Back in the day, the days when
Hip-Hop was raw and untouched, the leading roles were designated to
lyricists and DJs. Producers were part of the supporting cast. But as
time has marched on, lyrics have been replaced by infectious hooks,
outlandish dances and dominating beats; the stars of today’s show are
Recognizing this and using his abilities to work his way up the ranks
Stephen “Spliff” Hacker has impressed plenty of Hip-Hop’s
best. With a roster of producers and relationships with some of Hip-Hop’s
most prominent, his company Spliffington Management is showing up on
some of the most talked about projects this year.
Age isn’t an issue to Spliff, but knowing the right people is a big
thing in the life of any entrepreneur. Here he gives us insight to how
he got to where he is, who has helped him along the way and how one
of his producers tracks is going to stir up a hornets nest with a couple
of A L-ist rappers.
AllHipHop.com: How did you get into doing what you do?
Spliff: I guess it was really a natural progression. You know you get
involved in different things that you are interested in and you start
climbing up the ladder to go further and further. I worked at a couple
of record companies and had a college radio show and I was involved
in the mixtape scene a few years back and things like that. One
thing led to another and here I am, it’s original and there are
not many people out there doing what I am doing.
AllHipHop.com: You were at Diplomat Records weren’t you?
Spliff: Yeah, I was an assistant A&R for the Diplomats and
if I hadn’t worked for them I don’t think I would be in the position
that I’m in or doing what I am doing now. I went out on my own initiative
to start working with producers and getting music out to these
artists. I took a liking to playing a role in the creative process
and being in touch with new producers; being able to get them work and
really get their music placed on reputable albums. Being
able to do that put things into perspective and working with a lot of
high profile artists allowed me to expand to new levels. Once
I realized I was able to do that with Cam’ron, Juelz Santana and Jim
Jones, then I realized the world is bigger than just them and there
are a lot of checks out there to get, so why not get them.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think with the way the music is today, it’s easier
to manage producers over artists?
Spliff: I think it is all relative. I think right now with the market
the way it is, I think it is really difficult for both. People aren’t
buying music the way they used to. So when you try to guage a deal
for an artist to a record company to get them signed or when
you are trying to sell tracks to an artist or an A&R for a producer,
it’s just really hard because it is so saturated. Along with
people not buying anything makes it doubly hard. I chose to work
with producers because I don’t think they are as emotional as artists.
I mean I just got extremely stressed out with one of them yesterday,
but I don’t have to deal with their problems. They deliver the music
on the creative side, give it to me, then I place it in the right hands
and work on the business negotiation side and that is basically
the scope of it.
AllHipHop.com: How important has networking been at getting your company
off the ground?
Spliff: I mean it is all networking. Unless someone walks you in or
you are the son of L.A. Reid, you only get to where you are at because
of your hard work and networking. That has everything to do with it
especially as things are so saturated now. It is not even about who
you know, but about how well you know them. With The Diplomats,
if I didn’t work for them I doubt I would have been able to get as much
success if I wasn’t in their inner-circle. You have to link up with
a certain groups of people and build a relationships with them, as many
as possible, and try to have them in your favor over so they will take
AllHipHop.com: But it isn’t just about networks when it comes to your
profession, it is also about homework
Spliff: 100%, and that is an excellent point as I find myself sometimes
immersed in this Hip-Hop world and I hate it sometimes because often
it is really meaningless. But you have to know what is going on, who
is recording, what labels artists are on, which A&Rs are the right
A&Rs in order not to waste time. You have to be up on things early
to be able to win.
AllHipHop.com: Being that you are quite young, was there ever a point
where people didn’t take you as seriously because of your age?
Spliff: I have to say yes. Number one, I still look young and get called
on it all the time. Not so much now, but the fact that I stand out a
little bit as well. Hip-Hop is a Black/White industry but primarily
a Black industry and being that I am a bit younger than average and
happen to be Jewish; it is not the typical look for a person who is
trying to get in the deep depths of the business.
AllHipHop.com: What attracted you to the roster you are working with
Spliff: That’s a good question. A couple of the producers I have been
working with since I started doing this and I really believed in their
music early on. I want us all to become succesful together because
we came into this situation together. I think they all complement
each other with different musical styles and can do different things
whether it be original tracks with a lot of instrumentation or sample
tracks which are a bit more street oritented. But again, I think they
all compliment each other and they all add great elements to the
team. I always try to align myself with people at the head
of their class and even though they might not be a Timbaland yet
or have an image to where people know what they look like, the
music is really what speaks.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think producers need to be marketed?
Spliff: Yes they do, as record sales continue to fall; labels
are looking for anything to grasp hold of to sell their artists. You
never used to see an advertisement in a magazine for an album
where saying, produced by and names of five or six different
producers, and now you see that all the time. The labels are using
the big name producers as credibility to boost the quality of the artist’s
project so that the consumer should be interested. Timbaland is a brand,
Kanye West is a brand, Alchemist is a brand. So the labels are trying
to press an image upon you that in addition to the artist being so hot,
these producers track record should make it even hotter, so you should
be buying their album. You didn’t have to do that before but now
you are adding all these other pieces to the puzzle to try and win over
the consumer. I am not saying it is a good thing or a bad thing; it
is just a sign of the times. Producers are bigger than ever now,
they never used to be this big. In the ’80s, the pioneering era of rap,
you didn’t even hear about producers. They stayed behind the scenes
and artists were the ones that were raking in all the money and the
fame. Producers are a commodity.
AllHipHop.com: You are heavily involved in branding your producers then?
Spliff: I try as best as I can. It is important. I always try and big
them up in meetings and talk about them, but if you don’t see somebody
face-to-face or have a personal connection with them, it is difficult.
I try to take the necessary steps as it is all relative to who
you deal with in these situations. Some people understand
it and others you have to try and make it work for them some other
way. Sometimes when I play music from the producers, I might not
say who the producer is because these A&Rs look at me and trust
me enough to bring them hot music. So it’s not very
important to them, the name of the producer or the image of the producer,
they just want the hits. It doesn’t matter if it is produced by Streetrunner
or by Freebass for some of these people. But many others are all
about what an album looks like on paper like a stat sheet with the highest
scoring players getting the most playing time, but personally I think
an album has to be about creating the best music possible. They
won’t always tell you that but you know when you walk out of
a meeting, your CD could very well be
in the trash because you are not established. There are a lot of things
involved and a lot of factors that go into being successful as a producer.
It is not just about the music.
AllHipHop.com: One of your producers has produced this Lil’ Wayne diss
track aimed at 50 I believe?
Spliff: Yeah it is the first single off The Carter III and it
is an incredible record, produced by Streetrunner from Miami who has
a bunch of tracks on The Carter III
in addition to that record. Wayne is not directly saying
50 Cent’s name in it but when people hear it they can make their
own judgment and such. It is called “Gossip” and should be
out in the next couple of weeks. It is crazy.
AllHipHop.com: What other work have your producers got on right now?
Spliff: We are working with a new R&B artist by the name of Razah
who got signed to Island/Def Jam who is incredible. He was signed
to Virgin previously. He should be coming out around October
I think and his album is called A Breath of Fresh Air. Juelz
Santana, we have been in the studio with him a lot and I have been pushing
tracks on him hard, he is a workaholic who keeps getting better and
better. His album, if it doesn’t come out this year, will be dropping
top of 2008. We have been working with him and Lil’ Wayne a lot. We
have a record on LL Cool J’s next album which is a single. I just gave
some stuff to Rick Ross and we have a record on Petey Pablo’s album.
I am also working closely with Alchemist We are wrapping up the album
now, which is about 90% done. We have a studio session today with Nina
Sky to do some stuff for the record. His album is incredible and I will
be receiving A&R credit for that. He [Alchemist] is inspiring to
me. I looked up to him before I got involved in the business side of
things in the music industry. Just being with him on a regular basis
and seeing him work and how serious he takes it all motivates me; he
is well aware of what I do with my producers and works to further
my cause as well. It is a blessing as he continues to work
with some of the best in the business. That helped me out a lot being
AllHipHop.com: Is it important to have someone to look up to?
Spliff: It actually makes me work harder because you see someone
like that and it drives you. He has the ability to open doors
for Spliffington Management which gives me another edge. He is a
legend and you can’t not respect him. Originally I had actually done
an article on him for Ozone years back and were in touch
off an on. I was pressing him for beats for when Cam’ron was
working on his last album. He started giving me stuff hesitantly and
I would give them to Cam. One of the tracks that he gave me ended up
being “Wet Wipes,” which was a single on Cam’s last album.
Once Al saw that I was able to get that into Cam’s hands, things
started coming together. It was a natural progression; you see a
lot of similarities in people and what they can do and you just start
gravitating towards them.
AllHipHop.com: AllHipHop.com: What’s your future?
Spliff: We just want to keep expanding and work with bigger artists;
you know have the walls filled with platinum plaques.