Recent Posts

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WBM Features: Vakseen

Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision,
passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.
- Jack Welch

If there's one thing that remains constant, that would be change--especially when it comes to music.

As time changes, so does the artist. And if the artists change, the music changes as well. However, one incredibly innovative artist turned A&R is changing how the listener adjusts to change and preparing artists to become game-changers of their own.

Vakseen, businessman, CEO, Product Manager, and A&R at Slip N Slide Records with some time to share, gives valuable insight into who he is; his thoughts on music, motivation, inspiration and success and advice from experience on how to achieve your own goals and dreams.

[As Told To Why Blue Matters]

Who is Vakseen?

Vakseen: As Jay put it, “I’m a business MAN”! I’m the CEO of Vakseen LLC and I’m an A&R Consultant and Product Manager for Slip N Slide Records. Of course A&R’s find, sign and develop the stars of tomorrow. On the other hand, Product Managers handle the marketing for an artist. I’m a boss, creative mind, producer, songwriter, manager, entrepreneur, hustler, get the point lol! I’m blessed.

Where are you from?

Vakseen: Pops was in the military so I’ve lived in a few different places like Cali and Bermuda. I was born in Athens, GA but raised in “DUVALLLLLLL” lol aka Jacksonville, FL.


Vakseen: I like women, long walks in the this a dating show? I’m all for enjoying life to the FULLEST. I’m usually open to seeing and experiencing new things. Of course I have a passion for music and the arts. I feel like they both consume a major part of my life. I’m definitely into sampling fine cuisine. I love to cook as well. I actually plan on opening a restaurant in the next few years. Oh yeah, I definitely have a sneaker fetish lol. Fashion period, for that matter. When
you look your best, you feel greater!

How long have you been in the game?

Vakseen: Well, I was on the artist side of the game for over 10 years but I started in on the major level towards the end of 2005. It’ll be five years this year. All of the work and grind I put in on the indie level simply prepared me for a long future in this crazy business.

Where did you get your start?

Vakseen: I started interning for Slip N Slide in October 2005. Within a month I started Slip N Slide On Da Grind so I was eating with the label from jump. Basically it’s a division within the label where we give up and coming talent an avenue for exposure. After a few months of seeing my grind, Ted Lucas (CEO) let me know he wanted to bring me on staff full-time as an A&R. Next thing you know, I was put on Plies’ project and signing artists and producers. I’m also Swazy Baby and Camar’s Product Manager.

What do you like most about being an A&R?

Vakseen: I really love the fact that I’m immersed in music 24/7. I enjoy finding new talent and providing them with an opportunity to make a living doing what they enjoy. I love being able to take a project or artist from nothing, then groom and fine tune them into a piece of history. Funny thing is, I enjoy being a Product Manager and handling marketing but my true passion is the creative side. The studio is where I really excel. A producer and an A&R are one in the same so it was really a natural transition. I was already A&R’ing my own projects.

What does it mean to be an A&R in 2010?

Vakseen: I mean A&R’s play a huge role in music. I always say we’re the backbone of the business. It’s our job to continuously seek out the next trend, the new stars. We have to be ahead of the game. If you’re a talent looking to get signed to a label, 99% of the time you have to come through an A&R. Seeing how label’s aren’t doing artist development anymore, A&R’s still have to handle that much needed task. We’re responsible for linking artists with great producers and songwriters. We give the artist direction and make sure everything on the creative side is cohesive.

How do you find producers, songwriters, etc.?

Vakseen: With me being an A&R at a major indie a lot of talent lands in my lap automatically. I’m over new submissions at Slip N Slide so if a new artist is looking to come to the label, they’re coming to me. You’re less likely to encounter dope artists that way but producers are definitely more frequent. The digital age has really changed the game so you really don’t have to go too far. You have your sites like PMP, Soundclick and Myspace, amongst others, where you can find talent worldwide. Naturally, you still have the classic avenues like talent showcases, networking events and word of mouth.

How important is innovation to an A&R?

Vakseen: VERY. Personally I’d think all A&Rs are looking for artists that bring something new and refreshing to the table. Of course that depends on the type of signings you’re looking for. You can be looking for longevity or just the quick lick. I tend to look for longevity. Music lovers don’t want to hear their favorite artists recycled. Sales are definitely down but it’s still very possible to sell Gold and Platinum. Fans just aren’t going to spend their hard earned money on anything, especially when you can get the album online for free! At the end of the day, it’s about the music and fans being able to connect to the artist. Innovation allows fans to identify with an artist as opposed to just a record.

In your opinion, what makes a great song?

Vakseen: Simple. Great production (simple or complex), an extremely addictive hook and greater lyrics! Of course you can’t forget a dope artist to sell the whole package. These things are absolutely necessary.

What does success mean to Vakseen?

Vakseen: I mean there are so many levels of success. Most people think it’s just being obscenely rich and famous. I don’t have to take the G4 to work to feel I’m a success lol. Of course I want notoriety and financial comfort, but success to me is more about achieving your goals, whatever they may be. It’s about being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor and having people you care about to share that with. Success is having a solid foundation, loving family, great friends, good health and financial stability.

What/Who inspires you?

Vakseen: Anyone that has been successful in this entertainment business; from a Russell Simmons, to LA Reid, Craig Kallman or a Ted Lucas. People winning and making their dreams and goals happen inspire me. I love to see people taking risks and pushing the envelope, stepping outside of the box. Standing on your own two is definitely a challenge in this business; life period for that matter. There is greatness in every one of us. If you’re striving towards that greatness, you
inspire me!

What keeps you motivated?

Vakseen: Simple answer. God! I’m motivated by my family, friends, health, happiness and success. I’m also motivated by others’ success. It really puts me in a different mind state like “yo you need to step it”. Success motivates success. If your circle goes hard 24/7 there’s always going to be motivation and friendly competition. Setting and working towards goals definitely keeps me motivated as well.

What's in your iPod?

Vakseen: I have a LOT of music on my iPod. Now as far as current HEAVY rotation, I’d have to say Jeezy “Trap or Die 2”, Ross “Albert Anastasia EP”, Gucci “BurrrPrint 2 HD”, Drake and Swazy.

Favorite Artist(s)?

Vakseen: I’m a huge Hip Hop head. I grew up in the “golden era” but my musical tastes are definitely diverse. I’d say my favorites are Outkast, Rick Ross, Marvin Gaye, Kanye, Parliament-Funkadelic, Jay-Z, Bilal, Jeezy, Gucci, Ghostface and Led Zeppelin. I think that covers most of them.

Current projects?

Vakseen: On the A&R side of things, I’m working on more song placements with any artist that’s currently working on an album! I placed T.I’s first single “I’m Back”, “Gettin Paid” off his new mixtape, as well as Trina’s first single “Million Dollar Girl” off her new album so I’m staying focused on this constant elevation. Far as Slip N Slide goes, I’m just grinding to make sure Swazy is officially broken this year. He’s already known regionally so we’re halfway there. Just staying focused and building the awareness on his new single “I Sang”. The South is on fire right about now! He’s the main priority for the label, aside from the vets.

Who would you like to collaborate with?

Vakseen: I’d love to work with Lady Gaga. I’m a big fan of her work. Of course there’s Jay, Outkast, Kanye and the Roots. There’s actually way too many people I want to work with. Really anyone who’s making dope music!

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Vakseen: As an A&R, I’d definitely say landing T.I.’s single “I’m Back”. That placement opened a lot of doors for me. The record peaked at #7 on the charts. Not too many people can say they placed a top 10 record. That’s definitely a blessed situation. On the marketing side, I have a Gold plaque for the work I did on Plies’ “Definition of Real”. I’m really wanting a Platinum plaque now though lol. I think grinding my way from an internship to being a successful music executive is a huge accomplishment in itself.

What type of impact would you like to leave with your contribution to music?

Vakseen: I have quite a few tricks up my sleeve lol. My goal has always been to create greater, timeless music and provide the cure for music’s ailments. Vakseen = the CURE.

Any advice for those looking to pursue their goals and dreams?

Vakseen: Stay focused and don’t let anyone stop you from achieving your goals. Hard work, faith and dedication are definitely key. Keep more than one hustle. Understand, with ANY business you have to spend money to make money. You have to be willing to invest in yourself if you expect someone else to. Last thing, always, always, ALWAYS handle your business and cover your ass! Greater!

For More On Vakseen: