We Major
Quality Control Music cofounders Pierre “P” Thomas and Kevin “Coach K” Lee have spent 10 years shaping their record label into a major independent force in the music industry. Now, they have the money, power and respect after signing a $320 million global partnership deal.
Interview: C. Vernon Coleman II
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands in December.

Quality Control Music has been in the star-making business for the past decade. The big bang occurred in 2013, when cofounders Pierre “P” Thomas and Kevin “Coach K” Lee created a record label based on the old-school principles of artist development and guerilla-style marketing. P was an entrepreneur and studio owner, and Coach K was an Atlanta music industry stalwart who managed Gucci Mane, Rocko and Jeezy during Da Snowman’s rise to mainstream prominence in the mid-2000s. P and Coach struck gold in 2013, with their first signees, the Migos, who would go on to be a decade-defining act.

Since signing a joint venture with Capitol Music Group and Motown in 2015, QC has also cultivated the platinum career of Lil Yachty, helped turn Lil Baby from a trap star to one of rap’s most prominent artists and developed the City Girls into multihyphenate celebrities. At the same time, Coach and P have broadened the company’s portfolio into music management, sports management and film.

This past February, Hybe America acquired Quality Control Holdings in a deal reported to be worth $320 million in a global partnership facilitated by music industry veteran Scooter Braun. P and Coach maintain control of the label in the deal. On the heels of the association, expansion is in the works. QC is building a large compound in Atlanta to house its label, marketing, branding, A&R, sports management and film divisions under one roof. An undertaking akin to what billionaire film mogul Tyler Perry has done in ATL. The motion doesn’t stop.

P and Coach are all business on a sunny September afternoon in the label’s discreet Quality Control Studio northwest of downtown Atlanta. P, late for the interview due to a prior engagement, juggles calls from three cell phones. Coach is calm and collected, but cutting it very close to catching an upcoming flight. Amid the calling industry and in honor of QC’s 10th anniversary, they discuss how they’ve remained relevant for a decade, producing some of the biggest names in the game, the loss of Takeoff, the label’s future after securing a major bag and more.

XXL: You’ve both spent a decade as one of the premier rap labels in hip-hop. How have you been able to maintain the relevance?

Coach K: I think we maintain our relevance because I think we never gave up artist development. We built Quality Control on the back of artist development. I think that’s what’s still missing that needs to come back to the game. It’s super oversaturated.

Obviously, you guys make a great duo. Coach, what would you say is P’s biggest asset to the company?

Coach K: First, he’s loyal. And when he believes, he goes. Me, I’m a little bit more passive. I like to study a little bit. That’s what makes us.

The yin and the yang.

Coach K: The yin and the yang, man. He’s like, “Come on, Coach. We gotta move on this.” And I’ll sit back and kinda watch the whole thing from the back.

P: [Coach K’s] biggest asset [is] his eye for talent. Coach know how to identify talent. He a genius at that. He saw it in Lil Baby before I did. He said Baby should be an artist back in 2013, when we first started the label. Baby used to just come around and hang at the studio.

What did you all see in him?

Coach K: One of my talents was taking street artists and being able to tell their stories. I was just real with him. Baby was probably 17, 18. Damn near serving the whole city weed. All the artists. And he’s respected by all the OGs. He move like a OG and in general. I was like, “They telling your story, literally. Them boys in the studio right now telling your story. They just talking. They ain’t doing it.”

Ten years ago, was your plan to make the hottest label out? Or did it evolve into that?

Coach K: Oh, most definitely. I think we just getting started, too. When me and P started the label, that was our goal. But, you know, there were some artists that laid down the path that we watched and studied. When someone does something before you, you have the opportunity to study their wins and their losses. You study the wins, but, a lot of times, me,
I study the losses.

Some people think you get a few dope artists and have a successful label. But clearly, there’s a lot more to it than that. What does it take to run a successful label in 2023?

Coach K: In 2023, it’s different from when we started in 2013 because now, A&R is really heavily watching the stats. Ten years ago, you could name the rappers that was out. Ten years later, 2023, I don’t know if I’m wrong when I say this, but I think every Friday at the turn of a store, the DSPs, it’s something like 200,000, 300,000 songs come out. It’s a lot. So, you gotta be able to really strategize to cut through the noise.

Takeoff of the Migos was killed about a year ago. How has his death affected the label?

P: [Migos] was our first act. Takeoff been with us since the beginning. That definitely was the biggest loss that we ever took, personally. Takeoff was like a little brother to us. He wasn’t just our artist. He was like family. Especially back in those days. We built it on a family structure. So, Takeoff was family to us. Damn near had us in a sense where we was like, this the last straw... Nobody deserves to get killed. But out of all people, this was one of the most...

Coach K: Humble kids ever, man.

P: Humble and unproblematic people that you will ever meet in your life. That right there, nobody seen that coming.

Coach K: It affected us in a major way. It still affects us. It’s something we probably won’t ever get over.

What do you think Takeoff’s legacy is?

P: I think his legacy is gon’ be being a part of one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time, Migos. They definitely one of the most impactful hip-hop groups of the 50 years of hip-hop. They gon’ forever be remembered for one of the groups that brought this style and had a culture shock to what was going on. It’s really sad how all that ended.

The Migos’ Offset and Quavo were at odds since before Takeoff’s passing. They reunited during the 2023 BET Awards’ Takeoff tribute in June of this year. How did that make you guys feel?

P: That was great. It was a great moment. But we shouldn’t have to come together in death. It was a big moment. I was glad they did it.

Offset was also at odds with you guys at one point and had a lawsuit against you over ownership of music. He dropped that lawsuit as you all came to an agreement this past August, but before that, it got a bit ugly. What are your feelings on in-house situations like that going public?

P: I just feel like whatever go on in the house should stay in the house. I’m glad that situation is resolved. I wish him well. I hope he succeed in everything he does. Whether we have disagreements or whatever, I still appreciate his contributions to what he helped us build over here. I’m pretty sure he appreciates our contributions to the impact that we had helping him get to where he at in life.

What has it been like seeing Lil Yachty’s evolution?

P: Yachty is one of those artists that doesn’t have any boundaries. He went over there and did the rock-alternative album. He’s not scared to step outside that box. He always been like that. I feel like he’s about to go on a massive run if we do it right, collectively.

Is there any truth to this rumored Drake and Lil Baby album?

P: Ain’t no truth to that. Not that I heard of. [Lil Baby] ain’t mention it. Drake ain’t mention it. Just rumors that somebody made up.

Back in February, you signed a massive new deal with Hybe America. What more can you say about that?

Coach K: It’s a global partnership. From when we started 10 years ago has really changed, globally. Being in business with some folks’ fast-forward thinking, fast-forward moving to the place of where technology is going and where the business is going. A lot of the major labels, they still moving in kind of an old way. They moving forward, but it’s because how big and how they have to move they can’t really move swift. It’s very difficult.

Has anything changed as far as operations of the label?

P: No, we still operate how we been operating. Now, I feel like we have more resources and more funding than we ever had in our whole time of doing this, which is going to create better opportunities for us to provide more opportunities for the artists. We happy to have somebody that believe in us and wanna double down. We was able to take a deal that was structured that I never seen structured in the music business. We ain’t gon’ give the details, but we ain’t doing no dumb deals. It’s a smart deal that’s going to empower us to be great executives. Empower us to empower other artists.

How do you think things are going so far?

P: Ain’t nothing changed yet.

Coach K: We just getting started.

P: Deals of these magnitudes, it take time because it’s two systems that coming together. So, they learning our system. We learning their system. They giving us the support we need. We got a big headquarters. It’s gonna be the label, the management company, the A&R department. Not just a studio. I feel like, especially for the South, the entrepreneurs in the South, I feel like we had to hustle different. Everybody had to go to N.Y. or out to L.A. to do business. But all the talent was coming out the South.

Coach K: We kinda turned QC into an enterprise. We got film. We got sports. We got management. We got the label. S**t, we gon’ have a marketing company. We gon’ have a branding company. All that is gon’ sit inside our house. So, hey, that ain’t been really done.

When it’s all said and done, what do you want QC’s legacy to be remembered as?

P: That we was a Black company that came in this business with a lot of doors closed on us. And we overcame a lot of adversity and developed some of the biggest superstars of our time.

Do you still have the same hunger that you did in 2013?

P: Of course.

Even with all the success?

P: Of course. I’ma be honest. People tell me all the time, “Y’all did so much.” When you in it, you don’t really feel it. I’m blessed and fortunate enough to know that we done did some things. But, when you get around and you see some of the things that these other companies done accomplished and what they’re doing. Sometimes, I be looking at us like we ain’t even did nothing. Look at this company over here. This company worth $50 billion. We ain’t did nothing yet.

How has the relationship between the two of you changed over the years, if at all?

Coach K: It ain’t change, man. You know, you learn. We really just learned how to really run a successful business. In this business, you should always be learning. You never can say, I know it all. Me and P, we two guys that really, really study the game.

What’s the plan for the next 10 years?

P: To go even harder. The past 10 years, the business done changed in so many ways. We gon’ create some more stars. We gon’ maintain the stars that we have now. We gon’ maintain their stardom to go to the next level. We always challenging what we already have. It’s always more you can do. So, we gon’ continue to challenge them to become bigger and better than they ever been. We gon’ keep creating and keep being motivated to always do more. It don’t stop for us.

Coach K P Quality Control Music
Quality Control Music

Read Quality Control Music's Coach K and P discuss 10 years into the label's growth in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Latto and conversations with Killer MikeFlo Milli, DD OsamaMaiya The DonMonaleoMello BuckzzSexyy Red, BigXthaPlug, Scar Lip, plus more. Additionally, there's an exclusive interview with Fetty Wapin-depth stories on the popularity of sampling in hip-hop in 2023 and the state of hip-hop touring, and the best moments of hip-hop's year-long 50th anniversary celebration.

See Photos From Latto's XXL Magazine Winter 2023 Cover Story

More From HOT 99.1