Russell "Block" Spencer interview

Atlanta native Russell “Block” Spencer is credited for guiding Young Jeezy and Boyz N Da Hood to stardom. As part owner of Sho’ Nuff Records, President of Bad Boy South and CEO of his own label Block Ent. the year ahead promises even more hits for Spencer, this week’s Player to Watch.

After the release of the Boyz N Da Hood album last year and Young Jeezy’s subsequent ascent up the Billboard charts it seemed like everyone with an interest in rap music was talking about Block. His music industry experience stretches back some ten years, to ‘95 and ‘96 working Suave House projects from artists like 8Ball & MJG, Tela, and Crime Boss, but Russell Spencer is still best known by his nickname – Block.

“It’s a hood name, when you come up hustling,” he trails off. “It’s derived from things you find in the hood.”

Encouraged by the success of his peers, Block broke into the business simply by following through on the opportunities that life offered.

“Around ‘94 and ‘95 I spent a lot of time with Tupac and The Outlawz, just hustling together, chillin’, being his homeboy,” Block tells SOHH. “I realized I could take advantage of the opportunities I was offered. I already had most of the relationships. I knew it could be big. Greg Street (Atlanta radio station V-103 DJ/personality) introduced me to Tony Draper from Suave House. I ran it for two or three years then did A&R at Noontime from the mid 90’s until now. I worked with Teddy Bishop, Jazze Pha. I learned production, how to make a record. Then I decided to start my own label Block Ent.”

Yung Joc is the first artist to be released through Block’s new label deal with Diddy and Warner Music Group. He’s currently receiving national attention for “It’s Going Down,” the lead single off his forthcoming album YungJocCity, which will be the first of many Block related projects to be released in 2006.

In addition to a Boyz N Da Hood sophomore album due out in the fall, group members Jody Breeze and Big Gee are both expected to release solo albums this year. After the success of his Def Jam album Let’s Get It:Thug Motivation 101, Young Jeezy has moved on from BNDH, but Block says that listeners can expect plenty of good things from the next BNDH project, including Lil Wayne on several songs and “Everyday I’m Hustlin’” rapper Rick Ross moving into the BNDH lineup.

“A lot of people don’t know the real story behind Boyz N Da Hood,” He explains to SOHH. “When I built BNDH it was meant to be a center for new artists to come in. Everybody was signed to a one album deal. Everybody. Whoever made it first should come up. I wanted to take four artists and blow them up. If I could make four unknown kids I knew I’d be in the game forever. When I first came up with Boyz N Da Hood I made 8 or 9 records with T.I., Sean Paul from Youngbloodz, Jody Breeze and Big Gee.”

Though Block attributes much of his success to his relationship building skills, (he names Kim Porter, Dallas Austin and Greg Street as personal friendships that have translated into good working relationships) he freely admits that mixing business and friends can be one of the most difficult parts of working in the music industry.

“Keeping it real, the worse part is if you get personal, turning your artists into friends. You can’t be real friends in this game, it’s worse than the street game, trust me. It’s hard to turn business partners into friends and it is hard doing business with family-being business partners with family,” Block says.

Despite whatever obstacles have come his way, Block has remained on his grind, identifying new artists and continuing to make hit records.

“I wear a lot of hats. I love being able to see it, to watch a hungry person that deserves it make it. All this is a blessing. The music game is like musical chairs, there are a million people trying to get in one chair. Giving back is the best part.”

While Block is successful in his own right, he openly shares his respect for fellow music executives Lyor Cohen, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Kevin Liles.

“I love what Lyor does, at the end of the day I love what he does for the whole game. He built an empire. That’s what I want to do. Puff is the master of longevity. The guy’s life in this game is incredible – all the way from Jodeci ‘til now. Do you know how many people have had movements and are gone now? I love Kevin Liles method of making it happen. He doesn’t do all that talking.”

Block also credits Jermaine Dupri for reminding him that it’s never what you’ve already done, it’s what always what you’ve got coming next when it comes to longevity in the music business.

“I’m locking everything down for the year. It’s held til I give it back,” Block promises. “Puff gave me the torch and said ‘Hey, keep it moving.”

Block’s Play-O-Graphy

Projects

Welcome to my Block – Gangsta Grillz mixtape (out in 2 weeks) featuring Yung Joc, Jody Breeze, Rick Ross, and Boyz N Da Hood

Yung Joc – Yung Joc City- Bad Boy/ Block Entertainment (summer release)

Jody Breeze- Sho Nuff/Warner Music Group (August)

Boyz N Da Hood album – (Sept/October release)

Hosea Williams Jr. Presents Seeds of Hunger – compilation (independent artists) “Jill Rock Jones is on there, she’s signed to Block Ent.”

Big Gee – Live From the 13th Floor – “He’s calling it that because that’s where they put all the crazy people. Bruce Willis will narrate as the shrink and his questions will lead into the songs.” (4th quarter)

Watchlist

Jill Rock Jones- Female rock artist

Lo-Lo- rapper from Mississippi

DX- rapper from Newport News, VA (Block and Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons’ artist

Quote of the Year

“Block Ent. We eat what we kill round here.”

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