Antonio “L.A.” Reid is a three-time Grammy Award-winning record executive, songwriter, and record producer. Reid is best known for co-founding LaFace Records with Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
He is the President and chief executive of Hitco Music Publishing, based in Atlanta and was the chairman and chief executive officer of Island Def Jam Music Group until 2011, when he signed up to appear as a judge on the 2011 U.S. version of The X Factor
L.A. Reid was kind enough to sit down for a Fox Q&A to discuss The X Factor. Everyone in attendance was buzzing with excitement and just had a good time.
Thank you, L.A. Reid and Fox Broadcasting Company. Enjoy!
Since Drew Ryniewicz says she’s a huge Justin Bieber fan and you’re friends with Justin, what has he said about Drew if anything since you said he’s been watching the show, and hopefully, we’ll see him perform on this season’s finale with Drew. That would be great.
Yes, that would be—well, that’s great. Now, see, you do great A&R, too, I see. The thing is, I love Drew. I have not spoken to Justin about Drew at all. I think she’s amazing. I think she’s really a contender here, a really competitive talent and Justin is a good sport and he takes it all in the right spirit. He doesn’t take it seriously when somebody says that they want to be better than him or beat him at what he does. He’s a good sport and he’s got a level head. He takes it all in fun.
Why do you think that each contestant that you pick has the potential to win?
Why do I think they have the potential to win? Well, I think that my guys are very unique. I think, as an example, Astro being a 15-year-old rapper who entered the competition doing original material, as far as I know, now I could be wrong, but I think that’s a very unique approach and it may be a first. So, I like his uniqueness. Phillip Lomax—for a guy to be 22 years old, and to have been so influenced by an era of Frank Sinatra and others, I find that pretty fascinating. So, I think he is a very unique guy and he has a great shot. Marcus Canty is just a great singer. All I can tell you is that Marcus is a great singer, and ultimately I’m moved by talent and I really love his talent. And, Chris Rene, who is arguably the most popular contestant in the competition, is just really special and also entered the competition with original material and has this style that’s somewhere between singing and rapping. He’s just a really special guy and a really lovable guy with an interesting voice and an interesting story. So, I feel really good about the contestants and the guys in my category.
Now, I will say that there were people in other categories that I loved equally and, some of them I wish I had, I have to tell you.
No, that I won’t tell you, but you’ll see as the show goes on. You’ll see. I am going to be pretty obvious because I don’t have a poker face, so if I like something, I react to it, and my reaction will tell the story.
I’m wondering in sort of comparing the show to American Idol and one of the talking points in your criticism or of your evaluation of the candidates is the $5 million prize. How much does that influence the final choices as you go through the talent and judge it?
First and foremost, Roy, it’s the talent. It’s about the talent and the uniqueness of the talent, and their reach and their appeal and their ability to deliver material and to try to show some range and some diversity. That’s the first and most important thing, right? Yes, we talk about the prize, the $5 million, because it’s a lot of money. It’s probably the most money anybody has ever won on a talent competition such as this, so, yes, we put emphasis on it, but for me, the most important emphasis is actually the talent itself.
I’m curious about your reaction to Brian Bradley, the young rapper. At times, you seem very enthusiastic about him and then at times, you wonder if he’s a novelty. Do you think he’s the real deal? Can he find an audience out there?
Well, we have to see, we really do have to see. He’s quite popular on YouTube and YouTube is a great indicator. He gets lots of hits. He’s probably a million-and-a-half hits or something like that. That’s nothing to sneeze at. So, he certainly has the ability to have popularity. But, again, we’ll do the best that we can. I really like him, by the way. I should say that even though I make comments that sort of go back and forth. Those are just me voicing my concerns. I would voice my concerns about a superstar. I voice my concerns to Mariah Carey about her life and her music, so me having concerns is not an indication that I don’t like or believe in a contestant or an artist, but ultimately, it’s going to be up to the public.
You’ve always had a real ear for mainstream music that’s popular and some of the other people have had that same kind of knack like Barry Gordy and Babyface. What you all have in common is you come from the Midwest. And so, I was wondering, is there anything about your Midwest upbringing, your Cincinnati upbringing that kind of shaped your taste in some way?
Yes, my taste was shaped largely because—that’s a very good point you know, and I wish I could take credit for it. I can’t in any fashion. I grew up in a household where there was a lot of music and my mother listened to music and my family enjoyed music and I listened to music from all genre’s and I think it helped me develop my taste, but I don’t know. I don’t quite know why, because Quincy Jones is from Seattle and he has amazing taste, too.
I always read that you got the L. A. name because you were wearing an LA Dodger’s t-shirt, but I never heard you say–
…heard you say, LA Lakers but it just wouldn’t be true, but I am a Laker fan, but go on.
Okay, why in Cincinnati were you wearing an LA Dodger’s shirt? Weren’t you a Reds fan?
Because the LA Dodgers were playing the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Now, I don’t know what year it was, but I was pretty young.
Out here in Buffalo, we were pretty shocked to see Caitlin Koch get cut. What in your estimation was the biggest surprise cut from your team or from any of the other teams?
There were a few surprises, but for the most part, I didn’t put a lot of emphasis on it. I didn’t really try to think other people’s categories through. I had my hands full with my guys and it was very tough for me, so, look, I like Caitlin a lot. There were others that I liked as well, but I don’t criticize the decisions that the other judges made. I don’t really criticize those decisions. I have my own taste and they have their taste and I’m now in the competition to win and to beat them, so I’m focusing more on my guys then I’m focusing on the decisions that they make.
Yes, obviously, in your position, you’ve given people approval and you’ve rejected musicians over the years, but for this particular process, how difficult was it to pare your team down to the final four?
It was tough, it was tough. What would have been simple is if I could have had five. If I was Simon and I could have five, it would have been a little more, a little simpler. But, I’m not Simon, and I can only have four and that’s what made it tough because there were actually five that I really liked.
As far as the show and how everything is going and your expectations, is this … or just like is it going as well as you thought it would be or is it’s been making it?
It’s going amazingly well. I’m having a great time. I’m really enjoying the contestants. I’m really enjoying the judges. I’m really enjoying the time I spent with Simon, learning a lot, having a great time and yes, it’s everything I hoped that it would be.
I see that you really believe in the contestants that are out there and you’re very driven with what you do, and as far as everything goes, I know you don’t want to tell who you want to win, but I’m still curious to know.
Who’s going to—I don’t know who’s going to win. I wish I knew who’s going to win. I have no idea. We have 17 contestants, 17, right and we are long ways from knowing who’s going to win. Seventeen may sound like a small number, but that’s a lot of people and a lot of opportunities and a lot of performances and a lot of decisions, and it’s going to be really tough. I just hope that it comes out of my category whoever wins.
The X Factor airs on Fox.