Photo courtesy of Amir Windom
(AllHipHop Features) Grammy award-winning music, TV, film, and entertainment executive Amir Windom is certainly one of today’s prominent young leaders and creative minds.
From A&R to film music supervision, Windom has become a force to be reckoned with.
Hailing from Atlanta Georgia, Windom has been able to add value to every space and position he’s in. The young executive has continuously been a part of bodies of work that are timeless, quality, and culture-defining.
Amir’s distinguished career has provided him opportunities to creatively contribute to numerous Grammy Award-winning songs, albums and film soundtracks that have sold millions of records and won many awards.
He’s also had a hand in developing global marketing campaigns for major brands like The Coca-Cola Company, Kodak, ESPN, and more.
Amir has worked in all aspects of the music business working at historic record labels as a key piece in the careers of some of today’s biggest and brightest stars including Bruno Mars, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Lupe Fiasco, Trey Songz, and many more.
Some of his latest successful ventures include the launch of the Black News Channel and the film ‘Canal Street.’
You have a pretty cool story about your entry into the music industry. Talk about how you got your start?
Amir Windom: But my big break was when I went to FAMU to play football and realized that I wasn’t pro material after my freshman year. My sister was working at Capitol Records and she was in charge of the Howard University Yardfest Concert. I went to shadow her and met Chris Sainsbury (Bad Boy) and Deidre Graham who was at Def Jam at the time. Got their info, stayed in touch and worked my way into a internship at Bad Boy. And while I was interning at Bad Boy, I was building a closer relationship with Deidre, who ultimately introduced me to Kevin Liles, who ultimately gave me my first official job in the music biz. 17 Years later, I’ve won Grammys, platinum plaques, worked with some greats and it was all because people like Kevin Liles, my sister, Deidre Graham, Chris Sainsbury and others gave me a shot.
Looking back, do you feel like you were destined to be in the music business especially coming from a musical family?
Amir Windom: I feel like when I came out my mom’s womb, the first thing I saw the doctor, my mom, my dad and the music biz was standing right there too. Ha. My dad was a known name in the jazz industry and also a drummer. He started the Atlanta Jazz Festival in 1978. It’s grown to become one of the largest and most popular jazz festivals in the USA. My brother was a DJ in Atlanta, played in the band, my mother was a singer and couldn’t clean the house without music and my sister was a dancer, played in the band and started working at various record labels. So, music was truly a family member that I couldn’t shake. I tried to. I was a pretty good athlete and thought my love for sports would take over… And here I am, 35 years later, with music in the family photos. Ha.
How did you also break into film music supervision in addition to your A&R work?
Amir Windom: Music supervision took a really long time to break into. I first got connected to Sue Naegle, who was the president of HBO Entertainment at the time. She then connected me to Scott Venor and Kier Lehman, who were music supervisors on the show Entourage at the time. I built a relationship with them over the years and eventually started assisting them. I had somewhat of an advantage, because while I was becoming a music supervisor, I was working as an A&R at Atlantic under Mike Caren (current Head of Worldwide A&R, Warner Music Group) and Aaron Bay Shuck (current President of Warner Bros Records). We were making all these records for artists and their albums, that we ultimately wouldn’t use. So, I had all these great records that were being created for Grammy Award winning artists, that weren’t being used. And it made me realize, a lot of great records go to waste. So, I started reaching out to artists, producers, writers and telling them to just send me records they’ve recorded and are unsure of what they’re going to do with it. And I started pitching them and working them into the movies and TV shows I was working on. So I was placing hit records in TV shows and movies, for a fraction of the normal licensing cost. This was the value I added to Kier especially. Kier really got me my music supervision start. He deserves the glory, although he definitely gets it because he’s music supervising damn near every popular show on TV right now like Insecure. I appreciate him for giving me a shot. I enjoy music supervision the most of anything I do, but it took me the longest to breakthrough.
What has been your most career-defining moment?
Amir Windom: It has to be executive producing my own movie and the message behind the movie. ‘Canal Street’ was a timely movie. It was talking about racial injustice, police brutality and race relations before this new movement began in 2020. I committed back in 2012 that the content that I produce, whether music, tv or movies, etc; would add purposeful value to people’s souls. I felt like there was so much toxic content, that somebody had to do something different. Working on ‘Despicable Me 2’ and “Happy” with Pharrell was my idea of adding value to people’s soul and a career-defining moment. Working with Bruno, executive producing Reed Shannon’s debut album ‘Soul Play’ was big too. I really musically developed him from the very start. That was fun. Now he’s a prominent name in the entertainment world.
What do you look for in an artist when you are looking to sign new talent?
Amir Windom: Global Potential. Can you touch the world. Will people faint when they touch your hand. Ha. I just think, I’ve been blessed to be a gatekeeper to the music industry and now even the TV and film world. It is my duty to set the expectation level as to what the standard for what high quality talent is. And I have to admit, I think we’ve created a perception that it doesn’t take much to get in anymore. Back in the 60s, 70s, to have Berry Gordy even consider signing you to Motown, you had to play an instrument, sing dance and play an instrument all at the same time! That’s for him to even look at you. Times have dramatically changed and I think pop culture has taken over and made God-given talent a secondary gift. The NBA doesn’t lower their standards when it comes to who they draft and allow in. The teams have to draft a certain caliber of player for the brand of their team and the NBA. I look at things the same way. I don’t want everyone thinking that being a superstar is easy and just requires an idea. You need God-given talent that doesn’t seem like it was evenly spread for me to sign someone.
You really care about the integrity of the music. Have you always felt this way or did this come about later in your career?
Amir Windom: Going back to the household I grew up in, especially the Jazz influence my dad instilled in me, I grew up around instruments, which is the heartbeat of music. Everyone can’t play an instrument, so I realized early on having rhythm, playing instruments, being able to dance were unique gifts. But I saw how important they were to the creative process and those talents are what made creatives highly unique and successful. I realized this early on. So when I got in the music industry, I wanted to use instrumentals to create music, I wanted my artists to be dope dancers. Because I know being able to sing, dance and play instruments are the gifts that separate the extraordinary from the ordinary. So, the integrity came early and still governs me now when I’m creating music or anything creative and it’s actually become a niche of mine. I love when friends of mine hear songs, and didn’t even know I had anything to do with the song, but they call me and say… Did you write this song? It sounds like something you would do. I also just feel a personal responsibility to be the difference when it comes to the type of content. I think we can agree, there’s a lot of music that we wouldn’t want our 13-year-old kid listening to out in the world. I try to make a lot of music that’s universal and feels good no matter your age or race.
What is your definition of success?
Amir Windom: My definition of success is really a higher power than success. My definition of success striving to be significant. Significance is improving the quality of life around you and leaving a legacy. Success is the money, awards, cars, fame, etc.
What drives you? What motivates you?
Amir Windom: I’m driven by my family no doubt. But I think I’m driven by them overall to be a great representative of my family when I’m out in the world. The thought of my son telling people that Amir Windom is his dad and people saying “Your dad is a really dope good dude” vs “Your dad is successful and rich”. That motivates me. I want my legacy to be more about how I made people feel, laugh, inspired them, etc. instead of it just being that dude won Grammys and did all that dope work stuff. I always tell people I want my personal life to be doper than my professional life. That’s what inspires me.
Who are your Top 5 rappers dead or alive?
Amir Windom: Damn. I haven’t been asked this in a while…. Hmmmmmm. This question gets harder and harder. Tupac, Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye, T.I., Andre 3000/Kendrick Lamar/Brandon Rossi bka Lxrd Rossi (Honorable Mention since I only got 5.)
What advice would you give to the future Amir Windom on the executive side, and what advice would you give to an up-and-coming music artist?
Amir Windom: What makes you great in this industry isn’t just your creativity levels. It’s how you treat people and govern yourself. So I would tell someone: Control your ego. Stay humble and be around things that humble you. Don’t let women and sex become your focus or your pursuit. Don’t get addicted to attention. Apologize to your parents for being a psychopath as a kid. Be internally confident instead of externally confident. Admit to things that make you uncomfortable. Be self-aware of who you are and who you are not. GIVE GOD THE GLORY even when things are going good. Stay connected to sites like AllHipHop.com so you won’t become disconnected and forget where you came from or what’s going on in your community. Drink water. Eat healthy. Manage your vices. AND MIND YOUR BUSINESS and CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS.
Tell us the story about how the much-needed Black News Channel came about?
Amir Windom: Bob Brilliante and JC Watts started the process of making Black News Channel over a decade ago. I was able to come in about 5 years ago and add value to getting us over the hump and launching. This network is much needed, especially with what’s going on in the world today. We saw a need for live news and programming that specifically addresses African Americans, no one was doing live news and programming, so we made it happen.
Congrats on Canal Street. What was it like working on the film and having some stars star in the project as well?
Amir Windom: It was a blessing. We shot that movie for $2 million. But that movie should have costed us $20 million to shoot. Rhyan LaMarr is a respected director in the film world and he’s developed this respect by just being a dope guy who loves God and does amazing business. So when we teamed up to make Canal Street along with our other executive team, in addition to the actors reading the script and seeing how this script was timely and was going to do more than just entertain people. It was actually going to add value to people’s soul even when they leave the theater and carry on with their lives; all the actors lessened their normal pay because they believed in what we were doing. So, the coolest part was seeing A-List actors’ soul trump their business.
What’s next for Amir? Are there any other endeavors you want to tap into?
Amir Windom: I’ve actually gotten use to not trying to predict what’s next. It’s actually more fun not knowing what’s next. However, I’m working on this project, and you should see it everywhere in 2021. It’ll add so much value to the world, especially the African American community. I’m also working on a few TV shows like “Terror Lake Drive,” a few movies, Bruno Mars’ album, Reed Shannon’s album, Black News Channel (we just launched on DirecTV, channel 342), my mother is writing her autobiography about coming into the world as orphan in Korea but ending up in Compton. Went from Korea to Compton to start her life. Music supervising and creating soundtracks for a lot of TV shows and movies and overall just trying to make sure my PERSONAL LIFE IS AS DOPE AS MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE. I’m also still waiting for Chuck Creekmur to finally tell me I can intern for him at AllHipHop.com. He’s a LEGEND! Thanks for having me on this legendary platform. Also check out Reed Shannon’s current album, ‘Soul Play.’