Damon Eden: No Mountain Climber

You’re fresh from your local Tower Records, you pop in the latest CD from your favorite rapper or singer and from the very first listen of the album you find yourself saying one of two things, “Damn this is a hot CD!” or “What in the world was he/she thinking when they recorded this crap?” Meet Damon Eden an Artist and Repertoire (A&R) representative of Atlantic Records, he and persons in his position are your point of reference when you want the answer to the aforementioned question or the one you want to give a pound to when your favorite artist hits you off with another hot album.

Damon Eden’s beginnings mirror most who are in the music business, getting their feet wet as an intern but that’s where it ends. At the end of his internship at Bad Boy records he joined the elite few who were able to parlay their free work into a paid gig. During his tenure at Bad Boy he worked as management and in a publishing coordinator position. After four years at Bad Boy, Damon Eden settled in two years ago at Atlantic Records as an A&R representative. Upon accepting his new responsibilities at Atlantic Records he used a dollar and a dream coupled it with his ear for talent and introduced us to a young man with a classic set of R&B pipes named Trey Songz. Add Trick Daddy, Pretty Ricky and Twista’s platinum album Kamikaze to Damon Eden’s repertoire and its safe to say we can blame some of the other A&Rs in the business for the music you’re not checking for.

Unable to speak about some of those burning questions regarding Lil Kim’s severing ties with Atlantic, Damon was able to dispel the rumor that Atlantic Records found itself in a panic when tracks from Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor album wound up on the internet. “People ask about Lupe more than they ask about any other artist. At the time some of the tracks were leaked things around the company were fine, not all the tracks were leaked and new tracks were added. We are expecting big things from Lupe he is a great artist.” While speaking with Damon Eden about his effort to raise his visibility in the business, he shared some words of wisdom for up and coming artists and what fans can expect from Atlantic Records in the near future.

AllHipHop.com: Would you say that T.I. was the artist that turned things around for Atlantic Records?

Damon Eden: You can’t put that on one artist because some would say Twista was the turn around artist for the company. We can’t say specifically who it was; you know we’ve been very successful here lately but yes T.I. was a great monster look for us this year. He was absolutely a turn around for the company and from a street perspective. People are starting to look at the company differently; we are hitting on all cylinders and from all sides not just the urban side. Look at Danity Kane, Gnarls Barkley, Panic at the Disco we are making it happen all across the board, the Pop side, the urban side and the Rock side.

AllHipHop.com: As a consumer and a person who makes a living writing or speaking about popular culture it would appear what we know as “the machine” is not put behind the Black music division at Atlantic, why is that?

Damon Eden: Why would you say that?

AllHipHop.com: I have two examples, Trey Songz, came out and it was like a breath of fresh air Atlantic was taking a risk with a young artist that had a classic R&B sound. Out of all the artists we hear a million times an hour on the radio who too are getting exposure from all angles he wasn’t out there. My second would be Lil’ Kim; follow me on this as observation not agreement about marketing tactics. Naked Truth was her best album to date, she took risks at being an MC rather than a raptress and where criminal activity/tragedy are used all the time for sells and marketing why not her?

Damon Eden: With Trey this what I can say, he is held as a priority here at the label and with his next album I can promise you we are going hard for him. His album was one of the first I worked. He got a great push at radio and two remixes for his singles but for whatever reason it didn’t connect with the people the way everyone here thought it would. He will be getting that same push again, Trey is a great artist and we will be focusing more on making sure his timing is right. With Lil’ Kim, she wasn’t my artist and at the end of the day you need the body to promote the album and unfortunately she was not here to do that.

AllHipHop.com: There’s no denying the Southern Exposure we’re under, and it appears that cats in New York are scrambling for position. Lupe Fiasco aside, why are the people in your position following trends and not setting them anymore?

Damon Eden: At the end of the day, it’s a bottom line situation and people are going with the records and the content they think they can sell. I don’t think New York is counted out, I am dying for the right guy to come out of New York, I’m dying for the next 50 or a guy who can come out doing major numbers. It’s got to be the right situation, it’s got to be somebody who has the right magic and star power with the ability to have people in and outside of New York relate to him. Maybe it is a trend, the South is hot right now and the fact of the matter is there are a lot more people that are country than they are city. Whether you’re from Alabama, North Carolina or Atlanta you’re still country. All the things that a prevalent in country Hip-Hop are prevalent all throughout the South it’s not just contained in one place.

AllHipHop.com: Not only do you work Hip-Hop you work R&B when you are looking for new talent aren’t you looking for direct competitors? It appears to be a climate of one at a time case in point Beyonce.

Damon Eden: Take Beyonce, Chris Brown, Usher and Ciara bottom line they all have smashes, can dance their asses off and just have star quality. Everybody is signing a bunch of artists in that vain hoping to get their version of that; I personally am not going there. I love and appreciate what those artists do but I respect them enough to not jack what they are doing. I am trying to be innovative and bring out an artist that doesn’t have to compete with them but has their own s**t. I’m working with an artist by the name of Cristal out of Miami and instead of going out and hooking her up with a bunch of hot producers to duplicate a sound already out there we putting her in position to be in a lane all her own. It’s the same thing Atlantic did with Aaliyah and Brandy they both had a sound that was signature to them. That is what I am doing with Cristal putting her in position where Atlantic has their own Cristal.

AllHipHop.com: Name the one project that was your biggest success and one that left you disappointed.

Damon Eden: I think the record I was most proud of and most disappointed about sales wise was Twista. Twista came off a huge album, Kamikaze I wasn’t the lead A&R at the beginning I came in on the project as training apprentice or the support A&R bringing in “Girl Tonight”. It was a big hit at urban and it went number one at radio and record, a lot of people loved it, but it didn’t sell. That was a pretty big heartbreaking situation for me so it was probably the same thing at once, while it was a success and one of the things that helped me get my weight up in the company it was a big disappointment for me. I thought we would’ve been able to match what we did before.

AllHipHop.com: Over the past few years the reputation of an A&R was tainted, artists were fighting with the label because the A&R had their own agenda and we’re allowing artists to be creative, how has that changed if at all?

Damon Eden: There are always going to be artists who hate their A&R, there is no way around that. When it comes down to it there is time that needs to be spent with the artist to overcome the drama and disagreement. As far as A&Rs having their own agenda in some cases yes, that’s very true. One thing that is stressed more than anything is artist relations, the level of respect has to be maintained because we are all here to win.

AllHipHop.com: How often do you have to turn an artist away, when you run into that “please listen to my demo” situation though you may see the hunger in their eyes they just don’t have what it takes?

Damon Eden: All the time, I’m going to quote another A&R here named Sickamore who said it best “The demo is dead.” Rappers aren’t getting signed from demos anymore they are getting signed because of the attention they garner, the buzz they create for themselves and the anticipation the make in the marketplace they set up. When I meet an artist who is hungry and has a hot demo but he don’t have nothing poppin in the street I have to question his hunger.

AllHipHop.com: What are the differences and similarities between what you and Sickamore do?

Damon Eden: We have the same job just different acts that’s pretty much it. Outside of being an A&R, he’s very successful mixtape DJ, he’s a very personable and talented guy I’m glad he’s here.

AllHipHop.com: Other than the R&B/Pop artist Cristal you’re working with is there anyone else we should be looking out for?

Damon Eden: There’s a couple, a young guy out of Atlanta named DG Yola he’s got a song “Ain’t Gonna Let Up” that’s blowing up in the clubs out there he’s definitely someone to look out for. There’s a guy named Al Fats from Cleveland we just signed he’s got a record called “Came Down”; that’s my project I think he’s someone that can be a real success story for us in the next year. Then there are R&B pop acts Cristal and Bayje; Cristal is Latin and will be huge for the scene in Miami and Bayje who is from Syracuse she’s more edgy but she is an all around great performer.

AllHipHop.com: No one gets into this business to work for or under someone they get in to learn and one day establish their own. Where do you see your experience in the music business taking you?

Damon Eden: That’s a good question, I would like to own a label one day but of course that’s a little ways away; I have to get some stripes and I’ve still got more to learn. As an A&R you work along side the other departments in the company because when you sign an artist it is your job to press upon them the importance of getting this person out and seeing your vision with this artist. As I grow in this business, I hope to master some other things and grow with and in the company.

Note: Artists, producers, engineers, songwriters Damon Eden says you can hit him up @ damon.atlantic@gmail.com. He checks his emails all day.

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