When this interview was conducted, Kevin Black was VP of Marketing and Promotions Urban at the mighty Interscope. Surrounded by the best often has tendency to make you the best so it is understandable why pushing some of the most influential artists of the new millennium to unprecedented heights has thus encouraged his name to carry serious weight within the Hip-Hop world.
Born in the Bronx and now located in the city of
Positions at Death Row, EMI, Virgin and A & M have allowed this multi-tasking executive to rise within the ranks with ease. Kevin Black has ensured that artists like Eminem, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Mary J Blige get the exposure their product deserves.
For any artist looking to get signed this ten minute de-briefing with Kevin Black is a must read. He breaks down what characteristics you need to possess to be at the top of your league and what labels and executives take into consideration when looking for new artists to adorn their rosters.
Hip-HopCrack: What does it take to make someone sell?
Kevin Black: A lot of hard work and I believe if you are an artist you have to be true to your craft and it is a lot of marketing, a lot of promotions, TV, internet. It is not just one thing, it is almost like a cake, you know you cant bake a cake without sugar, eggs, flour, it takes a little of everything and you get a beautiful cake.
Hip-HopCrack: Do you think marketing and promotion are more important than they were ten years ago?
Kevin Black: Ten years ago, marketing and promotions have definitely taken a bigger role now. So many record companies are in competition with each other you just cant no longer throw out a 12 inch and think that is the way to do it. You have to put a little oomph and a little muscle behind it and get creative, know your artist a little better than you did before. Back in the eighties there were only about fifteen top artists. Now in 2006 there are about 40-50 top artists and you are always in competition and I love competition because that makes you step on the gas even stronger.
Hip-HopCrack: How important do you think mixtape buzz, BDS, stage shows and today we have to mention image, are these factors in marketing nowadays?
Kevin Black: I am going to be honest with you, they are very, very, very important. An artist going out on a promo tour is almost a necessity, not even almost, it is a necessity. Artists on mixtapes, artists in the streets, artists on satellite radio, it is a must. The artist that works the hardest will win.
Hip-HopCrack: All these factors we have talked about, are these factors that a label like Interscope takes into consideration when shopping for new talent?
Kevin Black: We always get artists that want to work. There is no room for artists sitting back and waiting for it to come; you have to make it come.
Hip-HopCrack: Nowadays artists are investing in their own videos etc. Does that work in their favor, when you see an artist dipping into his/her own pocket to promote themselves?
Kevin Black: Well I can tell you this; it depends on your situation, if you are an independent then yes you will go and spend the money on your own video and if you are the owner of a label you are going to spend money as you are trying to create your label and your artist, you brand. If you are with a company who spends the money on a video, what you are trying to do is create hype around the video so that when the video is shot, it is all good.
Hip-HopCrack: In terms of technology, how important has the advancements in technology helped in terms of the marketing and promoting of artists?
Kevin Black: Technology has helped me a great deal. The internet has been created, it is a monster, but the monster can be controlled, but it has helped out a great deal. T.V, Ipods there are a lot of things and my quote is to that, if you don’t keep up with time, time will not keep up with you. So everything is a change, you have to twist it a little more, you have to be on top of your game, because if you are not, someone else is going to pass you by.
Hip-HopCrack: In your position what can you tell the millions of people out there who want to be rappers/producers in order to help them reach their dream?
Kevin Black: I would tell them to follow my four F theory, which I know you are aware of. First of all you have to be friendly with everybody, it doesn’t hurt to give someone a smile, talk to people, and shake hands with everybody. Make sure everybody likes you; be friendly. The second F, you have to stay focused, know what your goal is and keep your eyes open and listen to everything as it may add to make you better. You have to stay focused on your goal and don’t lose track on it. The third F is you have to firm, you can’t be a jelly fish, if you don’t know what you stand for you will fall for anything, you know you have to tell people yes, no, maybe. Your fourth F is you need to know when to say ‘Forget it’ if you want the clean version, if you want the dirty version, its knowing when to say ‘Fuck it.’ Sometimes you can go so far into something and not know your way out. You know why go up a mountain that isn’t climbable. If you follow my Four F Theory and put a little logic behind it you will win.
Hip-HopCrack: Nowadays you still see people trying to get on when they are in their thirties, what advice can you give them?
Kevin Black: If you are still trying to get on in your thirties, I advise you to have a plan as people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.
Hip-HopCrack: Do you think there is a cut off age, where if you haven’t made it, try something else?
Kevin Black: I am not going to say there is a cut off point, but I believe you have to know your marketing; you need to know your plan. You know they had that lady in the finals at some show that was known as the Rapping Granny, you know one of those shows. It shows that this Hip-Hop culture is bigger than what we think. It is touching people of all race, touching people al over the country and there is room for anybody and its up to you to just want it.
Let me tell you how I operate, if I could find an artist, one that is willing and able; able to do what you want to do and able to make hits; willing is having the right attitude to make yourself work. If you have artists that have those qualities, I guarantee you the top is destiny.