Shawty Lo’s Manager, Johnnie Cabbell Talks Being An Executive In Hip-Hop
Johnnie Cabbell is one of Hip-Hop’s top booking agents and managers. His company HAH Enterprises also known as Hitz afta Hitz Entertainment is responsible for grooming artists like Shawty Lo, the Shop Boyz, D4L and many others. He is also the exclusive booking agent for Nicki Minaj, Wacka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane. Its safe to say that this entertainment mogul has started an empire that expands beyond music.
Johnnie was born in Cleveland, Ohio and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia at the ripe age of eight after his parents divorced. Atlanta has been his home ever since. He started his music career as a R & B singer which later transitioned to a booking agent. Booking shows for artist like Pastor Troy, Trillville, Yo Gotti, Franchise Boyz, Webbie, Lil Boosie and Lil Scrappy.
Today this jack of all trades is wearing many hats. He is the CEO of HAH Enterprises, which manages and books talent for shows, television, and film. He runs a record label and an entertainment network called HAH TV. He also runs a non-profit organization called A Blessing in the Sky, in addition to being a husband & father. Parlé Magazine had a chance to speak with Johnnie:
Parlé: It’s a pleasure to meet you. Too bad it’s over the phone.
Johnnie Cabbell: Same to you. Hopefully we will get a chance to meet one on one.
Parlé: That would be great! Now, how did you get started in the music industry?
Johnnie Cabbell: Actually, I started out as an R & B artist. I used to be in a group.
Parlé: How does it feel to be behind the scenes now?
Johnnie Cabbell: I love being behind the scenes because I get a high off seeing the development of an artist or group and watch their lives change.
Parlé: When did you start your company Hitz Afta Hitz Entertainment?
Johnnie Cabbell: It’s been about ten years now.
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Parlé: How did you come up with the name?
Johnnie Cabbell: I was just dealing with a lot of hit songs. Songs like “Know That”, “Laffy Taffy”, “Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me”, “Get On My Level” “Dey Know” . It was just hit after hit and I was like that’s the name of my company, but I upgraded the company and it is called HAH enterprises , which still stand for Hitz Afta Hitz, we’re just moving to a bigger level.
Parlé: Tell us a little about HAH Enterprises and your position?
Johnnie Cabbell: The unique thing about me and being a businessman and CEO is my company and my legacy that I’ve been building has all been done from the ground up. I haven’t had anyone give me any money or any investors. I’ve been building everything through my hard work and sweat with my team that I have around me. It’s been helping me get to these different heights and levels that I’ve been reaching and expanding to. I really have a one stop shop. I have a true artist development team. For example if a label gave me an artist I could develop that artist and do everything for them. So, when the label decides to push the button for them they will be fully equipped to stand toe to toe with the best of the best because of the relationships that I’ve built. I’ve built a relationship with Tamiko of Word Ink she is my publicist and I refer my clients to her, for the marketing I work with DJ Scream of Hoodrich for mixtapes to create a buzz, I even have my stylist work with all of my artists, shout out to Shawn Nelson. She does a great job styling a lot of people. Then I come in from the business side of it as far as the management, making connections with labels, and booking artists. I also have a video production company, working with some producers like Lab Junkies & Arkatech and I purchased a studio & events center called Pyrex Arts Lounge, in addition to a Non-profit organization called “Blessing In The Sky” that we can talk about later. I really have a dream team put together.
Parlé: Are you based in Atlanta?
Johnnie Cabbell: Yes, my office is downtown.
Parlé: How many employees do you have?
Johnnie Cabbell: I have a lot, about 10 to 15.
Parlé: Do you plan on branching out to other cities?
Johnnie Cabbell: Yes, I am. That’s my next move. I’m really planning to expand to other areas by 2012.
Parlé: Do you think you would be where you are today if you started in another city?
Johnnie Cabbell: I always thought about that and I really can’t say because I love Atlanta so much and Atlanta has been so good to me. I wouldn’t trade Atlanta for any other spot in the world.
Parlé: What advice would you give someone interested in becoming a booking agent or manager?
Johnnie Cabbell: I would tell them that they really need patience , make sure they have a good attorney, make sure they are a people’s person, make sure they have a good relationship with a lot of the artists that are in the industry, and make sure they have a lot of street smarts as well as book smarts.
Parlé: Who is one of the worst celebrities you’ve ever worked with?
Johnnie Cabbell: You are the first person to ever ask me a question like that.
Johnnie Cabbell: Yes, I always dreaded that question coming out because I never wanted to give an answer. But you are the first person to actually ask me that.
Parlé: Give me a good one and don’t be politically correct.
Johnnie Cabbell: Let me put it to you like this. The one person that kind of disappointed me and really gave me a bad taste and made me tighten up my business more was the Shop Boyz.
Parlé: What did they do?
Johnnie Cabbell: It really wasn’t the group, but it was more of their management and label because I put in a lot of work to help get them out there and getting their songs in rotation in a lot of different markets. I helped a lot with the business as far as their shows because it wasn’t going right and I took them from making a little money to a lot of money. I had them getting $10,000 a show before they signed with Universal and once they got with them they kind of pushed me to the side. They let the major label get in their heads and they told them they needed to be with a bigger agency. Later on their manager that is no longer with them tried to come back and work with me but things didn’t go right. I’ve had some situations, but I have to say it’s mostly the management not the artists.
Parlé: So, who was the easiest artist to work with?
Johnnie Cabbell: I got a lot of favorites. That is really hard to say because I worked with a lot of people and built something more than a business relationship but actual friendships.
Parlé: So the good outweighs the bad?
Johnnie Cabbell: Yes, definitely! One thing I can say is some of my biggest clients that started from zero and worked their way up I’ve played a big part in their careers. Artists like Gucci Mane, Wacka Flocka and Nicki Minaj I played a very instrumental part in their careers.
Parlé: Do you feel like a celebrity in Atlanta or Worldwide?
Johnnie Cabbell: Yes, pretty much if you say Johnnie Cabbell or Hitz Afta Hitz in the whole southeast, some Mid-west, and the East coast people know who I am. All the major labels as well as the independent labels try to get me to work with their artists or book for their artists. I’ve worked with everyone within Rap & Hip-Hop and I’ve done a lot with R & B groups. Now I’m trying to cross over to the Pop side, Country, and Rock. I want to get more on that side as well.
Parlé: If you crossed over to Pop, Country, and/or Rock which artists would you be interested in working with?
Johnnie Cabbell: I definitely wouldn’t mind working with Justin Bieber, Green Day, Cold Play, and Pink. I like those types of artists. I want to work with the bigger named artists. One thing that I can say about me is I like starting from the ground up and being in the artists career in the beginning to see them blossom verses seeing them already established with a name for themselves.
Parlé: So what is a typical day in the life of Johnnie Cabbell?
Johnnie Cabbell: Oh my God, do you want it raw and uncut?
Parlé: Yes raw and uncut.
Johnnie Cabbell: If you want it raw and uncut my day is crazy. The moment I get up I definitely give the man upstairs his praise, I kiss my wife and tell the kids goodbye. My phone is constantly ringing so I’m always on the phone talking or texting, I check my online banking to see if any money came in, I call my assistant to see if I have any meeting on the schedule, I check with my publicist to see if I have an interview or one of my artists does, I may have meeting all day with clients coming in who want me to manage or book them. My day never really ends I just get right back at it again.
Parlé: How long have you been married?
Johnnie Cabbell: Oh did I say that (laughs)?
Parlé: Yes, you did.
Johnnie Cabbell: I’ve been married for about two years. It will be two years on July 18th.
Parlé: So, how is married life?
Johnnie Cabbell: That’s another conversation, but it’s cool it is what it is.
Parlé: Earlier you mentioned your foundation “Blessing In The Sky” can you tell us more about it?
Johnnie Cabbell: My wife deals with my foundation “Blessing In The Sky”. Before I met her she was into that type of stuff. She was always doing things for the homeless and helping families less fortunate. So we deal with a lot of homeless people.
Parlé: Is there anything else you would like to let our readers know?
Johnnie Cabbell: Yes, I am excited about my new line up. I’m working with an artist by the name of Gloss. She is going to be just as big as Nicki Minaj and some of the other females out there, Big Bank Black you might know his song “Try It Out”, Shawty Lo his new album is I Am Carlos, I’ve also expanded over to a lot of reality stars, I’m managing Neffe from the “Frankie & Neffe show, Deiniese Lashaun she has a show coming out called “Life of a Vixen”, and Junk Also known as Candice from the show “Real Chance of Love 2” .
Parlé: Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us.
Johnnie Cabbell: Thanks for having me.
Written by Shanique Byrd for Parlé Mag