Photographed by: Joe Chea

MEET SAMANTHA SELOLWANE, NYC-BASED RECORD EXECUTIVE, SNEAKER LOVER, GEM SPITTER X EVERY BIT OF BLACK GIRL MAGIC.

By now, you're familiar with our Chick Chat series - right? For us, it's so important to highlight the women who are making moves in their respective fields because #Chickspiration transcends all. After getting our Kobe on with this fun-loving Dallas chef, we hopped a flight up north to NYC for a peek inside the world of an artists champion.

Anthony Hamilton. Usher. Alicia Keys. Chris Brown. Ro James.

No, this isn't #squadgoals (well, maybe it is...), it's the IRL artist roster of uber inspirational RCA exec and Queens ("East Elmhurst all day") native, Samantha Selolwane. We scored a very, very valuable sit down in her New York office and, needless to say, the stage was set for some epic magic + plus a few words of wisdom because God was looking out like that. The minute you browse the pictures you'll see that Sam's space is anything but the traditional grey-cubicle steez. Red walls, pillow-packed corners, plaqued up shelves, #blackgirlmagic in a bottle, and a balcony overlooking the city just steps from her office door. Not that we'd expect anything less from a woman whose work ethic, and likely her appreciation for speaking things into existence, too, has resulted in her climbing the ranks from Morgan State radio personality to that of a big label VP shaping the careers (and the way you hear music, FYI) of some of the world's biggest musical forces.

No big deal.

Never not working. Period.

ON NEW YORK HUSTLE AND THAT WORK ETHIC:

New Yorkers just have a different hustle. You’ve got to move different, you’ve got to be different. But, it isn’t so much the place as it is my mother. My mother is a hustler. She would fit everything in a years schedule in seven hours. She’s more my work ethic inspiration because she never stops. Even now, she’s retired and she doesn’t stop.

ON MORGAN STATE, HBCU'S, AND THE POWER OF TUNNEL VISION:

You know what? It’s so ill. I always like to say that I’m blessed with tunnel vision. I’ve always known exactly what I want to do, I’ve always had clarity in the career I’ve wanted, and I always knew the type of school I wanted to go to. I was always going to an HBCU. I applied to every college under the sun, but I was still clear. Morgan always appealed to me because it wasn’t Howard, it wasn’t the big student body population. Also, I had family in the DMV area so, whether I chose Howard, Morgan or Hampton, I still would have had family there.

I was also really attracted to the communications department there. This was still in ‘96 so, it was very early and it wasn’t quite built up to what they have now, but some very great people came out of there. It doesn’t hurt that Wu Tang wrote about it either. Once RZA gave it a shout out I was like, ‘Yea. I’m going here.’

ON HOW MUSIC WAS PRETTY MUCH IN HER DNA:

I come from a music background. My father is a musician and I spent half of my life just standing on the side of stages watching my dad perform. I always knew music was going to be my thing. Not on stage, because my talent is not WHOO! LOL. But, I’ve always had the attraction to the person that the artist was listening to. There was always a fascination about that person who seemed to be running things behind the scenes. The Oz effect. That, to me, was my desire.

When I got to school, I needed to figure out where I fit in. My major was Media and Mass Communications but, I was doing Radio and Television Production so, at that point you’re learning how TV works and how radio works. We had a local campus station that was looking for jocks to start doing some things on a show called ‘Strictly Hip-Hop’. As soon as I got there, one of the co-hosts was leaving. They were looking for a female counterpart who was really into hip-hop.

SO, WHEN DID YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH HIP-HOP?

Hip-hop at that time wasn’t being curated - it was being lived. So, for me, when someone dropped an album we were running to the store. This was right after Jay Z dropped ‘Reasonable Doubt’. We were getting into Nas and The Firm’s ‘The Album.’ we had Outkast and we had these projects that were transcending everything. So, we didn’t have to be told or run to a blog to find out what was hot. This is what we were living. These moments were happening in real time and we were the recipients of those moments.

ON HER FIRST BIG PROJECT WITH A LITTLE ARTIST BY THE NAME OF CHRIS BROWN:

The years I worked for Jive, Jive allowed me to introduce myself to the executive side by really putting in the work. At that time, that work was fun. [Last year] Chris Brown’s debut album celebrated it’s 11th year anniversary. He was the first project that I worked. We did a mall tour across the country - we were in little small places and it allowed us to literally go fan by fan and say “this is going to be your new favorite artist” and it turned into that. I helped put out the Clipse album, Too Short, UGK - I had a roster. It was all about the music. I really lucked up when I got the Jive offer. It was less money and people were telling me not to take it, but when I got there it allowed me to harness everything I wanted to do. Breaking artists, taking them from obscurity and making them a household name. I was able to do that with some of my favorite artists.

ON A MORNING IN THE LIFE:

Hectic. Wake up, first thing in the morning and I usually wake up at 6:55 on the nose. Before I even scroll through Instagram, I’m looking at numbers. I analyze numbers first thing in the morning. I’m checking the charts. I take my time getting into the office because now I kind of have that luxury. When I get in, the first thing that I do is go through my binder. That binder is my work Bible. It has each record that I’m working and it breaks down every radio station and every spin on the panel. I make my notations and we have a staff - an amazing staff. I’m super blessed to have a boss that will let me go wild with ideas and challenge the staff with new transitions because if you’re not adapting in the time, you’re always going to play catch up.

ON THE FIGHT THAT NEVER ENDS:

As a woman, the fight never ends. The fight for equality, the fight (literally) for that seat at the table, the fight to lean in, the fight to just be heard. That continues. To be a woman, to be a minority, and still, to be a person with integrity - you’ll get tested. One hundred percent. Every time you walk in a building and walk out, we get tested all day. The fight to push forward is always happening. That isn’t to make it sad, there’s a beauty in showing people you’re here. There’s a beauty in that kind of respect. When people really value you because you’ve proven it (and we all have to prove it to some degree) it’s a whole different ball game.

HER GO-TO SNEAKERS BECAUSE, CLASSIC: 

Always Air Force 1’s and Air Maxes. Classic. I wear a lot of others, but that’s always been my favorite. I didn’t grow up always having the shoes. My mother wasn’t having that. I better get myself some 5411’s and save up for the rest.

I’m the only person in my family with a love for sneakers. To me it’s like this: I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs - never have - but, sneakers have always been my thing. Air Force 1 is such a CLASSIC shoe. It’s so New York. Like, those are Uptowns. And Air Max, I remember in 1990 when they came out and I was a FAN! All of them, though. 90, 95, 97 - ANY.

ON HER CURRENT ROTATION AND RESELL 101:

Right now, I’m all about the [adidas] NMDs. That’s it. Here’s what’s funny, I was never much of an Ultra Boost person and now I’m obsessed with the NMD runners. I’ve got three colors of the Pharrell Human joints. The yellows were just too much. I was like, these are $800 dollars. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind buying a resell kick if I really want it. Now, I’ve spent $800 on a resell shoe. (on the CLOT AM 1 Kiss of Death) I had been looking for that shoe since 2006. I would spend $1500 on the Pigeon Dunks size 6 pops up right now, I’m buying them. But I am not buying a shoe that just came out in 2016 for $800 off principle.

ON HER PERSONAL STYLE; HINT - COZY AF:

Sneakers are all I wear, every day. I am absolutely cozy. I have so much respect for girls who wear heels all day because, I just can’t. Because of the nature of what I do, I’m running. If I’m with an artist, I’m on the move. I don’t just sit down and chill, I’ve got to go places. When you’re running you have to be super comfortable, but you have to look decent. I personally don’t dress for anyone other than myself and, to me, sneakers are just it. I can go all day, especially with a great pair of kicks.

The sneaker culture drives me crazy because these little Hypebeast ass kids run it to the ground. Everything’s like, “are you gonna get the Foamposites, are your gonna get this!?!” and I’m like, I don’t play ball. I’m not gonna get a sneaker that doesn’t appeal to me. For me, a sneaker has to fit my fashion aesthetic, my fashion sense, and still make sense.

AND NOW, A BRIEF TUTORIAL ON WHAT YOU'RE NOT GONNA DO:

The term “bad bitch” is insulting. I remember when Queen Latifah said, “who you callin’ a bitch?” Get out of here. Do you know who I am? I am a Queen. That’s why I walk a certain way, that’s why I talk a certain way, and you’re not coming at me any other way. We can run around and try to spin it into a positive but, for me, nah. I’m not your n-word and I’m not your bitch. I’m still cool though, and we’re still good, but there’s a certain way of understanding. I’m very conscious to let people know that there is a tone and a language that I will take..

"The term "bad bitch" is insulting.  Get out of here. Do you know who I am? I am a Queen."

ON PURPOSE (GET A PEN, Y'ALL):

Every day. i’m living my purpose. it’s crazy because I try to align myself with where I want God to have me. I do vision boards every year. I’m very big on energy and every day I try to protect my energy. Life is energy. We govern our energy and it’s up to us to protect. Pay attention to people, situations, and the things you choose to perceive. We’re in control of certain things. What we put out is what we’ll bring in.

I believe what you visualize is what you will put out. It’s an internal calibration. What do you want? And be unapologetic. You want a man? You want a house? How are those things going to enrich you? How will that fulfill you? How will that bless others? That’s how you live day in and day out. Two years ago, I put Billboard Top 40 Under 40 on my vision board. I put Executive of the Year. I put certain things and that is a reminder that it works and when it’s time it happens. I look at these awards as confirmation of God saying “You did good.”

My purpose is to always, by the grace, put God first. I want people to see me and my success and know there’s something else that isn’t just me. That’s when they are drawn closer to him. That’s all it is. It’s his grace, it’s his mercy, it’s his blessing AND I’m governed by his step. If left to my own devices, I am my own demise. And that’s it.

HER ADVICE FOR ANYONE TRYING TO MAKE IT IN THE INDUSTRY:

Nothing beats hard work. Talent, being cool - none of that. Hard work is refusing to get tired. When you are tired and you don’t want to do it, someone else is going to go do it. Period. As a woman, all you have is your integrity and your work ethic. That’s it. It’s very do-able. The goal is attainable.

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