After becoming a savvy A&R man at major labels Atlantic Records, Def Jam, and Epic Records, music industry veteran Sickamore (born Randall Medford) used his gut to lead him into his latest venture at Interscope.
After taking several meetings with the label’s chairman/CEO John Janick and executive vp Joie Manda, Medford opted to leave Epic and join the home that built hip-hop’s three-headed monster of Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent. Now serving as Interscope’s senior vice president of A&R and creative director, he will focus on molding the label’s current crop of stars including 6LACK, Kamaiyah, Playboi Carti, and Smino into perennial powerhouses, after guiding Travis Scott and YG‘s chart-topping albums Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight and My Krazy Life. Sickamore is also in the early stages of creating his own imprint.
Billboard recently spoke to Sickamore about his latest move to Interscope, the roster’s potential, Travis Scott’s upcoming album Astroworld, and why YG’s next project reminds him of Jay Z’s Hard Knock Life Vol. 2.
You announced your decision to leave Epic Records and join Interscope on Hovain’s latest episode of Best Seat in the House. What made you decide to make that move?
Sickamore: The opportunity. I’ve known [Interscope Records executive vice president] Joie [Manda] for 10 years. I really liked what they’re doing over there. I would say that they have one of the best baby rosters. They have people like 6LACK, Kamaiyah, Smino, Playboi Carti, and they have a lot of hip-hop label partners like the LoveRenaissance [LVRN] guys. We got 4Hunnid Records with YG, [DJ] Mustard [has] 10 Summers. Mike WiLL with EarDrummers. I really love the direction they’re going in for the future.
Talk about this potential imprint that you’re building with Travis Scott, who’s currently signed at Epic.
Travis was my main focus at Epic. L.A. Reid recruited me to go to Epic to really focus on Travis. That was stuff that we came up with together. I felt like my time there was great. We put out two albums that both [were] certified platinum. He had big singles like “Goosebumps,” “Pick Up the Phone,” “Antidote” and “3500.” It was a success.
Now, I’m just thinking about the future and thinking about continuing what I got going on with Travis, all while trying to build something else. I like new challenges. Before I was at Def Jam, I was working with YG on My Krazy Life, Jeremih, and Lil Durk. I’m just trying to keep it going.
Will the potential imprint that you have going on with Travis be strictly with Epic or Interscope?
Well, the imprint that I have going on is for myself. I’m still coming up with the names right now, and Travis is still structuring his label, Cactus Jack. We’re still figuring all that part out. We’re in the early stages.
A couple months ago you called out the Grammys for not handing Travis any nominations for BITTSM. Fast forward to present-day and that album, in addition to Rodeo, both went platinum on the same day.
“Pick Up the Phone” went platinum [too]. “Goosebumps” is platinum. The proof is in the pudding, as far as the records. I know “Antidote” is probably triple by now. Then, on top of that, YG’s My Krazy Life just [got] certified platinum, too. That was another one a couple of years ago that got snubbed by the Grammys.
But the great thing about these albums is that the fans are the number-one voice, and the people who fight for it. When they see the nominations and they don’t see Birds in the Trap, or they don’t see My Krazy Life, they’re the ones who really make a big deal about it. That’s a great feeling. It’s great for other people to see the type of work you put in because you’re trying to make great music. You’re trying to make critical albums. You’re trying to do s–t for the culture.
You mentioned being enamored by the baby roster over at Interscope. Which artist intrigues you the most in terms of their potential?
I think Kamaiyah is amazing. I think she’s gonna do great stuff, not just for Oakland, but for the Bay Area in general. I think Playboi Carti is one of the most original artists to come out in a long time. I think he’s doing great. I think Smino is a super-duper-incredible lyricist. I think 6lack is so, so talented. His team, LoveRenaissance, is just crazy. There’s just great partnerships to be a part of. You just feel like you’re part of the new wave at Interscope. I’m just happy to join the team. It feels like the Warriors now [Laughs.]
What were the writings on the wall at Epic that made you decide to leave?
It was never anything bad about Epic. It was always [about] the opportunity and the future. There was no writing on the wall. It was just, ‘It’s a great opportunity here at Interscope,’ and I just went with the opportunity.
Which discovery are you most proud of in your career in terms of artists?
I don’t think it’s a discovery thing. I think it’s more like, I’m glad I’ve been able to help these guys like Travis and YG at this point. They’re two guys who are really super-duper talented, but I was just helping them get over the hump. They’ve gotten really far. YG just had a great mixtape series with Mustard. Travis had the Days Before Rodeo mixtape before I met him.
So it’s not like it was a discovery. I was just helping these young artists and entrepreneurs get to the next level of their careers.
We spoke to Murda Beatz awhile back, and he raved about Travis’ upcoming album Astroworld. What can fans expect from Travis’ forthcoming project?
Astroworld is next, and we’re still working on that everyday, but you see how “Butterfly Effect” is going crazy right now at every show? We were just talking about that, and looking at different footage of that, like, “Oh my God. What’s becoming of this record? It’s some other s–t.” I think Murda Beatz is going to be the top producer of 2017. I’m just happy that they’re the ones to really do it. I think “Butterfly Effect” shows the tip of where Astroworld can land.
Last year, YG made noise with his sophomore album Still Brazy. What can fans expect on album number three, especially with Mustard back in the mix?
He’s gonna show growth. He’s somebody who understands his worth now. The first album, we were kind of trying to tell a story. Then, the second album, he went through a lot — he got shot, he went through problems, like gangsta s–t. There was a lot going on in that second album. So,you’re gonna see with the third album, a guy who’s a grown man, who now knows his place, and knows his worth in this game. He’s gonna show the growth of a young entrepreneur, a growing artist, and a growing label head. He has RJ underneath his label [4Hunnid Records]. He’s really doing his thing now. I feel like this is gonna be his Jay Z Hard Knock Life kind of album, Vol. 2.
Lastly, how would you title this current chapter of your life and why?
I’d call it “Let It Happen.” The theme song to my life right now is Tame Impala’s song “Let It Happen.” It’s really a song I play every morning when I wake up. It’s just about letting go of expectations and going for it. I feel like that’s what Interscope does. It’s like joining the right team at the right time.