Kevin “Coach K” Lee
- Label: Quality Control Music
- Major: 300 ENTERTAINMENT
- Industry: Entertainment
- Experience: 10+
Raised in a single parent household in Indianapolis, Ind. by a mother who worked at an RCA record pressing plant, Lee grew up in a house filled with music fresh from the factory. He remembers his mother bringing him home records and tapes, mostly R&B and jazz. One day she bought him a copy of the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” which sparked a lifelong obsession with hip-hop.
“I was hooked on rap immediately,” he explains. “Me and one of my best friends, his parents had bought him two turntables, so we just started spending our money buying records.Then my cousin, he DJ’d so I got engulfed in buying records.”
After studying economics at Saint Augustine University in Raleigh, N.C. on a basketball scholarship, Coach K returned to Indianapolis and started a record label called Universal Stars with some friends. With an A&R department and a management section, the business provided Coach K with his first music business experience, but it didn’t pan out. Looking to make a new start, Coach K moved to Atlanta in January 1997, less than a year after OutKast had released ATLiens and months before Lil Jon And The East Side Boyz would drop their debut full-length, Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album.
Atlanta’s hip-hop community was brimming with talent waiting to be exposed. Luckily, Coach K arrived with some helpful connections: A childhood friend of his, then-Atlanta Hawks power forward Al Henderson, was starting a record label and wanted Coach K to run the A&R department. From there, he started managing Pastor Troy and establishing himself in the city’s rap world, developing his identity as a tastemaker who could take regional artists and repackage them for a larger audience.
Coach K then went on to manage some of hip hop’s biggest acts with Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Under his watch Young Jeezy scored two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 (2006’s The Inspiration and 2008’s The Recession), and Gucci Mane peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Rap Albums chart with 2011’s The Return of Mr. Zone 6.
In 2013, him and partner Pierre “Pee” Thomas formed Quality Control Music. They have an innovative deal with 300 Entertainment — the New York music company founded by former Warner Bros. executives Lyor Cohen, Todd Moscowitz and Kevin Liles — for distribution and marketing of nearly all the acts on their label, Quality Control Music. By behaving like managers and studio owners as well as execs, Coach and Pee are drawing a road map for other upstart indies in the 21st century.
Quality Control has become one of the most successful indie record labels in the music industry. Quality Control’s roster boost of artists like The Migos, OG Maco, Rich the Kid, Jonny Cinco, Young Greatness, Skippa the Flippa and a host of other talented upcoming acts. At the rate they’re going, Quality Control Music will be talked about amongst the successful notable indie labels like No Limit, Cash Money, Bad Boy, and Roc-a-Fella.