As the director of promotions for SLAMjamz and SPITdigital, Mr. Shawn Carter is a busy man. He started working with Professor Griff in the 80’s, and it evolved into working with Chuck D and Gary G-Wiz, helping promote their label. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Shawn as he explained why he got into the music field, how he met Chuck, what he does for Chuck and Gary G-Wiz, as well as his thoughts on why the label is unique.
The SpitSlam Record Group (Kate G): How did you get interested in the music industry?
Shawn Carter: I got interested in the music industry because of my childhood and the environment in which I lived. At the time, my mother listened to music all of the time and that helped to introduce me to many different musical artists. My mom’s favorite artist was Dakota Stanton. Also, growing up in Pittsburgh, there were lots of famous musicians around, especially jazz musicians, including the great George Benson. Then of course, growing up in Pittsburgh, it was a hot bed for jazz. People would travel from the south and stop in Pittsburgh at the Crawford Grill, a restaurant club that was big for jazz musicians to play at during this time. My uncle was a very well known jazz musician. His name was Dr. Nelson E. Harrison, and he played and toured with Count Basie before he died. My uncle took me everywhere with him, starting at the age of seven. As a kid, I was jazz and soul, wanting to be like my uncle and Miles Davis. Although as I got older, I got into Al Green and the first album I bought was “Lets Stay Together.” Al Green was someone who I respected because of the way he carried himself on stage and off stage. Following Al Green, I begin to get into funk, which then was followed by me getting into rock. It was all of these experiences that caused me to want to get into the music business in some way. I knew I couldn’t sing, so I had to find another way to get involved.
You have been with Chuck since 1989. How did you meet?
Shawn Carter: I met Chuck through Professor Griff. Griff was working on a solo album called, “Pawns in the Game.” PE was doing a show in Pittsburgh, and I had tickets to the show. At the time, I was working for a company that was in the same building that housed the radio station, WAMO FM106. As I was leaving work and going down the elevator, Griff and some of the S1W’s were in the elevator, and so I introduced myself to Griff. He asked me what floor the radio station was on, and so I told him I would take him up there. He asked me if I was going to the show as well as asking what I was doing at that moment. I shared nothing but going home to get ready for the show. He asked me if I wanted to hang out before the show. So I hung out for a little while. He then told me about his new solo album, asking if I wanted to listen to it. I spent time listening to it with him and gave him my opinion. I really enjoyed it. Then Griff told me that he was putting together a street team for its release. He asked me if I wanted to help him orchestrate it. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I felt very passionate about his message and his stance, as well as the band, Public Enemy. It became more than just the music. So, in regards to Chuck, I met him that night when I saw PE play. From there, I became the contact person when PE played in Pittsburgh and got involved in public relations.
Currently you work as the director of promotions for SLAMjamz and SPITdigital. What does this job entail?
Shawn Carter: This job keeps me very busy. I am responsible for communicating with all of our DJ record pools, our RAPstation radio personality, and helping and promoting with you. In addition, I am constantly coming up with new innovative ideas to help build the brand, including Public Enemy.
As you consider Chuck and G-Wiz’s label, what makes it unique to you?
Shawn Carter: It is unique because it is independent, making the artists accountable for their own success. A lot of artists feel that once they are with a sole label they are taken care of, but Chuck wants his artists to learn to be responsible because if they don’t, they will never be successful. Artists need to know that they have to put out effort in order to develop in this industry. This has always been the foundation of PE because we are all “first world people,” which means self dependent not dependent, and self sufficient and responsible, making the label’s philosophy something I believe in.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Shawn Carter: I want to emphasize to all artists who want independence and want control of your masters and destiny as well as a fair split to come to SPITdigital.
Kate G is Kate Gammell for Update Reports on The SPITdigital SLAMjamz Recording Label Group