BET’s The Next Big Thing is not like any other music competition show out right now. The Next Big Thing is an artist development boot camp designed to take up-and-coming R&B and Hip-Hop acts through a journey to create bona fide superstars. Throughout the show, several guest mentors make appearances to give expert advice including the late Nipsey Hussle, Tamar Braxton, Keyshia Cole, Joe Budden, Remy Ma, Jeremih, Lil Kim, and Tank.
Hosted by Charlamagne The God, the judges called The League, are comprised of A&R extraordinaire Tina Davis, who discovered Chris Brown and current VP of A&R at Empire Distribution, music mogul Dame Dash, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella records and Dame Dash Studios, and multi-platinum record producer Zaytoven who has crafted chart topping hits for the Migos, Future, Usher, Gucci Mane and many more.
I caught up with Tina Davis and Zaytoven and we discussed the need for artist development, what music executives are looking for, and who is the toughest critic in The League.
AllHipHop: What separates The Next Big Thing from all the other music competition shows on T.V.?
Zaytoven: What’s crazy is that I don’t even watch those kinds of shows. When I heard about this idea, it touches my demographic so that’s why I was so in tune with what's going on with The Next Big Thing. Shows like American Idol and the other ones I don’t really watch. It's not really my cup of tea. I can't sit here and lie and say that I watch them.
Tina Davis: I think as a creator, I really want to put a show in place that would allow people to know what happens behind the curtain so they would know what it takes to become a Beyoncé or to become a Michael Jackson. They didn't come out of the womb like that. So, in having artist development, they grew to be that great. Having artist development back in the day, I’m about date myself, but that’s how The Temptations learned to be great. Even in Hip-Hop, artist development allowed MC Hammer to have those incredible performances. And even Public Enemy, LL Cool J, you can look at the artist development even with Migos right now. From the first time we saw them perform to opening the BET awards, that's a big difference. Artist development is important to have longevity, to reinvent yourself, and this show does that.
AllHipHop: Do you think artists today understand the value of an A&R like in the past?
Tina Davis: When I was growing up, I learned about an A&R from Krush Groove when Rick Rubin saying he was an A&R and signing LL Cool J. That process intrigued me but there aren't any shows that really show that now. So, I feel that now more than ever, more people need to know what an A&R person does. Hopefully, it will inspire people to want to dream to an A&R person.
AllHipHop: Most people don’t know all of work it takes to get artists ready for the public.
Tina Davis: Not at all. On top of that, it definitely takes sociology, it's a little psychology, a little bit of everything. But you sometimes have to work with an artist, a producer, or with a songwriter to pull out what is necessary to convey in that session. Sometimes they're just not in the mood that Not everybody is ready to write a happy song when there sad. Not everybody is ready to write a sad song when they're happy.
AllHipHop: Without giving too much away, what was one of the biggest challenges for the artists?
Zaytoven: Well, I know one of the challenges for me that was difficult that I know a lot of artists today couldn’t even complete is when the artists had to create a song, write out a complete song, memorize it, and perform it front of a crowd in less than 24 hours, You know, that’s a real challenge that a lot of people can't do. I know a lot of artists that are popping right now that if you try to put that same task in front of them, I bet they couldn't pull it off. So, you know, those are real challenges and I think the people watching that want to be artists, they need to see that they need to be at this level. You gotta be at this playing field to even try to make it as a successful artist.
AllHipHop: How did the concept of the show come to be?
Tina Davis: Well, I think to be honest with you. This is my first rodeo when it comes to this part of entertainment industry. I informally talked to Holly Carter about the idea and within a couple of days she contacted BET and had a very informal breakfast when Connie Orlando. Connie ended up falling in love with the idea and we went into production maybe a month or so later. We actually had an air date before we even really started filming. It started so fast I wasn't prepared personally. We ended up trying to figure out who would be great to share their knowledge with these kids and we immediately thought of Zaytoven obviously because has a lot of Grammys and we thought of Dame because as music entrepreneur, he's built a lot.
AllHipHop: Zaytoven, you have such an influential sound with that ATL, organ trap vibe. So, when you come into contact with new artists, do you think they are mimicking instead of being themselves today?
Zaytoven: Yes! A lot of artists don’t have an identity. Everybody is mimicking you know, what they hear already know, so you get a lot of this stuff that sounds the same. When I use the technology that I produce with, you’ll see a package that says Zaytoven drums or Zaytoven sounds. The new producers almost can't help but to use the sounds that they hear it is working already. So, you know, we live in in a day and age where there's a lot of mimicking going on. So, I'm just waiting on it to change so there’s more originality, more uniqueness with the artists and the producers.
AllHipHop: Lastly, to you Tina. How is it being the only women working with two men. Are they behaving themselves?
Tina Davis: Haha! First and foremost, they're very respectful man. So, I think Dame obviously is straightforward. I mean, everyone in the world knows him for being very straightforward and to the point. He has very precise information about what needs to be fixed and worked on. Then we have Zay, you know, he's like the uncle or cousin that just tells you what you need to work on but when you walk away, you thank him for it. You're happy when he tells you you're off the show. So, I think just in dealing with both of them, we all balance each other. But there are times when Dame and I go back and forth in the show. It gets heated but it’s all love in the end.