Ebonie Ward isn’t afraid of a little storm. Despite flash flood warnings, she’s fighting through Atlanta’s gridlock on the way to her office at 5Star Productions, where she manages some of rap music’s biggest stars, Future and Gunna included. “I know the weather is awful,” she says coolly over the phone, “but I’m going to make it through.” Hey, you can’t be scared of some rain if your goal is growth. 

In less than a decade, Ward has worked her way from music industry outsider to gatekeeper of the most productive crop of rappers and producers in Atlanta. Taking advantage of her down time in transit, the artist manager opens up about the chances she took and the team she relies on to get where she wants to go.

Her story starts with a calculated risk. Ward was an ambitious young woman when she graduated from Albany State University, a HBCU in southern Georgia, and certain she didn’t want a normal nine-to-five. So she devised a way to continue her education while also investing in her greater dreams. Enrolling in a master’s program at Troy University, Ward took out $50,000 in student loans that she then used to help start a boutique men’s clothing store, Fly Kix ATL. “Thank God it all paid for itself, but that was definitely a trying, broke time,” she admits. “I'm not encouraging people to do something like that, but that is my truth.”