By Jasmine Washington
From intern to artist, manager and president of Def Jam Records, Kevin Liles has done just about every job you could possibly think of over the course of his 20 plus year career in the music industry. Liles’ upward ascension over the span of two decades hasn’t been an easy one, but unlike The Breaks character Barry Fouray, he’s managed to keep it all together.
Sway Calloway linked up with the music industry veteran at his 300 Entertainment office in the latest installation of Behind The Breaks. During their intimate chat, Liles opened up about his journey in hip hop, revealed the industry execs that inspired him and shared how he’s managed to dominate the industry for so long.
“It wouldn’t be respectful to not say that we knew what Berry Gordy meant and did for our culture. When I saw Russell [Simmons] in the hoodie sitting on top of the Rolls Royce on Black Enterprise magazine cover, I knew there was some money to get. I knew he didn’t rap. I knew he produced or something. I use to go do shows and somebody would hire me to do a show but then I would want to know ’well who’s putting on the show? Because if they can afford to pay me this? What’s the business of what we’re doing here today,’ and that’s what got me into the business side of the music. I always say ’I’m not in the music business, I’m in the business of music.'”
Similar to The Breaks characters DeeVee and David, Liles had first hand experience during an era when mainstream had little interest in hip hop throughout the early 1990s.
We use to go to radio and they’d say we’re only going to play your records on Friday nights from 8-12 o’clock. We’re not playing hip hop no other time.’ Then I remember they use to have radio stations that say ’We’re the station that plays more music and less rap.’ And now you go to any market place and ’We’re the station of hip hop and R&B. ’ I know what it feels like for them to say ’no.’
The Baltimore native also touched on the importance of playing your position, epic contract bidding wars and even dropped a gem or two for those looking to sustain long lasting careers in hip hop.
Check out the rest of the interview above!
Be sure to tune into The Breaks every Monday at 10/9c, only on VH1!