This story is part seven of Boardroom’s Women’s History Month series highlighting bold figures forging distinctive paths in the worlds of sports, business, culture, and entertainment.
Part I: Morgan DeBaun | Part II: Valentina Shevchenko | Part III: Dany Garcia |
Part IV: Gina Prince-Bythewood | Part V: Carla Banks-Waddles | Part VI: Monica McNutt | Part VII: Gia Peppers
We picked the brain of mind behind some of RCA Records’ greatest hits of the decade, including Latto’s chart-topping pop-rap hit from her sophomore album 777.
Marguerite Jones started in the music industry with one focus: hard work.
Coming from a journalism background, Jones knew the realm of being in the media through her content creations and production projects with industry heavyweights such as Teyana Taylor, Wiz Khalifa and Lil Kim.
“I started in the industry by working my way up. I started in radio, interned and consulted for a lot of places,” Jones told Boardroom. “I did interviews and wrote articles for radio stations in New York like HOT 97 and Sirius XM. In college, I applied for an internship at RCA [because] I just wanted to have more of a hand in creating music and production.”
Those moments prepared her for her work as an A&R Executive at RCA Records, which houses artists from Doja Cat and WizKid to Clayton County, Georgia peach Latto. Jones’ work is all about helping artists excel in their craft and strategize business moves – and it shows.
To most people being an A&R means finding new talent for labels, but the real work goes beyond as they tap into their responsibility of providing artists freedom to express themselves and help guide them in the right direction regarding their career.
“A&R is a lot of things simultaneously. Managing the music, upgrading the process and making songs better [and] we find solutions,” she told Boardroom. “Developing ways for more people to discover the artists you believe in. We want the best for them in and outside the music [because] you’re balancing your artist’s needs with the label’s.”
Through her position, she’s found the power in using her voice as a Black woman in the music industry to advocate for the artists under her tutelage. She focuses on collaborating with producers and songwriters.
Her expertise in developing strategies, business plans and timelines to progress artist development became prevalent when she was involved in Atlanta rapper Latto’s rebrand. That era taught her the importance of having Black women in the executive boardroom. “Culturally, we know what works. We connect with artists professionally but also know how to nurture and manage each party’s needs,” Jones added.
In 2022, Latto decided to take her artistry to the next level by rebranding herself with a new name from Big Latto to Latto (and formerly Miss Mulatto since her national TV debut on Lifetime’s The Rap Game with Jermaine Dupri), new musical direction and a new sound.
“I’ve been trying all the type of sh– and that’s how we come up. That’s how we came up with ‘Big Energy’ [by] just being open ears, being a true creative, and being open to anything,” Latto told Essence Girls United. “[I’m] trying new things and taking myself out of my comfort zone [and] out my element to produce a better product for my fans.”
Her Billboard chart-topping song “Big Energy” – which sampled the 1981 original Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” and remix collaborator Mariah Carey’s 1995 “Fantasy” release – helped fans see who Latto wanted to be as a rapper and pop star. Little does the public know, Jones had a major part in the new direction the raptress wanted to go in.
“I wish more artists moved like Latto,” Jones told Variety about working closely with the rapper. “She’s hands-on with everything. Hungry, self-aware, the most authentic; she keeps it interesting. She’s a professional from start to finish. She’s not in the studio playing around.”
“Big Energy” stayed on the charts for 49 weeks and became the longest-charting solo female rap song in Hot 100 history, surpassing Doja Cat’s song “Need To Know.” Initially, those in the public and behind the scenes had doubts about the song on social media, but thanks to Latto trusting her gut and Jones giving her that support the song became a successful crossover hit.
“Executives at the top must understand women bring value to the process from the business to the creative,” Jones told REVOLT in a previous interview. “Women dually communicate in a powerful yet nurturing way that delivers information thoughtfully. The gender gap in producing and engineering is unacceptable. There must be more initiatives focused on women in the recording process. Beyond high-level executives, we must all work in conjunction, not in competitiveness. When we help one another navigate tough decisions, we all learn.”
As Jones continues to oversee artists, her work remains at a high status with “Big Energy” reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after scoring a remix feature with Mariah Carey and DJ Khaled. “Did I think it would get me No. 3 on Billboard or a Mariah Carey remix? Hell no. But I did know it would be a step in a bigger direction,” Latto told Variety.
The pop-rap song turned into what is now a two-time Grammy-nominated single. Latto received nominations for Best New Artist and Best Melodic Rap Performance. What seemed like a risky decision for the Atlanta native turned into a great outcome with recognition from the Recording Academy.
Through that experience, Jones earned a spot in Variety’s 2022 Hitmakers and Hitbreakers list, showing that Black women are the blueprint of the music business and advised the next generation to continue to stand firm and advocate for themselves in the industry. “Black women need a voice in and out of the music industry,” she said. “ [You have to] do the best job, bring business, and have goals and targets within the music that elevate you as a professional. Also, don’t allow others to box you in a genre or pit you against other women like you, [instead] work together. “
As she continues to reach new career goals, she remembers her initial mission of giving Black artists a safe space to be themselves in the industry and inspire others through their songs. “Music in Black culture has always been comforting,” Jones said. “Creatives express what life reflects [and] the relatability and community make you feel like we’re all going through similar things.”
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