Think Magna. Good Music is Good Music
With 1983’s Wildstyle on the TV screen and legendary hip hop and soul vinyls on the walls, Magna Media Group’s downtown Columbus studio embodies hip hop. As rap boss Soop lets us in, Trek Manifest, Tha Audio Unit, Darrio Lamont, Dominique Larue, and Nes Wordz fall in one by one. As everyone gets settled into interview mode, the group gets into a discussion about the questions they hate to answer; Nes says he hates being asked when he started rapping, and Dominique talks about a recent interview that repeatedly referenced the fact that she was the only woman a part of the group, as if she hasn’t been asked the question many times before. Knowing that there was no question of whether she could hold her own against the men of Magna Media, the guys weren’t having it.
“It don’t make no difference,” Nes says. “Good music is good music.”
Getting The Gang Together
Magna Media Group began as Chief Execs Entertainment, a label started in 2006 with SupaNatra, Snow, and a few artists/producers that have since moved on. ExecGang moved in mob fashion, taking a large entourage to every show and venue around the city. As the Chief Execs matured, the “gang” connotation felt unfitting and limiting for what they were trying to accomplish. The name also had the possibility of becoming problematic for Trek, who does drug and alcohol prevention programs at schools. Consequentially, Soop transitioned the label into more of a partnership, where he would help “magnify” what they were already doing.
“As a creative your mind is everywhere,” Darrio says. “He organizes all of that talent into generating income.”
“I can take whatever the fuck you have and I can magnify it. I can make it bigger. Every last person in this room, they already had their own individual, respectable careers before I was even thought of,” Soop says.
Everyone has their own unique connection to Magna Media. Through mutual friends, Soop was introduced to Trek’s project The Precendent, and from there they linked up and began doing music together. Of the group, Trek was the first artist to come aboard Magna Media, and among the group, he’s looked at as the one to beat. “He has that title over here. When it comes to just going, he’s gonna go,” Soop says.
Darrio and Soop have known each other for years. Having a common mentor in Searius Add, Add pitted them as rivals, until a random run in had them kicking it on a regular basis. After a couple of songs together, Darrio was part of the team. He announced the partnership at a 2014 Man Of The Year show at Skully’s that February. That winter brought a big snowstorm, the guys say, making for a pretty interesting night. “They closed all the streets down. We’re doing donuts in the middle of the street because we just killed a show. Everybody’s playing ‘Get Your Roll On’ with their windows down in the middle of High Street,“ says Darrio. “That’s the best show I feel like we ever did.”
Tha Audio Unit
AU and Soop’s relationship was a bit of a rivalry as well. AU met Soop at “Dame’s” house, which at the time was similar to a TDE’s compound, with everyone writing, producing, or just chilling in one big house. After a while they figured it would be smarter to work together than against each other, so Soop brought him in. All the while he still maintained his own artists and own endeavors, and he had a lot of them.
“Anybody with any type of notoriety in their hip hop career that has touched anything outside of 270, I would be strongly shocked if you said Jack (AU) didn’t have anything to do with your career,” Soop says.
Nes’ 2013 project Since ’85, produced by AU, featured a track called “All Up” that Soop really liked. Soop contacted Nes to perform during an intermission in Clash of the Titans. They kept in touch and continued to trade music, and six months later he was a part of the team as well. A year after that came 2015’s Stupid Genius, the last project to have an ExecGang tag.
“It was a big moment for me because I was like, this is like the death of an era, but the music also represents the birth of something new,” Nes says. “It was an honor to close that chapter for them.”
When we get to Dominique’s story, the guys get excited. It’s going to be a good story, because Darrio takes a smoke break, Nes says “Hit ‘em with the shit” and everyone chants “Facts!” before she can even get a word in.
Soop first saw Dominique perform at High Five during a Gallery Hop in ’07. With AU being her cousin, she was already connected to Magna Media, but before there was even a formal affiliation, she would come to shows, spread the word about their artists, and send them contact mailing lists. Soop was really impressed with her performance that night, as were the other guys in attendance. When it came time to work together, Soop says he tried to make sure he had something to offer, because she was already so well established.
And by “established,” he means licensing deals with networks like MTV and MTV2, Comedy Central, and HBO. “You could watch a TV show and might hear my song playing in the background. Like, I’ve placed probably like seven or eight different networks, a couple movies,” she says. “I placed Broad City last year, and didn’t even know I placed on Broad City.”
“All of us have national credits, but her credits are international,” Darrio says.
Dominique has half a million streams on her last album and has five or six projects waiting to come out. And this year Dominique is closing ComFest. When she performs, it’s just her, a mic, and a DJ with turntables.
“She’s definitely the first artist that I looked at and said, ‘Yo, I gotta get a DJ,’” Nes says as everyone laughs.
Everyone at Magna Media is quick to hype each other up. They’re a proud group of siblings, beaming with pride from each other’s accomplishments. But the relationships they have span farther than the business or the music. In the middle of the interview, Nes has to step out. A longtime mentor who was in the hospital passed, and he had to find out on social media. A few people go out to check on him, to make sure he’s good. When he comes back, he repeatedly apologizes, but there was no need. At that moment, the “family” title wasn’t just something that they said, it was something that they did.
Think Magna. Touching and Influencing Columbus Hip Hop
“ExecGang and Magna Media, whichever era you’re talking about, has essentially taken part in a very large percentage of a lot of people’s rap careers, whether they know it or not,” Nes says.
“If there is a certain type of success that you would like to acquire on the hip hop scene in Columbus,” Soop says, “more than likely, anyone that has succeeded has a relationship with one of us.”
Because of the clout that Magna Media has, they have a front row seat to what makes the Columbus hip hop scene great, and also what it lacks. Dominique says the scene is flourishing, from the music she’s heard to the shows she’s seen. There are hip hop shows all the time, like Trapathon, Ogee, and Get Right, she says.
But the hip hop scene in Columbus is affected by the stigma of different sides of town, Darrio says. “There’s a big ass line in the motherfucking sand,” he says. “[I’ve done] shows on the West Side, I’ll tell a nigga that live on the North Side, [but] they will never go over there.”
And Trek speaks up: “I know me personally it used to bug me out, more so from a journalistic perspective,” he says. “They’re talking about the rising of this area and how this is our culture, and I’m looking at [High Street] like, that’s just a duplication of where I was just at two weeks ago out of town.”
“Honestly, though, hip hop in Columbus in general is growing,” Trek says. “As much trash as there is, there’s a lot of authenticity in the music.”
“Columbus probably has the most talent in the state,” Darrio says. “[Dominique] says the hip hop is flourishing,” he says. “I say it is, but that’s because I’m looking at this room.”
Think Magna. Think Vision
“Everybody in here got they own vision,” Nes says. “All of that music you heard, niggas wrote themselves, they produced it,” he says. “It was a team effort. We came together as a team to magnify that.”
It’s kind of amazing for real, ‘cause when you think about it, it might sound a little chaotic,” he says. “But when I tell you, man it runs so smooth.”
“It makes the music sound better, don’t it?” Darrio says.
“It’s not a label, it’s not a rap group,” Trek says. “What you’ll see month after month is an acceleration. Straight ahead.”