For many, the entertainment industry is just a dream.
A fantasy filled with parties with your favorite celebrities, cameos on DJ Khaled’s Snapchat, and glamour. The business, however, is far from the romanticized highlight reels featured on social media- but an endless fight that leaves few victorious. Breaking in takes grit and persistence; while staying in, takes endless transformations and will.
Then there’s talent. Whether your desire is to be in front of the camera or the master behind the boards, we’ve been told that you need talent to make it- in anything really. An innate ability to be great at something- better than everyone else. Yet with the frequency of overnight successes via 140 characters on Twitter increasing, it seems as if talent alone, isn’t enough. So what does it? What’s the spark that can not only catapult you into the music business but help you stay in? For Amir Boyd, (VP of Promotions for Grand Hustle and Culture Republic MM) the answer is hustle.
“I respect hard work over talent”- Amir Boyd
Few know that hustle as much as Boyd, who has powered through a tenure in music that exceeds a decade. Armed with a “by any means necessary” attitude, he earned the nickname of the “rocker-outer”; the man to call when you need to make the impossible, possible. It’s that committed mindset paired with unorthodox, thinking that made him one of the most valuable minds in music radio and an unintentional branding phenom.
Unintentional, because the DC native didn’t know music was his calling when he set out to attend Morgan State University as a History major.
“I remember being in the 6th grade and it being career day and they gave us this long piece of paper with all these careers on it. I remember checking TV and Radio. It never really hit me until I got to college when I realized I like History – so I wanted to be a History teacher.” says Boyd. The path of a History teacher was short lived, as Boyd soon realized his ability to get people together via innovative parties was more lucrative than sitting in a classroom.
“…When I realized I could mobilize people. When I realized that I was like the Puff Daddy on the yard that’s when everything switched to music for me.” Says Boyd, who then took reignited the thoughts of his 6th-grade self and took his first leap into music radio thereafter.
“I didn’t finish college, I already found my niche”
His climb up the ranks of radio wasn’t an easy one, but it undoubtedly contributed to the persistence he’s known for today. Maintaining positions as Promotions Director at stations in his hometown in addition to Baltimore, Boyd managed a street team and built his credibility through consumers in the cities whilst developing sound relationships with some of music and media’s elite. That 1st to come, last to leave work ethic landed him a slot at notable Atlanta radio station, V103- a position that would ultimately solidify his place in the music business.
“I went to Things Remembered and got doorknockers that said ‘I’m knocking on your door, let me in‘ and sent them to Program Directors that ignored me. My phone started ringing off the hook after that”
You’ve heard that it’s not who you know but who knows you, and for Amir, that statement couldn’t be truer. Relationships came organically, despite his started from the bottom, grassroots growth in the business. His ideas were grandiose but well executed, so he rapidly became a campaign must-have for various organizations. His incredible reputation replaced the need for an introduction.
“Kevin Liles gives me a call and says ‘I hear you’re the sh*t. I’m gonna fly you up to my house for an interview. We’re starting a new division at Atlantic Records and we don’t want traditional music reps. We want fresh blood.” I knew I wanted that. I wanted to be that. I had to use the promotional angle to get into those buildings.”
He hasn’t looked back since. Boyd has worked to break records by 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke (to name a few). He answered the call when a rep from Epic Records was looking for superstar talent and pitched Future. He combatted T.I.’s legal issues and went on a nationwide tour for the Paper Trail album, offering him exposure in cities he hadn’t previously touched. In every city, he added to an already impressive Rolodex.
That gusto granted him his current seat at the newly minted branding machine Culture Republic. Most popular for birthing the budding superstar Nick Grant, Culture Republic is the brainchild of Jason Geter, Chaka Zulu, and Bernard Parks.
“It’s actually the 1st time in Black music that something like that has happened- where a collective says ‘we used to be competing with each other but let’s create a team.’”
“What we’re doing at Culture Republic is- we’re developing [artists] and that’s the part of the game that labels got away from. We’re taking it back to the old Motown days. Before we even take it to Sony or Universal or Epic or whoever, we already got this artist tight- so we’re really just handing him or her over.”
The difference between Culture Republic and other firms is apparent. Their imaginative guerilla marketing strategies connect consumers to a product in a manner that satiates nostalgia while maintaining new-age innovation via fresh visuals. The promo tour for Nick Grant’s debut album Return of the Cool for example, featured rebranded Willy Wonka style chocolate bars (playing to the rappers lyrical ability) in a silent listening party session; the perfect blend of old and new.
The innovation, says Boyd, comes from the youngest talents on his team.
“For me, the energy in places come from young people. When I was in radio, we had interns running around, spitting ideas at us and were willing to execute. Anyone that can push a button and 48 hours later get 2,000 kids to show up at a party (speaking about popular party 40oz Bounce) I need to be a part of that. I commend 40oz, Henny Palooza all of those movements that are somewhat underground that haven’t been tainted with corporate structures. If you’re not around young people where are your fresh ideas coming from? ODB said the kids…Kanye said the kids…. I mean where are your bright ideas and energy coming from if you’re not keeping young people around you?” This narrative, a seemingly unpopular opinion in entertainment, as the discussion of gatekeepers not giving up their seats to new creatives grows daily.
“You need to be training your replacement.”
“I’ve been looking for the next me…that person hasn’t shown up yet.” A message to the creatives trying to make it: keep dreaming, hustle hard when you think no-one is watching and you’ll be noticed by the Amir Boyd’s of the world.
ME: Any defining moments?
Amir: An old colleague said I’d never make it to radio or anything like that. She saw me in a station tee and said “Wow. You really did it.”
The BluePrint is a series of interviews with Hip-Hops most behind the scenes contributors. Only on TheTakeOvah.com