A Rap For Manners

Angelo Ellerbee refines the rough edges on urban artists

AGE: 46
OCCUPATION: Image consultant/publicist/manager
LOCATION: New York
DUTIES: Runs a publicity company specializing in total artist development
SALARY: $60,000 — $80,000
Uurban music stars seem to thrive off hard-core personas. Aspiring rap and R&B acts, however, are taught to trade in foul language and bad manners for proper social etiquette by Angelo Ellerbee, an image consultant who heads Double Xxposure, a public relations and management company that specializes in total imaging, and teaches young artists everything from diction to how to travel.

Ellerbee says that many of today’s young artists barely have a grasp on basic skills that most people take for granted. Even after 18 years in the business, he admits that some clients don’t take their lessons seriously. “These kids don’t believe that they need to be taught manners, diction, reading, and writing,” he says. “But, they enter into agreements not understanding what it’s about.”

“Fifteen or 18 years ago, people laughed at the idea of educating hip-hop people,” Ellerbee continues. Today, he boasts that stars such as Mary J. Blige and Ananda Lewis have used Double Xxposure’s services. He also handles publicity for more established artists such as Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight, and is currently managing DMX, also serving as the president of the rapper’s label Bloodline Records.

A Stylish Start. After graduating from New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Ellerbee worked as a fashion stylist for artists such as Roberta Flack and Nina Simone–and as a costume designer for companies that included Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

The business of publicity became an option when he met songwriter James Mtume, who asked Ellerbee to consider managing him. “I told him I couldn’t because I [didn't] know anything about the music industry,” Ellerbee says. Mtume introduced Ellerbee to industry brass, urging him to absorb all that he could about the music business.

On His Own. Ellerbee’s interest in the music industry, however, focused on providing better opportunities for young black artists. He decided to model himself and Double Xxposure on Berry Gordy and his legendary system for developing Motown artists. “Gordy taught his artists how to meet the kings and queens of the world and I wanted to do the same.”

Ellerbee’s model is a 24-week Artist Development Program, in which he teaches a two-and-a-half-hour course on the business of music, reading, writing, diction, and creating images. “After they go one-on-one with me in my office, they could leave and go to see a trainer, vocal coach, etc.” he says. Double Xxposure typically charges $250 per hour for each class, with an average enrollment of 15.

Moving Forward. Television producers are also interested in Ellerbee’s work. He is presently in contract with the Discovery network for a 13-episode reality show tentatively titled Charm School. “It will be funny and educational and of great interest to those young people interested in entering the performing arts.”

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