The road to becoming a superstar musician can be a tough one, especially if you’re on the independent music grind. In Houston, former pro baseball player Carl Crawford attempted to change that for the city when he launched his indie label 1501 Certified Entertainment to help the city’s tricky music scene — and just so happened to catapult the career of Megan Thee Stallion to mainstream heights. It happened faster than anyone could process.
Now, he’s being sued by the Fever artist to get out of her contract after she took to Instagram this week to claim that the label was blocking the release of her debut studio album, Suga, which is slated to drop March 6. She describes the terms of her contract with 1501 as “greedy” because 1501 gets a greater slice of the profit pie, as well as a percentage of her show money. The main issue is with the 60/40 split, where 1501 gets 60 percent of profits and she gets 40 percent. She also signed a four-album deal.
Whether or not the deal is “bad” is subjective, but clearly Megan wants out and her #FREETHEESTALLION campaign is in full effect. She signed a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation to represent her and manage her career and the company’s lawyers immediately went to Crawford demanding a contract renegotiation, but he refuses to bend and is asking Jay-Z to pull up recording contracts of the artists they have previously signed for comparison. Crawford alleges that he’s spent over $1.5 million on Megan’s career and says he has the receipts to prove it.
Acknowledging he doesn’t know much about the music industry, Crawford left Megan’s career in the hands of his childhood friend T. Farris, who took the burgeoning rap star to Roc Nation and left him out the deal. (T. Farris reportedly did something similar while at Houston’s iconic indie rap label Swishahouse.)
I got the chance to speak with Crawford at his Houston estate about the situation and the 5th Ward native dives into the intricacies of Megan’s recording contract and if they can ever reconcile.
What made you jump from baseball to music?
You know, just being from Houston, it was something that I wanted to be a part of. Getting out of baseball, I had to find a way to get reacquainted. I like the music culture here in Houston because we have such a rich tradition.
How long have you been doing music now?
Since 2016. Really, 2017, that’s when we really got going. So about three years now.
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BREAKING NEWS ALERT ‼️Houston we have a problem Megan, along with Roc Nation Employee Geetanjali Grace Lyer decided to include my name in a lawsuit wrapped around lies and stupidity. We gone get this shit straight. – – Now let’s deal with the root of this issue. The root is a familiar one for me coming from a successful independent record labels perspective. We as independent record labels make many sacrifices along with our artists. After we do all the hard work together with artists, it’s a known fact that major record labels and established managers attempt to poach the fruits of our labor. – – One of the first things they do is criticize the deal that raised that artist from the dead. These record labels and managers don’t want shit to do with these artists until the hard work, risk, sacrifices, and resources have been spent by the little guys. This is the same technique of the culture vultures. I didn’t allow this to happen to me when New York and LA record labels attempted to take my artists- so they labeled me as malicious for fighting back. I didn’t allow it then so I damn sure ain’t gonna allow it to happen to 1501 Records or any of the other independent record labels that I’m associated with. – – For the record we have no problem with negotiating with Megan but we do have a problem with dictators. I find it very interesting that Roc Nation would allow their employee to sign an affidavit and statement full of slanderous lies on my methods of doing business when we have partnered together on several occasions. I don’t think Jay Z is aware of this but only time will tell. – – Megan even though she signed an affidavit, talked down, and lied in court documents on me… I understand how lawyers brainwash artist to milk them of funds in lawsuits that they know they can’t win. Megan seems to be a perfect candidate for self destruction. Any artist in the music industry will testify that a 40% profit share is a great deal especially for an unestablished artist that til this day has never delivered an album. – – To end this I give credit to where credit is due. Megan along with her mother, who evidently could read (God rest her soul), negotiated a good deal.
It seems like you got J. Prince on your side; what have you learned from him about the music industry?
Right now, he’s just teaching me patience. I tend to want to lash out. I believe in swift justice. He’s the opposite. I’m just learning how to move at a certain pace and not just react to everything.
I want to talk about what happened when Megan came out with her statement about her contract. What I want to know just from your side is how did you feel when you first found out that she and T. Farris went over to Roc Nation?
With T. Farris, this was a guy I moved into my home — what was mine was his. I took him in off the street, he was basically homeless. Nobody wanted to fuck with him around here in Houston, Texas. He was out of there, but I knew him from when we was young and I just wanted to take it upon myself to try to help somebody that I felt deserved to be in a certain position. I didn’t know why the city of Houston wasn’t fucking with him like that. I just thought n*ggas was hating.
He just played me so good. He hit me with all the little slick tricks that you do in the music business to somebody that don’t know what’s going on. I befriended him and I trusted him with too much. This is what happens when you let somebody else run your business, so at the end of the day, I have myself to blame. But, I still didn’t deserve for him to cross me like he did.
Was it discussed beforehand that she would visit with them? Would you have gone if they asked?
Yeah. I said man, what’s up, you all going to Roc Nation? I said what you all doing over there? He was like, “I think he’s going to show us around the building.” I was like, all right. I said do I need to be there? He was like, “Nah.” So I was like dang, you know? Next thing you know, I’m seeing she’s signed to Roc Nation. I was just like, what happened? People say, she didn’t have to tell me, and they’re right. That is her business but at that time, we was all cool. I don’t know why they had to do something like that.
Not only did you go to Roc Nation, this negotiation thing that she claims that she tried to do… Man, well, her definition of negotiation is different from mine. Her lawyer came in talking about what I better do. Her idea of renegotiation wasn’t to renegotiate, it was to get me out of the deal completely. This is why I got so upset. They don’t want to say that part. They want to make it look like I’m the disgruntled person. No, they tried to cut me out the deal all the way.
Were they offering you money to do this?
Nothing, no. They were like “we’re going to do this.”
There wasn’t a buy-out option?
It was nothing. Like this was whatever, for percentages to go down. It was like a stick-up.
This is Roc Nation lawyers?
I don’t know whose lawyer… if it was Megan’s lawyer. Whoever she was, I don’t know. But she came in like that, so who can renegotiate under those terms? Of course, I don’t want to go through this stuff with Megan. If you don’t want to be here, go. We do it the right way. Y’all ain’t finna come take everything I’ve got and worked so hard for. She said I didn’t do anything, but everybody here in Houston knows that’s a lie.
Was Roc Nation always trying to sign her?
Roc Nation ain’t come around until we got it hot. We didn’t have no problem and everything was fine until she went to Roc Nation. Now, all of a sudden, Roc Nation comes over and introduces you to Beyoncé and a few more celebrities and now they got the answers to everything. It’s the standard practice. Megan fell for the oldest trick in the book. The divide and conquer theme. It’s the oldest trick. Divide everybody up, conquer. Move on.
Would you be open to getting back in cool with her and making it work?
She just was so disrespectful that it’s like I really just want to get what’s mine and move on. What’s the big deal? You’re doing your shows. You’re getting your money. Why you can’t pay me mine? We haven’t got no money yet, I don’t know what they’re talking about, I’m “greedy.” Shit, we ain’t got paid none yet. She said I didn’t do nothing, but I got all my receipts. We got all the receipts, so she can say all that she wants.
Are you legitimately stopping her from releasing music? What’s the truth behind that?
Well, the thing is she hasn’t paid us one dime since she went to Roc Nation. Since, actually, August. We’ve been trying to figure out what’s the issue with this, what’s going on, but this is another tactic that they use when they want to get something from you. They hold your money so you bow down to their demands. Well, of course, I’m not going to take that too lightly. So, here we are.
They want to make it look like she got this terrible deal. I challenge any label with their superstars, from Jay Z, Beyonce, whoever…I challenge them to pull out their first contract that they had in the music business. Put it up to the one Megan got. She got 40 percent of her masters. Nobody gets that. We gave her part of her own masters out the gate. Nobody gets none of their masters out the gate. Jay Z and Beyonce didn’t get masters out of their gate. She gets all this in her contract already.
That’s the only reason why our percentage is what it was. I guarantee you if you’d have signed with Roc Nation first, you would have got none of this what you got right now. You would have had no masters, no percentage where it would be 40 percent. It probably would’ve been at something like 12 percent. You finna eat so good off this and your mother did it. You did know that contract. We signed it twice. You did it with us and 300 [Entertainment]. You know how to read, you went to college. Your momma was right there and a lawyer. She just a liar.
Have you talked to Jay-Z or anyone on that side?
No, man, because I don’t respect this “Black power, trying to help Black people” sh*t. We look up to this man…Jay-Z as a person, as a Black man, we all look up to him. This is how you meet him for the first time. This is your introduction to Jay-Z — him trying to take something from me. So all that sh*t is fake to me. You ain’t trying to help, you’re trying to help certain n*ggas.
Besides all that, K’ona Lisa seems like she’s on her grind and her music is good. What type of artist does 1501 support? What are you all looking for?
We just looking for people that have big dreams to come out of Houston. That’s why I made it — for Houston, Texas.
And what made you sign K’ona Lisa? She said you found her on Instagram.
I found her on Instagram, the same way I found Megan. I heard her doing her freestyle and I asked a few of my friends what they thought and everybody was good on it, so we went ahead and signed her. I watched her for a good three to four months, just kind of monitored it, checking it here and seeing how she was coming along. When I felt the time was right, I went ahead and swept through.
Are there other artists you’re doing that with right now that they don’t even know?
Yeah, all the time. They don’t even know. That’s where I find everything. I just might not hit the accept buttons so you can’t see. I do watch. That’s where I find everybody.
Are all the artists Houston besides K’ona?
K’ona’s the only one. It’s just that the Megan thing put such a sour taste in my mouth, I just went outside the city one time just to kind of do something different. But the goal is for 1501 to be for artists from Houston. D-Raww’s from Houston. I heard there was a lot of suppressed talent in the city before I came so this was the perfect time to do it if you can pull it off, and I was like “cool.” I invested, bought studios, did everything that I knew that people needed to be successful here in Houston and not have to go out of town. It worked.
I used to live in Houston so I know that it’s hard for artists in the H to make it to that level unless they leave. Besides that, it’s kind of hard, so you’re saying your whole mission is to kind of help open that floodgate?
That’s the sad thing about the Megan Thee Stallion situation. Now you close the doors on the whole city. We did all that work so we could open those doors to bring in more people. This wasn’t just for you. They got so selfish, they closed the doors. Man, when you did this to me, you pretty much closed the door on the city. In a way where… I mean, I can’t say they can’t come back, but we’re going to have to work all over again to accomplish what we just spent so hard trying to do.