Founded in 2012, while students at Georgia State University, a creative collective, Love Renaissance better known as LVRN are the team behind artists like D.R.A.M., 6LACK, Summer Walker, and Raury. All 12 members, the majority which are from Atlanta, (Justice Baiden, Sean Famoso, Carlon Ramong, Tunde Balogun, Junia Abaidoo, Raury, Jeremy Baiden, Gotti, Trevon Williams, Jimmy Ngyuen, Saint Louis, and Steven “Steve-O” Brown) are a formidable force. Sharing the common goal to serve inspiration through the art they make, LVRN have gone on to partner with Interscope and strategically work with Apple Music— it’s the latter that has propelled recognition for their stars.

Photo: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images North America

On April 20, 2017, Apple Music announced its new initiative to spotlight developing artists, Up Next. Every month, the program selects an up-and-coming star, who will be featured in an introductory documentary featured on Apple Music’s front page, an audio EP from a live session, an interview and live performance on Beats 1, and an appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden. In 2018, the second wave of the program instituted a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. It’s a stimulus package that will see Apple use “all of its resources to give their music visibility to new audiences.”

Photo: Apple Music

The program’s first artist, 6LACK, represented by LVRN, saw a massive boost from Apple’s backing and in turn, became one of the most recognizable names in hip-hop. A year before his Up Next debut, 6LACK had already caught the attention of Apple Music’s head of artist curation, Carl Chery. Chery, a former hip-hop journalist who has led artist curation at Apple since 2016, spearheaded works with Bryson Tiller and Chance The Rapper.

Chery was integral in bringing Interscope’s attention to 6LACK who ultimately signed him.

In a deep-dive on playlist curation by Buzzfeed, it was reported that 6lack’s manager and LVRN member, Sean Famoso, initially reached out to Chery to share two new songs posted that day to SoundCloud. Chery urged Famoso to release PRBLMS. Within days of arriving there, it was being played on Beats 1 radio.

In 2016, Chery told Billboard, that when he began working with the star, he “had absolutely no following.” But “within his first week, PRBLMS got a million streams.” Chery would go on to put the song on a playlist called “Mood” as the second song right after Rihanna’s Needed Me. Today, the influence of playlists on music fans, charts, and the exposure of artists has become a contentious argument in the industry. But this also means that finding yourself on a major playlist can drive more listens to a song than regular rotation on radio, except you don’t have to be signed to a major label to get it. So, without Chery championing 6LACK, would we know who he was?

Photo: Billboard

“I was thinking about this the other day,” Chery told Buzzfeed. “We often talk about being ‘on the pulse.’ But it’s different now; I’m getting to a point where I’m so far ahead of things that I’m actually able to shift them. Instead of reacting to what’s happening, I have a hand in shaping what’s happening.”

Apple Music and LVRN’s relationship has extended far beyond 6LACK’s Up Next initiation. Apple Music has continued to champion the Atlanta rapper, pushing his album and forthcoming singles. 6LACK is heavily featured across all of Apple Music’s major playlists, including The A-List: Hip-Hop, Hip-Hop Replay, and Hip-Hop Hits. Apple Music is believed to have about 21 million North American subscribers, out of some 45 million worldwide and gaining that kind of exposure through a strategic partnership is remarkably lucrative to LVRN.

Photo: Apple Music

Other LVRN artists would also come to be featured as part of Up Next. In January 2019, Summer Walker was announced to be part of the Up Next program. The R&B singer has been described as “the love child of Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse.” Before being confirmed for Up Next, Walker became an Apple Music R&B mainstay featured across multiple playlists since the release of her breakout single CPR in April 2018. Her debut album, Last Day of Summer has seen Walker’s star rise. Currently, she’s the #8 R&B artist worldwide across Apple Music, up 313% in the last three months.

Capitalizing on the power of curation and Apple’s front page is fruitful not only for the collective but the burgeoning artists LVRN is championing to become stars. The Atlanta force behind these musicians is determined to always find a way forward, whatever that may be.

“We really don’t f*** with excuses,” Junia Abaidoo told Forbes. “If you really want something to get done, you’ll figure it out.”

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Kish Lal

Kish Lal is a pop culture critic based in New York.

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