IAA INDUSTRY NEWS sits down and chats with Sickamore, founder of The Famous Firm and A&R for Warner Bros Records. Starting out as mixtape DJ, Sickamore quickly rose to success when the hottest rappers began to do freestyles to his instrumentals. Realizing that the artists who were doing freestyles on his mixtapes, had enough talent and skill to be signed to a major label, Sickamore began to focus on artist development. Working as an A&R for top record labels would eventually lead him to branch off to start his own artist consulting firm. Sickamore has definitely secured his place at the top of the game when it comes to scouting talent and developing the next music sensation
IAA: Introduce and tell us about yourself?
SICKAMORE: I run a company called famous firm. We do artist development and management. I also A&R for Warner Bros Record, and I manager an artist named Rich Hill
IAA: How long have you been working in the music industry?
SICKAMORE: This November makes 10 years in the business. I started out as a mixtape Dj during the first five years. I used to do instrumental and hip hop mixtapes, and from there I did mixtapes for Snoop dogg and different artists. I started getting artists record deals from my mixtapes. I got an artist signed to Atlantic Records and then I got an artist signed to Def Jam. During that time, the head of Atlantic Records at the time, heard what I was doing and gave me a job as the Director of A&R at Atlantic Records. That’s what got me started in the major business. Before that, I used to A&R for smaller companies such as Just Blaze’s record label and Beat Street Records
IAA: Name some of the top artist who you have worked with as an A&R?
SICKAMORE: I used to manage Nicki Minaj and Saigon, Wynter Gordon, Slim from 112, Shawty Lo and a bunch of other artist.
IAA: What qualities do you look for in an artist?
SICKAMORE: I look for a lot of work ethic. I look for people who have a great vision for themselves and incredible music. Talent can only take you so far. There is a famous saying, “hard work bets talent when talent doesn’t work hard.“ Someone can out work you. You might be more gifted than that person, but you wont go far in this business or any business because they are willing to work harder than you. You have to find that great work ethic and balance it with your talent
IAA: How much has the Industry changed started your career?
SICKAMORE: The industry has changed dramatically. For example if you had an new artist in 2001, you anticipated him for like 6 months, and then he might drop his single and then drop a video like 3 months later. It would take a whole year to even see what this new artist looks like and sounds like together. Nowadays you don’t have to wait that long. You can figure it out in two seconds, you can hear the song, watch the video, see what the new artist is thinking on twitter, go to his FB page and see his updates, go on Wikipedia and read his bio. It’s a whole new level. People figure out artist real quick these days. Before you would build a mask and build a character with a new artist. Now with an artist, what you see is what you get.
IAA: What advice would you give to an upcoming artist?
SICKAMORE: You have to have a vision. A lot of these news guys don’t have any goals. When someone comes and asks you what you want, you have to know what to ask for. Build a dream that is big enough. For example, an artist might say, “oh I just want a 100,00 hits on world star or do a couple of shows for a thousand dollars,” and they are happy with just that. Artist need to make their goals bigger than life, the bigger the dreams are, the bigger you can become.
IAA: What advice would you give to those wanting to become an A&R?
SICKAMORE: You have to just prove it. A&R is the only part of the business where your track record is public. Everyone knows who you are based off of who you are signing. Work on projects you believe in and stay passionate about it. As an A&R you have to have a vision for someone, before that person even sees it and then you have to execute that vision.
IAA: How do you feel about the digital age when it comes to music?
SICKAMORE: A&Rs are becoming more irrelevant with this digital age because people can make there own decisions now. For example, you put a video on you tube, and people will tell you what they think of the music right away. If I was an artist I wouldn’t be running behind any A&R. I would be going directly to the people and have an A&R find me
IAA: Do you recommend that artist have digital press kits?
SICKAMORE: When it comes to press kits, makes sure its visual. This generation wants to see visuals and wants to see it instantaneously