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Interview with T-GRAY, A&R/manager/producer at Latium Entertainment - Oct 9, 2006

"A lot of people’s first demos get turned down. My first demos got turned down. I had to learn a lot about production, I had to learn to improve my instruments, improve my sounds, get some better keyboards and just build my library"

picture ... so reassures T-Gray, who insistently worked his way up from street DJ to handling some of Houston, Texas' biggest hip hop stars like Natalie, Frankie J and Chamillionaire (No.1 US).

This in-depth interview with him is jam-packed with the man's insights, professional tips and spot-on advice.

He discusses the function of mixtapes, connecting with the fans, developing contacts and putting Houston on the global hip hop map.

How did you get started in music?

I started as a street DJ in the clubs about 15 years ago when I was 15 years old and from that point went on to radio in Houston, a local hip-hop station. When I started college I took an internship of about a month at a radio station and after a month I was hired into what was called the research department where we did the in-house research at the station.

Six months after that they let me start run the control boards. I actually worked my way up. I started as the mixer on the air and worked my way as an air jockey and eventually as a music director.

Did you do your own records too, make your own music?

I have been producing probably for the last 10 years now and I’ve produced a lot of acts out here. As a matter of fact, when Chamillionaire was in a group with Paul Wall I had a couple of tracks on their last ‘Controversy Sells’ album that came out.

It was an independent album, before they both got signed to major labels. I have produced a lot of records for local Houston acts and I still do sometimes, not as much as before but I still do.

How did you start with Latium?

I have been part of Latiument for a year as the A & R director. It started with Natalie …I was one of the co-producers and vocal producer on her first single, ‘Going Crazy’, and I’ve been friends with Charles Chavez for years when he used to work for Interscope and MCA.

He used to work me on records because I was the music director at the station and we developed a relationship. I kept bringing him acts; I brought him Natalie and he signed her to Universal. One of the latest acts, by the way, is a kid called Rob G from Houston. I also produced him and brought him to Charles.

What exactly is Latium Entertainment doing?

We are a management company and record label. There is Latiument Records and Latiument Entertainment. We manage various artists like Frankie J , Chamillionaire, Slim Thug and a few producers who produce and write. We have another kid called Happy Perez who produced a lot of Frankie J’s records, from ‘Sugar Sugar’ to ‘Obsession’.

As a record company we have Natalie, Rob G and Play-N-Skillz from Dallas. We’re around for about eight years now. It started as a management company, then the record company started when Natalie got signed in 2004 and now it is expanding rapidly. Our distribution partner is Universal Republic .

So what were the first things you did when you came there?

I was A&R for projects at the same time. We did Natalie’s latest album ‘Everything New’ and Frankie J’s Spanish album that came out earlier this year, ‘Un Nuevo Dia’. I also did the A&R for Frankie ‘s new English album, ‘Priceless’.

My job is to make sure we make great records. So I am in the studio whether it is mixing down a track or doing vocal production or even some additional production with some of the producers. I do a lot of the paper work that comes through here, contracts and agreements and all that sort of stuff.

I handle the legal side of things, dealing with attorneys and A&R’s from other labels, because our artists do features and utilise producers from other labels.

I might put a record together like the latest Frankie J single, ‘That Girl’ featuring Manny Fresh & Chamillionaire, I reached out to Manney, put these two in the studio together and sat in on the session with them and a masterpiece came out. Of course I’m responsible for signing new artists, too.

I listen to demo cds all the time, demos of groups and production cd’s. I have a team here at Latiument that sit down and listen to different records on a daily basis.

Can you describe an average day of work?

My day is usually a 10-12 hours working day. I listen to demos for one or one and a half hours. We book studio sessions for 8-10 hours a day. Sometimes I am in the studio all day long. Whatever the hours I’m in there, thank god for wireless Internet enabling me to still work and do the paper work.

How much are you involved in the production? Do you sit there and say: “Oh, put the hi-hat a little higher”?

Whatever it is I am in there…every snare, string, clap, hi-hat, I am there for that. On our records we give the mixing credit to our chief engineer in Houston, James Hoover , but any record we have with James in the mix, I am there with him all the time. I’m like: “Let’s go play it in the car… no James we have to turn that kick up, the hi-hat is too wet…

I love listening to records in the car. I just get the pure sound. I hate computer monitors. Being in the studio sometimes can fool you because you have stuff out loud and this super huge subwoofers.

That sound is not the same as you get in your car or in a club. I am also still a club DJ so sometimes I like playing records straight in the clubs. Sometimes I would pull out on the streets to complete strangers and ask: “What do you think of this?”

The hip hop scene in Houston has exploded in the last two years…

What I do love about it is I can say I have been part of it before Chamillionaire got signed to Universal and Motown, before Slim Thug and Mike Jones and all these cats blew up. We are all from the same area and same neighbourhood and it’s like I have known these guys all their lives. In my time as radio music director I wanted to help build and create our music scene the way we thought it should be.

We were younger coming up. We learnt a lot from people like Scarface, Rap-A-Lot, James Prince. We wanted to do what they did and improve it. I used to go to Atlanta all the time and hang out with a very good friend of mine, Bryan Michael Cox. He produced all of Usher’s smash hits and the latest Mary J Blige record. He is from Houston.

I used to go out to the studio in Atlanta and just watch how they conducted business, I wanted to try and bring that model back home to Houston, and finally everything is coming together.

We are trying to keep the ball in our court right now. We have a lot of great records coming out, a lot of local artists are doing music together and it just makes the scene what it should be and meant to be as the world should see it.

What is the key for Houston playing such a big part in the hip hop scene worldwide?

We created our own industry in the city, which a lot of people are now copying. We did not go out to New York and begged for airplay, we started our own scene here in Houston. All of our artists became local superstars and celebrities. In due time you know when kids are leaving town and go to school here and there, music spreads by word of mouth, the internet etc.

All of that contributed to the success of the city, people are familiar with it now, and accepting our sound, it’s unstoppable.

I am used to the sound we have been making. We have been doing it for numerous years and I feel elated that the world is getting a chance to experience what we have experienced. The industry comes in waves….

New York created hip hop, it will always be the godfather, Atlanta had its time, the West Coast, even Tennessee. Houston, with the likes of Destiny’s Child is now a music powerhouse. I think it is our time to shine and I think it is a mixture of talent and God.

Would you say there was one artist opening all the doors?

There were several…The Ghetto Boys were the biggest group to come out the city. UGK is another act everybody is very familiar with now. Those guys were very instrumental with helping to attract attention. UGK did the ‘Big Pimpin’ song with Jay-Z, and Scarface did ‘Guess Who’s Back’ with Jay –Z and Beanie Siegel.

They all made people from the East Coast, people who thought that there wasn’t even a music scene in Houston, suddenly pay attention.

Also, DJ Screw created that ‘screw’ form of music that has just taken the country by storm. I was listening to the Justin Timberlake album and I am hearing the DJ Screw song on his album, so I’m like, ”Ok, this is serious now”.

Where did you find Natalie?

Natalie was a dancer for the local NBA basketball team, the Houston Rockets. One of our very good friends was a DJ for the Rockets and said: “You need to hear her!” She was actually a rapper back than, not a singer. She came to my house, and we recorded some freestyle at my home studio. One day she sang a hook on one of these rap records that we did and I was like: “You should sing!”

A friend of mind came up with the beat for ‘Going Crazy’ and it was a wrap from there. I would say eight months from the day of me meeting her we recorded that, and she finally got signed about a year later, so we’ve been working together for 18-20 months.

What were the steps you took until Natalie got actually released?

When ‘Going Crazy’ dropped it was all happening pretty fast so we were in a position where an album had to be made rather rapidly, so we mixed, mastered, recorded everything for her first album in a month. Universal put it out there and we did 300,000 copies on our first run.

Natalie is a very quick writer. ‘Going Crazy’ was written in 15 minutes. I think it’s because she was a rapper and she used to freestyle-battle a lot of people. She’s always quick, on her toes – so a lot of lyrics come to her very rapidly.

A friend of mine, Mark, was always in the studio with us when she would lay vocals down, to help with harmonies and melodies, because I’m not an R&B guy as far as vocal producing goes. I am now, but at the time, when we did that album I didn’t know too much about producing vocals.

It took us a few hours of recording to get things right because Natalie was not a natural singer at first. She could carry a tune but we had to help her develop her singing ability. She’d write it, sing it, we’d lay it down. If we liked it, cool, take it, listen to it for a couple of days to make sure we really liked it, and mixed it down.

What exactly happened after you recorded the song?

I took it to Charles Chavez, his company was doing well, Frankie J’s album was out doing well, Baby Bash had a record out that was incredible at that time and I was like: “Charles you need to hear this record.” So I brought two records, Natalie and Rob G.

He sent me back to the drawing board with Rob G, but he took that Natalie record and he sat on it and listened to it for about eight months and finally, in October 2004 it got cold outside and he was like, “This is a hit, lets do it” and we did.

Those are the same vocals on it we recorded in my apartment’s closet. Thank god we have a really good studio and engineer so we can mix stuff down and he took all the background noise out of it.

What happened when Latiument signed it then?

We’d send it to radio and we’d take it to clubs, as it’s that type of record. We work program directors at radios; we’d make phone calls. Even when Universal distributes and promotes our records we still do a lot of the footwork ourselves at the same time. We’ll call stores and set up promo tours.

So what does a promo plan for an artist look like?

It’s different for different types of music. When you’re doing hip hop music, a promo run is going to be more girlie, more club scene and more street stuff.

For someone like Rob or Chamillionaire, we’re going to send you out to the ‘hoods, we’re going to send you out to the clubs where the kids who are hearing and buying these records hang. Whereas a pop act like Natalie or Frankie J – we’re going to send you in and do a lot of radio – Natalie’s on a mall tour around the country right now

We actually have our own in-house booking and we work with a company that does tours and map out a routing with the company, in conjunction with the record company.

How were Frankie J and Chamillionaire discovered?

Charles discovered Frankie J about twelve years ago singing in a club. He was a member of the Mexican group Kumbia Kings, executive produced by A.B. Quintanilla who is a Latin singer. Frankie was a part of his group and Charles saw it and the rest is history. He took him under his wing, shopped him a deal, got him signed to Sony and here we are a million records later.

Chamillionaire’s story is interesting; As I mentioned earlier, he was in a local group with Paul Wall who is also famous nowadays.

The group split, but Chamillionaire was building up this incredible mixtape credibility. He is an internet freak so his website had two million hits before Universal even knew who he was, he sold 200,000 mix tapes every time he dropped one underground.

When he got his deal with Universal he reached out to Charles Chavez for management because he had seen what he had done with Baby Bash and Frankie J and was playing skills and he was like “Yo, I want to play on the same team, I want the same kind of work ethic”.

So he was building himself up?

Yeah exactly, he deserves all the credit because he did a lot of his own footwork himself initially, and when he came in and connected with Latiument it just took his career to the next level and he excelled in everything, sold 1.4 million records, won a VMA and got nominated for an American Music Award, and we’re just praying for that Grammy now.

It is a very unique success story, almost like the 50 Cent story but without the bullets. As far as the mixtape scene is, it’s always the same thing: ‘build it from the streets and the love will continue to show.’

And was Rob G really turned down at first?

Yes, Charles was like: “These records sound like mixtape records”. So a year later we had a record for him and he signed him. And Rob’s deal is now complete with Universal Republic also.

He’s the new Latin rap sensation out of Houston. His lyricism is incredible. MTV was doing a freestyle contest a few years ago, he was representing Houston in one of the battles, but he lost the contest because he cursed on television. He got disqualified. The ‘Dirty Mouth of the South’ – that’s what we call him.

Rob made a street record that we’re going to release in a few weeks to make sure that the streets know who he is. We’ve got also a lot of regional mixes coming out.

Mims in New York, Rick Ross in Miami and a version with Sean Paul from the Young Bloods from Atlanta, and I’ve got a West Coast mix coming too. All in order to build his buzz on the streets. You can probably expect to hear from Rob G during spring 2007.

How can you push your mixtape, if you are an artist from the streets?

Sometimes we take someone else’s instrumental and then rap to it, creating a completely different song to that instrumental. A lot of the mixtapes around now have people rhyming on instrumentals and sometimes include original songs.

What Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, Paul Wall or Rob G did, is get in their vehicles and drive around the state of Texas, drive through Louisiana, through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and visit some of these small record stores, visit a lot of clubs in the ghettos, in the neighbourhoods and slums.

So they press their own CDs, go there, and say ‘Put my thing in your store’?

Exactly, create business and networks. But nowadays it’s a lot easier, once you create a buzz, you can just pick up the phone or jump on the internet, get a lot of listings of the stores, so a lot of these modern pop stores want to hear your records.

But because your buzz is so big, they don’t know how to get in touch with you. So once your buzz starts building, all you have to do is pick up the phone and develop those relationships. That’s pretty much how we did it. It works still to this day - Chamillionaire, even though he’s signed to Universal and sold so many records, he still puts out mix tapes.

Would a mixtape get played on the radio, too?

Sometimes. Here in Houston there’s a hip hop station that’s owned by Univision, they support a lot of mixtape records, but I don’t think in a lot of markets they do.

I’ve been to Atlanta and seen a lot of stations playlists and a lot of stations round the country don’t, but here in Houston, because that’s the scene that created a lot of our stars, our hip hop station does support mix tape records.

Why do people buy mix-tapes?

It’s a cool thing on the streets to have the latest mixtape. A lot of artists can do features with rappers and not have to worry about label claims, clearances, and things like that. There’s a lot of things that can happen on mixtapes that couldn’t happen on albums because of red tape and politics dealing with companies.

Like if I want to do a record with you, but you were signed to another record company than I am and my record company didn’t want to clear me for single rights so we could do an underground mixtape together and put it out. It’s not a label-sponsored event it’s just a mixtape we pressed on our own, made 5-10,000 copies, and decided to sell them on our own.

A lot of people do remixes of people’s songs that are already out. You know like 50 Cent’s remix of Fergie’s ‘London Bridge’ – that is big in the streets right now.

Do people download or really buy it?

Both, but to have your own copy is considered a big deal.

What advice can you give an upcoming artist?

It’s cool to have friends in the industry and collaborate with other artists, but the biggest thing to me is to go out and gain fans. The fans keep you going. If I watch Chamillionaire on a show I can see all the people that he’s touched.

After and even during the show he takes pictures of the people and he posts those pictures on his MySpace page, that has over five million hits currently. So, that makes people feel close to you. You want to have that relationship with the fans.

I mean, of course it’s a business where you’re dealing with all these big major corporations but the bottom line is record sales and the people who buy those records are the fans. So you got to get out and connect with your fans.

You’re going to have many sleepless nights but that’s the price we pay and if you really want to make it, be one of the special ones, you got to sacrifice that time with these people.

But if you are a new artist and clubs and promoters say: “Sorry, nobody knows you, come back when you have something’ going on…”

Build that relationship! They say it’s 10% talent and 90% business and a major part of this business is networking.

So you got to get out and you’re going to have to sit down and talk politics with some club owners, club promoters, and record store owners. Whatever, maybe it’s a shoe store in the mall or maybe a jewellery store or something. Develop relationships with all these people

I don’t think there’s a wrong way to promote. If a law firm or doctor’s office wants to support your pay, well roll with them also. Just whatever way you find your way in

Everybody’s got a different niche, whether it’s Nick Cannon through acting and television first or if it’s 50 Cent coming from the streets or Will Smith doing it the way he did it…there’s no wrong way. But the bottom line is to get out and mingle and work with these people.

What would you say is different about the artists that you work with comparing to stuff you get sent every day?

Our artists have a big sound. Chamillionaire can take somebody’s track that has a basic beat, and make it sound big. Our artists have big visions and dreams for themselves and they’re able to relay that onto a CD and present it to the public.

I’ve told people this a lot, ‘Practice makes perfect’. A lot of people’s first demos get turned down. That’s just how it is in this business. Even my first demos got turned down. I was trying to shop beats around to people and a lot of my beats didn’t make it.

I had to learn a lot about production, I had to learn to improve my instruments, improve my sounds, get some better keyboards and just build my library

And how did you get your beats shopped as an unknown producer?

Thank god I was in radio first. So I had the connections where they were needed. When I was in radio, I knew a lot of people that worked on promotion for these labels. So I could get to the A&R department through these promotion people. That’s how I did it.

So I had a lot of people that produced also in my crew so I would take their stuff and send it to the people – trying to help them out. But also phone books…Google…If anyone ever asks me any questions, I’m like ‘Google it’.

So, kids, Google these record labels and send stuff to these A&R people and keep calling them and bugging them.

Develop those relationships. That’s what people have done to me. There are a lot of people who I have no clue who they are. I didn’t know them a year ago, but I know them now. That’s just because they kept calling me, bugging me, getting to know me, sending me records, and not necessarily just to sell them - also on a consulting basis.

People would just send me stuff to listen to and I’d give my opinion to them all. Not every A&R is like that, but you know, I’m a pretty nice guy. I try to take it easy

What artists do you look for at the moment?

I don’t know if I can answer that question. I look for records where my ears prick up like a dog. Like when a dog hears a funny whistle and their ears stand straight up – that’s what I do when I hear a great sound.

Sometimes a demo is not good but you listen to the vocals and go: “This kid is good!” or “This kid can write well, it’s just the music that’s not great”. Maybe I’d take the lyrics, put him to one of our producer’s tracks, and see how that works.

So how do you look for the next big thing?

I go to everything everywhere. I go to open mic sessions, I go to MySpace. I listen to millions of demos. I get MP3’s on my email; I’ll travel around the country just to listen to people. I’ll go wherever talent is.

If my little brother calls me from Michigan and says, “Hey, somebody’s here doing a jam”, I’ll head up to the city, and see what’s happening.

MySpace is a blessing. It’s funny, all of a sudden, I get a lot of people from Philadelphia and people from London that are hitting me about music. I’m not mad at that, I’m going to go to Philly and I’m going to go to Europe. Wherever there’s music, you can find me.

Are there certain clubs you’d go to?

I follow a few DJ’s around – that’s what I do. Clubs come and go all the time…so wherever these few DJ’s are, I know there are the hits. DJ Johnny J is one of my favourite DJs out here in Houston as well as DJ Hi-C. When I’m on the road I try to see local rap acts. I love going to different markets and to see what’s happening there.

What do you think an artist’s demo set should look like?

I’m only interested in what’s on the disk. I don’t care about EPKs, press kits, and sending me glossies and stuff. If it’s a burned CD with writing on it, that’s cool with me.

I understand that people don’t have the finances to do photo shoots and stuff like that. I was one of those kids who just made beats and rapped in my room. So if you have a burned CD, send it to me.

MP3’s are cool, too. Just make sure you have contact information on the CD or the MP3. I have to make a special email for this, my account is getting ridiculous, I’m trying to get contracts and somebody’s sending me twelve songs at a time.

What advice would you give an unsigned act if they want to build their careers but have no money to properly record something?

One of my artists is bringing out a street mixtape series called ‘The Rob G Campaign’. There’s a line on Volume 2 that says ‘I sell drugs just so I can press up a CD’. It’s crazy sounding, but it’s true. He did whatever he had to do for his music. So if you save up $100, you can go spend your money at a $35 per hour studio.

I had to learn the hard way about recording. I used somebody’s studio once and the guy told me, “I’ll let you use my studio free of charge blah blah blah”.

And eventually, when things didn’t go right for him he tried to tax me for the use of his studio. So I went and bought my own equipment. I bought my own ProTools setup. But it doesn’t have to be ProTools.

There are so many different programs that you can use that are a lot cheaper. I have kids coming here they have recordings that were done on Karaoke machines. If that’s how you do it, and you can pull it off? Cool.

I used to have tape machines back in the day. I was doing MIDI stuff even before MIDI was on the market. So, use your imagination. Get a computer and get a recording program or get a production program – use Reason or something like that.

Get books and learn how to get down. To this day I still have my own setup, because I didn’t want to rely on anybody else.

So how many outside producers do you actually work with?

We’ve worked with hundreds of producers. On the Chamillionaires album we had about eight different producers. With Natalie we had five. But as far as in-house is concerned, we have two producers signed: Play-N-Skillz, who are a production team, and Happy Perez.

Play-N-Skillz did, for example, Chamillionaire’s ‘Ridin’’ and Natalie’s ‘What You Gonna Do’ featuring Bun B. Happy worked on Frankie’s new album, ‘Obsession’.

But we have many fresh producers on the new album. Mike Cannon who’s an A&R for Atlantic Records, but a producer as well. We work with DJ Clue, with Sweden’s Stargate Production team, who produced Ne-Yo and a couple of songs on Beyonce’s album. Ne-Yo is part of the production team as far as the writing is concerned.

How does your artist get the beats?

I’ve probably sent Chamillionaire about 400 beats over the course of the last two weeks. That’s a lot of beats to listen to, but he listens to them all because the new album’s sold over a million copies and we have to follow that up. So we’re really taking our time and looking for the best stuff in the world. We don’t care if it’s name producers or not.

We’re just looking for the sound he is feeling at the moment. I want to make him the happiest possible by supplying him with the materials he needs.

Coming from the small time, I always maintained my balance in the street. That’s where I’m from, so I know what the starving artists are trying to do. So I give everybody a chance. It’s not about the name/brand thing. Obviously, if Timbaland calls and comes up with a track, that's cool, he has a proven track record that makes it easy for us. But whoever has a good sound, come on over.

And how do you go through beats, I mean, do you just play the first 20 seconds?

Sometimes you can tell that it’s someone’s first Casio keyboard. But I’ll let the whole CD play and we’ll just be sitting here and I’ll call some friends up or whatever, call some of my artists up, my boss might come sit in here.

We’ll be talking and just listening to the stuff. I get so many CDs, but with my intern, I’m making sure he’s listening to stuff. I’m on one laptop; he’s on another laptop.

I have a roster of about eight artists who are all doing major things right now and you have to deal with their business as well. Sometimes when somebody’s sending me a CD, I might not have time to listen to that CD for a couple of weeks because I’m travelling. But I do get to everything.

What are the prices like for beats?

I know a cat that’s selling his beats online for $200 a pop. I was like, “We love you”. People like Little John charge $60,000 - $80,000 in advance for their beats.

So, you know, it varies. The minimum’s $500 - $1,000. That’s what first time producers get. And that increases rapidly once you’ve got a hit record.

Do they still get a part of the rights once they sell it?

They get the publishing and we give them points on the record also. You get the standard three points and you own your portion of the songs.

So if you produce the entire track by yourself then 50% of that record is yours. If you write the hook with that record too, that changes the percentages. We’re very fair and we don’t try to jip people.

How much money would you say you have to invest in an artist before its album is released – to set everything up?

Several hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent. Just the travel alone – getting from place to place is a lot of money. The recording costs out here are kind of steep. Especially when you’re recording out of town. Our studio rates are kind of pretty reasonable round here in Houston.

But if you ever go to LA and you’re recording in the Hit Factory or whatever, they’re going to charge you a grip. Studio costs, production costs, travel, promotion.

You’re going to spend, $300,000 - $400,000 on an artist to really get them out there. To give them the fair chance they need to compete against all the other artists that are out right now.

What about your management side of your company? What kind of artists do you work with?

The case with a lot of the artists that we manage, is we come in after they’ve established themselves and then we make them bigger. Like Chamillionaire who was big before or Slim thug who is featured on the Beyonce record, had his deal and got his buzz brewing. That’s all we do as far as management.

We do some development, but we’re looking for the cream of the crop and it takes time. So sometimes there might not be any new artists signed just because we’re looking for the very, very, very best.

And how would a deal at your label look like?

We will do a single deal first because all our artists walk in with a record. Natalie had ‘Going crazy’; Rob G had a local record out, ‘Texas Boys’. If the single takes off and starts to work, we pick up the option for the album. Then we’ll give you your album advance and go make a record and put out more hits.

Are record sales still the biggest revenue in hip hop?

Yes. Clothing is becoming a very big thing. Mixtape merchandising – If we had Chamillionaire out on the road we made sure we had his catalogue of mixtapes with him – and those move units greatly.

How much revenue is made over downloads?

Downloads are very, very important. iTunes is huge. I look at download ringtone charts all the time. Chamillionaire sold over 4 million ringtones. A lot of records that came out, didn’t sell too well as albums, but sold a lot of ringtones.

Like ‘Laffy Taffy’ or Dem Franchise Boys’, ‘Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It’. Their albums did moderately well. They went gold. But their ringtones were in excess of a million.

Do you think there’s a difference between hip hop and rock consumers?

I go to these shows with Chamillionaire and I see white and Asian kids in the audience. Same thing in clubs. Those lines are blurring. People who are buying Green Day, AFI and Panic At The Disco are also buying Chamillionaire and Beyonce.

It’s weird, but that’s really what’s happening out there.

I think it’s a great thing because I was one of those kids when I was younger. I was buying Madonna and Motley Crue and Metallica. But I would buy EPMD and Easy E and NWA. Pop stations are playing so much rap music these days.

Rob G has only a MySpace page, no official website. Why?

I don’t know if people go to official websites anymore. Tila Tequila was the perfect example for this MySpace thing. There are people like Kaze getting deals through MySpace and that's an incredible tool. It changed the course of this business. MySpace is going into online music sales now.

It’s an easy way for kids to shop demos and it’s an easy way for A&Rs to listen to those demos. And If you’re a superstar and you don’t know how a song’s going to do – put it on your MySpace page and see what happens.

And how do you see hip hop in the future? Where does hip hop culture go?

Everything gets international, just as far as seeing what’s happening in other regions. I mean, you’ve got 50 Cent who wants to sign a rapper from Phoenix, Arizona – we’ve never heard of any rapper from Phoenix, Arizona. Next thing I’m going to hear is that Jay-Z signs a rapper from Dubai or something.

The pioneers of hip hop are New Yorkers who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. They never thought that Chamillionaire or Paul Wall would be the kings of the rap game right now. They would always think of someone from Brooklyn or Queens.

I’d like to go out and see what’s happening in Sweden. There are great producers and records coming out of there. I want to see what’s going on in Iran. I think I’d sign artists from outside the US.

How would you try to break it in the States then?

I would like to see what’s happening in their country and their home first. So if there was something in Europe, I’d like to blow it up in Europe first before we bring it here. I’d have to really get out there and study the market and the history of the market, and then go from there. I’d really like to do that. Blow up something in Europe or Asia and bring it to the States.

I’d like to see it succeed hometown first. That’s what we do here, you know. If Rob G doesn’t succeed in Houston, then he won’t succeed in the rest of the country.

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Interview by Jan Blumentrath

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