Jive Records’ VP Of A&R, Mickey “MeMpHiTz” Wright Reflects on the Music Industry
Written by Memphis Rap on April 3, 2008
Many of you may have not heard of MeMpHiTz except for those of you who are Industry insiders and follow the Industry closely; but whether you know him or not, he's definitely one of those in the Industry that is making things happen, one of the "Who's Who". Ever heard of T-Pain? How about Jive Records? Read on.
MeMpHiTz born Mickey Wright Jr., 27, from Memphis, TN took his destiny into his own hands and forgot the excuses and made his dream into a reality. Though MeMpHiTz is turning into a rising music mogul and even has been referred to as a young Diddy by Sean "Diddy" Combs himself, the young entrepreneur and Vice President of A&R at Jive Records, who goes by the slogan "In Hitz We Trust" and got his name from discovering hits, makes it his job to find the next hot up and coming star.
MeMpHiTz is the man responsible for jump starting the careers of artists such as T-Pain, Huey, Jkwon and the Youngbloodz. The A&R Executive is responsible for discovering T-Pain and bringing him to the label Jive and artist Huey "Baby Huey" is one of the artists who is signed to MempHiTz' own label, Hitz Committee.
Check out the interview with MempHitz with MemphisRap.com as the Music Executive gives an in-depth look into the Industry, his life, his advice and more:
MemphisRap.com: What's up MeMpHiTz?
MeMpHiTz: What up!!
MemphisRap.com: So you are the V.P. of A&R at Jive Records, tell us a little bit about what your job consists of at the label?
MeMpHiTz: My duties at Jive consist of finding and signing new talent and arranging budgets and getting the video done. For the most part, I just make sure that me and my artist's visions come to life.
MemphisRap.com: What's it like working for them [Jive Records]?
MeMpHiTz: Its the coolest job I ever had. I can't complain- even when I got stuff to complain about!!
MemphisRap.com: A lot of people don't know you're from Memphis, but have seen your name floating around like on the Huey video "Pop, Lock and Drop It". Exactly how long have you been out of your hometown of Memphis?
MeMpHiTz: Yeah I was born in Lemoyne Gardens in South Memphis. My dad moved us to Blackhaven when he started his business and I left Memphis in June 2001.
MemphisRap.com: Has it been a hard and long journey for you and are you thankful for how everything has progressed so far in your life?
MeMpHiTz: I'm so thankful of the progress of my journey, especially when I had no guarantees or promises of anything let alone any success and yes this has been a very very very long journey!!!
MemphisRap.com: You actually left the city and went to New York and started audio engineering classes at the Institute of Audio Research after your father's kidnap and passing. How did it effect your change and move? Do you ever look back and ask yourself if that incident wouldn't have taken place would you have ever made the choices you made then and ended up where you are today?
MeMpHiTz: Yes I do ask myself that all the time. Even though my father's incident enrages and at the same time deeply saddens me, I also think it's one of the main forces behind my success and drives me to become something bigger than Memphis could ever offer me.
MemphisRap.com: Some don't know you went from working in Arista Record's video department to working your way on up to where you are now. How does it feel?
MeMpHiTz: It feels good to know that I didn't just come out of nowhere onto the scene. I've done the grunge, I've been paying dues for a long time now. Therefore I do not deal well with disrespect from newcomers that haven't put in work, but just want to be ON and popping.
MemphisRap.com: What's the worst thing you can recall doing or going through to get where you are today?
MeMpHiTz: Worst thing I can recall was not being able to get people to understand what I was saying long enough to listen to my ideas. My very distinct Memphis drawl/accent was very intense when I first got to NY of course. I was trying to get money and connects with people who thought I talked funny and couldn't understand me. That was frustrating for da kid ya dig.
MemphisRap.com: Ok, you own your own label "Hitz Committee," is it a subsidiary of Jive Records?
MeMpHiTz: Yeah my company HiTz Committee is a subsidiary of Jive Records...I'm actually renewing/renegotiating my deal right now as we speak so its definitely a blessed placed for me and my fam right now because I will have the power I've been praying for very soon. And then I'm really gonna show everyone how a real M-town Hustler get busy ya dig. Nobody can mess with a Memphis cat's hustle.. I like that.
MemphisRap.com: We know Huey is on the label, how many artists do you currently have signed to your label and who are they?
MeMpHiTz: In addition to Huey I have:
Asia Cruise - Pop-R&B (Jacksonville, Fl.)
Trai'D - Rap (Dallas, Tx)
Chip the Ripper - Rap (Cleveland, Ohio)
And looking for new talent on the daily... Hitzcommittee@gmail.com
MemphisRap.com: Everyone may have wondered about this before... if you, as someone who owns your own label working under a Major label, found a really hot artist and planned to sign them to your own label, but say Jive approached you and wanted to sign them also, how would you work that out? Has this ever happened to you?
MeMpHiTz: Oh yeah in the beginning it was more like if I sign someone to HiTz then the next person I brought in would have to go to Jive and vice versa but now I have more control over what I want for HiTz Committee and what I want for Jive.
MemphisRap.com: Not to put anyone else down, but just 'keepin it real,' we [MemphisRap.com] do quite of bit of researching when preparing for an interview with someone and to tell you the truth you seem like someone that is really doing the things that a lot of people are claiming to be doing, but they're not really doing it. Do you run across a lot of people like this and what are your thoughts on it? Do you feel it's bad for business or it's nothing?
MeMpHiTz: No need for me to comment on anyone. They not making or breaking mine ya smell me but I just stay focused and DO WORK and that and that alone says all that needs to be said. And that pretty much goes for anyone else.. I pretty much do and say what I want as long as my work results say so. You only funky as ya last cut in this dirty game so I figure ima just keep em coming. If I don't believe I'm gonna win to a certain degree with an artist/manager/producer/dancer, I don't waste my time. If I don't feel like I'm gonna win from dealing with you then I simply aint working with you, Period. Never personal - It's just business.
MemphisRap.com: Have you had to deal with many air heads personally to get to where you are?
MeMpHiTz: Of course this business calls for the constant encounters with assholes/fakers. It only takes me a second to determine if someone I'm talking to is talking about real money or a real issue and if I come to that conclusion that we aint talking dead presidents, then you know the rest...
MemphisRap.com: You are responsible for finding artists T-Pain, J-Kwon and Huey (signed to HiTz Committee). What do you look for in an artist when you're thinking about signing them or presenting to Jive?
MeMpHiTz: When looking for an artist I'm really listening for a story, hit making abilities, a vision, a plan, the originality factor etc.
MemphisRap.com: We know your slogan is "In Hitz We Trust" what's up with that?
MeMpHiTz: In HiTz we trust means that that's the only thing that can keep you alive in this business these days. I absolutely love the music business but when you're not hot and poppin they look at you as if you haven't done anything. So to keep the party going I say 'In HiTz We Trust'.
MemphisRap.com: You also have the saying, "Do Work", and even have a tattoo of it on your arm, what exactly does it represent and mean?
MeMpHiTz: DO WORK is my trademarked slogan. And all it means is GO HARDER than the next man and take what you want or take yo weak ass home
MemphisRap.com: Not sure if you're aware or not, but we're preparing a compilation album in conjunction with our MemphisRap.com Showcase events. We were actually given a Conversation Piece Magazine at our last Showcase by Publisher Veronica Brown who attended our Showcase in January. In your interview in the magazine with Veronica you spoke about doing a compilation album as well. Tell our readers a little bit more about the compilation and how you will go about selecting the artists for it.
MeMpHiTz: Yeah later on I'm gonna do a compilation album and I don't know how I'm gonna structure it yet but it will be made up of all types of songs and a mixture of Memphis rappers, singers and producers mixed in with a little bit of the rest of the world's sounds as well. Stay tuned and know that even when you don't see me M-town I'm always listening. So all I can say to you is Get Heard!!!!
MemphisRap.com: Also in your feature in the magazine you spoke about a hat line that you have under your company IAM901 and you mentioned a store was coming. Has this store launched yet? Tell us a little about IAM901.
MeMpHiTz: No I'm not opening an actual store yet because I'm not at home to run it myself. So as for now its online (www.iam901.com http://www.iam901.com ) or phone orders (1-8779-IAM901) (426), Its the flyest cap Memphis ever had in my opinion and it makes me feel good to be able to wear my own city New Era cap, which is basically the reason I'm doing the caps anyway. I'm a hat man and I just got tired of traveling the world and always having to put on another city's New Era cap just because the colors matched my fit ya dig. So I said f*** it and made one of my own and shared it with any of my hometown city fam that felt the same. So if you don't feel the same its still all love but this is my way of saying "My City is Fly Just Like Yours PaTna!!" So when they see me in one of my caps they ain't gotta ask me where I'm from at all because I know they see that big fat 901 cuz.
MemphisRap.com: On the IAM901.com website, I noticed there's quite a few well-known people sporting the new IAM901 hat line. One in particular is Jazze Pha, are you two friends?
MeMpHiTz: Oh yeah, Jazze is my homie str8 up. I'm so proud of any Memphian that grows up in the conditions in which we do or did and then come out shining hard like a light be shining. I got no beef, I got no enemies (that I know of, of course) in my hometown- Nothing but Love...So the pics are a way for me to inspire onlookers in our city to go harder with your goals go harder with ya life go harder for ya family. And you too can possibly be an inspiration to some lil kid or hey some grown ass kid!!
MemphisRap.com: We're gonna bring it to the limelight and get your point of view since you're somewhat in a similar situation. Let me explain a bit, some people in Memphis tend to think that when Jazze Pha left the City of Memphis and began sporting "A" hats he seemed to have supported others more than those from his hometown and a few people lashed out at him for that. Do you receive any similar responses from people like that and what are your thoughts about it?
MeMpHiTz: I simply don't give a f***. I don't owe no man nothing- period. And neither do you. This is the mess I'm talking about right here. This is where our minds as a city have to change. First as a man it's my job to recognize my/my family's situation. Decide if I'm kool with it or not. And then as a man I make a decision based on that situation. Now I could've been one of those lashers at Jazze Pha or anyone else from Memphis that left. But as a man I just say whas the difference in that MAN and ME?? Not A Damn Thang. So if and when u get off yo ass, stop doing dumb shit with ya life, giving into the lemons we ALL were dealt, and stop the lashing or blaming the next man for your watery hustle game then you might not have to worry about what that man is doing. I rep my city because that's what I choose to do as a man- my decision, and because I've seen so many parts of the world now it would be impossible for me to live in Memphis again anytime soon, because that's my choice. I know personally that Jazze sports my 901 new eras caps because he loves where he's from and this was just made available to everyone.. So the real question to the potential lashers is what are you really mad at? The fact that he sports ATL caps, or that he doesn't feel like your music is hot? Hmmmmmm...Or even better why are you as A MAN worried about what Jazze Pha is doing? DO WORK. DO WORK. DO WORK. and make sure you repping the town in you- New Era Fitted while ya doing it.
MemphisRap.com: In addition to your other companies, you have a non-profit organization entitled Hitz4Kidz, how's everything going with that? For those who don't know anything about it, tell the readers a little bit about it.
MeMpHiTz: HiTz4Kidz is my way to try and give some kid hope to be something larger than life before the mean city streets has a chance to tell them anything different. One dollar from each of my caps sold goes to this fund. Its for school supplies, music camps etc. A lot of us grew up without a chance. Thru HiTz4Kidz foundation I can only hope that I can save, if only one. Then I would feel like I'm doing my job as a MAN; To not forget where I came from. Hey I see it as the one kid I save could be yours...so go to the site and donate- even if you don't want a cap at all. Yeah its real like that.
MemphisRap.com: What should everyone be looking out for in the future from MeMpHiTz and the HiTz Committee?
MeMpHiTz: Well HiTz Committee is always gonna be about entertainment. Its only gonna get larger and larger because that's how I think: LARGER THAN LIFE ITSELF. I'm gonna keep finding and signing that new artist and keep the clubs doing what they love to do best... Rock out! As for MeMpHiTz.. I'm headed to LA soon. I always wanted to be a movie producer, even tho I fully understand that music is my nucleus. Hollywood usually comes for ya when the music's hot. And so they came and I'm going to explore it. The way I look at it is I do what I wanna, when I wanna, as long as I do the Work to back that shit up. And when I set my mind to something, it aint a soul on Gods Green Earth that could tell me different.
MemphisRap.com: Being an A&R and being someone successful in the Industry, what's the best advice you lend to an up and coming artists?
MeMpHiTz: To an artist my advice is first perfect your craft. Then find a manager that damn near believes in you and your music almost more than you do. Then hit the club and get a real gauge on how people are receiving your sound. If you feel a natural love for your music from the PEOPLE then you should continue (even though you should NEVER quit if your heart is in it.) You should not be around YES men that just want a free ride just in case you blow up. When your circle is always bobbing their head to everything you make, remember this- everything you making ain't that hot all the time. That's how you pick out your 'yes' men versus the real. DO WORK...it will show and they will come.
MemphisRap.com: How about a person wanting to be on the business side like yourself?
MeMpHiTz: As far as the business, you have to determine what side of the business you want to be in and then find you something that you believe in and DO WORK!!!
MemphisRap.com: We could go on and on asking you questions, but we're going to let you voice your thoughts and have the last words about anything that we may have not covered in this interview.
MeMpHiTz: Even if I don't wanna sign you or I don't believe in what you believe in, at least I hope I inspire or motivate ya to go on to do better things. Why? Because if I did it then you know the rest. What the difference between me and you? Nuthin.
Some people still try ta flauge me out at club doors when I come home but it's still love. One day you might need me to change ya life and then I'll remember. But really I know everybody wanna be the King at home and you can feel safe that I don't want or need that title at all because I really only wanna figure out how ta get money with others that get money. Sometimes I don't feel the love but that ain't never stopped my millions ya dig. M-TOWN...when are we gonna stop the foolishness and get money together and support each other?? Whether you know me or not or whether I know you or not, If I find out you're from Memphis and you coming up in whatever it is you do...I consider myself PROUD and BLESSED to be from the same place as you homey..I LOVE Y'ALL . Now watch ya M-TOWN brother GO!!! And I'll be looking for you out there as well...Until then I'll see ya when I see ya.
MemphisRap.com: MemphisRap.com thanks you for doing this interview and we look forward to doing another one in the near future.
MeMpHiTz: Damn that was a lot of questions!!!! Lol!!