Chief Keef and Peeda Pan (Photo by Ryder Ripps)
MUSIC BUSINESS

43B: Peeda Pan Dishes on Newest Venture with Chief Keef

Peeda Pan, longtime manager to Chief Keef, walks Boardroom through their 10-year fight for artistic autonomy, culminating in their new label, 43B.

43B stands for “Forget Everybody,” but Peeda Pan hasn’t forgotten everything that led him and Chief Keef (born Keith Cozart) to launch the label in partnership with BMG earlier this month.

As reported by Variety, “43B is a multi-tiered label, offering distribution and marketing services for artists and producers,” with Peeda (born Idris Dykes) serving as co-CEO alongside the Chicago rapper. Sophie Kautz will run A&R and marketing, and Lil Gnar is the first artist on the roster.

“Keith is an artist, dealing with me being his partner — a former artist, and then a manager and executive for the last 10 years. We walked down every sort of situation in terms of business,” Peeda Pan tells Boardroom. “Different deals — some great, some not so great. Now is just the right time, the right team, the right partnerships, the right atmosphere. It was just like, 7-7-7! Boom! Hit that motherfucking lever, and let’s go!”

It was a similar jackpot feeling when Peeda first met Keef at his grandmother’s house in Southside Chicago, just shy of his seminal 2012 drill anthem “I Don’t Like” featuring Lil Reese. One decade — and over 40 projects — later, music is just the jumping-off point for Keef’s cultural influence. And Peeda has helped architect it all.

“We definitely will cross-pollinate in terms of marketing, but we never wanna force it,” Peeda says of how 43B slots into the landscape, which also includes NFT collections. “It’s not a prerequisite, for example, for Glo Navy content to feature an artist of ours — either signed to [Gang Management] or one of our imprints. Glo Gang, GGP, the production company, and you got 43B and GMGT. You have quite a few different entities that are coexisting within our ecosystem.”

Fresh off signing Philadelphia artist 2rare to Gang Management, Peeda reflects on his past with Keef and how it informs their mission for 43B.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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MEGAN ARMSTRONG: You grew up at various points in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago. Who was your favorite artist growing up?

PEEDA PAN: Always Jay. The majority of my childhood was in Philly. Jay-Z was God in Philly ever since there was a Jay-Z. But I was always a fan of West Coast, East Coast underground. I liked the Bad Boy movement, but I liked what Death Row was doing just as much because I grew up in different places. Chicago was always its own thing. It wasn’t as well known, but you had hard acts like Twista, Do or Die, Crucial Conflict. They were so big in that city, but it didn’t necessarily resonate outside of Chicago.

MA: What about Chief Keef allowed him to resonate outside of Chicago?

PP: The first thing that really gave him visibility was his age. The age validated his authenticity. Where Keith comes from, the things that he was talking about, the things they were doing and showcasing and the videos, it would not have garnered as much attention and as much respect if it wasn’t authentic. We always gotta keep in mind: the game is always gonna be going one direction. You gotta be the one that comes out and shifts it into the opposite direction. 

It was just at a key time where Chicago had all of this electricity. It was something great going on in the city, but it didn’t have that thing to push it through those boundaries. And Keith ended up being that because Keith really represents a lot of what Chicago is. Love him or hate him, it still caught your attention.

MA: How did you first meet him? 

PP: It was crazy, Megan. There’s a video on YouTube, and it shows the first time I actually met Keith. I did the second interview on Chief, after Zack TV. Me and my partner, we had a company called JrCeleb. It was a hybrid company of hosting events, tying in Chicago culture. We had a blog, and we said, we’re gonna start interviewing artists.

Keith was an artist who I knew I wanted to work with, but initially, it didn’t turn into anything until another one of my other best friends, Dro — also known as Uncle Ro — ended up working with Keith. I wanted to do this interview, and I contacted Dro. He brought me over there. I went to his granny’s house, and the boys was over there. They was playing with the guns with the infrared beams, and I knew what I was getting myself into. Keith was there in a black hoodie.

I wanted to interview him for our platform, but it was a situation that came full-circle because Dro always had this knack to be around young talent and have a temperament. I learned a lot from him as to what it takes to be a good manager because management is not just the business. It’s about fostering your artists and really treating them like your kid, or like your little brother or sister. In my opinion, you should take on that person’s life because they’re trusting you with everything.

MA: When did you realize that he was going to develop into a tastemaker beyond rap?

PP: In 2014, I did an interview with XXL, and I called Keith an icon. I got a lot of backlash. It was still questionable as to how long Keith would be in the game. I say that to say, I knew from day one his impact. Keith always equated to being like an energy, a different kind of presence — still to this day.

I don’t think I’d ever witnessed that from someone, so I knew out the gate. Just from him; it wasn’t what people were saying or seeing the whole city gravitate towards his music. I mean, I had a great life already, in terms of making money. For me to invest all of my time and energy into him, his movement, and what we were doing at the time, it warranted something much greater than just some money or a good opportunity. It definitely felt meaningful and like this was going to be somebody that would be one of the biggest game-changers of all time in hip-hop

MA: How does he fit the bill as a mogul and an entrepreneur? 

PP: Everybody talking about having a [joint venture] with the labels, but Keith had his first JV when he was 16. He wasn’t just signed to Interscope as Chief Keef, the rapper. Glory Boyz Entertainment was brought on as an imprint.

Since the first time I met Keith, I’ve watched him sit in a leadership role. I’ve watched him delegate and communicate the way that a CEO does to their employees, but with his friends, his homeboys, and his circle. Keith is a natural leader. You can see from a lot of the moves that we’ve made over a decade — just the diversity in terms of plays that we’ve put together. Not just music, but other lanes that exemplify him being a visionary. 

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MA: What is the difference between Glory Boyz Entertainment and 43B?

PP: Glory Boyz, as a business, it does not exist anymore.

MA: The community around it still exists, but as an actual entity, it doesn’t?

PP: Exactly.

MA: What’s a lesson that you learned during the Glory Boyz Entertainment days that you are now applying to 43B to make sure it’s even better?

PP: Glory Boyz, essentially, was a brand that was being courted by a lot of people in late 2011 and early 2012. All this noise was happening in the city of Chicago, and everybody wanted a piece. There was a lot of old heads that felt they were entitled to be the ones to conduct the business. I wasn’t walking onto something, just like, shake hands and let’s go. You really had to prove yourself with them. It was definitely gladiator school.

You had to carry yourself a certain way. These guys were 16, 17, 18, you know? But they were grown men. Nobody could tell them anything. It wasn’t like working with typical artists who started off doing a bunch of showcases. Artists starting from a traditional route. That was the beginning of seeing just straight young street n—s really go from on the bench right into the big leagues.

MA: Why did now feel like the right time to launch 43B? 

PP: Prior to the pandemic, we had opened up a creative space in downtown Atlanta, the Arts District. We began to vet a lot of young talent. Creatives, A&Rs, producers, people that just wanted to be in this whole ecosystem that surrounds music and surrounds Keith. We actually spent the last three or four years building this team, which will be one of the strongest teams that will lead the way for the next wave of big artists.

We had almost two years’ worth of combos with BMG while also entertaining other offers from other partners, but we had been working with RBC for a long time. That company was bought out by BMG. And over the last two or three years, these people at BMG have seen how we work. They’ve been able to see what things our artists — like Keith — need to be able to not only work and execute creatively but to have the sort of comfortability and control an artist wants to be able to know they have over their career.

Ultimately, we felt [good about] our resources partnered with theirs. [It was] them giving us the confidence that they understand what we need in order to do us and to do what these artists are going to need.

Artists get into deals and situations. A few months in, the money’s spent. You’re just like,Yo, these people don’t understand me. Why these people even benefiting or eating off my career? Well, guess what? They just gave you a lot of money, and they don’t give a fuck.

MA: I remember last fall seeing Chief Keef modeling for OVO’s NBA collaboration. We can use OVO as an example with 43B. Why do you think it’s becoming the standard for artists to grab back their autonomy and head up their own labels and ventures?

PP: Artists learn so much of the business. They also understand, hey, while I’m doing this, there are other people and artists that are around me that are going to benefit. They’re gonna get notoriety. They’re gonna make money. Why not just sign them? Why not make a business out of this out the gate instead of letting someone else get in?

I think we were one of the first entities that really got out here and showed that. It wasn’t always told, but that’s what we were doing with Glory Boyz. That’s what we were building. Blood Money was the second artist signed. Unfortunately, he was killed in Chicago. We had a few others. Capo, and years later, Tray Savage. Fredo [Santana], he started Savage Squad.

Fredo was such a visionary and almost like a prophet. The same way they talk about Yams with A$AP, that was Fredo to Glory Boyz. … It just always bugs me out — what kind of energy exists around those days. It’s gonna be some content hopefully that comes out soon. We’re working on a Glory Boyz biopic and other things that we’re shopping around currently.

MA: What do you think will ultimately differentiate 43B from other labels? 

PP: It means “Forget Everybody.” It just really means individuality. You got so many artists, and so many different things that are coming out — not only in music, but fashion and just everywhere. You gotta just do you.

Keith was always really just himself, always comfortable being himself, and people saw that and respected it. That is the makings of a true icon, a true game-changer. And those are the kinds of artists that we look to work with. Those are the kind of campaigns we seek to put out. We’re not just necessarily coming from a standpoint of, oh, we wanna put out these records to stream crazy. We really wanna create those moments and make a real impact that people will remember that could change someone’s life. That could really have people out here looking at things different from how they looked at ’em yesterday. 

MA: Why was Lil Gnar the perfect first signing?

PP: Because Gnar represents all of those things! Gnar hasn’t even really been doing music, in the grand scheme of things, that long because Gnar’s background was in the skateboarding world.

Similar to Keith, at least for me when I first stumbled on Keith’s videos, it wasn’t just the music. It was a look. It was a presence. When I first sat in that room and met with Keith, it was an energy. There’s sometimes things that you can extract from a person — a feeling — and that feeling will let you know how far someone’s gonna go. We really believe in him. He’s just a winner. He has a great attitude and outlook on everything that he does, and he’s been very, very successful on his own.

MA: With Chicago as a common denominator, I have to ask, what is a fond memory you have with Keith and Virgil?

PP: I remember when Virgil and them did the “Free Chief Keef” tee. I knew Don C and I remember when they opened up RSVP, but I just didn’t personally know who Virgil was. But I had other homies in Chicago who did fashion, and I’m calling around when I saw the t-shirt. Somebody had brought it to me, like, “Yo, you see this shirt?” And I was like, “Who these n—s doing a shirt?” I remember I called Joe Freshgoods, and I was like, “Hey, you got this Virgil’s number, man? I need to get in tune with this camp. They owe us some money.”

Come to find out, Larry Jackson, they were friends. Through BEEN TRILL, they had connected, and that shirt came out. I would joke with him when I would see him. By the first time I even met him, it was one of those interactions where it wasn’t so friendly initially, but he was so cool. He was such a good guy that you couldn’t even be on that with him. He was so positive and just full of true light. It allowed me to understand, once I got to know more about him, why he was so great at what he was doing. Sometimes it’s not just you being good at something. People love you as a human being and as a spirit and hence, they will love your art.

That’s really what art is about. They’re putting themselves into it. It’s not coming so much from the mind; it’s coming from the soul. Virgil had a lot of love for Keith. They were always talking about work. They were gonna work on some things creatively — some art shit, some fashion stuff — but they just hadn’t got around to it. True artists, they speak in that same frequency.

MA: How do you hope people speak about 43B?

PP: We’ve already made money. Keith has a lot of successful businesses and revenue streams. As do I. But we really want to make an impact in music. We want to be in a space of making sure that artists have a fair shot because we’ve been through the wringer — like a lot of artists you talk to.

One of the first things always out of Keith’s mouth is, he says, “Pan, make sure whatever we doing, we are more than fair.” I want to do more than fair by these artists because, at certain times, we really had to get it the hard way. I think that’s what anybody who gets in this position should want for those that come after them. That’s the biggest thing. 

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