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New York-based artist Toniesha Renee is a jack of all trades with interests in writing and styling; however, once she hit her early twenties, she understood her true passion for the music world, and hasn’t looked back. Now, she works in Music Marketing for RCA and Sony Music, guiding the newest and up and coming artists to newer heights.

Milk spoke to Toniesha about her favorite records, influencer culture, and navigating the music industry.

Toni made us a playlist of the hits resonating with her right now – take a listen below:

What drew you to the music industry? 

Honestly, I’ve always had this desire to explore all sides of myself. I always knew I was a creative but could never pinpoint exactly what I wanted to do and how to channel that energy. Growing up I remember wanting to be a chemist, then I wanted to be a painter, an architect, I wanted to be a stylist and actually did that for 2 seconds. I think once I hit my late teens and early 20s is when I landed here. I started writing about music for different publications such as Saint Heron, The Source, and PAPER Magazine and I began to really find my footing and felt an overwhelming love and passion for this music shit. I didn’t necessarily think I would end up here but I do believe the universe placed me exactly where I was supposed to be.

What were the first records you listened to / grew up with?

The first record I remember really sticking with me was a mix of music my mother and older sister use to just play on repeat. Every Sunday my mother was playing Erykah Badu – Baduizm, Mary J Blige – What’s The 411, Jill Scott – Who Is Jill Scott. She also always had Marvin Gaye, The Whispers, Sade and Luther Vandross playing in the house.

My older sister Cieara pretty much lived off of Destiny Child’s – Destiny Fulfilled album, as well as Aaliyah, Lil Boosie, Eve, Lil Wayne mixtapes and Usher. OMG, she loved Confessions lol. I can still sing every song on that album word for word.

Did you have a music background via your education? How does one get into music? 

No way. My degrees are in Marketing and Public Relations – I never studied music. When I was in college, my first major was Urban Planning but the program meant I had to stay I believe five years and I wanted to get the hell out of there in four, so I switched over to the Business program and was surprisingly very good at it. The only education I had in music is what my mother, sisters, and grandmother taught me. My mother taught me about how music fuels you and how you can see sounds. My sister taught me how to read music notes because she played the Violin for many years. I was in a church choir briefly growing up and that’s where I learned the difference between alto, soprano and how to sing from your diaphragm.

I picked up all my knowledge from what was around me not from a book or a classroom. I guess life was my teacher but that’s the best type of teacher to have anyways right?

You’re involved with Influencer Marketing with RCA – how would you describe your role to someone who may not know much about the music industry?

By definition Influencer Marketing is “a form of social media marketing involving endorsements and product placements from influencers, people and organizations who possess a purported expert level of knowledge and/or social influence in their respective fields.” I look at some influencers and Influencer Marketing as trend forecasting. I am able to connect music to people who are pushing the culture forward. I handpick every influencer I use for my campaigns. I pick people that I feel are trendsetters and leaders within our culture and community. People I think represent what music is right now. Free and unapologetic.

Why RCA?

I see RCA as a boutique label in ways.  We focus heavily on artistry and music. We sign acts we truly believe in and unlike most labels we still care about artist development. We have developed some of the biggest artists in the world i.e. A$AP Rocky, SZA, H.E.R. to name a few. I chose RCA off of this reason alone. We elevate our artists and don’t try to change them. We stay true to ourselves and to what music means to us.

How do you feel about the rise in influencer culture? How much power do you think the internet has in making or breaking careers?

Influencer culture is something we have to pay close attention to. These are in some ways the trend forecasters and shapeshifters of the world. I’ve had the pleasure of being behind influencer campaigns that involved Khloe Kardashian, Zaza, The Clermont Twins, and many more. I’ve seen how seeding the right influencers with the right music can equal streams and engagement around any artist. As far as the internet goes, whether we like it or not the internet is essential to our day to day life now. People consume most if not all of their music and news via the internet. I think it’s vital in making or breaking careers. I’ve seen the internet build folks up and break them down.

I would not even have the job I have now if it was not for the internet. The first music company I worked for was my friend Jordi’s brand AnimalxHouse from back home. I would write about music on the site and help out with their live shows from time to time. While working with them I was noticed by this woman named Shabazz who was working for  Solange at the time. She followed me on Twitter and saw a lot of the music I posted which was usually songs I found in the depths of SoundCloud lol. I had absolutely no background in journalism at all but she saw something in me and believed in me. She ended up offering me my first job at Saint Heron as a music writer and those two jobs are what capitulated my career to where it is now.

With the rise in social media and Instagram culture, what do you think makes a good artist in 2019 staying true to the values of good music? What is good music, according to you?

A good artist is someone that can turn their words and sounds into something beautiful. They continuously fuel their creativity and make work that resonates with others. I mean, art in general should make you feel something.

What makes good music in 2019 is the same components that made good music throughout the generations. That feelingggggggg. Good music is that sound or verse that makes your hair stand up on your arms. What makes good music is emotion, the shit that taps into your psyche, ya know?

You said in an interview with HypeBae: “The music industry is a beast and [it’s] filled with double standards. To be in this and to succeed you have to have tough skin, you have to know yourself.” How have you found yourself within this industry?

What I learned early was to survive in any industry you have to know who you are. You have to be building on a solid foundation. And I know who I am as a woman. I do think I am still finding my footing in this music thing though. The best way for me to navigate the industry and all its twists and turns is to stay true to myself. I know myself and I know what I will and won’t do to reach success. I know that I won’t sacrifice the morals and values my mama raised me with to climb this ladder. I stay true, honest, humble and hungry. Still just a young ambitious kid from Columbus, Ohio.

What makes you stick around?

The feeling I get when an album or song that shifts my whole life. That feeling of me being able to be apart of something like that. I love knowing that I can be apart of making someone’s day, month or year. I love knowing that I have played a significant role in changing someone’s life or way of thinking through music.

What other aspects of the music industry are you interested in?

I would love to be an Exec one day – that would be tight. I’m interested in so many things it’s hard to put my finger on one thing. I can tell what I’m interested in as far as learning music and instruments though! I want to learn the electric guitar and learn how to play the piano. Those are some short term goals of mine.

What would you be doing if you were not working in music?

Yooooooo, I was just having this conversation with a friend a few days ago. I would be doing CGI animation, investing in stocks, and doing some cool shit within Tech! Traveling the world and making money in my sleep like Oprah, ha!

Are there any artists currently on your radar we must know about? 

Choker is one of my favorite up and coming artist, his voice is so beautiful.  Flo Milli is this young rapper from Alabama, the way she rides beats is insane.  Frank Ocean has been quietly dropping some bangers lol. Sunni Colón’s music is just as beautiful as he is. Sevdaliza is just amazing all around. I am obsessed with Snoh Alegra and SiR right now too. I can’t stop playing their albums!

Tell us about this playlist…

Simple. These are songs that resonate with me deeply right now. Hopefully, people listen and find something new or some old favorites!

Special thanks to The Standard, High Line.

Stay tuned to Milk for more Weekend Playlists.

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