Interview by Kimbel Bouwman
Interview with Antonio "Top Cat" Randolph, manager for Dem Franchize Boyz - July 23, 2007.
...says Antonio 'Top Cat' Randolph, one of the most successful hip hop managers in the south of the US. Randolph, who manages Dem Franchize Boyz (Top 10 US), and Trillville (Top 20 US), oversees a conglemeration of management and production companies and collaborations, allowing him maximum control over his product and output.
He talks to HitQuarters about establishing his name in the south, and about the necessity for up and coming artists to have a musical vision and not just a sense of hype.
How did you start out in the music business?
I started out as an artist and producer. After learning how that works I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I ended up doing the business, going into administration, production and reading a lot of books.
When did you form PeachTree Music Group?
I formed it about two years ago. PeachTree is to be a self-contained worldwide label being able to produce all urban, rock and pop music. Just a well-rounded label.
There’s also a film section in the making right now, focused on documentaries and shorts.
Who are your partners?
There’s Slim who founded Young, Rich & Dangerous Entertainment in October 2006 and handles all the promotion and marketing.
I have another partner, Marquan Smith, who is the Vice President of PeachTree. He’s in New York and he does a lot of A&R as well as production, and going out and seeking different artists.
What entails your consulting with all these music, management and entertainment companies?
It’s pretty much like management; consulting, advising and maintaining certain situations as far as helping independent labels develop into a self-contained position.
A lot of them really don’t understand about registration of songs or that you need a proper attorney. You just need all the proper tools and having great relationships to bring those things forward.
What artists are you currently working with?
Dem Franchize Boyz, Trillville, T-Rok from the 38 Click. I’m working with a lot of the Atlanta artists that are up and coming. Montana has a nice hot record out there, and another male vocalist, J. Bless.
Why do you have a joint venture with 17.20 Records?
Initially it was to release the album by C-Side. It’s doing pretty good. They have a new single called ‘Boyfriend, Girlfriend’, their second release.
How do you work with your artists?
I’m pretty much one-on-one with them. I try to see what their vision is and what direction they’re trying to go in. Just help them develop and just put their vision into action.
Do you hook them up with producers?
Yes. I have a production company, PeachTree Music Group.
How do you convince someone to take you on as a manager?
I don’t really convince them. It’s really based on word-of-mouth, and based on my work ethics and track record.
It’s kind of self-explanatory whereas you have Trillville and Dem Franchize Boyz, both platinum artists, on my track record. I’m the only one in the South that is in my own lane that can say that.
Everybody in the South knows that what I do is hot. You’re going to get the right deal if things don’t go well. And make a lot of money, getting busy on the road doing shows.
Whatever outlet they need to get to is not a problem to due to my prior relationships built over the years.
What needs to be in place before signing to management?
What needs to be in place with me is a good product. I can’t take on a project that first of all doesn’t have the grind behind it, and doesn’t have the label’s full backing. If they don’t have those, it means they don’t have the tools, so then I wouldn’t have the tools.
Have the tools. Have the record. Have everything in place. And the only thing that I would have to do is to come in and advise, maintain the situation. And they will move forward thanks to my knowledge and relationships.
What do you think is important for an aspiring rap artist nowadays?
Being self-contained. Knowing the business. And understanding what they’re in.
A lot of people get in the music business game because they’re watching MTV, but it’s not like that. It’s a lot of hard work, networking and relationships that have to be built.
What’s usually discussed in the first meetings with a new artist?
I ask them what their long term goals are. That will tell me if they’re in this for just hype or what they see on TV, or if they have a vision.
If they don’t have a vision I educate them and let them know that this isn’t something to play with, this is real business. You’re dealing with people that are going to be focused on your career all day, everyday.
If you’re not saying the right things, I know what I’m dealing with. If you try to move forward then I will advise you let you know that the way you’re currently viewing it is not the way to do it.
I just ask a few questions to really see where their mindset is, and then that’s when I know what work I have to invest in the artist or what level they’re at, or if they’re going to be successful artists or not.
How do you work in the studio with the artist?
The producer produces their tracks. I sit in and listen to the lyrics, to hear if their delivery and their punch-lines are proper. Making sure that the song has the correct lyrics, that it can be radio ready.
Making sure we have a proper mix down, proper mastering. Just making sure we have what is needed to have a hit record.
What do you consider ‘correct lyrics’?
When you’re writing lyrics, it’s an art. You have to sync. People have to relate to it. They have to actually feel what you’re saying. You have a vision, just make it make sense. Make sure it’s in sync.
Do you produce music videos?
On that end I don’t actually do the hands-on. I have partners that I work with that are in that department. I’m learning as I go along in that field.
Do you look for outside songs for your artists?
I always outsource. I have a few writers that I work with. A lot of writers that come in with nice hooks already done, or full songs, they go in and demo it up.
How do you find new talent?
I go to a lot of showcases. A lot of it comes from word-of-mouth or friends that tell me ‘check out this person over here, he’s working with Jazzy Pha, he has a record out there.
It’s just about being in the network. It comes to me or I’ll be out and I look at it, and I just inquire about it. My first approach would always be ‘who is your manager?’
How valuable are the unsigned artist music showcases?
They’re very valuable. A lot of artists go from starting at the unsigned showcases and grow into being great artists.
I watched T-Rok’s career. I watched him go from different labels and get to where he is at this point.
How should unsigned acts present their material nowadays?
They need to put a little bit more money and time into their product. They need to make sure that they have the proper mixing. Because they are in competition.
If they don’t put it together the right proper way, then the next man has the superior product. And then they’re going to go ahead and spend a little money. So they have to get a job, pay for their studio time, and try to get a mighty mix on it.
I prefer every artist out there to take it to that level instead of waiting for someone to do it for them.
Do you advise artists to think outside the box?
It’s a worldwide business. National and international. You have to be focused on the bigger picture instead of small.
Once you’re in a small rural area, go ahead on and make your name, because it starts at home first. Once you do that then you have to go outside the box. Then you have to travel and you have to meet people.
If you could dramatically change some aspect of the music industry, what would you do?
I would put all artists into development for at least a six months period.
What kinds of artists would you like too see gain more popularity?
I don’t have a specific kind. I want everybody doing what they’re doing in the music business who love the music industry, to just give it 100% and believe in what they’re doing. And just stay focused, regardless of what you’re doing specifically.
What’s the future for hip hop?
People understanding hip hop, understanding the business. Understand the culture of it.
What’s the future for PeachTree?
To be one of the No.1 labels that started independent and worked their way up to the top. I’m putting God first and foremost in front and in everything.
Interview by Kimbel Bouwman