Chicago Native Santrise Nicole possesses a diverse entertainment portfolio as a Music Executive, Artist Manager, Creative Consultant, Marketing Strategist, Content Producer, Writer and Director. Recognized as a cultivator of many of today's top talent, she is responsible for transitioning unknown local artists to national and international acclaim. Before transitioning to the field of entertainment she served as a Development Officer, Corporate Trainer and Executive for Fortune 100 Companies where she introduced new products and brands to their core demographic audiences worldwide. At present, she continues to cultivate and transition talent from the margins to mainstream, acts as a creative consultant and brand strategist for businesses, and develops innovative and cutting-edge content in the areas of film and music.
Chuck Creekmur talks to the genius behind the geniuses.
AllHipHop: First of all, tell me about your tour of duty in the music and entertainment game.
Santrise Nicole: I’ve broken about three handfuls of writers, singer/songwriters, and producers with my own company, money, resources, team, and best practices. Categorically, I’ve scratched every [music] surface except Country and, although I have sights on fully transitioning into television and film, do tell if you have any leads on the next Shania Twain, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, or Kenny Chesney, because I’d love to pop my Country cherry. I hear it’s amazing. My music portfolio is expansive in terms of artists and companies I’ve worked with. I’ve consulted for labels, businesses, and artists with a wide range of business development and artist services for about ten years. In 95 when Suge walked on stage at the Source Awards and said the infamous line about “If you’re an artist and you don’t wanna be on a record label where the Exec all up in your video, etc,” it resonated with me. I pride myself in being of service to artists to make them larger than life so I can enjoy mines. The last two years, I’ve grown fond of sync licensing and placed about one hundred songs between television and film.
AllHipHop: You have played a role in quite a lot of rappers and emcees. How has that been for you?
Santrise Nicole: I've broken a legit number of artists as previously stated. Many of whom, tried to run off and finesse me after receiving mainstream attention and label interest garnered by my efforts but that part has never quite worked out for any of them long-term. I've also encountered fraudulent people in business but was delivertttt! Won’t He do it for you?!
Despite a few shenanigans, music has been the gift that keeps on giving because I receive calls from artists I’d never expect to hear from that are larger than life asking me to help them reach the next level. Imagine that, a kid from a Chicago, from the slums of Harvey to be exact, being asked to help to change someone’s life. Cue Miri Ben Ari playing the violin on Twista’s "Overnight Celebrity" at the exact part where he says, “Let me be your Manager.”
The bizarre part about this is I’ve declined offers to work with some of the largest and most celebrated talents in the game because I kind of feel like Sid from "Brown Sugar." I’ve been falling out of love with Hip -Hop because it’s hard to love something that requires so much and gives so little in return. Working in Hip-Hop has diminished my ability to enjoy the one thing that used to bring me peace and mumble rap has f#cked up my entire understanding of life. I’ve been conflicted with wanting to preserve the culture and also wanting to boycott it at the same damn time.
AllHipHop: You have started to transition into film and TV. Has that been difficult?
Santrise Nicole: It’s hard to gauge because it’s a different level of politicking and schmoozing necessary to break in Hollywood. At present, no one has asked me to give them a sexual favor so I guess that’s a win but I’m also not staffed in a writer’s room, have submitted and interviewed to no avail, and have above average writing chops so I guess you could say… I’m failing. [Laughs]
Music’s taught me to appreciate the journey so I’m relishing in this transition and taking the bumps along the road like little massages to my ass cheeks. Nothing can beat the blood, sweat, and tears I invested in music. I worked for everything I accomplished so I pride myself in no one being able to say they made me. God made me, then I manifested in the physical because my grandmother made my mom with my grandad, then my mom got with my dad and Voila…Santrise.
My mind is razor sharp, faith is strong, and I know my value even if no one else does. So sooner or later, I’m grabbing a seat at the table and at some point, the entire table will be mines and the show, then the studio and eventually the network if that’s what I want. My Uber driver two days ago was like a White N#gga Socrates. He told me to never apologize for always wanting more because I am abundance and will attract it. I filed that ride under therapy.
Santrise Nicole: Jay-Z has the perfect lyrics to sum up the Chicago Persona, “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell. I am a hustler, baby, I'll sell water to a well.” Chicagoans created the art of finesse and are eternal hustlers. We have a knack for making something from nothing and the talent transcends race and culture. Hugh Hefner was a kid from Chicago who borrowed $1000 from his mom in 1953 to create the international conglomerate we know today as Playboy. Ray Kroc finessed two brothers from California out of a little burger joint, later known as McDonald’s after transitioning it into the largest franchise in the world. This one might throw most for a loop, but Kanye West was just a kid from Chicago that… I think everyone knows the rest.
AllHipHop: Explain what your present job entails?
Santrise Nicole: A week ago J Erving asked me what I do and in the same breath suggested he didn’t know because he’s seen me do a lot of shit. This is somewhat a paraphrase but might be exact, but anyway I sat there thinking damn am I that person as Melissa laughed out loud.
I operate my own business and am lucky to provide a diverse set of services to amazing companies, brands, and people which sums up to I do a lot of shit. I takes a lot to operate a business while managing employees, clients, campaigns, brands, and money. I‘m usually in front of a computer whether at home or in my office and one of my most sought-after services is crisis management. I have a gift for fixing shit.
AllHipHop: Tell me how Hip-Hop has changed your life.
Santrise Nicole: I fell in love with Hip-Hop in the late 80’s. Broke up with Michael Jackson for Run DMC then broke up with them for LL Cool J then broke up with him for Slick Rick the Ruler then broke up with him for Eric B and Rakim then broke up with them for NWA and fell in absolute love with "Express Yourself." NWA had me thinking I could do anything. I remember holding my middle finger up to the TV during a “This is your brain on drugs” Public Announcement with Nancy and Roland Reagan like “F#CK YOU REAGANS.” This might not serve as the most positive example, but Hip-Hop helped me recognize the power of my voice. Everything around my generation suggested we wouldn’t amount to anything and Hip-Hop was there to change the status quo by shedding light on our marginalized experience. It gave a voice to people of color who would otherwise go unheard and propelled Black Culture then popular culture at large.
AllHipHop: What’s the most enjoyable part of the job / business?
Santrise Nicole: Being able to do what I want and buying my mom the ridiculous ish she asks for.
AllHipHop: What is the hardest part?
Santrise Nicole: Not being able to do what I want and missing things I would like to attend. Sometimes I’m too exhausted and others I have a deadline and being a perfectionist I don’t know how to stop. I like to overachieve like a grade is at the end. Sh#t’s ridiculous.
AllHipHop: Can you describe a moment of adversity personal and in your career?
Santrise Nicole: I have too many to name. Insert Pac "Shed so Many Tears" here. Specifically, the line, “Lord knows I’ve cried. Been a Witness to Homicide”. I used to be naïve enough to think people would stop dying once we reached 21 because that was the age where men of color in Chicago would be out the danger zone, at least that’s what the crime lab said but then the number kept increasing and people I’ve known my entire life were murdered. I’m not fond of Facebook for this reason. It’s like the ceremonial place to break hood tragedy.
AllHipHop: What keeps you from giving up?
Santrise Nicole: First: The idea that my grandmother might roll over in her grave if I do because of the sacrifices she made for me. She was my Hitta so she deserves a magnificent after-life.
Second: My mom is my biggest supporter and motivator and is like “F#CK THEM” every time I say anything someone said or did to me. Lol, she’s like, “You got this and F#CK THEM VERY MUCH. What’s their address and phone number. I can pull up.” I’m the only child and she’s literally ride or die.
Third: My son is pretty awesome. I have this inclination that one day he's going to take awesome care of me.
AllHipHop: On point. Who inspired you to become a leader or boss?
Santrise Nicole: This is about to sound every bit of ridiculous but the best bosses of my childhood sold drugs. I’m not talking about 8 balls or corner sales; I’m talking about crack and heroin in the late 80’s and early 90’s when a kilo of cocaine could get stepped on a million times and go a long way. Through them I learned about free enterprise, inflation, supply and demand, the prison industrial complex, recidivism, and politics: who gets, what, when, and how. They gave me hope that the community I came from was not a period and that I could do anything because I had the perfect combination of book and street smarts. Then seeing Rolonda and Oprah on TV solidified things for me. I didn’t want to be on TV, I wanted to be in charge.
AllHipHop: How do you balance work, and personal life?
Santrise Nicole: My son, Prayer, Crystals, Essence Oils, Sage, Donnie Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Gil Scott Heron, Midnight Marauders, Diplomatic Immunity, Hardcore, Pseudo Meditation that doubles as sleep, Shopping, Champagne flavored gummy bears, Irish coffee, Target, lots of expletives, The Impossible Burger at Umami, pretending I’m still in Utero, The Idea of Reparations Day.
AllHipHop: What do you like to do for fun?
Santrise Nicole: Talk ish on the phone with my mom, China, or Don Don a terrible three-year-old. He’s my spirit animal.
AllHipHop: Final words?
Santrise Nicole: For when I die or this?