Kyambo ‘Hip Hop’ Joshua Talks Kanye, Lil Wayne & Hip Hop Since 1978 Pt. 2
In the second installment of BE Next‘s talk with music biz impresario Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua he tells how he helped transform Lil Wayne‘s cult following into a pop music phenomenon and he also tell about his latest venture partnering with New York indie label and distribution company Fat Beats.
BE NEXT: It’s funny to hear you talk about your success because you make it all seem so simple and, from the outside looking in, the scale of what you’ve done is so big it doesn’t possibly seem like it could be simple.
HIP HOP: I think it is that simple. Not to say it like that or sound like that, but you have to think—it only happened a couple of times, it’s not like it really happened all the time. So if I were to sit here and act like I can make magic then it would seem like it’s complicated but in reality I don’t make it [the magic], I look at it like I find it. I know what it is. So if I know what it is, I know what I can do to it and I know where it needs to be and if it’s not [something that’s worthwhile] I don’t even deal with it. Somethings are already big and have gotten where they’re supposed to get, so me managing someone for the sake of just saying I manage them doesn’t make sense. Like me saying, “Oh, I manage Akon now,” but what really could I do for him at this point in his career? That’s why I like to say I like to work with artists on the verge.
That brings us to Lil Wayne, a lot of people don’t know how involved you and your team were in helping him take his career to where it is now.
When I was working with Lil Wayne [at first] no one knew I was workin’ with him or that I even knew him. I was working with Wayne before we started managing him when Curren$y was with him so right after Squad Up [his post Hot Boyz group]. I knew him before Tha Carter I met him through his manager Larry Johnson from the Kansas City Chiefs.
At that point in his career only if you had your ear to the streets would you know that he had the potential to be what he is today, what did you see in Wayne that made you want to work with him?
It was my goddaughter—it sounds strange but she loves him. She was obsessed with him when he didn’t even have his own posters, when she had to cut him out of Hot Boyz posters and even still she managed to fill a whole room up with [makeshift] Wayne posters. To this day Lil Wayne is still her favorite person in the world and I knew that back then and it puzzled me, I didn’t understand why. So I kind of just left it alone and then like five years later there was a another younger kid that I knew that would always say his rhymes like, “Yellow Lamborghini, yellow Lamborghini” so I knew two people that were younger than me that were in love with him—a girl and a guy. And it was like love like “that’s my favorite, nobody’s better,” and I’m like, “For real?” So once I started to like him as fan I knew it was complete when I heard him and was like, “Wow!” That was the point where I was like, “This is something here” but there was still something beyond that. I knew there were beats he never rapped on, places he never went and people he never even thought of working with so I knew there that there were a lot of things that he hadn’t done and didn’t know about. He was like innocent and naïve like 10 years deep into his career. When I met him he hadn’t even been out of the country.
That’s crazy because he was already a platinum artist.
I knew the success he had and I already knew what he didn’t have. I knew if he mixed in his cult following with new listeners who hadn’t been paying attention he’d be big and I left my job at Atlantic [as SVP of A&R for Urban music] to do that because they didn’t want me to manage artists.
I get the sense that you feel like you’ve done a lot with the artists you have now and that you’re looking for new challenges, tell me about some of your new endeavors.
I’ve partnered with Fat Beats (a New York City based independent record label and distributor). So I’m partnered with them trying to enhance what it already is. I want Fat Beats to have a radio station I want them to do all hip-hop distribution, stuff that’s hip-hop from it’s core but not hip-hop as a part of something else.
Hip-hop is a part of the mainstream to where there is nothing that is solely and purely hip-hop. If I look at ESPN it’s just sports but hip-hop doesn’t have that. When hip-hop is mainstream all you get is whatever mainstream hip-hop is.
I see what you’re saying, you don’t get the variety anymore you just get the popular mainstream hip-hop but not all of the other stuff.
Exactly. A record label pushes it, radio stations play it and then stores sell it and that’s why things are getting so homogenized. I love Fat Beats as brand and I used to go to the store all the time, it’s a distribution company, retail and it does all these different things mainly for hip-hop but they didn’t venture into the mainstream records or the regional records and they just did more underground stuff. Right now we’re dealing with a real bottleneck situation as far as what the majors are willing to put out.
That’s why there’s a white space where artists will be more open to indie deals.
Now on the distribution side we’re gonna change that and distribute more genres, regional records and all of that. My thing is once those artist start to build their buzz through, Twitter, Tumblr, live shows or regional radio I want to deal with those artists early and be able to put their record out and help them build that first initial independent buzz whether it’s a White rapper, a Catholic, a gay rapper, a n—ga from the south or Midwest I want it to be broad on that level because hip-hop is forever changing.