le'Roy Benros of Big.Ass.Kids on SOB's, Lion Babe, and Brand/Artist Partnerships That Work
le'Roy Benros's career has spanned over 15 years, starting off with multiple internships as an A&R and marketing intern at the fabled Kanye West record label G.O.O.D MUSIC, doing promotion on Graduation and John Legend's Once Again albums, and TVT Music Publishing from 2006-07.
After dropping out of college in 2007, he began his working career as the receptionist at TVT Records. During this time, Benros started supporting local emerging artists, which led to a newly found passion of talent managing. In 2010, after a few years developing his management company Noizy Cricket!!, le'Roy took on the new role of senior talent booker for the iconic SOB's, where he booked some legendary concerts such as Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, Miguel, Kanye West, MGK, DMX and The Dream.
In 2021, after releasing several albums, overseeing multiple world tours and securing lucrative brand deals for his clients, le'Roy rebranded and launched his newly formed record label and creative agency, Big.Ass.Kids.
Big.Ass.Kids is a specifically curated boutique music label and infrastructure for cultural brands and interesting ideas. "We are not just focused on working with some of the most exciting new artists in the world but also with brands and entities that represent great taste in music," says Benros of his new venture. "We are eager to conceptualize and introduce nonconventional ways to work with both artists and platforms and also aim to reimagine the endless possibilities of music business strategy."
We caught up with le'Roy for our Liner Notes series to learn more about his musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work he's proud of and admired
le'Roy, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Yonkers, New York, to immigrant parents from Cape Verde and Angola. I'm currently based in Queens—'80s baby, born and raised in New York.
Your earliest musical memory.
My family had a very diverse taste in music. My aunt Carla was a teenager and big pop culture and music fan in the '80s. She loved to play Depeche Mode, Madonna, Wham, Prince vinyls throughout the house, but I'll never forget her playing A-Ha's "Take on Me" music video for the first time, I must've been 4 or 5 years old. I had already loved the song, but I was so mesmerized by the video that I'd try to sketch the characters anytime it came on TV. I'd have my toys to play with, but my love was to play with the stereo and vinyl player.
My dad loved playing Cape Verdean music, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder records. I remember him playing Chris De Burgh's "Lady in Red" all the time! It was one of his favorite songs. I guess you can say my first job was organizing the cassettes and vinyls as a 5-year-old at my dad's part-time job at Music Man, the legendary record shop in Getty Square, South Yonkers.
Your first concert.
Usher and Kanye West "The Truth Tour" in 2004 at Pepsi Center Arena in Albany. I remember being really excited to hear songs I loved, performed live by two of my favorite artists. The energy in the room was surreal. It really helped build my interest in seeking a career in the music industry.
Your favorite bands/musicians.
Hard to narrow it down but Kanye West, Lauryn Hill and Frank Ocean are three of my favorite artists. I have a respect and appreciation for Kanye's vision, determination, confidence and creative fearlessness. Each album is like a Truman Show-esque time capsule, capturing an artistic display of vulnerability.
Frank Ocean's music sounds like a class trip to a fascinating art gallery. Bit of mystery, experimental, consistent but not predictable or oversaturated. I appreciate an artist who doesn't abide by rules or standards and is known for a body of work vs. trends and accessibility. A mood setting, escape from reality.
Lauryn Hill is the total package, timeless music, undeniable and versatile. Her talent is unmatched, and her creative integrity is unwavering. Miseducation and The Score are albums that I would be content being stranded on an island with.
How you get your music these days.
Pigeons & Planes has always been my favorite editorial platform to discover new artists. They do a great job of adding context and background stories to newly discovered, emerging artists. You can tell they have a genuine interest in the artists they choose to cover; it's a big reason why Big.Ass.Kids has partnered with them to create the "See You Next Year" campaign. 2022 marks the first installment of an annual project and moment designed to champion artists we 1000 percent support and believe are going to be culture shifters in music.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
SOB's. The home of legends. Forty years of intimate introductions of future stars to New York City. The energy of a sold-out show there feels like a Madison Square Garden for the emerging artist. You never know if it's the last time you'll see your future favorite artist performing in such an up-close and personal environment. We've done some magical shows there. Kanye, Drake, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, John Legend all played some of their earliest NYC concerts there. The holy grail of the NYC live music scene. It was an honor and a dream to be the talent buyer there in early 2010s.
Your favorite music video.
Michael Jackson's "Remember The Time." It was dreamy theater. I always felt the need to make some popcorn when that video came on. I always loved Egyptian culture, pyramids, mummies and artifacts. I wanted to be an archaeologist as a child. That storyline felt like it could have easily taken place in that era; it felt like a time machine. The star-studded cast, set and costume design, choreography and the King of Pop were one of my favorite moments in pop culture.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
Drink Champs. Artists feel more comfortable having conversations with their peers. Not sure if it's NORE's ability to set the casual vibe or the alcohol provided to loosen the mood, or both! But his guests deliver a level of candidness that only comes with conversing with a respected colleague. Most artists cap media interviews to 30 minutes max. Drink Champ guests feel at home during the show and could easily spend hours having a conversation. It's always cool when an artist sounds like they want to be there and isn't pushed by the label or publicist.
Elliott Wilson and B.Dot also do a great job preparing by studying their subjects and asking the insightful questions we all want to know during their CRWN series. They represent peak editorial integrity.
Nardwuar is my honorable mention because of his uniqueness and uncanny ability to connect with the artists. No one forgets being interviewed by Nardwuar.
A recent project you're proud of.
When Covid-19 introduced itself to the world, things changed rapidly. The way we communicated, traveled, lived and conducted business all went through an adjustment period. People around the world were faced with uncertainty and fear. On the business side, we understood that there were two scenarios—either use this as a time to flex your proactive and creative muscles to innovate, or fall by the wayside. Managing the group Lion Babe, like all, we were dealt with the blow of live touring cancellations. A big revenue and growth driver for an independent act. We were able to quickly adjust and utilize the resources around us to create the first "Around the World, at Home" global virtual tour. We repurposed our relationships with international promoters of our canceled tour to create a cost effective, geo-targeted performances in 12 countries in six days during the spring of 2020. This allowed us to play impactful, meaningful intimate shows and build special relationships with our fans in different parts of the world during a time when people were isolated at home. It kept the band's spirit positive and productive. We grew our fanbase while planting the seeds for when we are able to appear in person. I was proud of the concept, the execution, and how quickly we adapted and made the most of a strange time.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I admired the Coodie & Chike's Jeen-Yuhs documentary for several reasons. Not only was it beautifully captured and presented but also very rare that you get this level of authentic insight to a remarkable journey from such an early beginning. Coodie & Chike's vision for this documentary was inspiring. They believed in something 20 odd years back and saw it all the way through fruition. They took a leap of faith and absolutely nailed it. The story they told was inspiring, but the story behind the story was pure gold. They intentionally caught lightning in a bottle. Right place, right time with the immaculate instincts to deliver. It gave an unfiltered, narrative context to the makings of a controversial, influential and polarizing figure.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
With questions and caution. Understanding their own value and reason for doing so. Does it impact your brand in a positive way? Does it make sense to be aligned with everything the brand stands for? Is it a brand that you see yourself growing with throughout your career? Does the timing make sense? Is there a long-term vision? Does saying yes to this now prohibit you from doing a more lucrative deal in the near or long-term future? Authenticity and value are the biggest takeaways.
For Big.Ass.Kids, our head of branding, Carolyn Ortiz, comes from a strong background in global branding at Universal Music Group and focuses on authenticity and innovation. Finding not just partnerships that make sense to the naked eye, but also progressive partnerships that push the cultural envelope. The crypto/metaverse properties and cannabis sectors have big synergistic integration potential in the music partnership world. There's an exciting value in trailblazing that I feel is important when approaching a brand with a unique idea. The joy of taking calculated, unchartered risks.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
With the intention of growing the relationship. The partnership should be authentic and impactful beneath the surface level. Brands should incorporate artist feedback from the original deliverable ask and be open and flexible with collaboration. The same way chemistry is important to a producer/artist dynamic in the studio, campaign chemistry is equally as important when going public with artist/brand association.
What music can do that nothing else can.
An intangible way to freeze time. It has the ability to create personal and interpersonal audible bonds with specific moments. It serves as the glue to great, terrible, fun, dangerous, loving, sad or embarrassing times in someone's life.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
I'd be an Adult Swim TV show writer.
Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.