“Building a record label during the global pandemic. Harlem 125 Records steps out with confidence”
We interviewed the two guys running the label, long time friends and industry veterans – Daoud Baptiste – director of A&R and Andre Danek – the founder and executive producer.
How did you come by your brand name?
Harlem- as a place of so much history, talent, and electrifying energy has always been a huge inspiration. Living here for almost 20 years, I have many memories in Harlem- I went to school here, celebrated here while playing my first Broadway show, and I serve as minister of music at a church on my block! Harlem is magic. “125,“ because 125th Street is the center of Harlem and a place of NYC history. “One Two Five” is like a code for the energy and spirit of the area that inspires us. “Records,” because that is what we are making (with music) but also “recording” our legacy. We want our work to be a receipt saying- Hey, we were here and this time in history was ours!
When did you discover your love for your craft and what made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in it?
My first love is songwriting. I became aware that I had a knack for it during my first year of college. I took a chance and submitted lyrics to a local girls group and it was the way they responded that set me on my journey. I dropped out a year later and was dedicated enough to land myself next to Sean Combs (aka Love) 3 years after that.
To what or whom do you accredit your sense of style?
AD: As far as my personal sense of style, I’m a child of the 90’s so I’m definitely biased- anything of the 90’s vibe is automatically my favorite. Seriously though, I’m open-minded enough to appreciate any style so long as it’s authentic and comes from the heart and not the ego. In a more general sense, my music style strongly favors honesty and story-telling over a particular genre. I can attribute that to being around theater projects a lot. Trust me, I’ll be the first one hand-fanning someones face yelling “you better sang” but to really win me over is to tell me a story.
As a company, I believe our collective vibe has been developed by a very clear history of being under-appreciated while giving our absolute best.
On your current project, how did you come up with the concept?
The concept for the upcoming release of Myles Frost’s single “No Sleep” started right at the beginning of the shutdown in mid-March. I was sitting at my studio desk talking with Daoud about how everything is about to change, and how we really shouldn’t wait until the world opens but rather create a new way of working. For some reason, I felt really inspired and started making a lot of music. Daoud would hit me back with immediate feedback and handle the A&R angle all the way from DC.
We started sending files back and forth to different artists, who would record vocals in their home studios. Finally, that particular track made it to Myles, who penned the story and laid down the vocal stems from Virginia (this project arose from one of several hit ideas we created when Daoud brought Myles to New York in 2018 to write music). The song was mixed in Miami by GoTo, and the artwork was created in Tokyo, Japan by the uber-talented visual artist and star photographer Maciej Kucia.
What are some of your greatest challenges, and what is your greatest attribute when it comes to your work ethic?
When you decide you’re going to build a record label from scratch with no budget in the middle of the global pandemic, it is likely you may run into few issues. The most crucial step is getting the right team. Nobody can do it alone and it’s not like you can show somebody the exact destination of where you’re trying to go because it’s all only a vision – nothing is promised or guaranteed.
I was lucky to have met Daoud back in the mid-2000s when we both worked on the advertisement end of the music business. When you know someone for many years and through many situations, you get a real picture of who they are. Daoud is exceptional at creative management and communication. He’s always the main music feedback I check for and because of his background as a signed artist and a writer, he has massive connections in the music industry. We are really unstoppable!
Our greatest challenge is evolving to remain relevant in a constantly changing business. Our greatest attribute is our ability to bring diverse people together for projects they might normally have not been a part of.
Are you the best at what you do in your opinion?
It’s funny- this used to be a super easy question to answer. I think I’m at a place where I’m reassessing what it is that I’m trying to be good at. It used to be singing, then writing/producing, then touring/performing or music directing. Now I recognize that while the skillset is always great, it is the ability to inspire, communicate, understand, find humor, and de-escalate the tension that I want to develop at the moment. So to answer the question- I always strive to do better, but I’m definitely decent though! 🙂
What are your plans for the near future?
The near future is looking exciting. Our last release with Caci Cole got great reviews and made it to several awesome playlists. We are getting ready to drop Myles Frost’s single “No Sleep”, we have several new songs with different artists ready in the pipeline and we are developing strong relationships in South Africa and Japan. I believe we are at a phase where everything can change in one phone-call. We know we are sitting on something amazing and people are starting to recognize that as well.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank, any shout outs?
Definitely my immediate family who has been supportive from day one! Also my extended music family of friends and mentors who give me great advice and encouragement: Row Weber – who helped come up with the label’s name one cold night walking around Harlem, Gerald Trottman, Chris Willis, Lelund Thompson, Jason Webb, and Kuba Badach.
IG: @gotowrites – Sheryl Wesley
How can fans find you?
Come check out our website and IG for the newest updates on our next release. We also welcome everyone to check out Caci Cole’s single – No One on Spotify.
What suggestions do you have for other artist like yourself?
My suggestion to young artists is cliché- be yourself. Don’t waste time on wrapping yourself in fancy packaging if you’re not sure what your message is. Instead, invest what you can in finding who you are at the core and learn to cultivate it. I feel like that will get you farther than anything else.
Simple… Be great at what you do and never give up.