Where would the music industry be without Black women? Thankfully, that’s a question we’ll never have to answer, because Black women, both in front of the mic and in the C-suites, have made—and continue to make—significant creative contributions to the culture.
Yet like Black women in so many professions, these power players are often subject to harsh criticism, forcing them to work twice as hard to achieve the same degree of recognition and respect as their male counterparts in the industry at large. But as we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop, their influence is undeniable. As they carry forward the torch originally lit by the Black women who pushed open doors before them, they make the wins look almost easy. Meet two music execs who are the masterminds and marketers behind some of the biggest artists of our generation.
Baroline Diaz, Founder and Chairwoman, Great Day Records
Baroline Diaz is a living testament to the phrase, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” If there’s one thing Diaz is going to do, it’s hustle—and the 28-year-old has a résumé to prove it. As the founder and chairwoman of the newly launched Great Day Records, Diaz has cemented her place in history by creating an empowering space for the next generation of musical talent. Prior to Great Day, she served as vice president of A&R at Interscope Records and as manager to rising star Babyface Ray. She also oversaw the promotional careers of DaBaby and Moneybagg Yo.
“I’ve been passionate about music since I can remember,” says Diaz. “I’ve always been in love with hip-hop and how it makes people feel. Not just hip-hop, but music in general. I love operating behind the scenes, seeing what’s coming next from an artist. Artists are pushing the culture forward and creating the soundtracks of people’s lives. I want my company, and the artists I sign, to make people feel good. My ultimate goal is to help find and guide the next generation of superstars.”
Diaz has come a long way from where she started out in the business, serving coffee and taking phone calls. These days the New York native is calling the shots and embracing everything that the future has to offer. “I feel like amazing things are coming my way,” she says. “I’m not in a rush to get ‘the hottest thing’ right now. I’m cool with taking my time and building a company that’s going to have the superstars moving forward—which means getting back to real artist development, and teaching and guiding artists to find their true selves in their music, to create the best music possible.”
Jenifer Smith, Head of Urban Tour Marketing, U.S. Concerts, at Live Nation Entertainment
This year, we saw some of our favorite -artists headlining massive stadium events that broke the Internet. We can thank Jenifer Smith for that. She works with the top-tier of talent in hip-hop, rap and R&B, helping artists connect with their growing global fan base. Smith also helped launch tours for Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, H.E.R., Snoh Aalegra, Lil Baby, Jazmine Sullivan, Alicia Keys, Jack Harlow and many other artists.
“Music is the universal currency we all use,” Smith says. “It can shine a light on your darkest moment and magnify your brightest one. We have so many hard times nowadays. If I can contribute to some group therapy, I’m gonna do it! Mass shootings, racism, the attack on women’s rights—there are so many mediums and messages that divide us. But music, specifically good music, brings us together. Putting together some of this year’s biggest tours, I get to soothe everyone’s hardships for a few hours. A great festival, tour or concert helps you focus on those bright moments and curate those special memories.”
Motivated by an unwavering desire to create a safe space for artists to connect with their fans, Smith spent over a decade doing tour marketing for ICM Partners, AEG Presents and Goldenvoice prior to joining Live Nation. Her best advice for Black women trying to make their way up in the industry? “Be resourceful, be humble and be a good person overall, with tenacity and a good work ethic.”
The story first appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of ESSENCE Magazine.