Grammy-nominated rapper Cordae has announced the arrival of his own label, Hi Level, in an interview with Billboard.
“I looked at the genuine relationships that I’ve been able to build these last couple of years, and realized I already have enough moving parts to create an extremely successful label,” says the 23-year-old artist-turned-exec.
While the rapper is signed to Atlantic, Hi Level is a fully independent label funded by Cordae himself. “I’m able to see all the functioning parts and what it takes to run a successful [label], from the inside,” he says of his relationship with Atlantic. In the future, Cordae does plan to release music through Hi Level.
“Hi Level [will house] artists, production, and management, where everyone elevates together, by way of working together,” says Cordae’s manager, Ace Christian.
The label will offer in-house marketing and PR services, in addition to artist development. While Cordae has yet to sign any artists, he says that there are a few he has his eye on. “Everybody thinks my first artist is gonna rap like me, when that may not be the case at all,” says Cordae. “If we find the next Jazmine Sullivan, I’d be extremely happy.”
Christian says Cordae’s vision spans beyond the music, centering the importance of signed artists’ personal and professional growth. “Hi Level was created to focus on the well-being of artists and creatives, even before the business,” says Christian. “Artist development and the focus of legacy isn’t emphasized enough in the current space of music.”
For the Maryland-raised artist, legacy is a top priority, noting how working with Jay Z provided a major early opportunity for Kanye West, and how later, Kanye’s contributions helped the career of rappers like Travis Scott take off. “I know [my signees] are always going to be attached to my legacy — and when it comes to my legacy, I take everything I do very seriously,” says Cordae.
Among the values Cordae emphasized is creative control and music rights for artists. “[Hi Level] is a full embodiment of Black empowerment and ownership,” he says. “And I can’t be out here preaching ownership, and not giving kids their masters.”
Much of the inspiration behind Cordae’s label comes from watching his own mother. “My mom was a single mom. She had to wake up every morning at 5am, go to work, get back from work at seven o’clock — then have to cook and get it done,” he says. “She was on some high level s–t.”
Although Cordae has been busy playing executive, he says he has no plans of taking his foot off the gas when it comes to his own artistry. “My music is the engine that drives it all,” he says. “That’s my passion and my ultimate love.”
The North Carolina born rapper is gearing up to release From a Bird’s Eye View, this July. It will be Cordae’s second studio album, following his Grammy-nominated debut, The Lost Boy. “Nothing that you’ve heard so far from me is gonna be on the album,” he clarifies.
For Cordae, the label exemplifies how far he’s come in the industry within just a few short years. “At the beginning of 2018 when I was working at TGI Friday’s, I was like ‘Yo, this my last year working for someone,’ and I haven’t worked for anybody ever since,” he says. “Hi Level just embodies that for me.”