Kevin Lee, known as Coach K in the music world, conducted a Master Class for students recently in the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center. The class—an informal, two-person interview on stage—was designed to provide students with “real life information” they cannot find on Google, said Amber Grimes, a Spotify marketing manager, who conducted the interview.
Coach K is a record label executive, artists’ manager, and co-founder of Quality Control Music, which was launched in 2013. His firm is known for the hip-hop powerhouse group Migos, as well as Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, and the fast-rising City Girls.
The Master Class with Coach K, which was live-streamed on Morehouse TV, was co-sponsored by the Morehouse College Music Department and Universal Music group.
Music producer Kennard Garrett ’01, a colleague of Coach K, said that his visit to Morehouse was a “huge” opportunity for students who dream of pursuing music careers.
“This gives them a chance to get first-hand knowledge from a seasoned veteran in the music industry who has had tremendous success,” Garrett said. “His label is the biggest rap label out currently.”
Coach K, a native of Indianapolis, offered some industry tips and gave students some personal insights from his experiences in building a hip-hop empire in Atlanta, his adopted hometown and the hip-hop capital of the world.
- Dreaming. “I’ve always been a dreamer,” said Coach K, who credited his mother with telling him that if it’s your dream, don’t let anything get in your way.
- Camaraderie. “I grew up in the hood and sports was my way to release my mind and explore some of the things I wanted to do,” said the former basketball player. “A coach builds a team and camaraderie. I learned in sports you are part of a team, and I’ve used that in building our company. I use the lessons learned in sports every day.”
- Vision. “I set goals constantly. And how do you get there? Vision.”
- Planning. “It’s all about planning. The only way to reach your goals is to set up a plan.”
- Work Ethic. “I have an extreme work ethic. There are some lucky situations in life, but I don’t believe much in luck. I do believe in brand-building. Migos is very talented and so we made a plan and built the brand.”
- Being Yourself. “If you do that, your fans are going to go with you
- Risk-Taking. “We gambled so much building this company. We were building our studio and everything we were making we were putting back in. To make a record number one is probably going to cost $200,000. We knew if we took the risk, that could be it. And here we are … So sometimes you gotta take the risk. But know what you’re doing. Even though we took a risk, it was calculated.”
The future for Quality Control, Coach K said, will involve developing a sports management company and producing films. “Georgia has become number-one in films now so that’s where we’re gonna go.”
Even in films, however, Coach K advised listeners to always own their own content. “Pay attention to that line about ownership as you’re looking at that contract. Don’t sell fast.
“I tell new artists, this business is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s bet on the long game.”
Garrett, who also teaches music production and recording arts at Morehouse, thanked Coach K for visiting. Garrett said that he hopes to expose his students to more music artists and industry insiders so that they can learn more about the career options available to them.
Garrett and fellow alumnus Kameron Corvet co-wrote the song ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ featuring 16-time Grammy Award-winning artist, Sting, and Shaggy, a Jamaican dancehall superstar. The song debuted No. 1 on Billboard’s Reggae Digital Sales chart and was performed at the Grammys and the Super Bowl 52 tailgate show.