In 2018, everyone holds the power to be a music industry insider—you are no longer limited to experience and job title in your respective field. These days, if you can amass a sizable following on social media and get in with artists on a personal level, chances are you’ll have more opportunities to share exclusive info that no one else can access. When a person becomes associated with an artist or label often enough, fans consider them a legitimate source, and follow them in hopes of getting the scoop on a new album or song before the press does.
Some of the best leaks in recent memory? When Mike Dean shared a notepad of three unnamed albums he was mixing for that month, which fans now know as a new Kanye West album, a ‘Ye and Cudi album, and probably Pusha T’s King Push. Producer Murda Beatz was on Instagram Live one time and Drake strategically commented that a follow-up to “God’s Plan” was on the way. That ended up being “Nice For What,” and set fans up for his official album announcement for Scorpion, due out in June. When it comes to hearing leaks directly from the source, we’re still patiently waiting on an update from Lil Yachty and Lil Pump’s collaborative tape, a project they promised we’d get this year.
Still, there are certain industry insiders you can always rely on. These people are a mix of A&Rs, journalists, radio personalities, bloggers, and people in the know. Of course, this list can easily be expanded to include more than 25 people, but we’ve chosen veterans and newcomers–many you probably recognize from their years of establishing themselves while others are just hitting their stride. Here are 25 music insiders (in alphabetical order) you should be following on social media.
Anyone who is anyone in music knows Amir Abbassy. And if you know him personally, he’d accept this compliment humbly without being ego-driven. His resume includes managing Freeway, Creative Director, Content and Programming, at EMPIRE, and managing his own company Blame the Label, which helped release the newly independent rapper Sylvan LaCue’s Apologies in Advance. He’s in full boss mode during office hours, but don’t sleep on his tweets—he drops motivational life gems whenever you need a pick-me-up.
Zoe Alicia is everywhere–attending concerts for market research, hitting the studio with artists, and jet-setting the world with one of her own artists, French Montana. As vice president of A&R at Epic Records, her duty is to find new artists and producers to sign to the label. She’s successfully developed Blac Youngsta, whose debut album 2.23 she personally A&R’ed, and Bay Swag, who just dropped his single, “Saucin.’” You’ll want to start living your best life after following her.
Deanii Scott, a.k.a. Scottie Beam, was once part of the Hot 97 family as an on-air personality and digital producer. When she decided to create her own path in the hip-hop industry, it paid off tremendously. She’s turned her social media popularity into partnerships with brands like Nike, Revolt TV, BET, and Essence, as often hosts events at parties and festivals. She’s one of the most outspoken pundits in the industry who won’t bite her tongue when she thinks a song sucks or an artist is problematic. You can follow her many projects: #PutYouOnPlaylist for new music, #ScottieFeedback for her live critiques of music submissions, and Black Girl Podcast, a roundtable discussion with her friends Gia Peppers, Sapphira, Bex, and Alysha P. Spoiler alert: they just scored their first guest interview with Janelle Monáe.
For all things related to Chicago and the Midwest’s burgeoning hip-hop/R&B scene, you go to Andrew Barber. Fake Shore Drive has been the destination for almost two decades, where the blog has assisted in gaining exposure for stars like Chance the Rapper, Chief Keef, Lil Durk, G Herbo, Lil Bibby, Vic Mensa, and many others. He’s constantly finding artists on the rise, and recently became the manager for G.O.O.D. Music signee and Chicago native Valee. Barber’s the plug for that new new.
Tunji Balogun, the senior director of A&R at RCA, is known to have the best ears in the business. Balogun and his team at RCA have established the careers of some of today’s biggest acts, including Bryson Tiller, Khalid, and H.E.R. He’ll also play a pivotal role in BROCKHAMPTON and Childish Gambino’s next albums, as both just announced partnerships with the label. Balogun continues to sign and discover artists under his new joint venture with RCA called Keep Cool, bringing on manager/producer at Right Hand Music Group Courtney Stewart, former Pigeons & Planes writer and A&R Jon Tanners, and marketing executive Jared Sherman. With ex-Five Harmony member Normani as their first signee, pay close attention to Keep Cool’s moves as they continue to thrive throughout the year.
There are times when you just want to laugh with someone who is blatantly trolling hip-hop’s ridiculousness. Ahmed a.k.a. Big Business is a seasoned practitioner of this, becoming internationally famous for his trolls–and #facts, if you agree with him–about Troy Ave restoring the feeling in New York, the movie All Eyez on Me, and J. Cole’s “gluten-free” take on Ab-Soul’s Do What Thou Wilt. But Biz is not all about making funnies; he really has great taste in music as a self-proclaimed “armchair A&R,” sharing albums and songs from hip-hop’s most underappreciated artists and giving listeners the 411 on the latest releases. Follow him for a laugh, good genuine discussion, and music discovery.
Who’s the biggest troll of them all? You might have to give it to Philly Customs. He’s the creator of Rapdose.com, a blog giving you your daily fix of urban entertainment and new music, and a talented graphic designer who can whip up an artwork in a matter of minutes. “It’s Boiling” is a playlist series and a new catchphrase for when things are getting spicy. He’s both serious and jokey on his timeline, so don’t take him too literally....or do. ‘Cause we’d have to agree: We also thank God that Pusha T is rapping about cocaine and cocaine accessories.
The Breakfast Club’s controversial co-host Charlamagne Tha God is a recognizable face in hip-hop. He has two approaches to his interviews—aggravating his guests or having a calm dialogue with them. Either way, he’s entertaining to watch, showing sides of his interviewees many viewers have never seen before. Charlamagne scored one of the biggest interviews of his career with Kanye West that explored mental health, his feelings towards Barack Obama and Jay Z, and much more. He’s worth a follow, at the very least.
Apple Music’s most valuable tastemaker made a move to Spotify to become Head of Urban Music for the rival platform. No matter where Chery does his job, he’s been instrumental in playlist curation and new music premieres from big acts on streaming services: securing two Apple Music exclusives from Chance the Rapper (including Coloring Book) and breaking artists like Bryson Tiller, Daniel Caesar, 6LACK, and H.E.R. As he begins his tenure at Spotify, look out for CC to share who he think is up on next on the RapCaviar playlist, and propel important conversations about streaming.
Karen Civil, known for making Hillary Clinton cool during her presidential campaign, has spent years building up her reputation as a curator, media maven, cultural influencer, and marketing strategist. Under her company Live Civil Enterprises, her websites – KarenCivil.com and LiveCivil.com – cover lifestyle, positive affirmations, and new music, with exclusive celebrity interviews. Through her social media presence and strong network of artists and influencers, KC has earned the trust of her colleagues to deliver breaking news and insider info at a moment’s notice. Want to know the latest on Lil Wayne or why Teyana & Iman was cut short? She’s got you.
Noah Callahan-Bever, a well-respected editor and content creator, ran things at Complex for 12 years, as editor-in-chief and chief creative officer, making incredible shifts during his era in the print, digital, and video spaces. If you didn’t know, he created The Blueprint, and is now formulating the blueprint for editorial as the newly appointed Executive Vice President of Brand Strategy & Content at Def Jam Recordings. NCB is working closely with CEO Paul Rosenberg and Executive Vice President and Head of A&R Steven Victor to innovate and connect with audiences in a way that’s never been done before. Follow NCB for deep rap knowledge and updates from Def Jam’s roster.
Genius.com’s tagline is to explain “the deeper meaning behind music.” It’s no surprise that Brendan Frederick, an experienced writer, editor, and digital media executive, fits this vision so perfectly as the media company’s Chief Creative Officer. On Twitter, Frederick is an encyclopedia of knowledge, educating music fans on unknown samples and stories about songs, either from his own personal experience or through his own research. Besides sharing Genius’ video content, he also delivers sharp commentary through threads on things like the RIAA’s accounting system, Rich Brian changing his name, and what we were jamming on in the summer of 1990 on. Genius users can follow him on the website (@Bfred) for his annotations.
DJ Akademiks, leader of the “Chat N***a” movement, is a co-host on Everyday Struggle and the entertainer you love to hate. Ak’s social media accounts and his YouTube channel are updated constantly with hip-hop news; some of it is informative, some of it is exploitative, but you know Ak will be the one to do it. They say there’s a lane for everyone in hip-hop, and Ak’s your source for commentary, wild hot takes, and general fuckery.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. DomIsLive follows in the footsteps of DJ Akademiks, with an active YouTube channel that covers all things hip-hop with additional audio commentary. His social media accounts are updated in a similar fashion; you’ll be getting news through social cuts and personal tweets. If you’re looking for other accounts that boast 24-hour coverage beyond Akademiks, give DomIsLive a follow.
The hustle in Karlie Hustle’s name isn’t just a cool industry nickname. For over 10 years, Karlie Hustle has earned valuable experience working at several radio stations in different cities, giving her the opportunity to hold director positions at both Hot 97 and 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records, and now to serve as the NYC Music Manager for Apple Music’s Beats 1. She's also focused on her K. Hustle brand. Her Brutally Honest podcast, covering the good and the bad of the music industry, navigating life as a woman entering her 40s, and thorough, pointed criticisms, is a must listen for anyone who needs game.
As the music critic for New York Magazine, Craig Jenkins, who has had some of his previous pieces published on Pitchfork, The New York Times, and many other reputable publications (including this one), is someone you can count on for a fair and unbiased take. His timeline stays in tune with the conversation in music across all genres, and he offers his unfiltered opinions on everything from Kanye West’s slavery comments to why Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour is the best country album of 2018. If you jump in his mentions for a debate, though, be ready to fight fire with fire.
We’ve called Brock Korsan “The Winston Wolfe of Music” simply because he’s a person who can solve problems, connect the dots, and can come up with brilliant, out-of-the-box ideas. Korsan, better known by his internet alias Brocky Marciano, is currently the vice president of urban A&R for Interscope, and a manager for multiple artists and producers. Prior to that, he’s worked independently with Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Mac Miller, and Alchemist, just to name a few. Korsan will sometimes IG story who he’s working with in the studio, even letting the audio fly for a sneak preview. He may have to be tight-lipped about what the music sounds like, but the posts at least let fans know when their faves are working again.
Sowmya Krishnamurthy is a music journalist and pop culture expert whose freelancing career has landed her bylines in The Village Voice, XXL, Rolling Stone, and many others. She’s both charismatic and matter-of-fact on Twitter, delivering her opinions on politics and hip-hop with confidence. If you’re looking for a female voice outside of the male-centric podcasts, she also hosts XXL’s Shot Callers; past guests include Angela Yee, Lenny S., and Tuma Basa.
Known in the Tri-State area as “The Voice of New York,” Andie Martinez built her career as a local rap-radio legend on Hot 97 over nearly two decades. As an influential personality in the genre, she has since moved to Power 105.1 for a new chapter, hosting The Angie Martinez Show on weekdays, where she gives insights on rap’s hot topics and sits down with guests ranging from Jesse Williams and Toni Braxton to Safaree and Uncle Murda. She’s the most trusted source in the music industry.
Dallas Martin is the Senior Vice President of A&R at Atlantic Records, and a name you should be very familiar with. One of his crowning achievements was being part of Rick Ross’ early albums and nearly every Maybach Music Group project during their rise, from Wale’s Ambition to Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares. At Atlantic, he went against the grain and signed Love & Hip Hop star K. Michelle, who’s since had multiple No. 1 albums on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart. He’s also credited on Nipsey Hussle’s widely praised Victory Lap album. Martin will show you who he’s been in the lab with and who he thinks is about to break next.
Emmanuel (“Manny”) Maduakolam has worn many hats during his four years at XXL as a writer, editor, video producer, podcaster, and columnist for the magazine’s digital franchises, The Come Up and The Break. In the past, he’s fought passionately for his picks to be on the XXL Freshman cover, and spotlighted rappers like Night Lovell, Maliibu Miitch, and Saweetie in The Break early on in their careers, and even gave some artists their first interviews ever. Now as a music editor at Hypebeast, Maduakolam, who is one of the most connected people in the industry, transfers his skills over to a bigger platform, sharing artists you should know and songs you need to hear on his timeline.
You may have seen Yoh’s byline on DJBooth pieces such as “A Eulogy for the Blog Era That Raised Me” and “Sing About Herc: Why Hip-Hop Must Be Cherished by the New Generation,” which reflect his passionate and detail-oriented style, written from the perspective of a true hip-hop lover. A music journalist from Atlanta, Georgia, he has been writing full-time for about three years now, staying in the daily conversation of rap through his op-eds, takes on noteworthy headlines, and artist interviews. If you want a good read, look no further than Yoh’s work.
Jeff Weiss is a veteran music journalist and critic from Los Angeles who runs his own blog, Passion of the Weiss, a co-host of the hip-hop podcast Shots Fired, and has written for a variety of publications: The Washington Post, Pitchfork, The Fader, LA Weekly, Noisey, Billboard, to name a few. On Twitter, Weiss is an excellent source for context and intersections of politics and pop culture within hip-hop. Whether you read his pieces on an undiscovered artist, profiles on rap’s biggest names, or a trend that needs further examination, Weiss is your guy for smart insight and witty commentary.
YN’s career spans over 20-plus years as a writer and journalist, holding positions as the music editor of The Source and the editor-in-chief of XXL before founded his own hip-hop blog, Rap Radar. Ardent fans of the culture know him as the GOAT of hip-hop journalism, famously touted in his Twitter bio, but today he’s settled in as Tidal’s Editorial Director for hip-hop. When he’s not doing extensive artist interviews on the Rap Radar Podcast with his partner Brian “B. Dot” Miller or getting exclusive listens on upcoming albums in his Car Test video series, you can find him tweeting (and retweeting) daily rap news and Tidal playlists, as well as consistently updating his Instagram with the same content. You’ll never miss anything following the OG.
Naomi Zeichner was a huge fan of The Fader growing up, so it must have been her dream job to finally take the reigns as the magazine’s editor-in-chief, developing editorial and digital strategy while penning in-depth cover stories on artists like Kehlani and Rae Sremmurd. As a lover of hip-hop, she has a knack for finding artists that the mainstream will soon embrace. These days, she has a new job at YouTube, and you can follow her music recommendations on Instagram or click the “Shabbat Shalom” highlight that she updates regularly.