I roll up to BLD in a checker cab.
BLD appears to be one of those swanky Hollywood lunch spots where actors order egg-white omelets with extra shallots and agents yell into cell phones between bites of seared ahi.
The valet approaches me with a pink ticket in hand, mockingly offers it to me as I step out of the cab, then slides it back in his pocket with a smirk… dick.
I open the double glass doors and glance around. Blackberrying furiously at a table in the back is Alex Barefoot, Director of A&R for Atlantic Records.
Alex is wrapped in a snug-fitting hoodie, designer jeans, and low top Nikes. He’s sporting a shaggy haircut and a few days of authoritative stubble in a way that says, “I don’t have time to groom because I’m too busy making gold records.”
Alex is a good dude from LA. We met serendipitously a few months back, the fates of Hollywood having aligned our drunk asses within 5 feet of each other at a trendy nightspot off Sunset. I don’t remember how that meeting went or what topics were discussed, but it ended with a business card and an offer to check out my demo if I ever made it to LA.
Three months later, I’m here. I don’t have a demo. Alex agrees to meet me anyway. Alex is a good dude.
Alex went to school back east and graduated into a treacherous job market. Determined to break into music, he took a job as a temp at a label, working for office decaf until proving himself indispensable. He clawed his way into a full-time position and shimmied up the totem pole quickly. It’s hard not to respect that. He’s a scrapper like me, we get along well.
Conversation flows smoothly, our spring water is refilled generously. I order the blackened catfish sandwich with remoulade, Alex opts salad. We discuss my background, my music, what I hope to accomplish. Alex shares his story between bites of butter leaf lettuce. His specialty is hip-hop – he tells me he’s the guy who broke 3 platinum rappers every person I know has on their iPod.
He says this so simply and matter-of-factly I have zero doubt he’s for real. He doesn’t use qualifiers like, “I helped discover ” this guy or “I was involved with the development” of that guy. He says “I broke T.I.” I believe him.
It turns out I’ve written a lot of choruses for rap tracks. I’m encouraged to bust one out on the spot.
I’ve always been more than willing to perform on demand anywhere, anytime, much to the amusement / entertainment / sometimes-annoyance of my friends. But we’re in a fairly expensive restaurant during a crowded lunch hour, so I’m not sure how my hooks will be received by neighboring patrons. But when you get an open look, you take the shot… so up I square.
Reaching for a salt shaker, I improvise a sodium beat and spit. The girls at the table next to us freeze conversation mid-“and then I was like—“ and cock an ear in my direction. I consider pausing, but this is LA, so I assume this scene can’t be all that unusual.
After 4 bars, Alex bobs his head approvingly and smiles, “yeeeah.” Epic pass. I’m not surprised he likes it, but I’m surprised he isn’t surprised he likes it.
Learning I have nothing recorded, Alex volunteers to get me into Atlantic’s studio next week. “Just cover the sound engineer,” he says, “and we’ll take care of the rest.”
This is a hell of an offer. I say thank you and really mean it.
We adjourn BLD and make for the exit. Alex reaches for his pink ticket. “Did I see you pull up in a taxi?” he asks.
He offers me a ride.
“Time to get a whip,” he says.
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