From Unpaid Intern to Jay-Z’s Right-Hand Man, Lenny S on How You Can Get Into (and Stay) in Hip-Hop
Everyone in hip-hop wants to work with Jay-Z. One guy who caught Jay’s ear—and has kept it for over 20 years—is Lenny S. As Senior Vice President of A&R at Roc Nation, Lenny S has one of the most storied careers in the rap game. When he’s not managing artists like DJ Khaled or Fabolous, he’s capturing hip-hop’s most intimate moments as a photographer (Check him out at @KodakLens on Instagram).
“I try to be everywhere,” he tells XXL. “I think it’s important in entertainment to be grounded and really in tuned with what’s going on in music and culture. I don’t care if it’s what record is new, what dance is hot or what artist is hot and where they’re from.”
In the third episode of XXL’s Shot Callers, Lenny S shares his journey from unpaid intern at Bad Boy Records—stuffing cereal boxes for Total and hanging with Ma$e—to working with Jay-Z for over 20 years. He lived through the rise (and fall) of Roc-A-Fella Records.
“We all learned a lot. We got some of the best guidance from Jay, Dame and Biggs,” he remembers. “They made me everything that I am today. The misconception is that it was anything more real than disagreements and growing apart.” He was in the room with Jay-Z and Kanye West for Watch The Throne. Now, he’s managing the ubiquitous DJ Khaled.
Somewhere along the way, he’s managed to snap iconic photos of Michael Jackson and The Notorious B.I.G. and mentor the next generation of hip-hop. “I have a good knack for finding talent,” he says. “Paying it forward. Any way that I can. That’s all I wanted was a shot. Give me the shot and I promise you, I won’t let you down.”
Meet the inspiring man behind the lens.
XXL’s Shot Callers are conversations with hip-hop’s power players. Hosted by music journalist and XXL contributor Sowmya Krishnamurthy, this podcast gives an inside look at the executives, personalities and thought leaders behind your favorite artists. Meet the people who call the shots in hip-hop. Get their insights and take your own professional game to the next level in 2018.
Subscribe to iTunes to check out future episodes of XXL's Shot Callers podcast and listen to XXL’s third episode of Shot Callers featuring Lenny S below.