Let the record show, South Coast Music Group founder and CEO Arnold Taylor knows how to throw a party. But he also knows how – and more specifically when – not to throw a party. Not a proper one, anyway. So, he explains, the current COVID-dominated conditions meant the celebrations for DaBaby’s latest US No. 1 album, Blame It On Baby, involved “five of us in masks and gloves, six feet away from each other – I couldn’t even get a high five!”, adding that “we have a great amount of respect for what people are going through right now and remained mindful of keeping safe.”
Taylor has managed DaBaby since meeting him nearly four years ago, a pivotal encounter that prompted him to leave his last label job, with Epic, and concentrate full time on breaking the rapper from Charlotte, North Carolina, alongside building a label/management company, in SCMG, that is now also home to Toosii (“my next superstar”, for whom South Coast has just signed a deal with Capitol), Big Mali and Blacc Zacc (SCMG/Interscope).
Going solo was inevitable for Taylor, who describes himself as “first and foremost an entrepreneur” – he has had his own projects since he started working at a record store and created his own influential record pool while attending college.
Sure enough, in the last couple of years, he and DaBaby have made a mark you can see from space.
It was Taylor’s position of influence with DJs – and as a conduit to local markets for national record companies – that saw him carve out a career, initially in promotions and then incorporating A&R, with famous labels including Blackground Records, Def Jam, and Interscope.
Along the way, working alongside artists and executives including Timbaland, Aaliyah, Cash Out, Yo Gotti and L.A. Reid, Taylor made sure he was always watching, learning, absorbing and planning – and always certain that he would get the chance to make his own mark with his own artist.
Sure enough, in the last couple of years, he and DaBaby have made a mark you can see from space. After breaking through in 2018, with his mixtape, Baby Talk 5, released through Roc Nation, his debut studio album, Baby On Baby, which kicked off SCMG’s deal with Interscope, went to No. 1.
The follow-up, Kirk (2019) also went to No. 1, and led to guest spots on tracks by big names such as Post Malone, Lil Nas X, Lizzo, Camila Cabello and Future. And, just last week, Blame It on Baby became the rapper’s third No. 1 album in 13 months – an astonishing feat, marked by a socially responsible celebration.
Taylor’s not overly concerned. He knows there will be time again for Champagne and bear hugs, as he plots a long-term career for DaBaby – the man he calls “the LeBron James of South Coast Music, our franchise player” – and tells MBW, “I always knew I was going to get here – the only detail I needed to fill in was when and how…”
The label is already making a ton of noise with other artists on the roster. Columbia, South Carolina’s Blacc Zacc signed to Interscope in September and is gaining momentum as one of the fastest-rising trap rappers in the south. Budding 18-year-old Raleigh artist, Toosii, who recently signed to label, is also cultivating a strong Gen Z following with his melodic street rap-singing style.
With efforts clearly concentrated on the label and developing more talent in the city, Taylor is devising a plan to build a compound with studios, training facilities, development centers, TV and film production: “I really just want to make sure we make the city proud to be from here. That to me is the most important thing is making sure the younger generation is proud to be from Charlotte.”
With DaBaby’s well-documented rise and accolades that have piled up in 2019 including two solo Grammy nominations, the XXL Freshman Class cover, BET’s Best New Artist, and several charting songs on Billboard, Taylor has his eyes set on bigger goals for the label and for Charlotte. “I don’t bathe in my success, man. I’m on to the next, I’m already on 2023. I’m trying to keep elevating DaBaby to be the best he can be. I wanna keep on puttin’ on for the city, I wanna keep blowing up the SCMG brand,” he said. “We just beginning, bro. We got so much sh*t to do. I gotta chip on my shoulder, I got something to prove right now. We tryna be the next Def Jam the next Cash Money, the whole nine.”