Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All Eyes On: Phat Gary

Here is an interesting view on the life and thoughts of Gary Bond, also known as Phat Gary. Most know him as manager of DJ Premier since 2005, others know him as intern of Payday Records in the golden 90s. A guy with a lot of experience in the game with a mission: take Year Round Records to the next level...

"Today’s world is not about how Premier gave you Gang Starr. It’s about what he’s gonna do next week, next month, next year."

“I’m a part of a hip-hop icon, and his success. Not my success, his success. My goal is to make sure he prospers. He’s been doing this for twenty years, and still doing it, in a world where that doesn’t happen very often.”

Indeed, being responsible for the career of rap’s most revered producer —DJ Premier—is no small feat. It involves a healthy respect for the past with a keen eye toward the future. It means cherishing a legacy while retaining relevancy in today’s myopic, what-have-you-done-for-me lately music game. But manager Gary Bond, affectionately yet authoritatively known throughout music industry circles as Phat Gary, wouldn’t want it any other way. And he’s wary of quick alliances and false promises.

“It’s a family here with Premier and our team. It’s not like I’m the manager and he’s separated from me; no, we actually work together closely. I speak to other potential clients, but I can usually tell right away what they’re looking for: to make it happen today. It doesn’t work like that. You have to work and build to make an artist interesting and marketable enough that people want to spend their money on him. Some managers can manage anybody for six months, and then be onto the next cat. It’s hard to find loyalty. People don’t want to work together, fight together, and reap benefits together. Everybody got so caught up in believing that things are supposed to be given to him or her, because success is all you see on TV. They don’t show you the failures. You’d be surprised, a lot of cats don’t really want it.”

Essentially born into a cipher—he spent homeroom periods at Brooklyn’s George Westinghouse High School with Jay-Z and Oli “Power” Grant, Wu-Tang Clan’s Executive Producer—Phat Gary dipped his toe into the industry pool as an intern at Payday Records under owner Patrick Moxey. Payday, incidentally, initially inked Jay-Z to a contract, and released his debut single “In My Lifetime.” Fully immersed in the daily grind, Gary labored through 12, even 16-hour days, saturating himself with industry knowledge and wherewithal. Now, he reminisces on those early days with his trademark mix of irony and insight: “When I was an intern at Payday, people used to laugh at me, saying ‘You’re the dude here working this hard for sandwiches.’ Now, these people are calling me for help.” Last laugh indeed.

Stepping out of the office, Gary assumed the duties of road manager for luminary acts such as O.C., Jeru the Damaja, Guru, Group Home, Bahamadia, even DJ Shadow. A seasoned road vet by 1998, Gary fielded an even more esteemed and lucrative offer from Patrick Moxey: fulltime management of iconic rap duo Gang Starr, comprised of the aforementioned DJ Premier and MC Guru. Phat Gary went to work for Moxey’s affiliated management firm, Empire Management. With Gary’s day-to-day input, demand for Premier’s stripped-down, street-seeped production skyrocketed—so much so that Gary teamed up with Empire coworker Sarah Honda.

When Empire shut its doors in 2004, Gary found his services heavily in demand, and ultimately landed at upstart management company Fuerte. That stint lasted only six months, as a familiar face came calling: DJ Premier. In 2005, Phat Gary reunited with his old friend and ally, this time without interlocutor. Phat Gary was put in charge of Year Round Inc., the umbrella company for all of Premier’s endeavors: production, publishing, touring, releasing of records, etc. He also took the reins at Premier’s recording studio HeadQcouterz, wherein Gary’s office is located to this day. DJ Premier’s business was now exclusively Phat Gary’s.

Immediately, Gary looked to revise some longstanding but less-savory industry business practices: “A lot of people came to Premier looking for favors since he’s this underground producer, and I told them, ‘No, you need to do me a favor, I need you to pay like you weigh.’ So people finally starting paying Premo what he deserved. It was a big step in proving my abilities not only to Premier but also to myself. I basically took the whole Premier team on my back and I just walked and carried us through. It made us stronger. And all that work paid off with Christina Aguilera.”

Indeed, in 2006, Gary helped orchestrate DJ Premier’s most compelling recent project: production for Christina Aguilera’s soulful album Back to Basics. Premier contributed several tracks, including lead single “Ain’t No Other Man,” which went on to win a 2007 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Also in 2007, Premier unleashed the anthemic throwback remix to Kanye West’s “Classic,” featuring Nas, Rakim, and KRS-One. The team of DJ Premier and Phat Gary Bond had pushed the envelope, again. And made believers of an entirely new fanbase. Currently, Premier and Bond are knee-deep in goings-on: a remix for Maroon 5; the standout track “MVP” on Ludacris’ new Theater of the Mind album; artists Blaq Poet and NYG’z, both signed to Premier’s Year Round Records. It don’t stop. Nor does the phone. But Gary, to his credit, still brims with the hunger he showed as a Payday intern.

“Premier and I have conversations, and he’ll thank me for managing him, for taking him on. And I respond by thanking him for the opportunity. But it’s not about being appreciated because I have so much left to accomplish. I don’t use other people’s success as a notch of what a level is. Today’s world is not about how Premier gave you Gang Starr. It’s about what he’s gonna do next week, next month, next year. The whole game is changed. I never thought I’d be here long enough to watch two generations of artists get deals, come and go, and I’m still here. I’m most proud of that fact. To this day, I don’t know how close I am to the edge because I’m not looking.”

Source: The Industry Cosign