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Hip-Hop Power Players 2017: The Steady Hand

Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone discusses piloting the label through turbulence and maintaining its winning streak through a chart-topping roster.

Sylvia Rhone
President, Epic Records

Rhone arguably has had the toughest job of any label executive during the past few months. In May, Epic CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid abruptly exited the company following a claim by a female assistant alleging sexual harassment. Rhone, Epic’s No. 2, found herself piloting the label through the turbulence — while maintaining a winning streak fueled by a rap-dominated, Billboard 200-topping roster that includes Travi$ Scott and Future.

It’s not the first time Rhone has run a label — she was the first black woman to head a major when she led Elektra in the 1990s — and she has aced her latest test: Her Sony Music bosses are reportedly auditioning her to permanently replace Reid. (Rhone declined to comment on this.) In the weeks after Reid’s departure, DJ Khaled hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, 21 Savage’s major-label debut bowed at No. 2, and French Montana scored his first No. 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart with “Unforgettable.”


Her Post-Reid Strategy

“It’s not one person who makes or breaks the success of anything. When everything happened, there was no warning. There wasn’t [time to] think about it; there’s no scientific or spiritual thing that I did. I just said, ‘Let’s go!’ We’re holding artists’ lives in our hands. You can’t think about miscellaneous things that don’t affect them.”

Epic’s Hip-Hop Hot Streak

“We’ve had a great year in multiple genres, but hip-hop separates us from the pack. It’s part of our DNA. It has become such a crucial creative component for so many genres — you can’t afford not to be in the game.”

The Streaming Factor

“Streaming has democratized how people consume music. The people have spoken, and hip-hop has been the beneficiary worldwide.”

This article originally appeared in the September 23 issue of Billboard.