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The 25 Best A&Rs in Hip-Hop History

5. Antonio "L.A. Reid" Reid

Title(s): Co-founder of LaFace Records, President of Arista Records, Chairman & CEO of Island Def Jam
Artists They Worked With: Goodie Mob, Outkast, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy

Few in the hip-hop business of the 1980s would ever have expected the R&B producer L.A. Reid (famed for his work with The Deele, Bobby Brown, Pebbles, and Paula Abdul) to eventually engineer some of the shrewdest signings in hip-hop; not just commercial coups but truly inspired and genre-changing records and artists.

Not long after the founding of LaFace—his and partner Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds’ joint-venture with Arista—Reid began mining the incredible talent in the label’s home base of Atlanta, Georgia. Those signings included Goodie Mob (featuring Cee Lo), OutKast (featuring Big Boi and Andre “3000” Benjamin), Usher, and TLC, facilitated by local producers Organized Noize and Dallas Austin.

An enterprising Morehouse student named Shakir Stewart began his career as L.A. Reid’s faithful soldier, first an intern at Reid’s Hitco Publishing, where he signed Beyonce to a songwriting deal, and then at LaFace, where he signed Ciara. When Reid moved to Def Jam, Stewart followed, signing Young Jeezy and Rick Ross (who were, ironically, offered to the label years earlier by Scarface in his days running Def Jam South).

Reid retained Jay-Z in the Def Jam fold by offering him the label’s presidency, and therefore is entitled to take some credit for the signings of Rihanna. Reid also helped revitalize Mariah Carey’s career with the power of hip-hop-fueled production.

Reid is currently the Chairman and CEO of Epic Records.

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