Here is a typical story from the chapters of the improbable career of Karen Civil: Its 2012, the 27 year old has just accepted a position at Beats By Dre, and Lil Wayne walks into the MTV Awards wearing Beats headphones listening to his soon-to-drop album, The Carter IV. That month, the company’s Facebook followers jumps up by 1 million, thanks in large part to a long-standing relationship between Civil, Wayne, and Young Money Records. A very natural process, indeed, unlike her career. And today, though she may not have traditional marketing experience, she is once again in full charge of an estate’s online value  – her own.

Karen Civil levitated from radio intern to music industry sensation. Despite representing some of the most known names in the music industry with a resume that includes Young Money, Mary J Blige, Beats By Dre and now Nipsey Hussle – Karen will tell you herself that a career in the music business didn’t seem likely to anyone but her. More importantly, however, the way she would learn the value of e-commerce businesses and internet driven campaigns, skills she would soon use to propel some of the biggest names to new markets. When Civil still called Elizabeth, NJ home, and the internet was still considered new, she found refuge behind a computer screen creating fan sites for some of her favorite artists, like The Backstreet Boys.

 

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With ambitions of being a radio queen, she emailed Angie Martinez in hopes of an apprenticeship. After not qualifying for the final round, she instead took an internshiop spot under Funk Flex. And like Flex, who learned the business and gained opportunities as a young DJ running town with DJ Chuck Chillout, Civil opened for herself opportunities that would eventually build life long relationships.

 

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From tying Lil Wayne to fans throughout his incarceration with weezythanxyou.com to linking New Era with Dipset – Civil is a connector in a male dominated field narrating a story for everyone that is inspiring. From watching opportunities go from 0-100, to then seeing them dissipate in burning flames, Civil is making sure to make her own lane.

Her websites Karencivil.com and livingcivil.com are visited by approximately six million people each week , and she tweets to 247,000 to date. Outside of her YouTube interviews, Civil is essentially a voice. One of the strongest out there. Whether it’s breaking Nicki Minaj‘s career on her website or providing information on Dre Beats, when she recommends a subject people listen. When asked how her life is today, and how she balances personal affairs from the grind she responds, “my life is the grind,” and the more successful she is, the stronger she feels about her commitment to culture.

 

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Quiet, assertive, and patient Civil sits in a studio in Miami as we go back-and-forth on her recent Oprah comparisons from different publications. It is now July 2014 on a phone conference and she’s preparing for a Nipsey Hussle interview she is managing following our thirty minutes. Not only does Civil manage the rapper, but is now running her Always Civil Enterprise company, with signed clients as Mary J Blige, Young Jeezy & Beats By Dre. After sharing hometown stories, she is adamant on making sure that I write only truth. As she breaks through into the next phase of her career , the young marketing mogul is concerned with only her business; family; making sure that her clients are pleased; and providing inspiration to young women.
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1) Engaging people and pointing them towards brand awareness for products and artists you represent is your specialty. What do brands need in order to spark other entities’ interests, like yourself, to want to work with them.
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A.  Its all about having a connection with the culture. The best companies work with the right people. People that follow me are really relating to either this or that. It’s who you know your connecting to, and making it organic as possible.
2) It seems the independent route is the only route for artists today; they don’t want to compromise their brands. What is key for young aspiring artists out there trying to get their product recognized?
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A. You dont have to stay independent. Understanding who you are, as long as you don’t step over a dollar to pickup a nickel, is most important. We live in a society, were I call it the fast food mentality. Things come so quick, and we simply consume it without knowing what was last, or next. sometimes you need to tell yourself.  ‘im gonna pass this up to wait for something bigger and better.’ its ok to pass up to wait for something else to fall in place.
3.) Independent artists Like Macklemore and Riff Raff today have blurred the lines of hip-hop stereotypes –  What artists in your opinion are changing the game, today?
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A. Nipsey is def doing his thing especially with his most recent #Crenshaw $100 release. Pharrell will also continue to be an incredible artist who can go from singing “Happy” to then go sing “Move That Dope.” 
4.) Oprah drew people to topics, and gave out products. You represent the product and create the discussion. What do you say to those who make the Oprah comparison?
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A. I’m not gonna lie… those are hard shoes to fill.  When you think Oprah you dont think pretty, or vanity. You think Oprah. One woman who is powerful and who does it all. No boundaries. So, yes – it is humbling, and empowering, because I don’t want to be seen as a women or for my looks first. I want to be “shes living her purpose and she’s getting it done.” My works and passion for it is what you continue to see first.
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5) You’ve broken boundaries along with the companies you’ve worked with.  Your resume includes working with Dipset, Young Money, and now Dr. Dre’s Beats. What do you think was the internets role in making deals like Beats by Dre and Apple possible?
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A. Beats has a way of staying connected to the culture and that goes by the people that work for the company. They have only the best. People who are in lifestyle, and who are fully connected and invested in music, entertainment and just everything in between. it goes into the hiring process and who you have in your company. you need to make sure everyone’s an all-star in their own way. Beats made sure they created a team that featured  the Michael Jordan’s, to  kobe Bryant’s of marketing to all play on the same floor. The internet was just the tool.
6.)  Youve become a source for developing relationships that have made you a credible voice of opinion. Now, with your Living Civil website, your shedding light on topics that also benefit a mentality to go with the lifestyle. What do you want young men and woman to benefit from your overall message?
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A. Finding inner strength. Living your purpose. Making the first step isn’t easy. We try to fit in the mold society forces upon us, but if you love it – whatever it is that you want to do –  dig in your heart to find how to do it. Then take the next step to moving towards that goal.
7.) How important are collaborations in hiphop and business overall?
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A. Very important. something that goes hand in hand, showing companies to different markets. Putting them in an innovative demographics. It helps you reach fanbases that at one point were probably unreachable.
8.) Can you give an example?
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A.)  Its just something that happens when you put two artist together; especially when its something expected. you didn’t look for kanye and coldplay. Urban america wasn’t playing cold play before Jayz – but they are now. its just adds a new audience.
9.) When it comes to marketing….what do you think about Kanye West?
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A. see the thing about kanye is… he goes off on the very things that has help create his wives empire. so its, “i dont want any this or that,” but then his music ends up in a commercial. We have come to terms that Kanye is Kanye… Passionate person that doesn’t fit the norm mold. Respect to him
10) With album sales declining and Jay Z’s Samsung deal setting the tone for the next millennium, where do you see corporate companies standing in the music business today? Are they the new labels in regards to artists promotion?
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What the Samsung deal did was open our eyes. We weren’t aware of such deals before; but many companies have delved into the music business and have labels. Red Bull has a label, and Mountain Dew has one. We can literally be in partnership with anyone, and that means more opportunities. And thats always great.
11)  Youve called yourself an anti-social person in a social world. What do you have to say to those young woman looking for their own voice?
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A. Remember its our voice. It’s what you think will suit you. What you think makes you happy! Too often when we are searching , we are looking for what our counterparts or what celebrities are doing, as opposed to looking at ourselves. When you see “Karen” – there is no, oh there goes this influence, or there goes that.” Its just Karen.
12) Lastly, give your 18 year-old self words of advice.
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A. Stay away from the people who continually live in your past and don’t let you grow. As we grow, there will be people who wont allow you to change. As you figure out the place you wanna be in life, we’re gonna make mistakes, and noone should hold that against us as we navigate in life. no-one should be dictating our lives.
As Karen breaks through into a new phase of her career, so does The Source, and in keeping the tradition strong – you can find Civil at at our SOURCE360 Expo taking place this September 19th through the 21st as one of our panel participants. Join us as we celebrate culture with one of the minds who helps influence it. Get your tickets here.
Tis all, folks.
– Hurtjohn (@mr_Hurtado_)