Have you ever been in a group of people, where you were the only one of your kind? Everyone speaks a different language, but you know that you are in the right place at the right time. This was my experience November 19th thru November 22nd 2013, during Latin GRAMMY week at Mandalay Bay hotel resort and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I was invited by my new BFF, Angie Martinez, ESQ. Executive producer – Urban music at Meccalani/Universal Music Latin Entertainment. Angie is an attorney, but she is responsible for developing urban music, and creating a platform to launch US Hispanic bilingual/bicultural hip hop, reggaeton, jazz, and R&B artists. Angie started out Pitbull, yes, Mr. 305, and was his legal rep during his rise to fame for more than twelve years.
Angie and I have been communicating for years, and on November 18th 2013 she called and said that she would be in Las Vegas the next day. She said that she wanted to introduce me to some people, and to meet her at Mandalay Bay between 5:30 and 6pm. I was going so fast, racing on the freeway, with my music blasting so loud I missed my exit, and had to double back. I just knew I was going to be late. I hate being late, it’s really bad business.
Fortunately for me, I made it right on time, and she was there waiting on me exactly where she said she would be. We were originally going to meet up at Eyecandy Sound Lounge and bar, but she changed up the meeting place, and we met at Mizuya, a sushi bar.
It was me, her and her assistant. We sat and talked for about an hour. She talked about her experience in the music business, working with Pitbull, and her passion for music. In turn, I talked about my experiences working in the music business, and the joys of music licensing. If you are not familiar with my music business background, go buy some back issues of Street Motivation. I am always giving away free advice on how to get music placed in films, games, and on TV.
This is one of the reasons I was invited out to meet with her. Music licensing is big business, and is virtually an untapped market in the urban music community, let alone the Latin urban music community, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity work with some new music. After our meeting at the Mizuya, we were off to Eyecandy to meet more music industry professionals who were all in Las Vegas, for the Latin GRAMMYs.
Eyecandy Sound Lounge and bar is exquisite. Located smack dab in the middle of Mandalay Bay, it’s a night club/bar/ultra lounge that has interactive touch-tables, sound stations and a dance floor with changing landscapes. Heineken®, the official beer of the 14th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards®, was sponsoring an event called Heineken House, located in the Eye Candy Lounge at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
The set up was absolutely CRAZY! The space had a state-of-the-art portable recording studio complete with Pro Tools HD, a recording engineer, producers, headphones, microphones, and a charging station for smart phone, iPads, and iPods all enclosed in sound proofed with professional grade polyurethane.
The goal was to offer consumers a glimpse into the music recording process with a chance to observe live studio sessions between industry leading producer Toy Selectah and various Latin GRAMMY nominees. It was bananas!
In another area deemed the “Touch Lab” there was a digital zone equipped with iPad kiosks offering consumers the opportunity to create and share personalized music, plus all-star access to current Latin GRAMMY nominees including photos, biographies, music and videos.
As we made our rounds, Angie was like a social butterfly, everyone new her, and she was very kind to introduce me to everyone. At that moment, I felt like a Black Unicorn. As far as I could tell, I was only black man there, and Mi español no es tan caliente (using a translator), my Español (Spanish) is not so hot, but everyone treated me so nice, I was proud to be there.
That was Tuesday night, and I left with a pocket full of business cards, and new contacts. I was very grateful. Muchas gracias! I thanked Angie before I left, and drove home so excited, with a feeling of fulfillment.
I thought that was it, but the very next day, Wednesday at around 3pm, I got a text message “Hello new bff. When you coming ‘round?”. It was Angie, and she had set up a few meetings, with some of the people she works with. She introduced me to a lot of people, label owners, distributors, up and coming artist, platinum producers, and very successful artist such as platinum recording artist Frankie J. You might remember the song he and Baby Bash did called “Obsession (No Es Amor)”. The song was #3 on both the US, and US Latin charts, and #2 on the US Rhythmic chart, plus the song went platinum.
Frankie J is a really good guy, not to mention a very talented artist, and he was nice enough to take a photo with me. I had a sit-down meeting with platinum producer DJ Buddha. His credits are extensive ranging from Pitbull, Lil Jon, Machel Montano, to Afrojack, Frankie J, and Michael Jackson.
At the 2013 Latin GRAMMYs he was nominated for a GRAMMY. Dj Buddah, Papayo, Pitbull, Gregor Salto & Tzvetin Todorov, were all involed with the Pitbull song “Echa Pa’lla (Manos Pa’rriba)” which was nominated for a GRAMMY. The English version is known as “Go Away (Hands Up)” and it peaked at #2 on the US Latin Billboard charts. Truly another great guy, who has touched the lives of so many, was gracious enough to sit down with me, and discuss business with me.
Another notable mention was Ghazi Shami, owner of Empire Distribution. Empire Distribution distributes artists like Kendrick Lamar, Sage the Gemini, Too Short, The Outlawz, Kurupt, Mistah F.A.B., Glasses Malone, Ill Poetic, Young Dro, and so many, many more. As he sat down, Angie had to leave to attend to her red carpet affairs for the Latin GRAMMYs, to make sure her artist were where they were supposed to be. Ghazi is official like a referee with a whistle. He was so down to earth I almost forgot that he was the owner of a multi-million dollar distribution company, currently distributing some of the biggest hip hop records in the market today.
We talked about business, family, our upbringings, and virtually everything else. I was taken aback by how open he was, and how real he was, coupled with how passionate he was about his work. I completely related to him, and was very thankful for the opportunity to meet with him in any capacity.
After we wrapped up our meeting, I left Mandalay Bay feeling like a champ with the Rocky theme music “Gonna Fly Now” playing in the background. It’s funny, but I really feel like I got more love from the Latin community in this instance, than I ever received from the Black community. Pardon me, but I’m having an Alex Hailey Roots moment. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a very proud Black Man, and nothing against my people, but Black folks can be some real haters.
There’s a real “crabs in a bucket” mentality in the Black community. Everyone wants to be first, so if one rises above, the others work insatiably to pull them back down. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. Maybe it’s not entirely our fault that we have no sense of pride. We don’t know who we are, because we were cut off from our African heritage. I never really thought about it this way, but I’m beginning to understand why there is so much black on black crime.
We are a race of very angry people, with good reason. We don’t know where we came from, so it is virtually impossible to know where we are going, or how to get there. We were robbed of our heritage and our birth right hundreds of years ago, and it’s obvious that after all this time, we still have not recovered, but that’s a whole different article by itself, so I won’t bore you with semantics.
In the Latin community it’s a totally different ball game all together. They have a great sense of pride, they know exactly who they are, and most importantly, they stick together. They take care of their own, and thanks to my new BFF Angie Martinez, during the 14th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards, I felt like an honorary Latino.