Who is Debra Antney? Is she Gucci Mane’s manager who accepted money for shows knowing he was in jail and unable to make the appearances? Or is she the manager Nicki Minaj fired because she couldn’t handle business and caused Nicki to miss out on touring with Rihanna? Or is she that ghetto lady that is Waka Flocka’s mother? Before any of those rumors ever surfaced I knew of Debra Antney as the woman behind Mizay Entertainment Company which successfully launched the careers of some today’s hottest artists – Gucci Mane, Nicki Minaj, OJ da Juiceman, and Waka Flocka Flame. As a site dedicated to females in hip hop I was intrigued to know the woman who discovered one of the most relevant female hip hop artists since Lil Kim. I was intrigued to know the woman behind the most buzzed about artists of the last five years. I was intrigued to know who she was and how she came to be in her position. Success is hardly ever acquired without drama – the ugliness that makes you grateful for the success you’ve attained yet hateful of the negativity that often accompanies it. Needless to say, drama caught up with Debra Antney. She managed a sizeable portion (in terms of appeal) of hip hop’s buzz worthy and profitable artists, she couldn’t dare escape the drama. The drama may have knocked her back but it didn’t knock her down. She is moving forward as the powerhouse that she is and we wouldn’t expect anything less from a DIVA.
When I spoke with Ms. Antney it was not to determine if she was actually the conniving person many make her out to be. It was to get a sense of how she entered into the business and achieved success as a woman within the hip hop music industry. Despite her shortcomings, she has built a career many aspire to have. Anyone would be quite lucky to manage just one artist with the success that she has achieved with an entire roster. She is a woman standing strong with a team of women behind her. This is why she is this week’s Spotlighted Hip Hop DIVA. THEHIPHOPDIVA spoke with Debra Antney on her life changing decision to enter into the music business, how she came to manage Nicki Minaj, and the one piece of advice she has to offer to women building a career within the music industry. She also let me in on a tidbit of info….read on to find out what she shared.
HHD (THEHIPHOPDIVA): Your career as a manager began when Gucci Mane asked you to help him out. With all of the things you’ve endured in the music industry do you look back at that decision and wish you would have made a different decision?
DA (DEBRA ANTNEY): Wooow…you’re in my head. You know it’s funny that you said that because my real passion is charity work. I was moving so hard with Ludacris that it was a very, very hard decision for me because I really, really love charitable work. So, sometimes when I go through a bunch of stuff and people don’t really know me because the way they knew me then and the way they know me now is totally different. It hurts now because I’ve seemed to have lost my identity. In dealing with him (Gucci Mane) and dealing with Nicki I became the thief and the dishonest person….this hood rat. The next thing in me losing my identity was I became Waka Flocka’s mama. I’m disgusted and it kind of damages you a little bit but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love and what I love is helping people. It’s like a double-edged sword. I love the fact that I made the decision but I dislike it in the same manner.
HHD: You have pretty much taken artists who were relatively unknown and made them pop as evidenced by the careers of Gucci Mane, OJ Da Juiceman, Nicki Minaj, and Waka Flocka which is probably why you refer to yourself as a creator. Not everyone can do that. What is it that you know that everyone else is missing out on?
DA: I can’t really speak on everyone else but I have a social services side to me. Everything that comes to me has a broken wing. I’m a nurturer…I love helping, I love fixing people. That’s that social services side to me. Every client that comes to me has a case plan. Now, if you don’t follow that case plan that’s on you. I don’t have a blueprint. If I have a blueprint for you, once I’m finished with you that blueprint is done. I can’t do for the next person what I did for you. They get a misconception of this whole thing. Take for instance the females that come into my life. Some of them think that what happened to Nicki can happen to them. Nicki’s blueprint and their blueprint will be something totally different. You gotta have that “it” factor and it has to be something that you want. You have to eat, sleep, breathe this. The first question I ask is, “What are you willing to sacrifice for this?” That has to be something that I know. I have to know that you’re willing to work for this, that you’re not looking for a handout. But, that you’re willing to work for everything you have because that’s the only way you’re going to be successful. I have a 30, 60, 90 day plan, some people I extend it to 120. By then I’ll know if I’ll be able to do something with you. People think this is crazy for me not to do a lot of contracts. I would be wrong to hold on to something I could do nothing for when you already came to me hurting. You came to me wounded. I’m not going to add to that. Let me see what I can do and if I can’t do nothing for you I’ll let you go to someone who can.
HHD: When your working relationship with Nicki Minaj ended everyone pretty much jumped all over that and said what they had to say about it. But what I’m more interested in is how your relationship with Nicki began.
DA: I met her at a concert in Baltimore and they were like that’s Nicki Minaj. I just kind of looked because Gucci was over there talking to her and I was like, “I don’t care who that is, Gucci let’s go”. Gucci was doing a show in North Carolina and someone said, “Deb, don’t you want a girl?” I said all the time that I have so many guys where the women at? I want to represent us. I’m all about this woman power thing. My nonprofit was about women and children. He told me,” I got a chick I know you gone like. You gone love her.” I told him, “ I don’t want no hoe, I don’t want no groupie.” My qualities in a woman are real, real crazy. There are things I don’t like that women do. He was like, just listen and give me a chance. I listened to the cd and was like she alright, she okay. Then it turned out that one of the security that was working with us was her family. He reached out because she wanted a female manager. She wanted a woman because of all the things she was dealing with the men. Me and Nicki connected on the phone and I sent for her and the rest was history. I told her I can’t help you from New York, you must move to Georgia. Within the next week she was here.
HHD: You’ve built an all-around management entertainment company. Yet, in the headlines they always refer to you as Waka Flocka’s mom. Do you find that insulting?
DA: Sometimes it really affects me, real talk, but I have thick skin. But I can’t stand that…it’s stripping me of my identity.
HHD: What do you think is most misunderstood about you?
DA: Do we have time for that? (laughs) Nothing eats me up more than a person calling me a thief. I hate that more than anything. I got a lot of street in me, there’s no if ands or buts about it, but I’m not uneducated. I am a very loving, nurturing, and caring person. Anyone that knows me knows that I’ll give you the shirt off my back. I have a very deep voice. I have a very loud voice. People think I’m screaming at them but I’m not because I have a very loud and boisterous voice. Half of the people who say stuff about me don’t even know me. I was standing there while someone was talking about me like a dog and I started laughing. They were like that’s not funny and I said no it is funny. They were like no it’s not. I said yes it is because you’re talking about me. You had to see their face and they said, “You’re Debra?” People dump on me all the time. I said I was going to stay out of the media because I say one thing and they say I said something else.
HHD: What would you say is essential for building a career as a successful music entertainment artist?
DA: Being loyal and being an artist and not trying to be a boss. Every artist is a CEO and every artist got another artist. How the hell you gone put somebody on and you ain’t event out yet. Everybody wants to be a boss. If you can’t follow you can’t lead. Be an entertainer because your job is to entertain.
HHD: For other women who are looking to build a career on the business side of music. What one piece of advice would you give them?
DA: Legs closed and pocketbooks open. Be true to your shit. We are nurturers by birth; you can’t take that away from us. What we are able to endure a man can never stand it. We are what they need. You have to be with your artist for every aspect of their life. You have to be a part of them.
HHD: When are we going to get to see what you have waiting on us?
DA: My new baby, I’m about to move her here. Once I move her here, her stuff will start popping off and that’s Lola Monroe. She’s very humble; she doesn’t have a nasty disposition. I love her to death. She’s serious about what she’s doing. She’s serious about what she wants. She’s serious about what she’s doing. This means a lot to her. There’s already a lot of things happening but I just want it to explode.
HHD: What is your definition of a hip hop diva?
DA: It’s according to how you’re defining hip hop because hip hop is a way of life. How can I define one? I can’t. A hip hop diva can be many people and a hip hop diva can be whoever because hip hop is a way of life and there are so many ways of life. I define each one when they come.