Music exec Jennifer Drake reflects on career highlight: Signing Kendrick Lamar

Photo Courtesy Jennifer Drake
Music exec Jennifer Drake surrounded by her industry friends and colleagues, including Kendrick Lamar, Jermaine Dupri, Usher, Sean Diddy Combs and 2 Chainz – (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Drake)

Chances are, if you’re in the music industry, then you’ve heard the name Jennifer Drake before. Drake is presently the senior director A&R at Sony/ATV Music Publishing. In her former role, she worked as creative director at Universal Music Publishing Group. With a network that boasts clients, colleagues, and friends with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Jermaine Dupri, Usher Raymond, Sean “Diddy” Combs and 2 Chainz, she is sure to reach mogul status in the near future.

Rolling out recently received the opportunity to talk to this young mogul in the making. We wanted to figure out what drives her and makes her a female success factor. Drake shared with us her journey of success, her creative process her and what inspires her on a regular basis. Read the inspiring interview below and let us know what you think. We want to hear from you. What does your creative process say about you? What inspires you?

Describe three highlights of your journey.

Receiving my first real opportunity to work in the music business [is one highlight]. In music, we take chances on talent all the time but we don’t realize that people also take chances on executives. Someone identifying my talent and believing in my potential was an enormous opportunity, especially in the often “hyper-competitive” music industry — it was one of my proudest accomplishments. When I thought back on my beginnings in the industry when I had been working so hard at Affiliates Music Group, with DJ Drama, DJ Sense and Don Cannon, I have always worked extremely hard because I knew that I wanted to work in this business for a long time. From those early days to one of my greatest moments in forming a relationship with Top Dawn Entertainment (TDE) and eventually signing Kendrick Lamar (one of the greatest lyricists of our time) with ASCAP before his classic first album dropped Good Kid m.A.A.D City, I have had many highlights. But each step represented an opportunity to make an impact in our industry. Yes, having had the chance to work with a true musical visionary like Kendrick Lamar was definitely a career highlight. Finally, joining one of the largest publishing companies as sr. director at Sony/ATV is also definitely another career highlight.

What inspires you?

Inspiration comes in many forms and can be pulled from many different experiences. Throughout my life, I have faced many serious obstacles including working exhaustively with very little money to break into the business. This was a particularly difficult time in my life as I had to sacrifice many basic necessities in order to just make it through each week. But I did make it, and looking back I came to realize that I’d been learning and growing through those challenges. They taught me that I can withstand anything, which was for me, incredibly inspiring. Also, I’m inspired by creating, developing, and building projects from just a simple idea. Challenges create a spark inside of me that lead to tremendous inspiration. Inspiration comes from being told no.

What motivates you to come up with big ideas?

I’m a firm believer in trusting and following your personal instincts and gut intuition. I am very aware of my instincts; it’s that feeling of something tugging inside of you and I have learned to harness that feeling for good in my life. I would describe my intuition as a direct line with God that I trust and rely on when I can’t always explain something — it just feels good or bad. I have always strived to use many of my non-conventional skills to create a vision for something useful that previously didn’t exist.

Name three people in your industry that you consider great.

Mike Will Made-It. To walk the line of businessman and creative is challenging. To build an empire from nothing, that too is challenging. He’s a guy who wears many hats successfully.

Oprah Winfrey — it’s Oprah! …  Enough said. Quincy Jones is the third.

How do you communicate your creative vision with people who hire you?

In each one of my previous positions in the music business, I have always tried to follow a philosophy of hard work and following gut instincts.  At each of these stages of my career, I have been able to use my natural intuition to follow creative leads. Eventually, from paying close attention to detail, I was able to create small innovations and then connect them with a larger picture to produce something new and helpful.  I have worked very hard to develop this reputation and I think I have been successful in trading on my work and reputation. Therefore, when someone is looking to hire me, I feel that they have the trust to believe in my vision and past working history.

How do you push your creative limits?

Experimenting. You have to try new and different things all the time. “Stay current for the future” is a small motto of mine. It means, in order to better predict what people might need in the future, you have to stay current with everything that’s happening now. Then, when a boom in creativity happens, the floodgates can open and others can build their own work based on the original scaffolding that was in place, anchoring creativity. For instance, in my case, I feel that discovering new, creative talent is only the beginning, after that is where the real work happens.  From there, you have to experiment in many ways to achieve the best creative result and you’re constantly searching for ways to enhance and promote that original talent.

Name three of your favorite songs from your three of your favorite musicians.

Prince is my all-time favorite! “Purple Rain,” and “When Two Are in Love.” Various songs from Khalid (https://soundcloud.com/thegreatkhalid), and “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye.

If you could collaborate with two creative in any field, who would it be and why?

Steve Stoute (CEO of the brand development and marketing firm Translation) – he saw a market that was underserved and really changed the culture of who brands seek to partner with. The culture drives the market and when he first began pairing brands with music he was not only able to capitalize on an underserved market but use that market to make brands cool. Other examples are Diddy and Ciroc –Genius!

The second person would be Oprah, I just want to have lunch with her… Be her BFF… lol. Seriously, I admire her courage and the fact that she persevered through so many obstacles. She’s built an amazing ever growing empire.  She’s amazingly creative and a great business woman.

Finish the sentences:

Creativity begins …when there is a challenge or problem that needs a solution, but none are readily available.

The response to my craft is … always interesting – no two days are the same and I love it!

My legacy will be … hopefully, a space where sincere creativity will be cherished. And young people know to always, always follow  “Perseverance.”

 

Munson Steed
Munson Steed

Founder and publisher of rolling out's parent company Steed Media Group.



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