Although L.A. is just a nickname that he acquired at a young age while still living in Ohio, it seems to have foreshadowed Antonio "L.A." Reid's long career in the music business; and even if you might be unfamiliar with the name, no doubt you have jammed out to the fruits of his labor for years.
L.A. started out in the music field as a drummer. In the '80s, Reid’s talent secured him as one-sixth of the R&B group The Deele. After their biggest hit, "Two Occasions", took the group on tour, Reid and band mate Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds joined forces to create LaFace Records in 1989 in a partnership with Clive Davis and Arista Records. LaFace soon became the leading destination for African-American pop artists who appealed to both the urban charts and the Top 40.
With its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, LaFace Records’s library of artists included Usher, Toni Braxton, Outkast, and TLC. After eleven years, both Reid and Edmonds sold their remaining stake in LaFace to BMG Records, the parenting company of Arista. Reid soon succeeded Clive Davis as President of Arista and continued proving to be the man with the golden touch by signing P!nk, Ciara, and Avril Lavigne. Once BMG merged with Sony, Reid found himself in a new position as CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group, where his reputation continued to proceed him as he had his hands in the regeneration of Mariah Carey and the successes of Rihanna, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, and even the pop world’s most popular teen sensation, Justin Bieber.
Through all of his triumph, he still is not done yet. Young Hollywood recently had the privilege to speak with Reid while he transitions from CEO of a powerhouse music company to reality TV judge. There is no denying the magnetic force that binds L.A. Reid and musical talent together, which is why we believe Simon Cowell offered Reid his new title...
YH: Have you officially cleaned out your office yet?
L.A.: Yes, I have cleaned out my office, and I am working out of a tiny, less-than-impressive office in New York and still transitioning into the next chapter of my career, which is "The X Factor"!
YH: We all know that you are pretty good at finding the "X Factor" because it has been your career for quite some time now.
L.A.: [laughs] Well, we are about to find out whether I am good or not.
YH: How will you adjust to what you have been doing for so many years to sitting behind a table with the talent coming to you?
L.A.: The only difference is that people will watch. People audition for me all the time; they have for many years. I have always done this sort of audition process as my way of signing. Different record executives work in different ways, and my way has always been through auditions and live performance, so it’s right up my ally.
YH: What are you looking for when you are picking out and signing talent?
L.A.: I look for the same things that the public looks for. I look for excitement, charisma, and talent is obviously at the top of the list, but its the package. It is all of those things that make up the X Factor. Like the excitement we got when we first saw Madonna, or the first time we heard Mariah Carey, or the excitement we got when we saw Michael Jackson moonwalk across the stage, or the excitement that I got the first time Justin Bieber walked into my office. It is not only a singing competition; for me, it is an entertainment competition.
YH: What is the difference between "American Idol" and "The X Factor"?
L.A.: Simon Cowell. He was the original on "American Idol", and he is the star and the focus of "X Factor", and I think he is the difference maker. Simon has brought about such great anticipation and how everyone is on the edge of their seats for the show, trying to guess his judging panel. Everyone is thinking about how it is going to compete with "American Idol", and all of this is a result of how great Simon is. It’s the Simon Factor that has everyone excited.
YH: You seem very excited to be working with him.
L.A.: I am. I think he is the world’s greatest. Now, saying that doesn’t mean we will always agree, and I am certain that we are going to have our moments, but it will be great!
YH: How long are you planning on being with "X Factor"?
L.A.: Oh, who knows? Let’s just get past this first season. I am certainly committed this year.
YH: I know you will no longer work with Def Jam, but will you continue to work with music on the side in any way? Be there for people to come to?
L.A.: Absolutely, are you kidding? That is my career, that’s my first love. Working in music and as a music executive and running record companies, that’s my thing and that is what I love doing. I won’t stop. I am merely in transition.
YH: What else would you be doing if music never happened?
L.A.: I can’t even imagine. I feel music and I are one with each other.
YH: Well, we couldn’t imagine music with out you!
L.A.: Thank you so much. I don’t like to think about what life would be like without music.
YH: You have definitely changed music. Coming from Atlanta, I experienced your presence and influence first-hand.
L.A.: I have so much passion for Atlanta! I was just talking with my sons about Atlanta and how, when I moved there in 1989, there were obviously some talented people, but there wasn’t really a music industry infrastructure. We were all collectively able to bring about a certain energy to Atlanta that really turned it into a city that is very known for music, so I am really proud of Atlanta and I miss it. It is fertile ground to great songs. That place is special.
YH: Do you remember the line in the P!nk’s song - “L.A. told me you’ll be a pop star / All you have to change is everything you are”? Did you really say that to her?
L.A.: (laughing) That’s my girl P!nk, poking fun at me as she always does and always will. That’s actually an Atlanta story. I took P!nk to dinner at Pricci, and they put too many utensils on the table. Too many forks, too many spoons, too many knives; it was a lit bit too fancy. Then P!nk asked me, “What is all this stuff for?” I jokingly said, "You should take an etiquette class, then you won’t have to ask, right?" She thought that was funny and so she took that and wrote it into the song. But that’s all it was, it is just a very inside joke between her and I.
YH: There are so many talented people out there, and only a select few are seen. What does it take to get a second look?
L.A.: Well, not everyone knows how to lose themselves as a performer in music; you have to be brave. You have to be able to let go and let the music take you over, and then music will leave you and reach out and touch others. Music is made to be shared, and if you can’t emotionally reach people because you’re not giving up yourself, then you don’t have what it takes to make it, and on "The X Factor", we are looking for people who can give it all.
Auditions for the U.S. version of "The X Factor" are now in full force, and the show will be premiering on FOX this fall.
If you love music as much as we do here at Young Hollywood, we know that you will be glued to the TV and locked onto L.A. Reid and his wide knowledge about the biz; stay tuned!
- Kellyé West, YH Staff