As CEO of the six-month-old Atlanta-based Worldwide Entertainment, Wales is still the strong silent type, proudly pointing out that his joint venture deal with Priority Records is the biggest in the label's history, yet adamant about not revealing just how big the deal was.
Throughout his career, Wales, who continues to manage 112 but has passed along his other clients to partner Courtney Seals, has been involved with so many artists on so many levels, it's difficult to quickly summarize exactly what he does. "I think the main thing that I'm noted for is developing artists -- grooming, styling, imaging," he says. "From ABC and Boyz II Men as well as a lot of the artists in the early stages of Bad Boy, like B.I.G., Faith, Total, my whole thing has been developing these people and teaching them how to be superstars."
Wales' current superstar-in-training is 17-year-old Lil' Zane, a rapper he met in the early '90s. Zane, whose album, Young World: The Future, is due in stores in August, is Worldwide's first act.
A native of Atlanta, Wales, who refuses to disclose his age, might be perceived by some as too laid back to be a modern-day record exec. But, he says, being low-key has a lot to do with the way he was raised. "Growing up, I was like this little celebrated athlete -- football, basketball and baseball -- and my whole family would come to my games. So when it came time for me to get out into the world and be exposed to certain things, it wasn't really about me. I didn't want to be this person out in front getting all the credit. I just wanted to make somebody else happy and put out the kind of music that changed people's lives and inspires people to do something positive. That was enough for me."
Wales is not too modest, however, to point out his role in the development of Atlanta's urban music scene. "I can honestly say I was instrumental in setting that up, because during the time I put out my first group, there wasn't a real Atlanta music scene. Companies were here. Even LaFace was here but they didn't have any hit records and nobody really knew they were here; but once I put out [Atlanta-based] ABC and they were successful, selling four million albums, it seems like it just inspired kids and young people my age to actually want to be in the music business."
It also inspired record labels to do business with Wales. "After the success of the artists I had been working with, people just started coming. It wasn't like I was looking for a deal. It was, like, eight different labels came trying to do a joint venture with me and offering me deals. I kind of ignored it for a little while but after a certain amount of time I wanted to get in it and I wanted to find a home."
Last year, Wales found a home at Priority in the company of, among others, Master P and Ice Cube. Wales says he chose Priority -- though it wasn't the most lucrative deal he was offered -- because "they were really into my vision and they didn't mind me having total creative control in terms of my records, how I promoted them, how they sounded, how my artists looked and everything that I did."
With offices in Buckhead and a staff of five, Wales says Worldwide will continue to move "silently and subtly." "We want to make good music and just let that speak for us. My main focus is to touch kids in a way that nobody's ever touched them. We'll let them know it ain't always about being the hardest or the roughest. It's about being the smartest and doing for your community and teaching people."
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