Top Dawg Entertainment, OVO, Dreamville, all labels that we watch closely with the eyes of hawks. We debate every signee, speculate future moves, some of the world’s biggest artists have emerged from these umbrellas. In many ways these new labels are what MMG, Young Money and Shady Records meant to rap fans just a few years ago.
While the big three may receive the most attention, they aren’t the only labels making big moves that are impacting the industry and rap culture. One label that has quietly climbed the ranks as a force is Atlanta’s Quality Control. The Atlanta based, indie label recently added Lil Yachty into their circle of budding stars. Lil Boat is now in the company of OG Maco, Migos, Young Greatness, Skippa da Flippa, Jose Guapo, Rich The Kid, and more. It’s an interesting roster once you realize that all these artists have had some form of commercial success or on the cusp of breaking out big.
Together, they invested deeply in a carefully curated roster of young rap talents -- as influential local producer Zaytoven puts it, "They've got all the hottest artists in Atlanta" -- the most successful of whom is Migos, who command roughly $40,000 a performance. Envisioning a digital-age hybrid company, Coach and Pee hired a radio and promotions staff. They started their own publishing and management ventures. They spent 12 months and $1 million to build a bunker-like headquarters on Atlanta's West Side, which houses office space and four recording studios. "Everything we do is in-house," says Pee. "We got our own producers, our own engineers." - Billboard 2015
The label creation dates back to 2013, when Kevin “Coach” Lee and Pierre “Pee” Thomas came together. Pee had a studio built, needed artists to come record, and brought in Coach, who is a legend in Atlanta for being the man who managed both Gucci and Young Jeezy at the beginning of their careers. There isn’t a person in Atlanta making music that doesn’t know of Coach K. At the time, Coach saw promise in the Migos and wanted to do more than just bring them into the studio, he wanted to manage them under a bigger company. It was the birth of Quality Control, a name that would be attached to their breakout mixtape, YRN. The Migos success was a great look for the new label and the beginning of their ability of taking unknown acts and turning them into major artists. Look at the Migos now, even with all their legal troubles they are chart toppers.
“Versace” was big before Drake and got bigger after being certified gold; “Fight Night” went gold and chartered higher than “Versace” without the 6 God touch. “Look At My Dab” was also a fair success, and of course the dance came from the QC camp. A dance big enough to get the attention of ESPN once Cam Newton adopted it as his touchdown celebration. The biggest look for the Migos to date is Quavo appearing on Kanye’s single with the promise of more music coming from Yeezus and the three amigos. While they haven’t sold the most albums and haven’t achieved the success of a Billboard breaking single, the Migos have went far, all under the guidance of Quality Control. If they can do the same for Rich The Kid and Skippa The Flippa there’s no denying their strength and vision in the industry.
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OG Maco’s “U Guessed It” was a huge record when it took over the internet in 2014. Before signing to a major, joining Motown/Capital, he inked a deal with QC. In many eyes he had the potential to be the next big act out of Atlanta and aligning with QC only solidified the possibility of a very bright future. The same can be said with Young Greatness, his single “Moolah” peaked at #85 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It’s not a number one single but a promising commercial start for an artist who came into the game with no major co-signs. Rich The Kid, Jose Guapo, and Skippa Da Flippa have all been actively moving, the one-hit-away mentality can be linked to each artist. QC reminds me of Big Block’s Boyz In The Hood. Young Jeezy, Gorilla Zoe, Jody Breeze, and Young Joc were all connected to Block and had major and minor commercial success. QC seems to be a similar collection of artists who seem poised to take their sound from the South and stretch it on a worldwide level.
“I don’t really want to talk about how big our deal was but it was a nice-sized deal,” says Coach K. “And they give us the room. How Capitol is set up, they really don’t have an urban staff, so it’s like QC is kind of like their urban staff. They’re a true partner. It may be a little bit more percentage-wise on the distribution fees, like a partnership, but we own our masters. We got a deal with Capitol but then we got a deal with Caroline, which is Capitol’s distributor. So, if Capitol doesn’t want to upstream [one of our acts], then we’ll just run it through Caroline—and it’s really a better split there, because it’s just a P&D deal with Caroline.” - Coach K in XXL 2016
There’s a lot of eyes of Lil Yachty - he cares about artwork, has a few viral songs, and just landed on the cover of XXL as a freshman. He went independent instead of going the route of a major. If QC can successfully turn the Lil Boat into a gaudy Yacht than the majors will have to pay top dollar to get their latest prospect or he can stay indie and conquer the seven seas without a middle man snatching gold from his buried treasure.
Regardless of how far Lil Yachty goes, QC is a label that is making a name for itself as the home to young hitmakers that could make a big splash in the mainstream. I’m certain the way some artists would love to sign under Dreamville or TDE, there’s kids who want nothing more than to wear a QC chain and have council with two veterans who knows the ins and outs of this game. To overlook them now is to remain willfully blind to tomorrow.
By Yoh, 2Yohz, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: Instagram