CEO of Disciple Entertainment
Ricardo Rodriguez [BE], CEO of Disciple Entertainment, is a perfect example of the state of undergroung Hip Hop today. With knowledge, skill and common sense, he is on the crest of a wave which will soon become evident; the re-emergence (or better said the transformation) of Hip Hop. Read what he has to say about the struggle to establish oneself in a cutthroat industry and how he plans to build a viable, thriving business.
BE What is your vantage point with respect to the music industry ? I mean, why are you in all of this?
I would be silly not to say that I'm not in this for the money. I mean my heart is totally in this too. I've been in art and entertainment in the underground for a lot of years. I promoted, I had my own parties on the Lower East Side. I've always liked to be around music. I've always been down with Hip-Hop since day one. I grew up in the Bronx, and that was a big influence on me. That became a part of my culture. It's something that I love. It's something that I believe in.
All of the music that is coming out now, I think it's all good. There are a lot of good artists out there, but I think that there is room for other categories. There is that party music that focuses on fashion and money. There is another side of Hip-Hop, a more serious side that is sometimes overlooked, the consciousness part of Hip-Hop. That is, the part that Infared comes from. I believe that that part is important. I believe that there is a message in the music. If you ask a lot of people about it. They try to think that it doesn't exist, that it never happened. People sometimes live off of other peoples' word. It's important to me to see how other people come off. I also want a part of it like I want to manifest my destiny. I want to build. I see myself part of a company that puts out certain music.
BE What kind of company exactly?
Disciple Entertainment is an artist management company. We deal with the full realm. We introduce the artists, singers, art; Hip-Hop and R&B. We also do radio promotion, full-service advertising, through my affiliates. The chairman of the advertising department has access to media buying companies. Management is very important to me. I love it. I have been involved in this for a lot of years. I had my little brother DJ for a lot of years., since he was nine. When I used to DJ I turned it over to him. I started to lose interest, and I saw him growing. He wasn't doing any parties, but he could just throw down. A lot of people were surprised to see a young kid that came out from nowhere, the down low. This kid had talent, people should know about it so I started to manage him. I started to get him into gigs. Started to get him into parties. I started to get him set up. I started to make flyers for him. Little by little he had his little following in the Bronx, North Bronx; White Plains area of the Bronx. I also have an older brother who played in a band for five years. I also did the same thing to exploit him more. I managed him. I wanted to be a part of it . I loved it. Of course I wasn't making any money for it.
BE Are you still managing them right now?
No. Right now, years later, my family is spread out over the East Coast. My older brother has a promotional company and a studio. Actually he is into more alternative rock type of music. I sometimes do promotion for them. As far as managing for them, not anymore.
BE You manage Infared right?
BE Are there anymore artists that you're planning to add on to the roster?
Yeah, Infared has a younger brother right now that is really nice on the mike. He's in Florida. He's going to head down here. So we can politic about getting down with Disciple. I heard his tape and he is really good. I definitely think that is going to be a positive addition to the Disciple family. Something that we like to think about ourselves.
BE Hip-Hop is very popular, it may be very commercial, but it's very up there now as a main media, music media/genre. What do you think you need to differently to get your guys out? To get the message accross.
I believe that image is very important now, to separate yourself from the other person. There is definitely a lot of rappers in the marketplace, where all of the MC's are coming out everywhere. There is a lot of room for our style of music, which is more on the conscious leve. The type that you take into your car and think about it, you listen to the lyrics not just listening to a hook and partying to the beats. I think that we have a mix of all of that. There is some party music but most of the lyrics that come out of Infared is basically that of a concious level. I think that is what separates him from what is on the mainstream level as far as Hip-Hop. His music is radio friendly as well as underground. It will put him in a borderline of mainstream as well as commercial. I think that its also a factor that will make him stand out.
BE Since you started a managing company how hard has it been to get it together? What have you gone through?
I believe that I have gone through what a lot of people performing have gone through. I don't feel that I am any different. I have gone through some financial difficulty, as far as promotion, we are funding this ourselves. Meanwhile, we have other things in our lives that still need to be paid and things of that nature. We are not going to let that discourage us. Our philosophy is do what we can with what we've got. We just did a press gig bid which took a lot of work, because we were trying to find inexpensive ways to still put out more than decent press and demo. That was a struggle within itself. We had a photo shoot and had an art director on it. We did it as professionally as possible with what very little money we had. Now we are at that stage that we have a product. We got a production deal based on his talent [Infared]. We did things in just a short amount of time that takes some people a lot longer. We have ups and downs. Right now I have a foot in the door in a couple of record labels so if that comes out, we can come out with some more products. Start out politicking. Start to get a record deal that is going to take some time. We are not expecting a record deal overnight. We are ready to pay our dues. So whatever happens, so be it. We are gonna get there. We have to maintain while all of this bullshit goes through.
RR As a management company what exactly some things that you have to take care of? Like having to deal with agents, record companies, and producers.
RR All of that like you said and more. Taking care of contracts, finance, and basically building a team. We just got Mr. Winkler, an entertainment lawyer that represents a lot of Hip-Hop entertainers like KRS-ONE and Stress magazine. He is now down with our team. He is dealing with trying to get booking agents to get down with us shopping demos, politicking with other cats, and trying to get a team together. Managing artists, there are a lot other factors involved. There are people that I have to get involved with to better our chances of getting a record deal. Even after getting a record deal, I have to see that they get booked on tours, and booked with promoters. I have to take care of day to day stuff. Faxing people a lot, and waiting for people to come through. To be able to network is very important. The more people you know, the more people want to get down with you, the better the chances of you having a long term career in this business. That is basically the day to day part of it. Just a lot of phone calls, a lot of politicking, making sure contracts are correct. Just making sure that nobody tries to ge shisty on us. Taking care of finances, keeping everything in order is my job, and basically just taking care of the business deals. We are our little support system for Infared, anything he needs beyond just the music stuff. Making sure that he is in good spirits to go to rehearsals. Now we are also looking for a business manager.
BE So you think that the hardest part of this is getting the money together?
I don't think that's the hardest part. I think the hardest part is just keeping your head up when the shit starts to fuck up.
BE The first few years are the hardest.
Yeah, definitely. When you're trying to get exposur, it can get really rough. Our major goal is to get it out . Live performances is one of our major objectives. Infared has limited engagements. He has done some shows but not enough to say that we have done shows. Right now we are politicking to get down with the Lyricists Lounge[Editor's Note: Since the interview, Infared has played at Lyricist Lounge]. It can be frustrating but you just have to come back and take a deep breath, it's all good. That's why I'm here for the hardest, like for a long time, I was young I didn't know what direction I wanted to take I know that I wanted to be in entertainment business. I looked at what I did when I was younger and that is what I wanted to do and I did it! Now I have the opportunity to do it again.
BE Let's say that I'm an artist, I'm looking for a manager. What makes you different from the others. Why should I pick your management company? Of course, taking in the point of finances.
I come with the realness. There are a lot of shisty people in the industry for one and everyone knows that. If you don't know that as soon as you step in. I'm aggressive. I'm young and eager. A lot of what I know is self-education. I've been to bookstores. I bought the books. I'm networking, it's an everyday job you can't just lay-back and kick-back-there is someone else who is staying up all night working
BE That's how you have to get ahead.
Yeah, that's right. I might not know everything but that's alright. There is nothing wrong with not knowing something. If there is something that I don't know, I'm going to find out what it is. This is how we got this far that's what I bring to the table.
BE Where do you see Disciple evolving to a few years from now? Five years from now? Do you see it as a management company only bigger?
Definitely. I see Disciple as growing, but I don't want it to be like a management company that has so many artists. I would like it to be very limited. My philosophy is that I don't want to work with anybody that I didn't really feel. As far as that there has to be a relationship, a certain level of trust. I have to look at the person and see the quality that anybody that would hire somebody and want to see in anyone that is looking for a partner. Sometimes that is not that easy to come by. You want to get a certain artist with the ability to write their own music. The ability to have all different types of aspects that would benefit him as an artist. To be able to sit down, being able to be in a public eye, to be able to perform live, to be able to write. To be able to politic and will be able to handle some of their own business sometimes even if they don't have to do that, sometimes you do. I want a business savvy type of person, those are the people that I want. In a few years, I don't see myself as having tons of artists I would rather have one great person than five making me spend money and giving me headaches and not putting up with their part of the bargain. I see Disciple also growing into radio promotion and getting more fully staffed.
BE Do you think that you would start your own record company?
That's hard to say. I would definitely consider it, maybe somewhere down the line once finances start picking up.