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LaFace job

She'kspere's business model has L.A. Reid written all over it


Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs wears his self-confidence like a designer jacket -- uniquely tailored for a perfect fit and a flawless look. In fact, Briggs' confidence is so glaring that those who don't know better might think that his success as a hit-making writer and producer for the likes of TLC ("No Scrubs") and Destiny's Child (the twice-Grammy-nominated "Bills, Bills, Bills") has gone to his head. Others might mistake his no-nonsense, zero-tolerance-for-BS attitude for haughtiness and hastily conclude that he's downright uppity.

But these days, Briggs doesn't have time to worry about what others think. He's on a mission to build Spere Records, his new Atlanta-based label, in the image of LaFace Records, and to ultimately become the next Antonio "L.A." Reid.

It sounds like quite an undertaking. But Briggs says he's up for the challenge, making no bones about the fact that he's moving step by step along the path that Reid burned into the soil of the Atlanta music scene. No fronting, no shame, no excuses. Here's his plan:

1) To be a major player in Atlanta's corporate community. "LaFace had a very strong hold in Atlanta. They employed many people. There were many professional companies that they supported, and [the companies] supported them. Now that there is no more LaFace here, that gap is to be filled by Spere Records."

2) To work with all the city's producers. "One thing that LaFace had -- and L.A. had -- is access to every individual producer." But, says Briggs, the producers never really worked with one another. "That's one thing that I will change. I think it's very important that I take what's here. We need to be -- and I hate to use that word -- a clique, so that when you come to Atlanta you have to deal with certain people. Otherwise you can't make moves here. We have to lock it down like that. Jermaine [Dupri], Dallas [Austin], the Dungeon Family and Rico Wade -- all those guys have been doing this for a long time and they've been here. Yet people come here and do other things, and take from it and don't give back. So now I wanna come here, take from it and give back."

3) To be a "boutique" label with a small roster. "Quality will always, in most cases, override quantity," Briggs says. "That's my whole vision, and I think that was the same thing with L.A." Right now, Spere's roster includes German/Puerto Rican singer Tina Novak, hip-hop act Misery Ill and singer/ songwriter Buttaphly. Briggs' staff is small -- about 18 people shared between Spere Records, She'kspere Productions and Classic Music Publishing.

4) To ultimately become more dealmaker than music-maker. "I want to steer away from the creative side and just be the one to yea or nay the creative side. I like the hustle and bustle of the business side. I know how to deal with the phone calls and the deadlines and different things."

5) To become a big-time music industry executive someday -- i.e. the next L.A. Reid. "That's what I'm trying to do, because he's definitely been one to set a trend and a standard. I want to run an Arista or a bigger label and then eventually have a company like BMG."

6) To help define and/or redefine the Atlanta music scene. "Atlanta had been defined, and when LaFace was absorbed and L.A. took over Arista the definition was kind of lost. There are production companies out here -- distribution companies, artists, whatever -- but there's really no home base for Atlanta. I want to make sure Spere Records continues what LaFace has started."

7) Like LaFace in its heyday, Spere Records wants to maintain its cozy relationship with distributing label/parent company Arista Records. "The relationship is really strong. As time goes on, we'll understand how they're working up there and they'll understand how we're working down here. It's a lovely relationship."

It was Briggs' "lovely relationship" with Reid that most likely spared Spere from the chopping block when Arista axed many of its joint ventures last year, including Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records.

"I thank God every day," says Briggs, "because most of the joint ventures at Arista were dissolved. I think the difference is that I kind of understand L.A. and L.A. kind of understands me."

The one thing that Briggs will do that Reid didn't do -- but certainly wanted to -- is focus on alternative rock.

"My vision is to have a label that has multiple genres of music," Briggs says. "Rock alternative is really the next thing that I want to venture into. I don't want to do multiple types of music and not do it well. I want to make sure that everything I do I do well."

Just like LaFace.

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