Kenny Burns is a well-rounded and successful entrepreneur who has been turning artists into household names for almost three decades.
Kenny Burns, who is a Washington DC native, got his start in the late 90s, as a student at Morris Brown College in Atlanta.
A trip to Freaknik, a revered, now defunct, legendary gathering in Atlanta, was the turning point in his career.
"I made my way down there that Fall because of my cousin and the friends I had made coming to Freaknik," Kenny Burns said. "I started throwing parties man, and the rest is literally history. I brought the Big Mac thing to Atlanta. I was the first to bring Jay-Z to Atlanta..."
After a prosperous run throwing college parties at various HBCU's, Kenny Burns promoted for Dallas Austin's groundbreaking Rowdy Records, landed a job as an intern at Uptown Records, worked with Bad Boy Entertainment for over a decade, and later served as vice president of A&R over at Roc-a-Fella records.
Over the past three decades, Kenny Burns has turned himself into an entrepreneurial powerhouse.
Artists like Monica, Wale, and Akon can trace their careers directly to Kenny Burns thanks to his business acumen and A&R abilities.
Through his company Studio 43, Kenny Burns has his own clothing line BRNS which is an acronym for Be Ultimately Realistic Never Sell Out.
Studio 43 has also been busy marketing products for Adidas, Hublot, Pepsi, Ciroc and their latest client, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, a new brand celebrating the slave who taught Jack Daniels how to distill liquor.
Kenny Burns has absorbed the game from top executives like Jay-Z, Sean Diddy Combs, Andre Harrell and others.
Since he is known as "The Lifestyle Specialist," we decided to ask Kenny to give us his top five movers and shakers in the business.
1. Andre Harrell
My number one would be Andre Harrell. Andre Harrell created the lifestyle. He brought ROI to the lifestyle not just through music. He brought a ROI... If young-ins, if y'all don't know what ROI is it's a return on investment. He really brought the life, man I'm talking about the lifestyle not something on music because around the same time obviously Russell [Simmons] and Edward Grayson were doing their thing.
But Andre really brought the lifestyle. He brought the fashion. He brought the champagne, and all of that started the Dame Dash's and Jay-Z's and the Puff's, of thinking of how to maximize outside of just music and make it more of a lifestyle. So, I give number one to Andre Harrell.
People don't give her the executive powers that she deserves. Beyonce is an extraterrestrial being who puts culture in perspective, and I want to fast forward. She did many of things before her Coachella performance, but one of the most dynamic things she did with her Coachella performance is that she had a pyramid, and I'ma give you some quotables, some factuals, and you've gotta listen to me and hear me. She had a pyramid, her show, the band was in a pyramid, the dancers were in a pyramid. She has a Nefertiti garb on... she put HBCU's on high alert. Fall registration is gonna go up double this year because of the HBCU black excellence she portrayed and the youthful spirit that she portrayed...She is arguably the biggest artist in history, man or female. She's arguably the biggest artist/executive ever because don't get it twisted, she runs her business.
3. Bozoma Saint John
Boz was a former employee at Pepsi who went on to iTunes. Boz is a savant because she was the first employee at Apple that actually had a voice and because she was a black woman. In a system that was not populated by black women, she had over 40 people on her staff, she connected the dots in a way that people hadn't at the time, and culturally she's one of the most important women in the culture of the last decade.
4. Sean "Diddy" Combs
You can't do a list without having Puff Daddy. Puff Daddy a savant in his own right as far as opening opportunity and taking the teachings of Andre Harrell and amplifying them times 100. Fearlessness, relentless, unapologetic, authentic, these are all the key factos that Puff Daddy brought to the game and made it possible for young black executives like myself. Kenny Burns's lifestyle especially wouldn't mean as much, you know what I'm talking about if Puff Daddy didn't pave the way. I want to give him more credit than number four on my list, but anyone reading this can shuffle the order. I'm just giving you impact to me and what it means to me.
5. Steve Rifkind
I want to give it to Steve Rifkind, but I think he stole street teams from me, and you can quote me on this. That's my big brother, but you know back then I didn't have the savvy to go incorporate street teams [into the business]. But I really invented street teams.
I was 25 deep running across the country, you know what I'm saying, plastering posters and you know what I'm talking about, taking cities by storm with our black excellence, young boy street swag.
But I would give him number five because when you have a passion, like for another culture you're not only passionate about that culture, but you marry a black woman and have black babies. You take the culture and you make it progressive by signing motherf##kers like Wu-Tang Clan, arguably one of the biggest groups in Hip-Hop history. If you can manage that and you can find a brown, Hispanic artist like fucking Big Pun, if you can take Mobb Deep, you deserve that level of respect and notoriety. I think these three in-particular with Andre, Boz, and Steve Rifkind, they don't really get their due. More so the legends Steve Rifkind and Andre, they don't get their due.