Kenya Barris Launches Music Label With Interscope Records

The label, simply titled Khalabo Music, has already signed a few fresh artists to its fledgling roster, and now Barris is looking at ways to work them into the many other areas of his entertainment company.

Kenya Barris Launches Music Label With Interscope Records

Kenya Barris, music mogul?

The prolific producer of TV and film has taken one giant step closer to that status with the announcement of his Khalabo Ink Society’s first label, a joint venture with Interscope Records. The label, simply titled Khalabo Music, has already signed a few fresh artists to its fledgling roster, and now Barris is looking at ways to work them into the many other areas of his entertainment company.

“We try to seek out creative relationships with people who not only move culture but see where culture is going,” said Interscope Geffen A&M Records vice chairman Steve Berman, who puts Barris squarely in that category. Per the exec, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter as part of cover story, Barris reaches out “at all hours,” with ideas and questions about how to intertwine music into his vision.

“Kenya touches people in so many different ways and he wants music to be part of that experience, so the conversation is not just about, ‘Let me find this one artist and make the best record,’” Berman continued. “He wants to find the artists and be able to plug music into his universe in many different ways. It’s the complete picture with him.”

For Barris, the Interscope venture comes during a period of professional transition. The ever-busy producer was recently let out of his multi-year deal with Netflix to build BET Studios, a partnership with BET and parent ViacomCBS that is far less restrictive when it comes to pursuing other business relationships. In fact, in recent months, Barris and team have quietly negotiated a podcasting pact with Audible, too, along with a book deal with Random House and a first-look film deal with Paramount, and soon he intends to have them all working in unison.

“Since the beginning, the goal at Khalabo has been to tell stories that reflect our culture with honesty, specificity and from a perspective that feels unique to a singular voice,” said Barris. “Similar to how we’ve approached our television and film content, my hope is that Khalabo Music becomes a place where artists are given the space to hone their talent while embracing the specificity and individuality of their voice and sound.”

As part of the company’s formal entry into the business side of music, Barris has rounded out the team with a pair of industry veterans, Gabe Hilfer and Nicole Plantin, who will serve as Khalabo Music’s director of development and operations and general manager, respectively.

Hilfer, a longtime Barris collaborator, is best known for his celebrated work as an independent music supervisor. In addition to his work on Black-ish and #blackAF, Hilfer has built an enviable résumé, having worked on such projects as Mare of Easttown, The Underground Railroad, If Beale Street Could Talk, Creed and Crazy Rich Asians.

Plantin, for her part, comes by way of Rostrum Records, where she was senior vp, A&R, and once worked with Pharrell Williams, yet another a Barris collaborator, among many other things. “Kenya is such an important voice in culture, and I am beyond excited to pair my passion and experience with his vision,” said Plantin. “I’m looking forward to creating music together that’s just as phenomenal.”

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

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Inside Look: How the ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Soundtrack Honors the Spirit of the Best-Selling Original

The 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' will be released July 9, and just like with the long-awaited film, hopes are high for a soundtrack that lives up to the original.

Inside Look: How the ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Soundtrack Honors the Spirit of the Best-Selling Original

“I loved it as a kid: I had the merch, the shirts, the shoes, everything,” Damian Lillard, current NBA superstar of the Portland Trail Blazers, tells Billboard of the 1996 pop culture phenomenon Space Jam.

The intergalactic basketball comedy starring Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes became a must-see family event, grossing $82 million at the domestic box office. Its original soundtrack was arguably even bigger, producing top 10 Hot 100 hits in R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” and Seal’s cover of “Fly Like an Eagle,” and selling 4.7 million copies to date, according to MRC Data.

Twenty-five years later, Warner Bros. Pictures’ long-in-the-works stand-alone sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy  — now starring LeBron James alongside Bugs Bunny — will finally arrive in U.S. theaters and on HBO Max July 16. Its soundtrack, featuring an all-star squad including Lil Uzi Vert, Jonas Brothers, SZA, John Legend, Lil Wayne and Lillard — who acts in the movie, and performs on the soundtrack under his Dame D.O.L.L.A. rap persona — is out July 9. And just like with the long-awaited film, hopes are high for a soundtrack that lives up to the original.

“We knew there would be a lot of excitement, a lot of expectation, and a lot of pressure,” says music supervisor Kier Lehman (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, HBO’s Insecure), who, along with co-supervisor Morgan Rhodes, worked closely with director Malcolm D. Lee, label partners at Republic Records, producer Ryan Coogler’s Proximity Media and James’ production company SpringHill Entertainment.

Spencer Beighley, head of film at SpringHill, says that, as the script for Space Jam: A New Legacy had been in development for four years, the film’s music was consistently part of the conversation. “When you think about the original soundtrack, it’s such a melting pot,” says Beighley. “You have Quad City DJ’s, you have a Steve Miller Band cover, you have a six-minute D’Angelo track, and it transcended the movie, in a way. So we knew that with the soundtrack for this one, that whole idea of making a soundtrack for this generation, but still having that melting pot, was something we all really wanted.”

For Proximity Media executive Archie Davis, Space Jam: A New Legacy represented the second straight opportunity to boost a major film with strategically commissioned original music, following the production company’s Judas and the Black Messiah and its Oscar-winning song “Fight For You” by H.E.R. “The word ‘eventize’ comes up a lot,” says Davis. “It comes down to that respect of the music being just as much of an art as the film.”

Ideas for the soundtrack came from all parties: for instance, Lehman says that James personally stumped for Joyner Lucas to be included on the soundtrack, leading to the rapper contributing the track “Shoot My Shot.” Lillard was asked to lend his voice to the soundtrack after initially signing on to the film, and ended up rapping on the Bay Area hip-hop summit “About That Time” with G-Eazy, P-Lo and White Dave.

“My kid’s gonna be watching this movie, hearing me, being able to share my history with the movie,” says Lillard. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Sammie Taylor, EVP of A&R at Republic, says that figuring out a cross-generational appeal — locating a middle ground for audiences of all ages — was the hardest part of finalizing a track list. “You’re trying to find songs that moms are gonna feel good with their kids listening, or teenagers are not gonna feel like, ‘Oh, this is too corny,’ and grown-ups can like without feeling like they’re on TikTok,” he says with a laugh.

“We Win,” the lead single from the soundtrack that pairs Atlanta rap superstar Lil Baby and gospel veteran Kirk Franklin, is a result of that multi-demographic approach, and the team effort that the new Space Jam soundtrack required to come together. Taylor originally received the track from producer Just Blaze, while Lehman was approached by Motown Records when Lil Baby showed interest in joining the Space Jam soundtrack.

Director Lee had asked Lehman and Rhodes early in the process to find “something for the end of the movie with a gospel feel to it,” Lehman recalls, and Franklin has been suggested as a soundtrack artist by Universal Music Publishing Group. The result was Franklin and Lil Baby joining forces over the Just Blaze beat; released in late May, “We Win” has earned 4.5 million on-demand U.S. streams to date.

Meanwhile, Salt-N-Pepa — the only artist to appear on both Space Jam soundtracks, with their song “Upside Down (‘Round-N-‘Round)” highlighting the original — this time teamed up with Saweetie and Kash Doll on the song “Hoops.” It was a move meant “to represent the golden era of hip-hop” to a new generation, says Cheryl “Salt” James.

“It’s an honor to be here with the new wave,” adds Sandra “Pepa” Denton. “And if there’s a Space Jam 3, I hope Salt-N-Pepa is on that soundtrack, too.”



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