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What's in a name?

Bryant Reid steps out from older brother L.A's shadow

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Janet Jackson. Tamar Braxton. Kevon Edmonds. Bryant Reid.

If you're an R&B fan, you've probably heard of the first three. But who's Bryant Reid, you ask? And what do these people have in common? They all, at some point, may have suffered from the Jan Brady Syndrome. You know, Jan "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" Brady, the poster child for younger siblings everywhere who invariably play second fiddle to their heroic, overachieving older brother or sister. Some succeed on their own, some ride on coattails, others fall by the wayside, unable to measure up or simply unwilling to try. Woeful, misunderstood and unappreciated, they are the disenfranchised of our society. (Enter violins.)

Unlike Jan Brady, at least some younger siblings match or exceed the accomplishments of their older brothers and sisters. Maybe not Tamar or Kevon, but they're still young and rising. On the flip side, look at Janet Jackson. People don't have to say, "You know Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson's little sister"? And, of course, she's far more popular than Tito or Rebbie.

So, who is Bryant Reid?

Thanks to the success of LaFace Records, the name Reid carries a bit of weight in the music industry. Good thing, too. Especially for Bryant, the oft-overlooked brother of LaFace co-founder and now Arista Records honcho Antonio "L.A." Reid.

The younger Reid is not fond of the qualifiers journalists use to describe him and he'll probably cringe at the notion of being mentioned in the same article as Jan Brady. If he had his druthers, folks would just say his name and leave big brother L.A. out of it altogether. That's typical behavior for any self-respecting person who, often through no fault of his own, has had to stand in line behind an older brother or sister who seems to do everything right. But until now, Bryant has not tried to step out of his brother's long shadow. So, at least for now, the title "L.A. Reid's little brother" will continue to be tacked onto his name.

That reality notwithstanding, Bryant Reid's determination to make it on his own is admirable. Reid, who was head of A&R at LaFace and later vice president of A&R for Atlantic Records, is launching B Street Records and B Street Management, two new companies that will sign, market and manage deserving acts in Atlanta and beyond. He will host monthly showcases around the city to introduce his latest finds.

But the events could be more than that. If all goes well, they could serve as a cool gathering place for music industry folks to network and hang out every month, which is something Atlanta sorely needs.

But I don't envy Bryant (or Kevon or Tamar) because, in the eyes of some, he can never really win. If he's successful, haters will say it's because of his brother's clout. If he's not, he'll be the Roger Clinton of black music. But Reid, who told me once that talent is genetic, has enough confidence in his own abilities and enough healthy disregard for what others think to be successful.

Reid said his companies are interested in all genres of music and his showcases will feature not only unknowns but a surprise guest performer each month as well. His plan could uncover some promising talent and pull the city's music industry cliques together in the process. I hope so anyway -- not only for the sake of new deserving talent and the Atlanta music scene, but for Reid himself. Success couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Bryant Reid is a polite, humble, easygoing gentleman who knows a lot about the business but, like all of us, probably still has volumes to learn. And even though he's no L.A. Reid, he's no Jan Brady either.

So let L.A. take Manhattan. Little brother Bryant seems happy with Atlanta. And who knows? Maybe one day, folks will say: "You know L.A. Reid, Bryant Reid's older brother?"

B Street's next showcase is Mon., June 25, at the PlanetJam Cotton Club. Show time is 8 p.m. Artists interested in showcasing may send demos to B Street at P.O. Box 12369, Atlanta, GA 30355.

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