Girvan “Fly” Henry is admittedly coming out of his shell. The head of Atlanta’s Think It’s a Game imprint can be found talking a lot more, laughing a little more heartily and sharing his experiences much more often than he did at the start of TIG six years ago. On this Sunday evening though, he’s silently carrying one end of a couch out of a home on Atlanta’s east side. Henry sets the sofa down in the garage, pulls a crumpled tissue from his Trust In Giving hoodie and dabs at a bead of sweat just over his brow. Later in the evening, he quips, with a grin, “This looks a lil’ different than it does on social media, don’t it?”
Over the past few weeks, the label head has been speaking up all over the city — on radio shows and so forth — on behalf of his Trust In Giving foundation and its 31 Days of Giving campaign. Henry says he decided on carrying out the 31 Days in lieu of buying himself another watch or financing yet another night at Magic City for his birthday on Oct. 18. Not to mention, the label is in the process of what Henry says is a rebirth. It’s an appropriate labeling, with so much going on. The label’s lead artist, YFN Lucci, has been out of town every weekend since the March 2018 release of his debut LP Ray Ray From Summerhill. He says that he doesn’t feel any real pressure as the rapper at the helm, leading the charge. “It’s like basketball,” Lucci compares. “Whether it’s Chris Paul or Carmelo… It’s like, I’m Lucci. That’s Q Money. It’s everybody. And everybody’s their own star.”
Fly has invested in several in-house producers to assist with the creation of TIG’s compilation project, set to drop in a few months. Even Rich Homie Quan — formerly signed to TIG — popped up for the assist on the project’s lead single “Live That Life.” Some may remember, the Rich in Spirit creator settled a legal dispute with the imprint back in 2016 over unpaid royalties, but obviously there’s no love lost between the men. “I wouldn’t say that we were disconnected,” he says of his relationship with Henry. “It’s just that our communication got a lot better. Ain’t no point in holding grudges against someone who helped me.”
Henry agrees, not missing a beat, “It was a point in time where the communication was off, everything really fell off as a whole. Me and Quan had a conversation [before the song] and it wasn’t an issue. So I sent the song to him and he knocked it out.”
Even more interesting is the fact that Quan and Lucci came together for the track. Years ago, the two would never even have considered joining forces.“Quan and Lucci in the past, didn’t always see eye to eye,” Henry starts slowly. “They had their issues and you know honestly, if they could’ve just… We would be so much further along if they’ve would’ve just…”
“Like, if I knew then what I know now,” he continues. “Things would’ve and could’ve been done differently. But it’s all part of God’s plan. But the reality of it is: if they could’ve been on one accord and just understood that it’s about the team…”
“Part of the issue is that artists that become stars get a little…,” Henry paused, looking for the appropriate term, “Selfish in a sense? They want the light on them and a lot of times, they don’t wanna share that light but what you don’t realize or understand is that the light shines brighter when there are multiple artists to shine the light on. It doesn’t dim yours, it just makes your light that much brighter.”
Maybe things are different from the outside looking in though because Lucci says that he’s believed in individual artists deserving their own shine from the very start. When asked about whether or not coming to this conclusion was his biggest lesson learned since 2014, the rapper says: “I always kinda looked at things like everyone’s their own star though, so I don’t know…”
Day 6 @trustingiving 31 days of giving. When Keonte’s mom didn’t have the money she had to cancel his birthday party 24 hours before it was supposed to happen. One of her son’s friends and football teammates, mom reached out to us and we threw Keonte an Atlanta falcons themed birthday party at @andrettikarting #TrustInGiving
The idea of “communication” — and its inner workings — came up a lot in Sunday afternoon’s conversation at the TIG offices just outside of midtown Atlanta. How does anyone formerly rooted in street culture, knowing better than to talk “too much” or be on camera unnecessarily; how does this person manage to start a label and essentially open up, for the sake of his artists and their artistry? “Yeah, all of ‘em need extra help in that way,” Henry offers. “They’re artists so it’s like, they all need constant attention and assurance in order to communicate things effectively to them.” There’s that word again.
“It’s definitely a balance because everything is a relationship,” he continues. “You have to bend in some places, you have to have an understanding because this is a business around people and it’s a lot much than just straight to the point, ‘This is what it is.’ You have to be understanding based on the circumstances.”
“He does communicate a lot more now,” Lucci agrees. “It makes the shit go a lot smoother because everyone’s on the same page.”
The rollout for TIG’s rebirth is set but Fly is being cautious with his words. “I don’t wanna say too much but I will say, the music is phenomenal. Great quality music.” In addition to YFN Lucci, the compilation project will highlight work from Q Money, Posa, DeDaTruff and DA Wrapper. But today, the focus is on a 29-year-old single mother of five girls, all aged 10 and younger.
Jasmine Crowe, of Black Celebrity Giving, was brought on to assist with the management of each of the 31 days. One day, Fly took a group of seniors grocery shopping [“I just couldn’t believe they only got $12 a month in food stamps. What can anyone do with that?”]. Another day, he hosted a baby shower for 20 mothers. On his birthday, Fly introduced the Trust In Giving Teen Entrepreneur Center at an Atlanta YMCA. These are no small gestures.
“Fly told me that he grew up in a single parent household with his little sister, and they went through a lot,” Crowe shares. “He’s so blessed to see his 36th birthday that he wanted to give back and this was, to me, an opportunity to change someone’s life unexpectedly.”
At the office earlier, Henry excitedly explained the campaign, then, in the middle of extending an invitation for Billboard to tag along on this particular day [“I’m telling you… I wish you could come see what we’re doing. It’ll make you feel something…”], his phone vibrated and he beamed. “Like, look at this…” He slid the phone across the glass table. It’s a message from his lady and the mother of his youngest daughter, Story (Henry has three girls), social media darling/hair care entrepreneur, known online as Ming Lee. The text read simply: “Get ready to change six lives today. ??”
That Sunday’s candidate had asked for some help with the water bill and some groceries for the household. The woman is divorced, her ex-husband doesn’t help with the kids or anything else and her teacher’s salary is stretched beyond measure. She recently spent her last $20 to buy the kids a couple new pairs of underwear each. She’s currently late on a few bills and the fridge in their rental home is bare. She washes the family’s clothes in the bathtub. The hot water has been turned off so she wakes up with her oldest a few days a week to boil the water, soak, hand wash and line dry the clothes. There also isn’t much in the way of furniture. Henry has a plan for it all though.
Henry walked in, stood to the side of the living room quietly and listened to the young mother explain her day-to-day schedule, a lot of which included the manipulation of money. “See?,” he said later, “I remember my mama crying like this everyday. And it would break me down. Every time.”
“Fly been giving but it hasn’t been broadcast or put in the light,” Quan noted during our talk the previous day. “TIG at first was Trust In God, so it’s always been a part of the brand to give back.” In fact, Henry starts every morning with prayer, exercise and reading. “Even when I was in the streets,” he reveals, “Every Wednesday and Sunday, you could find me in church for bible study and Sunday morning service.”
The team told the young woman that they would be going for groceries, but the day was full of surprises. The first stop was at a local sneaker store to get the whole family outfitted with a few new pairs of shoes. Then it was off to Target for undergarments, clothes and a few other treats — to include a new television. After that, they would be stopping at the supermarket. During the family’s time away, half of the Trust In Giving team stayed and gave the home a deep cleaning. Each room received a fresh coat of paint. Brand new furnishings were en route and at the last minute Crowe and Henry were able to arrange for the family to receive a washer and dryer. All of the old, tattered furniture was taken outside for a junk removal company to swing by and pick up.
Everything was set for the big reveal.
The family walked in and immediately there were tears of gratitude, delighted screams from the children and multiple hugs for the man who had only recently begun speaking openly about what motivates his heart. His artists — current and former — have always known what type of person Fly is, but publicly, and far beyond music, TIG has been reborn.