Kenya Barris, music mogul?
The prolific producer of TV and film has taken one giant step closer to that status with the announcement of his Khalabo Ink Society’s first label, a joint venture with Interscope Records. The label, simply titled Khalabo Music, has already signed a few fresh artists to its fledgling roster, and now Barris is looking at ways to work them into the many other areas of his entertainment company.
“We try to seek out creative relationships with people who not only move culture but see where culture is going,” said Interscope Geffen A&M Records vice chairman Steve Berman, who puts Barris squarely in that category. Per the exec, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter as part of this week’s THR cover story, Barris reaches out “at all hours,” with ideas and questions about how to intertwine music into his vision.
“Kenya touches people in so many different ways and he wants music to be part of that experience, so the conversation is not just about, ‘Let me find this one artist and make the best record,’” Berman continued. “He wants to find the artists and be able to plug music into his universe in many different ways. It’s the complete picture with him.”
For Barris, the Interscope venture comes during a period of professional transition. The ever-busy producer was recently let out of his multi-year deal with Netflix to build BET Studios, a partnership with BET and parent ViacomCBS that is far less restrictive when it comes to pursuing other business relationships. In fact, in recent months, Barris and team have quietly negotiated a podcasting pact with Audible, too, along with a book deal with Random House and a first-look film deal with Paramount, and soon he intends to have them all working in unison.
“Since the beginning, the goal at Khalabo has been to tell stories that reflect our culture with honesty, specificity and from a perspective that feels unique to a singular voice,” said Barris. “Similar to how we’ve approached our television and film content, my hope is that Khalabo Music becomes a place where artists are given the space to hone their talent while embracing the specificity and individuality of their voice and sound.”
As part of the company’s formal entry into the business side of music, Barris has rounded out the team with a pair of industry veterans, Gabe Hilfer and Nicole Plantin, who will serve as Khalabo Music’s director of development and operations and general manager, respectively.
Hilfer, a longtime Barris collaborator, is best known for his celebrated work as an independent music supervisor. In addition to his work on Black-ish and #blackAF, Hilfer has built an enviable résumé, having worked on such projects as Mare of Easttown, The Underground Railroad, If Beale Street Could Talk, Creed and Crazy Rich Asians.
Plantin, for her part, comes by way of Rostrum Records, where she was senior vp, A&R, and once worked with Pharrell Williams, yet another a Barris collaborator, among many other things. “Kenya is such an important voice in culture, and I am beyond excited to pair my passion and experience with his vision,” said Plantin. “I’m looking forward to creating music together that’s just as phenomenal.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.