The sun was bouncing off my Air Jordan's and Jay Z's album, "Magna Carter," was jumping through my headphones and into my thought pattern as I arrived early at The Tug Restaurant in Harbor Town for an interview with Marnie Byford, aka MB, and Antonio Fleming, aka Cartier Hugo.
MB is a Caucasian woman and Hugo is an African-American man. So I jumped right in, asking what almost everyone would want to know, although most would be reluctant to broach.
"What brought you two together on this music game? When did black people and white people in the city of Memphis start making money together, seriously?"
MB managed a "ha."
"Our day-to-day working with kids with special needs was how we actually met," she said. "He's a therapist and I'm a director. We had times when we would talk and we shared our love for music and what we both were doing and we hit it off from there. Cartier was already an artist and I have run business before, so we merged the two."
I asked Cartier what exactly he brings to the table.
"I was YAE Muzik, and that name comes from the Cartier shades I liked to wear all the time and I just added the word Muzik to it. I dropped my first album, '3000,' back in 2009, produced by Blackout. ... I've been in the game for a while. I'm all about grown man music and that's not what you'll normally see in the music game today.
"So again, this became an immediate good luck for us both, as she came with a lot of the tech knowledge as far as website building and branding what we were about to build."
Here's the rest of my conversation with MB and Cartier:
Kelvin Cowans: What would be the advantages of an artist in Memphis or the surrounding areas signing with your record label? Let's say I'm an artist and I can rap or I can sing and I come to you guys. First thing I'm going to tell you is that I'm the hottest thing since August and that I need a signing bonus like Kendrick Lamar, so don't make me LOL, what's the deal pickle?
MB: I'd tell them to calm down because it's more than just talent. If you don't know the business, you're not going anywhere. I spoke with a guy yesterday who said, "I need you to introduce me to famous people and get me a record deal." Then (he) went on to ask us for Bobby Rush's phone number. It just doesn't work like that. There is a lot of work involved before you hit that stage. There's encoding, sound exchange, copyrighting, production, publishing, budget, Internet, BMI etc.
Then you have social media and that's what it's really about today. It's not really about CDs and record stores anymore. If you don't have online presence, then you're really not known. There's a lot of background that makes this business work."
Cartier: There's a saying that goes 10 percent talent and 90 percent business and that's what new artists have to understand when they get in this game. This process is not short term. ... As an independent label, we do all the grind work, but we keep all the money with the artist."
KC: ...So I'm watching the VMA's (Video Music Awards) the other night and our hometown guy, Justin Timberlake, killed it; this is the truth. However, I must say that Miley Cyrus is the best female artist in the game right now. What do you think?
MB and Cartier: (Big laughs from both)
MB: Miley Cyrus needs Jesus.
KC: OK, I was joking (about Miley Cyrus). She was twerking with Teddy bears. I couldn't relate and with that being said, "What do you guys believe is the state of music right now, Memphis and beyond?"
MB: Coming from Philadelphia down here to Memphis, where Memphis is considered a city of music with a very deep history, to me that foundation is not there anymore. These people are not here to help each other. They are willing to step on each other to get ahead. It's definitely crabs in a bucket and that's not how it should be; teamwork wins.
Cartier: I'm from Frayser and what I've been noticing from all around our city is that there is no unity. The DJs, street promoters, artists and the program directors, everybody has this attitude of if you're not running in certain circles, then we can't do business."
KC: But money is green?
Cartier: I feel you but I'm telling you there's something else going on here and it's stifling the music game from Memphis. It's really based on hate. So we just stay in our lane and work. On our label right now are E3, Floss Da Dean and Me. This is where we're starting but not where we'll finish."
MB: I heard someone say that it's the white's trying to keep the blacks down and I totally disagree with that. Not to long ago I saw a round table picture of the executives of Cash Money Record's and 95 percent of them were white and we all know that Bird Man, Ronald, Little Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj and all the others are getting money. That should kill that excuse and people should focus on doing business.
Race should not matter when you're doing business. We're living in the past here. ... we realize that we have to branch out so that we can go to the next level and we're going to take artists with us, if they are willing to do the work.
Up & Coming
What: Rhythms and YAE Muzik Industry Mixer
When: September 6
Where: 5958 Highway 54, Brownville, Tenn.
Details: Networking 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; showcase 9 p.m., with 1st, 2nd & 3rd place prizes.
Special guests: Super producer Blackout, J-Dogg of Select-O-Hits, producer Sleepy of Live Tones Studio and B.B. King's Blues Club
(MB & Cartier Hugo can be reached at www.yaemuzik.com.)