Six years after his breakout hit "Toot It and Boot It" hit No. 11 on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart, YG has turned his lifestyle into a business. As the CEO of his label 4Hunnid Records (launched in 2015), the Compton native, born Keenon Jackson, tells Billboard exclusively that he and his longtime friend and partner Brandon Moore, the label's president, have signed a joint venture with Interscope Records.
After meeting Joie Manda, a former Def Jam executive and current president of urban music at Interscope Geffen A&M, around 2013, YG says Manda paired him with his A&R, Randall "Sickamore" Medford, for his chart-topping 2014 debut My Krazy Life and has followed the 4Hunnid movement since.
"After the album came out and had its success, Joie was really behind our whole movement and everything we had going on," the Def Jam artist explains over the phone. "[Joie] knew what I did, who I had something to do with. With the album being a classic, [DJ] Mustard popping off, Ty [Dolla $ign] popping off 'cause we all from the same camp, he felt like I could have my own label and do the same things that we did for ourselves and other artists." Manda adds, "I've gotten to know YG and his team over the past few years and have full belief in their vision to build a label that moves the culture."
Before YG, Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign catapulted to individual success in 2014, the West Coast crew was initially in talks with Capitol Records about signing a group label deal but Joie had different plans for YG. "He told my lawyer, 'Tell YG I'll give him his own label deal,'" YG recalled. "So Mustard ended up doing his own thing and I ended up doing my own thing." (To note, DJ Mustard produced majority of My Krazy Life. He and YG reunited for the forthcoming 400 Summers mixtape.)
A year and a half ago, joint venture (YG declined to offer a specific amount but asserts that it's in the multi-million-dollar range) came together with Interscope Records. "YG has an unbelievable eye for talent and an innate understanding of what people want to hear," John Janick, chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M, tells Billboard. "His career as an artist proves that. I know 4Hunnid and Interscope will do great things together."
For YG's longtime partner, Brandon Moore, the deal represents the next phase of the rapper's business. "I've been a part of YG’s management team since 2009 so I been there through the inception of a bad deal," he says. "I’ve seen him progress and take advantage of a situation and go from an artist that nobody believed in, that everybody thought was a one-hit wonder to a multi-platinum artist and one of the most respected artists in the business. I’ve seen him grow as a businessman and I feel like he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential."
Ask YG and he says 4Hunnid Records is on "some Roc-A-Fella shit," representing the West Coast lifestyle while also presenting opportunities to artists, producers and songwriters who have come from struggle. In addition to running his non-profit organization, 4Hundred Waze, embarking on his headlining FDT tour this fall and dabbling in retail with his own clothing line, YG continues to go brazy on his resume. Below, the rapper talks about the joint venture, the artists he's looking for and his vision for the label.
What do you think Joie saw in you as a potential label boss?
Joie just knew about my success [and 4Hunnid's] success story. He knew all the people that was moving with me. He brought Sickamore up under him and you know Sick is a whole part of my situation so he just seen that it’s not too many people from the streets that made it out the West Coast -- the new West Coast. He saw that we knew what to do like attack the Internet and the streets, make hit records, touring -- we was covering all bases. There’s a lot of artists that don’t really know everything about the music business like they’re all just scrapping through to get on but Joie knew we knew that because we did it for ourselves. It’s just the whole camp -- me, Ty and Mustard -- really was homies before everybody had their success. Just three motherf--kers who popped off and became successful from nothing -- that’s big.
You mentioned that you, Ty and Mustard were speaking with Capitol Records about a group label deal. What came of that?
We was having a conversation with Capitol Records about a group label deal. That really ain’t work out but we all agreed that we was gonna do our separate things but we still gon' rock how we rock. We all homies -- we ain’t gonna let our business decisions f--k that up so everybody was like, 'Yeah, for sure, let’s do it.'
What’s the significance of the 4Hunnid name?
I mean it’s something I’ve just been pushing since I started rapping. I been yelling out “4hunnid.” That’s just like my lucky number. There’s so many ways to get rich and it means "forever one hunnid." That’s something we real big on -- just being real, authentic, being yourself, not letting this lifestyle change you. That’s something we’ve been real good at.
Who are some of the signees you have now? I've heard Sad Boy was in the mix.
We ain’t really got none of that locked in yet but we working on it. We got a couple of artists we looking at and trying to figure it out. With Sad Boy, I was trying to bridge the situation between Spanish and blacks [on the song "Blacks & Browns"] and the relationship that we got. I wanted to put out the positive side like, 'We f--k with Hispanics.' We grow up with them, we share the same culture basically.
Do you envision 4Hunnid Records being a predominantly West Coast roster?
Starting off, we for sure gonna have West Coast artists because we’re West Coast-based label. Before the world believes in you, you gon’ have to pop some shit off from your section and your culture. Then when that happens, we gon’ be able to go get who we want from where ever and see where they from but I’m really trying to pop off someone from my side first.
Now does this mean you have your own office at Interscope Records?
Nah, we really ain’t got an office at Interscope. We don’t need an office ‘cause we never there. We work from the road, the crib, at the studio.
What would you say your day-to-day duties are?
I’m the CEO and creative director so my shit I do on a daily basis is I get on n----s’ bumpers about shit. [Laughs] I get on everybody ass like I just oversee everybody's marketing plan, rollout plan, the goals we trying to accomplish, the touring, all that type of shit. I’m making sure it happen in a timely fashion and I’m doing my thing as an artist.
How would you describe your business philosophy?
Flood the market, stay on they neck!
Who taught you that?
Myself. That’s [4Hunnid's] blueprint. We was dropping projects once a year. That's not really a lot, though. I’m about to go even harder than that but that’s why I was successful because I always had records going in the club and then they really caught [outside of the club]. When they started popping, I’d drop another 'tape. I kept hitting them with the music, the videos, dropping my projects with videos. Same day my shit dropped, I dropped another video. That’s basically how to use the game now. Motherf--kers is just dropping projects unannounced and they just dropping them with videos and touring. We’ve been doing that since 2010.
In our previous interview, you mentioned entering f--ked up label deals. How will you ensure your artists are well taken care of?
That’s mandatory like we not gon’ put nobody through f--ked up situations because we been through the fucked up situations and we know the outcome of the fucked up situations so we not tryna have no bad blood with none of our artists. We trying to be known and respected as real businessmen that came from nothing. We gonna make sure everybody right. The 4Hunnid label is like a family. We don’t just f--k with people. If we f--k with you, we really f--k with you. It’s gon’ rub off on the business side too.
What do you think is the key difference between 4Hunnid Records and other artist-owned labels?
We different. We 4Hunnid, you know. We like red. [Laughs] We from the West Coast. Like I don’t think nobody could get it how we tryna do it on the West Coast. Ain’t nobody did especially in artist relations. We ain’t f--kin with you if we feel like you can’t be around for 20-plus years. It’s a lotta other artist-owned labels who want artists with hot singles like for right now and that’s cool because that’s the easy money but we getting brands. We teach artists how to build brand and be businessmen and business ladies. It’s just bigger than being an artist and putting out an album. I know there’s a lot of motherf--kers who ain’t taking the time out to spend with their peoples and break shit down from the bottom with them about all of this type of shit. In the record business, if you sign an artist that don’t really know too much about the business, you can really get over on them in a lot of different ways so it’s a lot of people that don’t give artist the game because they’re trying to make the most money in the fastest way off their artists. They ain’t trying to be business partners with their artists. We bring that to the table.
How do you go about looking for artists?
It all starts with the music. I got homies that’s trying to be artists so we do certain things with the homies ‘cause that’s how we rock -- from the ground up. I put my people in situations like if that work out, that work out but we out looking for superstars so it all start with the music. You gotta have the music and then you gotta have potential star power. Then you gotta represent something different that YG don’t represent because we all can’t be doing the exact same shit.
What do you hope your label represents?
It’s real family-oriented. We giving our people opportunities to be something. We not just pulling a regular homie that don’t know nothing about music or don’t got no potential to be successful in the music industry. We not bringing 'em along and giving them job titles like, 'Here, bro, you gon’ run this.' It’s certain people that’s been around since we came in the game. They been around from that time doing certain little things, watching how we move, watching how we do things and they learned so we bringing them along with us. We about the people so we’re trying to uplift one another ‘cause that’s really how you gon’ have some real shit. We trying to do it like we on some Roc-A-Fella shit.
Is that what it feels like?
That’s what it is. When you think of YG, you think of the West Coast, L.A. the lifestyle, that’s what the brand about. That’s what 4Hunnid represents.