Dressed for work in a white T-shirt and black pants, Pierre “Pee” Thomas hunches over his cellphone in the bunker-like Atlanta headquarters of Quality Control Music. “We’re into something real deep right now,” he says as he scrolls through Apple Music’s list of top 100 songs while Kevin “Coach K” Lee, fresh from the barber, reclines in his office chair.
Thomas is searching for a song on the list that doesn't qualify as hip-hop. He names two, Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” and Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” but both feature rappers associated with the homegrown label they founded and run, Thomas as CEO and Lee as COO. “Girls Like You” guest stars Cardi B, whom the two say is the first client of a new consulting company they have formed, and a remix of “Boo’d Up” with a cameo by Quavo of Quality Control flagship act Migos helped propel Mai to the top of Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart in July.
“How is hip-hop running the world right now?” asks a poker-faced Thomas, evoking a chuckle from Lee. They are fully aware that Quality Control and its major-label partner, Capitol Records, are on the front lines of that takeover.