From The Desk Of

Stacia Mac on Managing Her Son Polo G, Why She Doesn’t Feel Bad Taking a Commission

Stacia Mac
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Stacia Mac photographed Sept. 21 at her home near Atlanta.

The momager describes her management style as "analytical," and she recently put that skill to use during a terrifying incident that could have turned deadly. "I'm from Chicago, so you're always ready."

Stacia Mac describes her management style as "analytical," and she recently put that skill — honed while guiding her son, hip-hop star Polo G’s career — to use during a terrifying incident that could have turned deadly.

In early September, Mac posted security camera footage on Instagram — which she has since deleted — of armed masked men attempting to break into her Georgia home. A few weeks later, she recounts the coolheaded action she took to protect herself and her 8-year-old daughter, Leia Capalot.

"Nothing prepares you for that, but I’m from Chicago, so you’re always ready," says Mac. "I had my gun on the nightstand. I was on the phone with a friend, and I told him to call the police so I could continue to monitor my camera. I had already positioned my daughter where she wouldn’t be in any crossfire. The moment that door creaked open, I fired down on them and they ran."

Since 2018, Mac has helped steer Polo G — born Taurus Tremani Bartlett in 1999 — to multiplatinum success with the same tactical decisiveness. (In 2020, she began to share management duties with Steve "Steve O" Carless, who, in late September, was named Warner Records president of A&R.)

Mac, who was 18 when she gave birth to Polo G, the second of her four children, had no music-industry experience when she began to manage his career. "Property management was all I’d ever done until he was signed," she says.

In addition to her lack of experience, Mac had to overcome the skepticism that results when parents manage their children’s entertainment careers. "Many times we were in meetings and I said, 'These are my goals,' and people laughed," says Mac. "Well, they’re not laughing now."

Polo G had already gained notoriety for his singles "Finer Things" and "Pop Out," featuring Lil Tjay, when Mac signed him — yes, a contract was involved — as the first client of her Only Dreamers Achieve artist management firm. "Choosing where we should go was the heaviest decision we ever made because that would eventually make or break him as an artist," she recalls. "There was a bidding war, so we could have gone anywhere. He was looking at me like, 'Which way should I go?' It was Columbia."

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Mac says the walls of her basement are covered with Polo’s plaques that “remind us where we’re from and how far we’ve come. The biggest is ‘Pop Out’ because that record changed our lives.”

Polo, as Mac calls him, released his debut album, Die a Legend, in June 2019. It peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and charted for 118 weeks. Sophomore album THE GOAT dropped in 2020 and peaked at No. 2. His third album, Hall of Fame, went all the way to the top of the chart in June. The rap star kicked off his Hall of Fame tour in Cincinnati on Oct. 8.

Mac credits her son’s fast growth to his natural talent, paired with strategic marketing. "Any beat you put him on," she says, "he flourishes because he’s a true artist who understands music."

Her management company and reputation as a savvy negotiator have also grown. She now manages rapper Asian Doll and Jamaica’s "Queen of Dancehall," Spice. On Dec. 5, she plans to host the Cheat Code seminar in Atlanta, where she will provide tips for those looking to succeed in the industry. "I didn’t have anybody to tell me the fundamentals on starting a team or how to pay your taxes," she says.

Mac also aims to reboot her podcast, I Birth Legends, that she started in June 2020. Her eldest child, Leilani Capalot, works as Polo’s tour manager, while her third, hip-hop artist T Baby, is gaining traction. "Everybody’s picking up on him," she says. "He’s not in his brother’s shadow." Leia, Mac’s youngest offspring, launched the online children’s boutique House of Monroee when she was 7. The proud mom says her children’s ambitions are not happenstance. "We work toward those things that we want, and this is the manifestation of it."

You had no previous experience in the music industry. How did you confront that steep learning curve?

I devoured books and articles to gain as much knowledge as possible to effectively assist him.

What do you think of the term "momager"?

There’s a stigma attached to the word because it’s equated with someone who’s inexperienced and leads with emotion rather than discernment and knowledge. I’m analytical. I don’t make decisions based on "This is my son." He’s my artist first in this role.

Were you considered less credible because you were new and representing your son?

There are very few women in this industry, and I’m a woman of color. You have to prove yourself every time. I did that by making sure whenever I spoke, I had something to say. I asked the appropriate questions, and I wasn’t afraid to stand [up] when I knew something was right. In doing that, I gained respect.

In a previous interview, you said that one of the reasons you became Polo’s manager was because he was being lowballed on performance fees. Do you think the music business attempts to take advantage of artists of color more than white artists?

His fee is now $150,000, and I remember the days when it was $5,000. We couldn’t cover travel accommodations and were in the hole. We arrived at his current fee with each of our successes. People of color are slighted. That’s a fact. What you have to do is stand firm on your worth.

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“I light these candles, smell the flowers and center myself before I get going. They are essential to my self-care regimen.”

Do you take a commission when you make deals for Polo? If so, was that a difficult discussion to have with your son?

I do, and it wasn’t a hard discussion. Our family is driven by love, morals and boundaries. Before becoming his manager, we signed a management contract to protect not only him, but myself. Business is business, whether it’s my son or anyone. I’m doing the work without getting anything handed to me. If anybody else was in this position, they would get a commission, so I don’t feel bad about it.

Why did Polo sign with Columbia Records?

We chose Columbia because we knew they would throw their all into my son and he would not be shelved. They had as much riding on making him a hip-hop star as he had to make himself one.

Does he own his masters?

He does not. That doesn’t happen often. But we got many other beneficial things in the deal. He has a true 50-50 profit share, which is very valuable.

How are you helping build Polo’s music career and expand his fan base?

Die a Legend was highly anticipated, and we really didn’t do a lot of marketing because the fans wanted it. We did target markets, and they made the numbers go where they should. Each album increased because of our marketing, rollouts, playlisting, radio play and other necessities. We’re going to work with different artists and experiment with samples to elevate his sound. We’re excited to tour internationally. We’re working on a television series that chronicles his jewelry store in Miami, Black Ice. [He has] also asked his agents to book him more films.

Despite his chart success, with Hall of Fame peaking at No. 1, some perceive Polo as a hip-hop underdog. What could Columbia do to change that?

I don’t feel Columbia can do anything more than they do. Sometimes the greatest of the great don’t get their flowers, but he’ll continue to be a consistent artist pumping out No. 1s. If the world catches up later, they’ll catch up later. A lot of [that perception] comes from social media. If you’re on the blogs every day, then that makes you mainstream, and most of those people don’t even have a hit.

Polo was arrested twice this year — in Miami and, more recently, in Los Angeles. Did those controversies affect any endorsement deals he has, and are you concerned they could affect future deals?

I can’t say much because they’re ongoing. In both incidents, the officers were overzealous, and a lot of those charges have already been reduced. That speaks volumes, and it will all come out in the wash. If he did something egregious, he would have been charged for it. I don’t feel that [these incidents] would stop any endorsements because life happens to us all, whether we want it to or not. My grandmother always told me, "You think it won’t happen to you? Keep living." Any endorsement that passed him wasn’t meant for him.

Do you have any kind of support group with other momagers?

Not early on, but as of late, I’ve become great friends with [late artist] XXXTentacion’s mom, Cleo [Cleopatra Bernard], and she has been helping me with estate planning, asset protection and things of that nature. We don’t want to think about or speak of those taboos, but they’re things we have to address while living because we don’t have any control thereafter.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 9, 2021 issue of Billboard.