Jaha Johnson is a name well recognized in the music business. He first broke into the music industry through the relationships that he built while attending Clark Atlanta University. While in Atlanta, Jaha interned for Shanti Das at LaFace Records and also spent some time interning at Rowdy Records. Following his internships, Jaha joined production company Noontime Music where he began to help manage producers and represent artists. Through his network and relationships in Atlanta, Jaha landed his first official job at Windswept Publishing in New York. After a year at Windswept, he began working at Def Jam in 99’. Since working there, Jaha has went on to work at Interscope/Geffen/A&M, J Records, and Warner Bros Records. He is also the co-founder of Content Entertainment Group and My Block Entertainment.
Today, Jaha runs the management side of Mary J Blige’s label, Matriarch Entertainment. He also co-manages artists such as Common, Mary J Blige, and Bryan-Michael Cox while managing Tank, and one of Epic Records emerging new acts, Kesington Kross. Outside of music, Jaha is currently in the process of launching his own fashion line entitled, BASIC. His line will be catered towards creating basic men’s essentials such as clothes, home goods, and leather goods.
We caught up with Jaha on a routinely busy day in Los Angeles, CA to learn 3 lessons that have helped to make him the success that he is today.
Lesson 1: Control the Creative Outcome
As an intern at LaFace Records, Jaha once stopped LA Reid in the hallway and asked him, “What do you do if you don’t like the records that it is your job to promote?” LA Reid responded, “There are only two departments that really matter at a record label, either you make the records or you sell the records. If you don’t like what you’re selling, you should start making them.” This lesson taught Jaha the importance of only working on things that he is truly passionate about. A&R and management happened to be his choice selection, both of which allow him to facilitate and control the creative outcome. To this day, this lesson translates to other facets of Jaha’s creative outlets such as fashion.
Lesson 2: Never Compromise Quality
Jaha deals with many people on various levels throughout the worlds of both music and fashion. Nonetheless, one thing always remains the same, he always makes sure to never compromise his vision. Jaha understands the importance of staying true to his vision and never compromising quality. He doesn’t believe in cutting corners and taking shortcuts. One of the things that Jaha mentioned learning while working in music is that, “There’s a lot of noise out there but the really good artists and the really good songs just don’t compromise on the quality. Anything I do, I never want to compromise on the quality.”
Lesson 3: Figure It All Out
In Jaha’s early day’s at Def Jam, he learned a very valuable lesson from Lyor Cohen and Russell Simmons. This lesson was the importance of having the aptitude to figure it all out. While at Def Jam, Jaha was never allowed to just do his ‘job’ as an A&R. His experience was more like that of college. He had to learn marketing, promotions, sales, video, etc. There was never an excuse to not know anything. Due to Jaha’s experience at Def Jam, he now has a complete understanding of all of the core components within the music business. If there is anything that he is not privy to, he has the aptitude to learn it.
Last Words from Jaha
“You have to stay committed to the process and respect the process. If you believe it, you don’t give up on it.”
Photo by Don Kang | | Follow him at @donjkang