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RAINMAKERS:
COACH K AND P

Our latest edition of Rainmakers, on your home-office desk now, chronicles influential players from all corners of the biz; in this excerpt, the partners lay down the foundation of their Quality Control label and management company.

“My skills. His credibility. It all came together,” Kevin “Coach K” Lee told the New Yorker in 2017, recalling the genesis of Quality Control Music, which he’d founded four years earlier with Pierre “P” Thomas.

Indeed, QC COO Coach K is the business-savvy executive, mild-mannered and cool; CEO P brings the street cred. “I’m not sitting in no office just looking at analytics; I’m out here on the ground,” he confirmed.

Teaming with Motown and Capitol Music Group, the QC bosses have used their divergent strengths to turn an Atlanta recording studio into the hottest hip-hop label in the game.

The man who would become Coach K grew up in Indianapolis but made his bones in Atlanta. He managed rappers Jeezy and Gucci Mane during the ATL’s transition from the crossover explosion of OutKast, Ludacris and T.I. to the established hip-hop stronghold of today; his clients were acknowledged as foundational figures in the city’s rising trap scene.

As for QC’s other half, Pierre Thomas grew up on Atlanta’s rough West Side, hustling his way out of a drug-ridden environment by any means necessary. Though P served time for gun possession and drug offenses as a youth, he managed to thrive. “Do you know what I had to do to get my first half a million dollars?” he asked the New Yorker. “I can’t even tell you, but it wasn’t easy.” Thomas made “safe” investments in real estate once he had the funds to do so.

P knew Gucci from the local strip-club scene, which brought him into Coach K’s orbit. In 2013 he approached Coach about cofounding a label and signing a hot young rap trio called Migos.

Toting a duffle of cash, P secured Migos: hookmeister Quavo, his fast-rapping nephew Takeoff and his magnetic cousin Offset. Quality Control was born.

P and Coach K relied on the Atlanta strip-club circuit to develop the Migos brand locally. After they caught fire with “Versace,” QC issued a handful of mixtapes to build buzz on the streets. Coach K then reconnected with Todd Moscowitz, who’d moved from Warner to 300 Entertainment, to partner with QC for the release of Migos’ first proper album.

That record, Yung Rich Nation, failed to meet expectations. But thanks to the dance that emerged alongside it, off-cycle single “Look at My Dab” swept the nation, with athletes, influencers and even presidential candidate Hillary Clinton busting out the “Dab.” QC and Migos were ready to seize the viral moment, but by then the deal with 300 had gone south.

“We got a company saying, ‘Y’all can’t put no music out. We ain’t letting y’all sell nothing,” P explained to Complex. “It was one of the biggest songs of that year. You had the kids—everybody was doing it. But we couldn’t sell it. We couldn’t stream it. Because we was in a battle.”

Somehow, QC effectively extricated itself from 300 before Migos had a chance to cool off. A bad deal was followed by a good one, courtesy of Motown President Ethiopia Habtemariam, via Capitol Music Group/Motown. “I give it all up to Ethiopia, man,” Coach K told HITS. “We were in a place where we were looking for a partner that would see our vision and let us do our thing but also watch our back.” Habtemariam had initially approached them about a publishing deal, then pitched the idea of a label joint venture—and a meeting with CMG boss Steve Barnett. “One conversation, and we shook on the deal,” Coach related. “We haven’t looked back.”

Read the entire profile here.

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