Johnnie Cabbell is the business man’s business man. With several titles, affiliations and a ton of artists on his booking roster, Cabbell is likely the driving force behind a lot of music you hear on the radio. From being Gucci Mane's official booking agent to directly working with Shawty Lo, Cabbell has witnessed, driven and crafted some of the most talked about PR campaigns in this past year.
While he makes it look easy, there’s a method to his madness. Sit back and take notes as the Atlanta native and Crunk/Snap/Swag pioneer gives broken cool a look at the blue prints of an empire.
Johnnie Cabbell on how he adapts to the ever changing music industry:
"I thought what I needed to do is shift gears and adapt to a new situation. It’s like with music when you have different trends come out you can’t do the same music that you were doing before when you see there’s a new fad or a trend. You must be able to adapt to either stay in the game or make way for someone who can."
Maxine Ross: Give me an overview of your companies.
Johnnie Cabbell: Hitt Afta Hitt is one of the companies under HAH Enterprises. HAH Enterprises is the main company. Hitt Afta Hitt Entertainment deals with consulting, booking, management and we broker deals for different artists as well. HAH TV Network is one of my latest ventures on internet. We’re really excited about HAH TV Network because there is so much going on and in keeping with the times of everything going digital we’re here to claim our spot. I came up with HAHTVnetwork.com, it’s a real TV network that will have a lot of substance to it. I’m going into a major deal with a company called Winsonic that should be closed this week.
MR: How are you navigating the music industry these days?
JC: The perfect example for the music industry is in the stock market. You have brokers that watch the markets as they go up and down and they stake out when to buy and when to sell. That’s how I look at the music industry. I look at everything. I see that the record sales are down and people are not really buying records anymore but I see that people are really leaning towards the internet. You can really buy an artist’s music off the internet for $2.99 now or something. MySpace is selling music and a lot of folks are doing music things. I thought what I needed to do is shift gears and adapt to a new situation. It’s like with music when you have different trends come out you can’t do the same music that you were doing before when you see there’s a new fad or a trend. You must be able to adapt to either stay in the game or make way for someone who can. I can adapt to a new environment and my surroundings. I make the game work for me.
MR: What are the keys for the success of this strategy of adaptation?
JC: My main key is staying humble and grateful and asking God to give me the guidance and the vision and the light to make the right choices and the right things. I always want to move my artists and my business in the right direction. The second thing is to stay consistent and putting 100% always on the grind. Sometimes as successful business people or artists we get comfortable. I try not to let it get into my system. You have to constantly treat each artist, treat each project, and treat each situation like it’s your first one. Like you’ve never had a deal or like you’ve never done anything like this before. It reminds you to stay on your grind and not get lazy. Lastly, I try to stay creative and not stay in the same pattern and stay creative. When you see things are changing you have to learn how to adapt, like I said, adjust your situation to what is current and ready now.
MR: Not just from the business side but you’ve also had a hand in some major genres of Hip Hop recently.
JC: I’ve played a part in the movement from Crunk to Snap to Swag. I’ve been blessed to have groups with high influence. From national exposure and awards to touring, these groups have high influence and have made a huge mark in the music. The road that I’ve paved helps find groups that have that same kind of energy and entertainment. We really are on the road and touring and doing shows, people are enjoying it and that’s because we are creative. I keep them out there and keep them with income coming in because people are enjoying the music and what we create.
MR: How much of a hand do you have in the daily activities of the artists?
JC: I have a lot because if I don’t do what I do, then nobody eats!
MR: How do you maintain the professional nature of the brand when one of your major artists behaves in a not so professional manner? For example, the craziness with T.I. and Shawty Lo?
JC: By staying neutral and not really entertaining all the negative stuff that was going on but staying neutral so that I am able to talk to their side and still be able to conduct my business and taking care of my other artists so that it doesn’t affect them either. On top of that having a good publicist to maintain the media image. There are certain things that might need to be said in a certain way in interviews and so they are being monitored by a publicist so that the wrong thing doesn’t come out. We always control the image and the brand.
MR: What happens when an artist goes to jail?
JC: Oh Lord I deal with that all the time! Really it’s a lot of things I have to do. A lot of baby-sitting I have to do and also a lot of clean up around that because a lot of people like to use negative things to their advantage. They really try and run with it so I have to make sure the right things are coming out. I try and handle it before it even gets to that point where a lot of things are coming out. I talk to my artists and have to let them know that I can’t keep going through this. I try and talk to them like a brother and educate them on making these types of mistakes.
MR: Who or what projects have you excited right now?
JC: I’m real excited about Fabo, he’s about to come out. A lot of people counted him out because he almost disappeared but really he was busy touring, doing features and spot dates here and there. He was mainly out of the country and he also just had a son. I’m real excited about his project. I’m excited about Shawty Lo coming out with his sophomore album, also I’m working with a female artist and her project is coming out, new single with Flo-Rida called “Turn It Up.” I also just took over Neffe, Keyshia Cole’s sister.
MR: What’s Neffe going to do?
JC: Neffe has a book; she has the reality show with her and her mom. We’ve been working on her deal; she has a book that is incredible. It is really incredible so we’re about to do a book tour. We’re about to start working with her husband on his solo deal as a rapper and his reality show about making an album so, there are a lot of things that I have my hands in. I’ve got a few other artists that I can’t really speak on because I’m waiting on the confirmation but it’s going to be very shocking because I’ll be managing them. I’m very excited about this digital deal with Winsonic. It will give me the proper platform to say that I have a true TV network.
MR: Wow. When do you sleep?
JC: I’m like Puffy. I’ll sleep when it’s time for me to go home to my father! Other than that I’m working. I start my day early and end my day late.
MR: What keeps you moving at such a pace?
JC: When people have negative things to say. It’s funny because I feed off negativity. I feed off of people that try to hate and say that I can’t do this or I can’t do that or people that downplay me. I feed off that type of stuff.
MR: Yes people don’t really have the nicest things to say about Snap music as it relates to “real” Hip Hop.
JC: People hate but record sales don’t lie. We made a lot of money with our music. Even with Snap music, we broke a lot of barriers and there were songs that were used in movies and all types of things. From Crunk with Crime Mob, they crossed over so much, how can you hate on something that everyone likes? Sometimes when people don’t understand or it’s something that is new, that’s when people have negative things to say about it. When they see how much everyone else is enjoying it then they’ll realize that it’s the new thing. Snap is not for everybody, Crunk is not for everybody, and Swag is not for everybody. Truthfully me personally, when ‘Laffy Taffy’ came out I didn’t like it when they came out with it but the people loved it! If they like it then I love it!
MR: And they bought the records.
MR: So where can people get connected to all of these projects?
JC: If you go to my website HAHenterprises.com or you go to my MySpace page or to my TV network HAHTVnetwork.com. I’m about to start a daily blog, with current events. I’m about to receive an award for my influence on Hip Hop in the South. It’s not a major major award show like the Grammy’s but it’s something that’s going on in Atlanta and it made me feel good that people are about to start recognizing and seeing the things I’ve contributed and the things I’ve done with different groups. I’m very excited about receiving this award and it’s coming up on the 26th. It feels real good to be recognized.
MR: And it reps where you’re from.
JC: Yes, even better.
MR: I ask everyone if their twittering because it’s the new great thing.
JC: That I do not do. My company has a Twitter and they do that but if I were to use Twitter I’d never get any work done.
MR: Last thoughts?
JC: I’m about to be the next mogul for Atlanta. I’m not talking about anyone because there are a lot of people that are doing things for Atlanta but no one has taken it to that next level yet. I’m coming in and taking the game to where it needs to be. I want people to see my company and want to work with me based off the image we built. I wanna be that one stop shop. Just like Violator in NY and others, I want to be that company. I WILL be that company.
MR: And then should we expect the Johnnie Cabbell book on success?
JC: You know what I’m already in the process of doing that! See, you think like I think. Always thinking ahead and moving forward. Everything I’ve already done will be in the book because people are asking me what do stay motivated and ask me what they can do to be successful. People already know the result of my work so I think I can have a number 1 seller!