Interviews

Published on July 8th, 2019 | by Jerry Doby

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Atlanta Music Mogul B Rich Talks Star Quality and Discovering New Music in the New Age of Social Media

In the highly competitive music industry, Atlanta has continued to assert itself as a hub for some of the nation’s hottest talent – and one executive has steadily emerged as the go-to source for recording artists seeking to catapult their careers to the next level.

Meet Brian Richardson, known as “B Rich” and the CEO of No Genre, who for the last 15 years has managed and elevated numerous rap artists from obscurity into stardom. Talents such as B.O.B, Kevin Gates, Boosie Badazz, Playboy Tre, Young Dro, Tokyo Jetz, Lil Keed, London Jae and several others have called on B Rich for his guidance, expertise and industry connections. He has served as A&R for T.I’s Grand Hustle imprint, where he helped “The King of the South” to finish his Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head and Paper Trail albums, as well as sign and develop acts such as Iggy Azalea, Shun Hendrix, Travis Scott, D.O.P.E. and others. One look at his social media profiles will demonstrate why he is the man to call for people who want national and international fame.

The Hype Magazine caught up with B Rich to get a look behind the veil of the life of a major talent manager and A&R.

We always get a chance to talk to the people in front of the mic. You’re the person behind the mic making it happen, cutting the deals, pulling the beats together, making everything smooth for others. Let’s give a little background on B Rich.

B Rich: Okay. Yeah. What’s up, man? I’m B. Rich. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I kinda got into the business by doing open mics in Atlanta and kind of built that up and had a lot of artists come through. The first artist I signed was this guy name Citty, Da Cookie Man. He had got signed by Slip and Slide. And then I start working with this kid named Willie Joe. But then, my breakthrough was B.o.B that was the first artist that I got major, major deal … Well, Citty had got a deal, but B.o.B was the first artist that I got onto and signed to a major label to Atlantic records and Jim Jonsin’s imprint Rebel Rock and Grand Hustle. So that was the first person and then I just been on the train ever since.

Okay. And you’ve got a crazy start. I understand you started out in pharmaceutical sales?

Yeah. Yeah. I was a pharmaceutical salesman and I called on doctors every day and wore suits. And that was a pretty interesting job. Interesting and it kind of helped me deal with what I’m dealing with now, to be honest with you.

So time management and personal relationships and stuff like that were things that you had to build going door to door basically. And dealing with some crazy personalities. I call doctors crazy personalities.

Yeah. Doctors are very arrogant. And it wasn’t door to door, I just had to really go to their practices and hospitals and stuff like that. And they, we pretty much had to service them, they were writing our prescriptions. I sold an antihistamine… I sold Claritin, Nasonex, Lunesta, stuff like that. So they really wanted us to come in because we would leave samples of drugs for them to give to their patients. So they really were expecting us to come in.

That lead to tailgate parties with the doctors, an open mic night and then history has been made. We’re talking about B.O.B, Kevin Gates, Boosie Badazz, Playboy Tre, Young Dro, Tokyo Jetz, Lil Keed, London Jae…

Yeah, I’ve been a part of T.I.’s management team. I helped A&R a couple of his albums. I’ve had big ups and downs in the music business and I worked with a lot of people and there have been other artists I’ve worked with that haven’t made it, but still, just the experience of going through that. So, it’s just been pretty interesting. It’s been fun. I love it I wouldn’t want to do anything else. But, it’s not easy.

15 plus years in the game. That’s a lot of intestinal fortitude.

I want to give a shout out to a dude that took me under his wing when I first came into the music industry. I’ve always had the will to be first and to succeed, because I’m a salesman by nature, but the one person that kind of took me under his wing when I came into music was TJ’s DJ’s. So me and him are still close to this day.

What’s one of the biggest lessons that you learned from TJ’s DJ’s

Just communication man. Let people know up front. One of the mistakes I made, in the beginning, was when B.o.B was with Grand Hustle.  At first, Grand Hustle wanted to sign us, but then we had other people that were interested and so Jim Jonsin wanted to fly us down to Miami. And so I just went, but I didn’t want to tell them because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. But what the lesson is out of that, just be straight up with people. I should’ve said, “All right guys. All right, Tip, alright Grand Hustle. I like what y’all doing, but hey, I’m finna go entertain Jim Jonsin, see what he’s talking about. We’ll be back on such and such date.”

Instead, I snuck down, just made me look real snake-ish. But, really I just don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Sometimes you’ve got to hurt people’s feeling for you not to come off looking like a snake.

Right.

And that’s what TJ was always like, hey, always, have the uncomfortable conversations. And that’s something I’ve come up with, the uncomfortable conversations. I’m a master of that now, having uncomfortable conversations. It’s very uncomfortable to ask someone to sign a contract with you. It’s very uncomfortable to talk about things and be straight up with people. So that’s what I’m a master of. And so, dealing with TJ has gotten me to be a master at that.

You know, you’re like one of only three people that I’ve talked to in my umpteen years that have mentioned having the uncomfortable conversation as what makes someone successful, a great CEO, a great leader, being a boss. Not being afraid to have an uncomfortable situation, the uncomfortable conversations. And not ducking and dodging. So that’s definitely something that we could pass on to the youngsters who are scared to have a confrontation. It doesn’t have to come down to blows, but definitely, need to have the conversations and be up front. I like that. What’s coming down the pipe for B. Rich?

Well, right now, man, I’ve been behind the scenes so much. I’m trying to brand myself and let people know about me and what I’m doing because at the end of the day I want to stay relevant. I’ve got some new artists that I’m working with, new producers and new ventures that I’m doing and I’m just trying to relearn the game because it’s different than when I came in.

And so I’m just trying to stay relevant, stay on top of stuff and you know like Coach K, they out here killing it man. And so I want to catch up to them. I don’t have as much experience as them. But you know, I’ve seen it to where we were on top and then we were down so other people are on top. It’s just a cycle. So it’s just trying to catch my wave and go from there.

Speaking of catching the wave, talk to us about this new producer Beat Battle. The fingerprint producer Beat Battle that you kicked off.

We’re just pretty much offering a way for producers to get out and showcase their talents ….When you make beats you want people to hear them, so just kind of like showcasing producers and giving them a chance to work with artists and getting them a chance to be discovered and made. I think that’e going to open the door for me to see dope producers and things of that nature. So it was just another way of finding talent.

And you’re going to do this every month? so far.

Yes, yes.

And then what, we’ve got the championship coming up in October, so we looking ahead, what most excites you about opportunities like this, showcases, especially with the producers?

It’s just the opportunity of just loving music. At the end of the day it’s the music business. And I think sometimes a lot of people get caught up in the business and they forget about the music and vice versa. For artists, they get caught up in the music and don’t worry about the business, but as far as events, we get to the point where we get too busy and we don’t even listen to music anymore.

And so that’s what I’m trying to focus on, just falling in love with music again. By doing these things you’re forced to listen to beats because you’re there and then when you hear something you’re like, hey, you can work with them and get with writers and artists and try to make hit records.

That’s one thing that I’ve been very good at as an A&R… I have a lot of big records behind my belt. Like I have many platinum records that I’ve worked on. And so I feel like I have an ear and I think my ear was trained by being an open mind for so long. We used to do, weekly, I heard like 30 to 40 artists a week. That was like over a hundred artists a month that’s over 1200 artists a year.

Wow.

So after hearing so much you get to, sift through the bullshit. It kind of trained my ear to know what’s up.

Man. So I gotta ask you this. You said falling in love with the music again. Do you think that over these years of hearing so many sounds so many joints that you kind of got jaded and you lost the love for the music itself?

Naw, naw, naw I just feel like this man…I feel like with the Internet it is a gift and a curse. And so, before… This is what happened. . I mean, I may be wrong, but it’s what I think in my mind. I feel like before Instagram and social media, I feel like talent always rose to the top. And so, better music was being made back then. But now the cool kids that are in high school, they’re the ones that are getting popular. So if you don’t do Instagram, you know how it was in high school, the cool kids was this, that, everybody followed them or whatever.

Now they have a forum before them to do Instagramming and they coolin’ and whatever, they’re able to get a movement. And so they’re like, “Oh shit, I might as well rap.” But some of them may not have talent, but they so cool, they know how to twerk it to where it is working. And so I think the quality of the music that we were raised off of has gone down. Even though some of that shit is jamming. It’s still a jam factor, but still, the quality of it is not what we grew up on. It’s not… Like my favorite rapper is Andre 3000.   a lot of the music that’s coming out isn’t that. But not to say that it’s not a hit or it’s not being successful, it’s just not what I’m accustomed to or grew up with.

And our parents can say the same thing with Motown. Well, we grew up on Motown, this rap shit ain’t nothing. But it’s all a cycle. But that’s what’s going on with music. And so when I hear somebody that’s really talented and really making good songs, it just makes you like, oh wow. Yeah. Because I think we’re kind of starved for that now because everything is so…

Kooky.

Don’t get me wrong, like this shit be jamming. But it’s still a need. You can’t eat too many cookies….You have to have meat, you have to have greens, it has to be a balance. And I think right now we’re just getting too much of one thing and I’m not dissing any of it. We’re just one-sided. The seesaw is really jaded to one side right now and it’s not balanced.

Yeah, there is a lot of cookie cutter stuff out there. And I remember you mentioned Andre 3000, I was like, man, when he said, “The south got something to say.” What artists are you looking at right now that’s got something to say?

Right now? I mean a lot of these people got something to say. You just have to… It’s so much of it, man You can’t really discover it, it’s so much of it! How can I get to it… and a lot of it’s good. Like, I don’t know if somebody needs to come up with the social media  version of TRL again, fuck it. I don’t know. A TRL is what made a lot of the stars, stars. Like,  they made the Christina Aguileras, the Nelly’s, The Destiny Childs, the Eminems, Outkast. TRL was what made them stars because TV made them popular, but kind of like YouTube and Instagram kind of put them out of business. So somebody has to do the next invention of TRL Social Media. I don’t know what that’s going to be.

Right, right. With your experience, what makes a real star, you know, outside of the social media realm, in your professional opinion, what is the star quality?

Somebody that can walk in the room and you just can’t take your eye off them… and that’s just a God gift. Somebody just walks in and he’s like, who is that person? Like that, the first part of it.

And the second part of it is the talent that comes with it. But you know, some people can come in and just control the room. Have you ever seen that? Be Like, who is that? And you just can’t take your eye off, like Diddy has that. Diddy don’t write shit, don’t produce anything but he a star.

Yeah. Yeah. He got that personality. His son Justin is like that too though. You walk into a room and just captured the room.

There you go. Some people just have it. To me that’s the first and foremost quality of everything, because there are some people that can sing their ass off, produce their ass off and then they come in and you don’t notice them, like a chair, you know?

I’ve never heard it put that way but I feel you. Talk to us about No Genre. What’s the story behind No Genre?

Me and B.o.B started a label called No Genre. B.o.B. is kind of focused on his music side, so basically, I kind of made a management company out of No Genre. And just doing management, and if I find some artists I want to sign that I really want to put out, that’s where I’ll go through.

But yeah, it’s just a label that me B.o.B started… I like all kinds of music, if I see a country artist, that’s why I called it No Genre. I’m not going to be bound by any level because that’s how B.o.B is.

B.o.B you know he can make any type of music and we’ve always held our nuts on it like, we’re not gonna be put in a box… We’re not, in a genre. If we want to make a country album, make a country album. If we want to make a pop album, we’ll make it a pop album. I want to make a hip hop album, we’ll make the hip hop album. We just always been on that.

What do you do to differentiate you, as a professional from others and get them around the stereotypes?

Man, I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s stuff that you think about all the time, but then it’s like… I’m afraid to talk in front of people, but I talk in front of people all the time. You know what I’m saying? So I’m always thinking of stuff, all right, this is how I’ve got to get my Instagram popping, this is how I’ve got to do that. But then, when it comes down to it, I’m afraid to talk on Instagram. I don’t know why.  But when I do it I usually say some good shit, but it’s sometimes I don’t like the way I sound, I don’t like the way I look. So I go through that. I go through it.

But, so you’re saying how to develop all that shit is really you just have to reinvent yourself every year because it’s always something new. And so, if you just stay on top of that shit and understand how it works, that’s how you differentiate yourself because what you’re known for now, is going to change a year from now.

So what’s the most satisfying about your work to you?

Man, the most satisfying thing, I look back at it and it was a bad night for me, but you’ll live… I told Nipsey Hussle this before he died, it was in January, close to February. We were in the studio with Thug. We went to the Grammy’s. That was a real problem, Bob was nominated for six Grammy’s. I’m talking about B.o.B when I say Bob, and he performed on the Grammy’s with Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae. They performed ‘Nothing On You’ and Janelle’s hit and then Bruno’s hit. And I enjoyed it. It felt so good. But then I was so upset because we lost, we didn’t win. And I went home and I went to the room and I just sulked and was sad..  and I just stayed in.

But what I told Nipsey was like, “Hey man, what I didn’t do, you need to do this.” I said, like, “Enjoy every moment, take pictures. If you win, lose or draw man, enjoy this moment. It doesn’t come around all the time.” And he listened. He said, “Thank you, bro. Like I needed to hear that.” And all in all, it was like that was one of the best times I have. But then, I could have had an even better time if I would have just been in the moment. After the Grammy’s I should have gone out and just socialized with everybody and rubbed elbows, you know? Who knows? You know, I could have seen Andre 3000 out there and got his number and started managing him. You just never know.

Let’s drop some common sense on them about the rap beef. It was kind of cool hearing that Yachty and the other young man kind of squashed their beef and it didn’t turn into violence but we really are losing real ones behind some nonsense. Drop some pearls on them, on that one.

I just think it’s a cycle with the young kids growing up..I call it the age of Grand Theft Auto. You know, kids that age…I’m serious, you play that game enough you become insensitive to all that stuff. And I just think that a lot of these kids are being raised by kids and it’s just, that’s how they deal with it. They come from the street. That’s how you deal with conflict. And we as elders, we have to teach them, but it’s hard. It’s hard to teach somebody… It’s hard to teach these kids, man.

I managed some of these kids and they feel they’re grown as hell. We as people have to raise our children right. Sometimes it takes a whole village to raise a kid. And that’s what we got to get back on.

I think that’s a good place to leave it…we’ve got to reach out as a collective and save the next generations and we’ve got to do it NOW! B Rich had a lot more to say and you can hear the full interview below…TUNE IN!


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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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