Artists often make the transition to the executive side of the game. They realize that in order to properly market themselves, they need to know the ins and outs of the business, and they need to be in control of that part of their career. But to the contrary, there haven’t been too many executives crossing over onto the artist side. And that’s why Tony Austin is a rare breed.
“[Making Music] was something that I always toyed with, but nothing that I took serious,” new rapper Tony Austin tells BET.com. “[I remember] once, I went to a Jay-Z concert at MSG and I was just in awe. Like, man, look at all these people, and what they’re doing.” Tony was moved by Jay-Z’s fan base and connection to the audience. The Baltimore native, who happens to be cousins with music executive Kevin Liles (currently managing Trey Songz), has held a number of positions in the music industry, from promotions to executive roles. He was an A&R at Def Jam, working with acts such as DMX and Dru Hill, and became President of Russell Simmons’ Music Group. Now, Austin is coming from behind the scenes to make it happen. But it’s not like he’s abandoning his business background. Austin just wants to use his expertise to further his own rap career.
“The team making it happen is basically a movement," he explains. "I am to Baltimore what Baby is to New Orleans.” That’s quite a statement, especially given Baby’s longevity with Cash Money and current status in the game (Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj). But Austin is up to the challenge. He’s already collaborated with Waka Flocka on the song “Bang Bang” and DJ Drama for a "Gangsta Grillz" mixtape. And in this current climate of hip hop, that seems to be a step in the right direction.
“I’m getting a real crazy positive feedback from it,” Austin says of his rap career. And there’s no better feedback than that coming from the almighty Hov himself. According to T.A., Hov recently took notice. “I think it’s kinda crazy. I saw Jay-Z at a concert and he was like, ‘man, I seen that video, you gotta let me know,’ being that I’d never ever expressed that to anyone, that I was doing the artist thing. I just continue to do my thing so that people will take it seriously. If you’re doing your thing, there is nothing like being able to reach the people.”