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Billboard’s 2022 R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players Revealed

Our annual list honoring executives across the genres.

Amazon Music’s Tim Hinshaw — whose deep relationships in the artist community have transformed the company into a global leader in R&B and hip-hop — tops Billboard’s list of executives leading the genres forward now.

RBHH power players

Tim Hinshaw
Head of Hip-Hop & R&B, Amazon Music

Related

Tim Hinshaw and Tyler, The Creator
Tim Hinshaw (left) photographed with Tyler, The Creator on October 27, 2022 at Harun Coffee in Los Angeles. Kathryn Boyd Brolin

As job applications go, Tim Hinshaw’s wasn’t quite traditional.

While angling for a position in the hip-hop & R&B division of Amazon Music in 2018, Hinshaw recruited a few old friends to record themselves hyping him up. “Oh, hey. This is Donald Glover/Childish Gambino saying you should probably hire Tim,” the multihyphenate star says, winking at the camera. Cut to Anderson .Paak: “I’m telling you, he’s the one. You need him on your squad.” “Tim is a good dude, and he knows what he’s doing!” Scarface adds before noting that he himself is an Amazon Prime member. The video closes with the late Mac Miller playing a white grand piano, then turning to the camera to implore: “Hire Tim. I know I would.”

Hinshaw edited the clips together, then passed the supercut to Amazon — an effort, he says, “to show the breadth of my relationships, from the current generation to the legends.” The promo worked: Within a few weeks, Hinshaw was hired as Amazon Music’s senior manager of hip-hop artist relations and within a year, he was promoted to head of hip-hop & R&B. But it was also an apt advertisement for the talents that would help Hinshaw succeed long term at the company. The close relationships and credibility he has within the artist community — developed over the course of 13 years working in management and artist relations roles — along with a penchant for innovation and a personality that Amazon Music vp Steve Boom calls “super smart, genuine and incredibly humble” have all allowed Hinshaw and the team he has built to elevate Amazon Music’s hip-hop & R&B division into a global leader in the genre.

“Tim has put Amazon Music into the conversation in the hip-hop and R&B community in a massive way,” says Boom, “and in a way, frankly speaking, we were not.”

Read Billboard‘s full profile on executive of the year Tim Hinshaw here.

RBHH power players

Tunji Balogun
Chairman/CEO, Def Jam Recordings
LaTrice Burnette
Executive vp, Def Jam Recordings; president, 4th & Broadway
Archie Davis
Executive vp/chief creative officer, Def Jam Recordings
Natina Nimene
Executive vp of promotion and artist relations, Def Jam Recordings
Naim McNair
Noah Preston
Executive vps of A&R, Def Jam Recordings

A return to creative and cultural leadership has been the focus at Def Jam since Balogun began his tenure in January. This year’s artist signings include Muni Long (partnering with her Supergiant Records) and Armani White, whose breakthrough single, “Billie Eilish,” netted the rapper-singer-songwriter his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. “Armani stands out as a real development story that has shown the whole team coming together to break an artist,” says Burnette. “Artist development and breaking new artists continue to be our focus, and we’re excited for the challenges ahead.”

Cleopatra Bernard
President, Bad Vibes Forever
Bob Celestin
Alicia Ferriabough Taylor
Heads of business/legal affairs, Bad Vibes Forever
Solomon “Sounds” Sobande
Manager, Bad Vibes Forever

The team at Bad Vibes Forever has worked hard to keep the late XXXTentacion’s legacy alive in the four years since his death. This past year, the team produced and released the Hulu documentary Look at Me, which unflinchingly details the life and career of the rapper born Jahseh Onfroy. While the film dives deep into the star’s trials and tribulations, it also sheds light on his mental health issues in a way that will reinforce the connection between XXXTentacion and his devoted fan base.

Katina Bynum
Executive vp of East Coast labels for urban, Universal Music Enterprises

For Bynum, watching Universal Music Group artists Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and others join forces for the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show was just one highlight from her banner year. Dr. Dre and Snoop’s “The Next Episode,” which opened the show, had a 994% week-on-week U.S. sales gain from the event. Bynum also points to key anniversary projects, such as UMe’s collaboration with Interscope Geffen A&M to celebrate Interscope’s 30th anniversary, complete with an art exhibition and vinyl series, as well the 25th anniversary of Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope — an “iconic release,” she says.

Don Cannon
Leighton “Lake” Morrison
Tyree “DJ Drama” Simmons

Co-founders, Generation Now

After molding Lil Uzi Vert into a rap heavyweight, Generation Now scored again with burgeoning superstar Jack Harlow. The Louisville, Ky., upstart earned his first solo Hot 100 No. 1 hit with “First Class” as the record enjoyed a three-week stay atop the chart. In May, Harlow released his second album, Come Home the Kids Miss You, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with 113,000 equivalent album units. DJ Drama also reignited his iconic Gangsta Grillz series after working with YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Snoop Dogg, Jeezy and Tyler, The Creator, with the lattermost winning best rap album (2021’s Call Me If You Get Lost) at this year’s Grammy Awards alongside the renowned DJ. “2022 was an incredibly blessed year,” says Morrison.

Steve Carless
President of A&R, Warner Records
Chris Atlas
Executive vp of urban music and marketing, Warner Records
Brannon Scales
Senior vp of rhythm promotion, Warner Records
Shawnae Corbett-Rice
Senior vp of marketing, Warner Records

While Warner Records artists like Saweetie continue to ascend the charts, the label is looking ahead to the next wave: “2022 has been all about making major contributions in signing artists in the cultural movements and the hyper-local scenes,” says Carless, with Warner investing in such artists as rappers Sha EK, Bandmanrill, 2Rare, Kenzo B and Nigerian producer-performer Pheelz. “We’ve been successful in identifying and developing that new wave of young generational talent and using the power, resources and global reach of our label to bring that music to the masses.”

Julius “J.” Erving
CEO, Human Re Sources; executive vp, The Orchard; executive vp of creative development, Sony Music Entertainment
Naji Grampus
Vp of streaming and strategy, The Orchard
Mark Jackson
Vp/head of Atlanta, Human Re Sources
Sammy Pisano
Director of account management, The Orchard

In the past year, Human Re Sources, the artist distribution and services company that Sony Music Entertainment acquired in 2020, gave British singer-songwriter Raye “a new home and the freedom to speak her truth,” says Erving. Her most recent single, “Black Mascara,” debuted on BBC Radio 1 as the “hottest record in the U.K.” Human Re Sources also recently added Brooklyn rapper Kelz to its roster, whose first single, “Sinner,” caught the attention of Pharrell Williams, Jack Harlow and Drake. After turning down numerous front-line label offers, says Erving, Kelz chose Human Re Sources to help make his musical debut.

Bill Evans
Executive vp of urban promotion, Capitol Music Group
Ray Alba
Senior vp of marketing, Capitol Records
Rebecca “Dimplez” Ijeoma
Senior vp for digital marketing and content development, Capitol Music Group
Chris Turner
Senior director of A&R, Capitol Records

As Capitol continues to build its R&B and hip-hop roster, newcomers and veterans alike scored over the last several months. Iconic crooner-producer Babyface took “Keeps On Fallin’ ” to No. 2 on Adult R&B Airplay, while Queen Naija and Big Sean topped that chart with “Hate Our Love.” Capella Grey’s “Gyalis” reached No. 3 on R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, and fellow rapper Doechii received an MTV Video Music Award for the track “Persuasive” from her second EP (and first for the label), She/Her/Black B-tch.

Lanre Gaba
Michael Kyser

Co-presidents of Black music, Atlantic Records
Dallas Martin
Executive vp of A&R, Atlantic Records; president, Asylum Records
Orlando Wharton
Senior vp of A&R, Atlantic Records
Veronica Howell
Director of marketing, Atlantic Records
Kathryn Kenealy
Director of digital marketing, Atlantic Records

Appointed co-president of Black music in January alongside Kyser, Gaba says she’s most proud of the label’s “commitment to long-term artist development.” She cites Jack Harlow’s breakthrough with his first solo Hot 100 No. 1, “First Class” (released in partnership with Generation Now), Burna Boy’s next-level career jump with the No. 1 Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay single “Last Last” and Kodak Black’s chart-topping third album, Back for Everything, and its successful single “Super Gremlin,” a 10-week No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. And that’s not counting Atlantic’s roster of rising acts. Adds Gaba: “I’m also so proud of the critical acclaim for our emerging artists like Ravyn Lenae and Symba… they’re up next.”

Ghazi
Founder/CEO, EMPIRE
Nima Etminan
COO, EMPIRE
Tina Davis
Senior vp of A&R, EMPIRE
Christian “Hitmaka” Ward
Vp of A&R, EMPIRE

Over the past 18 months, EMPIRE has seen tremendous growth from rapper-singer Yung Bleu, whose song “You’re Mines Still” (featuring Drake) reached the top 10 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart last year. “Not only has he put out multiple platinum records of his own, but he has really taken control of his career and narrative to write, produce and do features for a plethora of artists including H.E.R., Maroon 5 and Nicki Minaj,” says Etminan, whose company also represents Eric Bellinger, Larry June and Tink.

Yo Gotti
Founder/CEO, CMG

“I’m proud that me and my artists have built CMG into a powerhouse,” says Gotti, the multiplatinum musician and label executive. Gotti’s own 11th studio album, CM10: Free Game, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 3, while Detroit’s 42 Dugg and Louisville, Ky., native EST Gee’s Last Ones Left album entered at No. 7 and fellow Memphians Moneybagg Yo and Blac Youngsta remain popular. The additions of hometown “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” rapper GloRilla, Sacramento, Calif., rap veteran Mozzy and R&B singer Lehla Samia take “CMG to new heights,” Gotti says, adding that there’s “no better feeling than watching your artists develop, reach their potential and put themselves in position to create generational wealth for their families.”

Elliot Grainge
Founder/CEO, 10K Projects
Zach Friedman
Tony Talamo
Co-presidents, 10K Projects

Under Grainge, 10K Projects expanded its reach this year with the purchase of the label Homemade Projects, which led to the latter’s co-founders, Friedman and Talamo, joining as 10K’s co-presidents. The label’s new management re-signed marquee artist Trippie Redd in 2022, and found further success with names like Internet Money and newcomer Jeleel. “Hip-hop is foundational at 10K, and nothing has been more important to building our legacy than the re-signing of Trippie Redd,” Friedman says. “We’re thrilled he will call 10K his home for years to come.”

Ethiopia Habtemariam
Chairwoman/CEO, Motown Records
Tramiel “Twin” Clark
Senior vp, Motown Records/Quality Control Music/Armani Music
JD Anderson
Senior vp of marketing, Motown Records
Britney Davis
Senior vp of artist relations, marketing and special projects, Motown Records
Kenoe Jordan
Vp of A&R, Motown Records
Jamila Thomas
Vp of marketing, Motown Records

After regaining stand-alone label status in 2021, Motown has been revving up its engines — first with star signings such as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Brandy and, most recently, YoungBoy Never Broke Again — then with releases of chart-topping albums from Quavo & Takeoff and Lil Baby, whose It’s Only Me marks his third No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Of a roster that also includes Lil Yachty, Vince Staples, City Girls, Offset and Smino, Habtemariam says, “I’m so incredibly proud of our team and artists. Motown continues to create, define and influence popular culture around the world.”

Brandy Norwood
In June, Brandy signed with Motown Records, her first major-label deal in a decade. Michael Buckner/GI

Wayne Hampton
Co-founder/chief business development officer, Create Music Group
Mark Hill
Head of urban, Create Music Group
Carl LeGrett
Director of A&R, Create Music Group Publishing

Create Music Group takes pride in its “ability to handle artists at all levels,” says Hampton. “We’ve built an amazing team at Create, one that can help an established artist like Tory Lanez attain the upper reaches of the albums charts.” Lanez has had five top five releases on the Billboard 200. “At the same time, [Create] can identify and help propel a newcomer like Ice Spice to stardom,” he says. The music tech company is also letting artists tap into their digital service provider income streams as soon as that money is earned with the 2021 launch of the Create Carbon Card.

Saint Harraway
Executive vp of A&R, Republic Records; co-president, Uptown Records
Danielle Price
Executive vp, Republic Records
Roderick Scott
Xiarra Diamond Nimrod
Vps of marketing strategy, Republic Records
Romel Lherisson
Associate director of commerce, Republic Records

Between a star roster that includes Drake, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Kid Cudi, John Legend and rising newcomer Coi Leray, and a new partnership with multiplatinum producer ATL Jacob, Republic garnered a host of success stories over the last year. Adds Price, who joined Republic from 10K Projects in April: “We’re very proud to be a company that launched as a small independent and has grown into one of the most competitive labels in the world. This year, we’re most proud of how our strategic label ventures are similarly following suit. We’ve seen this firsthand with the relaunch of Uptown Records and Mercury Records, as well as with the growth of Imperial Distribution.”

Juliette Jones
COO, Alamo Records
Dharmic Jain
Vp of marketing, Alamo Records
Tiara Hargrave
Executive vp/GM, Alamo Records

A year after Sony Music Entertainment acquired a majority stake in Todd Moscowitz’s Alamo Records, the New York-based label had a breakout year. Jones says it was “incredibly exciting” in 2022 to see rappers Lil Durk and Rod Wave score No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 with 7220 and Beautiful Mind, respectively. “For our artists to score two certified gold albums in 2022 is a testament to their hard work and our dedication to positioning them for success in a competitive field,” says Jones, who also notes the rise of Chicago drill rapper PGF Nuk: His single “Waddup” has earned over 100 million U.S. streams in less than a year. “That,” she says, “reflects our commitment to artist development and breaking new artists.”

Kevin Liles
Chairman/CEO, 300 Entertainment/Elektra
Rayna Bass
Selim Bouab
Co-presidents, 300 Entertainment
Dee Sonaram
Executive vp of rhythmic promotions, 300 Entertainment
Shadow Stokes
Executive vp of promotions, 300 Entertainment
Leesa Brunson-Boland
Senior vp/head of A&R operations and administration, 300 Entertainment

300 Entertainment/Elektra had a splashy start to the new year when Gunna released his Billboard 200 chart-topper, DS4Ever. Powered by his Hot 100 top 10 single “Pushin P” (featuring Young Thug and Future), Gunna had social media in an uproar over his newly coined phrase. The label’s female acts also scored big in 2022: Megan Thee Stallion flexed her prowess as host and performer on Saturday Night Live after the success of her Billboard 200 top five release, Traumazine, while Mary J. Blige and her fellow Super Bowl halftime show performers each received Emmy Awards for that event.

Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion both hosted and performed on Saturday Night Live in October. Will Heath/NBC/GI

Mark Pitts
President, RCA Records; CEO, ByStorm Entertainment
Carolyn Williams
Executive vp, RCA Records
Derrick Aroh
Rich “Skane Dolla” Ford

Senior vps of A&R, RCA Records
Jonathan Master
Senior vp of A&R and marketing, RCA Records
Sam Selolwane
Head of promotion (hip-hop, R&B, mixshow), RCA Records

Latto, Nardo Wick and Sleepy Hallow have been “leading the pack for RCA this year,” says Pitts. Latto became the first female rapper to top the Rhythmic Airplay, Rap Airplay and Pop Airplay charts with the same song, “Big Energy.” Wick’s “Who Want Smoke??” peaked at No. 17 on the Hot 100, while Hallow’s “2055” became his highest-charting hit, reaching No. 51 on the Hot 100, and was certified double-platinum. “We’re still the home for artistic expression across all genres,” says Pitts, “but particularly in the hip-hop space, we’re leveling up.”

Ricky Reed
Founder/CEO, Nice Life Recording Company
Larry Wade
Co-owner/COO, Nice Life Recording Company

Lizzo has been a dominant pop culture presence this year, from climbing the Billboard charts to playing a crystal flute that once belonged to President James Madison at the Library of Congress. On the charts, three years after scoring her first Hot 100 No. 1 with “Truth Hurts,” Lizzo notched her second chart-topper with “About Damn Time,” which ruled for two weeks. The Reed-produced track, released on Nice Life/Atlantic Records, also landed Lizzo her first top 10 on both the Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S. charts. “She was able to solidify her position as one of this generation’s most important global superstars,” says Reed, “while Nice Life was able to break new ground with global chart positions. Nobody outworks us.”

Tim Reid
Senior vp of repertoire and marketing, BMG

Promoted to his current repertoire and marketing role at BMG in 2020, Reid secured a new multi-album deal with Logic and a global recording partnership with Stefflon Don, while BMG labelmate Maxwell had a successful run with his The Night Tour and the No. 1 Adult R&B Airplay single “Off.” Reid was also actively involved in making a deal with BMG UK for Danger Mouse and Black Thought’s latest album, Dangerous Thoughts.

Sylvia Rhone
Chairman/CEO, Epic Records
Ezekiel Lewis
Executive vp/head of A&R, Epic Records

The past year brought a number of wins for Epic under Rhone’s leadership, including a combined 16.1 billion worldwide audio streams across the label’s roster and 27 RIAA platinum singles, according to Epic. In 2022 alone, the label scored nine Billboard 200 debuts, including Yo Gotti’s CM10: Free Game at No. 3 and Future’s I Never Liked You at No. 1. Future’s album also brought another career achievement with the Hot 100 No. 1 “Wait for U,” featuring Drake and Tems. The track set the record for the most weeks at No. 1 (15) in the 30-year history of the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.

Jonnyshipes
Founder, Cinematic Music Group
Hovain Hylton
Vp, Cinematic Music Group

Adding comedy to the Cinematic Music Group roster has been one of Jonnyshipes’ biggest accomplishments of the past year. “When I was growing up, I always loved comedy — as much as I did music,” says the label’s founder, who is credited with discovering Nipsey Hussle, Joey Bada$$ and Smoke DZA. “I have been lucky enough to find great artist after great artist in my career. Those wins in music gave me the platform to work with Druski,” the internet personality he manages, “and pursue my goals of fusing hip-hop and comedy.”

Abou “Bu” Thiam
Executive vp, Columbia Records
Luis “Lu” Mota
Senior vp of A&R, Columbia Records
Shahendra Ohneswere
Senior vp of content development, Columbia Records
Wilt Wallace
Senior vp of urban promotion, Columbia Records
John Vincent Salcedo
Vp of digital marketing, Columbia Records
Victoria White-Mason
Vp of marketing, Columbia Records

Over the past year, members of Columbia’s hip-hop roster scored top 10 debuts on the Billboard 200, namely Lil Nas X with Montero, Fivio Foreign with B.I.B.L.E. and Polo G with Hall of Fame — his first No. 1 album. For the label’s R&B/hip-hop team, however, the real reward goes beyond numbers and charts. Says Salcedo: “The ability to adapt and move subgenres of hip-hop into the forefront of mainstream music is a testament to our team’s focus on further developing artists’ communities without ever steering away from the foundation they initially built.”

Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith
Founder/CEO, Top Dawg Entertainment
Terrence “Punch” Henderson
President, Top Dawg Entertainment

A highlight of Top Dawg Entertainment’s year was the May release of Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — what Tiffith calls the label’s “victory lap album” — as well as the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Lamar’s major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city. TDE’s year also included the emergence of newcomer Doechii and SZA’s first Grammy win for her guest role on Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” and the release of the deluxe version of SZA’s 2017 breakthrough, Ctrl. Tiffith says TDE is “laying the red carpet out” for the upcoming release of SZA’s second album: “We are very excited about that.”

Andre Torres
Senior vp of global catalog development and marketing, Warner Recorded Music

Torres, who joined Warner from Spotify last fall, had numerous successes over the past year while working with the music giant’s front-line labels to spotlight its hip-hop catalog. Recently, a Kodak Black limited-edition figurine celebrating the fifth anniversary of the rapper’s Project Baby 2 album sold out “in a matter of hours” using Spotify’s Fans First program. His team also worked with Atlantic, HipHopDX and Warner Music Group’s WMX to create a 30-minute documentary about the 10th anniversary of Wiz Khalifa’s Rolling Papers and managed to get Kehlani’s Cloud19 debut mixtape on streaming services for the first time.

Steven Victor
CEO, Victor Victor Worldwide; senior vp of A&R, Universal Music Group

In April, Victor tasted victory on the managerial front when longtime client Pusha T notched his first Billboard 200 No. 1 album in May with It’s Almost Dry. The previous month, Victor enjoyed another win when Japanese fashion designer/record producer Nigo released his second album, I Know Nigo!, under Victor Victor Worldwide and Republic Records. The album debuted in the top 15 on the Billboard 200 and includes features from A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert and Tyler, The Creator. “It’s a thoughtful and impactful project,” says Victor, “that’s authentic to its art and artists.”

Bryan “Birdman” Williams
Ronald “Slim” Williams
Co-founders/co-CEOs, Cash Money Records

The Williams brothers have introduced some of the biggest names in hip-hop over the last 30 years, including Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj. The Cash Money co-founders were honored with this year’s lifetime achievement award at the Living Legends Foundation’s 30th-anniversary gala in October. Other notable feats in 2022: Birdman collaborated with Quavo & Takeoff for their single “Big Stunna” and worked with YoungBoy Never Broke Again on his From the Bayou mixtape.

Nicole Wyskoarko
Executive vp/co-head of A&R, Interscope Geffen A&M
Aaron “Dash” Sherrod
President of A&R, Geffen
Tim Glover
Executive vp of A&R, Interscope
Ramon Alvarez-Smikle
Senior vp/head of urban digital marketing, Interscope
Laura Carter
Senior vp/head of urban marketing, Interscope
Keinon Johnson
Senior vp/head of urban promotions, Interscope

Kendrick Lamar’s long-awaited return with his fifth studio album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, and successful world tour played a key role in Interscope Geffen A&M’s banner year. Among the other R&B/hip-hop artists and partnerships that flourished are LVRN’s Summer Walker, Dreamville’s J.I.D and Ari Lennox, and 10 Summers’ Ella Mai. “These artists continued to grow and push the cultural envelope,” says Wyskoarko. In addition, “newcomers like CMG’s GloRilla and EST Gee, along with Geffen’s partnership with Field Trip Recordings’ Yeat, have broken new ground and found chart success.”

Andre “Dr. Dre” Young
Founder/CEO, Aftermath Entertainment
Ashley Palmer-Gilkey
GM, Aftermath Entertainment

“While there were many bold achievements this past year, it was most fulfilling for the team to bring the Super Bowl halftime show to life in our backyard of Inglewood [Calif.],” says Palmer-Gilkey. The 2022 event on NBC brought together Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and surprise guest 50 Cent for a power-packed performance. The event later scored a touchdown of its own, winning the Emmy Award for outstanding variety special (live), with the performers each receiving the statuette. “More than that,” adds Palmer-Gilkey, “it was a celebratory full-circle homecoming for Dre’s musical family, whom I’ve worked alongside the last 14 years and hold in high regard.”

RBHH power players

Tunde Balogun
Co-founder/president, LVRN
Junia Abaidoo
Co-founder/head of operations and touring, LVRN
Justice Baiden
Co-founder/head of A&R, LVRN
Sean “Famoso” McNichol
Co-founder/head of marketing and brand ­partnerships, LVRN
Carlon Ramong
Co-founder/creative director, LVRN
Amber Grimes
Executive vp/GM, LVRN

Early in 2022, LVRN bolstered its executive team by hiring respected music industry veteran Grimes as executive vp/GM. The R&B powerhouse label, which counts Summer Walker, 6LACK and DRAM among its artists, also expanded on the management side, where Grimes serves as a partner, with the signing of Afrobeats stars Davido and SPINALL; the pair join management client dvsn. Along with these new additions, LVRN opened a global headquarters in Atlanta, complete with a recording studio that its artists can use.

Peter Bittenbender
CEO, Mass Appeal
Annie Chen
Vp of marketing, Mass Appeal

In addition to releasing last year’s King’s Disease II by Mass Appeal co-founder Nas, the indie label and film-content company spent the past year building awareness for the 50th anniversary of DJ Kool Herc’s historic South Bronx party on Aug. 11, 1973, widely considered the birthplace of hip-hop. Mass Appeal’s #HipHop50 project honors the genre’s key producers with live events, pop-up stores, merchandise and a star-studded EP series by producers from DJ Premier to Swizz Beatz. “It has grown into something much larger than we ever envisioned, our love letter to hip-hop,” says Bittenbender, who took over the “hybrid entertainment company” a decade ago with Nas and writer Sacha Jenkins.

Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter
Founder/chairman, Roc Nation
Desiree Perez
CEO, Roc Nation
Jay Brown
Vice chairman, Roc Nation

Roc Nation scored big time when NBC’s February broadcast of the Super Bowl halftime show, starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, won three Emmys including outstanding variety special (live). “The Emmy wins were announced the same weekend Roc Nation staged the official 10th anniversary of the Made in America festival featuring Tyler, The Creator and Bad Bunny,” says Perez. The NFL and Roc Nation have since confirmed Rihanna as the headliner of the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show — her first major performance in five years — and in October, Megan Thee Stallion hosted and performed on Saturday Night Live.

Jermaine “J. Cole” Cole
Co-founder/partner, Dreamville
Ibrahim “Ib” Hamad
Co-founder/partner/records president, Dreamville
Adam Roy
Co-founder/partner/festival president/apparel president, Dreamville
Candace Rodney
Executive vp/studios president, Dreamville

After two years of delays, J. Cole’s pioneering label, Dreamville, finally got to flex its event production skills once more with its second Dreamville Festival in April, bringing in outside stars including Lil Baby, Ashanti, Ja Rule and Lil Wayne. Along with the event’s return, Dreamville artists celebrated major firsts: J.I.D scored his first top 10 hit on the Hot 100 with an Imagine Dragons collaboration (“Enemy”), while Ari Lennox earned her first No. 1 on the Adult R&B Airplay chart with “Pressure.” Says Roy: “I couldn’t be more proud of the creativity, passion and talent displayed by our artist roster.”

Sean “Diddy” Combs
Chairman/CEO, Bad Boy Entertainment/Love Records/Revolt Media

“Launching Love Records and partnering with Motown has been about building on the legacy of Bad Boy and getting back to doing what I love,” says Combs. “Also being able to get back onstage and perform at the Billboard Music Awards [and the] iHeart Music Festival, and being honored at the BET Awards for lifetime achievement. Most importantly, it’s about restoring respect and appreciation for R&B as an art form, respecting the craft of making hit records and providing a platform for the next generation of artists, songwriters and producers moving the genre forward.”

Brandon “Lil Bibby” Dickinson
George “G-Money” Dickinson
Peter “Pete” Jideonwo

Partners, Grade A Productions

Following rapper Juice WRLD’s death in December 2019, the Grade A Productions team has been focused on preserving his legacy. In December 2021, the group cemented the star’s status with the release of his second posthumous album, Fighting Demons, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums with 119,000 equivalent album units. The company also announced the first Juice WRLD Day (Dec. 9), selling out Chicago’s United Center in 2021. Jideonwo calls the event “an amazing celebration of life. We look forward to this year’s Juice WRLD Day and continuing Juice’s message of hope and positivity.”

Aubrey “Drake” Graham
Co-founder, OVO/OVO Sound
Noah “40” Shebib
Co-founder, OVO/OVO Sound; producer
Oliver El-Khatib
Co-founder, OVO/OVO Sound
Mr. Morgan
President, OVO Sound

On Nov. 4, Drake and 21 Savage released their joint album, Her Loss, after a delay of a week when producer Noah “40” Shebib contracted COVID-19. The album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1, the latest success Drake has achieved in his continued dominance of pop and R&B/hip-hop with the backing of his OVO crew. The Canadian rapper previously reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with Honestly, Nevermind in June. He is one of only six artists to land over 10 albums at the peak of that chart and claimed nine of the top 10 positions on the Hot 100 in September 2021 — a record surpassed only recently by Taylor Swift.

Shawn Holiday
President/head of A&R, Giant Music; manager, Full Stop Management

At the helm of Giant Music, Holiday has achieved success for The Azoff Company with a roster that includes Tay B, SwaVay, Ayleen and Cash Cobain. Holiday is also responsible for bringing Cardi B, Roddy Ricch and Daniel Caesar to Full Stop Management. Caesar performed at Coachella earlier this year, and Ricch is on his first arena tour with Post Malone. Holiday notes that “it has been a long time” since Cardi released her debut album; both her and Caesar have new releases slated for early 2023.

Matt MacFarlane
Eli Piccarreta

Vps of A&R, Artist Publishing Group

With a roster that includes producers such as Earwulf and The Futuristics as well as songwriters 24kGoldn, Ava Max and Charlie Puth, Artist Publishing Group had what MacFarlane calls an “unprecedented” 18 months. “APG’s clients have touched 23 No. 1 songs at 10 different radio formats,” he says of tracks including The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s “Stay,” co-written by Puth; Latto’s “Big Energy,” co-written by London Jae; and Burna Boy’s “Last Last,” co-written by MD$. Also on APG’s hit list are YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s three No. 1s on Top Rap Albums, including a Billboard 200 chart-topper with 2021’s Sincerely, Kentrell and this year’s The Last Slimeto, which also went to No. 1 on the rap albums chart.

Faith Newman
Executive vp of A&R and catalog development, Reservoir

“My relationships with Tommy Boy [Music] talent date back to my early 20s at Def Jam,” says Newman about the integration of the iconic label. “It has been a real homecoming for me to … evolve the roster’s catalog of artists and projects while preserving its rich history.” Reservoir celebrated milestone anniversaries for Naughty by Nature and House of Pain, and Newman plans to help bring De La Soul’s music to streaming platforms for the first time. “We continue to honor artists who helped shape the label, with homages to the late Shock G of Digital Underground and Coolio, while helping to expose more audiences to their music,” says Newman.

Gee Roberson
Cortez “Tez” Bryant
Co-CEOs, The Blueprint Group; partners, Maverick
Jean Nelson
CEO, BPG Records; partner, The Blueprint Group
Al Branch
Partner/chief marketing officer, The Blueprint Group

In the past year, Blueprint and Maverick have logged a number of wins, including Montero from Lil Nas X (whom they co-manage with Adam Leber) and Kanye “Ye” West’s Donda. For Donda, Roberson produced four sold-out stadium listening events for the album’s release, and he executive-produced, with J Prince, the Amazon Prime concert special #FreeLarryHoover with Ye and Drake. (Roberson’s work with Ye preceded the rapper’s antisemitic remarks in October and subsequent controversy.) Bryant led the company’s civic engagement with Project Go Dark, a music-executive program launched to bolster the number of Black leaders. Additionally, Bryant worked with Pepsi’s Rockstar Energy Drink to launch Culture Lab ATL as an incubator for students at historically Black colleges and universities.

Jeff Robinson
CEO, MBK Entertainment
Jeanine McLean-Williams
President, MBK Entertainment

MBK Entertainment has been riding high. H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas both winning Academy Awards — for 2021’s best original song, “Fight for You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah — and H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe” capturing the song of the year Grammy were just two highlights, says Robinson. Another bright spot was the success of H.E.R.’s Back of My Mind, which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. But Robinson is even more thrilled for what’s to come: “I’m over the moon excited about future albums” next year from Thomas and Tone Stith, among others.

Austin Rosen
Founder/CEO, Electric Feel Entertainment

“There were so many rewarding things that happened this year,” says Rosen of the entertainment and ventures company whose clients were in the Hot 100 top 10 for 100 straight weeks, according to Electric Feel. Among the most exciting, he says, were the success of “publishing client Vory’s Lost Souls album release” and rap/pop superstar Post Malone, whom he co-manages with Dre London. He adds that Post’s Twelve Carat Toothache has “multiple No. 1 radio singles crafted by all Electric Feel co-collaborators,” as well as “Hot 100 success with ‘I Like You (A Happier Song)’ with Doja Cat.” Post is now wrapping up a sold-out arena tour.

Wassim “Sal” Slaiby
Founder/CEO, SALXCO/XO Records
Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye
Artist/co-founder, XO Records
Amir “Cash” Esmailian
LaMar Taylor
Co-founders, XO Records
Melissa Mahood
GM, XO Records

The Weeknd grossed over $131 million with his long-awaited After Hours Til Dawn Tour — a first-ever global stadium trek showcasing his most recent albums, 2020’s After Hours and 2022’s Dawn FM. He also announced his forthcoming HBO Max series, The Idol, and launched the popular attraction The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare at Universal Studios for its Horror Nights franchise. In addition, XO’s Belly returned to Coachella, Nav clocked his third No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and the label introduced new female talent Chxrry22. Most notably, says Mahood, is that the success was accompanied by “several million dollars in fundraising” for World Food Programme through XO’s Humanitarian Fund.

The Weeknd
The Weeknd grossed over $131 million on the After Hours Til Dawn Tour — his first global stadium run showcasing his albums ‘After Hours’ and ‘Dawn FM.’ Rich Fury/GI

Steve Stoute
Founder/CEO, UnitedMasters

UnitedMasters, a music distribution company that Stoute founded in 2017, has made two major moves for the 1.5 million independent artists on the platform. “We launched Split Pay, which enables select artists to automatically split royalties with their collaborators on any track they distribute,” he says, “and the Beat Exchange, a curated marketplace where producers and artists can buy and sell beats.” UnitedMasters also has gotten artists synch deals with brands such as the NBA, ESPN, Bose, Amazon and Coinbase. “The number of UnitedMasters artists who were paid for brand deals is on track to double in 2022,” says Stoute, “and our total revenue from brands has already more than doubled this year.”

RBHH power players

Ola Ali
Manager, Lil Durk

Ali had a good year developing the JD Sports and Adidas campaign, contributing to the Apple Beats and A-Cold-Wall partnership and helping orchestrate Lil Durk’s sold-out 7220 tour. He played a major role in community service efforts including implementing strategies for the Neighborhood Heroes Foundation. Ali is most proud of working with a career readiness program to take 20 young men from Chicago on a tour of historically Black colleges and universities in Atlanta. “I helped to create opportunities for the group to speak with leaders from major companies like Sony, Alamo Records and the New York Knicks,” Ali says. “Our foundation also brought students to the NASCAR Playoffs at Talladega Nights, YellaWood 500, where they met leadership.”

Ty Baisden
Jayne Andrew

Co-founders, Colture

Ty Baisden and Jayne Andrew
Ty Baisden and Jayne Andrew, co-founders of Colture. Illustration by Mara Ocejo

In 2014, Brent Faiyaz was a sandwich maker in Charlotte, N.C., before he met his future manager and partner, Ty Baisden. Seven years later, Faiyaz is now an R&B powerhouse who went head-to-head with Bad Bunny on the Billboard 200 in July.

Though Faiyaz’s debut album, Wasteland, finished at No. 2 with 88,000 album-equivalent units in the United States in a closely contested battle with the Latin heavyweight, his and Baisden’s decision to spurn major labels for the independent route has proved successful.

“People are seeing how to develop their business from an independent perspective,” says Baisden. “The goal is to have the option to do whatever you want while still maintaining ownership of your art. That’s really the goal, if we’re being honest.”

Released on Faiyaz’s Lost Kids label with distribution through indies Stem and Venice, Wasteland includes features from Drake, Alicia Keys and Tyler, The Creator. Packed with star power, the 18-track set debuted at No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and logged 15 tracks on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. “All Mine” was Faiyaz’s crown jewel, reaching No. 4 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.

Faiyaz’s rapid leap to stardom was a strategic one. After his 2020 EP, F–k the World, debuted at No. 20 on the Billboard 200, Baisden and Colture co-owner Jayne Andrew forecast a big album debut for their burgeoning artist. They started with a string of Hot 100 singles in 2021: The Neptunes-produced hit “Wasting Time” featuring Drake, “Gravity” with Tyler, The Creator and the solo songs “Mercedes” and “Price of Fame.”

Jayne Andrew, Spotify’s Paris Kirk, Ty Baisden and Brent Faiyaz.
From left: Jayne Andrew, Spotify’s Paris Kirk, Ty Baisden and Brent Faiyaz. Randy Shropshire/GI

In 2022, Baisden closely monitored release dates for upcoming albums and sought to avoid possible conflicts. After talk of a potential Beyoncé release came to Baisden’s attention, the Colture team settled on July 8, three weeks before Beyoncé’s Renaissance came out. Though Faiyaz didn’t quite topple Bad Bunny, whose album Un Verano Sin Ti topped the Billboard 200 for 13 nonconsecutive weeks, Baisden was proud that Faiyaz was able to “compete against a mammoth” like the Latin superstar.

“We’re creating more producers and songwriters that are getting rich off art because of how our infrastructure is,” says Baisden of Colture, an acronym for Can Our Leverage Teach Us Real Equity. “You start to see other people adopt that infrastructure through Stem, direct payments and breaking bread with producers in a real way. Being able to really do things that even major-label artists haven’t been able to accomplish from an independent perspective is important.”

Adds Andrew: “Colture is for the alternative thinker. It’s founded on humility and understanding the unquestionable right to ownership of our ideas and work. We don’t do things the normal way because we aren’t normal, and we like that.”

Fee Banks
CEO, Good Money Global

“A long time ago, I realized that I have an ear for music. I applied that ear in picking YoungBoy [Never Broke Again’s] very first platinum record, ‘Untouchable,’ ” Banks told Billboard in a 2020 interview that marked the success of Top when that album by his management client became the artist’s third No. 1 on the Billboard 200. In October, YoungBoy’s Ma’ I Got a Family became the prolific rapper’s 12th top 10-charting release and his fifth top 10 in 2022 — the most of any act this year. In all, he has charted 25 titles on the Billboard 200 since 2017.

Gordan Dillard
Camille Delaney
Ryan Ramsey
Dina Sahim

Artist managers, SALXCO

“The streak of achievements, growth and excitement here at SALXCO has been remarkable this past year,” says Ramsey, citing highlights for the management firm like the continued chart success of Doja Cat’s Planet Her and The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” becoming Billboard’s No. 1 Hot 100 Song of All Time, as well as his After Hours Til Dawn stadium tour grossing over $131 million. (SALXCO co-manages Doja Cat with Josh Kaplan at 10Q Management.) Meanwhile, Brandy signed a deal with Motown Records, Nancy Ajram and Marshmellow’s Arabic-language “Sah Sah” broke onto Billboard’s Dance/Electronic chart, and French Montana’s “Unforgettable” made him the first African-born artist to achieve RIAA diamond status. In September, Capitol Music Group named Dillard its new executive vp of A&R and artist development, but he will continue in his role as Doja Cat’s co-manager at SALXCO.

Neil Jacobson
CEO, Hallwood Media
Cory Litwin
Executive vp, Hallwood Media
Brennen Bryant
Manager/A&R, Hallwood Media

Over the last year, Hallwood’s leaders have stayed true to their goal of supporting clients on a mission to make moneymaking music. Focusing on audio engineers, Hallwood has signed Jason “Cheese” Goldberg (YoungBoy Never Broke Again), Angie Randisi (Lil Baby), Nickie Jon Pabón (Jack Harlow) and Miyagi (Drake, Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih), among others, with the aim of securing fair, sizable deals atypical for engineers. Their signees have garnered multiple No. 1 Hot 100 hits, including Polo G’s “Rapstar” and Harlow’s “First Class,” as well as a number of Grammy nominations. Other clients have been supported in their evolution toward becoming artists and entrepreneurs through endeavors like Murda Beatz releasing his own music, performing at his first Las Vegas residency and DJ’ing on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Josh Kaplan
Founder/manager, 10Q Management

Kaplan has helped grow the career of one of the decade’s biggest stars in either hip-hop or pop: Doja Cat, who transitioned from viral rapper to global sensation with the blockbuster success of her Planet Her album. (10Q co-manages Doja Cat with SALXCO.) Since its June 2021 release, Planet Her has spawned five top five hits on the Pop Airplay chart — and Doja has since added two more with her Elvis soundtrack contribution, “Vegas,” and a feature on Post Malone’s “I Like You (A Happier Song).” “As a company, we are only as strong as our artists,” Kaplan says. “Luckily, we get to work with some extremely powerful artists like Doja Cat.”

Doja Cat
Doja Cat sampled Big Mama Thornton’s 1953 classic “Hound Dog” on “Vegas,” her sixth top 10 single on the Hot 100. Stephane feugere/WWD

Adam Leber
CEO, Rebel

Leber says the highlight of his year has been working with his management client Lil Nas X to launch his first-ever sold-out world tour. “It has been incredible to get out on the road and finally meet his fans,” Leber says of the face-to-face opportunities afforded by the Long Live Montero Tour. Leber launched his management and media company, Rebel (his last name spelled backward), less than two years ago in partnership with Live Nation.

Dre London
Founder/CEO, London Entertainment

London’s client Post Malone continued his pop reign in June, when he released his fourth album, Twelve Carat Toothache. The 14-track set produced two top 10 Hot 100 hits, including his star-powered collaborations with The Weeknd (“One Right Now”) and Doja Cat (“I Like You [A Happier Song]”). Earlier this year, London launched his premium tequila brand, Don Londrés, which has been the drink of choice at Post’s afterparties.

Paul Rosenberg
President/CEO, Goliath Artists; president/CEO, Shady Records; president/CEO, Goliath Records

This past year was a highlight reel of firsts for Rosenberg’s longtime client Eminem: He performed at the Super Bowl halftime show alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar; scored his first No. 1 on the Hot Christian Songs chart for his feature on DJ Khaled’s “Use This Gospel (Remix)” with Kanye West; and in March became the top-awarded singles artist in RIAA history. But the zenith arrived in November, when Eminem became the latest rapper inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Chris Thomas
Managing partner, Range Media Partners

Thomas cites Jack Harlow’s success as one of Range Media Partners’ biggest achievements this year. The rapper earned his first solo Hot 100 No. 1 with “First Class,” released a new album, co-hosted MTV’s Video Music Awards and performed at the Grammys and BET Awards. “My personal favorite achievement of this year is the sold-out, 30-date arena tour that Jack just completed,” Thomas says. “Seeing him live his dream, and the euphoric expressions on his fans’ faces as they watched him perform, was a great reminder of how important live music is and how excited the world is to have it back.”

Pierre “P” Thomas
CEO, Quality Control
Kevin “Coach K” Lee
COO, Quality Control
Simone Mitchell
President, Quality Control Music/Solid Foundation Management
Brandra Ringo
Executive vp/co-head of A&R, Quality Control Music
Wayno Clark
Executive vp of A&R, Quality Control Music

“Size” was the operative word for Quality Control in 2022, with growth across the company’s film and TV divisions through the Lil Baby documentary Untrapped on Amazon Prime and an executive producer credit on Issa Rae’s Rap Sh!t on HBO Max. Quality Control also launched the reality series Impact ATL and added a basketball division to QC Sports. Clients Lil Yachty, Quavo & Takeoff and Yung Miami’s podcast (Caresha Please) clocked hits and awards. Quavo & Takeoff’s Only Built For Infinity Links peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, while Lil Baby scored his third No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with It’s Only Me. The Atlanta-based company also expanded with new hires and more office space. “Embarking on building out our flagship HQ to open in 2023 feels appropriate with all the expansion of the past year-and-a-half,” says Mitchell.

Ebonie Ward
Partner, Emagen Entertainment Group

Emagen’s past year has been largely defined by two superstar management clients. In January, Gunna scored his second No. 1 solo album on the Billboard 200 with DS4Ever, while Future dominated the spring with his chart-­topping I Never Liked You. The project spawned the Hot 100 No. 1 “Wait for U” featuring Drake and Tems. Ward also points to rising clients like Flo Milli, the Alabama rapper who is headlining her biggest tour to date. “These achievements are not only impacting and shifting culture but are opening doors to new ways of creating moments.”

Anthony “Ant” Wilson
Founder, Anthony Wilson Management; founder, Tycoon Music Festival

Anthony Wilson Management has expanded its entertainment reach to include executive-producing film, TV (Starz’s BMF) and festivals. As the manager of global superstar Chris Brown, Wilson assisted with the release of the artist’s 10th studio album, Breezy, in June as well as Brown’s tour with Lil Baby. The One of the Ones summer tour sold out 27 cities nationwide. Wilson also founded the Tycoon Music Festival, which debuted in Houston in August. The comedy/music event touted appearances by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Flo Rida and DaBaby, among others.

RBHH power players

Whitney-Gayle Benta
Global head of artists and talent relations, Spotify
Sydney Lopes
Head of hip-hop and R&B, artists and label partnerships, Spotify
Safiya Lambie-Knight
Head of music U.K. and Ireland, Spotify
Carl Chery
Creative director/head of urban music, Spotify

“We teamed up with Kendrick Lamar to launch [mini-documentary] A Day in Ghana,” says Chery of Spotify’s “incredible year.” The doc, which followed Lamar during his first trip to the West African country, focuses on his album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. The platform also launched the RapCaviar podcast, hosted by Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins, and announced a RapCaviar documentary series featuring Pharrell Williams, Jack Harlow and Tyler, The Creator, among others, for Hulu in 2023. “While the podcast is about settling long-standing debates and sparking new conversations,” says Chery, “the RapCaviar docuseries is a storytelling vehicle to touch on issues happening in hip-hop culture.”

Tim Hinshaw
Head of hip-hop and R&B, Amazon Music
Rochelle Balogun
Senior hip-hop/R&B/Afrobeats music curator, Amazon Music
Sierra Lever
Label relations manager hip-hop/R&B/Afrobeats, Amazon Music
Josh Peas
Artist relations manager, Amazon Music

Read Billboard‘s full profile on executive of the year Tim Hinshaw here.

Larry Jackson
Global creative director, Apple Music
Ebro Darden
Host/global editorial head of hip-hop and R&B, Apple Music
Danielle McDowell
Marketing lead, Black music and culture, Apple Music

Apple Music marked Juneteenth this past year with an expansive and inspiring musical collection. Streaming in Spatial Audio exclusively on Apple Music, Juneteenth 2022: Freedom Songs featured over 16 artists, commissioned by Apple Music’s curators, across genres including R&B, hip-hop, gospel, Latin, jazz and country “to uncover the complexity of the Black experience against the backdrop of the historical touch point of Juneteenth — from joy to pain and hope to rumination,” the company said in a statement. Darden added: “As the awareness and mainstreaming of Juneteenth continues to rise, our team at Apple Music is committed to commemorating the holiday while ensuring that its historical significance is not lost. We continue our annual efforts with a new collection of Black music and stories from artists across an array of genres aimed to amplify the conversation, inspire reflection and celebrate freedom.” To complement the collection, Apple Music partnered with multiple Black visual artists who created original artwork and animations for the project. In September, Jackson confirmed his departure from Apple Music, following a seven-year tenure during which he was key in negotiating Apple Music exclusives with superstars including Drake, Frank Ocean and Kanye West.

Rachel Jackson
Artist relations manager, YouTube
Brittany Lewis
Artist partnerships lead, Black music and culture, YouTube
Adam McFarland
Program manager, Black music and culture, YouTube
Noah Rakoski
Head of West Coast label relations, YouTube

YouTube, which paid out $6 billion in global music royalties from July 2021 to June 2022, strives for cultural influence to match its economic impact. YouTube Avenues, launched in July 2022, aims for equity and relevance in Black communities “that have been historically underrepresented and underserved on our platform,” says Lewis. In addition to educating creators about the platform, YouTube Avenues has hosted four events featuring guest speakers such as Troy Carter, Kevin Liles and Ethiopia Habtemariam, and attendees such as Wale, Armani White and Alex Vaughn.

Jason Kpana
Senior vp of artist and label relations, TIDAL
Melanie Mercedes
Former community and insights lead for social, TIDAL

To celebrate hip-hop legend The Notorious B.I.G.’s 50th birthday, TIDAL created an opportunity for hip-hop fans “to come together by curating and hosting ‘A Toast to Biggie’ on Twitter Spaces,” says Kpana. Moderated by TIDAL chief content officer Elliott Wilson, the conversation featured surprise appearances by Jay-Z, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Fat Joe, who shared how influential Biggie was to their careers. “A Toast to Biggie” garnered over 8,300 listeners and was replayed over 22,000 times, according to the company. “Not only was this a way for TIDAL to pay tribute to a hip-hop icon, but the company was also able to celebrate his lasting legacy and contributions to music,” adds Kpana. Mercedes was a key member of the TIDAL social media team before recently joining Amazon Music.

Josh “J1” Raiford
Vp of music programming, Pandora
Akim Bryant
Associate director of music programming, Pandora

“I’m super proud of our Pandora Playbacks, where we bring an artist in front of an audience — fans, influencers, DJs, college students and more — to share their music and story,” says Raiford. One of his favorites was held during Homecoming Week at Spelman/Morehouse in Atlanta. Featuring rapper-singer Smino, the event attracted over 1,600 students. “This was very special to me because I graduated from Morehouse College and I am a big advocate of [historically Black colleges and universities] and giving back.”

Swizz Beatz
Timbaland

Co-founders/co-owners, Verzuz
Steve Pamon
President, Verzuz

After Verzuz and Triller announced the appointment of Pamon as president earlier this year, the webcast franchise, co-founded and co-owned by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, continued to push hip-hop and R&B as both “appointment viewing” and “mandatory discussion.” Ranging from battles between Stephanie Mills and Chaka Khan to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Three 6 Mafia to the first Latin pairing with DJ Nelson and Luny Tunes, “no other platform this past year has showcased such a broad scope and diversity,” says Pamon, “with more than 85 million views and more than 40 billion impressions since inception.”

RBHH power players

Evan Bogart
CEO, Seeker Music

Bogart is a hit-making songwriter for everyone from Beyoncé (“Halo”) to Rihanna (“SOS”), and the company he founded in 2020 has grown to an 11,000-plus catalog of copyrights and master recordings by such acts as Jay-Z, Drake and 2Pac. “We view every catalog as a brand-new artist that we’re trying to break,” says Bogart, who looks at catalogs “that we want to celebrate.” He was “so weak” for classic R&B trio SWV that Seeker worked with the group’s songwriter-producer, Brian Alexander Morgan, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its 1992 multiplatinum debut, It’s About Time. “SWV soundtracked my high school years, so I jumped at the opportunity,” he says. The campaign included an EP of the group’s hits reimagined by current artists, as well as 1990s club takeovers, TikTok cover and performance campaigns, and promo merchandise.

Robert Brown
Vp of business affairs and commercial strategy, Kobalt Music
Cee Barrett
Director of creative, Kobalt Music

Thanks to hits like Roddy Ricch’s “High Fashion” (featuring Mustard) and Chris Brown’s “Heat” (featuring Gunna), Kobalt was named BMI’s publisher of the year for R&B and hip-hop in September 2021. The publisher’s team has helped songwriting clients such as Ricch, Gunna, Moneybagg Yo and Yo Gotti “capitalize on their past successes and have proudly expanded the number of business partnerships with them,” Brown says. Barrett adds that the company’s longtime R&B/hip-hop writers, as well as new signings such as Young Thug in late 2021, “have afforded us the privilege to create diverse opportunities for all.”

Ashley Calhoun
President/head of creative, Pulse Music Group

Calhoun says it has been “pedal to the floor” ever since she met and first began working with Brent Faiyaz. In July, the R&B artist both renewed his publishing deal with Pulse and released his debut album, Wasteland, independently on his Lost Kids label through Venice and Stem. The album earned him chart success, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 1 on Top R&B Albums, as well as logging a handful of songs on the Hot 100. “We’ve been involved with Brent since the beginning,” says Calhoun. “Pulse was the first publishing company that Ty Baisden [Faiyaz’s manager] sent Brent’s music to, and as soon as I heard Brent’s voice, I immediately knew that I had to work with him.” Faiyaz is also nominated for favorite male R&B artist at this year’s American Music Awards.

Cristina Chavez
Vp of A&R, Universal Music Publishing Group
Denzel Baptiste
David Biral

Members, Take a Daytrip; founders, NO IDLE, a joint venture partnership with UMPG
Tommy Brown
Founder, Champagne Therapy Music Group, a joint venture partnership with UMPG

At UMPG, which signed new deals in the past year with Drake and The Weeknd, the R&B/hip-hop team has even more reason to celebrate, from Steve Lacy hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100 to the continued success of joint ventures like Take a Daytrip’s NO IDLE and Tommy Brown’s Champagne Therapy. Chavez says she is focused on building the culture’s future as well as its present. Within the past two years, through its joint ventures, UMPG also added “amazing new writers like Roy Lenzo, 18YOMan, Matt Cohn, Peter Lee Johnson, Khaled Rohaim and Xavi, and [in December], we have the release of Metro Boomin’s anticipated album to look forward to.”

Sabrina Coghiatti
Music manager, Primary Wave Music

Earlier this year, when Cee Lo Green performed at Brazil’s Rock in Rio, he included a James Brown tribute that he had brainstormed with Coghiatti months earlier. “That moment will always have a special place in my heart, being home doing what I love,” says Coghiatti, who is from São Paulo. “One thing I learned a long time ago is to always listen to the client regardless of what the industry is and/or what the current trend is. Something the entire team at Primary Wave takes seriously is to always support our artists no matter what. Our goals are to be aware and listen to our clients’ wishes.”

Cee Lo Green
When Cee Lo Green performed at Brazil’s Rock in Rio in September, he included a James Brown tribute that he has brainstormed with Primary Wave’s Sabrina Coghiatti months earlier. Phillip Faraone/GI

Ian Holder
Senior vp of creative, Sony Music Publishing
Ari Gelaw
Vp of creative, Sony Music Publishing
Will Skalmoski
Jamin Whatley

Directors of creative, Sony Music Publishing

With the help of the powerful creative team of Holder, Gelaw, Skalmoski and Whatley, Sony Music Publishing launched some of 2022’s most defining R&B/hip-hop hits, including Jack Harlow’s Hot 100 No. 1, “First Class,” Nicki Minaj’s “Do We Have a Problem” with Lil Baby, Chloe’s “Have Mercy” and Giveon’s “For Tonight.” The team is also proud of its continued partnership with BeatStars Publishing to empower the next generation of songwriters and the inaugural SMP Hip-Hop Conference in Atlanta, which Holder says “symbolizes our dedication to finding new opportunities for the SMP roster. We are energized and excited for what’s to come next.”

Ryan Press
President of North America, Warner Chappell Music
Rich Christina
Senior vp of A&R and venture partners, Warner Chappell Music
Wallace Joseph
Vp of A&R, Warner Chappell Music

Playing the long game paid off this year for Warner Chappell when talents like Muni Long, whom it signed in 2009, achieved breakthroughs after releasing her No. 1 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay hit “Hrs and Hrs.” Press says, “We’re always focused on signing and developing emerging talent.” Other signees including Summer Walker, Anderson .Paak, Jhené Aiko, Ari Lennox, Fousheé and Chloe x Halle also achieved personal bests. “I’m really proud of our A&R team,” Press adds, “for playing a key role in ensuring our hip-hop and R&B roster remains culturally relevant and represents what Warner Chappell will look and feel like moving forward.”

RBHH power players

Tolu Ayeni
Nicole Johnson

Music artist partnerships, Meta

The Meta team has used its partnerships in the hip-hop and R&B community to help stars like DJ Khaled and Megan Thee Stallion directly promote recent albums to fans on Facebook and Instagram, as well as give rising artists like Doechii, Cordae and Latto platforms for exclusive content. Johnson has also made a lasting impact with initiatives like the Meta Elevate Mentorship Circles Program, for which she teamed with Ciara to spotlight Black-owned businesses. “It has been exciting working with the hip-hop and R&B community to leverage the full potential of their presence across Meta’s technologies,” says Ayeni. “We’ve done that this year by amplifying the cultural relevance of SZA, Chloe Bailey, Jack Harlow and Kid Cudi by hosting them at our table at the Met Gala” in New York and collaborating with artists from Burna Boy to Beyoncé.

LL Cool J
Founder, Rock the Bells; creator/curator, Rock the Bells Radio, SiriusXM
James Cuthbert
President, Rock the Bells

LL Cool J
LL Cool J is the founder, creator, curator and host of Rock the Bells Radio, SiriusXM Illustration by Mara Ocejo

While music fans prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop in 2023, one pioneer of the genre has already played a key role in keeping the legacy alive.

Since 1985, Queens-raised rapper LL Cool J has been a hip-hop hitmaker, and in 2018 he launched Rock the Bells Radio on SiriusXM as an artist-branded channel, which he curates with a wide range of classic hip-hop, interviews and specialty programs.

LL Cool J certainly has the hit-making credibility to carry the torch for hip-hop.

“I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” from his 1985 debut album, Radio, marked his arrival on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The second charting single from Radio, “Rock the Bells,” later gave its name to the rapper’s SiriusXM channel.

His multiple hits on the Hot 100 have included the top 10s “Around the Way Girl” (1991), “Hey Lover” (1995), “Loungin” (1996), “Luv U Better” (1996) and “All I Have” (2003), his guest turn on the Jennifer Lopez single.

Now, says LL Cool J, “what I’m most proud of is that we transformed Rock the Bells, which started off solely as a SiriusXM channel, into a content, commerce and experiential global platform that celebrates and elevates timeless hip-hop culture.”

LL Cool J
LL Cool J at the Rock the Bells festival in New York in August. Johnny Nunez/WireImage

In early 2021, Rock the Bells tapped Cuthbert, a former BET executive, to lead the company in that direction.

For the August 2021 We Love NYC: Homecoming Concert in Central Park, staged to celebrate the city’s resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizer Clive Davis reached out to Rock the Bells for an old-school hip-hop celebration. Before thunderstorms cut the concert short, LL Cool J was joined onstage by Busta Rhymes, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, French Montana, Melle Mel and Scorpio, and Rev. Run of Run-D.M.C.

In September 2021, when the producers of the 73rd Emmy Awards wanted to open with a tribute to Biz Markie, who died the previous July, with a takeoff on his hit “Just a Friend,” the Television Academy reached out to Rock the Bells, and LL Cool J performed a new, original rap for the opener.

The company has done partnerships with P&G, Coca-Cola and Toyota, among others.

And this past August, Forest Hills Stadium in LL Cool J’s home borough of Queens was the site of the first Rock the Bells festival. The day of interactive experiences, art exhibits, food, fashion and more was capped by performances: Joining LL Cool J were DJ Z-Trip, Ice Cube, Rick Ross, Lil’ Kim, The Diplomats featuring Cam’ron, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana, Fat Joe and Remy Ma, Jadakiss, Scarface, Trina, N.O.R.E and Digable Planets.

Says LL Cool J proudly: “We sold out.”

Thea Mitchem
Executive vp of programming, iHeartMedia; executive vp of hip-hop and R&B programming strategy/program director, WWPR (Power 105.1) New York
Doc Wynter
President of hip-hop and R&B programming strategy, iHeartMedia; program director, KRRL (Real 92.3) Los Angeles
Charlamagne Tha God
Angela Yee
DJ Envy

Co-hosts of The Breakfast Club, WWPR (Power 105.1) New York

Mitchem and Wynter were again at the helm for iHeartMedia’s second Living Black! event in February, which generated more than 30 million views and listens over 80 iHeart stations and livestreams. The event featured performances from Lizzo, H.E.R., Big Sean and Moneybagg Yo, along with appearances from Saweetie, John Legend and J. Cole, among others. Also part of the celebration of Black culture and Black-owned businesses were all three hosts of Premiere Networks’ syndicated morning show The Breakfast Club. Yee will soon depart the morning program to host the syndicated Way Up With Angela Yee starting in January.

Connie Orlando
Executive vp of specials, music programming and music strategy, BET Networks

The 2022 BET Awards averaged 3.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen — a 34% increase over last year, bucking an industrywide trend of declining viewership for awards shows. Helping to accelerate BET’s boost were riveting performances from Lizzo, Latto and Jack Harlow (with respective surprise guests Mariah Carey and Brandy) and a salute to Sean “Diddy” Combs that featured Mary J. Blige, Lil’ Kim and others. “We take pride in authentically celebrating Black culture and artistry,” says Orlando. “Our ratings underscore the fact that hip-hop and R&B are reactive drivers for music programming,” adding that this year the BET Awards were seen across 10 ViacomCBS outlets.

Kashon Powell
Vp of programming, Urban One

At Urban One, one of the largest distributors of urban content in the country, Powell says, “It’s difficult to pinpoint a single achievement, as our R&B/hip-hop radio stations represent the culture daily through music, impactful events and community engagement.” The company began 2022 with its fourth annual Urban One Honors, titled “The Soundtrack of Black America,” with Ne-Yo as host and Powell as executive producer. The show celebrated Jennifer Hudson, Timbaland, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and more. As Powell says, “Our brands are a direct reflection of the R&B/hip-hop lifestyle.”

Isabel Quinteros Annous
Global lead, music partnerships, TikTok
Shawna Spears
Senior manager of artist partnerships, hip-hop and R&B, TikTok

Hip-hop is the leading genre on the TikTok platform. And with more than half of the top 10 hip-hop tracks in the United States coming from female creators, the platform has become a home for rappers like Rico Nasty and Ice Spice. Quinteros Annous worked with Nicki Minaj to rally her fans around her presence on the platform, while Spears led its celebration of Black Music Month, which included TikTok LIVE events with Coco Jones, Lakeyah, Lu Kala and a listening party with Ciara. TikTok also recently brought Quincy Jones, Dru Hill and Jermaine Dupri onto TikTok, with Dupri using the platform to break down elements of his hit records.

Reggie Rouse
Urban format vp, Audacy; brand manager, WVEE (V-103) Atlanta

Ahead of both the previous presidential elections and this year’s midterms, Rouse’s leadership in the R&B/hip-hop format for Audacy and at V-103 Atlanta goes beyond music playlists. “The urban stations in Atlanta teamed up for Black Radio United for the Vote to help push voter awareness, voter education and help get out the vote in 2020 and again this year,” says Rouse. “In the most competitive urban market in the country, we came together to push the importance of voting.”

Kenny Smoov
Vp of urban formats, Cumulus Media

To Smoov, his work is all about “balance” and “love.” The veteran radio programming professional, who serves as a corporate programming resource for Cumulus’ 37 R&B/hip-hop-formatted stations in 25 U.S. markets, says his company has made a “concerted effort to push the R&B side of hip-hop/R&B. There are so many great artists doing R&B and providing a balance to all the ‘opps’ [opposites] rap and drill music that dominates our current sound.” He adds, “Anytime our group can support artists that make songs about love and life, we’re here for it.”

Dion Summers
Vp of music programming, SiriusXM
Ronnie Triana
Associate director of hip-hop programming, SiriusXM
Sway
Host of SiriusXM’s Sway in the Morning with Heather B and Tracy G

Known for its heritage rock star channels, as well as its news and talk stations, SiriusXM (with 32 million subscribers) also produces exclusive R&B and hip-hop content with artist channel partners including Drake (the Sound 42 channel), LL Cool J (Rock the Bells Radio) and Eminem (the Shade 45 channel). With the help of Pandora’s 50.5 million monthly active listeners, it has the power to nurture young talent. “SiriusXM/Pandora was the first to support Muni Long, SleazyWorld Go, Arin Ray and Armani White this year,” says Summers. “We pride ourselves in leading the way in audio entertainment with regard to breaking new hip-hop and R&B acts.”

RBHH power players

Ikenna Ezeh
Partner/agent of brand partnerships, WME
Zach Iser
Caroline Yim

Partners/co-heads of hip-hop/R&B, WME
Sarah Tehrani
Agent, WME

“We build out global client strategies as a team, and that coordinated effort is a real driving force of our success,” says Tehrani. For Kid Cudi this meant a global arena tour, his own Moon Man’s Landing festival, the animated Netflix special Entergalactic and brand deals with McDonald’s, Louis Vuitton and Bose. The WME team also facilitated Summer Walker’s return to the road, including her “A Hot Summer Night in LA” show at Crypto.com Arena. Tyler, The Creator, meanwhile, sold out 32 North America arena dates, grossing over $32 million from the biggest tour of his career.

Mike G
Cheryl Paglierani

Partners/music agents, UTA
Robert Gibbs
Partner/co-head of Atlanta, UTA
Chris Jordan
Music agent, UTA

Paglierani says the last 18 months for UTA have been incredible, “from our emerging talents like Flo Milli, Dominic Fike, The Kid LAROI, Ari Lennox, J.I.D and Latto having breakout success to massive sold-out tours with our superstars like Post Malone, Lizzo, Lil Nas X and Wizkid.” She is also excited about expanding UTA’s activities with Gibbs, who was recently named head of the agency’s Atlanta office and will “make 2023 even bigger and better for the company,” adds Paglierani.

Joseph Harris
Ryan Thomson
Olivia Mirabella
Jasmin Nash

Music touring agents, Creative Artists Agency

“Our group has focused on building our overall roster across many emerging subgenres,” says Harris of expanding to underground hip-hop with Destroy Lonely, Ken Carson and Symba. The home of stadium and arena superstars Beyoncé, The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti and Doja Cat, CAA is also working with Afrobeats artists Tems and Amaarae. Its roster also features several rising female R&B artists, including Muni Long and pianist-guitarist Mereba, whose new age singles fuse folk, hip-hop and other genres.

Ari Bernstein
Jacqueline Reynolds-Drumm
Yves Pierre

Music touring agents, Creative Artists Agency (formerly agents of ICM Partners)

Amid the merger with CAA, Reynolds-Drumm and her colleagues joining from ICM worked with clients Khalid, Little Simz, Fivio Foreign, Kehlani, Duckwrth, G-Herbo and others on tours, music, branding and TV deals. These ventures included City Girls opening for Jack Harlow’s Come Home the Kids Miss You tour and Kehlani nabbing a guest appearance on Showtime’s third season of The L Word: Generation Q. Lil Yachty, who has partnered with Sprite, Target and Nautica, inked a pandemic-era deal with the General Mills breakfast cereal Reese’s Puffs. He also sells his own brand of frozen pizza (Yachty’s Pizzeria) at Walmart and recently joined Futuremood eyewear as an investor and partner.

Brent Smith
Executive vp/managing executive, Wasserman Music
Callender
Fred Zahedinia
Vps, Wasserman Music
Anthony DiStasio
Vp of branding, Wasserman Music

Wasserman Music continues to build momentum following its April 2021 launch with the acquisition of Paradigm Talent Agency’s North American music business. Recent signings include Childish Gambino, Jaden, Daniel Caesar, FERG, Cat Burns and FLO. The agency booked $uicideboy$’ Grey Day summer amphitheater shows, as well as Jack Harlow’s sold-out Come Home the Kids Miss You dates. Smith hails Kendrick Lamar’s The Big Steppers Tour as “artistically genius and a commercial juggernaut on four continents,” while the agency secured a tour sponsorship from Cash App. Other brand partnerships include DJ Snake with PUMA Mirage Sport and Killer Mike with Monster Energy.

RBHH power players

Steve Ackles
Cindy Agi
Jay Byrd

Global tour promoters, Live Nation
Tyler Scott
Tour promoter, Live Nation

Ackles has worked closely with Roc Nation to oversee the worldwide touring strategy for global clients including Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Uzi Vert and Meek Mill — and played a key role in Megan Thee Stallion’s rise to the main stage at several top festivals. He’s also partnered with Rolling Loud to produce North American tours for stars including Rod Wave and $uicideboy$. Agi specializes in building relationships with artists and booking major international tours and has promoted Jazmine Sullivan, Snoh Aalegra and Blxst, among others. Just over a year after joining Live Nation in October 2021, Byrd has booked Lil Durk’s first headlining tour, Wiz Khalifa and Logic’s co-headlining Vinyl Verse tour, the Lil Baby-Chris Brown One of Them Ones tour and Anita Baker’s Detroit concert, her first arena hometown show in nearly three decades. Scott’s recent achievements include booking the Made in America festival, alongside Ackles; booking and promoting Larry June’s and Isaiah Rashad’s tours with Sascha Guttfreund; booking Sullivan’s and Blxst’s tours alongside Agi; and working on Pi’erre Bourne’s fall tour.

Danny Bell
Vp/talent buyer, Goldenvoice
Dominick Prieto
Talent buyer, Goldenvoice

The Coachella headliners (this year’s were Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and The Weeknd) often garner all the headlines. However, it’s the rest of the lineup that draws in many of the fans — and helps provide a springboard for younger or overseas acts looking to break through in the U.S. touring sector, a topic that’s important to Bell and Prieto. “After seeing breakout sets from [Baby] Keem and [British rapper] Dave at Coachella, promoting sold-out shows in San Francisco for each of them was definitely a highlight for me,” says Bell. “Watching Keem have the breakthrough year he had, in addition to seeing Dave make inroads here as a U.K. grime artist, reminds you just how powerful and universal hip-hop truly is.”

Tariq Cherif
Matt Zingler

Co-founders/co-CEOs, Rolling Loud

Cherif says that despite the challenging times for music festivals, Rolling Loud had “one of the most successful years in our history.” The original, flagship festival in Miami that he and Zingler launched in 2015 had its biggest turnout ever, drawing 85,000 fans to see Kendrick Lamar, Future and Travis Scott, while debut events in Portugal and Toronto took the brand to new places abroad. But the two founders are most excited about the year ahead, when they plan to relaunch their L.A. festival at Hollywood Park, launch their first Asian fest in Thailand and debut a new Rolling Loud-branded album.

Mari Davies
Vp of booking and talent, Live Nation Urban
Brandon Pankey
Vp of business development and operations, Live Nation Urban

The concert promotion company, which operates as a joint venture with Live Nation, acquired an equity stake in the Broccoli City festival this year and launched a new event for Mary J. Blige called Strength of a Woman in Atlanta. “The greatest achievement of Live Nation Urban is how we reflected the mosaic of Black culture through the dynamism of all of our live events,” says Pankey, citing further growth of the long-running Roots Picnic festival as evidence of the company’s success. “We perpetually want to continue to achieve and ascend to greater heights by furthering the connection with our audiences in deep and meaningful ways.”

Gary Guidry
CEO, Black Promoters Collective
Shelby Joyner
President, Black Promoters Collective
Bill Ingram
CFO, Black Promoters Collective
Shahida Mausi
Chief strategy officer/senior vp, Black Promoters Collective
Troy Brown
Chief marketing officer, Black Promoters Collective
Lionel Bea
Senior vp, Black Promoters Collective

The Black Promoters Collective produces 200 to 250 tours annually, and this year, the coalition of several of the nation’s top independent concert promotion and event production companies promoted and produced tours for Maxwell, New Edition and “the highly successful tour with the queen of our culture, Mary J. Blige, on her Good Morning Gorgeous tour,” says Joyner. “We recognize our collective’s power and commitment to moving our culture forward ‘for us, by us, with us.’ However, the mission of the BPC is bigger than tours. It’s about our intellectual property, controlling what we create and ensuring we provide more significant opportunities and access to the community.”

Heather Lowery
President/CEO, Femme It Forward

Heather Lowery
Heather Lowery is the president / CEO of Femme It Forward. Illustration by Mara Ocejo

Earlier in November, Heather Lowery announced that Femme It Forward, the female-led music and entertainment platform that she founded, was holding its first Give Her FlowHERS Awards gala. The event, held Nov. 11 in Los Angeles, was conceived as a fundraiser for Femme It Forward’s mentorship program, Next Gem Femme.

The gala “is a realization of the work we do year-round with Femme It Forward,” Lowery says, “to champion, empower and celebrate the women who are pushing our culture forward every day.”

First-time special awards honorees, announced before the gala, include breakthrough hip-hop star Latto (Big Femme Energy Award); actress, social media personality and entrepreneur Tabitha Brown (Self-Love Award); songwriter-artist Jozzy (Pen It Forward Award); R&B singer-songwriter Muni Long (Bloom Award); Lashon Jones, mother of rapper Lil Baby (Moms I’d Like To Follow, or M.I.L.F. Award); singer-songwriter Victoria Monet (Visionary Award); and high-profile couple Ciara and Russell Wilson (Black Love Award).

Executive mentors, who were chosen by vote by their Next Gem Femme mentees for their impact, include Baroline Diaz (Interscope), Dimplez Ijeoma (Capitol Music Group), Madeline Nelson (Amazon Music), Nicole Wyskoarko (Interscope Geffen A&M), Valeisha Butterfield Jones (Google), Alex Maxwell (Live Nation) and Diana Dotel (MTW Agency).

Rising artists chosen to perform at the gala included Baby Tate; Mapy, The Violin Queen; Joyce Wrice; and Alex Vaughn, while Jasmine Solano was set to DJ at the afterparty.

Heather Lowery
Heather Lowery (right) and singer Sinead Harnett at Femme It Forward’s Big Femme Energy album release party in Venice, Calif., in 2021. Jerritt Clark/GI

Since 2019, Lowery has led Femme It Forward, which was launched under the Live Nation Urban banner. Now, it is a joint venture with parent Live Nation Entertainment. Its mission is to celebrate, educate and empower the industry’s “most creative and accomplished female visionaries through multiformat, multimarket consumer experiences,” according to the organization.

“I’m so proud of the many achievements by our incredible Femme It Forward team,” says Lowery.

“This year alone we presented four headlining female R&B tours featuring Sevyn Streeter, Alex Isley with Green Bunn, LAYA and Zyah Belle, Teyana Taylor and the Big Femme Energy Live Orchestra Experience featuring Ambre, Baby Rose and SayGRACE.

“We executed our Femme It Forward show series, which featured multiple lineups with emerging and established female R&B artists including Ari Lennox, Queen Naija, Ashanti, Mya, Muni Long, Tank and the Bangas, SWV, Faith Evans and 702.

“And finally, we produced the Serenade series featuring male R&B artists like Boyz II Men, Ty Dolla $ign, dvsn, 112, Dru Hill and Omarion. It has been a huge year for Femme It Forward,” says Lowery, “and we’re only going to push this positive energy forward.”

RBHH power players

Sherrese Clarke Soares
Founder/CEO, HarbourView Equity Partners

Since launching HarbourView Equity Partners a year ago, Clarke Soares has invested in over 40 music catalogs, providing finance to a wide range of artists in exchange for the rights to collect royalties on their music. Her fast-growing portfolio spans genres from country to Latin but includes stakes in a swelling number of major hip-hop titles, such as Travis Scott’s “5% TINT,” Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones, Pt. II” and “Motorsport” from Migos, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, as well as R&B hits including Usher’s “Caught Up” and TLC’s “Waterfalls.”

Usher
Sherrese Clarke Soares at HarbourView Equity Partners has invested in copyrights including Usher’s hit “Caught Up.” Jemal Countess/GI

Rene McLean
Partner/founding advisor, Influence Media Partners

Influence Media Partners continues to confirm hip-hop and R&B’s value in the marketplace with impressive catalog acquisitions. The company’s latest: hip-hop superstar Future, whose eight-figure deal encompasses more than 600 songs from 2004 to 2020. Other major acquisitions include copyrights by hitmaker Tainy (Cardi B’s “I Like It” with Bad Bunny and J Balvin) and The Stereotypes (Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic”). “Hip-hop and R&B finally have a real seat at the table in the increasingly robust music rights marketplace,” says McLean. “We have every intention to double or triple our commitment over the next year.”

Michelle Richburg
President/CEO, Richburg Enterprises

“Every day I woke up to be the best,” says Richburg. “I did not think about the challenges and the uphill battle. Every day I had to underpromise and overdeliver.” A single Black mother who raised a son while building a company, Richburg has been a leader in the music industry’s lean toward greater inclusion. Richburg Enterprises is the tax firm of record for the $100 million Warner Music Group/Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund. A member of the Recording Academy since 2021, she also is a faculty member at the WMG Global DEI Institute, which the music group described as “a hub of innovation, learning, growth and action to drive impactful change at WMG and beyond.”

RBHH power players

Nicole George-Middleton
Senior vp of membership, ASCAP; executive director, ASCAP Foundation

As senior vp of membership for ASCAP, George-Middleton is committed to “grow[ing] distributions and adding services” for members. Diversity and inclusion are also a key focus for ASCAP as it continues to “cultivate the next generation of R&B/hip-hop songwriters, artists and music executives.” This year, under George-Middleton’s leadership, the ASCAP Foundation launched its inaugural HBCU scholarship for students enrolled at a historically Black college or university and who are interested in a career in music. This is in addition to the ASCAP Aspire HBCU internship program, which is now in its third year.

Sean Glover
Director of industry engagement, SoundExchange

Glover has helped R&B/hip-hop performers track down and collect millions of dollars in royalties they might have missed because they didn’t properly register, or file a claim, with SoundExchange. “I am most proud of the fact that over the last year SoundExchange has identified and distributed over $2 million to the genre in unclaimed royalties due to concentrated outreach efforts in those communities,” says Glover. That’s just a drop in the bucket of the nearly $465 million in digital royalties SoundExchange distributed to rights holders in the first half of 2022. But it’s money that artists never would have made if not for the lists of unclaimed royalties SoundExchange maintains.

Mario Prins
Vp of creative, SESAC

With a 2020 SESAC performance rights deal in place, Nigerian singer-songwriter Burna Boy rose to stardom with prolific collaborations with Coldplay’s Chris Martin (“The Monsters You Made”) and Sam Smith (“My Oasis”). Two years later, he entered the Hot 100 and broke out on U.S. radio with his single “Last Last,” which hit No. 1 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. “Burna has cemented himself as a global star,” Prins says, “and we’re excited to be a part of his continued radio success.”

Byron Wright
Executive director of creative in Atlanta, BMI

Wright says BMI’s retention of R&B/hip-hop songwriters and producers including ATL Jacob, Davido, DJ Khaled, D’Mile, Future, Latto and Megan Thee Stallion was a highlight for the performing rights organization, while Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Marley Bleu recently signed to BMI. “I’m really excited to have [Marley Bleu] at BMI with her blossoming career and all that she has forthcoming,” says Wright. BMI’s R&B/hip-hop creative team also assembled two major awards shows — BMI’s Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards and BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards — in person for the first time since 2019. “Both events celebrated the achievements of our top songwriters, producers and music publishers,” Wright says, “while highlighting that everyone was more than ready to get back to live events.”

Contributors: Trevor Anderson, Rania Aniftos, Rich Appel, Chuck Arnold, Nefertiti Austin, Katie Bain, Alexei Barrionuevo, Dave Brooks, Dean Budnick, Anna Chan, Mariel Concepcion, Stephen Daw, Elizabeth Dilts Marshall, Bill Donahue, Thom Duffy, Chris Eggertsen, Griselda Flores, Clayton Gutzmore, Raquelle Harris, Lyndsey Havens, Hannah Karp, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Carl Lamarre, Cydney Lee, Jason Lipshutz, Heran Mamo, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Jessica Nicholson, Ronda Racha Penrice, Glenn Peoples, Isabela Raygoza, Sigal Ratner-Arias, Bryan Reesman, Kristin Robinson, Jessica Roiz, Neena Rouhani, Dan Rys, Crystal Shepeard, Andrew Unterberger, Jewel Wicker, Deborah Wilker, Xander Zellner

Methodology: Billboard power lists are selective, with honorees chosen by Billboard editors. Nominations for each power list open no less than 120 days in advance of publication. (For a contact for our editorial calendar of publication dates, please email thom.duffy@billboard.com.) The online nomination link is sent to press representatives and/or honorees of companies previously featured on any Billboard power list, as well as those who send a request before the nomination period to thom.duffy@billboard.com. Nominations close and lists are locked not less than 90 days before publication. Billboard’s 2022 R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. In addition to nominations, editors weigh the success of each executive’s company or affiliated artists as measured by chart, sales and streaming performance. Career trajectory and industry impact are also considered. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore is the source for tour grosses. Luminate is the source for streaming, sales, and radio airplay and audience figures.

This story will appear in the Nov. 19, 2022, issue of Billboard.