I can’t begin to say how excited we were to secure Steve Lobel for a feature within Urban Grandstand. As someone who dreamed as a child of working in the entertainment industry, he’s someone I sure followed along the way. When many others were literally playing games, Steve was running things, making things happen not only for himself, but for so many others. Coming from Cleveland, I watched, almost first hand, as he helped create some of the biggest opportunities for Bone Thugs N Harmony as a group, as well as each member in their solo efforts. He’s worked with a wide variety of other artists in addition to them, but his history began well before that. Brought into the fold of entertainment by the legendary Jam Master Jay, the same love, respect, and admiration he shows for helping artists build their brands and careers was extended to him by one of the greatest. Actually growing up with Jam and Run DMC, he saw first hand from some of the best to ever do it just what it took to survive in this industry. Now, having been in this business for nearly three decades, he’s working to sharpen his brand even more, and not only continue offering greater opportunities, but show the younger generation just what the business of music is all about. The magic that he has brought to this industry is unparalleled. This article is a way for him to showcase his world, and it’s an opportunity for us to honor a man who anyone interested in any part of the music business should know. It’s our chance to salute the incomparable Steve Lobel!
UG Digital Mag: This is an amazing opportunity connecting with someone like yourself. You’ve done so much here in this industry that we can’t help but learn from you. It’s a great opportunity to emphasize the things you’ve done for those who have followed, and it helps to continue to introduce you to those who have in a sense been under a rock. You go back a number of years, and the positivity from many artists comes from them having worked with you. What does it do for you to know that you have left that type of impact, when you’re still building?
Steve Lobel: To be honest with you, if people don’t who I am, it’s OK. I do have a resume in stripes, and that’s what I try to tell the younger generation. Hard work pays off, and you have to build a resume. You have to put that work in to become who you want to be. I’m just blessed. I’m a man of my word, and I’ve worked hard. I’ve done a lot and it’s a gift and a curse. I’m blessed, but humbled to work with so many different people from different eras, genres, and states so to speak, from Bone Thugs N Harmony in Cleveland, to Run DMC in New York, to Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles, to Sean Kingston in Miami. Three Six Mafia in Tennessee, Fat Joe in the Bronx, so on and so forth.
UG Digital Mag: I’ve been one who has followed you all this time. I love the industry, have family who are in it, and it’s amazing, not to mention inspiring, for me to see what you’ve done. Being in Cleveland, I’ve followed Bone Thugs for example, and part of me gaining that stronger appreciation for you is the way you’ve worked with them and treated them. I’ve seen the people they’ve worked with otherwise, and I think you’ve been the strongest force for them, and simply put, the one person who hasn’t screwed them over or taken them in the wrong direction, and that also goes for other artists you’ve worked with. People have a tremendous amount of respect for you?
Steve Lobel: You give respect and you get respect. If people disrespect me, I’ll disrespect them harder. It took some time. I am a caucasian guy in an urban Afro-american business. I’ve dealt with a lot of people who maybe have never dealt with someone like me, or grew up and hung around with someone like me. It was all about building a relationship organically, and getting to know one another and building trust. My relationships are decades long because I’m a man of my word and integrity. I can still talk to Fat Joe 25 years later, and I’m still working with most members of Bone Thugs all these years later. We kick it like father and son. When you say Bone Thugs, and I call this 216 number, it’s weird because I used to deal with 216 numbers all day long with the members of Bone Thugs and the Mo Thugs artists. A lot of people came around Bone, and I’ll tell y’all the truth one day of what really goes on, but it’s not easy to manage a group. You have so may different emotions, feelings, and personalities in a group. It wasn’t easy. I’ve kept it more than 100 with Bone. I’m still down with most of them for so many years, over and over, through the trials and tribulations. I know more about that situation than a lot of people, and like I said, I’ve been through ups and downs with them and I’m still here. I was a part of putting the Bone and Biggie song [Notorious Thugs] together, Ridin’ Dirty with Chamillionaire, so on and so forth. I’ve been booking them with my partner Jamie for many years and making money with them. I’ve brought so much to the table for them, so you’re right. Some people come in and out of their world, and I’m still here standing, loyal, and doing great business. Time will tell, and the truth always comes out, but I’m still here standing.
UG Digital Mag: Two things I want to hit on. Jam Master Jay, and Run DMC. I know you fully credit them for your success. How did you connect with them in the beginning?
Steve Lobel: You know, Jam Master Jay put me in the game. I grew up with Run DMC and Jam Master Jay. I definitely give credit where it’s due, and I’m a loyal dude with integrity, so I always give props to them, and I say Russell Simmons is my mentor. I don’t want to sound repetitive in the things I do, but a real brand stays consistent and doesn’t switch up. People who do hear interviews are saying this guy really stays true to the game and who he is. I’m from Queens, New York, and I don’t forget where I come from. I started with them and the sky was the limit. Rest in Peace to my mentor and my man, Jam Master Jay.
UG Digital Mag: You spoke on the idea of managing groups, and dealing with trials and tribulations. How have you managed that through the years, given it goes through ups and downs from day to day. Some artists are difficult, obviously.
Steve Lobel: Managing artists can be difficult, but at the end of the day, I love what I do. Everything in life is difficult and nothing’s easy. You have to deal with a lot of bullshit. I don’t know how I’ve done it so long. I’ve been through a lot and have been stressed out, so on and so forth. Sometimes I have no patience and I want to throw it in, but the passion and drive keeps me going. Nothing in life is easy so you have to deal with the good, bad, ups, and downs. You have to laugh and cry, and put God first.
UG Digital Mag: Where are things with A2Z Entertainment? It’s been 15 years now.
Steve Lobel: I named it A2Z Entertainment because I do everything from A to Z. I know every part of the music industry. A lot of young people don’t know about the whole part of the industry from publishing to royalties, ancillaries and splits. Not many new artists have a team, lawyer, agent, and manager. A lot of these artists haven’t done a show. We’re more of a production company label. I do a lot of consulting, and not as much management. I have my whole brand reworking on Instagram and Snapchat. A2Z has been around, and it’s an LLC. It’s management, production, film, and a bunch of stuff.
UG Digital Mag: Have you considered documenting or chronicling your day to day in general?
Steve Lobel: Well, I’m writing a book called The Coach Lasts Longer Than the Player, I just joined snapchat, and it’s documenting certain things with that. I want to do a documentary on my life. Have I done reality shows? Yes! I was on Millionaire Matchmaker, I was on Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott in 2004 when reality television wasn’t as big, and I did another one called Managers & Celebrities. I’m pitching different shows. What’s fucked up is everybody feels like nobody cares about what goes on behind the scenes in the music industry, and I tend to disagree because there’s so much great positive stuff in showing what goes on to be in the music business and be great. So many TV companies say it’s boring and they just want to show the finished product. To me, I’d rather see the behind the scenes and the making of it. I shot some sizzles and I’m pitching some stuff and trying to sell some stuff. I've got a thing called Beats & Bullshit, meaning show ‘em the music business and all the bullshit that goes with it. People don’t see that. They don’t know how to set up this and that. Most people are followers and not leaders. It took for Empire to come on TV and everybody feels it’s the business, but that’s not the music business. That’s what they want to show you as the music business. I want to show you the raw and uncut. To be honest with you, if someone doesn’t want to be a leader with me, then I might have to shoot it myself and put it out somewhere online. Online is very powerful, and content is key. I have my own talk show, Live with Steve Lobel, where I sit with artists and interview them. I interview everyone from J. Cole to Bizzy Bone to DJ Mustard to Logic to Focus the producer. The list goes on. I feel like I want to be the next Johnny Carson or Howard Stern. I just want to be innovative and creative, but I’m playing around with snapchat, documenting certain things in my life, and going from there.
UG Digital Mag: I love and appreciate the fact that we’ve connected. I agree with all you’re saying, and a lot of what you’re doing and planning, I’ve personally looked for that, from the lawyers, to contracts, to everything else, so you know the things that are coming and what can happen. For those new managers coming into this, what advice do you offer?
Steve Lobel: I mean look... everybody is everybody these days. Everybody is the manager, rapper, singer, dancer, andvideo director, but we’re all the same. We all bleed, shit, and we’re all going to die one day, or you’re not human. So I don’t judge people. Only God can judge, but the advice I give is make sure you want to do this. Work hard. My 5 or 6 keys to success were communication, organization, follow-up, never taking no for an answer, and common sense, which is not common. That’s the advice I give. Make sure you want to do this, love doing this, and know it’s a business. You need to know certain things.
UG Digital Mag: I love it. Again, I appreciate you, and I’m grateful for this opportunity.
Steve Lobel: I just want to tell every body that less is more, quality over quantity, money comes and goes but history stays. I’ve been blessed, but it’s a gift and a curse. You have to take the good and the bad. Love what you do, and work hard. The hard work pays off. Nothing happens overnight. Rest in Peace to Eazy E, Rest in Peace to B.I.G., Rest in Peace to Big Pun, Rest in Peace to Tupac, Rest in Peace to Jam Master Jay, Heavy D, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of those people. Sky is the limit.