First off, How did you get started in the music industry?
I started out as an MC. I was also into graffiti, break dancing, the entire culture of Hip Hop. My older brother was big into the Hip Hop scene as a DJ, and he exposed me to the world of hip hop music. Back then I called myself MC Mystery and joined a rap group called TCK. When I went solo I changed my name to Quayshaun, because I joined the Nation of Gods and Earths (5%er Nation) and that was my attribute. I made my way around battling everyone I could, which led me to meet a brother named Andre’, who introduced me to Christopher Williams. Chris wife at the time had a brother named Darrin Chandler of Top Ten Entertainment who became my manager. Darrin brought in Jimmy Maynes as road manager, and Jimmy “Love” Jenkins did all the promotions. I was signed to Epic Records in 1990. My single, “Party Slammin” was produced by Dinky Bingham.
What have been a few of the highlight of your career thus far?
Well, after being a rap artist, I went on to work for Jimmy at Uptown Records, then on to work for Frank Toro at Tommy Boy Records. I was also working for Dennis Kelman, President of Legal and Business affairs at BMG. I consulted him on what label deals to sign or not sign, one of which to note was Pendilum Records, which had Brownstone and Digable Planets. I also did promotions for the Fugees project with Antone Barnes, where I encouraged Lauryn Hill to go solo, which sold over 15 million albums. As a manager, I managed the careers of singer and wife of Layzie Bone Felecia (also advised them on relaunching the Mo Thugs brand), Ying Yang Twins, Petey Pablo, Nappy Roots. I’ve worked with many great artists such as the Native Tongue, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Guru, Shabba Ranks, Patra to name a few.
What is your secret for finding great talent?
First, no one really knows the definition of a hit record. As executives, we try to devise our own ways of detecting what will perform in the marketplace. For me, it boils down to what I call the “Three C’s Theory”. If you can take a song from the Car, to the Club, to the Crib, it’s a hit. Secondly, I believe in a “hands on” approach to checking out an artist. I fly to wherever the artist is and see what their movement is about. Coming to see NYC is cool for an artist, but their movement is based on where they’re from.
What is the philosophy behind your label Que Records?
Our philosophy is simple, make competitive music without compromising the integrity of the artist. I constantly tell my artists to “Give the people what they want until they believe in you enough to give them what you know they need”.
Has the recent emphasis on touring/live performance revenue changed your approach when it comes to artist signing and development?
Absolutely! Before, performance was exclusively the artist’s revenue to earn. But now with the 360 deal, record companies are taking a portion of every revenue stream available to the artist. At Que, we have taken a different approach. Why not become the booking agent? The Sync License Company? The marketing company? The merchandising or consulting company? This way, we only are paid for the work we participate in, which makes the relationship between the label and the artist much more balanced.
What are your future plans with Que Records?
We are planning to evolve beyond the music into film, television, internet/viral, sports, and investments. We want to seek out seek out products and intellectual properties to partner with to pioneer cutting edge products and services to become a “one stop shop” for our clients, brands.
What is your opinion on the current state of the music industry?
The music industry functions in cycles, and is directly affected by the state of the economy. The cycle has two phases. One where there is no definitive direction or course for music. This is where independent labels can thrive as the consumer searches of a constant sound. Two, once that sound and direction is established, the majors will absorb those smaller movements and thus dominate the marketplace until the sound oversaturates and pushes us back to repeat the cycle. Currently, we’re in the first phase of the cycle where it’s anybody’s market.
If you can change one thing about the music industry, what would it be and why?
I would bring back the artist development departments of the record labels. I believe that the current system of basing a signing solely on numbers leaves out a great deal of talent from exposure. It costs a lot of money to break a song, which is the point of signing to a label in the first place. If I have to fund my own movement, what do I need the label for? Also, having talent is something you’re born with. Becoming a great entertainer is something you’re taught. All the great, timeless artists were groomed by seasoned vets who earned their position by work, which is why they made timeless music. Today, artists are left to basically figure it out on their own, which adversely affects the quality of the music.
What are some of your predictions trend-wise for the music industry in terms of both the business side as well as the creative side?
Business wise it’s clear that the digital component will reign supreme. To survive in this new environment an artist will have to rely on more than his music to earn income. He will have to understand the viral universe and the many ways to generate revenue from it, master his stage performance, learn to express himself, and become a marketable brand for film and television so that companies like Coca-Cola will want to cross market utilizing the artist and his likeness. Remember, records don’t sell records, MOVEMENTS sell records.
What advice would do you have for upcoming artists and producers?
Be honest with yourself about what have. Define who you are and what you represent. Make sure the music exemplifies this concept. Devise a plan to present that package to the consumer. Don’t just settle for being an artist. Become a business!
Any final words?
I’m working on a cancer initiative with American Doll and NYS Free and Accepted Masons to create a doll for children. The doll starts out bald with the child, and as the child’s hair grows back, the doll’s hair will be added. We could use all the help we can get to make this a reality. Lastly, let’s all work together to save the music. Instead of fighting, let’s work together to use our influence to change the world for the better