Nowadays, A&R’s are the real MVPs. When it comes to the music, they’re an integral part in the creation of the records, serving as the liaison between the artist and the label. Insert Andrew Grant, an A&R at Warner Music Group working with everyone from Bhad Bhabie to Kevin Gates.
The interesting part about his journey is he actually started out engineering, originally wanted to be a rapper. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, an 18-year-old Grant found himself arrested right after starting his first studio internship over some dumb s### with him and his friends.
After serving a year sentence, he returned back to his internship before stepping into his future engineer and management role.
Fast forward to 2020, Grant has learned a lot of facets in the music industry, putting in relentless hours and hard work to get to where he stands today.
AllHipHop caught up with Andrew Grant to discuss his upbringing in Denver, why he got arrested,
AllHipHop: What was your upbringing like in Denver?
Andrew Grant: Household was cool, had an older brother, older sister. Played sports my whole life, all through high school. I graduated high school early, that’s when I got in trouble. Some young dumb s###, nothing even serious. I was with a group of friends who got into a fight, we had a gun on us in the car but nobody got hurt. Young and dumb but the punishment was definitely harsh, the county I grew up in very corrupt, but honestly it was the best/ worst thing to happen to me and made me mature very fast and have a new outlook on decision making.
I turned 18 and had to go to jail for a year. I had just started my internship for engineering. From just starting my internship, I had to go to jail. When I got out of jail, I went straight back to interning.
AllHipHop: How long were you in Jail for?
Andrew Grant: A Year.
AllHipHop: What was going through your head behind bars?
Andrew Grant: I had just started my internship, at Side 3 Studios in Denver, just had my daughter, it was hard because as soon as I started something I’d been working so hard for and had my daughter, it was all taken away from me for the time I was in jail. Jail’s the worst place to be if you have something to lose.
AllHipHop: What happened from that internship:
Andrew Grant: Before I started, I found the studio I interned at because I wanted to be a rapper. I wanted to go to Full Sail and I didn’t know anything about engineering so I wanted to learn the basics before I went. The owner of the studio let me intern there, him and one of his engineers taught me everything I know about engineering. A producer who worked out of the studio, DJ Frank E, ended up getting signed to APG out here in LA. I was helping him out in the studio at that time so I started going back and forth from Denver to LA to work with him on the projects he was working on. After working with Frank E, I started working for another producer named Brian Kennedy who did “Disturbia” for Rihanna. He did “Forever” by Chris Brown, and a bunch of other hit songs. I was his engineer for 3/4 years, during that time I had met a bunch of people. Near the end of my time working with Brian I was getting burnt out on engineering.
Andrew Grant: I didn’t like being on call all the time. I didn’t have a set schedule. I could never plan anything because whenever he wanted to work, I had to be ready to work. We’d work /4am almost every day. I did that for 3 or 4 years and got burnt out. I wanted to find other things to do in music. I felt with engineering, I had plateaued in my career.
AllHipHop: You got into management soon after, right?
Andrew Grant: Yeah, I started managing producers and writers. I managed this producer named WIN, we had a Rick Ross, Master P placement. His first record was with R. Kelly. Before me, WIN was signed to producer Shawty Redd, who worked on a bunch of early Young Jeezy. He was my first client, then I met Drew Love (from THEY.) I started managing Drew Love. During that time we were doing a lot of writing sessions at Atlantic/ APG. Me and Dante, the other half of THEY, grew up together in Denver.
AllHipHop:: What a small f###### world.
Andrew Grant: We’ve known each other since kindergarten. Went to the same elementary school, middle school, high school, then he moved his junior year to Oklahoma. Dante was signed to Brian Kennedy who I worked for. Dante called me like “we need an engineer, are you down to do it?” That’s how I ended up doing that. Drew Love was supposed to have a session one day and the session got canceled. I took him over to meet with Dante, they knew each other but they never worked together.
They were supposed to do a writing session for someone else but they ended up working on something super left field. Whatever they did, we couldn’t pitch it to any artist. It was too weird. That’s how the THEY. s### started, that song’s one of the first THEY. releases.
Drew had gotten a few different placements on Atlantic artists. I was trying to do A&R for a while and I got word WMG was trying to build out their A&R team. I’d known Mike Caren and a few other A&Rs from APG and Atlantic because of my sessions with Drew Love and other writers I was working with. We’d been doing sessions up there for a while. I reached out to Mike to see about any positions open at APG, Mike connected me with Aton Ben-Horin from Warner Music. I interviewed with him and that’s how I got hired there. I’m in my fourth year there now.
AllHipHop: Did you have a mentor in the game coming up?
Andrew Grant: I didn’t have a mentor. Everything that I’ve done has been trial and error, hustle and trying to figure it out. Honestly, it might have been easier if I had a mentor. Working at Warner Music Group Aton has been the closest thing to a mentor I’ve had.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to those early sessions with Jason Derulo, Flo Rida, David Guetta, when you really first got your feet wet.
Andrew Grant: The first sessions I ever covered as an A&R at the label was Flo Rida and Akon. I worked with Flo, we did the “Hola” record with Maluma and a few others together. WIN worked on that with the Space Primates, Jim Lavigne and Bazzi. My boss Aton signed Bhad Bhabie. Aton said he felt like I’d be great for the project and asked if it was something I’d want to do?” I’d never met Bhad Bhabie before. I didn’t even realize it was the girl from the show. I didn’t know she had a rap name so at first, I said “I’d wanna hear the music first, so I don’t know.” When she came into the office, her energy was crazy. I was like “oh s###, I see it. She has star quality, and star personality.”
AllHipHop: What was your dynamic in working with her?
Andrew Grant: Originally, I’d find beats and producers and people we thought would be dope for her to collaborate with. I’d never stay in the sessions for the first month or so. One day she asked “why do you always leave?” Andrew said “Because I don’t like just sitting in sessions. I don’t want to be in the studio and f### up the vibe, I’d rather ya’ll work”. Bhad Bhabie said “no, I like having someone I know here so stay in my sessions, rather have you than a bunch of random people in and out of my sessions” So I started staying in most of her sessions
AllHipHop: Damn, she trusts you.
Andrew Grant: That’s honestly family, legit my little sister. I’ve worked on every record with her. Every song she’s done, I’ve help put together and been there from start to finish. I even engineered a couple songs on her mixtape, and mixed a few as well.
AllHipHop: Talk about how that Cardi session came about.
Andrew Grant: Christian McCurdy played me some of his new writer Nija’s music, I’m like “yo, she’s f##### dope. She’s fire, where’s she at?” He said “she’s here, but has to go back to New York tomorrow.” I said “bring her by, I want to meet her.” I met with them, she had to fly back to New York. I wanted to fly her out the day after she got back to do some sessions, she said alright. She flew back to New York for a day, we flew her back out. We had a session set up with the producers Scribz and Needlz. We didn’t have a writer to join the session, and it was the first week trying to work with Nija. Adam Grossman called me and asked if Nija would be available to join the session. She stopped by the session, they worked on 3 ideas that night, one of the ideas ended up being the “Ring” hook.
AllHipHop: Did you think “Ring” would be what it was?
Andrew Grant: Out of the 3 records they did that night, there’s another one I thought would be the one to go. Not that one. I liked that one but it was my second favorite. I found out it was happening because Success at Atlantic had reached out for the files for it. I said yo, what’s up? Who needs the files? He said “We want it for Cardi.” I’m like “oh s###, alright let’s go.”
AllHipHop: What advice do you have for people who want to be an A&R?
Andrew Grant: If you can find a mentor in the industry that believes in you, that’s one way. There’s so many ways from engineering, managing and building up your network, That’s what I did, I used my network from engineering. Also managing a hot artist, a hot songwriter, or a hot producer. Moving them around, moving them around the industry definitely helps get you recognized and can help get you to be an A&R if that’s what you want to do. Which I think is the easiest way in today’s times.
AllHipHop: What are your career goals?
Andrew Grant: My career goal is to eventually become Senior VP or President. Also to have my own label at some point. Those are both my 2 goals for sure.
AllHipHop: What do you look for in an artist?
Andrew Grant: I try to find somebody that stands out when I first meet them or see them. They have to have that thing about them that grabs me, whether it’s the energy they have, how they brand themself, the X factor that makes you pay attention to them. I have to like the music. I like people who try to do something different with music, not what everybody else is doing but it still has a familiar feel. That’s easy for people to grab onto. Those are the main things I try to look for.
AllHipHop: We heard you and producer Pliznaya are close, he’s doing a lot right now, how did you guys get connected?
Andrew Grant: I met Pliz through Win actually a few years ago now. We had originally met in Kansas with Win and just been cool ever since. He’s super talented and one of my best friends so always fun to be able to help your friends out.
AllHipHop: It seemed like everything happened for him in the most organic way.
Andrew Grant: It happened fast for him. When he came out here, that’s when Bhad Bhabie first started really going and they like working together so he was around a lot too.
AllHipHop: What did he do for Bhad Bhabie?
Andrew Grant: He did her record with the City Girls “Yung And Bhad” “Babyface Savage” “15 Intro” “Shh” and “Bout That”.
AllHipHop: How far do you see her career going? She’s so young.
Andrew Grant: For me as long as she stays focused, she has the ability to be one of the biggest artists out. She’s so entertaining, she’s one of those people that everybody wants to pay attention to. The whole Dr. Phil thing has been 2/3 years now? She’s not just an internet person who had a few minutes of fame and faded away. Whether it’s good or bad, people still pay attention to her, and want to see what she’s doing. Music-wise as long as she focuses and stays focused, she has the ability to be the biggest artist in the world.