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Women’s History Month: Karen Civils’ global impact on music, entertainment

Atlanta News First logo Atlanta News First 3/28/2023 Miles Montgomery
Photo of Young Money General Manager and Executive Vice President Karen Civil © Provided by Atlanta News First Photo of Young Money General Manager and Executive Vice President Karen Civil

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Young Money record label is New Orleans-born icon Lil Wayne, arguably one of the greatest rappers in the game. But, behind every empire in any business are the people who help to build and grow the foundation that you see thrive every day.

Karen Civil is one of the first people who should come to mind when you think of Young Money Entertainment, arguably one of, if not the most successful and dominant record label in the music industry during the last 17 years. The prominent author, philanthropist, and current Executive Vice President and General Manager of Young Money is one of the most influential and innovative people in the music industry.

The Elizabethtown, New Jersey native started from the bottom, and through dedication, hard work, and a relentless drive, she proved to herself and those around her that the sky is the limit. Civil credits all of the people who inspired her and paved the way for her throughout her illustrious career.

“I got to grow up with Ananda Lewis, La La Anthony, and especially Angie Martinez,” Civil said. “Angie Martinez was the pinnacle for me. We gravitated toward her voice, especially me. At Hot 97, you turned on the radio and she was the one that was giving you everything. When she pivoted and went into music, that let me know that you can have more than one niche and you can be multifaceted. Her pursuing her dreams made me pursue my dreams.”

Civil interned with the legendary DJ Funk Flex at an early age at the popular New York radio station.

“It was amazing working for Flex,” she said. “I learned everything I had to do from marketing to radio, to the boards, engineering, sound, and relationship building. I love that Flex, Cat Wisna, Mr. C, and Big Dennis gave me the opportunity to be up there and the free rein. I got a chance to immerse myself in the culture. Flex was that open door. It was that crack. The door was cracked for me to go in and I kicked the door and went all the way through.”

Civil talked about working with Grammy award-winning and multi-platinum rapper Lil Wayne earlier in her career and how the Young Money President Mack Maine and Lil Wayne’s belief in her uplifted her.

“Just being able to be an EVP and GM has been incredible,” she said. “I just want to give a testament because men at times get a bad rap. I work with such amazing men who uplift and empower which makes it easy for me to have these ideas. When you have an idea and a thought process that’s different than what people are used to, they might not necessarily take a chance on you. [Mack Maine] and Wayne did very early on. So now, this being into my one year, we have a tour and all of these projects coming. I’ve never been so settled and happy in my life and my career.”

Women’s History Month is important in many ways to Civil.

“Being highlighted, celebrated, acknowledged, and learning or re-learning the history and having a spotlight shine on the women who had come before in different avenues who are paving the way, who are the blueprint, I love this time,” said Civil. “The conversations about the pay gaps, how we show up to make sure it is an even playing field, all of those conversations come up again and I love it during this month. I love that we’re able to amplify and spotlight one another.”

Civil talked about how Nicki Minaj has evolved and dominated throughout her career. The “Queen of Rap” is considered one of the most influential artists of all time.

“Nicki has been somebody who has been dominating for two decades,” she continued. “From the sense of fandom, she’s created music that’s empowering. What she has done in my life, she’ll be like, ‘hey, is everything good?’ Just to check on me. She is somebody who really cares about her craft. To be on top years later is a testament to who she is as an artist. I don’t label her as a rapper because she is so multi-faceted and she’s an amazing artist who continuously breaks records, and makes things happen. Every time I think of her, I give her a round of applause all of the time. She did it her way. She’s come up with the best of them, she’s been on songs with the best of them. I love that when you’re thinking top 10 rappers, it’s not top 10 female rappers. You just think of her as one of the top 10 rappers and she holds her own. From Drake to Nicki. She stands next to the goats. She is a goat. Nicki is Nicki. She doesn’t need a co-sign.”

“The men are amplifying us and continue to amplify me. I’m so enthusiastically happy because people don’t understand the balance and sacrifice going into your career as a woman, especially a black woman. I’m so happy. I’m able to go to work and still able to spend time with my family and it’s a respectable balance. I love this space and I love this team,” Civil said.

“Wayne built greatness, and he’s still building greatness. The things that are coming and the people who are reaching out saying, ‘man I’ve been seeing Lil Wayne out more,’ it’s exciting because it’s a testament to we’re a team,” she continued. “There are so many other amazing women who work with us.”

She recalls meeting Mack Maine in Miami and networking with him more than a decade ago.

“I explained who I was and said I’m really good with marketing and social media. I told him they’re building this imprint and brand so I’d love to figure out synergies and work with you guys,” she explained. “People usually don’t go up to them talking like that, so I stayed in contact with him. They were starting to build their roster with Tyga. I was hands-on and very helpful.”

It’s a full circle moment for Civil to transition from Lil Wayne’s social media manager at Young Money several years ago to now the Young Money General Manager.

“Sometimes I’m in awe like, ‘girl we really did it from the ground up.’ When Wayne went away [to Rikers Island] in 2010, Mack reached out to me and said, ‘we’ve got to figure it out because Wayne was getting all of these letters.’ That is where the website known as “Weezy Thanx You” was created. From that, them taking the opportunity and chance on me catapulted me. I was able to get a job at Beats By Dre. I moved to California, and I got to start my agency so it was a domino effect. Wayne got so many things out of it. He got a Guinness Book of World Records for the most amount of likes and the fastest amount of likes, then he had a No. 1 album [I Am Not A Human Being]. So, people were starting to see it and they were like, ‘who is that person?’ I had to get my business acumen together and all of my stuff together. Wayne had a partnership with Beats By Dre because they uplifted me and did synergies where they allowed me to grow so any opportunity I had, I wanted to figure it out for Wayne.”

Civil says she is excited about the future of Young Money Records which features new and talented artists such as Providence rapper Euro, Mellow Racks, Drizzy P, Jay Jones, and more.

“We’re really excited for what’s to come with Euro. He’s working on his new project,” she emphatically said. “Now, people are getting ready to see that Wayne has new talent that’s emerging and coming up from Euro to Drizzy P, Jay Jones, and Mellow Racks, and there are so many people on the team who are doing great. It’s a testament to them.”

Civil offered valuable advice for young girls and women about the importance of following their dreams.

“In the words of Mrs. Beyonce Knowles Carter, “Who Run The World? Girls,” Civil enthusiastically said. “At times, we tend to be our biggest hurdle and obstacle. it really starts with the self. Having the understanding of you, getting out of your own way. It’s really about taking that first step and believing in yourself. We’re in a Clark Kent stage when we first start. You’ve got to put on your cape and be your own superhero and be real with yourself. There are going to be lonely nights and sacrifices. As long as you’re having that real conversation with yourself and you’re aligned, there is no stopping you.”



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