One of the powerhouse independent labels bringing you some of your favorite stars is NLess Entertainment. The label is co-founder by Marcus “Head” Howell, leading the careers of Moneybagg Yo, BIG30, Big Homiie G, producer Turn Me Up YC, and more.
Howell first launched the label in 2016, teaming with NBA legend Zach Randolph, bringing in Moneybagg Yo as the first artist 2016. From there, Bagg developed into the superstar that you know today, including the launch of his A Gangsta’s Pain album leading to the chart-topping singles “Time Today” and “Wockesha.”
With that success to his imprint, Howell expanded to add in rising artists Big 30, Big Homiie G, Dee Mula, Lonely Girl, Leebo, and Mud. Big 30 heights have pushed him into Billboard stardom as his King of Killbranch also made it to No. 13 on Billboard 200. Another signal of NLess being a powerhouse is the success of Turn Me Up YC and his sound corralling Hip-Hop as a score for rappers like Lil Baby, Lil Wayne, Roddy Ricch, Yo Gotti, Lil Durk, Moneybagg Yo, Pooh Shiesty and many more. Adding on to his production, YC also won the BMI Songwriter of the Year Award in 2022.
In an exclusive with The Source, Marcus “Head” Howell detailed starting NLess Entertainment, what he looks for in new artists and more.
The Source: What initially drew you into music?
Marcus “Head” Howell: To answer that in short, I was never drawn to music as a business perspective. However, I understand opportunity, and taking that opportunity has created the NLess Entertainment that you know today. A good friend of mine, a Memphis music legend, Larry Live introduced me to Moneybagg Yo at my used car lot in Memphis. He told me that he was the next biggest artist to come out of Memphis. A few days later, I had the chance to see Bagg open for Jeezy in Memphis, he rocked a sold-out crowd and the next day we were signing paperwork.
What should make NLess Entertainment a home for artists as opposed to other labels?
NLess Entertainment is a place where artists can be artists. We don’t hinder their creative process. We allow artists to make the music they enjoy making. We’re not trying to direct what they create. We enhance whatever it is that they want to do to the best of our ability and push to win at all costs.
What have you learned from having a hand in crafting the careers of Moneybagg Yo and Turn Me Up YC?
The work ethic and desire to win in an artist or producer has to match that of the label. Bagg’s work ethic is insane. He is in the studio 24/7. He’s thinking of his marketing, he’s sending ideas and is always trying to move the needle forward. YC would drive an hour-and-a-half away from home every day with a piano, and a set of speakers and make the most incredible music. Every day for close to two years he made this drive. That desire and will to win paired with an aggressive campaign by the label to keep him in the room, make him a part of every conversation. That is what catapulted TurnMeUpYC.
What characteristic in either an artist or a producer draws you to them?
In artists, I have to be able to feel the hunger. This is an uncomfortable game, there is always someone at every level trying to surpass you or knock you out of your spot. You have to stay hungry in order to win and to continue winning. Production is an ever-evolving aspect of this industry. Staying ahead of the curve and knowing what’s coming next, is something that I look for in our producers.
Throughout this year, what would you want people to take away from their interactions and exposure with NLess Entertainment?
I would want people to take notice that we are here. We are growing and developing in all aspects of the industry. We developed and ballooned the career of Big30. His debut mixtape – not album but mixtape – debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200. TurnMeUpYC crafted multi-platinum records, won the BMI Songwriter of the Year Award, and led the Rap Producers chart multiple weeks this year. We are working and moving full throttle towards becoming a powerful, indie force.
What visions do you have for your imprint in the forthcoming years?
I see tremendous growth. I see us churning out more and more stars in artistry and production. Also, making sure our staff has the tools to do their jobs, and the training to continue being effective in operating the arms and legs of this company. We are a people-centered label. Our people matter to us, and we display that in the trust and leverage that we give them in decision making.
An artist joining NLess Entertainment is a partnership, what do you want an artist to gain from being in business with you?
It’s important to me that the artist learns the business that we are in. I hold no secrets. I am an open book to every artist from the smallest to the largest. If there is something you want to know or learn, and I have the answer I’m going to give it to you. If we need to find that answer together, I will use all of my resources to do just that. NLess is going to work hard for you, we are going to exalt resources to ensure you win! I believe in fairness, and handling business in a simple, sound fashion.