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Mobstarr Tha Don talks West Coast hip hop, Dipset West, and the Life of an A&R

By The Hip Hop Writer
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Since the mid-1980s, Mobstarr Tha Don has been making noise. Originally, he was from Boston, Massachusetts, where he honed his mic skills. At an early age, Mobstarr Tha Don knew many of the power-players of the game, during this period of time. While he was focused, being a young man, Mobstarr Tha Don had to learn like everyone else. At times, he had to learn the hard way.

In 2005, Mobstarr Tha Don decided it was time for a change. The rapper sacrificed and decided to head out to the West Coast. For nearly seven years, Mobstarr Tha Don has been living in Los Angeles. Being around the Hollywood A-listers has not changed him, as his goal is to still help people. In 2009, Mobstarr Tha Don was brought into Dipset West by the CEO, Iceman.

Mobstarr Tha Don now serves as an A&R for Dipset West, while still working on his own material. Aside from Dipset, Mobstarr Tha Don is working on his own film company. Recently, he discussed this and much more with Hip Hop Vibe.

Read the entire interview below:

Explain your relationship with the local Los Angeles artists? I don’t deal with local artists, unless they are trying to get into the industry and they are ready to invest. The money is in the industry and local artists have to come up with something interesting, they have to come in with the rap star mentality.

What is the club scene like out there? The club scene, like everything else is nice. You have to go in there right, you have to have the right people with you. It is not like South Beach, where you can go in casual. On the West Coast, we party harder, we smoke in the club, without any interference. Also, there is a chance you can run into one of your favorite celebrities.

Who are some West Coast artists to look out for out there? Nipsey Hussle, Young Hustle, Dipset West’s Iceman, Kid AR, myself, the kid Jay Rock. There are so many artists out here, Yung Flow, that is my man right there, my man T.C.. We have a lot of rising artists who are going to take off. B-Fly is one of the hottest female rappers rising from out there too. There are several other underground taleneted artists who are doing their thing out there.

Uneek Music Group, they are also some of the rising people out there, I also work with them.

Can you discuss Iceman’s upcoming 2012 projects? He is working on his debut album, which will be released sometime soon. Also, the Dipset Army project is coming too. Iceman already has the name ready to go and we are trying to push his project in the right direction. Vado has collaborated with Iceman, who is getting ready to become a force in the industry.

Can you tell us more about the artists signed to Dipset West? We don’t have many main artists on our roster, but we do have Young Hustle from Long Beach, California. He is inspired, he is real hot, he is intellectual, he does not brag about the thug life in his records. Also, I am building my buzz, my upcoming mixtape, Transporter, is coming. I plan to release three Transporter mixtapes. Following this, I will release my Mob Money mixtape. But, I primarily work as an A&R for Dipset, making sure products sell and working on all the projects. This year, we are just grinding hard.

What can we expect from the crew in 2012? It is going to be a Dip-New Year, Dip worldwide. We are taking over this year. Look at Jim Jones all over TV and Juelz is next. Jim Jones is on TV and that is really big, he is the only rapper currently on a reality show and we also have the 730 Dips. I see a lot of good things for Dipset as long as everyone keeps their momentum. Cam’ron is also working on the Killa Season 2 movie, which should drop this summer. Right now, we have our hands in television, music, movies, even cologne.

In what ways will you be involved in the projects coming out this year? I am the A&R, so I make sure everything is placed properly and into the right hands. Everything that needs to be done, I do.

Surely, when people, especially artists, learn who you are, they try to give you all of their music, what advice do you give to artists who are trying to get signed? Get your own money, you have to pay to play. The industry is looking for the young, swag, rappers. They would rather pay some young swag rapper, instead of a grown man rapping about gangsta stuff. Artists need to stop trying to get a record deal, unless they are going after a 360 deal, and give up everything, for a little bit of money. Get your money, find the right person, pay them to get in. It may take $60,000, it might take more. If you don’t have that kind of money and you still want in, I advise you to go get a job and do not quit that day job (laughs).

Advancements in technology have allowed anyone with an internet connection to be anything they want to be, what impresses you when it comes to an artist? When an artist comes to me and they have everything together. The total package, they have the swag, they talk properly, talking about things that are relevant. From there, making sure they live the lifestyle they rap about. When they have all of this, I feel they are ready to go. Having the total package means I can put them where they need to be at.

What type of artists do you prefer, when you are recruiting? It all depends on the situation. I look for young swag, street dudes with the tough mentality. I also like universal things, I like a singer that can really sings. A male singer really has to have that “it” style and a female singer has to bring it to, because my mother is a gospel singer. When they have the certain style, I’m with it. Other than that, the style cannot be wack, they cannot be garbage.

How do you feel about the number of “record executives” who have emerged over the past few years? I don’t have anything negative to say. With the way the industry is, everyone is messed up. Things have gone digital and it has evened the playing ground, the old dudes do not deal with the internet, while younger guys do. The older generation is losing their grip, so they are hiring young guys to keep them relevant on the internet. Labels are shutting down, and they are primarily serving as distribution companies. In recent years, artists even have to buy their distribution deals.

With the way things are going, record labels are going to have to hire some internet guys to keep things going to avoid going broke. Things are not going well for the labels, unless they also go digital.

For those who do not understand, can you explain to them what an A&R is? An A&R, artist and repitore, that is French for an artist representative. A&Rs work for the artists, artists do not work for them. We represent the artists in a professional manner at all times, making sure the artist is doing what they need to be doing, at all times. A&Rs almost serve as a manager, but our job is not as widespread as a manager, so we are babysitters, of sorts (laughs). We help artists get their deals, but A&Rs work for the labels primarily and we serve as the life coach for the artists. The A&R is very important and without us, a lot of things do not get done.

How did you get your start? I got my start back in the 1980s. In 1988, I started rocking shows, I was young, rapping at house parties, at the projects. I always had an interest in music and I always seemed to have an ear for this business. When I was fifteen, I was rapping in studios, I had a concept. I did talent shows, street battles, and became an icon in my Boston hometown, even making noise in Brooklyn, Rhode Island, and other areas. I got a record deal with my dudes Ground Flow and we landed an independent major label deal and we did tours, met other rappers, industry rappers.

When I was young, I went to a concert that had Public Enemy, Kid ‘N Play, and others. Flavor Flav talked to me and I ended up building personal relationships with several rappers at this concert. After people who knew me saw me, I became popular with the local people. I even ended up building a relationship with DJ Kid Capri. He asked me to rap, I came at him so hard and Kid Capri gave me his number and invited me to go out to New York, it didn’t happen, but I still made it happen. I had my ups and downs, but the music was always in my heart. My mentors helped me a lot.

Now, I am considered family by the people who are all over the screens. When I first came to L.A. in 2005, I made it on The Source magazine and soon I teamed up with Iceman and Dipset West was born.

What would you advise to those who might be interested in becoming an A&R? I am inspired, I hope the people who read this are also inspired. It’s not what you do, it is how you do it. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Always, keep God first, you will need Him in this industry. With the right faith, you can make it down this hard road.

Outside of rap, you are also working on a reality show? Yes, I have several reality shows, but one of our biggest projects is our reality show with Maia Campbell, who starred in LL Cool J’s “In the House” sitcom.

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