Becoming an artist manager means dedicating your life to providing opportunities for another person. Managing an artist, who also happens to be your child, breeds an entirely different set of challenges. Just ask Stacia Mac, 39, the mother and manager of 21-year-old Chicago rapper Polo G.
“As a manager, you’re taking the charge and saying you want to help an artist cultivate their career,” Mac says. “That aspect is especially challenging when managing my son because there’s no room for failure. It has to work; I have to work.”
Stacia Mac’s conviction is all the more impressive considering she had little experience in the music business before taking on the role of manager to her son. That said, a career in property management gave her all the skills she’d need to succeed. “Property management was my boot camp, of sorts,” she explains.
On prom night 2017, Polo G, born Taurus Tremani Bartlett, told his mother he was skipping college to pursue a music career. Less than a year after graduating high school, Polo’s star began to rise, and record deals came knocking. Convinced he had what it would take to become a star recording artist, and fearful of others taking advantage of his youth and inexperience, Mac founded her management firm, Only Dreamers Achieve, in 2018. Immediately, she began funding Polo’s studio time. When the calendar flipped to 2019, Mac was on the phone with lawyers negotiating Polo’s record contract with Columbia Records.
Polo G’s 2019 debut, Die A Legend, put him on the hip-hop map and the Billboard charts, but Mac, who is a mother to four children, hopes to achieve more than just being a manager to Polo G. Only Dreamers Achieve is blossoming into a “one-stop-shop” for creatives of all kinds, from musicians and photographers to makeup artists who have worked with Beyoncé. Mac has also started a podcast called I Birth Legends, a space to speak with other rap mothers.
“Most of these stories start with the matriarch, and I was intrigued by that,” Mac elaborates. “I wanted to give the moms a platform and get the nitty-gritty of how people are molded into legends from their perspective.”
Our conversation, edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: You started your career in property management. Did you take any lessons from property management to artist management when you founded Only Dreamers Achieve?
Stacia Mac: Absolutely. To manage, you have to be organized. You have to have a strong foundation to make sure your day-to-day is tight. Property management was my boot camp, of sorts. No matter who they are, a manager can make or break your career. When management isn’t up to par, things start to fall to the wayside. As a manager, you’re taking charge and saying you want to help an artist cultivate their career. That aspect is especially challenging when managing my son because there’s no room for failure. It has to work; I have to work.
When did Polo G first show interest in music?
When he was younger, we used to call him Rapper Dude. He loved singing T.I. and Lil Wayne songs on the radio. Once he got older, he would try to imitate his favorite rappers wholesale. Because he wrote well, he also began to write poetry. When he started to rap, I started hearing people play his songs inside our city out of nowhere. He’d go to the studio, and I was just happy he found a hobby. My plan was always for him to go to college, so I never thought he’d want to make music professionally. He had been accepted to several colleges, but the night of his prom in 2017, he told me he wanted to become an artist. I told him he had one year to make it big. Otherwise, he’d go to school. And so said, so done. It wasn’t even a full year before he had a major record deal.
Once Polo began to take music seriously, what inspired you to step in as his manager?
It was out of necessity. He would try to fund music on his own, and I saw he was struggling. He didn’t want to lean on me financially and be a burden, so he tried to take odd jobs and do whatever he could to afford the studio. As a mother of four, he understood I had my hands full financially. But it resulted in him getting into trouble sometimes, so I would help fund his studio time. We eventually got a crash course in how everyone isn’t a good person inside of the business. When I saw that, I said, “Yeah, not on my watch. I don’t know, but I’ll learn quickly.”
It was a crash course, the sink-or-swim situation for me. From a momager standpoint, I looked at Sonja Norwood, Ms. Deb [Antney], and people like Tina Knowles. These are women who were heavily involved in their children’s careers, and they were legendary. They did it with multiple children, so it wasn’t luck. I looked to them for inspiration. I [stepped in] to make sure my son stayed on the straight path and that he wouldn’t be taken advantage of in the industry.
I read you played a significant role in negotiating the terms of his record contract with Columbia Records.
Because we were poor, a lot of the labels would low-ball us on offers. I knew his worth, and if he was able to draw in these huge numbers independently, then he’s an asset. If they tried to give me $500,000, I knew he was worth $600,000 (laughs). We’ve been poor longer than we’ve had the chance to get rich, and I’m not going to put myself or my child in a jacked-up situation. I did my due diligence to make sure the terms and conditions were right. I don’t regret signing to Columbia because they didn’t have many young artists on the label when he signed, and I knew we could work that to our advantage. They would be invested in seeing him win.
Your son makes profoundly personal and affecting music. As his mother, how does it feel to hear him pour out his heart on record the way he does?
When he tells a story, it hits close to home because I can hear the pain in his voice. As much as you want to shelter your kids, some things can’t be helped. I’m so grateful he was able to turn his pain into passion because there are so many children like him. I get emails and calls from people all the time who tell me his music saved their lives because his pain helped soothe theirs. While I wish I could’ve done more to make his life growing up easier, I’m immensely proud of him turning his passion into art.
Die A Legend was a breakthrough record that spawned multiple RIAA certifications. Describe Polo G’s relationship to fame as his star continues to rise.
One of the pieces of advice I gave my son is that he has to know who he is. If you live by the compliment, you die by the insult. Our family is very private. He’ll be the biggest artist, but he doesn’t seek the attention that comes with it. He’s gonna come for everything due to him, but not necessarily looking for the spotlight.
As your management profile has grown, you’ve created your own podcast called ‘I Birth Legends.’ Where did the idea come from?
I always tell my children, “You’re great; now do something legendary.” I Birth Legends was in the works before [my children] were even born. My children are God’s promise to my womb and my legacy of greatness. Instilling these positive affirmations into my children inspired me to look at IBL as a lifestyle brand, at first. Great ideas eventually take on a life of their own. I realized it was ripe for turning into a podcast where I speak to rap moms. You always see phenomenal people—whether they’re athletes, politicians, entrepreneurs, or what have you—and wonder what their backstory is. Most of these stories start with the matriarch, and I was intrigued by that. I wanted to give the moms a platform and get the nitty-gritty of how people are molded into legends from their perspective.
As both a mother and a manager, what’s one valuable lesson you’ve learned from interviewing other rap mothers on your podcast?
Every mother I’ve interviewed has given me valuable advice. We all made sure our kids didn’t get a big head. We instilled hard work ethics and helped to organize their lives. Being able to look at this life from the perspective of a mother is a blessing.