Hip Hop’s 10 Most Powerful People In The Music Industry In 2021

Hip Hop has become the biggest and most powerful music genre in the world for the last 10 years. But who are the masterminds responsible for the success of where hip hop is today, and the future moving forward? Let’s take a look at hip hop’s top 10 most powerful people in the music industry.

1.   L.A Reid

Antonio “L.A.” Reid was born June 7, 1956 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned the nickname “L.A.” from a guitar player in his band who called him that because of a Los Angeles Dodgers t-shirt he was wearing.

L.A. Reid was a drummer in high school. He cites listening to James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Led Zeppelin as significant musical influences while growing up. His first appearance on record was on a 45 released in the mid-1970s by the Cincinnati funk rock group Pure Essence.

In 2000 L.A. Reid was made the successor to Clive Davis as president of Arista. In that role, he continued to have success with new artists such as Avril Lavigne and Ciara. In 2004 major labels Sony and BMG merged resulting in L.A. Reid being released from his contract as head of BMG subsidiary Arista. While serving as president of Arista, L.A. Reid helped oversee such massive album hits as Usher’s Confessions and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx / The Love Below. They both sold over 10 million copies.

When Sony merged with BMG, L.A. Reid was released from his Arista contract. He was quickly hired to be chairman and CEO of the Island Def Jam Music Group under major label Universal. L.A. Reid is given significant credit for helping revive Mariah Carey’s career with the 2005 release of the album. Under his

leadership, highly successful new artists were cultivated at the label including Justin Bieber and Rihanna. He also oversaw the comeback of Jennifer Lopez with her 2011 hit album Love?

In July 2011 L.A. Reid became chairman and CEO of a newly restructured Epic Records. It became one of three main record labels under Sony Entertainment along with Columbia and RCA. Among the initial artists assigned to Epic were Avril Lavigne, Ciara, and Outkast. By 2014, Epic Records was home to more than 50 artists. In November 2014, Timbaland moved most of his marketing and distribution of his own work from Interscope to Epic. Mariah Carey reunited with L.A. Reid at Epic in January 2015, and Jennifer Lopez was added to the roster in March 2016.

In 2014, L.A. Reid served as the curator and executive producer for the posthumous Michael Jackson album Xscape. He hired a team of record producers led by Timbaland to remix and update the eight songs included. The album debuted at #2 on the US album chart and included the top 10 charting single “Love Never Felt So Good.”

L.A. Reid released his bestselling autobiography Sing To Me in February 2016.

2.   Bryan “Birdman” Williams

One of the most influential figures in the history of Southern rap, and rap in general since the late ’90s, Cash Money Records CEO Bryan Williams goes by the name Birdman when he grabs the mike. With lyrics typically revolving around money, cars, and hustling, his music is ambitious, extravagant, and hedonistic, serving as a primary example of the Dirty South sound. Throughout his career, Williams has played a major role in the careers of many rap superstars, including Lil Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj.

Active since the early ’90s, his career as a rapper took off by the end of the decade, when he formed the successful duo Big Tymers. Then known as Baby, Williams made his solo debut with the 2002 album Birdman. Following Big Tymers‘ breakup, he switched his moniker to Birdman with the release of 2005’s Fast Money, a Top Ten hit. Following a number three-charting Lil Wayne collaboration, 2006’s Like Father, Like Son, Birdman continued releasing solo efforts throughout the decade. During the 2010s, he spearheaded Cash Money’s all-star Rich Gang project, and released a few collaborative mixtapes, including two Lost at Sea releases with Jacquees.

3.   Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter

Јау Z іѕ а wеll knоwn Аmеrісаn buѕіnеѕѕmаn, рrоduсеr, аnd rарреr whо іѕ аlѕо thе bеѕt-ѕеllіng rарреr оf аll tіmе аnd hаѕ ѕоld оvеr 100 mіllіоn rесоrdѕ whіlе wіnnіng 21 Grаmmу Аwаrdѕ. Ніѕ thrее аlbumѕ wеrе аddеd іn thе 500 Grеаtеѕt Аlbumѕ оf Аll Тіmе, whісh іnсludеd ‘Тhе Вluерrіnt,’ ‘Rеаѕоnаblе Dоubt,’ аnd ‘Тhе Вlасk Аlbum.’

Јау Z hаѕ аlѕо wоrkеd wіth ѕtаrѕ lіkе Rіhаnnа, Lіnkіn Раrk, R. Кеllу, Јаz-О, Рuff Dаddу, Веуоnсе, Каnуе Wеѕt, аnd Тhе Nоtоrіоuѕ В.І.G. Јау Z іѕ аlѕо аn асtіvе рhіlаnthrоріѕt аnd саn bе ѕееn ѕuрроrtіng саuѕеѕ lіkе еduсаtіоn rіghtѕ, еquаlіtу, LGВТ rіghtѕ, аnd blасk rіghtѕ. Іn 2016’s prеѕіdеntіаl еlесtіоn, hе ѕuрроrtеd Ніllаrу Сlіntоn. Сlіntоn, wіth thе hеlр оf Јау Z, аddrеѕѕеd оррrеѕѕіоn аnd rасіѕm аgаіnѕt blасk реорlе.

Аѕ оf Јulу 2021, Јау Z hаѕ аn еѕtіmаtеd nеt wоrth оf mоrе thаn $1 bіllіоn. Не hаѕ mаdе hіѕ fоrtunе ѕеllіng оvеr 100 mіllіоn rесоrdѕ. Не аlѕо mаdе mіllіоnѕ frоm hіѕ еndоrѕеmеnt dеаlѕ. Не іѕ thе rісhеѕt rарреr іn Аmеrіса аnd іn thе wоrld.

4. Pierre “Pee” Thomas

If you’re a hip hop fan, you’ve most definitely heard of Quality Control Music. Also known as Quality Control, QC the Label or simply QC; the label houses some of rap’s biggest stars such as Migos, Lil Baby, City Girls, Lil Yachty and so much more. It even has Cardi B signed to a management deal.

Without a doubt, their music is taking over one superstar at a time which is impressive to see every step of the way. Founded by Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “Pee” Thomas in 2013, the company began to skyrocket. Since then, they have had the culture of trap music in their hands having signed most of today’s rap superstars. These two have dreams of taking QC to the top, and they’re already at one hell of a start, as the acts they’ve signed have already broken records and topped charts.

5.   Kanye West

One of the most influential and critically lauded artists of the early 21st century, Kanye West went from hip-hop beatmaker to worldwide hitmaker as his production work for artists such as Jay-Z led to a major-label recording contract and, ultimately, a wildly successful solo career that counted an unbroken

string of chart-topping, multi-platinum albums and nearly two-dozen Grammy Awards for classic sets like 2005’s Late Registration, 2007’s Graduation, and 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Early on, West paired his beats with tongue-twisting raps and outspoken confidence. With a backpack and brightly colored polo shirt, his dapper fashion sense set him apart from many of his rap peers, while his attitude often came across as boastful and egotistical. This flamboyance made for good press, something that West enjoyed, for better or worse, throughout the course of his career. With his outsized personality, he courted plenty of controversy, posing for the cover of Rolling Stone as Jesus Christ, claiming that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” during a televised Hurricane Katrina fundraiser, and infamously interrupting an awards speech by Taylor Swift in 2009. And yet, his steady presence in the celebrity limelight couldn’t eclipse his musical talent. His production abilities seemed boundless, as he not only racked up impressive hits for himself (including number one singles “Gold Digger” and “Stronger”) but also had smash hits with longtime collaborator Jay-Z (on their 2011 Watch the Throne track “Ni**as in Paris”) and even Paul McCartney (along with Rihanna on 2015’s “FourFiveSeconds”). As his career progressed throughout the early 21st century, West became a superstar on his own terms without adapting his appearance, his rhetoric, or his music to fit any one musical mold.

The 2020s were ushered in with the single “Wash Us in the Blood” featuring Travis Scott. Recording for West‘s tenth album Donda began in early 2020. Named after his late mother, the release of Donda was surrounded by the same chaotic energy that encircled everything West was involved with. Release dates

were announced and pushed back, and after a listening party at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium in late July of 2021, West took up residence in one of the stadium’s locker rooms to continue mixing and finalizing the recording of the album. Another listening party was scheduled around a new, tentative release date.

6.   Sean “Diddy” Combs

One of the biggest hip-hop impresarios ever, Sean Combs — known as Puff Daddy until his professional name change to P. Diddy, then just Diddy — created a multi-million-dollar industry around Bad Boy Entertainment, with recordings by the Notorious B.I.G., Craig Mack, Faith Evans, 112, and Total all produced and masterminded by Combs himself. Responsible for over $100 million in total record sales and named ASCAP’s 1996 Songwriter of the Year, Combs was, on the other hand, criticized by many in the hip-hop community for watering down the sound of the underground and also for a perceived

over-reliance on samples as practically the sole basis for many of his hits. A very successful A&R executive at Uptown Records during the early ’90s responsible for sizable hit records by Father MC, Mary J. Blige, and Jodeci, Combs formed his own Bad Boy label, signed B.I.G., Evans, and Mack, and earned enough hits to cement an alliance with Arista Records. A highly publicized feud with Death Row Records (in which Tupac Shakur and label head Suge Knight served as West Coast/Dark Side equivalents to the Notorious B.I.G. and Combs) was summarily ended in late 1996, when Shakur was murdered and Knight jailed. Six months later, the Notorious B.I.G. was dead as well, and after Combs mourned his friend’s death, he hit the pop charts in a big way during his biggest year, 1997.

Acting and the launch of a music television channel called Revolt occupied the years 2011-2013, and Combs announced early in 2014 that he was resurrecting the Puff Daddy alias for the MMM (Money Making Mitch) mixtape. The single “Big Homie” premiered in February, featuring Rick Ross and French Montana. Additional guests on the tape included Sevyn Streeter, the LOX, Pusha T, Lil’ Kim, Future, Big Sean, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, and more. In 2015 Diddy issued a collaborative single with Pharrell Williams, “Finna Get Loose,” which was slated to appear on 2017’s No Way Out 2.

7.   “Big” Jon Platt

Jon Platt is chairman and CEO of Sony Music Publishing, the no. 1 global music publisher. Since his appointment in April 2019, Platt’s inclusive leadership style has reshaped the corporate culture and created a powerful example for the music industry.

Under Platt’s watch, Sony Music Publishing has significantly increased representation by women on the company’s senior leadership team. He has also attracted key new signings and executive talent, as well as expanded opportunities available to songwriters. With a mantra to always put songwriters first, the company is setting the standard on how songwriters are paid and was the first music publisher to expedite foreign royalty payments.

Culturally, Platt is acknowledged for his influence as a creative executive. He is widely credited for bringing hip-hop music to dominance in the music publishing industry by elevating how R&B and hip-hop artists are respected and compensated as songwriters. Throughout his career, he has signed and collaborated with prominent songwriters including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Rihanna, and Usher.

Platt previously served as chairman and CEO of Warner Chappell and led the company’s turnaround. He also worked for 17 years at EMI Music Publishing. He has received numerous honors, including Billboard’s Power 100, SESAC’s Visionary Award, Morehouse College’s Candle Award, and City of Hope’s prestigious Spirit of Life award. In 2005, he launched the Big Jon Platt Scholarship Program for high school students from his hometown of Denver, Colorado, attending college.

8.   Steve Stoute

Steve Stoute is an advertising and music industry entrepreneur. Stoute serves as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of UnitedMasters and Translation. With funding from Alphabet, Andreessen Horowitz and 21st Century Fox, the companies are converging music, technology and storytelling in a way that has never been done before.

UnitedMasters is a technology and data-driven artist services company that provides creators tools to maximize their potential while remaining independent from traditional record labels. Translation Agency is a creative agency that connects the world’s most famous brands to culture through sports and entertainment.

Prior to founding Translation in 2004, Stoute was a music industry executive at Sony Music and Interscope Geffen A&M. He produced albums for Mariah Carey and Nas, led the production efforts for Gwen Stefani and Enrique Iglesias, and executive produced the Academy Award–winning “8 Mile” film and soundtrack.

In 2009, the American Advertising Federation inducted Steve into the Advertising Hall of Achievement. Steve was recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business in 2014 and named Executive of the Year by Advertising Age in 2013. In 2011, Stoute added author to his list of accomplishments with the release of his critically acclaimed book, The Tanning of America. In this NY Times Best Seller, Steve builds on his philosophy of a global shift towards a “shared mental complexion,” by teaching corporate America how to understand and engage with today’s young adult market. Since its publication, the book has been made into a four-part VH1 documentary, “The Tanning of America” and an audiobook narrated by Kerry Washington.

Steve has been the keynote or featured speaker at many noted conferences including the NBA All-Star Tech Summit, Cannes Lions, the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, Google Zeitgeist and as a speaker at UC Berkeley’s School of Data Science.

Ebro Darden

Ebro Darden is Apple Music’s Global Editorial Head of Hip-Hop and R&B and a daily host on Apple Music

1. A cultural authority and arbiter of taste in the Hip-Hop and R&B community, Darden has been instrumental in bringing up authentic conversation around music and spotlighting some of the largest artists on the globe.

In his current role, Ebro manages a team of Hip-Hop and R&B editors as they build out editorial plans for artists, albums and song releases on Apple Music. With his own team and cross functional teams, Darden is plugged into the various music communities, seeking out talent in the United States and around the world.

On Apple Music 1, Darden showcases the latest and greatest music spanning genres and has interviewed Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, J Balvin, Ariana Grande, Meek Mill, SZA, Chance The Rapper, Khalid, and many more. He also continues to host Ebro In The Morning, his successful New York morning radio show on Hot 97 (WQHT) which airs M-F from 6AM to 10AM.

9.   Rick Ross

While Atlanta and Houston artists were establishing their cities as Southern strongholds, Rick Ross put Miami back in rap’s national spotlight with “Hustlin'” (2006), the platinum introduction to a uniquely larger-than-life character with gruffly delivered tales about the spoils and pitfalls of drug trafficking. The rapper became not only a hip-hop fixture but an unlikely pop star as well. Debut smash Port of Miami,

and all nine of Ross‘ subsequent studio albums, including the Grammy-nominated God Forgives, I Don’t

(2012) and Port of Miami 2 (2019), have entered the Top Ten of the Billboard 200, promoted with

high-rolling, RIAA-certified singles such as “The Boss” and “Aston Martin Music.” Through his own label, Maybach Music — the name of which has been imprinted on virtually every Ross recording since 2009 — Ross has boosted the careers of fellow artists Gunplay, Wale, and Meek Mill. His multitude of guest verses have likewise supported hits by the likes of DJ Khaled (beginning with “We Takin’ Over”), Kanye West (“Monster”), Maybach’s French Montana (“Pop That”), Ace Hood (“Bugatti”), and Chris Brown (“New Flame”).

Ross‘ new chapter officially started in 2017 with the number three entry Rather You Than Me. It continued in 2019 with Port of Miami 2. The sequel to his debut continued his career-long streak of Top Ten albums and was his most personal recording yet, reflecting upon the death of longtime associate and manager Black Bo and a personal health scare, two major setbacks he had experienced the previous year. The album’s Drake-assisted single “Gold Roses” scored a nomination for Best Rap Song in the 2020 Grammy Awards. Several collaborations marked Ross‘ output that year including “Entanglement” with August Alsina and “Pinned to the Cross” featuring Finn Matthews.

10.   Kendall “JuiceKarter” Walker

On August 23, 2013 JuiceKarter signed his first record deal with M. Republik Music Group at just 19 years old while owning his masters. This was something different and new for the music industry to see a teenager owning his masters and starting his own record label while constantly hitting the charts without a major label pushing. As Juice successfully grew into the music industry, he eventually branched out to focus on his label, Rise Up Music Group. Without the help of a major label, JuiceKarter has been known to successfully work with unknown artists across the world and turn them into an overnight success.

Recently, JuiceKarter began working with an unknown artist by the name of Writtensmove from Las Vegas. Within less than a week, Juice landed Writtensmove’s first major article on The Source Magazine which quickly transitioned into the artist receiving heavy radio placements across the United States. Talk about a fast turnaround!

JuiceKarter has been known for his unique social media and radio marketing strategies with major clients such as Interscope Records, Universal Music Group, Sony ATV Publishing, and Fool’s Gold Records amongst many others. JuiceKarter’s independent record label Rise Up Music Group has helped change

the way record labels work with artists by letting the creatives own their rights while showing artists how to start their own record label to collect publishing royalties and bigger checks. He’s also recognized for booking independent artists on their own headlining tours, and peaking their singles on top radio charts.

In addition, he’s been on a run from rapidly growing unknown acts into stars almost overnight while owning their masters and intellectual property all at the same time. This is the first time we have watched an executive of hip hop do all of this for his artists without the help of a major label. Not including, he’s only 27 years with almost a decade into the music industry. JuiceKarter may be the change the music industry needs for independent artists to strive on a mainstream level, make more money than signed artists, and to take advantage of owning their masters. JuiceKarter has been labeled as the next generation’s LA Reid which is why we named him as our 10th most powerful person in Hip Hop in 2021.


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