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Ice Spice Manager James Rosemond Jr. on the ‘Three-Dimensional Chess’ Game Behind Her Rise

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Asked to recall his first musical memory, James Rosemond Jr. is quick to answer: R&B duo Groove Theory’s 1995 R&B/pop classic, “Tell Me.” He sings a snippet of the song’s infectious refrain — “Tell me if you want me to…” — and says with a laugh, “I was 4 years old, but that’s the way I fell in love with music.”

Growing up, there was plenty of music to love. Rosemond, now 31, is the son of former artist manager Jimmy Rosemond, who represented Gucci Mane, The Game, Salt-N-Pepa and others. And over the past two years, he has blazed his own path in the profession, helping guide rapper Ice Spice to crossover stardom. Since breaking through in 2022 with the viral TikTok hit “Munch (Feelin’ U),” Ice has garnered four Grammy Award nominations, and in 2023, she released four top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles: “Princess Diana” with Nicki Minaj, “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2” with PinkPantheress, “Karma” with Taylor Swift and “Barbie World” with Minaj and Aqua.

Ice is not Rosemond’s sole client. His Miami-based Mastermind Artists also manages the young rapper’s go-to producer, RIOTUSA, as well as DJ-producer Diablo, who works with Diplo. Former clients include Sean Kingston and songwriter Infrared (Fat Joe, French Montana). Prior to launching Mastermind 12 years ago, Rosemond honed his business skills while brokering publishing deals for songwriters and producers with Primary Wave Music CEO Larry Mestel and Ultra International Music Publishing founder Patrick Moxey.

A painting of the iconic 1968 Esquire cover depicting Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian. “The photo was shot during the Civil Rights movement and represents sacrifice. As a talent manager, that’s the space I occupy,” Rosemond says.

Rosemond achieved these wins in the face of family upheaval. His father is serving life in prison after being convicted in 2013 of crimes tied to a cocaine-trafficking operation and in 2014 to the 2009 death of G-Unit affiliate Lowell “Lodi Mack” Fletcher. Rosemond says he speaks to his father “all the time” and continues to receive “life advice” from him — “like what any father would give his young adult son in this world.” As for business counsel, he adds, “Times change, and I don’t think he understands streaming, TikTok and other data the way I do, so there’s not much advice there.”

That said, Rosemond came of age watching his father successfully navigate the music business and continues to use much of what he absorbed — especially “creative deal-making,” he says. “Those conversations of how to negotiate and secure a deal, and what to look for in a deal. That always stuck with me.”

He is using some of that advice as he conducts “strategic conversations” to strengthen the firm’s infrastructure, including expanding into more musical genres. Meanwhile, he’s busy preparing for Ice’s debut studio album, Y2K, which is due July 26 on 10K Projects/Capitol Records. The album has been teased by two singles: “Think U the Shit (Fart)” and the latest, “Gimmie the Light,” which she performed at Coachella in April. Also stoking anticipation for the album: 50,000 MetroCards featuring Ice’s image were recently made available in collaboration with Capitol Records at four New York subway stations.

Rosemond says that kind of creative thinking keeps him excited about the music industry. “I love that it keeps me on my toes. I want to feel the challenge.”

A “blur figure” of a $100 bill that friends at the Brooklyn art collective MSCHF gifted to Rosemond.

What was it like growing up with a parent who was such a force in the music industry?

It was definitely an eye-opener. I like to say to people that I live in dog years because of the information and experience that I was privy to early on — the lingo, the conversations and the behind-the-scenes scenarios that I was able to experience. I have to give credit to all of that for where I am today success-wise.

What key lessons did you learn that you use today?

To really listen and forever be a student. A lot of people come into this business quickly and feel like they know it all. No matter what artists my father represented, he still felt like a sponge; always learning new things. I carry that with me to this day.

How has being Jimmy Rosemond’s son affected the way people in the industry deal with you?

I would say that a lot of veterans look out for each other in the way that peers look out for each other. That has always been the spirit in the music industry. There hasn’t been much of a difference between my father being home and not being home.

How did you get into brokering publishing deals?

I always found myself in the same circle as songwriters and producers, who had income or pipeline hits and needed help. And through my relationships with Larry and Patrick — and having a good lawyer by my side — I was able to connect the dots. It’s also how I was able to kick off my company.

A gold record plaque (left) for Ice Spice’s “Munch” single, “the breakthrough that started it all,” and a platinum plaque for “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2,” the record “that crossed us over to top 40,” he says.

Did that prompt your pivot into artist management?

Yes, because I’m a nerd when it comes to business, especially the deal-making. Outside of the day-to-day with an artist, it’s about brokering amazing deals for artists; helping them really understand the difference in what they have versus what others have and then having them see the value of what I can bring to the table. I get high on that.

What was it about Ice Spice, your first female client, that caught your ear?

It was her tone and the production she was picking. When I came across her early on, she only had about two or three songs out. She didn’t have the crazy monthly listeners and social numbers. Then I came across a song called “No Clarity,” a drill flip of Zedd’s “Clarity,” and heard the song’s possibilities. Next, I heard “Name of Love.” One, she’s working with the same producer [RIOTUSA] and they’re creating a sound. Two, her tone, and three, they’re flipping these crossover samples in drills. That got me. Then I saw her image — the curls, which was different — and I’m like, “Whoa!”

Talk about the marketing strategy behind Ice Spice with Dunkin’ and New York’s subway system.

Coming out of the gate, it was always three-dimensional chess. “Less is more” was our conversation and “Let’s not saturate.” Strategically, it was also about digital. When we put “Munch” out, we got the right digital team, which was Create Music Group. Its sister companies include WorldStar and Genius. I never want to feel like an artist is on a treadmill. I always want them to feel like they’re moving forward from A to C, C to E. So I did a strategic play on the digital side to accelerate her growth, social and in the market. “Munch” was everywhere that first week we put it out. And that was due to the strategic play that I was able to put together using the song as currency.

That led to Dunkin’?

Yes. When that opportunity came to us, it was a no-brainer because her fan base is called Munchkins. We always like to tap into social media and see what people are thinking or talking about. It’s not like we’re coming in and saying, “Yo, we should do Dunkin’.” It’s coming up with the idea because we’re hearing the conversations about what fans want to see. It’s there; we’re just listening.

Gold camel souvenir from a vacation in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: “Camels, known for their resilience and adaptability, also represent patience and determination.”

How did you enable her to retain her masters?

It was really about giving her all the right information. Like, this is where the market is going. It’s about independence. It’s about retaining ownership; about intellectual property and generational wealth. That sometimes there are sacrifices — that people may be dangling money. But if you want a certain type of deal, you have to be patient as we do the work to have leverage. That was the conversation early on. And thank God she listened and was able to hold out while we kept running up the numbers on “Munch.” Then it became, “Let’s entertain these deals” and, as I said earlier, begin to shape one in a creative way. Now, she not only retains her masters but also her publishing rights and still gets upfront money as if she’s a work for hire. It’s a hybrid type of deal that you don’t see often. And it comes with doing the work, having patience and creating leverage.

In the wake of major-label restructuring and shrinking promotion departments, is radio still important?

Absolutely. I tell my clients, “Streaming is the club, radio is VIP.” We want to get into the club and we want to get into the VIP section. And radio still feels somewhat exclusive. People are still driving and listening to the radio. And it’s not only about an artist breaking through. Once again, there’s the economics of it. If you have a publishing deal, one important factor is radio airplay. So why wouldn’t you want to have music on the radio?

Is there one thing you always tell a new client up front?

That economics is always going to play its part. That’s No. 1. Artists come in with big expectations like wanting the luxurious stuff. To keep them grounded on that front, I always remind them that it’s about profit and loss. So the more money they spend, they’ve got to crank out hits to make sure labels and publishers will want to continue to spend money on them.

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