Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Sickamore has been lauded by many as “the new generation’s favorite A&R.” He helped launch the careers of YG, Jeremih, Travis Scott, Don Toliver and others.
Ever since his early days of DJing and selling mixtapes on Canal Street in the early 2000s (his mixtape archives are available online), his hustle and unremitting drive led to him becoming director of A&R at Interscope Records at 21 years old.
“I did a mixtape called The Power 30, where I ranked all the top artists. It was something like The Source magazine’s Power 30, where I ranked all the artists based on how hot they were,” Sickamore told Blavity during a recent interview. “From there, I got the attention of my mentor, Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua, who is still my mentor to this day, and he started taking me under his wing and teaching me the A&R game.”
In the aughts, finding his way through an ever-shifting cultural landscape, the Brooklyn-bred multihyphenate transitioned from the streets of New York City to the corporate world with independent enterprise at the forefront.
Without wasting any time, the now legendary A&R hit the ground running almost immediately upon his arrival at Interscope.
“The first artist I signed was Diana Gordon. Her name was Wynter Gordon at the time,” Sickamore said. “She ended up becoming a really big writer. She wrote a lot of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and she co-wrote “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy. I think she’s one of the most talented writers of her generation. She’s also an incredible singer and songwriter in her own right.”
Despite finding some considerable success from the onset, his journey was far from perfect.
“It wasn’t all peaches and cream because I was 21 at the time. I didn’t really understand the politics,” Sicakmore confessed. “I didn’t understand company culture that you would learn interning or doing certain things. I didn’t have a lot of success there.”
In 2008, Sickamore established his imprint, The Famous Firm, an independent artist development company. During this tenure, he managed the now legendary Nicki Minaj, playing an essential role in her career during her early years on the scene.
Since then, he’s had a hand in developing a myriad of seminal multi-platinum records at the increasingly rare intersection of commercial success and artistic merit, including YG’s debut album, My Krazy Life, and much of Travis Scott’s discography, Rodeo, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, and Astroworld.
After returning to New York in the summer of 2021 to assist Travis Scott with creating his fourth studio album, Utopia, Sickamore arrived at an epiphany about the landscape of New York hip-hop during the pandemic.
At the time, New York was in a state of unrest, with looting, protest, financial precarity, turmoil regarding the NYPD and COVID-19 all plaguing the city.
“I realized that New York is morphing in front of my eyes. That summer was the first summer in 18 months that people were allowed to come out,” Sickamore said. “I was outside that summer, and I said to myself, “Oh, I need to come back here. I felt like New York was undergoing a renaissance culturally. This was ‘Sidetalk’ New Yorkers. These were unapologetic New Yorkers.”
In his signature spirit of discovering and curating talent, Sickamore plans to nurture up-and-coming New York City talent with the advent of his creative house, IIIXL Studio.
“I wanted to build a company that helped support kids,” Sickamore shared. “If I had a space every day, where I could work and develop my new acts and be protected, I think that was my motivation. This was my new metamorphosis. My next chapter as a New York OG.”
Stemming from his keen awareness of a critical shift in energy present in the city during the COVID-19 era, Sickamore aptly recognized an opportunity to lead the charge on New York’s post-pandemic musical renaissance.
“I just think that from DJ Clark Kent and being from NYC and coming up in the mixtape days, I think it’s important that we keep that hip-hop culture about us as well.”
Teaming with German audio streaming service SoundCloud, IIIXL Studio aims to “record and amplify definitive artists of the New York scene.”
“I’ve spent the last 20-plus-years helping develop artists and doing things the right way and you know, spearheading these young GOATs through it all,” Sickamore told Blavity. “I just feel like that’s the most fulfilling part of my life. I love being a coach.”
Based on his track record and propensity for scouting world-class talent, the future of music is and will remain in good hands.