Inside The Industry: HBK Jay R
In this week’s Inside The Industry, we meet Jay R. Jay R is a longtime member of the Bay Area’s own HBK Gang. When the music started taking off and things got hectic, Jay R was able to step up and handle the business side of things. He was also able to step into the role of a manager/tour manager for the likes of his close friend P-LO, Kehlani, as well as Vallejo’s SOB x RBE. In this interview, Jay R gives us some insight into his experience with tour life, managing and the struggles and benefits of being on the road. He also blesses the next generation of music entrepreneurs with solid advice about coming up in the current music scene.
Edel: What is your job title and what do you do?
Jay R: My job title is artist management, tour management, road management, basically all management. For artist management, I manage P-LO. As for tour management, the main artists I work with are SOB x RBE, Kehlani, and Sage The Gemini. So on a daily basis, I get a lot of emails. You know, just communicating with people that either want to do a show or trying to set up a session and kind of being that middle ground for P-LO. More so, just being that communication factor.
Edel: How did you get to the position you are in now?
Jay R: It fell in my lap really. It wasn’t expected. We had the ‘Up!’ song with Iamsu! and we didn’t have anybody to be responsible because a lot of people were calling at the time and we needed someone to take those calls, take those emails and see what people were talking about. Honestly, as weird as it sounds it really just fell into my lap. I just took the leap and I was like alright, let me be the responsible one and hold down my patnas.
Edel: Was it pretty hectic at first?
Jay R: At first I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know anything. I was literally winging it because every day it was something different. When we did our first tour they threw me to the wolves. I remember we did a tour, it was an IAMSU and Problem tour – a West Coast tour. It was probably about five shows. But yeah, they threw me to the wolves because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to book a vehicle. I didn’t know how to get rooms for everybody. I didn’t know how to talk to a venue. So I’m in there like ‘YO….THIS IS CRAZY YO’ because I was shook. Bruh I was so shook. But I got it done at the end of the day. We ended up ordering our first truck – it was a church van, a 12-15 seater we got in Berkeley on University next to Pedro’s, the little Brazilian shack. It’s literally right there next to the college. Every time I drive past there I think about that.
Thinking back it was crazy. It was all about the learning because when you’re learning something it feels crazy until you really get it. Looking at myself now compared to what I was then, I’ve definitely grown a lot.
Edel: Can you explain how you were able to adapt?
Jay R: Just on the job. Like even when people tell you how to do stuff, you won’t really learn it until you’re there doing it hands-on.
It’s just being there. Dealing with the promoters, dealing with the production people or dealing with a label and just talking to them. You really won’t be able to fully grasp it or understand it until you’re really in the seat. You know, you’re not gonna take that jump ‘til you got that ball in your hand. You feel me? It’s just one of those things you really learn when you’re on the job.
Edel: What was the craziest or weirdest thing that happened while you were on the job?
Jay R: Damn what happened… We done went through a lot. We’ve seen it all. I think for me the most hectic thing I’ve experienced was when we did a show with Kehlani and she got sick.
People were inside the venue already, it was a sold out show in Michigan, and there were probably about 1,100 people in there. She got sick the day of as we were going into the show. We had the openers go on, we had the DJ’s go on and we were just waiting. I had promoters calling me because they were there and they’re talking to me and I’m just like, I honestly don’t know, she’s sick right now brother.
I think that’s probably the most recent one. I wouldn’t say it’s the most stressful, but I was like, yo man I don’t know what to do right now because obviously she’s a young lady. She was ill and I couldn’t do anything. I got these people calling me, people talking to me. They were coming up to the bus asking for me and I’m like yo, this is crazy.
We ended up having to cancel the show. We ended up having to come back two weeks later. Of the most recent, that was the most hectic experience I’ve had. That was probably about two or three years ago, but from then on everything has been kind of smooth. It was the Sweet Sexy Savage tour. That’s the one we did for six months. We started off in Europe and ended up back in the States. She did the Greek Theatre in Berkeley and she did the Bill Graham in San Francisco.
Edel: How would you define the tour life?
Jay R: We’ve had homies come on the bus and they can’t do it. I think you really have to be built for it. If you’ve ever toured, you know the bus is like the hub. This is where you want to be because when we were on our first tour we started in minivans. From minivans to a church van to a sprinter to a bus. That’s literally how it should really go in my eyes. But you really have to be built for it though. The thing is, you can’t shower, you can only shower when you get to your hotel rooms because there are no showers on a bus. So if you got to go number two, you have to wait until you get to the spot or you got to have the bus driver stop at a gas station because you can’t do that on a bus either. You’re living with just 12 bunks, you’re literally living with like 10 dudes or 10 coeds but, you really got to be built for it because like I keep saying we have had patnas come on the bus for like two days and damn near lose their minds. Like you really got to be built for it, touring is not for everybody.
Edel: How did you meet everyone?
Jay R: Me and P-LO been rocking for a long time. That’s how I kind of got introduced to everybody, through P-LO. The Hercules Cultural Festival. A classic event that they don’t do anymore but me and P-LO got super cool over there. We had mutual friends for a while and then he started bringing me around, then I started hanging out with Kuya, Chief, Omar, and then Su. Then we were just rockin’ ever since and at the same time the ‘Up!’ song started popping. That’s when it happened, around the same time we were all getting cool. So it’s been like a cool, going on damn near 10 years now — since 2010. That’s so crazy to think about, it’s about to be 2020 and we’re still going. We’re still trying. We’re still trying to achieve the dream. At least do something great for The Bay. We’re trying to always be in that conversation where people are like Steph Curry, M.C. Hammer, P-LO, HBK that’s always the goal. We just always want to be in the conversation 10 more years from now, you know.
Edel: What advice would you give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs?
Jay R: Patience and heart because you have to be a leader, especially being in management. I always say you have to be the responsible one but you also got to be the one that’s levelheaded like a real captain because when the ship sinks, you have to be on your ones and twos, you gotta make sure you’re putting something together to get all these people off the ship.
You always have to have courage or be able to talk to people when it gets foggy. You always want to be able to lead people the right way. Like I said, just being a leader and kind of just having people trust in you. That’s the key. You know, your work always shows.
Edel: What was the best outcome for you?
Jay R: Seeing my homies doing great stuff — like seeing P-LO sell out the UC Theatre. Just seeing your patnas be able to travel off of music or just to do all these different things off of music. I think that’s the beauty of it, just seeing the growth.
Seeing growth in anything is crazy, but I feel like seeing a personal friend that’s like a brother and being able to go somewhere like Wisconsin and people are like, ‘yo you P-LO?’ like that’s crazy, that’s a crazy feeling every time. We still get shocked when people say stuff like that. But I think seeing the real growth in everything from the mud to the flower that has popped out the mud is the beauty of it for sure.
Edel: How do you balance life with management?
Jay R: It’s a balance for sure. That’s a tough question. I think it’s really just depending on your lifestyle. My regular life is literally chilling at the house, cooking something and playing Fortnite . You feel me. If I could do those three things in one day then I’m good. That’s my balance. I must have a good meal and then knock out an hour of Fortnite with the boys, get a little dub and we’re good. I feel like that’s my decompressor because throughout the day I’m dealing with a lot of emails or I’m always dealing with something. The other day we just dropped “Something Light” for P-LO and we had to make sure everything was correct because at this point, we want to make sure the brand is super tight and all the T’s are crossed and all the lights are on and the I’s are dotted. So when it’s that time, it’s usually a little hectic. But if I could do those three things, I think that’s my balance honestly. Or just going to the movies or something.
That’s a key thing, like when we are on tour we go to the movies or we go to the mall on days off to kind of feel normal again. Because you’re just moving so much, there’s really no days off to just chill like that. So when you get those days it’s cool to appreciate them.
Edel: Would you say life has gotten better?
Jay R: Yeah, if I’m able to pay my mom’s bills or help her with her bills then I think I’m cool. Helping out the family. Not even just monetarily but to be able to just do stuff. I think that has been a cool ride. It’s been an up-and-down ride for sure. Being a manager or being anything in art always has its ups and downs and you always just gotta trust in the vision. You always gotta trust the process really.
Edel: What did you spend your first big check on?
Jay R: I bought a MacBook. The first check I got was from the Gang Forever tour. I think I made $1,100 the whole tour. I remember the first thing I did when I got back home was buy a laptop. Because everyone had laptops. I had no laptop.
Edel: Do you have any advice on how to deal with crazy promoters or fans?
Jay R: Man… patience. Like you can’t ever lose your cool. You always have to be the cool, calm and collected one. I think that’s the key.
You don’t ever want to have people read your emotions. I think I learned that over the course of these years. You want to make sure you know when there’s something bad going on but you don’t want someone to be able to read your face and allow people to know, “Oh, he’s stressed out, let’s fuck with him or let me keep bothering him.” You want to keep that face like a stone-cold killer. I think that’s the key.
Edel: Beginning to end, how do you plan a show or tour?
Jay R: Preparation.
Obviously, you want to get everything done, but I would always say just be ahead of everything. You always want to make sure you’re on point. The last thing you ever want to do is procrastinate or anything because you don’t want it to be the day before something and not have everything done. If you’re two weeks out from an event and you know your heads clear you know you’re not worried about nothing you’re good. You’re crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s at that point. You’re just making sure everything’s straight and dusting everything off. Because if you have everything on point two or three weeks before the event you smoove.
I just try not to procrastinate man because I think once you procrastinate then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Obviously, there’s so much different stuff to pay attention to — there’s production, there’s merch, there’s a setlist, there’s making sure the set is on point. It’s just so much different stuff that you gotta make sure is straight. You always have to be a quick thinker, like a real problem solver. That’s why I say procrastination is the killer. But like I say, I still do that shit.
I will also say a team is key to everything. So like with P-LO, it’s four of us on the team. Without the team it’s hard. It’s like trying to do a group project by yourself, it’s impossible. As far as advice, get a good team. You always want to have three other people moving in motion. You always want three other rowers with you on the boat. You’ll go quicker and you gotta trust them. So I think that’s something for sure I’ll give advice on, just having a good team that can hold you down.
Edel: Do you think it’s a good thing that you guys are so close?
Jay R: Yeah it’s cool actually. It’s cool if you could separate business from your friendship because P-LO and I live with each other and our other patna Cal-A who’s also part of the management team. So all three of us live with each other and every day we’ve got a whiteboard with something written up on there, whether it’s like a task or like an idea. Then we talk about it. But if you’re able to separate business and friendship I think that’s the key. That’s the balance. If you could do it then it’s smoove, but if you don’t know how to separate business from your friendship then it might not be for you.
Edel: Would you say that you’re an organized person?
Jay R: Yeah I got OCD like crazy because of my mom. Growing up, If something wasn’t fully neat we weren’t leaving the house. So I feel like that’s stuck with me ever since and I blame my mother for that. Mom, I appreciate you.
When we submit our projects to iTunes or something, everything has to look a certain way. Like whether the first letter is capitalized, the second letter isn’t or both got to be capital. Like if it’s ‘Same Squad,’ those both got to be capital. You feel me? Just little stuff like that, or when I’m emailing someone and I have to make sure my signature is on point. That’s where my OCD is helpful.
Edel: Is P-LO independent?
Jay R: Were signed to Empire right now. We have a two-album deal with them and we’re on our last one right now. We’re gonna figure out when to drop that but we just did the last one, “Prime.” We did the Prime tour with Aux Cord and Another Party Fam and ALLBLACK.
Edel: Any shows coming up?
Jay R: Were doing Outside Lands in SF. I got like two more festivals with SOB. We’re doing Bumbershoot festival in Seattle. Rolling Loud L.A. with P-LO. They haven’t announced it yet, so… spoiler alert. So yea, we’re doing Rolling Loud LA. Outside Lands SF. Yeah, we just gone keep traveling.
Edel: What’s next?
Jay R: Man… more wins, more trophies. Just trying to get more trophies. Let’s get another plaque out in the Bay. Let’s do something for the Bay. Let’s get some more trophies for P-LO. Let’s keep touring. Let’s touch the people. Man. Let’s keep it moving. Let’s keep it mobbin’ really.