SCAM AFTA SCAM: A TRUE STORY
OZONE investigates how a new breed of greedy artist managers and booking agents, led by Gucci Mane’s representatives, are sucking the blood out of the music industry.
by Julia Beverly (this article also appears in the upcoming print edition of OZONE Mag)
“Johnnie [Cabbell] is the grand vampire,” proclaims legendary Chicago-based promoter Godfather. For over twenty years, Godfather has been promoting concerts through his company Star Power Entertainment Group. He estimates his losses from bad business deals with Johnnie Cabbell and Debra Antney to be nearly $100,000. “I don’t work with Johnnie anymore,” he states emphatically. “He sucks the blood out of you.”
As the CEO of Hitt Afta Hitt (otherwise known as HAH), Johnnie Cabbell is Gucci Mane’s exclusive booking agent and also manages Bankhead rapper Shawty Lo. Johnnie’s “partner in crime,” Godfather says, is Debra Antney, who describes herself as Gucci Mane’s “business partner and manager.” As CEO of Gucci’s So Icey Records and the management company Mizay Entertainment, Antney also oversees the careers of OJ da Juiceman, Nicki Minaj, and others. Multiple promoters from across the country allege that Cabbell and Antney have collaborated to defraud them collectively of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
THE SO ICEY TOUR
Scheduled for at least 12 cities in July 2009, the So Icey Tour was supposed to feature OJ da Juiceman, Nicki Minaj, and the headliner, Gucci Mane. It sounded promising. Gucci’s buzz was at an all-time high. He had just returned home from prison a few months earlier to ecstatic crowds at “Welcome Home Gucci” parties throughout the South. His artist/protégé OJ had been steadily building a buzz of his own and helping to keep Gucci’s name alive by flooding the streets with mixtapes and fresh material. They were both hot commodities. And in an industry nearly void of female artists, up-and-coming emcee/sex symbol Nicki Minaj was quickly building a name for herself, strengthened by her affiliations with Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane. The timing seemed perfect.
But by all accounts, the “tour,” organized by a Carolina-based promoter named Shannon Marshall, was a mess and fell apart almost immediately. None of the artists showed up for the first two Florida dates (July 4th & 5th), leaving veteran promoter Mr. CC (who, like Godfather in Chicago, has been successfully promoting concerts for over 20 years) with losses of over $140,000. He claims that nearly half of that money, around $70,000, is in the hands of Cabbell/Antney, who refuse to return the deposits or reschedule his dates.
On July 19th, 2009, midway through the scheduled tour dates, Soulja Boy tweeted, “My nigga Gucci back in jail. Free Gucci.” (right) Rumors quickly spread that Gucci had again violated the terms of his probation and was back in jail (or rehab). Although Gucci’s management and label denied the rehab rumors and it’s still unclear exactly where Gucci was in mid-July, it’s clear where he wasn’t: He wasn’t on the So Icey Tour. Of the 12 scheduled tour dates, OZONE has confirmed that at least six, but probably more of these shows (Jacksonville, FL; Pompano Beach/Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Louisville, KY; Chicago, IL; Baltimore, MD; and Detroit, MI) never happened, leaving furious promoters demanding refunds…..