L.A. Reid's Son Aaron Makes His A&R Mark at Epic Records
Once recognized for his appearance on MTV's "Super Sweet 16" (Kanye West was among the performers booked for his party), the 23-year-old is now signing artists -- and beating out competing offers by godfather P. Diddy.
There’s been no shortage over the years of sons who have followed their fathers into the record industry, with everyone from Hy’s kid Barry Weiss, Mo’s boy Michael Ostin, Charles’ offspring Brian Koppelman and Clive’s Fred, Mitch and Doug Davis to Daniel’s DJ scion Sean Glass, all going into the family business. Who wouldn’t want to follow in their dad’s illustrious footsteps?
The son of Epic Records chief Antonio “L.A.” Reid and singer/songwriter Perri “Pebbles” Reid, Aaron Reid grew up surrounded by music associated with the man he describes as “a great mentor and my best friend,” hearing Usher, P!nk, OutKast and Avril Lavigne. For the past 18 months, he has worked in the label’s A&R department, signing several acts, including touted Harlem rapper Vinny Cha$e (beating out his godfather P. Diddy’s competing offer) artist-producer Travis Scott and Motown-influenced Detroit chanteuse Jude, while working on his own music, with an EP about to drop.
The 23-year-old is already used to being in the public eye as the subject of a controversial episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen show in 2005, when his dad threw him a highly publicized bash that included an innovative MP3 invitation sponsored by Sony, performances by Kanye West, Jermaine Dupri and Swizz Beatz, as well as a star-studded guest list that boasted P. Diddy, Jay-Z and Juelz Santana. It was the highest-rated episode of the show ever, and directly led to a special on the network for his 21st birthday in 2010 at the Atlanta club Opera, sponsored by Ciroc Vodka, which featured a live performance from Aaron (The A.R. Experience) and his band 5150. There was even talk of a reality show at the time, proving, like his illustrious dad, the kid not only knows how to throw a party, but turn it into a solid business opportunity at the same time.
Aaron is quick to give his father credit for encouraging him to balance his own creative side with the duties of an A&R executive, much as he did segueing from an artist, songwriter and producer into a label head.
“Every day I think about what he told me as a kid, ‘You gotta do what you gotta do so you can do what you wanna do,'” he says. “I take that every day, think about it and apply it.”
The middle child among five, with two brothers and two sisters, Aaron admitted his parents were often in the studio as he was growing up, attending boarding school for a year before enrolling at the prestigious Dwight School in Manhattan. He began writing and producing music around that time, then discovered a knack for finding other talent.
“It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, I became interested in the business side,” he says. “I began working with several artists, I know what’s hot and what’s not, so maybe A&R is something I’d like to do. I feel like I’ve been doing this my whole life, just without the title.”
Of course, when your old man’s the boss, it doesn’t take much to get a chance to prove yourself, but Aaron insists he’s undaunted by his father’s long shadow.
“I just do my thing,” he says. “My dad always used to teach me, ‘Don’t worry about anything else. Just continue to do your thing.’ And that’s really all I focus on. My parents are my biggest support. I’m blessed to have them. I don’t pay attention to the pre3ssure. People are always going to have their own opinion.”
As a musician, writer and performer, again like his dad (a former drummer in R&B band The Deele), Aaron is pretty color-blind, pointing to such favorites along the way as Lenny Kravitz, Nirvana, Portishead and Dido. “I take everything and mix it together,” says Aaron. “That’s what makes me. I’m kind of an alternative R&B kid. Artistry is artistry. If your music is great, it can’t be put in a box.”
And while L.A. eventually turned away from his performing, producing and writing roots, Aaron isn’t quite ready to make that choice yet.
“I’d like to do both for the rest of my life,” he says. “I could never stop creating, even if I tried. At the end of a long, stressful day, I like to go into the studio, where I can get out my emotions and channel them into a different type of energy. That’s what I love to do. ... Every day, I’m learning something new. Last night, I was in the studio with Timbaland, just talking about a whole bunch of things. I’m in a great space.”