REED
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Reed Baker may be the only person in hip-hop who counts philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, rapper Jay-Z, and soul legends the Isley Brothers among his key influences.

The Jamaica-born artist known as Reed combined his lifelong love for hip-hop and classic soul music with philosophy to form Sophist Productions, his Long Island City-based record label that incorporates elements of rap, rhythm and blues and reggae from its several artists.

The label got its name from the sophists of Greek philosophy, though Reed said his favorite philosopher is Kierkegaard.

"I love his writing style and his way of expressing views," he said. "He has a magical pen. I got infatuated with his work, especially 'Fear and Trembling,' and ended up basing my college thesis on (his work)."

Reed was studying philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta when he met David James Mack IV, now known as D-Mack, a fellow founding father of the record label who works behind the camera and is currently making a documentary about Sophist Productions.

"D-Mack and I were roommates in college and we would go at it about politics, ethics, business," said Reed. "We both have our opinions and we'd let them fly."

Baker became swept up in New York hip-hop culture long before he headed down South for college. During his years at Stuyvesant High School, he attended local nightclubs like The Underground and began to view hip-hop as a form of poetry. Upon graduating from Emory, he briefly wrote and recorded with Intelligent Music before deciding to form and manage his own record company.

In 2003, Sophist Productions released its first album - "ONEinSIX" - and is currently in the process of recording "First," a hip-hop concept album Reed describes as a "journey that explores first love." Reed continues to incorporate philosophy into his work.

"Everything I write is a philosophy essay," he said. "Your lyrics should be deep enough so they can be reinterpreted every time they're heard. That's what art is."

Reed and Sensation (born Henrick George Tucker, Jr.), Sophist's reggae artist whom Baker also met in college, performed their first show together in Atlanta and have since had played dates in Delaware and New York. Most recently, the Sophists played Manhattan's The Cutting Room, which Reed said was a telling experience.

"If you prove yourself in New York, you're in," he said. "We had my grandparents and the thugs in there, too. There are not too many artists that can bridge as many gaps as we can."

Reed describes his style of music as "alternative hip hop," which combines elements of rap, R&B and reggae. Though his beginnings were primarily in rap, he moved toward rhythm and blues after the shooting of Freaky Tah, a member of the Queens' rap group Lost Boyz, in 1999.

"I made the transition because I didn't think the music was moving in the right direction," he said.

Reed, however, continues to move in his own direction as he puts the finishing touches on "First" and reaches out to local radio stations. He believes that a radio hit can attract attention but believes that success in the music industry depends on building a fan base, something he hopes to do with the label's future releases, which will soon include a solo album by Sensation.

"A single may sell a record, but the only reason people will buy your second record is because they like your first album," he said.

- Times Ledger


Without radio deals, Sophist uses creative marketing methods to get exposure

By Rosamaria Mancini
Published on May 22, 2006

When Joe Frazier's managers were putting together an event to mark the 35th anniversary of his heavyweight title bout with Muhammad Ali, they called on a small Queens company called Sophist Productions to work the celebration. Using state-of-the-art digital video turntables, Sophist staffers delivered a knockout performance in the role of multimedia DJs, mixing actual footage of the Fight of the Century with audio and text messaging in real time.

Providing high-end digital video turntable services to private parties and clubs has become a moneymaker for four-year-old Sophist. But for Chief Executive Reed Baker, the activity's real value is as one of several innovative tools Sophist uses to promote its main business: producing hip-hop, reggae and rhythm-and-blues recordings.

"The record label is the mother ship," says Mr. Baker, who--under the name REED--is also one of the company's two recording artists.

Getting covered

DJs played tracks from Mr. Baker's first CD, ONEinSIX, at the Frazier event, which was in midtown Manhattan. The DJ arm, launched last year, has worked 20 parties at fees of $2,000 to $5,000.

"The independent labels have to look for alternative ways to get exposure, as they don't have established relationships with radio," says Tom Silverman, chairman of Tommy Boy Entertainment, which he founded in 2002 after selling the Tommy Boy Records catalog to Warner Brothers. "That exposure is not easy to get, but it's a must."

The search for exposure has led Sophist, which Mr. Baker co-founded with his Emory University roommate, David Mack, in other directions as well. A year ago, the company began an internship program offering college students an overview of everything from marketing and radio promotion to event planning.

The interns, who work off-site, lobby campus radio stations to play Sophist tracks, and use campus newspapers and additional channels to get the word out about performances by Mr. Baker and Sophist's other artist--Sensation, a reggae artist whose real name is Henrick George Tucker Jr.

The program began with 10 interns, most of them in the New York area. It has grown to 60 participants on campuses in Alabama, California and Texas, among others. Sophist hopes to have at least 100 on board by the fall.

"The internships are big for us because we have students working all over the country," Mr. Baker says.

Steppingstones

The label, which has five full-time employees between its 700-square foot office in Manhattan and tiny studio in Long Island City, Queens, also takes more traditional approaches.

In 2004, Sophist hired former Hot 97 DJ Lisa Glasberg, who as its publicist primarily promoted Mr. Baker's music. Last fall, when the CEO decided to push the company more broadly, he turned to a small Manhattan firm, 5W Public Relations.

"The press attention a major PR firm can obtain is essential in building credibility," Mr. Reed says. "Credibility facilitates sales."

Mr. Reed is investing at least $100,000 in PR, including events, materials and other expenses. That's significant for a company that was founded with $500,000 raised from family and friends. Sophist projects revenues of about $2 million over the next two years. And Mr. Reed, buoyed by its successes, is optimistic that the company will be profitable within that time.

- Crain's New York Business


Discography

New York Love Affair - REED, single, released 9/11/06

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

NEW YORK, September 11, 2006 – At 12:01am on the 5th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, Sophist Productions artist REED released a song dedicated to his home city, appropriately named ‘New York Love Affair’ for digital download on myspace.com/sophist.

Sophist Productions is a New York City based Hip Hop record label and event production company specializing in a fusion of rap, reggae, and R&B. REED sits at both the artistic and business helm of the label as the premier artist and CEO. REED’s debut album, ONEinSIX, is in stores now.

“People in this city had a real connection to the towers,” says REED, who was born and bred in Queens. “I want New York to have an uplifting anthem during a time when we will constantly be reminded of one of our greatest tragedies”.

With an infectious melody, “New York Love Affair” is full of political commentary mixed with tribute to New York in lyrics such as, “Even when the world hates the U.S. – they love US!” Although Bush and Osama get a mention, REED keeps the mood light by cleverly rapping about the subway train lines that spell out his name, placing himself beside every New York “straphanger”. “New Yorkers are strong and we never forget, but we need to recapture the feeling we all had pre 9-11… the pride, the security, and the self-respect,” said REED about the message of the song. “We used to feel that we were lucky to be born in the greatest city in the world… and we need to bring that sentiment back.”

To download “New York Love Affair”, visit REED’s MySpace profile www.myspace.com/sophist or email Sophist Productions directly at sp@sophistproductions.com requesting the mp3. Links to the acapella and instrumental downloads for remixing will also be available on MySpace for DJ, producers, and recording artists. Fans can also stream the song on www.sophistproductions.com.