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Executive Exclusive: Blkk Nate. Nathaniel Smith, Manager and A&R.

Q: How did you get started in the music industry?

A: I got started in the industry pretty much on a whim. I moved to D.C. for college, and got my first internship really early on. I just cold emailed one of the Execs at the label. I think it's funny because with a lot of things in life you don't realize you're 'in' it until one day you look up and have been doing it for months or years and you're just like 'Oh shit. This is my life.' That's kinda how it happened for me. I just worked as hard as I could, gave it everything I had and it started to pay off. I say this all the time, but I'm so fortunate. Allah showed me a lot of favor. I just try to show my gratitude through my work ethic and actions.

Q: What was your first record you placed as an A&R/Manager?

A: The first record that I remember having placed was on HoodRich Pablo Juan's Dope Money Violence tape. I didn't even know how to send invoices or do anything right. Luckily the A&R at the label was patient with me and schooled me a little bit. I was super young, but I do my best to never lose that hunger or that feeling that I got when I found out we'd be on the album.

Q: What is the biggest lesson you learned while working in the music industry?

A: That's a tough one, I feel like I learn so much every single day still. I think the biggest lesson that I've learned is to not take everything so seriously though. I used to be so uptight and stressed tryna 'make it' that I wasn't enjoying the process anymore. So now I do my best to stay grateful and just appreciate the fact that I'm doing things with my life that I never would've imagined as a kid.

Q: What advice would you give to upcoming Executives?

A: I think the advice I'd give to upcoming Execs is the same I'd give to anyone really:

1. Stay true to yourself. Don't compromise what you believe in to fit in or become what you think people want you to be. Stay present and trust who you are.

2. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help. We all mess up, we're humans at the end of the day. So don't project this false sense of having everything figured out because none of us do foreal.

3. Last thing I'd say is know when to leave. Know when to leave relationships, conversations, negotiations, whatever. You never wanna overextend yourself or be anywhere one second longer than necessary. The quicker you can identify that, the better off you'll be in business and in life.

Q: What is your favorite record you placed and why?

A: I'm not sure if it'll ever come out, but we have a song with King Von that we did with him the week before he passed away. I think it's my favorite because it just really put into perspective how precious this life shit is man. You can't waste a day. Long live Von though foreal.

Q: Where are you from, and how did it mold you into the person you are today?

A: Philly! I swear it was the best place to grow up. The city is rough as hell, but it kinda forces you to grow up quick, and always be aware of people's intentions when you meet them. That helped me a lot in the industry because business is all about understanding leverage. So being able to identify what someone wants from me and what I may want from them is an important skill that I developed early on. If you from Philly, you know we got a certain grit and edge that you can't really put into words, but I think that helped me a lot in the long run too. No matter how bad shit gets I'm capable of persevering through it.

Q: What needs to change in the music industry?

A: This answer varies for me depending on the day haha. I think my biggest pet peeve is the 'behind the scenes' people kinda wanting to be the stars now. I'd like to keep the emphasis on the artists/producers and the actual music ya know. Not saying that people behind the scenes are any less important, but we all have to be comfortable in our lanes. Like if you on a basketball team everyone can't be the star player, some niggas gotta set screens. At the end of the day, the team winning the championship should be the main goal.

Q: What makes you one of the hottest Execs in the industry?

A: I think the respect that I gained from my peers and even the ones older than me has been the thing that made me 'hot'. They saw where I started with this shit and how hard I worked day in and day out to kinda make it start going up. Still got a ways to go, but I'm glad to be in the position I'm in for sure. Rich or Dead.


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