Amir Windom Navigates Hollywood and Industry with God Directing the Story
You may not be familiar with the name Amir Windom but you are definitely familiar with his resume. The Grammy Award-winning record executive, music supervisor, writer, composer, marketing strategist, producer, and philanthropist is one of the key behind the scenes players in Hollywood and the music industry and he does it all with the veil of Christ over his life.
Windom has worked with everyone from Kanye West, Estelle, and Bruno Mars, to films such as “Think Like a Man” and the show “Entourage.” Despite these fancy name drops, Windom is humble and gracious beyond measure, and that stems from his upbringing.
To keep it simple, everything stems back to his parents and music.
“My dad is a jazz enthusiast and a drummer and my mom is the mother who can’t clean without music,” he said with a laugh. “Every time I woke up on Saturday, I’d hear Smokey Robinson.”
He said his dad loved to jam, and had various congas and instruments around the house.
“Typical parents want you to play with toys, but my parents said you can play with our toys too and that being instruments and music,” he explained.
Funny to think about now, but maybe not so much back then, music was even used for scare tactics in his house.
Windom described his father’s ever so scary Sandman, who just so happened to be the spooky voice at the beginning of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The Sandman was out to get Amir and his siblings if they didn’t behave.
“I’d wake up to ‘Thriller’ every day to get me out of bed.”
“Music was my chores, it was my alarm, it was my punishment…Music was like my family member.”
However, music didn’t become a passion of Windom’s until he saw his sister at work in her element, running Yardfest at Howard University.
“It’s like a college Coachella, especially with historically Black colleges,” he described. “It was the festival to perform at if you were hot. She had everyone from Usher, to T-Pain, Ludacris, Jay-Z, and so on.”
He continued, “I shadowed her and left there with clarity and a sense of purpose.”
While there he met a few key people in the music industry that would help kickstart his career. One of them was Chris Sainsbury, who helped Amir secure an internship with Bad Boy Records. Another key person was Deirdre Graham at Def Jam. That relationship led him to meet the president of Def Jam and then Warner Music group, Kevin Liles.
“They put me in a position to succeed.”
So right away, Windom was jumping into a position of being a mover and shaker in the music industry. He wasn’t interested in being front and center but was more so looking to be the mastermind behind the faces.
Amir wasn’t scared, he just knew the spotlight was not where he wanted to be.
“I grew up in the spotlight a lot. I was a QB in football, I was a point guard in basketball, I was in a lot of leadership roles. I didn’t like the attention, but it wasn’t that I was shy, I just never wanted people to think I was all that,” he shared. “As a teenager, you grow up and a lot of people don’t know who they are or know who they’re not.”
He wasn’t looking for disingenuous accolades and to impress peers. Also, he says when you are younger, success comes with a lot of haters.
“It comes off as people hating on you because they haven’t been around a person like you. Like you’re all that. I never wanted people to feel that way. I stayed out the spotlight if I didn’t have to.”
Windom’s brother helped shape this attitude in him because he was a DJ. Unfortunately, he unexpectedly passed away last summer, but the impact of his life helped Windom have a passion for what he does.
He used to watched his brother control the mood and the party just by simply changing the music. He was behind the scenes creating the tempo and has the pulse of the audience.
The same can be said about his father, who started the widely known Atlanta Jazz Festival, one of the largest in the country. While his father wasn’t getting all the glory for running the festival, he was able to revel in the fact that he helped create it.
Amir’s second stop on the road to becoming who he is now was with Def Jam. This is early to mid-2000s and he was tasked with boosting the South East college marketing presence.
“It’s a gold mine,” he said. “It’s people that have money to spend or they are the ones that are going to make music trendy or popular. We need to market to them.”
He had a hand in Kanye West’s Late Registration album and Ne-Yo’s introduction to music.
“We had to create strategies to get college students into the brand. We were focused on, ‘How can we make students part of what we’re promoting? How can we make people feel like they are part of the team?’ One thing we did with Kanye was print t-shirts that relate to campus and give them to people at universities and make them feel it’s a Late Registration university.”
This was a crazy period for Windom as he was building his future while in college. Monday through Wednesday he was in class and Thursday through Sunday he was flying from L.A. to New York.
All his roommates went on to be successful as well and they were all quietly pushing each other. While people were partying, they were grinding.
“I wasn’t just trying to be successful, I was trying to be significant. I was being motivated by a legacy.”
From Def Jam he moved on with Kevin Liles and began working with the likes of T.I., Lupe Fiasco, Bruno Mars, and Trey Songs for Warner Music Group/Atlantic Records. He then got into the film industry working with titans such as Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Lionsgate Films to provide music supervision, scores, musical composition, and creative strategies for movies, and TV shows. He has also had a hand in developing marketing campaigns for Coca-Cola, ESPN, and others.
His next creative endeavor is as executive producer and music supervisor for the film “Canal Street.” The movie is slated to premiere in 2018 and is directed, co-written, and executive produced by Rhyan LaMarr and features an all-star cast including Bryshere Gray (Empire), Mykelti Williamson (Fences, Forrest Gump), Kevin Quinn (Disney’s “Bunk’d”), Jon Seda (Chicago PD), Woody McClain (New Edition Story), Lance Reddick (Bosch) to name a few.
LaMarr is the main reason Windom attached himself to this project, and in turn, the director believed in Amir so much, that he asked him to be executive producer, which is a first for Windom.
“I never got caught into this ‘bro’ Hollywood thing where everyone is your big bro. I think it’s crazy to just yell, ‘We’re friends and family because we’re rich’. To be someone’s close friend, that’s earned by trust and building a relationship,” he said before stating, “I haven’t met too many Rhyan LaMarrs.”
Amir says that LaMarr’s boldness in his faith is extraordinary and unlike anything, he’s seen in Hollywood.
“We can be sitting in front of the directors of Sony Pictures and he’ll open up with prayer. You don’t see that stuff,” he said. “It’s all about money, it’s about doing this and doing that. Small things like that are what impresses me. It didn’t matter what the atmosphere was, it’s always about God.”
Windom jokes that he’s had to tell LaMarr to tone it down a bit so they can get down to the actual business at hand to make the film.
“He then shoots me this look like, ‘Stop talking like a Hollywood guy’.”
Windom feels so led toward this project that he gave up a few other films to do it. It was about “purpose and not power,” and for him, totally not a money thing.
“The movie is about having faith,” he stated. “There’s a racial divide because we aren’t really taking the time to understand each other and who we are. ‘How’d you grow up? I grew up this way?’ Traveling I meet so many interesting people whether on planes or different meetings and sets.”
With “Canal Street,” Amir said these various conversations come to screen to try and break stereotypes.
“If you just only lived around White people, Black people, Hispanic people your whole life, that’s all you know,” he said. “Once you step out of your comfort zone, you have to step out and see people aren’t like you. This film tackles all that. We all have our stereotypes and preconceived notions.”
For now, Amir is going to continue to run toward opportunities that create impact and have relevance on the culture. If God can be injected and glorified throughout, it’s a total bonus.
“All of us have dreams of being great, but we still doubt that too,” he said. What if we didn’t get that job? We didn’t get that internship? We call someone and they never called us back. We spend a majority of our time kind of shaky, but we learn the part of faking it until we make it, and when we do, leave a legacy.”
Stay tuned to Rapzilla for part two with Amir Windom and his thoughts on Christian hip-hop on consumers of music.