Entertainment entrepreneur Kevin Frazier has translated East Coast experiences into West Coast success
Part two of a four-part series: The Gift of Inspiration
There weren’t a lot of opportunities where we came from (on the East Side),” says Kevin Frazier. “People become complacent with whatever life has given them. I am never going to tell my son that he can’t do something. (He) will always have someone to be supportive of the decisions he makes, whatever those are.”
Frazier’s own number one supporter has been Jermaine LaFate, son of artist Eunice LaFate (last month’s cover artist), whom he met when they were five years old at the YMCA’s East Wilmington summer camp. The two soon realized that they lived right around the corner from each other on Wilmington’s East Side. They were destined to be lifelong friends.
“We’ve been around each other our entire lives,” says Frazier. “Jermaine was best man at my wedding.”
His friendship with Jermaine also extended to the LaFate family. “Ms. LaFate became a second mother to me,” says Frazier. “If you hadn’t eaten, she made sure you ate. She was always invested in the kids in the neighborhood. There was no such thing as a ‘bad’ kid from the neighborhood.”
Setting the Stage
Frazier remembers that his and other neighborhood parents were very involved with “all of us,” including Jermaine and his other friends.
“Our parents instilled in us the ‘it takes a village’ mentality,” says Frazier. So, whether he was at his house with his mother, Lynette Scott, who worked in real estate and finance, or at the LaFates’ house, he felt supported.
“My mother gave me a solid understanding of how to run a business, while Ms. LaFate gave me the freedom to be creative,” he says. Whether it was painting, writing poetry, or making music, the LaFate household became a safe haven for Frazier and the other “Arts as Prevention” boys to explore their individual creativity.
While at the LaFate home, Frazier had many instructive conversations and formative learning experiences that started with critiquing the artwork that filled every wall of the house. “If there was a new piece, Ms. LaFate would ask your opinion and then tell you the story about the piece,” says Frazier.
Being around and learning from Eunice LaFate shaped Frazier’s understanding about different aspects of life, including how to think outside the box. This important life skill, coupled with LaFate’s maternal guidance, gave Frazier a solid understanding of how to be business-savvy in the creative industry.
Frazier gained a deep appreciation and a diverse palette of music from various family members. His mother loved Motown and the oldies; his father loved jazz. He credits two of his three aunts for his eclectic taste in music. “My Aunt Jeannette loved R&B like En Vogue and soul, while my Aunt Dean enjoyed hip-hop artists like Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, and Notorious B.I.G,” he says.
This wide exposure to music genres inspired Frazier to create his own music. As a pre-teen, he and his friends would write, perform and critique each other’s raps in the LaFate basement.
“I had a manila envelope full of notebooks with my raps,” says Frazier. Asked if he could share some of his old raps, Frazier laughed and said that most of them had probably been “thrown away by my mom.”
Frazier’s first experience in the music industry came through his sister-in-law, Dawn Brown. At the time she worked at a music management company in Philadelphia with her business partner, Terry McRay, who took a keen interest in Frazier.
“Terry was my first music mentor who allowed me to tag along at video shoots, meetings, and studio sessions,” says Frazier. “He gave me a full view of what it took to be in the music industry.”
McRay saw potential in Frazier’s music career and urged him to explore all aspects of the industry, not just songwriting. Says Frazier: “It’s one thing to write a song, let alone promote and release it. It’s a lot harder these days to get exposure (for an artist or a song) since there are so many more platforms to release music.”
From Ja Rule to Rocawear
Frazier’s journey from aspiring songwriter to producer and business owner in the music industry demonstrates his strong work ethic, ambition and at times, luck. There’s not enough space here to trace his entire career, but it began with his working behind the scenes at Ja Rule’s Mid-Atlantic tours as a teenager while attending William Penn High School.
“My friends didn’t believe me until they saw me backstage at his concert on the Riverfront. I was a fly on the wall,” Frazier says.
After graduating from high school in 2002, Frazier attended Lincoln University but had to transfer due to a university-wide teachers’ strike. This change eventually led him to attend the Institute of Audio Research in New York City (which closed in 2017). Between attending school full-time and working evenings as a club promoter, Frazier wangled his way into music industry events and parties by creating—there’s no other word for it—phony business cards.
“(At the time in the mid-2000s) corporate websites had employee directories,” he says, “so I would find the name of an assistant to a major music executive and replicate their business cards.” While it was an ingenious use of technology then, Frazier doesn’t recommend this devious method today since, as he points out, “it’s much easier to find someone’s credentials through LinkedIn or Facebook.”
Frazier’s last few years in New York included various positions at Vibe Magazine, Daddy’s House Recording Studio, which is owned by Bad Boy Entertainment Group, and Rocawear, an American clothing brand started by Jay-Z and Damon Dash.
During this time, Frazier met another music mentor, Chà Deberry, who “took me under her wing,” he says. She introduced Frazier to the West Coast, specifically Los Angeles, the city he has called home since 2015.
From East Side to West Coast
Frazier has some ambitious goals, and they again involve friends and family.
“I want to be in the financial position to help out and invest in my friends’ ideas or support my family to make their lives easier,” he says.
He credits his parents and Eunice LaFate for instilling his strong work ethic and aspirations. “When my parents separated, my mom worked two or three jobs, all while attending school,” he says. “I grew up seeing ambition, so I don’t know anything else.”
Frazier and his DollarZEnterprize music production co-owner, DollarZ, have completed the build-out of their recording studio in North Hollywood. Their goal for the studio is to create a welcoming space where artists want to come to work. They plan to finish ongoing projects including a posthumous album from French Montana’s artist Chinx, which is slated to release in December, then open the space to a select list of artists in the next year or two.
One of Frazier’s long-term business goals is to introduce a breakout artist. “We’re looking to find the next artist that is hoping to build a legacy and not be just a flash in the pan,” he says.
Frazier and DollarZ have already begun conversations with major studios to reserve the studio for artists on a short-term basis. And in 2021, Frazier hopes to create a visual album to showcase what he and his partner have been working on as a way to sign writers and producers to their music production company.
“It’ll be a pipeline for up-and-coming talent,” says Frazier. “We already have our eyes on two artists we want to sign.”
Next month: Andre Harris, apostle at Breakthrough Reformation of Churches in New Castle.