10 Black British Music Execs Shaking The System (2020 Edition)

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With Black British music dominating the charts (and the underground) the way it is, the industry at large is finally catching up to the fact.

This is in no small part down to the tireless work of trailblazing executives such as Austin Daboh, Riki Bleau, Safiya Lambie-KnightGlyn Aikins, Benny ScarrsAdele WhiteAlex Boateng and Alec Boateng. But there’s now a new wave of music execs building on that important work and keeping major labels, streaming platforms and media companies on their toes.

With everything that’s happened recently—the murder of George Floyd being the latest in a litany of injustices—corporations across the board have been forced to take representation seriously and radically change the way they operate, and we’re already seeing a difference.

Get to know 10 inspirational music industry figures changing the face of British music and culture as a whole in 2020 (and beyond).


 

2K Management

Few management teams are as inspiring as 2K Management. Consisting of CEO brothers Moe Bah and Kilo Jalloh, day-to-day manager/A&R Patrick Lubega and general manager Michael Adane, 2K started out as friends helping out a friend who wanted to try his hand in music, and that friend was none other than chart-topping rapper J Hus. With countless hits and awards in the bag, they now have a solid roster that includes platinum producer JAE5 and “Don’t Rush” hit-makers Young T & Bugsey. “We want to keep building a strong and diverse team like we’ve started to do,” 2K tells Complex. “Having a team of individuals you trust and who share the same mindset is important for the type of industry that we’re in. We also want to keep building the careers of up-and-coming artists and give them the opportunity to excel to the best of their ability, as well as continuing to build a talented roster which puts out timeless music that you can play ten or twenty years from now.” —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

Muna Ruumi (A&R Manager, Columbia)

Birmingham-born Muna Ruumi is a music industry behemoth at the age of 21. Unphased by the limits placed on her, she has worked her way up to becoming a much-coveted A&R Manager at Columbia Records. Spotting the glaring gap in recognition for artists outside of London, Ruumi not only had her own radio show on the station Newstyle to push their music, but she also ran her own label, BHX MVMNT, to further solidify her role as a cultural connoisseur. It was only a matter of time before she was spotted and taken in by Columbia Records’ imprint, Pitched Up, to act as an A&R consultant. It was here that she was able to focus on her niche of UK rap and drill. She was soon taken in by Columbia Records as an A&R Scout at the start of 2020, and was quickly promoted to A&R Manager. Ruumi’s legacy of artists includes Lotto Boyzz, OFB and M1llionz, and she scored another huge win with Mastermind’s “War”. Muna Ruumi is still at the start of a long and impressive career and has already shaken the industry by paving the way for young and diverse talent. —Chanté Joseph

Sincere (CEO, Lizzy Entertainment)

“That’s Not Gangsta” was an underground hit for Sincere in ‘05. The North Londoner built up a credible name for himself in rap in the years that followed, but it was in 2014—when his peers would vie for that one mainstream spot—that he fell back and refocused his energies on a new venture: Lizzy Clothing. Around the same time, he co-founded Blanks Factory, a merchandising company, and soon felt more comfortable behind the scenes than in front of them. Three years later, Sincere would find himself managing Fredo, one of the country’s biggest rappers, and BBC Radio 1 host Tiffany Calver. Since then, he’s launched a music production arm, StayFleeGetLizzy, and released a batch of singles under Island Records. Currently working with Manchester rapper Meekz, “exciting new projects” with Fredo, and upcoming releases with Caroline International, Sincere is “super grateful” for how it has all panned out. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

Sheniece Charway (Artist Relations Manager, YouTube Music)

YouTube Music UK was only going to be a success if they hired the right people to operate it, and that’s exactly what they did when they tapped former Sony/Colombia Records marketeer Sheniece Charway. It was only four years ago that she started on her journey as an intern, but Charway has since become one of the most influential people in music, now working directly with the likes of Skepta, Ghetts, Tiwa Savage and Stefflon Don as YouTube Music’s Artist Relations Manager. “2020 is a year I won’t soon forget for so many reasons,” she tells us, “but it’s also become clear to me in a new way how important it is for women of colour to be recognised and serve as an example and inspiration for others in the community so that we can have more diversity, talent and of course great music in the years to come.” —James Keith

Mixtape Madness

UK rap would be at a loss without Mixtape Madness in the frame. With their ears closer to the ground than most, company owners Kwabz, Kingsley and Eddie initially launched MM in 2010 as a mixtape-hosting site. This then rolled into them creating their own content—freestyles, music videos—with artists in 2013, and now they stand as a vital platform for rising rappers to showcase their work to a near-one million subscribers. Outside of YouTube, Mixtape Madness signs artists to their label via Caroline International, work on large campaigns with the likes of Abra Cadabra, Rushy and Digga D, and run a regularly updated blog site. “I hope we see more diversity in senior positions in the music industry so it’s more reflective of those on the ground,” says Kwabz. “More also needs to be done to support those battling with mental health, because of the industry. Right now, we’re actively working on ensuring the masses hear more narratives from women in rap.” 
—Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

Komali Scott-Jones (A&R, Parlophone)

In the male-dominated music industry, Komali Scott-Jones is cutting through the noise with the quickness. As an A&R at Parlophone Records, she has made great impact in a short space of time, having a hand in honing the talent of artists such as Dutchavelli, Hamzaa, JB Scofield and Romzy, a nod to her keen eye in pinpointing exciting UK talent. Initially starting her music career in TV Promotions at Virgin EMI, after a stint working in the fashion industry, Komali joined the ranks of Parlophone in 2018 and has earned a reputation as a forward-thinking exec. She became the only woman working in the label’s A&R department but she took it in her stride, determined to make a difference. “There’s an air of competition that has lingered from so many years of a sort of ‘one in, one out’ mentality which we need to get rid of,” she says. “I think it’s key to find people, especially other black women, that you can confide in, relate to and learn from.” It is this attitude that led to Komali forming The Debrief, a women in music initiative that, according to her, will ensure “the new influx of black women and women of colour form relationships that will strengthen their careers, rather than seeing each other as competition.” —Yemi Abiade

Dream Life Records

Dream Life Records is in it for the long haul. A subsidiary of Sony Music launched last April, the new imprint is run by rising stars Dan Owusu, Lunick Bourgess and Shane Derozario, each with years of experience in nurturing UK talent. Proficient across management, publishing and A&R, Dream Life strives to offer an all-round experience for its artists, primarily in the pop and black music milieus, ensuring no stone is left unturned when developing stars of the future. Between them, Owusu, Bourgess and Derozario have had a hand in developing the likes of MoStack, Tion Wayne, Hardy Caprio, K-Trap and more, proving their pedigree before forming the imprint. Under their watchful eye, despite the confines of lockdown, Dream Life has signed a rising star, London rapper/singer Eric IV, with more signings in the pipeline. The label’s potential to deliver should not be underestimated, and we will be hearing a lot more from the crew in the coming weeks, months, and years. —Yemi Abiade

Whitney Asomani (Co-Founder, Twenty:Two Agency)

Whitney Asomani has an impressive and varied 12-year career that always maintained and put the integrity of the culture first. Going from music internships to PR, TV and sport, Asomani has a complete perspective of what it means to thrive in the music industry. Supporting artists such as Burna Boy, NSG and Brockhampton, the London native has several wins under her belt spanning some of the biggest record labels on the planet, including RCA and Universal. In an attempt to combine music, culture, lifestyle and her widespread knowledge of entertainment, Asomani co-founded the ‘new age’ marketing agency Twenty:Two. Managing creative, strategy and marketing campaigns, Twenty:Two has built a diverse roster of clients and are redefining what it means to be a dynamic agency in 2020. Despite the unpredictability of 2020, Asomani has also been successful working with the original members of Sugababes to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the band. —Chanté Joseph

Faron McKenzie (Head Of BBC Radio 1Xtra)

Faron McKenzie is the new (rightly deserved) Head of BBC Radio 1Xtra. Having already been credited for the evolution of BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and the Asian Network as marketing manager (including paid strategic partnerships with GRM Daily and Link Up TV for BBC3’s The Rap Game series), McKenzie’s credits also include commissioning and developing podcasts for BBC Sounds, such as Brave Conversations and Dope Black Dads. The Birmingham native recently led the BBC’s new Creative Diversity Xperience (CDX), aiming to bring together cultural disruptors to showcase the Black, Asian and minority ethnic talent in the industry. Before joining the BBC, McKenzie could be found working at Disrupt, a youth marketing agency. —Chantelle Fiddy

Dellessa James (Black Music Lead, Amazon Music UK)

Dellessa James was recently appointed by Amazon Music UK to lead their Black music strategy, overseeing playlists, creative direction and executing large-scale campaigns for artists and labels. Previously executive producer of The Rap Show and Fire In The Booth, James worked alongside Charlie Sloth at both Apple Music’s Beats 1 and BBC Radio 1/1Xtra. Having risen through the BBC ranks over 16 years, James, who began in local radio, can boast working on shows for greats such as Trevor Nelson, Annie Mac, DJ Target and MistaJam. Despite having a strong love for basketball, music won; achieving a First-Class BA Hons degree in Media Production, James also qualified to teach and was previously a visiting lecturer at Birmingham City University. She has also run her own media consultancy company, which trained, managed and developed new artists. Dellessa James is all about the music. —Chantelle Fiddy

 

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