Atlantic’s Kawan Prather on T.I., losing Yelawolf and learning the industry

kawan_pratherKawan “K.P.” Prather has two decades of music industry experience under his belt, and he’s witnessed stars come and go; as well as having seen technology completely revise the way the industry works. But as head of urban A&R (East Coast) at Atlantic Records, K.P. acknowledges that while many things have changed over the years — a lot of his approach remains rooted in the same principles on which he’s built his career.

Even if the mediums have changed tremendously.

I think that there are a bunch of artists that are extremely brilliant [with] social media and [know how] to manipulate their brand. It makes it so much better for the artist because they have the opportunity to sink or swim,” he explains to rolling out.

Artists have benefited tremendously from social media, but K.P. sees the platforms as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it helps an artist make a name for themselves before labels come calling. On the other hand, it puts tremendous pressure on an artist once a label does sign them to million-dollar deals expecting them to hit the ground running.

“Like what Trinidad James did — that was really smart,” K.P. says. “In the moment of having all of the attention, he capitalized on it. Now, he had to go through his practice with the same amount of eyes on him. Because it happened so fast, he’s now catching up with his celebrity. It’s on-the-job training, but the pressure is different when someone gives you a check. It’s not like you’re an intern. There are expectations when you get the money.”

“My approach over the last couple of years with the access given by the Internet is that I get to see a lot more,” he adds. “I’m probably up a little more at night scouring the internet. But I’m still looking for those intangible things in an artist that makes them special and not just talented.”

That eye for talent has served K.P. well. Over the years, he’s worked at LaFace Records, made the move to Arista, founded Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment and been a guiding force in the careers of everyone from T.I. to Usher. “The most rewarding aspect of being at Atlantic was the opportunity to work again with T.I.,” he shares. “We have a great chemistry based on being from the same place; growing up in Atlanta and going through the obstacle course of the street stuff. Watching him go through his trials and tribulations and the way he went through them and stood up to them, it makes me proud dealing with him.”

Not every decision K.P. has made panned out the way that he expected. He acknowledges that he may have mishandled some situations along the way — and he cites specifically the early career of Alabama rapper Yelawolf as an example of his reach exceeding his grasp.

“I’ve noticed that sometimes you can affect people positively and negatively,” he says. “I know there’s fault on my side in how that situation ended up — based on blind ambition. I thought I was doing things to help and they ultimately did help, but I didn’t do them in a way that [was communicated effectively]. You think people see that it’s for their own good. But its one of the best experiences I’ve ever had — from a learning perspective. I take pride in [the fact] that he’s in a better place with opportunities that he didn’t have when we met. It’s a win-win regardless.”

Stereo Williams
Stereo Williams

Todd "Stereo" Williams, entertainment writer based in New York City. He co-founded Thirty 2 Oh 1 Productions, an indie film company.

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