King Him: Fabolous Wants His Piece Of The Crown

Now running with Roc Nation, Fab plans to extend his brand beyond music. Will consumers buy in?

Today, John “Fabolous” Jackson is in the middle of NYC’s East Village sitting pretty. He’s engulfed in a cocaine-white 1992 BMW 850i with blue and cream BBS rims that would make Rae and Ghost proud. Even prettier is the figurative King of New York crown atop his head.

Although the 35-year-old says he’s more than earned his spot, having survived the music industry’s crowded summers and harsh winters for 14 consecutive years, he no longer sees value in being regional royalty. Like his Bed Stuy big brother, he’s ready to be a business, man. So of course he signed with Roc Nation management.

Now with his latest and impressively ‘90’s-inspired album, Young OG, ready for a Christmas release, the man who went from killing Clue Tapes to Top 40 records is ready to turn his steady ship into a space ship.

How did your business relationship with Roc Nation manifest?
Lenny [Santiago] was always my A&R on my Def Jam projects and I know Jay Brown from Elektra days. Even Jay-Z and Ty Ty, they’re all like family to me. But I got rid of my old management end of 2013 because I just felt like it was time to make a different move. It’s so long that you can just ride straight. You have to swerve a little bit. So [after we parted] I was trying to figure it out because I really wanted to build the brand, take it to another level. Roc came to me like we know what you do. We just want to build on what you do. I don’t just need management. I need someone who’s gonna come in and put some moves in place that will look bigger than last year.

Has the Roc affiliation affected the music?
Not really. They weren’t involved in the project. What I needed from them was to come in and make my music connect in areas where we haven’t connected before. Just make moves. My whole 2015 resolution is make moves. I’ve been in this game so long I have to make myself a stable brand Whether it’s my style or my lyrics, I need to brand it. You don’t last in this game this long by just trying to come up with a hit.

You’ve always had the backwards problem. Most artists get notoriety then try to find their hit.
Yeah somebody like Jay-Z can call up the three or four biggest music guys he knows and lock himself in for a few weeks to make an album, but he still has those business moves like the Samsung deal. That’s part of it now. Especially with how global hip-hop is now.

It’s clear that record labels don’t doesn’t have as much value today. It’s easier for artist to make a living independently. But you’ve always moved outside your label, never putting a ton of weight on your albums. Did you foresee the music business trend?
One thing I saw a while back was that labels are supportive but they always seemed driven by the release of the album and then you were left to carry your own legs of the album. Back in the days you’d be three singles in and your fourth single would be the Grammy single, the “We Are The World” kind of joint. [The label] would work your project. Then when the money shrunk it was all about getting this big first week. It was on you after that anyway. That’s why I got Roc Nation because I wanted to build my team outside of what the record label does. At these label meetings, we’re siting in there with my team, Roc Nation and Def Jam. So we’re attacking it like a three-headed dragon. I learned a lot of this from Clue and Duro.

“I remember reading a friend of mine, Jermaine Dupri, who said ‘I like Fab’s raps but I can’t see him past two albums.’ I was like Damn JD, you my boy. But I guess it was his honest opinion.”

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that you consistently make big records
Yeah but that’s another thing: Your album used to mainly be about your singles. When you have that so heavy on your mind it can [influence] your creative process. But I knew I had to make those records to be successful because I felt like every time I put out an album it was somebody waiting for it to not work anymore. I remember reading a friend of mine, Jermaine Dupri, who said “I like Fab’s raps but I can’t see him past two albums.” I was like Damn JD, you my boy. But I guess it was his honest opinion.

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