Music Executive Amir Windom Explains How a Lack of ‘Balance’ is Why Artists Struggle to be Heard & Seen
Record executive, film and tv music supervisor and brand marketer Amir Windom has spent time with several major record labels. Throughout his time with these powerhouse labels, he has had the opportunity to work with many of today’s mainstream music stars. As a Christian, this positioning has also given him perspective on how Christian rap can improve and also why it sometimes falls by the wayside.
“I think CHH is dope, but it doesn’t get the respect it deserves,” Windom said before comparing it to the mainstream’s message, “I’ll tell you the truth, there’s a lot of poison out there that makes me cringe to hear sometimes.”
He explained, that recently he DJ’d his niece’s 5th-grade graduation party, and there were kids coming up to him asking him to play, “Molly Percocet,” by Future. “Do you really know what you’re asking me to play?” he said to himself.
“I actually went to high school with Future in Decatur, GA. I think he’s really talented at what he does. Unfortunately, his music has spread well beyond adults who have self-control and can listen to the music and not be as influenced. It’s 5th Graders wondering what Molly and Percocet is. That’s scary,” he said. “It’s not all his fault though because he’s truly talking about life from his perspective. A Decatur, GA/East Atlanta perspective. In which we both grew up in. Growing up in Atlanta and Compton… I grew up listening to street rap. So of course, I listen to it now… Not a lot, but I’m also mature enough not to want to try some of the things the trap-rappers talk about.”
He continued, “It pains me to play some of these songs, and know I can’t play Chance The Rapper’s “Finish Line/Drown,” Lecrae, Andy Mineo or NF because these 5th Graders would look at me like I’m crazy because they’ve never heard the song on the radio or some of these artists.”
Amir explained “There’s a place for trap rap. There’s a place to listen to J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar…. Let’s be real… No one is trying to listen to conscious rap in the club. They’re trying to get turnt up when at the club.”
“However, One of the main issues I have is. There is not enough musical balance in the industry. Especially on the radio and mainstream media.”
Windom said the conscious rappers and the Christian rappers balance out the trap rap and the turn-up music, but they are often not given the same fair platform.
“The consumers are on the far right and the Christian rappers are on the far left. Next, to the Christian rappers, you have Kendrick Lamar and the content rappers trying to balance out the content. Next, to them, you have the trap rappers and turn up music: Future, 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, etc,” Windom said breaking down the demographics he sees. “Then next to the trap and turn up artists, you have the consumers. It seems the trap rappers and turn-up artists are closer to the consumers, therefore reaching them easier because they are taking over mainstream media, especially the radio. It’s harder for Christian Rappers and conscious artists, better yet, let’s call them ‘more thought provoking healthy natured content creating artists that create music that won’t make you cringe to hear at a 5th Grade graduation party’.”
Windom feels it’s harder for these artists to touch consumers in abundance because it seems the consumers are becoming musically unintelligent or tunneled where they aren’t even giving different genres or style of content a chance. They don’t know who Jesus or faith is, they don’t want to think about anything while listening to music. When they get in the car, their parents aren’t playing them anything diverse. They just let the radio play. Especially the young millennials.
“I just don’t think they’re being exposed to an abundance of different types of music like my generation (80’s Baby) was. We had great balance,” Windom said. “You can hear Kirk Franklin, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Notorious BIG, Missy Elliott and Uncle Luke all in the same playlist within the hour on the radio in 1997. This kind of diversity doesn’t exist anymore and I do think it’s having a great impact on our music consumers.”
He continued, “The mentally and soulfully stimulating music is too far away from the consumers. I’m happy to hear some artists breaking through and are starting to get the respect, but it seems we won’t see the music content balancing happen that I think needs to happen anytime soon. Consumers won’t give them the chance. Furthermore, gatekeepers (record labels, streaming, radio stations, etc.) has allowed the talent bar to drop to an all-time low. We’re allowing practically anyone in who can turn a profit or create a trend.”
Amir explained that in the 60’s and 70’s you had to have “God-given talent” to get in. Singing, dancing and playing an instrument at the same time stood out.
“I take pride in working and creating with artists that push the talent and creativity to a higher level in this industry,” he said. “No mediocrity. We have enough of it. Come in this business to be the greatest at whatever you do, and by this approach, I hope it’ll make the entertainment business less saturated.”
As someone who takes care of all musical affairs and placement in some film and tv shows. He’s been happy to insert positive music into film and TV.
“It’ll trick consumers by creating a production that sounds like modern songs, but that content will touch their souls,” he said.
When asked about why Christian rappers get a lot of flack for their faith but guys like Kanye or Chance are praised, Windom said it has to do with perception.
“It’s because people like Lecrae came into the game declaring their love for Jesus Christ. Meaning he probably will always be looked at and treated as a Christian rapper because that’s how he came in,” he said. “But I like what he’s doing. Working with Ty Dollar $ign and artists like that and creating chart-topping songs to expand his fan base so maybe he’ll just be looked at as an artist with a different kind of message.”
Windom said rappers such as Kendrick and Chance didn’t declare themselves as faith-based artists when they came in the game. they instead created thought provoking and soul stimulating content that didn’t box them in. If they wanted to make a club friendly record like Chance’s “No Problem,” for example, it wasn’t weird. If they wanted to make a record that touches on spirituality and internal struggles like Lamar’s “Feel,” people accept it as him being authentic.
“They let people into their lives with their variety of content in their music and then find ways to incorporate messages of faith because they have people’s ears at that point,” Windom said. “Christian rappers are doing what is led in their hearts. Unfortunately most people don’t grow up wanting to be Christian artists or live like the Christian artists. They want to be the stunting rappers, rockstars and live the rockstar lifestyle. I think the lack of consumers looking up to Christian artists and wanting to emulate their lives is what makes it more challenging for them to get the worldly respect.”
Windom was able to wiggle his way into Hollywood and the music industry while maintaining his faith and love for God. It is a bit uncommon, but he has not compromised on his values. One of the ways he does this is by surrounding himself with good people and making sure he is in the right situations.
“It’s not that hard on most days, but it can be a struggle depending on what controls your mind and soul. Who you spend your time with. I’m blessed by the people I keep around me,” he shared. “One is a great family that keeps you humble and feeds your soul. I had my parents, but I also had my God parents (Jennifer and Curley Dossman) who were with me every step of the way too. Great friends motivate you to be even greater and they keep you out of trouble. I have great friends who are productive and provide enormous amounts of motivation and comedic relief (childhood friends and best friends/roommates from FAMU). And then it’s the friend/industry mentors like Susan Taylor, Kevin Liles, Jeff Blue, Jeff Johnson, Malik Yoba, Lamman Rucker, Fonzworth Bentley…Lifetime mentors/influencers like my siblings, my uncles and cousins. I spent most of my time with these people so I consider all them mentors because they helped shape me.”
Being around people that want him to be greater than even he wants to be has motivated Amir to be great and stay strong in the faith. He also tries to stay away from people who have continuous destructive qualities. “It’s not that me and my boys don’t have fun, we just don’t over saturate ourselves with these things.”
Lastly, Amir said he’s got people constantly praying for him and checking up on him.
“I represent my family, my friends, my faith, and race. The opportunities and creative gifts that God has given me; are so much greater than benefiting me. My success has given me a platform to improve the quality of life of people and hopefully leave a legacy that my family can be proud of and one that can inspire” he said.
He continued, “Faith in God is hands down one of the main things that have gotten me to where I am. My fellow entertainment industry alum can tell you, this industry is scary because you’re as good as your last accomplishment. There are no guarantees no matter how successful you are. You get told no a lot, things don’t come to fruition, things that you thought were great turn out mediocre and you don’t know what’s next. The only thing that keeps a lot of us going is faith. I do all that I do for the purpose, not the Power.”
Check out part one with Amir Windom where he talks about his musical upbringing and the movie “Canal Street.”