#AHHPowerfulWomen: Erica Bowen From Def Jam To Dream Job
By DeAngelus Garcia Jr
(AllHipHop Features) Erica Bowen, founder and CEO of Blanco Entertainment believes that its easy to be in the right place at the right time by simply following your heart. Being true to herself and doing what she loves with the people most important to her have always opened up doors for Bowen, whether it was promoting Mad Wednesdays alongside the now legendary Maria Davis (featured on Jay Z’s 22 two’s), or filling in as the assistant for Def Jam honcho and close friend Nicole Jones when her hired assistant would miss work. Bowen’s willingness to play her part for the team has lead her to roles that are bigger than she could have ever imagined for herself.
From 2000-2006, Erica Bowen rose swiftly through the ranks of Def Jam, filling the positions of file clerk and manager of business affairs all the way up to her final position of A&R Administration. During her time with Def Jam & Island Records, Bowen oversaw projects for iconic artists like Jay Z, Kanye West, Rihanna and Ne-Yo. She also managed records for Young Jeezy during his time at Def Jam and eventually traded her New York offices to become General Manager of CTE from 2006-2017 in Atlanta, GA.
Bowen’s 11 years with one of Atlanta’s most cherished artist & creative minds afforded Bowen numerous opportunities to to create success for Jeezy and CTE’s special style of southern hip-hop, blending the booming 808’s of early trap with lyricism that was real as it was fun. As head of CTE, Bowen was able to take that raw energy and help artists channel it into amazing street records like “Corporate Thuggin” and into full on social commentary like Young Jeezy’s 2008 album “The Recession”. Bowen counts the album as a career highlight based off of its commercial success and its cultural impact, with Obama himself paying thanks to Young Jeezy and company for their voter registration drives and other educational efforts during his first run for office. Other service initiatives through the Street Dreamz Foundation have flourished under Erica Bowen’s leadership; among them are the Lighthouse Foundation and Hosea Feeds the Hungry.
Since departing from CTE in 2017, Bowen has focused all of her attention towards launching her entertainment company Blanco Entertainment while directing the careers of artist Cosa Nostra Kidd and her recording artist son Westside KJ, two of new Atlanta’s hottest artists poised for the next industry takeover. Bowen also enjoys spending time alone relaxing, mentoring young women in the industry & running an event planning business as a passion project.
AllHipHop: What does your job entail?
In my career I’ve worn a lot of different hats from managing daily operations at major labels to creating and tracking budgets for album releases; anything related to recording is my favorite part of the job. I’ve handled show booking, road management, handling all the travel and lodging. I’ve even worked on video sets and as street team. I'm proud to say there is not a role I that have not played.
AllHipHop: What's the most enjoyable part of your job?
The most enjoyable part is I get to do something different everyday. Everyday is different than the one before. What might’ve worked on Monday, may fail on Wednesday. It’s so many moving parts and so many people involved with making an artist successful and making sure they hit their target audience. Its a lot of trial and error in this career and this lifestyle but its worth it. The changes are what keep me excited and motivated.
AllHipHop: What is the hardest part?
The disappointment, because again, everything is trial and error. Its hard to see what you thought was a good idea fail.
AllHipHop: Can you describe a moment of adversity in your career?
My biggest moment of adversity was transitioning from being an employee to an entrepreneur. I started out working for major labels, the biggest hip-hop label of all time, Def Jam. From there I went to work with Jeezy and CTE, and Jeezy is a legend. People think you’re crazy to walk away from what they think is a good thing, but at the end of the day you have to be true to yourself. I knew I wanted more for myself and I knew that I had a proven track record based on my career history. It made sense, at least to me, to start my own business. That’s why I started Blanco Entertainment.
AllHipHop: What keeps you from giving up?
My son. He’s my number one supporter and he’s talented himself. Watching him mature into an artist with his own tastes and opinions about things reminds me of starting out in this industry. I just want to be there to give him the advice when he needs it, but also to set an example for him to learn from. Plus he keeps me on my toes too.
AllHipHop: Who inspired you to become a leader or a boss?
Nothing is ever handed to you, especially woman of color. I come from a family of hard workers who instilled the value of being twice as good as everyone else. People like my dad & my grandmother. My inspirations in this industry are those who remind me of my family with their work ethic; women like Sylvia Rhone, Nicole Jones and Karen Kwak who I worked under during my time at Def Jam.
AllHipHop: How do you balance work and personal life?
Ha! I have yet to master work & my personal life after almost 20 years in this industry. The music world is not a 9-5 job. It’s hard to not bring work home with you, just like its hard to not set aside your personal feelings at work, because in a sense you’re always at work. Artists and producers and their teams, they all have a personal relationship outside of music a lot of the time, whether they knew each other before the fame or not. I knew that when I started though. I am just blessed to have a son who shares a love and appreciation of music. I love the work that I do and now that my son is pursuing his own career, my love for work and my love for him intersect a lot.
AllHipHop: What do you do for fun?
I like to spend quiet time and doing things to pamper myself. Regular stuff like get my hair and nails done. Go shopping.
AllHipHop: What does it mean to you to be a powerful woman in the hip-hop industry. Can you define what one is?
I can say that it takes three things, for sure, to make a powerful woman; especially in a male dominated space like hip-hop: a positive attitude, being assertive and being a team player. So many people will set what they think are impossible standards for you just because you are a woman and will want to see you fail. I’ve had to assert my opinion in spaces where my presence wasn’t wanted and my skills weren’t accepted. Being able to keep in mind that I feel good about myself and what I do makes it easier for me to speak up when I feel the need but also keep the work about the artist and the goals we have as a team.
AllHipHop: Any final words or advice?
If you really want to be a powerful woman, you have to understand that being a boss isn’t about just being creative or innovative or having the best idea. Its about utilizing your network and your team; respecting them by listening to them and creating opportunities around what you trust them to see. It’s also about being of service to the people around you and making sure you’re indispensable to whatever part of the industry you’re in.