The New Business of Hip-Hop Beats: How One Company Gets Musicians Paid For Creating Samples

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On June 10, manager Mike “Heron” Herard got a mysterious phone call from the Grammy-winning production duo Cool & Dre. Two artists Heron manages, multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels and composer Beat Butcha, had landed placements on a top-secret project that the producers described only as “life-changing.”

They just needed stems of the recordings that Heron had sent them months before, including a four-bar instrumental loop Michels had created in his spare time, and a few tweaks: a new bassline and strings on top.

Days later, Heron got another call: The project was JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s surprise LP as The Carters, Everything Is Love, and the album’s opening track, “Summer,” would feature Michels’ loop. (A bonus track, “Salud!,” featured Butcha’s work.) It was the first time Michels’ music had been sampled since he began working with Heron’s musician management company, BeatHustle, in 2017. Within its first week, “Summer” totaled 9.1 million on-demand streams and 3,000 downloads, according to Nielsen Music, debuting at No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“It’s Beyoncé and JAY-Z — that’s the top of the mountain,” Michels tells Billboard about the placement, jokingly adding, “It’s all downhill from here, basically.”

The success of Heron’s new music outfit is a window into how the ­business’ top stars are ­churning out music faster than ever, increasingly soliciting pieces of ideas from a wide range of creators in order to make as many beats as they can in real time. With that kind of ­pressure, the old model of producer as crate digger, crafting melodies out of old soul records or on synths or keyboards, is history. The increase in volume has made it more ­difficult for sampled musicians to claim credit — and payment — for their work, ­creating an opportunity for ­businesses like BeatHustle.

“We’re in a climate where people are just trying to get records out really quickly,” says Heron. “I’ve been with guys where they dedicate tons of hours to records just to walk away, and no one credits them. Often there’s nothing malicious in it — it’s just guys trying to hustle.”

In the late 1990s, Heron was part of a community of record-collecting fanatics who would spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars digging through record stores for obscure samples, re-recording them onto LPs and selling the breakbeats to producers like No I.D. and Dr. Dre. Diddy, says Heron, would give one of Heron’s record-collecting friends $10,000 to $15,000 just to go shop for records, many of which wound up on Bad Boy albums like The LOX’s Money, Power, Respect.

“I would go get everything, ­digging hard, and put all the choice cuts on one album and sell them,” says Heron. “I was making a living doing that — must have been 20 volumes, which was 100 percent illegal.” He laughs. “[BeatHustle] is sort of like what I was doing before, but just, like, 100 percent legal.”

Heron began working with Shady Records in 2013, where he remains vp A&R. But he also started managing ­musicians on the side, beginning with Robert “G Koop” Mandell and AntMan Wonder three years ago, helping them place original music with hip-hop producers. It was then that he realized there was a problem in the production line.

“In 2018, there’s not a whole bunch of young guys that can ­actually play instruments,” says Heron. “So I found that those that could were sort of getting taken advantage of. And guys were ­reaching out to me, like, ‘Hey, man, I got a placement with this guy, I didn’t get paid, I didn’t get any ­publishing, I wasn’t credited.’ ”

An overlooked credit can equate to millions in lost revenue for a musician. G Koop, for example, provided the melodic backbone to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” which Metro Boomin flipped into a No. 1 single that has racked up 1.1 billion on-demand streams and 1 million downloads sold, according to Nielsen Music. Heron says that in the past, G Koop might have gotten a few hundred dollars for his ­contributions, and no publishing credit. But with BeatHustle, working with people like Metro and his manager Rico Brooks — the two of whom he ­considers to have “led the charge on fair ­treatment of these musicians” — G Koop is credited as a co-producer. Heron declines to comment on ­specific songs but says he’s often able to secure 50-50 splits with producers.

Heron now manages a stable of six composers who, collectively, have contributed to records by Rick Ross, Future, DJ Khaled, Rihanna and others. He has his musicians create original beat packs, which he sends to a tight-knit group of producers he knows and trusts; Cool & Dre, Metro and Murda Beatz, the lattermost producing Drake’s recent No. 1 single, “Nice for What,” are among them. For someone like Michels, who has led several funk bands over the years and worked on records by such artists as Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, the process can be much simpler and more collaborative than just getting sampled.

“I’m not making bridges and choruses and verses, it’s usually just a groove,” he says, noting he’s made around 100 tracks that BeatHustle has sent out. “I’ll do them in a night, just get some weed. They’re not that involved.”

But for producers and artists, particularly in a fast-paced world and in the shadow of high-profile copyright lawsuits like that of Marvin Gaye‘s family against Pharrell and Robin Thicke, the value that BeatHustle provides can make a huge difference.

“The musicians and producers, they’re like a community,” says Heron. “That’s what I like to think of BeatHustle as: just music guys.” This article originally appeared in the June 30 issue of Billboard.

READ MORE: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8463320/business-beats-beathustle-help-musicians-paid-hip-hop-sample

Did He Kill It? Zayn Covers Beyonce’s ‘Me, Myself & I’

To hold fans over while he works on his upcoming album, former One Direction member Zayn drops a cover of Beyonce’s classic self-love anthem “Me, Myself & I.” He tweeted, “Album is on the way. Got a few surprises for you too .. here’s a taster.”

Zayn’s vocals aren’t as emotive as Beyonce’s, he adds his own adlibs and a masculine twist to the lyrics while keeping the same vibe as Beyoncé’s 2003 hit from her solo debut album Dangerously in Love.

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While the cover doesn’t move us, apparently, model girlfriend Gigi Hadid loved it. “I meeeaaannnnn,” she tweeted along with heart eye emojis.

Stream below and tell us what you think:

The King Has Landed: Making Sense of LeBron James in Purple and Gold

Magic Johnson has delivered on his promise: The Lakers have their superstar. And not just any superstar—possibly the greatest of all time. But there is more that needs to be done to create the dynasty L.A. fans have been waiting for.

It’s been in the works for more than a year. Around the start of the 2017 NBA playoffs, executives and agents across the NBA began to increasingly discuss the possibility of LeBron James taking his talents to the Lakers after hitting free agency in 2018. One year later, it manifested into reality. LeBron James agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Lakers, Klutch Sports announced in a press release on Sunday night.

The announcement was low-key compared to James’s past two decisions, but his plans are now bigger than ever. Los Angeles is home: LeBron owns two mansions in Brentwood and has invested in numerous businesses across the city, and it’s where Klutch Sports, the sports-management agency that represents James, conducts some of its business and where Uninterrupted, James’s sports media and entertainment company, is primarily based. Multiple sources across the industry have confirmed that James’s son, Bronny, has committed to play basketball at private-school powerhouse Sierra Canyon, which was first mentioned by Gary Payton in an interview with Black Sports Online. With his family settled and a long-term contract with his new team, James can begin his transition to his postcareer life. Movie star. Businessman. Team owner. In Los Angeles, LeBron will continue building his empire in his spare time, when he isn’t competing for championships.

jacquemus launched his menswear line with a love letter to the boys of marseille

Who?
“I don’t just do clothes, I write a story and then come the clothes,” Simon Porte Jacquemus explained to i-D back in 2014. It’s a design process that has propelled this self-taught Provençal-born talent from staging guerrilla presentations to winning the Special Jury LVMH Prize and becoming one of Paris’s hottest (and most successful) talents, with 230 stockists worldwide and over 40 employees. While each seasonal chapter focusses on different characters, the story can always be read as a love letter to France. Now that he has launched Jacquemus menswear for spring/summer 19, the offshoot will have its own narrative but will always be France, je t’aime. “They aren’t together, the man and woman,” Jacquemus explained as the sun set on his debut show. “He is much younger and more naive but in a good way; it’s about colorful, simple, and easy clothes.”

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Why?
After a throwaway Instagram “I will do men’s” declaration and tongue-in-cheek #newjob teasing caused a social stir, he confirmed that he would be launching menswear when he took his bow at the end of his Le Souk fall/winter 18 women’s show wearing a sweatshirt that read “L’Homme Jacquemus.” “I fell in love and it pushed me to speak about men and realize my first menswear collection — it was very spontaneous,” Jacquemus explained. He wanted his debut menswear collection to celebrate Marseille. “I grew up here, where you don’t call them guy or boy but gadjo,” read the designer-penned show notes. “I grew up here, barefoot, bare chest, strong perfume. I grew up here, in the Mediterranean. My Mediterranean.”

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Where?
As the collection was inspired by the sun, sea, and sexiness of his hometown, Jacquemus immersed us in the sun, sea, and sexiness of his hometown. Instead of joining the Paris men’s show schedule, he chose Calanque de Sormiou to debut his menswear. While the show was watched by family, friends, and locals alike, for many of us it was our first time in Marseille. “I’m happy to bring so many people here. The idea was not to just show a collection, it was to provide a real vacation moment.” The FROW consisted of a few towels on the sand and everyone else found a space on the rocks or in the sea to watch. It was magical. Not only did this #outofoffice opportunity provide the perfect punctuation to a long season of shows, it enabled us to experience the France that Jacquemus knows. We could see the world through his eyes. “I’ve always dreamed about doing a show in the South of France but never thought it would be possible to show here because it’s a national park,” he explained. “I had to fight but they understood that it wasn’t just a location for me, I care about this place. I live 45 minutes away and started coming here as a teenager with friends so to do an event here is unbelievable.”

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What?
“The collection, Le Gadjo, explores all the cliche boys of Marseille,” Jacquemus said. “I was obsessed by the different guys in Marseille — from the soccer player to the clubbers — and how they’re unknowingly fashionable with their blue tracksuits, blue hats, blue wallets, and gold chains. Everything is very precise.” Jacquemus and his design studio worked closely with The Woolmark Company in creating this debut menswear collection with 27 pieces in 100% merino wool, which covered every summer staple, from T-shirts to sweaters, jackets to shorts. Now, you might not think of wool as a holiday friendly fabric, but Jacquemus has demonstrated throughout this three season long collaboration that he can make it as light and as sexy as possible.

Is Neymar Black? Brazil and the Painful Relativity of Race

Ever since his “It’s not like I’m black, you know?” comment, Neymar has served as a focal point in Brazil’s cultural reckoning with racism, whitening, identity and public policy.

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Years before he became the most expensive player in the world; before his Olympic gold medal; before the Eiffel Tower lit up with his name to greet his professional move from Barcelona to Paris, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, the Brazilian forward known to the world simply as Neymar, faced his first public relations controversy.

The year was 2010, and Neymar, then 18, had shot to fame in Brazil after a sensational breakout season. During an interview for the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, in between a conversation about Disneyland and sports cars, he was asked if he had ever experienced racism. “Never. Not in the field, nor outside of it,” he replied.

“It’s not like I’m black, you know?”

His answer was heard like a record-scratch across the country. Was this young man in denial about his racial identity? Particularly when in the same interview he outlined his meticulous hair care regime, which involved getting his locks chemically straightened every few weeks, then bleached blonde.

Or was there a less alarming explanation behind his comment? Could Neymar merely be pointing out that, as the son of a black father and a white mother, his lighter skin tone shielded him from the racist abuse directed at other players? Had he, at least in his context, reached whiteness? Whatever the interpretation, Neymar’s words revealed the tricky, often contradictory ways that many Brazilians talk, and fail to talk, about race in a country with the largest population of black descendants outside of Africa.

When audiences tune in to watch Brazil play, they are treated to a rich spectrum of skin tones flashing vibrantly across the screen. The racial makeup of the Brazilian squad, in fact, generally reflects the demographics of the country. According to 2017 data released by the census department, 47 percent of Brazilians identify as mixed-race, while another 8 percent identify as black. One third of marriages happen across racial boundaries. Such numbers confirm the common belief held by Brazilians, and the millions of international travelers who visited last year, that the country is a racially fluid society.

Unlike the national team, however, the upper echelons of most professions in Brazil — be it medicine, media, business, entertainment or government — are occupied by whites. The nation’s raw demographic data paints an accurate portrait of a diverse people; yet it also adds patina to the old myth, promoted for generations by the government and first intellectualized by sociologists nearly a century ago, that Brazil is a democracia racial, or “racial democracy.”

Because Brazil never had an apartheid system like South Africa, or a ban on mixed-race marriages like America, went the argument, a spirit of warm relations blossomed across racial divides.

Never mind that Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery in 1888; or that after abolition, the ruling class mounted a campaign to whiten the majority-black population, by fully subsidizing the immigration of over four million white Europeans, giving them free land, and compelling Brazilians to take up with them.

“Allow me to reintroduce Alvester, a whole new vibe”

The path to discovering your true passion is rarely an easy road. Case in point: up-and-coming actor, dancer and musical artist Alvester. Before the African-American born performer realized his keen interest for the performing arts, Alvester says he is still a little boy at heart, to his detriment he says at times. But he is definitely self-assured. “It’s not a false self-assurance, not wrapped in arrogance, and cockiness”, it’s actually wrapped in humility and a calmness. He says he knows things are going to happen and it’s God centered. “I believe in myself and I have no self-doubt.”

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SDM: Who is Alvester

AM: Alvester Martin is still a little boy at heart, almost to his own detriment at times. At this point in his career and his life, he says he is definitely self-assured.

SDM: How do you feel about doing interviews

AM: I have done a lot of interviews, with so much stuff coming out, he feels like he has a cult following and people don’t really want know who Alvester is. They see past things he has done, like pictures, his Instagram feed, social media posts, and they assume so many things. He says, with great expression, I am totally the opposite of what is depicted in social media.

SDM: How did you get started in the entertainment business

AM: When we first spoke to on the phone about the shoot and we talked about what I wanted, the photographer was surprised me by saying I wanted something basic, and not the “pretty boy” thing.

SDM:Even though he is a pretty boy.

AM: I have been groomed since the age of 5, and have been trained in acting, singing, dancing etc. I feel it’s a gift and a curse. Now that social media is the norm, your judged on who people think you are, and rest on the fact that you are good looking and literally, want to be paid for looking good. However I want people to know that I have much more to offer, than my good looks. When I audition and books gigs, people are so surprised, that I have talent. He says he literally has people contacting him through his social media, and once they have connected they are astonished that he is well spoken. Alvester says he is sometimes bewildered, annoyed and frustrated. Because today’s values place so much emphasis on the looks of person as opposed to their metal. They write you off, before they even find out who you are.

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SDM: How did you get involved with Black Magic

AM: I feel, society, the casting directors, and the gatekeepers in the industry have said to him when he walks into a room, “Oh I didn’t think you were going to be that good.” It used to bother me! Alvester says and subsequently, he went through a 4-year depression. “I hated doing Black Magic, I felt they mislead me in the pitch and the script”. I thought it was going be great exposure for me and an excellent opportunity to showcase my skills. They knew him as a background dancer for Beyoncé as his body of work to this point. “I felt the transition had already been hard enough to transcend the title of just a dancer, as well as the financial toll, my artistry took a hit, and my Psyche.” I began to turn down jobs, although I needed to eat. “I feel currently there is already a lack of respect in Hollywood, for dancers generally, however I pressed on.” Ultimately, the show was re-pitched and presented again, it took a few times before I said yes! Once the final pitch was presented, I felt that this was going to be a great opportunity to move away from being a background dancer to a recording artist, which was always in the forefront of his journey, In his mind there was always his mindset that he didn’t move to LA to be a background dancer, although he is grateful for what he has done its just he wanted more!

“I went into a deep depression once again and felt I had hit rock bottom and committed career suicide. I had worked years and his parents had sacrificed their monies, and time to get me my training and go forward.”

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During the filming, it became quite apparent that it was not what he signed up for. The show was about being a stripper, which wasn’t his world. People connected with the show who were on the show were making him feel bad for having worked so many years in the industry and having a standard of expertise. As a result of this experience I went into a deep depression once again and felt he had hit rock bottom and committed career suicide. He had worked years and years and his parents have sacrificed their monies, and time to for my training so I could go forward.

SDM: What is your mindset today and what are your future goals

AM: In final, I’m in a whole different place, I have new music, it’s moodier, and it has an edge its more me. It’s what I like, how I feel, and what I think. My music is my diary in life, I accept my acting career now, I hate slashes, I can sing alone and rest on that, I can act alone, and I can dance alone. It is a blessing to be able to stand on my two feet. My actor career is taking off and its great, I have self-discovery and at this point I feel I am walking into the unknown but in a positive way, and its OK to not always feel OK and be OK, but whatever I feel I put that shit in my work and art.

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“My acting career is taking off and its great, I have self-discovery and at this point I feel I am is walking into the unknown but in a positive way, and its OK to not always feel OK and be OK, but whatever you feel and whatever I feel put that shit in your work and art.”

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