Artists are not the only ones in the picture. An important part of the industry, essentially the backbone of the whole game, are the people behind the scenes. These are the ones putting artists in a position to win. Whether they are signing deals, giving them press, managing, creative directing or simply guiding them down the right path. The background is a necessary piece of the puzzle. Without it artists may never reach their full potential.
Kolby Turnher is an all-around force in the industry. Using his exquisite fashion sense and viable ear to break new artists. He plays many roles, it is hard to put him simply into one category. An astute creative director, A&R, manager, marketer, he can and has basically done it all. A valuable asset to any label especially.
Currently working as an A&R for Alamo Records which harbors some of today’s most well-known artists. Running his own agency the64thfloor and working with the good people over at AnimalHouse on events for 3rdShiftNYC. On top of all that he manages artists including KrimeLifeKass, ABG Neal, Lil Baby Suplex, and more. While doing everything in between and at the same time. He has an insane work ethic and is known for keeping his ears to the streets.
Knowing from an early age that he had something to offer. He manifested where he is today and naturally made a name for himself. Based off of trend setting ability he always knew would take him so far. We talked about how he came up and where he is now below:
How did you get started in the music business?
I feel like I first got started when I was like 11, 12 running around the hood trying to collect mixtapes and DVD magazines with all the content. By the time I started rapping and getting known for it in my hometown I was actually like, “this rapper shit is trash, these niggas can’t dress and have no background knowledge to anything”. Then I slowly transitioned my focuses toward fashion design, creative direction and unknowingly, A&R and management work.
Who were the rappers at the time that gave you the passion for the music?
The interest came from seeing artists like Lenny Kravitz, Snoop Dogg, Biggie, 2Pac, Bob Marley, Wu-Tang and Kris Kross, those were like the original influences based on my earliest memories. The artists that really got me involved and made me say ‘alright this is what I’m gonna do’ are Lil’ Wayne (Hot Boy$ era), Dipset, Eminem and Ruff Ryders. I remember seeing all of these young people getting it and making their areas hot and I was like damn. Coming from Long Island, NY and then moving to Albany, NY you never had anyone really making your region, area and culture HOT! And then I was like ‘well if I’m going to do anything in life and be acknowledged for it, what is it gonna be?’ I refused to work a regular job, I didn’t want to play sports or any of that other corny shit the kids my age wanted to do, so I remember being young as fuck like 9 or 10 years old and literally dedicated my whole life to this. The culture, the industry, whatever the fuck people want to call it, I put myself in it.
Did you have a game plan of how to go about everything, how you would make wherever you were at hot?
As a 9 years old? No, but the only thing to do was go outside and be someone, people forget that part is the first important step of any plan. People be so gung-ho on making it as some type of artist they don’t even know themselves and figure themselves out first. That’s why most of these new rappers are all smoke and mirrors
Microwave rap. When did you know who you were and what role you were going to play?
I had an idea as a youngin’ in this shit like 14, 15 but I think by the time I turned 18, 19 it was like established in my head and within the small friend group we had. We quickly became the influencers of our area, for the lack of a better term, and I knew how exactly I wanted to use my influence. Especially once I got to college and saw how quickly (yet unexpectedly) took that place over.
What were some ways you were using your influence in college?
Literally the whole campus and the area around it was market research, I went out there and purposely didn’t fuck with anyone cause I was only supposed to be out there for a semester then I was gonna dip. Once I realized I was going to stay I continued to not fuck with people however my roommate and I quickly became the on-campus wild boys, putting everyone onto all the new music and then running the fashion scene on campus. That turned into everyone wanting to shop with us, I started styling half the campus, especially after that first semester, it’s hard to name the ways I used my influence, we just were the influence. Period. Even if people thought the shit we were doing was weird right when we did it, like two weeks later everyone would be on my dick for the same shit they said was weird and tried to make fun of me for.
When did you start to tap in with artists and direct them?
Man like in high school, after I decided being a rapper was corny to me all the rappers I was cool with had me being their fake A&R/manager for a while until I got my first label job. For real, for real.
What was your first label job and how did you land it?
I was a blogger and Junior A&R for Cinematic Music Group, Smoker’s Club and Vashtie.com. I landed it due to a tweet Kei (21 Savage’s manager) put out, she said they were looking for help, I contacted her and was hired like a week later.
Where have you maneuvered in the industry since then?
I launched my own creative agency/management group: the64thfloor, I’ve been doing A&R work for Alamo Records, and I linked up with my boys from AnimalXHouse (Will Foster and Jordian Ross) to start 3rdShiftNYC. That has taken on a whole life of it’s own within the underground NYC culture and nightlife, just really keeping my fingers on the pulse of the culture and dripping sauce all over the place.
Who are some of the first artists you managed and who are you currently managing?
Although I wouldn’t say I managed them, I definitely got my feet wet in that realm running around with my boys from Albany, AirlineJay and NBHD Nick. While doing that I also learned a lot of game via running around with my boys in Philly, Asaad and Troy. Asaad was managed by a guy named G Loose at the time, Troy and him gave me the initial “you could be an A&R” conversation that made me kind of take what I was doing with all of these artists a bit more seriously. At first I was just the fashion guy around all the rappers. After that my first real A&R project was actually Flipp Dinero when I was at Cinematic, this was like 2016, way before you guys heard “Leave Me Alone”. I actually styled him for his first press photo shoot. Super proud to say he was actually one of my first real projects. My first management, real management projects were Lil’ Baby Suplex, Boy aka Boy From The Rhode and Krimelife Cass. All of which I still work with as well as ABG Neal and all the other artists you might affiliate me with.
Do you have any advice for people who are trying to take a similar path as yourself?
Believe in yourself, never do anything you don’t believe it. Stay 10 toes down, stay down until you come up.