The Urban Entrepreneurs Series...
The Urban Entrepreneurs Series ...
Positive Music To The Masses
By Gary G. Toms
For the last 10 tens years or so, people have been complaining that the music industry has taken a turn for the worse. Many believe that the introduction of gangster rap in the early 90's has fueled the violence that claimed the lives of music legends Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
The genre of R&B has young people running out to purchase songs such as "Work It", by Missy Elliot, which is laced with a number of sexual references that have been deemed inappropriate for young children and teens.
The recent murder of Run DMC DJ Jam Master Jay has producers and artists at the record labels re-evaluating the direction that music has taken. One of those producers recently stopped by The Wave to sit down and discuss how he plans to try and change negative aspects of the industry, while maintaining his successful track record.
Shane Watkins is the President and CEO of Beat Mechanics Inc., an independent record label that has produced hip-hop and R&B talent for the last several years, in conjunction with major record labels like Atlantic and Bad Boy Entertainment. Watkins recently moved to the Far Rockaway area after spending the majority of his life growing up in the Jamaica (Queens) area.
A graduate of Springfield High School, he spent time in Indiana working at a popular radio station, WSMK - 99.1 FM, as the host of a radio show. He created a promo for his show, which showcased his talent as a rapper, and the promo became a huge hit with listeners. Soon, he began producing music tracks for a number of up and coming acts, including A Tribe Called Quest. Watkins' best friend of 10 years, Clyde Davison, a native of East New York (Brooklyn) who frequently travels to the Far Rockaway area, was brought in and appointed vice-president of Beat Mechanics Inc in 2001.
"That was the very first group that I was doing production work for, and their enormous record sales allowed them to reach Platinum status. It was a happy period for me," said Watkins.
The CEO, who describes himself as an extremely private person who doesn't smoke, drink, or go around playing "bigtime", told The Wave that he made so much money from his first venture as a producer that he opened up a teen disco.... at the age of 17!
"It was a nice little space with a juice bar. I recognized that there really wasn't a place in my area where kids could go to hang out and have a good time. So, I opened up 'The Track' aka 'The Bop Shop' in Jamaica."
Watkins recalled his relationship with one of the biggest DJ's in the music industry today, DJ Clue.
"For the longest time, me and DJ Clue had Jamaica Avenue on lockdown. There was not one area of the Avenue where you couldn't find one of our mixed tapes. My background as a DJ had a lot to do with me getting to the point where I am now."
Beat Mechanics Inc. has a rather impressive list of talent that they have worked with over the years, which include the following: Naughty By Nature, Onyx, Nelly, Ja-Rule, Craig Mack, Lord Tyriq, Mary J. Blige, Lisa Stansfield, Adina Howard, Micheal Speaks, Lisa Fisher, and a host of others.
Although they have managed to find their niche and major success in the music industry, the duo spoke candidly about the fact that the industry has changed dramatically and how it is not promoting the most positive images.
"The major focus of this label is to create artists that will give off a positive image. The music I produce is, and will continue to be, very different from what's out there, " said Watkins.
When asked to explain how his music differs from anything else that's currently on the market, Watkins did not mince words.
"I am the market! I made the music for Nelly and Mary J., and they are setting the trends. O-Smooth is the very first artist under our label, and we are very excited about him. He has a very positive message. He's going to make you laugh and cry at the same time through his music."
The young entrepreneurs believe that urban contemporary radio has played a big part in the demise of morals and values within many of today's youth.
"I don't think people realize just how powerful radio really is, especially in communities of color. Mommy and daddy are not home a majority of the time because nowadays both parents are working. Radio and television have become their substitutes, but radio has taken over to a large extent. Radio is the mother and father of our kids," exclaimed Watkins.
"They are playing music that is degrading, when they could be playing a lot more positive music. It's definitely having an affect on our kids and our community," said Davison.
"They don't realize that they are being conditioned. If you're a young kid growing up with someone telling you that you're stupid, over and over again, it's going to have an impact. The music industry is no different. If a kid listens to a record about somebody bragging about beating up or shooting someone, or how many women they have, or how much money they made in the drug game, and they hear this over and over again, it's going to have an impact," Watkins stated.
"We are trying to get away from that because we don't like the direction music is going," he continued.
Watkins noted that he has had to deal with a number of "haters" (jealous people) in the Rockaway area, and that many are going around claiming to be linked with his company.
"There's this one cat out here that I am actually thinking about suing. He tells people that he works with us, but he doesn't. We have the same name, and he has a company, but we are totally different in how we work and what we do. He has worked with people and never paid them. He's a real piece of work. I am a legitimate company. I am incorporated, and anyone I work with is compensated. If I have a dollar, then you've got fifty cents. That's just how I am. I'm just out here trying to do the right thing."
Watkins says that his son, "Lil Shane", now 14, attends M.S. 198 and has aspirations of becoming a singer.
"The boy is blessed. He has a voice on him. I'm planning to send him to the High School of the Performing Arts to pursue singing. Everyone out here knows my son. He's a good kid."
When The Wave asked Watkins and Davison to sum up their company, they stated the following:
"We are a team of professional producers, engineers, and song writers. Certified Platinum, we merged together to form one team. We are searching for singers within the age groups of 16 to 25. Our focus is to restructure the music industry with fresh, young, talented artists that want to do positive music and can really sing. We work with the artists from the ground up, in R&B, jazz, gospel, and other forms of music. We are not looking for rap acts at this time."
To contact Shane Watkins or Clyde Davison, you can send them Email at BeatMechanics@hotmail.com.