Q&A with a Hip-Hop Genie - Dwane "Koko" Williams, Nex Level Entertainment

In today’s fast moving world so many artists are looking for ways to set themselves apart from the rest and get discovered. We go to open mics, put on shows, and try to get noticed on social media. The goal, of course, is to get discovered by an A&R rep for a record label or some rich old man who really believes in your talent and wants to change your life. It’s an admirable goal, but those things don’t really happen so much these days. However, you could meet a Hip Hop Genie to grant your wishes! Dwane “Koko” Williams is an executive producer and manager at Nex Level Entertainment. Maybe he’s not an actual genie, but he can do some pretty magical stuff with your music.  

I recently sat down with Mr. Williams to discuss how an executive producer works and the doors that could open for an artist. Nex Level Entertainment is a music publishing company whose job it is to connect the right artist to the right opportunity. Although the publishing company would own the rights to the music, the artist would still be getting paid handsomely though royalties each time it’s played. The bigger the venue/opportunity for the song to be played, the more money the artist will rake in. 

DopeCauseWeSaid (DCWS): So Mr. Williams, what made you want to start such a company?
DW:  I’ve been surrounded by music my whole life; my dad was a musician who could play many instruments. He had great success and a record label so it’s in my blood. A lot of my friends are artists as well so I combined my entrepreneurial spirit with their need to be heard.

DCWS: What kind of experience do you need to run a company like this? DW: You definitely need an ear for good, marketable music and the ability to see the bigger picture. The biggest thing is knowledge of the music business, PR skills and of course connections in the industry. I also have a partner who I run the company with.

DCWS: Awesome, who’s your partner? DW: My partner is a producer. His name is Villo Beats; I mentioned that a lot of my friends are artists. I met most of them at my neighbourhood community center where there’s a music program, we eventually got to talking and had the same ideas so we decided to start a company. Villo attends the Harris Institute, which is one of Canada’s premier music schools, I definitely trust his opinion. 

DCWS: So what is each of your roles within the company? DW: We both work as talent scouts primarily. We see a raw talent and try to take them to the next level. I might see someone at an open mic, Villo might see someone at a talent show, the artist would come to me to discuss contracts and management. The artist would then go to Villo to record a few songs. Once we’re both satisfied with the songs we send them out to different outlets that need music and hopefully we have a winner. From there we discuss details and negotiate the best deal for everyone.

DCWS: What kind of places could play my music? DW: Anywhere we see an opportunity; that could be a shopping mall, sports arena, movies, commercials, fashion shows, anywhere you could imagine that needs good music for the background.

DCWS: Good stuff, there’s so much opportunity! As an artist what would your services cost me? DW: Right now we’re working on packages for artist development, but if we stumble upon a super talented individual then Villo Beats and I would definitely cover some of the costs.

DCWS: That’s great to hear since there are so many “opportunities” for artists to break through but end up costing the artist a fortune. What’s next for Nex Level Entertainment? DW: Right now we’re just doing the finishing touches on our website for the upcoming launch later this month. We usually work on referrals and scouting, but we want to expand, we’re actually looking to go international and get some talent from the states.

DCWS: Tell me more about the website. DW: The website will be a hub for talented artists to be showcased. Users will have the ability to contact us for representation and find out what events we’re putting on that they can come out to. There'll be a regularly updated music blog and we’ll also be featuring artists so there’ll be lots of opportunities to put yourself out there.

DCWS: That’s exciting! I wish you all the best. We’ll definitely keep up with you as your company grows. Thanks for chatting with us.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, if you want to achieve success, sometimes you have to think outside the box. Keep going to your open mics, keep putting on shows and keep trying. There could be a music producer in your town just like Mr. Williams who can help you take your career to the next level, or should I say “Nex Level”?! - Asha Mullings