It isn’t easy to make it deep into the hip-hop industry as an artist or producer out of Milwaukee. There have been a few artists who have made wide-reaching impacts, like IshDarr for example, but the city is not considered a hotbed for talent.
It was within this place of beer, cheese, cold weather and struggle, that Andre Robertson emerged as Bizness Boi. In the past decade, he has established himself as one of the most prolific producers in the game, working with many of the top R&B artists currently out — even managing to work with some of the most legendary music figures in the past few decades like Elton John and Mary J. Blige. He was even nominated for a grammy for his work on 6lack’s album Free 6lack, on the song “MTFU.”
It has not been an easy journey for Biz. His presentation in Tripp Commons at Memorial Union was focused on giving advice to those who are trying to make it in the music industry. He shared his own personal experience in the game, interacting with and answering questions from an audience that was willing and wanting to engage with Biz.
Growing up in Milwaukee helped to create and cultivate Andre’s motivation to make it.
“I want to go hard and motivate for the city,” Robertson said.
He had a close relationship with his grandmother growing up. Watching her work every day to help take care of him made Roberston want to work hard, so he kept grinding every day until he could take care of his grandmother the way he believed she deserved to be. His grandmother kept pushing him to see his real talent and to stop messing around in the streets.
There is a general crab in the bucket mentality that Milwaukee imbeds into up-and-coming artists and producers, as it is so hard to make it out by oneself that it can seem as though helping anyone else out will only hurt your chances. This mentality has stuck with Biz throughout his time in the industry, but it also inspired him to be the exact opposite and do his best to collaborate with others and make his network as large as possible. It is his desire to motivate the city — to show people that you don’t have to be cold to make it.
A key part of Business Boi’s belief system is the idea that you go further with a group than on your own. There is always a benefit to collaborating with people because they take you to places you couldn’t go on your own, whether it be the way they think and make you progress in your thinking, or physically taking you places.
There is also much fallacy surrounding the way the industry works in terms of it being a cut-throat — that every one is only looking out for their own place. Bizness Boi debunked these ideas, recalling his experience in the industry as one where people want to see each other eating and doing well, collaborating with each other, and really it being an overall positive space that promotes hard-work. He does his best to continue this standard, sometimes responding to fans directly messages on social media.
There was no straight path into the business for Bizness Boi. He originally began making music while in Milwaukee, working with a large network of artists to create a buzz around his name. While making his music, he decided to further his education by attending the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the University of Arkansas Little-Rock for a year each, studying business administration and management. This is a big part of what has made Bizness Boi so successful — he’s business savy.
Robertson’s savviness allows him to maneuver through the industry in a way that keeps his interests first. It also helps him distinguish between labels simply trying to collect artists from those that actually believe in them.
It was when Robertson returned home from Arkansas that he received a wake up call.
“There was this old dude in the neighborhood, he would show me love for the path I was trying to go down. But when I came back from Arkansas it was different, he gave me a disappointed look and it hit me that I needed to get off my bullshit in the streets and back to it,” Robertson said. “It motivated me to go, to spread that energy and positivity to others.”
As much as he enjoys the big placements and having a song blow up nationally, he prefers to help the up-and-coming artists because he wants to continue the cycle of positivity and allow “as many people to eat” as possible. In his eyes, it’s the job of producers to promote new artists — the more people he can help reach their dreams, the more satisfied he is while expanding his legacy within music.
Three local artists were given time to play a music video and receive feedback from Biz. The first artist chosen was Bravo, a UW-Madison student named Nick Coleman who recently dropped his debut album, Bravo Blvd.
Lucien Parker, a former UW-Madison student who dropped out to pursue his music career following the success he found with songs such as “Impossible” off of his Chapter IV, V, VI and Black Sheep mixtapes, was the second artist chosen to have his music critiqued. The final artist, Reggie Bonds, actually knew Bizness Boi from Biz’s time in Milwaukee when they both lived there. Bonds has been making music for years, gaining national attention at times and unsurprisingly, it was reflected in the quality of his music video.
All three artists picked dope songs, showcasing their talents as best as they could, impressing Biz all around. There was not much difference in the advice given to each of them, with Biz imploring them to continue to learn, travel and grow their brand.
He did, however, drop gems of advice surrounding signing to labels.
“Only sign with a label if it makes sense, it’s the perfect time right now to be an indie artist and kill it on your own. Make your moves, tour, do what you wanna do and answer to yourself, invest in yourself because that’s how you get to the next level,” Robertson said.
Robertson’s goal is to have a legacy beyond the music. He wants to show kids how to make it out of Milwaukee and stay positive in the face of mounting adversity through love and positivity.
One of his eventual goals is to open a youth-center focusing on the arts and athletics in Milwaukee. He wants to instill the same values that helped get him as far as he has gone to the younger generation. There is no reason to doubt he will achieve this goal as he continues to grow and expand within the game, working with bigger and bigger artists.
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Robertson walks down a path that not many in Milwaukee have within the music industry and each success swells Wisconsinites hearts with pride, while providing more motivation for those still trying to make it. His belief in his city is steadfast, his love for his home clear and the people give it right back to him. His continued rise seems inevitable and hopefully he can continue to be an excellent representation of Milwaukee, as we could hardly ask for a better face for the city musically.