You’ve never seen him in a music video. You’ve never seen him casually showing off his rides and living space on “Cribs.” He doesn’t do reality TV or voice overs on his artists’ records. Devyne Stephens is one of the most influential entertainment moguls that you have never heard of. He is the CEO of Upfront Megatainment, a company that extends itself into every area of entertainment. Not just a record label, it is an umbrella company for an array of other projects that Stephens has put together.
There is The Complex, a large warehouse, artist boot camp where the celebs and those wanting to be celebs, can have everything done to perfect there craft from vocal and dance lessons to image consulting and media training. It’s a one-stop shop for an entertainer and the simple ingenuity of having it all under one roof makes it effective and efficient for this artist development whiz. He runs Dreamland, a huge 17-acre estate that is available for ultra exclusive events, weddings and parties. He started Devyne Intervention, which will be opening up a children’s hospital in his native Atlanta. Most renown, he has been crucial in Akon’s and T-Pain’s success, developing them into the superstars they are today. Also, as Vice President of Konvict Music, he has been instrumental in taking the label to new heights.
Stephens got his break in the industry way back during the days of LaFace Records. Matter of fact, he was the first artist to be signed to LaFace Records with a group called Devyne and 90 MPH. While his album was never released, he stepped to the other side when L.A. Reid offered him a job as a choreographer and artist developer. The list of folks he’s worked with reads like a who’s who in entertainment: Usher, Mary J. Blige, TLC, Ciara, 50 Cent, Diddy, just to name a few. Devyne is well known among industry insiders and this soft spoken giant in the industry is a man of few words, but with an intuition to find and nurture star quality.
Stephens, who many refer to as the Berry Gordy of this generation, is the taciturn founding father of Atlanta’s mega success on the music landscape and he is just getting started.
BallerStatus.com: You have been referred to as “The Branding King”, “The Next Berry Gordy”, and “Music’s Best Kept Secret.” Why do we not know who you are?
Devyne Stephens: Well I work under the radar and make sure that the artists and clients that I’m working for get their shine on.
BallerStatus.com: Have you ever thought about branding yourself?
Devyne Stephens: In this day and age it’s only right that you have to do both in order to survive. But for the most part I keep the focus on the talent.
BallerStatus.com: I know that you have been a big part of Akon’s career. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with him?
Devyne Stephens: Me and Akon started out as friends and I would advise him on his career before we even got into the business. Before I actually signed him to my production company, I took him through the whole regimen of artist development. His development took a little bit longer because he had a very unique and diverse sound. It took a minute for people to gravitate to his style of writing and his sound. We became partners after the success and here we are.
BallerStatus.com: What is that you look for to develop an artist into a megastar like Akon or T-Pain? What does that process look like?
Devyne Stephens: Actually it’s not just developing the art, but developing the human being. [We teach] them about life and different things, not just style and imaging and A&R and how to make records, but the overall makeover. Just really look for their drive and passion.
BallerStatus.com: T-Pains look is unique to say the least. Other than his passion and drive, what made T-Pain special?
Devyne Stephens: I knew that T-Pain was a prolific songwriter and was very keen with melodies like Smokey Robinson or Roger Troutman. With the two of those mixed together, you knew right off the bat that he knew how to make hit records.
BallerStatus.com: You wear many hats: businessman, artist, and choreographer. What is your specialty?
Devyne Stephens: I like the executive side of it. I like to strategize and work deals and broker deals and just see it from start to finish.
BallerStatus.com: What is the future of Upfront Megatainment?
Devyne Stephens: Lately I’ve been working on my foundation, Devyne Intervention, where we’re building a children’s hospital here in Atlanta. That’s one of my things that I’m really really focused on.
BallerStatus.com: You’re building a hospital in Atlanta? Really?
Devyne Stephens: Yeah I’m on the board and we’re working on getting it done.
BallerStatus.com: Wow. Impressive. Let’s talk about The Complex. What exactly is it and what goes on over there?
Devyne Stephens: We take an artist and we have fitness and health and awareness programs for them. We have vocal and media training. We have stage imaging. We have producing and song writing classes. So those are some of the things that go on at The Complex.
BallerStatus.com: Is it an exclusive type of establishment only for famous people or can any Joe that wants to be famous “train” there?
Devyne Stephens: It’s both. It’s open to the public as well. We mix it together. We even put the athletes and entertainers together as well.
BallerStatus.com: The quote on your website says, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” How have you created your future?
Devyne Stephens: Just being a great student of the game and the music industry. To be a great leader, you have to be a great follower. I’ve had the privilege of starting out my career with L.A. Reid and Babyface. Then that transitioned to working on the development of Sean “Puffy” Combs. So I’ve been around some of the best in the industry. Other than that, just surrounding myself with the right people that allowed me to create my own vision.
BallerStatus.com: What new artist do you have on the horizon for Upfront/Konvict Records?
Devyne Stephens: I have a trio female group by the name of Krave. Another artist named Majic Massey out of Chicago and I have a rap artist out of Raleigh North Carolina named Bowboa, so be on the look out for that.