Hip-Hop Power Players 2017: The Heat Seekers

Takeoff of Migos, Thomas, Quavo of Migos, Habtemariam, Offset of Migos, Lee & Lil Yachty, 2017
Chris Stanford

Clockwise from left: Takeoff of Migos, Thomas, Quavo of Migos, Habtemariam, Offset of Migos, Lee and Lil Yachty photographed on Aug. 29, 2017 in Atlanta.

Ethiopia Habtemariam, 37
President, Motown Records
President of urban music/co-head of creative, Universal Music Publishing Group

Pierre "Pee" Thomas, 37
CEO, Quality Control Music
Co-Founder, Solid Foundation Management

Kevin "Coach K" Lee
COO, Quality Control Music

Motown/Capitol Music Group’s 2-year-old joint venture with Atlanta-based hip-hop label Quality Control Music is “making Motown a destination for some of the hottest artists in music,” says Habtemariam. Migos’ smash hit “Bad and Boujee” (QC/300 Entertainment), featuring Lil Uzi Vert, is the third-most-streamed song of 2017 as of Aug. 24. And Lil Yachty scored his first Billboard 200 top five this year with debut album Teenage Emotions as well as MVP guest stints on two Hot 100 top five hits, D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli” and Kyle’s “iSpy,” the latter of which is the ninth-most-streamed track of 2017 thus far.

Fan Service

Thomas: "Migos, Lil Yachty and all the Quality Control artists have hooked listeners so deeply because their music is genuine -- fans can tell they are real. They are dedicated to their sound, and they are part of their culture. Lil Yachty defends the youth and being yourself; Migos are unafraid to stand up to the establishment and flaunt success that came from the streets. Fans are devoted because the artists genuinely represent them."

Global Appeal

Habtemariam: "One thing that’s surprising everyone is how much R&B and hip-hop are connecting around the world. That’s a big part of what streaming has done. R&B/hip-hop is rooted in people who have been disenfranchised and found ways to express themselves artistically. That [feeling] exists everywhere around the world."

Star Search

Lee: "I love seeking and finding new talent. I stay up watching the Explore page on Instagram. I listen to SoundCloud every day. I study any unsigned artist on all streaming charts. I’ve built a system where I make myself accessible to artists so it’s easy for them to find me."

This article originally appeared in the September 23 issue of Billboard.