Billboard’s Hip-Hop Editor Carl Lamarre Speaks on His Journalism Inspirations, Landing His Major Writing Role, His Game-Changing Interview with Nipsey Hussle, Tips for the Aspiring Writer and Much More.

There have been a lot of debates happening about whether or not journalism is dead and for multiple reasons. Two major reasons that come to mind belong to the world of digital media and instant gratification. Everyone wants what they desire straightforward and direct which has led to a vast amount of people with a short attention span. So short that they completely shy away from taking 5-10 minutes to read an article and/or a full length piece. I’m inspired by a lot of writers who’ve created strong enough content that focus more on people taking the time to read and Carl Lamarre, the Hip-Hop Editor for Billboard Magazine, has been one of the guys I’ve admired in that particular realm.

Interviewing everyone from Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, T.I., DJ Khaled, Ty Dolla $ign and more, Carl is without a doubt one of the most hardest working hip-hop journalists/interviewers on the radar right now. He continues to thrive within the hip-hop community by shedding light on important stories as well as important figures we all as hip-hop lovers enjoy to learn about.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Carl to talk a little bit more about his come up in the journalism world, how he landed his major role at Billboard, his favorite interview with the world-wide publication and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into journalism?

Man, I’ve always loved writing. Ever since I was a kid, I carried around a journal and would spend days writing inside of it. As time went by, I decided to take my love for writing to the next level and wrote for my high school newspaper. I started out as a staff writer during my junior year and then became the sports editor my senior year. I knew I really had a chance at being special l when I won third place at the Long Island Press for my editorial “30 the new 20.”

2 – What would you say was your main source of inspiration to get into music journalism?

So, after high school, I was adamant about being a sports writer. I was so in love with the NBA. I had a Slam Magazine subscription and always thought that one day I would write for them. When I attended Howard University, my freshman year, I was fortunate enough to pen some pieces for The Howard Hilltop. My love for music journalism, honestly, came by chance. A friend of mine recommended that I consider reaching out to VIBE Magazine about an internship for the summer. I remember VIBE hit me up on a Thursday, interviewed me on Friday, and started Monday. I was the youngest intern in my class. From there, my love for hip-hop skyrocketed.

3 – When did you realize that music journalism was something you could actually make a career out of?

I really realized that I had potential to do something major in music journalism when Todd Thomas (I miss you big homie!) connected me to the people at Ballerstatus.com during my internship at VIBE. They took a chance on me and I quickly began penning pieces and editorials. As soon I as got with Ballerstatus.com, during my sophomore year at Howard, I decided to take a chance and reach out to my favorite hip-hop site at the time, HipHopGame.com. By chance, Brian Kayser — who was the GOAT in the online world for hip-hop journalism — reached out to me and gave me a chance to help out with the site. So, I had VIBE, Ballerstatus, and HipHopGame under my belt at 19. Then, one of my high school buddies, Devin Chanda — who was already ahead of the music journalism game curve — was an editor for Smooth Magazine. He showed me love and helped me land my first check, as I was writing album reviews for the mag.

4 – Do you remember the first article you did that contributed to your come up?

My first ever interview was with my favorite rapper of all-time. Sounds crazy, right? I was fortunate enough to interview Joe Budden around the time he dropped his project Halfway House. It was only a phone interview, but I was grateful to have spoken to him for maybe 40 minutes. That was a moment for me because I believed that if I was able to speak with my favorite rapper off rip, that anything was possible.

5 – In your opinion, aside from being a music connoisseur, what else makes a great writer/music journalist?

In my mind, I think what makes a music journalist great is being able to listen. I think I’m a pretty knowledgeable guy, but, realistically, I don’t know everything. I don’t listen to EVERY single project. So, fortunately, I’ve learned to be receptive to opinions and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, until I  ultimately sit-down and make my final decision. You never know what or who you may come across unless you’re open to everything. Listening is also crucial when you’re doing an interview. Most of the time. even when I’m just having a conversation with my friends, I don’t even talk as much anymore. I just sit back, listen and absorb. I absorb and then counter back with my feedback right after. It’s all about building momentum and trust with the person you’re interviewing.

6 – You’ve done a lot of different types of writing so far but which type of article do you prefer – interviews, op-ed’s, daily news articles? Why?

It’s funny because I grew up doing a lot of editorials and op-eds. As I got older and landed more opportunities, I began doing more interviews. I just love that one-on-one sit-down vibe, man. I challenge myself every time out to deliver a stronger interview than my last. Being able to help an artist or whoever dig deep with just that one question makes me smile every time out.

7 – Talk to us a little bit about your Billboard come up. How did you manage to land a position there as the editor for Billboard hip-hop?

Luck, God, and hard work. Around that time, I was working at a shitty company. It was decent money, but I was writing about salacious bullshit. My then-editor, Adelle Platon, reached out to me about an opportunity. How she got my e-mail? I honestly couldn’t tell you, but when I saw “Billboard opportunity” on the subject line, I damn near cried on the train. She asked me to review Jazz Cartier’s show at SOBs and interview him that same night. I was already on my way home, but I ended up turning around and knocking out the story. Crazy thing is, I didn’t work with Billboard again for another five-six months. Eventually, I got laid off from my shitty job and was freelancing for five different places, including Billboard. The day that changed my life was when I got let go from one of the five places I was writing for and asked Adelle if she knew of any other places that were looking for writers. She, in turn, asked me if I knew of any news writers looking to help out at Billboard Mondays through Fridays. I replied like, “Um, me.” LMAO. I spent almost eight months being Adelle’s right-hand before I was asked if I was interested in being the new Hip-Hop Editor. The rest is history.

8 – You’ve done a lot of amazing things for Billboard including a ton of interviews. What would you say was your favorite interview thus far? Why?

Tough question. It’s like picking your favorite kid. My favorite interview was with Nipsey Hussle. It happened earlier this year. The main reason is because my friends and I used to go on drives and would always play Nipsey’s music in the whip. They would joke around and tell me that I wasn’t shit until I got a Nipsey interview. Lo and behold, Victory Lap comes out and I’m sitting with Nipsey Hussle at Del Frisco’s for two hours,  eating steak and talking shit. That interview wasn’t just for me, it was for my team back home. I knew that chat was something special because a few months later, I saw Nipsey at his New York show and pulled up to his dressing room afterward. I honestly didn’t think he would remember me, but he did and told me he’s been following my moves and that  I’m up next in the hip-hop journalism game. Right then and there, it hit me like, “Man, I’m really making noise out here.”

9 – Working in publication there are always deadlines for an article to go up. Yoh Phillips, a popular music writer that I’m sure you know, said “Don’t die for the deadline” in one of his interviews. What are your thoughts on deadlines and the pressures of putting a piece out that’s probably not 100%? Have you ever put something out that you felt was sub-par?

It’s funny because I’ve always been a guy who thrives under pressure. Now, I try not to play around with deadlines because I know how important it is to get an early start and make sure that the story as clean and accurate as possible. At the same time, I don’t let the deadlines destroy me, as well. If the story isn’t up to my liking, I’ll pull the plug because, at the end of the day, it’s my name at the end of the day. My byline is everything. Every piece I drop needs to be a classic read in my mind.

10 – There are so many good writers and journalists out there who are putting out great content daily. Aside from the fact that you write for one of the most prominent music platforms in the country, how do you maintain your originality and voice in your writing?

It’s easy because I’ve always said that once my voice felt limited or robotic, I’d put the pen down. Once the thrill is gone, then I’ll bow out. I’m colorful with the pen and I need to be able to have my voice heard to a certain degree. Of course, you can’t be overly animated or forceful with it. A certain tact and a bit of grace need to be implemented in order to make that happen.

11 – Who are some of the journalists you currently admire? Why?

Dan Rys, Yoh Phillips, Jeff Weiss, Craig Jenkins, William Ketchum, are some off the top of my head. In my mind, Dan is easily the best in the game when it comes to business reporting. He also was my editor at XXL. Nobody, and I repeat, nobody works as hard as him. Yoh’s writing is just effortless. He’s so fluid with the ink. Nothing is ever forced with him.

12 – What are some tips you would give to the new blogger, aspiring music writer and/or journalist?

Be patient. It took me almost 10 years to get to where I am. I knew what I wanted and I stayed the course. I worked as a janitor, school aide, camp counselor and all that, just so that I can still have some money in my pocket since I wasn’t getting paid for my pieces. If you stay the course, trust and believe, your dreams will come to light. I used to tell myself I would write for Billboard by 27 and by the grace of God, my first clip happened at 26.

13 – What are some tips that have been given to you by your peers in regards to your career?

Keep fucking going. It’s crazy because I’m addicted to winning. Like, I can’t stop going in and delivering the best content with my team simply because I know someone out there wants my spot. I refuse to be outworked or lose to anyone. If I keep going at 100, then, I know I’ll be good to go.

14 – What can we expect from Carl Lamarre for 2018?

High-quality pieces. The first half of the year was major. I interviewed Kendrick, Khaled, Ty Dolla, Pusha, Nipsey, Wiz, T.I., and much more, and was able to break a lot of exclusives. We — as in my team and I — hope to keep the pace going to close out the year. We just want our place in history. Nothing more, nothing less.

Jay Holz Speaks on Music Management and Public Relations, How He Got into Journalism, Expanding His Positive Vibe Ent. Brand, and Much More.

The behind the scenes aspect of the music industry is one business that helps mold an individual for bigger and better things. If you are able to maneuver and finesse the way one should in regards to building up a great contact list as well as gaining as much knowledge as possible, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in the long run when it comes to any future endeavors. Also, just having a basic understanding of how the industry works is always a huge plus. I met Jay Holz about a year ago during a panel series and his name was one that constantly came up on my social media when it came to music related topics and inside stories related to the industry.

Jay formerly held a position as the Managing Editor for Karen Civil’s website but recently parted ways with them to focus on his own brand, Positive Vibe Ent., a management, marketing and PR company structured to help emerging artists.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Jay to talk about Positive Vibe Ent., the main goal for expanding the brand, his take on journalism and what he considers a good PR person and music manager. Check out our full interview below.

1 – What inspired you to be a part of the music industry?

Ever since I was a young kid, I always looked up to entertainers and athletes and I think it just stuck with me my whole life. By the time I was ready to graduate high school and go to college, a lot of rappers were coming up through the Internet and you could start to see how all of the success was happening. I watched people like Will Dzombak (Wiz’s manager) and Quentin Cuff (Mac Miller’s business partner) be so important to Wiz and Mac’s success that I thought, ‘Shit, I can do this too!’

2 – How did you get involved in the industry?

It all started in 2009/2010 when I met my brother Malik Ferraud (@MalikFerraud). At the time, he was going by the rap name Money and he and his old crew had a song called “B4LT1M0RE” that was really popular in the city. I instantly became a fan and started reaching out to him. We met in Ocean City, MD in the summer of 2010 and we connected right away. We put in work! From there, I started to network with a ton of different people in the industry and the rest is kind of history. Malik and I are still working together till this day, as well as our other day 1 homies Donate Benjamin (@TaysWorld410) and Charlie Peacher (@CharliePeacher).

3 – I know you previously worked as the Managing Editor for Karen Civil’s website. What made you want to get into journalism? Was that something you always wanted to do?

To keep it 100 with you….I never had a true passion for journalism. I just knew that if I could get some type of job/position in the industry, I could eventually build up a nice network and get back to my management/PR roots, which was always my long-term goal. That being said, once I got into the journalism game, I started to really love it. In 2012, my good friend Sermon gave me a chance of a lifetime and allowed me to start writing for his site — with literally 0 experience. A year later, after Sermon taught me a bunch of stuff, I landed a job with HipHop-N-More, thanks to the blog gawd Navjosh. He turned me into a blog monster. Then of course in 2014, I started working for Karen Civil as a contributor. A year later, I was the managing editor for the site and serving as her number 2. We did some amazing things together. Forever appreciative of her allowing me to grow and accomplish some bucket list items of mine. Major shout out to Niki McGloster for believing in me, and to my team Shawn Grant, Ayanna Sinclair, Alley Olivier, Lindsey India, Keith Reid-Cleveland, Kia Imani, Lupe Llerenas, Travis Grier, Michelle Locke, Pennie, Micia and anyone else I forgot.

4 – You’re currently running your own business, Positive Vibe Ent, which is a management and PR company. What inspired you to launch this business?

They say it’s not as fun working for someone else, so I decided to work for me! After I quit my job with the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 (thank god I did that, by the way), I was ready to start a company and get back to managing and doing PR/marketing full time. Wallah, Positive Vibe Entertainment was born. I owe a big thanks to Malik and Dontae for coming up with the idea/concept behind PV a long time ago. And I give myself thanks for bringing it to life.

5 – What is Positive Vibe Ent’s main objective?

Our main goal is to help launch careers for our clients and spread positive energy to the world in the process. The nuts and bolts of our business are Management, PR, Marketing, and Consulting, however, I want PV to grow into its own platform that promotes positivity every day. We’ll be creating empowering content via our website and social media accounts, releasing thoughtful merchandise, hosting events, and much further down the line. I gotta get my baby off the ground before we can take over. We will though!

6 – In your opinion, what do you think makes a good PR person? What do you think makes a good music manager?

Consistency, timeliness and the willingness to do whatever for your clients. That goes for both PR and management. Being a good PR person entails having great networking and communication skills, and always being up-to-date on the trends of whatever industry you’re doing PR in. As for management, you have to have an enormous amount of patience, great negotiation skills, confidence and most importantly, the ability to see the bigger picture.

7 – You’re also the road manager for rising act Tate Kobang. How did you land that position?

That’s my dawg! Shout out to Tate and shout out to our big homie Shawn Caesar. Shawn runs DTLR + DTLR Radio and at the beginning of 2017, he started working closely with Tate. They were gearing up to drop Tate’s mixtape Silent Waves (hosted by DJ Flow) around that time and they wanted to bring me on to do PR for it. From there, Tate, Shawn and I got extremely close and I started doing more than just PR for Tate. As we were all progressing and making moves, we realized he needed a day-to-day road manager and it just made sense for me to take that role. To be honest, though, I don’t look at Tate as a “client”. That’s my brother and I’ll go to war for him.

8 – What struggles did you face and/or still going through as you make your way through this industry?

The oversaturation makes it tough to break through and a lot of the corny/goofy behavior from the industry as of late makes it hard to stay motivated sometimes. That being said, my dreams and goals are sky high, so whenever I have that down moment, I just think about why I’m doing this in the first place, and then I quickly snap out of it. Positive Vibe, ya dig?

9 – What are you currently using as your source of inspiration?

My clients, my city, my family. Everything around me inspires me. Seeing different parts of the country and the world, meeting different people, etc. If you allow yourself to, you can find inspiration almost anywhere.

10 – What type of advice would you give to the aspiring business owner, publicist, and music manager?

Never ever give up. Remove the words, “can’t” and “won’t” from your vocabulary. Always remember your “why” and your purpose in life. And the biggest piece of advice that I give to every single person I meet is to make happiness your number 1 priority. There is not one thing more important in this world than finding happiness and peace. Make that your top goal every day, and you can’t possibly lose.

11 – What’s next for Jay Holz for the second half of 2018? What can we expect from Positive Vibe Ent as well as the acts you’re managing?

I have some exciting things I’m working on for the rest of the year. One of which is another showcase in Baltimore to follow up my one from last year. I’ll be launching PV’s website very very soon. You’re going to see a bunch of great content, partnerships and overall excitement from the likes of Da Kid Gowie, Tate Kobang, Young Money Yawn, Malik Ferraud, Charlie Peacher, Dontae Benjamin, Tracksmith, my Swisher Sweets family and much more. Most importantly, you can expect a boatload of positive energy for as long as I’m breathing.

Music Manager and Digital Consultant Jonathan Wigfall Speaks on Industry Inspirations, Managing Emerging Artist Mir Fontane, Upcoming Made in America Festival, Tips for the Aspiring Music Manager and More.

Being a part of the music industry in any form is always difficult. The business itself is extremely cutthroat and at most times can be more than unforgiving. Although the industry is nowhere near what it used to be, being able to have a clear understanding of all the aspects from the front end, as well as the back end, is beneficial for all parties involved. Putting the musician aside, the manager of an artist/artists acts as the head honcho. Ultimately, the manager is the guy/girl that makes sure everything about the artist and the business side of the artist is fully intact. Jonathan Wigfall, South Jersey native and Syracuse University grad, has been a part of the music industry for a long time but started managing about 5-6 years ago. Although he and his team faced multiple challenges during their come up, every bit of the journey has been worth it because his artist, Mir Fontane, continues to shine and capture hearts and ears all over the country.

Getting ready to embark on a brand new tour as well as a secured slot in the upcoming Made in America Festival, Jonathan has shown what hard work, patience, dedication, and persistence can take you when you put your all into your passion. He and his team have done exceptionally well by Mir and the strategic work is paying off.

I had the chance to speak with Jon about his music industry inspirations, why he decided to get into management and what he saw in Mir Fontane as an artist, the upcoming More Macaroni Tour, Made in America Festival, tips for the aspiring music manager and more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into the music industry?

At first, I started off as a rapper myself. This was in like late high school and I only got into rap cause I needed a form of expression. I had got jumped, I didn’t really have anybody in my corner. A lot of my friends abandoned me because of the people involved in the situation and it was kind of crazy. I really loved music and I had all of this pinned up aggression so I needed a way to express myself. I had went on to college and I started making a transition into journalism cause I liked writing at the time. I do some blogging now. I then made a transition from rapping and being a journalist to public relations. When I made that switch I realized that I wanted to be behind the scenes a little more. I told my story in rap within like a year. I put out some music and everyone that I personally felt needed to hear it heard it. I was just ready to try something else. Now, I’m in public relations about to go into my sophomore year of college and I come back home that summer after my freshman year and I started thinking to myself maybe I can be a manager. Although I said that to myself I had to also figure out who can I manage. In about 2012, Mir really stood out in like the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas. I felt like I wanted to work with someone from my hometown cause we really didn’t have much representation in anything. I reached out to him but he was hesitant because I wasn’t really in Camden cause I was in Syracuse and I use to rap and I was making these different things happen. But, we had a few good talks and then the rest is history.   

2 – What inspired you to be a part of the music industry?

I think at that time I was inspired by a variety of people. I was inspired by people like Kid Cudi as well as a lot of YouTube guys. I started seeing a lot of guys bubble on YouTube who was just grinding and figuring it out, you know. People Like DYME-A-DUZIN. These type of people were really going hard on YouTube and creating a name for themselves. A lot of these people were obviously out here making music as well but it was also that work ethic and that “I’m doing this all by myself” mentality. DYME-A-DUZIN is an example, Timothy DeLaGhetto is another. People like that inspired me because it seemed as if it was a one-man show.

3 – In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of working behind the music scenes as opposed to being the musician?

Well, I think this depends on the person. For me, it’s not really getting the credit which leaves a big question mark over things that you may have done or didn’t do. So, I think the one con is often times you just may not get your credit. Sometimes people just aren’t aware of the involvement that you actually have in a project. That can even apply to things on the public relations side. I think that’s the con. Perhaps the only con I can think about. The pro for me, I didn’t really want the spotlight. I didn’t get in this to be in the spotlight. Granted I’m about to be 25 but it’s just about having that self-awareness. It’s just an understanding that I had to figure out by basically saying that I’m not tripping. There’s money to be made on either side and perhaps even more money playing the behind the scenes role. My thing is I like to help others. This business can be very stressful but being behind the scenes is less pressure at times.

4 – How exactly does being a music manager work? In other words, what are your specific duties when it comes to managing an artist?

I think communication is always number one. I’m also a digital marketing consultant for a lot of artists outside of Mir. So for me, it’s always communication. I think that’s the main thing. But it can also vary. It’s everything from the business to, often times, the personal. And it also depends on where the artist it career wise. To put things into perspective, I had a meeting with an artist that I’m considering managing and he’s been a recording artist for about three to four years. We talked about getting an LLC. He wanted to figure out a way to actually monetize his music. Often times, it’s me trying to figure out what makes the most sense financially. How we could make more money and lower our spending. and that right there is a very small part of it. It’s also being able to help out with their social media. For Mir, he has an assistant that fills when needed but it’s really helping the artist in all aspects – finances, social media, acting as a liaison for him and our stakeholders, public relations, and so forth. I’m the day to day manager which means I am constantly focused on scheduling and making things as organized as possible but also making sure our team knows what’s going on.

5 – What did you see in Mir as an artist and what do you think he saw in you as a manager?

At the time when we linked up, he was rapping his ass off. He had a certain hunger in his voice, a certain pain that I think he still has this day. His talent was just so undeniable. He really stood out and he was dropping some crazy freestyles. I constantly saw that pain and hunger and also saw someone creating that narrative for Camden that no one has ever done before. And this was six years ago. It was really a no-brainer for me. For Mir, I think he saw I was from Camden so I wasn’t a stranger, I did have some things going on because I did have some music industry knowledge, I had the connections, I was trying to make the best of myself by going to college – we both looked at each other and knew neither one of us were where we wanted to be but at the end of the day we belong here. We both knew we could make some crazy things happen within five years. We knew we were both hungry, both of us have some talent and this could be a great situation if we continue to apply ourselves.

6 – At one point did you realize you Mir was getting the recognition he deserves as an artist? When was that breakout point?

It definitely wasn’t an overnight thing. Things really didn’t start kicking off until I graduated because what I realized is that Mir really needed someone that was hands on. Between 2012 and 2015, a lot of the friends that he had in his corner that I was trying to help because I wanted them to help him advance in his career, they disappeared. They felt like things weren’t happening fast enough. Once I graduated, I began to learn the business more, I engulfed myself in the Philadelphia scene and I could really feel the energy in the area because at that time we really didn’t have anybody. Me being four hours away really began to hinder the process but once I came back we just started really grinding. Things really started to pop off and to be honest with you, he kind of marked the beginning of his career when he dropped a song called “Wanni Wag” which was a song about Dejuan Wagner who dropped 100 points in a basketball game and then went on to play for Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s kind of like a local hero. The song is with a guy name Ish Williams. They performed that song everywhere and the crowd would go crazy. It was honestly one of the first regional hits. We would throw shows and the momentum was always crazy. It opened up a lot of doors which lead to the remix with Mike Zombie. We really started to connect south Jersey in a way that it hadn’t been in a way before. By like 2016 and 2017, I started to connect a lot of these dots but that was definitely a time that things started to pop off for Mir. That 2016 run with “Wanni Wag” and then “Down by the River” which charted on the U.S. and Global Spotify out of nowhere was crazy. Labels began to reach out and that year pretty much helped lay the foundation down for where we are now.

7 – Are there any particular struggles that you’ve faced as a manager, in particular helping Mir Fontane with his career?

Yeah, definitely. Early on we were just brainstorming on how we can bring this a bit further. I think the main struggles for us were financial things. Us trying to find out how we can be entrepreneurs, make some bread and really invest that back into what we’re doing. Obviously, it takes money to make money, right? Especially in the music business. It took us awhile early on. We all knew Mir was really talented and when people hear him they love him but the hardest task was getting people to hear him. We were really trying to navigate the industry and making this transition of entertainment vs. talent and really just trying to get in where we fit in. To add on to that, we had to figure out how to tell a story about a boy coming from a place that people have heard of but really haven’t. We were able to leverage the Philly music scene and platforms to help make him bigger artist but we never branded him as Philly act. We made sure it was always Camden and South Jersey. That was a battle itself but it was a pro because once he started creating traction, South Jersey and New Jersey as w whole got behind him because this area really hadn’t had anyone.

8 – What was going through your mind the moment you and Mir secured yourselves for the Made In America bill?

You know what, Veli who is Mir’s road manager, set it up as a goal for us maybe about three months ago. We really try to attack the goals that we set but we knew we had to do certain things. We knew we had to develop a stronger relationship with Live Nation. They’re obviously a strong influence as far as the Philly music scene. Veli, who acts as both Mir’s road manager as well as having a long history of booking acts himself and just being on that side of the game as well, we made it our strong effort to establish a better relationship with Live Nation. We not only wanted to show them that people are watching us but we can continuously outdo ourselves. We’ve had Mir on tour but I think the big thing that led to Made in America was the sold-out show Mir did at The Foundry which was roughly 450-500 people in Philadelphia. I think that was May 4th. The show was on a Friday, the Made in America offer came in that following Monday. We knew that we had to sell that show out. We knew that it had to be impressive and we had to do something different. and we did for lack of a better word.

9 – How does it feel as a manager to know you’ve had something to do with helping your artist secure a slot on the same bill as Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Meek Mill, Miguel, 6lack, and others.

It’s a great feeling, man. This is the type of opportunity that we’ve always wanted. We’ve been looking at different Made in America flyers every year and we always felt like we should’ve been on it but everything happens for a reason. I feel like Mir is going to have a great career because one, things have never been handed and two, it’s such a gradual piece of work that he’s building. It’s constantly going up because it’s happening with time and I feel like it’s supposed to. I think there’s a time in 2016 things just started to pop off and we were all so hype. We had Sway in the Morning and Vibe Magazine coming along for a premiere for one of his more popular songs which was “Space Jam.” Then, entering into 2017 us getting into a situation with 300, Mir was kind of numb. I believe he became numb to his accomplishments and good things happening. A lot of it was coming fast and we couldn’t really live in the moment. We had to keep pushing forward so we kind of got numb to certain things. But then you fast forward to now and we land something we Made in America, that’s like wow. It’s really hard to be numb to that. You really have to enjoy and celebrate accomplishments like those because it’s one of the biggest platforms that an artist can have.

10 – Talk a little bit about the upcoming More Macaroni Tour?

We had to set up our own tour honestly. We just grind it out and make sure we can keep him on the road as much as possible every year. We’re just making sure that we’re constantly attacking his top cities and trying to be as tangible as possible because that’s what it takes.

11 – What tips and advice do you have for upcoming aspiring music managers in the world? What do you want them to learn from this interview?

You’re not going to learn everything within a few months or even a year. I would say remain persistent, especially as a new manager. There are so many things that you need to figure out as far as what you can offer. What type of artist do you have? I think you just have to remain persistent because there’s going to be a lot of forces that are against you and a lot of hurdles you’re going to have and based off that, it’s going to be really easy to feel down. It’s going to feel like a constant uphill battle. But, I think just remaining persistent and surrounding yourself with the right team of people to help you make the best decisions is important. Also, setting goals and successfully and aggressively attaining them. I think that’s really the key. I think a lot of times managers waste a lot of time focusing on the wrong platforms for their artist or whatever the case may be and they’re not aggressively aiming for the right thing. We honestly didn’t have a long list of goals for 2018. We were just like “Yo, we need to make him a bigger artist.” Made in America was on that very short list. We just went and tried to figure out how we could make it happen. If the goal was to establish a better relationship with XYZ, we would sit and make phone calls and figure out whatever the next step was to make things happen.

12 – What’s next for you for the second half of 2018? Secondly, aside from the big MIA performance in September, what else can we expect from Mir Fontane for the second half of 2018?

I’m really trying to elevate my own brand. I have the Liajon LLC which is the digital marketing but I really want to take it a step further and create my own content. Definitely be on the lookout for that. I’ll be creating a lot of more content for this year. Mir has some really dope records in the tuck and we’re in talks with some labels. You can really just expect some more fire in the future. We’ve been in the studio with a lot of different artists including Fetty Wap. It’s really an exciting time if you’re a Mir Fontane fan. 

Cris Speaks On Music and Journalism Inspirations, Creating Her ‘RnBae Collective’ Artist Showcase, Starting the RnBae Record Label, Tips for the Emerging Event Producer and More.

The sound of music is constantly changing before our eyes. New genres as well we sub-genres are being created every day but along with that, we are now living in the age where genres are being combined and certain sounds are beginning to intertwine. One particular genre of music that is constantly taking on a new sound is R&B. The traditional sound of R&B is no more but the great thing about it is that emerging R&B artists are starting to engage with other sounds from trap, hip-hop, soul, pop and more to create the new sounds we are currently hearing today. Cris, a Virginia native now living in Miami, has used this newfound sound to her advantage and began to showcase this on her well-known artist showcase which has spread through multiple cities country-wide. The young creative also took what she knew about R&B music and launched her very own record label which is meant to help mentor and manage rising R&B acts.

I had the chance to catch up with Cris to talk about her popular R&B function, why she decided to start the record label, how she got into event production, working with rising R&B acts and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into event production?

Event production was never my mind. I didn’t really care to produce events and I actually talked a lot of shit about it in the past because the ones I went to were so shitty. After pretty much restarting my life in Miami from moving from VA in 2014, I started working with Yes Julz as a content manager. There, I was required to lend a helping hand with all of the parties and activations we did. After leaving, I started my own brand, RnBae Collective which is was Miami’s best artist showcase in 2017 named by Miami New Times.

2 – How did you get into music journalism?

I actually majored in English/ Journalism. It was my minor was my Mass Communication. I started a blog in 2013 named after a radio show I had with my friends called Da Decipher. It was pretty much Rap Genius before they went on to video. The blog deciphered rap lyrics from mainstream and local artists. I interviewed a lot of Miami rappers/singers at the time. From there, I applied to freelance at my local weekly, Miami New Times in 2015. From there, I wrote for Yes Julz, Vashtie, and HypeBae.

3 – What were some of your main inspirations to get involved in both music writing and event production?

With music writing, I felt like artists weren’t represented well. I saw a lot of backlash from artists having their words twisted in interviews or the entire story not being told. I wanted to create the liaison between the artist’s music and the audience allowing them to tell their truths. As far a event production, my main fuel in anything is seeing someone do a shitty job with something and feeling I can do better, or giving a platform to someone who doesn’t have one. Here I am 🙂

4 – In regards to event production, what was the first event you either threw yourself or were a part of helping put together? Did this particular event catch people the way you thought it would?

My first event was with RnBae Collective. I was doing PR for a local artist, Aleicia Nicole and realized there was no outlet for R&B singers. They were often thrown under the bus, put early on during rap shows, or used as an intermission so no one paid attention. She deserved better. At the time, her manager and I created RnBae, a platform for her to showcase her music. We did a small line up of three artists and an all R&B DJ set. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to come. I just wanted to give Aleicia a stage. Sure enough, people showed up. Not a lot, but it was a good attentive crowd and that’s what I wanted. We had a few vendors, I hosted along with a friend. Here’s the recap to it: https://www.rnbae.com/rnbae-showcase-may-2016/ In all, I did this whole event behind my employer, Yes Julz’s back. At the time, we were planning the 1am vibes party tour, a partnership with Puma and New Music Mondays was a hit, so there wasn’t much time to focus on team passion projects. Planned and had the event and didn’t even tell her. To say she was pissed after is, to say the least.

R&B is not dead. It transformed into this @rnbaecollective 💜 📹: @lizzmatic

A post shared by Cris (@crisdacat) on

 

5 – You created a party called R&Bae. Explain how you came up with that?

Ha, I actually answered that 🙂 But, RnBae Collective is its official legal name. It’s also a showcase, I haven’t had the pleasure of really throwing a party yet, but I’m planning on it this year.

6 – In your opinion, what makes a great event?

The experience makes a great event. How people feel walking through the door, maneuvering through the venue, enjoying the drinks, music, and atmosphere. You know you had a great event when you see the IG and facebook photos after.

7 – You also just launched R&Bae Records. Talk a little bit about that.\

RnBae Records is currently a passion project of mine. Right now, we have an R&B duo, BluLine, who I also manage, signed under the label and we’re currently creating new music. Next year, I want to officially give it more attention and sign and create with more artists.

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8 – What inspired you to create the record label and running with the same name as the event?

The label is a reflection of the talent we book. All of R&B. While R&B music has changed from the 80s to today, we now celebrate all of its sub-genres. Like trap&B, neo-soul, pop-infused, alternative R&B. This is what the label will represent. R&B is not dead, it transformed into “this”

9 – What type of influence do you want the record label to have on emerging artists in Florida, especially those who work behind the scenes? Secondly, are you only going to focus on Florida based artists?

The label will give resources to artists who don’t have to create. Recording, mixing, mastering, content creation, PR services etc. All of that is under my wing along with a few partners. And no, R&B is everywhere.

10 – In your opinion, how would explain the effectiveness of social media when it comes to the businesses you’re involved in?

In reality, social media makes everything look good, but word of mouth is where businesses stick. Yeah, our social media accounts look amazing, thanks to our manager Esther, but in all, people find out about RnBae Collective by friends, artists, radio, labels, blogs etc. Having a good business rapport to me, is more effective than social media because nowadays everything is smoke and mirrors.

11 – With everything that you currently have on your plate when do you find time to do your journalism work? Has event curation and owning a label make it easier to write?

I’m a passionate writer. A passionate anything really. When something sparks my interest, It flows out easily. Since the label is still in its passion project stages, i don’t name it as my inspo to write, but actually sitting down and spending time with the artists gives me that drive.

12 – What type of advice would you give to those who are looking to get into event curation? What about starting a record label?

Have a purpose. Anyone can throw a party. The last thing a city needs is another pointless party. Have a theme or a goal you’re trying to reach and execute. You will feel more fulfilled seeing people enjoy the experience rather than wasted in the bathroom.

13 – What’s next for Cristina, her team and the RnBae movement?

This year, we’re planning our first party, our first out of state show(s) and working hard to shed light on BluLine, the artists we manage. Every year, we take on a new venture. Last year, we completed a year of 12 monthly showcases along with throwing our first concert with Kyle Dion. This year, we’re working on moving towards the artist development stages which will end us next year with a full-fledged label.

Billboard’s Associate Editor Bianca Gracie Speaks on Writing Inspirations, What Makes A Great Music Journalist, Landing Her Position at Billboard, Tips for the Emerging Journalist and More.

Being a journalist or just a writer in general is difficult at times because it’s not easy providing exciting news or any type of content for your audience. Writing is a challenging profession and despite having to be grammatically trained to put a full length article together based on opening statements, transitions, supporting details and such, just being able to find your own voice and display that within words is a challenge on its own. Some writers have a hard time adjusting to this but the ones who find that voice are normally the ones who end up exceeding all expectations within the writing space. Bianca Gracie didn’t only find her voice throughout her years of writing and creating digital content but is now displaying that voice and talent on the biggest music platform in the world – Billboard.

I had the chance to catch up with Bianca to take about her come up in journalism, her journalistic inspirations, her struggles with deadlines, how she landed her Associate Editor position over at Billboard and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into journalism?

Well, I’ve always loved writing and reading books since I was a kid, and I later began to write poetry in high school and college. Some of it got published but I knew I couldn’t make a living off poems. So I picked up a journalism minor in college to see if I’d like it, and that’s when my passion for it really blossomed. My program required students to take two six-month internships before graduating, and one of my internships was for a pop website called Idolator. This was back in 2013. That was my first taste of the music industry and I was able to not only work on my writing but to interview people as well. I kept that connection once my internship was finished, and the rest is history!

2 – What would you say was your main source of inspiration to get into music journalism?

Not many people know this, but I actually wanted to work in fashion. But after a few internships and freelance jobs, I realized that industry was too fickle for me. I always loved music — specifically dancehall and pop — and I grew up with a lot of DJs in my family, which I’d say was my biggest inspiration. So the passion for it was always there. I kind of had a wake-up call after leaving the fashion world and was like, “Hey, why don’t I try this music thing out?”

3 – When did you realize that music journalism was something you could actually make a career out of?

That lightbulb moment occurred once I got the internship at Idolator, and I continued to work with them afterward as a freelancer and later as their editorial assistant for two years. At the time, I thought it was incredible that the people around me had a career that could also be so much fun.

4 – Do you remember the first article you did that contributed to your come up?

Man, I have to go back to the archives for this one! Many people who follow my work are aware of my love for ‘90s and ‘00s nostalgia and I began crafting that niche really early. I remember writing long-form articles for the 10th anniversary of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and the 15th anniversary of TLC’s Fanmail. Social media wasn’t as wildly significant at the time, but those kinds of articles received a lot of love from the right people — the fans and other industry folks. I think they helped prove that I could be a beast in the writing game if I really wanted to! [laughs]

5 – In your opinion, aside from being a music connoisseur, what else makes a great writer/music journalist?

One of the biggest parts of the music industry are the fanbases, so for me, it’s always been important for me to keep my ear close to what they’re listening and thinking. It’s also key to read beyond your own work. You can learn so much from other journalists both through their writing and also making direct connections with them. Honestly, just reading in general: the newspaper, song lyrics, music history books, essays from professors…everything.

6 – You’ve done a lot of different types of writing so far but which type of article do you prefer – interviews, op-ed’s, daily news articles? Why?

I love to talk my shit in think pieces here and there, but interviews will forever have my heart. There’s something really special about forming a connection with an artist, record executive or composer — whether it’s just for 15 minutes or an hour. I’ve realized it’s become somewhat of my mission to help tell people’s stories in a genuine way, and interviews are the perfect way to do so.

7 – Talk to us a little bit about your Billboard come up. How did you manage to land a position there as the Associate Editor?

Connections, connections, connections!! I cannot stress enough how important it is to network and maintain a relationship with industry colleagues you meet along the way. So the reason I got my previous job at Fuse is because a fellow writer knew of my work through Twitter and later emailed me about a position there (he was the managing editor at the time). Fast forward two years later, and that same editor (who moved to Billboard a little after I began working at Fuse) hit me up about a Billboard offer about three months ago. If I never kept in contact with him throughout all these years and kept him up to date with my career goals, I don’t think I would’ve gotten this associate editor job so quickly. I’m super thankful.

8 – Working in publication there are always deadlines for an article to go up. Yoh Phillips, a popular music writer that I’m sure you know said “Don’t die for the deadline” in one of his interviews. What are your thoughts on deadlines and the pressures of putting a piece out that’s probably not 100%? Have you ever put something out that you felt was sub-par?

Ughhhh deadlines are the worst! They are very necessary to keep you on top of your game, especially now that I work for a print magazine. But man they can often be a major headache. Deadlines used to give me a lot of anxiety since I love to procrastinate (I still do honestly haha), but I’ve learned to handle my time. But there’s definitely been long-form articles and breaking news stories that I’ve rushed because I was too close to the deadline, so I said “fuck it,” published it and hoped for the best!

9 – There are so many good writers and journalists out there who are putting out great content daily. Aside from the fact that you write for one of the most prominent music platforms in the country, how do you maintain your originality and voice in your writing?

I think because I work for Billboard, there are obviously more eyes on my writing. So I have no choice to stand out. But that doesn’t mean for me to shell out against the grain hot takes just for the hell of it. I’ve always been confident in the way I write, especially since I love nostalgia so much. That right there is my voice, and it’s only gotten stronger. So I use that to my advantage and stick to my quirky thoughts on certain artists and genres, and that hasn’t really failed me yet.

10 – Who are some of the journalists you currently admire? Why?

Wow, there’s so many! A few of my favorites who I think are killing the game are Eve Barlow, Anne Donahue, Yoh Phillips, Craig Jenkins, Da’Shan Smith, Gary Suarez, David Marchese, Ivie Ani, Sharine Taylor…my list goes on! I respect writers who stay true to their voice and don’t stray away from their point of view to float alongside bandwagonists. These guys always bring a fresh perspective to the hot topics in music, some of which are funny, scathing or just an educated read. It definitely inspires me!

11 – What are some tips you would give to the new blogger, aspiring music writer and/or music journalist?

My main advice would be to never forget why you got into this industry in the first place. So many people will try to break you down or attempt to poach your ideas, especially if you’re a double-minority like myself: a Black woman. But your passion and drive will win in the end and is proof that you’re good enough to stick around. Because this industry definitely isn’t always pretty! Please don’t let these listening events and free happy hours or dinners from record labels that you see on popular influencers’ social media fool you. It’s a lot of hard work and long hours. But if your heart is truly in this, then it’ll give you the fuel to stay determined.

12 – What are some tips that have been given to you by your peers in regards to your career?

I was very shy at the beginning of my career, especially when I had to meet celebrities in person. But I’ve learned from my peers to stay professional and to not be afraid to go the extra mile or ask that tough question that you know others won’t. I’ve also been taught to not get too comfortable and to always challenge yourself to become a better writer. That’s helped me to not get caught up in the hype and glitz of the industry, and it’s kept me driven. This is a job, after all.

13 – What can we expect from Bianca Gracie for the rest of 2018?

My goal this year is to publish even more thoughtful, witty profiles and op-eds, so you can look out for that. And I’ve spoken to some really awesome people thus far, so you never know what interview I have up my sleeve next!