Name: Kazz M. Laidlaw
Hometown: Alexandria, VA
Major: Global Business
Major Interests: Art
Being from Virginia, what attracted you to Rutgers? How’s the college scene at Rutgers-New Brunswick different from the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) college area?
Money. Since I decided to go to college, I knew I didn’t want to stay in-state, primarily because I wanted to experience new environments and groups of people and just be away from home. My first choice was Stern School of Business at New York University and my second was Rutgers Business School. I received an equal amount of scholarship money from both, but seeing as how Rutgers tuition is literally half the cost, it was an easy choice.
What was your motivation behind choosing your major? How do you plan on utilizing it for your future career path?
I’m a consequentialist, but more importantly a pragmatist… I started a business with my cousin when I was in living in Panama in 8th grade and since then I knew that was something I wanted to do professionally and on my own terms. I feel like in that same time frame I’ve learned enough (and am still learning) about the profession where a degree isn’t essential to my success in the field and honestly I’d like to spend more academic hours on things I’m more passionate about like writing and art, but as I said, I’m pragmatic. As our world becomes increasingly globalized, a business degree with an international focus is arguably the most versatile, sensible degree I could obtain, especially from a financial standpoint. Career-wise, my goal is to be self-employed, but I accept that at some point traditional employment will be necessary and an international business degree puts me in the best position for that.
From our numerous conversations, I’ve recognized that you have a deep interest in hip-hop music and you’ve expressed that you want to be an A&R. What motivated you to decide this career?
Music–and rap specifically, but not exclusively–was my first love. That sounds cliche but hip hop was something that I grew up with and around, something I understand and relate to, and something I know others can appreciate, and sadly there aren’t enough people who fit that description working on its business side. In 2013 as a black male it’s impossible not to know at least a hundred people (exaggeration, or is it?) who rap or want to “do music” and the market is definitely flooded; however, there’s more quality music being made now than ever before and I’ve developed an ear for quality music as well as a vision for how that music can reach other people.
If you were to become an A&R, how would you try and change the mainstream hip-hop landscape?
Music in general has changed drastically. Those changes are primarily the results of the digital age, which has affected music distribution, consumer habits, and the artist-audience relationship among other things. More so than any other genre, hip-hop has endured the most dynamic changes and with the most urgency, and while there are many theories on why that is I believe these unique changes are a direct result of the unique qualities of hip hop culture that other genres don’t have. Regardless, solutions are in demand across the board, and the genre needs broad-minded people in key positions to generate those solutions. In an A&R position, aside from the usual artist recruitment and development, I’d be working with others to identify these solutions. Ideally I’d change the landscape by tackling these problems on a grand scale and implementing sweeping changes, that involve solving the issues of distribution, connecting with consumers, strengthening the artist-audience relationship, and naturally increasing the value of such activities… after all, this is the music business at the end of the day, and solutions aren’t worth anything if they’re not improving everyone’s bottom line.
If you could do another thing besides be an A&R, what would it be?
I have a lot of interests that I feel all kind of relate to why I want to be an A&R. I’ve dabbled in photography, music journalism, design and videography, and these are all things I’m currently practicing as amateur but that I will be doing professionally in due time that I’m also passionate about… so if I could do anything besides those passions, I’d like to be an art dealer. Being in the music business is essentially art dealing too since music is also art, but I’m talking in more of the traditional sense of selling paintings and sculptures and things, like a Larry Gagosian or Jay Jopling. There’s something peculiar about art dealing in that art is a product of subjective value, yet dollar-wise, it is some of the most expensive stuff in the world. So I think it presents a sort of challenge to an art dealer in assigning value to a piece and convincing others of that value so they pay you for it, and that’s a challenge I think is interesting enough to dedicate a career to.
Who are some of your favorite artists and why? How has been from the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) cultivated your personal taste?
Assuming you mean musically… I have too many favorites to name and to make it worse I listen to everything. If I had to pick though, some of my favorite artists ever are Sade, Serge Gainsbourg, Danny Brown, Yung Gleesh, Gucci Mane, Nas, Michael Jackson, Radiohead, Max B, everyone from Cash Money, from ’97-’03, UGK, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Lee Scratch Perry, Calle 13, Raices y Cultura, UCB, TCB, Rare Essence…These are some of my favorites because i think they’re all some of the most unique and influential artists in their respective lanes, combining style and originality with technical proficiency and proper execution. And more importantly I enjoy listening to their music over and over again. Growing up in the DMV has definitely had a significant effect on how my taste has grown. I was actually born in Columbia, South Carolina and moved to Northern Virginia after I turned one, and as I got older I had a strong liking for southern music as well as west indian music (my dad is Jamaican). Coming of age in the DC metro area was like a musical melting pot as far as my taste goes, because I had all these other influences and then listened a lot of music from an area that has various influences as well. Musically the area has always had a trademark genre in go-go, but aside from that it was always caught between Northern and Southern influences too. I can’t tell you how many of my favorite go-go songs have Gucci Mane samples. On top of this I lived in Panama for two years during middle school which opened my ear up to several other Spanish-language genres. So my taste is the matured amalgamation of West Indian, Spanish, southern, northern, and DMV influences.
What classes or academic avenues at the university have benefited you the most? Why?
I took Human Diversity in the spring of my freshman year that was new and interesting and actually expanded my mind, and Art History was interesting. Financial Accounting was compelling to me because its so useful and practical–everyone should know how business money and accounting works. To be frank though, nothing else at Rutgers has benefited me much outside of adding credits towards my degree.
You’ve mentioned that you have invested in the stock market. This is something typically uncommon for someone our age. What attracted you to start investing your money at such a young age?
My dad definitely introduced it and helped sparked my interest, but my attraction to investing is pretty simple: the ability to make more money. That’s really it haha. I’m not really heavy in it especially now that my responsibilities have grown and I haven’t seen any huge returns, but sites like etrade are easy to use and monitoring markets and making assumptions about what businesses will do good is pretty fun.
What advice would you give to college kids trying to manage their money efficiently?
I’m a college kid with questionable money management practices myself so I don’t think I’m in a position to lend advice haha, but identifying priorities and being disciplined with your budget is essential. Don’t compromise on the amount you need to save. And most importantly be self-aware.
Also, through our conversations, you’ve mentioned your up-and-coming clothing brand Laviiish D.C. Explain the motivation behind making the brand and what lane the brand is geared towards.
When I was younger, just like everybody else I had a fleeting interest in making cool t-shirts. I watched dozens of fledging brands sprout up on the Internet and I lost interest quick. This past summer a close friend of mine proposed that we start a brand, and it was really his creative direction that expanded my mind to how Laviiish could occupy a niche in the independent brand market, and after that the ideas started flowing. We’re not a lifestyle brand that promotes some imaginary lifestyle we don’t lead, we don’t really have a specific aesthetic that we’re going to specifically adhere to, and we don’t have a short list of clichè influences (I personally don’t believe that anybody is able to name all of their influences since our experiences and preferences have shaped our taste and many times art or people affect us subconsciously). that “inspire” all our work. LAVIIISH, categorically, is a Washington-D.C. metropolitan area based brand offering premium quality apparel and accessories. Heralding from the nation’s capital, LAVIIISH celebrates the heritage and culture of the District and its surrounding communities, as well as individuals, movements, and ideas we believe embody a pure sense of originality, authenticity, and style. LAVIIISH, conceptually, is an institution, that uses lifestyle branding and product offerings as a medium to appeal to an elevated level of thinking. Its purpose is to promote ideas and people who not only actualize those mentioned values–originality, authenticity, and style–but also represent LAVIIISH on a deeper level. LAVIIISH champions the quest for extravagance and abundance in many forms, whether material riches or more intangible wealth, and it is the plight of the individuals in that struggle and the ideals they hold dear that we commemorate. These ideals are the rejection of circumstance, a focus on elevation, and a commitment to the maintenance of one’s soul, spirit, and integrity in that process. Remaining true to those ideals is a feat few are able to relate to, much less accomplish, but it is one we feel should be strived for nonetheless. And with every coming collection, collaboration, sponsorship, and idea, LAVIIISH will retain that idea of integrity.
What is your personal fashion sense? Do you pay attention to trends?
I have two tenets that I adhere to stylistically: comfort and versatility. I just buy stuff that I like, that is easy for me to wear, and that I can wear over and over again for a long time. I do pay attention to trends for my personal amusement because the latest hyped up in-bad-taste designs are nothing short of hilarious to me (looking at you, Pyrex Vision!). I’m not sure if I could effectively articulate my personal style however. Growing up in the DMV I have a deep, deep love for New Balances, but I don’t own any Foamposites or North Faces. Ralph Lauren is the brand I own the most of and is also my favorite, but if I could afford it I’d wear a lot of Wings + Horns, Publish, and Maiden Noir.
What artists or musicians should we be on the look out for in 2013? What do you plan on doing to further your creative enterprises in 2013?
Fat Trel and the Slutty Boyz, T Boogie, Gold Link James, Kali Uchis, and artists from the DMV in general. I think it will be a very big year. Also Robb Banks, Curtis Williams/Two-9 Crew, Flatbush Zombies of course…As far as my creative enterprises go this year will be all about execution for me. I’ve done enough planning and brainstorming in 2012, I’m ready to start producing and presenting now. I’ll keep you in the loop.