the type of situation Delgado says will be “a historical, industry precedent-setting deal.” What’s been the most challenging part of your success thus far? Probably the politics of the game. Now I’m better at it than I was, but it’s been challenging. Everything from getting features to clearances, to all types of stuff. It’s just a lot of politics in this game. What first got you interested in working in the entertainment industry? Back in Memphis, me and a couple of my homies would be at the house trying to rap and shit. Really, all I did at home when I was back in Memphis was look at videos and listen to the radio. I was just a radio head. That’s all I used to do; watch 52 // OZONE MAG

and listen to music. My dad was like, “Do you ever watch the news? There’s more to life than what you’re watching.” And I was like, “Nah, but this is what I’m doing.” I started gearing up to get in the game that way. By the time I left home and moved to New York, I went to this engineering school, IAR, and from there I interned at Arista Records. That’s where I met [my business partner] Glenn, that’s where my first success happened with The Youngbloodz, so that’s kinda how I got in. When I went from the internship to the Arista doors, it was a long road, but when I finally got there, a lot of stuff started happening. Is there one thing that you wish would’ve known back during your days at Arista? Yeah, I wish I knew that Arista was gonna fall apart. (laughs) But even though it fell apart, I’m happy it fell apart, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you right now. At first it was like a comfort zone for me, and then it fell apart, and that kinda made a man out of me. I didn’t have that umbrella over me. I didn’t have LA Reid or any of the other people that were sort of like my protectors. I had to prove myself all over again. How did you go about proving yourself again? Obviously it was successful. I went and had a conversation with LA Reid, and he was telling me that because of the contractual obligations that he had to live up to, he couldn’t really talk to me about coming to Def Jam. It was something called a non-poaching clause, so I got together with an attorney, Steve Shapiro. He kinda got my name out there and let people know that I really was the person behind the records I did. At first my company was called Hustle Child, but that name was already trademarked, so I had to find another name. I had already had this custom-made “HC” chain on my neck, so I decided to name to company Hitz Committee. The main reason I went to Jive was because Barry Weiss, my boss, was the person that was really into my idea of having my own label, and after the signing of T-Pain, my deal got better. Then I signed Huey, and that project proved to be successful, and then the next T-Pain album was successful, so that kind of put us in the bracket to where we could get serious about negotiating a deal. Now we’re getting closer and closer to full ownership of our company. Neither [my business partner] Glenn or I really wanna work for anybody. Glenn covers the business angle and I cover the creative angle, so together we’re building this company. I’m the CEO and Chairman of the company, and Glenn is the President. Why do you think so many record labels have been failing lately? They’re not developing artists the right way. It’s the record label’s job to not only put out great music, but to also make sure people love that artist as a person; that’s just as important as the records or the quality of music. If people don’t love your artist you could get a hit, but it’s also a miss at the same time. The artists that were around when I was growing up are still around to this day, because they had such great artist development and we were made to love them, not just their music. And that’s what this business is all about. People aren’t fans anymore, and if they’re not fans then they don’t really care. As a fan myself, I know what needs to be done for that artist and their music to touch my soul to where I could download their music, but since I am a fan of that person I’d rather go out and buy that project. It’s like a plant. You gotta plant the seed. You gotta water the shit, and watch it grow. That’s

what marketing is, making sure muthafuckas love the shit. What’s the biggest project you’re working to develop right now? Asia Cruise. It’s gon’ be a shock to people who only think Hitz Committee is a rap company. We’re not only a rap label, we’re just a company that puts out great music. That Asia Cruise record is definitely catchy. Yeah, and just from my experiences over the years, if a record gets stuck in my head, then it’s gon’ get stuck in everybody else’ head. That’s my gift, my ears. When I hear something, my ears are automatically tuned like a radio. When I hear a record, I can tell you right off if it’s gonna be hit. What was it about T-Pain or Huey that made you realize they were capable of making hits? It was their ability to hook a person’s ear, to hook a person’s attention. That’s all this is about. Are you able to get people’s attention for them to listen to you and at the same time want to take their hard-earned money out of their pocket and buy your art? I’m always looking for different sounds and different music to hook my ear, hook my interest, hook my soul. If you have that ability I don’t care about anything else. All that other bullshit is lame. How did you first discover T-Pain? TJ Chapman. When I was in Miami TJ played “I’m Sprung” for me, and he was like, “If this ain’t a hit, don’t ever call me again.” I called him back immediately after I heard it. Then TJ called me one day when he was in St. Louis and he told me about this rapper [named Huey] who had a dance that was big out there in St. Louis, and that I need to go check it out. So I went and checked it out and I started listening to the record. At first I didn’t really like [“Pop, Lock and Drop It”], but I saw the movement, and after a few days it grew on me. So, much love to TJ. He also has an incredible ear for good music. Aside from music, you also have a venture in manufacturing baseball caps. Tell me about that? Me and my homies were in the kitchen talking about side hustles or whatever, and I was already thinking about doing something with New Era because I’m a cap dude, and I’m always wearing somebody else’s baseball cap. Whenever I travel I was always disappointed that I couldn’t rep Memphis. Memphis doesn’t have a baseball team, so there’s no reason for us to have our own cap. I knew some people at New Era and I told them I wanted to do a “Rep My City” series, with just the area code. So we designed an “M,” slapped it on with a New Era flag, and put the area code on there. I made them in as many colors as I could, just so there weren’t any color issues. I’m bringing it out for cities that don’t have New Era caps, like Memphis. What’s the next city you’re going to introduce the line to? I was thinking about Miami, the 305. I think that would be huge, but if people reading this want to request a cap for their city, they can hit us on Myspace, at www.myspace.com/iam901. Where can people buy the hats? Right now, it’s really just an online company. Even though business is good, we’re still in the testing stage. So you can either go online to buy them or call 1-877-79-I AM 901, and the website is www. iam901.com. Eventually we’re probably going to have them for sale at stores in Memphis, but for

Ozone Mag #67 - May 2008  

Ozone Mag #67 - May 2008

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