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Spotlight: How Interscope Records’ Caroline Diaz Helped Make DaBaby a ‘Rockstar’ & Became an A&R VP at 25

This time last year, Caroline “Baroline” Diaz was beginning her sixth month as senior director of A&R at Interscope Records. She was also collaborating with the label’s newest hitmaker, DaBaby, whose Baby on Baby debut had landed at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 earlier that year and was a new priority act.

Since then, DaBaby has released back-to-back No. 1 follow-up albums with Kirk in fall 2019 and and April’s Blame It on Baby, while Diaz has earned her vp stripes at just 25. The latter project spun off the hit single “Rockstar” featuring Roddy Ricch, which now counts seven non-consecutive weeks atop the Hot 100. DaBaby’s growing list of hits also includes his guest feature on Megan Thee Stallion’s platinum-certified 2019 hit “Cash Shit” — a cameo that Diaz suggested he do.

In reaction to her whirlwind success to this point, Diaz humbly notes, “I’m just a girl from the hood who loves music.”

When Diaz joined Interscope in January 2019, Interscope/Geffen/A&M executive vp urban operations Nicole Wyskoarko praised her potential. “It’s inspiring to see someone so young who has the fire and raw talent that simply needs to be cultivated,” she said.

As for why she and DaBaby click creatively, Diaz says, “He trusts my insight. A lot of people think male artists won’t trust a woman’s opinion. Even though I’m younger than him, he’s always welcomed my opinion on what I think is cool or not cool, artists he should work with or what features make sense. And he gives me credit. I’m very lucky to be working with him; we’re like family.”

Diaz and an older brother were raised in New York City by a single mother. A passionate music fan with one singular mission — to build a career somewhere within the music industry — Diaz secured her first gig at 21 with EMVE Management Group where she interacted with brands such as CÎROC, Bad Boy and VH1. After graduating from a program called Young Women in Music, Diaz was tipped by a friend about interviews taking place for a promotion assistant position at Def Jam Recordings.

She didn’t get the job, but was hired as a temp under the direction of the label’s executive vp Rodney Shealey. “I didn’t have a title,” she says with a laugh. “I was the temp that worked in promotion,” assisting on national campaigns for artists such as 2 Chainz and YG. In fact, it was rapper YG who coined her nickname “Baroline,” for no particular reason, and it stuck.

Diaz exited Def Jam to work at Columbia Records in 2018. During a brief stint in A&R working with Shawn Holiday, Columbia’s co-head of urban music, she signed rising rapper Polo G to the label. Offered a contract by Columbia afterwards, Diaz opted instead to accept Wyskoarko’s offer to join Interscope as senior director of A&R.

In addition to DaBaby, Diaz’s A&R roster includes singer Ann Marie and rapper Lil Poppa, who recently released the album Evergreen Wildchild 2. And Ann Marie — whom Diaz describes as a “mix between Aaliyah and Keyshia Cole” — recently released her latest single, “Stress Relief” featuring G Herbo.

Diaz says she never had a plan B: “I was going to make this work. I have a very dominant personality. When I walk into a room, I demand attention and respect. I’m here to work.”

SPOTLIGHT:

I like finding artists that I can personally connect with. I want to be able to love the artist, love the music. I have to be passionate about both. As I get older, I just want to wake up and still be able to say, “I can’t wait to work with someone,” as I’m saying now with Ann Marie and DaBaby. If I’m not able to personally connect, I don’t want any part of the project.

My big break was when Shawn Holiday at Columbia Records took a chance and gave me my first job in A&R. I’ll always remember him and also Rodney Shealey at Def Jam. Even though I was working for Rodney, he told someone else that I needed to be in A&R. Shawn and Rodney both could have been like, “Girl, whatever.” But they believed in me and gave me a shot. I’ve also been blessed by mentors like [Roc Nation label co-president] Shari Bryant and Nicole Wyskoarko.

What’s next is building my legacy as an executive in the music industry by finding the next generation of amazing legacy artists and mentoring the next set of young executives. I’m obsessed with the career of [late industry veteran] Andre Harrell. I love how passionate people are about him and what he did for artists. I want artists to say that I stood beside them and never gave up on them. I fight hard for my artists; willing to go the extra mile for them. I don’t like to settle for less because I don’t want my artists to settle for less. I’m going to make sure that we’re on our A game.

I also want to help other young women who want to work in music and become executives in A&R and other areas…. Women who may also come from the hood and not have a chance to go to college; who don’t have anybody that believes in them. A bunch of people didn’t believe in me. They were like, “You’ll never be in A&R; you’ll never have the opportunity.” I was supposed to be pregnant right now and living at my mom’s house. But now I’m in L.A. living my dream. I want to teach and show other women that, “Yo, you can do this too because I did it.”

Something I never thought is that during a pandemic I’d have an opportunity to help give unsigned artists the confidence to further develop and build their craft through my Unsigned talent series on Instagram [now on hiatus]. I’ve been watching them doing videos and collaborating with other artists they’ve met on my IG Live. I didn’t know that I could have such an effect on other people, giving these artists a voice. There’s a ton of incredible talent out there.

I am learning that I have so much to learn. You can tell how I am by my personality but I have to stop sometimes and remind myself that I’m also still building and growing. I’m only 25, yet life is going by so fast. But I try to learn something new every day whether it’s about myself, the industry or artists. I try to take in as much as I can. I don’t walk around like I know everything because I know I don’t. And I know the only way for me to learn and become better is to take in everything that’s going on around me so I can be a role model for others.

Spotlight is a Billboard Business series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact spotlight@billboard.com.

Spotlight is a Billboard Business series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact spotlight@billboard.com.

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