At his senior prom send-off – between corsage gifting, boutonniere pinning and endless photo-ops – Polo G informed his mother, Stacia Mac, that he would not be going to college. “It broke my heart,” says Mac. “I’m like, ‘So what are you going to do?’ He’s like, ‘I’m going to be a rapper.’”
While the Chicago-bred rapper’s weighty decision arrived abruptly, Mac came around after a few months. “I told him, if you’re going to do it, then I support you one hundred and ten percent,” she recalls. “And within maybe six months, he was signed to Columbia Records.”
To give the chart-topping rapper – who scored three top 10 albums and a Hot 100 No. 1 in two years’ time – all the credit for his feats would encompass only half of the picture. He has had a team working behind the scenes, with the bedrock being Mac herself, who quickly began managing Polo. She then became part of a long legacy of musical “momagers” across genres, from Tish Cyrus to Donda West, and while some momager relationships have ended with feuds and fallouts, having the woman with your best interests at heart managing your career can also be fruitful. “There was never a day off,” says Mac, “because I understood how much was riding on this.”
After the widespread success and radio love for his equally reflective and catchy 2019 Lil Tjay collaboration, “Pop Out,” which landed at No. 11 on the Hot 100, the then-burgeoning rapper’s mix of bruising storytelling and earworm hooks skyrocketed in popularity, with his following three albums debuting at No. 6, No. 2, and most recently, No. 1 with last year’s Hall of Fame. The album’s third single, “Rapstar,” brought in Polo’s first No. 1 Hot 100 hit, and with the solo success came A-list features, as Polo locked in with rappers like Lil Baby, Lil Durk and Moneybagg Yo.
Primped and polished in a pink-and-white blouse, Mac reflects on her family’s beginnings, from Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood, to the marble-drenched foyer of her newest Atlanta home (they moved in two days ago, she adds). “To be frank, we had less – we were working class. But there wasn’t a rush for him to jump into a bad deal,” Mac explains. “The terms had to be correct.”
While Mac’s experience with contracts was limited to property management, she did not hesitate to guide Polo (born Taurus Tremani Bartlett) when it came to the labels endlessly courting and flying out the then 19-year-old wordsmith. “‘Enjoy this time, but make sure that you don’t sign anything,’” Mac advised her son. “‘Don’t just accept the first thing because a lot of [artists] do that and it gets them inside of horrible deals, which they regret in the end.’”
As Polo’s manager, Mac faced skepticism and ridicule within the industry due to her lack of experience and positioning as a “momager.” Undeterred, the mother of four continued to lean on familial instinct, eventually bringing two of her other children–Trench Baby and Leilani–into the mix. “They all write their own music, and they’re just amazing,” she gushes. “It’s really a labor of love to be working with them.”
Today, Mac navigates her role as manager with second-nature confidence. Assisted by Warner Records president of A&R Steve “Steve O” Carless, Mac has no plans of leaving Polo’s side, but hopes to draft more “superstar” names to her roster. Mac sat down with Billboard to dig into the obstacles, triumphs and growing pains of juggling the roles of mom and manager.
How did you feel when Polo told you he wanted to pursue music full-time?
[Polo and I] always had a very good relationship; we talk about anything and everything. When he said that he wanted to join the music industry, as a mother, I was concerned. I want you to follow your dreams, but the industry can be a cold place, and this is a realm we’ve never been in. Maybe a week after the prom sendoff, there were so many offers from labels and management companies.
What were those deals like?
[Some of] the deals were horrible. They were sending us offers for five or ten thousand dollars, and I was explaining it to him. He’s like, “So why am I bringing these contracts to you after the fact instead of them sending it directly to you? You should just manage me.” And I’m like, OK, let’s do that.
Before becoming his manager, what were you doing as your nine-to-five?
I did residential and commercial property management. I know [how] to manage: you have to be organized, you have to be goal-oriented. So I literally transferred my knowledge of that into managing him professionally.
When you began managing Polo, what was your day-to-day like?
I can remember seven months literally never taking a break–and I don’t mean vacationing–from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep. From calling and trying to secure endorsements to getting him bookings, I did everything alone when we were coming up for those first seven months, building out a team for him, everything. It was busy. It was grueling. But of course, the return on investment was priceless. I don’t regret it, because it showed me the ins and outs of the music industry in every facet.
You’re navigating a male-dominated industry, not only as a woman, but as the mother of the artist you’re managing. How were you received in this managerial role by the people within the industry?
Initially, I wasn’t well-received. A lot of people felt that I should not be in some rooms, as a woman in this male-dominated industry, and in addition to that, being a woman of color and a mom. There’s a stigma on momagers and just parents alone managing their children, so I had to prove myself each and every day, that I was more than worthy of being in those rooms and I was more than capable.
Was there a moment you remember where people were like, “Damn, she’s the real deal”?
I remember being inside of a few meetings and I said what my goals were. I remember individuals chuckling like, “So you think that you’re going to do that?” And not only did I do that, but more. I can remember saying we would be on the Billboard charts, that we would have the No. 1 album, be on the cover of Rolling Stone–I remember these goals vividly. And they’re like, “Wait, you’re just one week in. It’s only been seven days, and you feel that this is what you guys are going to do?” And I’m like, “Absolutely.” And when they started coming into fruition, it was like, “Oh, wow, so they’re serious.”
I’m sure they’re eating their words.
And it feels great. Planning his rollouts and activations inside of different markets, they’re like, “How long have you been doing this?” [laughs] I think there was a big misconception that I wasn’t knowledgeable and I was just riding a wave. No, I’m creating one. There’s a big difference.
Is there ever a time where Polo comes to you about something and as his manager, you have one opinion, but as his mom, you think differently?
Initially it was tough because I’m a very devoted mom to my children – I’m that mom they can call on for anything. So when I’m in a managerial position, I had to realize that [Polo saying] “no” to Stacia Mac is not a “no” to his mom. As we began to build out, we did have times where we’d butt heads. And then I realized that I would have to give him all of the information that was needed for him as an artist to make an informed decision. Then I would tell him how I felt professionally and personally. I would always give him every facet of it – do with it as you wish, and I’ll support you.
Do you see a lot of other mothers within managerial roles for their kids in hip-hop?
I feel that there are few that do it successfully. And that’s just to be frank and honest. But those who do it successfully are a force. Brandy Norwood’s mom Sonja was very successful in not only one child’s career, but two. Or [Waka Flocka Flame’s mother] Deb Antey. It’s a small population, but those women that do it, they make their mark. I feel that even with me, it’s paving a way [for others] to do this; it can be successful. And it shouldn’t be discounted because you are a woman or a mom in a managerial role.
Professionally speaking, where do you see yourself headed?
I see myself building out my own management firm and taking on more clients on a larger scale. While Polo is my primary artist, I want to have other superstar clients. I see myself continuing to work with him, but I understand that sometimes things change. Through those changes, I’ll still always support and help him in any level and facet that I can.
Would you step away from the managerial role when it comes to Polo?
No, I definitely want to see it through, and it works for us. I can only see it getting better with time and us doing greater work. So no, ideally I don’t see myself ever stepping away from a managerial standpoint. Ever.
How do you find balance to take care of yourself?
I just left Miami. I just needed a mental break for myself, and I feel that self-care is very important. You can’t properly service your clients if you’re not at your best. So at any point, I always take a step back when I need to refresh and reset so that I can do a service and not a disservice to [Polo].
What has been the impact of Polo’s career on your life?
It forever changed all of our lives for the better. I really appreciate [Polo] for wanting me to be a part of his journey. We didn’t look at it as a hobby, we looked at it as a job. We put all of our time and resources in it, and knew that this was it. We had our foot in the door and we had to just keep going hard and elevate because in this industry, you have to continue to pump out quality content and things that the public want to see and hear. And so that’s what we’ve done. I’m very pleased with where we are right now.