While the 1990s may be hailed as the "golden age" of Detroit's hip-hop scene, these three women are tenaciously blazing their own trails today. Rather than taking center stage, they are behind the scenes managing clubs, artists, and careers in the industry. Meet the new faces driving Motor City's hip-hop revival.
“There wasn’t a Motown Records to go knock on the door of and ask, ‘hey, we have this record that's doing good on the radio, can we get a single deal?’ There wasn’t any of that back then,” says Chanel Domonique, owner of CDM Management.
Since 2010, Domonique has been at the forefront of fighting for exposure and opportunities for Detroit’s hip-hop community. She’s a 2006 graduate of Saginaw Valley State University and got her start in the entertainment business as a side hustle while working as business sales account executive for Verizon.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the entertainment business,” she says. "I started off throwing parties and events on the weekends."
As her parties grew in notoriety, so did her reputation. Late in 2010, rapper Fenkell Ceno asked her, via Twitter, to be his manager. Domonique didn’t have any experience but she knew immediately it was a challenge she was willing to accept. Within two years she was managing rappers Peezy and Icewear Vezzo as well.
“This was at a time where everybody wanted to be a rapper but there was literally no industry here. I was creating marketing plans and listening sessions for no damn reason,” she says.
Detroit’s hip-hop scene was, however, in the early stages of a significant shift. Hip-hop stars at the time like Royce da 5’9, Eminem, and Big Sean were still Detroit mainstays but Domonique was trying to usher in a new wave of emcees with their own sound.
“They had to understand that they’re not just from the street and they’re able to give you radio music," she says. "Those early stages was about learning how to get an artist in rotation, getting them on bigger stages like Summer Jam."
Dominique didn’t just stop at radio, she used her corporate knowledge to approach businesses, big and small.
“Whenever a corporation would come out here to Detroit trying to do something, my goal was to make sure my clients got in front of them."
Hip-hop artist Icewear Vezzo on stage at Red Bull Soundclash.
As the responsibilities and complexities of navigating the careers of multiple artists started to mount, Domonique narrowed down her roster to just Icewear Vezzo. The hard work paid off as Icewear evolved and in 2018 he looked like securing a record deal with Motown Records. When that deal fizzled, he signed another with Quality Control Music in 2022.
Domonique's journey has been full of naysayers. Some peers questioned her decision-making and others called her “pushy”.
“I would hear a lot of, ‘she ain’t gonna’ make it’ or ‘I can do that better’," she says. "There was a lot of that."
These days she owns her own snack food company, We Eatin, and her focus is not just on artist management but using her experience to be a bridge between artists and the music industry. She plans to help artists get from ground zero to being “record label ready.” She also encourages all women to understand and maintain the value of their time and accomplishments when in the artist management field.
“Make sure you have equity in whatever you do. A lot of women get in the game and they’re just in it without understanding the equity part," she says. "But when it's something that you’re building for your legacy, something that's a piece of your real power, that is what you want to push for. You want to be able to say, ‘I worked on this, if I walk away from it or if it grows even bigger I'm still benefiting’.”
Active mindz, Chanel Domonique, and AFLN will be hosting 313-Day Weekend at multiple venues offering entrepreneurs workshops to further their business, and a grand finale concert highlighting Detroit’s top talent at The Fillmore 2115 Woodward Ave., March 11 - 13.
Darylynn ‘DeDe’ Mumphord
“I’m more determined when you tell me I can’t do it,” says Darylynn Mumphord, owner of The Dream Agency. "It’s just about having to prove your worth. That's a big challenge because people don’t believe in you when you’re new."
In 2016 a good friend of Mumphord asked her to manage his ascending hip-hop career. Mumphord had never managed anyone before but she wasn’t a stranger to the local hip-hop scene. At the time she was running her Dream Rich clothing brand but also working behind the scenes, booking interviews, and uploading songs for rappers Babyface Ray, GT, and several others. She even wrote and published her own memoir “Inspirations from a D-Girl” in 2019.
“I already had a love for music. When I was younger I used to sing," she says. "My friend was like, ‘'you have all these relationships so let's try it out’ and I just did it."
The leap of faith proved to be beneficial for Mumphord. She went through all the ups and downs that come with being new to artist management, and she appreciates the crash course.
“Adjusting to others' criticism was tough,” she says. "That was probably the hardest part for me. I was already in fashion but jumping into music there was a lot of learning and some people don’t want to teach you."
Baby Money performs at Red Bull Soundclash.
As her career progressed, she picked up rapper Baby Money as a client in 2021. Baby Money had been on Detroit’s rap scene for a few years and had gained popularity. Mumphord set out to enhance his already growing star power.
“We were already friends. I just started teaching him how to make his money. We just had our own little bond when I met him and things just went from there,” she says.
The duo saw success last year, when Baby Money signed a record deal with Quality Control Music. Mumphord has since started the Dream Agency to help other aspiring artists and entrepreneurs.
“I started the Dream Agency to help artists before they even get a manager,” she says. "To help them promote themselves a little better. Baby Money is my main priority. Making him a star is the goal for me. But I started the agency to help artists get their stuff in order basically before they get a manager."
"It's about building content, and learning the business so they won't get scammed."
Mumphord encourages all young women to pursue careers in artist management but to proceed with equal parts ferocity and caution. She also preaches loyalty to the hip-hop artists that have women managers, arguing that the music business is built on relationships and none are more important than an artist and their manager.
“Be organized, have faith, stand your ground, don’t be scared, and don’t take no for an answer."
"I also want to tell all young artists to protect their women managers that are working behind the scenes. If y'all are working on something, don’t go back and change it later. I think the main challenge is having an artist that has your back,” says Mumphord.
Darylynn Mumphord will be hosting the Dream Rich Annual Fashion show at 2000 Brooklyn Detroit, MI 48226 on March 26, 6pm - 7pm.
Lauren ‘Lo’ McGrier
“I always felt like I knew I didn’t want to have a day-to-day job,” says Lauren McGrier, general manager of the El Club and owner of Connect with Lo. "When I saw my vision I always saw crowds and lights. I knew I wanted to do something in entertainment."
Lauren McGrier knew when he was a freshman at Michigan Started University she wanted to be in the entertainment business.
“Originally I went to school to be a doctor, a lot of my family are nurses, in the medical profession and I thought that was the way,” she says.
Although McGrier did graduate with a bachelor's degree in advertising, she never pursued the field and found her way into artist management via APX Management. There, she assisted a managing team that oversaw the careers of grammy nominated songwriters Earlly Mac and SupaKaine. She currently still manages Lana LaDonna but she doesn’t feel like she’s made a real impact in the artist management game just yet.
“I’m not fully there yet, well at least I don’t feel like I’m there yet. I’m preparing to get there,” she admits.
What McGrier has done, however, is made herself a prominent figure in Detroit’s hip-hop community. Between her “Twerk X Tequila” party series, which has become a nationwide phenomenon, and stepping into the role of general manager of the El Club in 2021, she's well-known in music circles.
She sees El Club as a way of keeping hip-hop talent prominent in Detroit, particularly after Live Nation bought Saint Andrews Hall in the early 2000s and much of the community felt bereft.
"I think our first low-key event was Trick Trick,” she says. "We work with a lot of local hip-hop artists. If somebody is doing a tour and they ask us for a local act, we always vouch for a Detroit artist."
“We are aware that there are no other places to highlight what we have here,” she says. “I feel like we are the space that welcomes everybody. We try to work out the best deal for everybody to make sure you can come through our doors and that's something I’ve advocated since I've been there. We are community-based,” she says.
McGrier is adamant about making sure she’s acknowledged and respected when conducting business, and advises other women looking to make it in the entertainment business to do the same.
“When I came in 10 years ago the only other woman I knew in this business was Chanel. And now you see more women in management," she says. "Don't feel like it's not a space for you, because there is. You deserve to be in that room just as much as that other person because you can do this job. And you don’t have to let anyone manipulate you, belittle you, you don't have to take any of that.”
McGrier’s signature series, “Twerk X Tequila” will be announcing new tour dates and a new merchandise line in March.