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MusicXclusives Founder Leo Lysius Talks Amplifying Black Music

Twelve years ago, Leo Lysius launched his online platform MusicXclusives. MusicXclusives has since become the premier platform to spotlight up-and-coming talent in Black music as well as celebrate the achievements of iconic Black musicians, producers, and industry figures. Leo has worked with the likes of renowned talent including-112, Foxy Brown, Day26, DreamDoll, and Ron Suno. Lysius, who comes from a Haitian background, shared with The Quintessential Gentleman his journey in media as well as his efforts to continue to celebrate contributions that Black music artists have made as we also celebrate Black Music Month.

You've been in the media industry for over a decade covering hip hop and R&B with MusicXclusives platform. Can you talk about the moment you first realized there was a void in the coverage of the genres in Black music?

I feel honored to have a mainstay in the media space, let alone music as it pertains to our culture and being able to speak on it. When I first started MusicXclusives, it was all about my love and appreciation for urban music. I’m an R&B connoisseur and fell in love with the genre at an early age. I grew up listening to the likes of Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Total, Aaliyah, 112 and SWV, just to name a few. But when I started the brand it was all about the discovery of new talent, and artists I was on to before the world knew who they were. I felt that was missing at the time I started my platform, so I wanted to shine a light on those artists because I really believed in them. Acts like Ro James, Bridget Kelly, and Gene Noble (formally known as Jaiden “The Cure”) were all talented individuals I was familiar with before they blew up.

As a Black man in the media, can you speak a little about mentorship? Did you have any influential Black males in the industry who mentored you and which Black men in media and music would you consider to be role models?

I never directly had a mentor or someone who taught me the ropes during my journey, but I have people that I've looked up to like Sean "Diddy" Combs, the late Andre Harrell, Jason Lee, and a few other Black men in the business who have inspired me along the way. I think it is very important to have a mentor or someone to help you with any form of guidance or support while you're learning. While I didn't necessarily have that coming up, I'm definitely interested in mentoring those much younger than me who want to grow in this business. I have a few who look up to me that I have to be an example for. I try to give them as much -needed advice as possible from time to time, because if we're not passing the torch to the next generation then we're doing a disservice. And speaking of mentorship, I want to start an organization in the near future for the youth to teach them the fundamentals about breaking into this tough industry, learning the ins and outs of the business, and how to navigate your way through it.

June is Black Music Month. Can you talk about when you first became aware of Black Music Month and what surprised you about the coverage or lack of coverage regarding the significance, history, and meaning of the month?

I’m not sure if I was always aware of Black Music Month or conscious about it when I was growing up. One significance I can associate it with is the annual BET Awards, which has been around for over two decades and is a staple in our culture when it comes to all things urban music from R&B, Hip-Hop, Reggae/dancehall, gospel, to Afrobeats. I do think it deserves more recognition as far as acknowledgment is concerned from people who are non-black. Black music has influenced and helped birth so many other genres, and so many people have benefited from it. Artists like Eminem, Britney Spears, Jack Harlow, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Post Malone, JoJo, Tori Kelly, and countless others over the years have covered Black music, and at times have garnered more success than our own people. When you look back in time, even country music was created by Black people, Rock & Roll derived from rhythm & blues, as well as jazz and gospel. All of these elements originated from Black culture and music, dating back to the early 1900s. We don't get enough credit, but we live in a prejudiced society so it is what it is. I'm hoping one-day things will change. We can help make a difference, but it first starts with us. Just like Black History Month, Black Music Appreciation Month can't be confined to just one month. We deserve more.

What would you say are the challenges of covering Black music from an editor and photographer/videographer's perspective?

Well, if I’m being honest, the problem isn’t covering Black music because to be quite frank with you, Black music is dominating the charts today and all over the world, particularly Hip-Hop as well as it’s sub-genres. The challenges we’re currently facing and have been facing for years is that when we create Black music, we are at times overlooked because of our skin color. Let’s dig deeper. And I want to credit and shout out Jason Lee of Hollywood Unlocked, whose also a fellow Black man that has made it known in the past that Black media always gets the short end of the stick, especially when it comes to red carpet events, and which outlets a lot of artists choose to speak with when it comes to press. Various times I’ve witnessed white publicists treat African American journalists a certain type of way. Hopefully, I’m not shunned for speaking up, but I want to be completely transparent because it’s the reality we live in every day. As Black people, we wake up every day fighting and striving for better. We’re forced to work twice as hard as our white counterparts in this business. There were rewards along the journey, but we had to earn our spot to get there.

If you can think back on a moment that you covered regarding Black music that had a particular significance for MusicXclusives and the culture of not just Black music but music as a whole what would that moment be?

Interestingly enough [laughs], I just saw you at the Notorious B.I.G.'s 50th Birthday Dinner Gala last month. I would say every time we cover Biggie, it's a moment in time for our platform. Biggie, without a doubt, is one of the greatest rappers of all time. His legacy and music has become bigger than life 25 years later. He's worldly to me and doesn't appeal to just one group of people. Losing Biggie and 2Pac changed the landscape of Hip-Hop culture entirely. They made such an impact when they were here, but even more once they were taken from us. I grew up listening to the 'Life after Death' album as a teenager from Brooklyn. I'm also a big Bad Boy fan and the New Jack Swing era. Diddy has always been my idol, so when I covered the Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour in 2016, that was a monumental time for MusicXclusives and the brand. Those YouTube views got so much traction. The interviews we did on the red carpet for the Biggie 50th have already generated over 30k in views in less than two weeks. Shout out to Lil' Kim, Lil Cease, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Ms. Voletta Wallace, CJ & T'Yanna Wallace, Don Pooh, Wayne Barrow, and everyone who's been part of his foundation early on.

Oftentimes we think of Black music in terms of hip hop, R&B, and reggae but can you talk about the areas of Black music that MusicXclusives has covered that people might not be aware of?

It may come to some as a surprise but we’ve had a lot of success covering and featuring gospel music in the past. We've interviewed award-winning artists like The Walls Group, Erica Campbell, Kierra Sheard, and Tasha Cobbs just to name a few. I'm in love with The Walls Group and each member. They all can sing really well individually and collectively. They're certainly my favorite gospel group.

Where do you see MusicXclusives, Black Music, and the coverage of Black Music headed in the future?

MusicXclusives has a ton of great things in store. We're gearing up to close a major partnership deal that will help move the brand to new heights in the coming months. I can't disclose with who yet, but there will be a press release when the official news breaks this summer. We are also looking into potential brand sponsorships with other big platforms. There are some new initiatives that I'm also developing on the creative side of things, such as our upcoming brand new acoustic segment called, "The Love Sessions," the return of our podcast, season 3 of "In the MiX," a documentary-style day in the life series shining light on creatives behind the scenes such as songwriters, producers, A&R's, managers, glam teams, publicists, label execs, and more. Of course, we'll be covering a lot of this summer's festivals so look out for us. We're working. I'm excited for Black media and what we're doing currently. I also like where the podcast space is going, especially when it comes to our people., I definitely appreciate and respect what Joe Budden is doing for the culture, N.O.R.E. with "Drink Champs", Bridget and Mandii B with "See, The Thing Is Podcast," Gia Peppers (who is a MusicXclusives alum), as well as others coming up making a name for themselves. I think if we continue to support one another as a people, we will achieve more success in the end.

Check out MusicXclusives for new music and more.

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