To make it big in the entertainment industry, you have to stand out. Arguably no one knows this more than legendary record producer L.A. Reid, who has worked with some of the biggest names in music over the past two decades (Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Usher, Justin Bieber, Rihanna). While the Epic Records chairman and CEO has an ear for discovering new talent, he says one of the things he finds most fascinating is that he never stops learning from the artists he works with.
When Reid first met Jay Z, for instance, the rapper shared an approach to music that stuck with Reid.
"Jay Z was already the greatest rapper alive [when we met]," Reid says. "And one of the lessons I learned from Jay Z: An artist should be as big as they can be, but the music should never be bigger than the artist."
In other words, Reid says, there are songs that people recognize, but they don't know the name of the artist who sings them. "Jay Z's thing was, that should never happen," he says. "People should always know, that's Beyonce, and that's 'Crazy in Love.'"
Kanye West is another artist who Reid has learned a few lessons from. Unlike Jay Z, when Reid first met West he was a brand new artist without a track record. Even then, Reid could see the young rapper had the qualities it takes to be successful.
"Watching him grow and watching the things that were important to him, and how meticulous he was, and strategic he was, but how much work he was willing to put in – I knew then that OK, he's going to have hits for a long time," Reid says.