Interview: How One Harlem Dad Manages In The Music Industry

June 11, 2018

By Eartha Watts Hicks, Harlem World Magazine Editor-in-chief

I caught up with young music talent Youngtrell’s Earl Dean right before Father’s Day and his performance at Harlem Make Music Experience 2018 an event created by Harlem World Magazine Rhythm and Soul Radio on Thursday, June 21st 2018, at the Harlem School for the Arts (HSA).

Here’s the interview:

Eartha Watts Hicks: When did Youngtrell first show signs of talent?

Earl Dean: I first noticed when he was a year old. I was editing a music video for an independent artist. Youngtrell was sitting on the floor by the bed, watching Your Baby Can Read, for those of you who know about editing videos sometimes with the process you have to play different parts of the video over in order to sync the video with the vocals. From the position that I was sitting in there was a table blocking me from seeing his full body, the only way I could see him as if I lean forward and look down. I guess I repeated this process so much I noticed that every time that I would play this particular part of the song which was the chorus he would make a lot of noise but every time I would look at him he would just sit there as if nothing was going on with this blank look on his face staring at me. I caught myself stopping the video a few times just to look down under the table secretly to try to catch him I was very curious about the noise he was making at the time I wasn’t sure what he was doing.

So I decided to take my cell phone out and secretly record him. When I look back at the footage I was very surprised because he was actually singing the chorus of the song passionately (here’s an example). At that moment I said to myself this guy is going to be a star, so I shared the video with family and friends, and even laughed about it. In the back of my mind I started to look at him different from that day.

EWH: Who are his inspirations?

ED: From my point of view he’s always telling me that I’m his inspiration, I am always in the recording studio working and he’s always around me. He always tell me I’m going to be just like you when I grow up. I tell him all the time you’re going to be much greater than me because I’m going to teach you everything that I know and that’s what’s going to make you much greater – you just have to be humble enough to learn.

EWH: What is your advice for parents of children aspiring to stardom?

ED: I would tell them to let the child become who they are don’t force them, if they are truly interested in something at least help them become great at it even if it’s
something simple. Whatever business you are interested in pursuing learn it 200% even if it’s just a hobby become great at it. You would be amazed on how much something as little as that boost a kid confidence. Even if he or she is not interested in it later they will always be great at it.

EWH: How is he adapting to the attention?

ED: Very well, he’s becoming very much aware of everything that’s going on around him because I allow him to embrace it from his point of view. He looks at everything as a business but he’s also having fun at the same time as a kid.

EWH: What is the most amazing thing you have seen him do?

ED: That’s a good question, everything, perform in front of 3000 people in Mount Vernon at the Arts On 3rd Festival. Everything that he has accomplished takes a lot of courage, he started performing at the age of five and that alone is amazing to me.

EWH: How did you teach him the value of professionalism?

ED: I simply had a conversation with him, we did so many free shows in the beginning he just became a part of promotion and marketing. I sit with him and I go over all of the footage to critique what he could do better. But believe it or not we just always have artist development conversations.

EWH: What can audience expect from his performance?

ED: To be honest with you I am on pins and needles every time that he performs, the best way to answer that I think they would have to come out and see him perform to experience something special.

EWH: What is your background? Please, describe some of the ways your industry experience has served to benefit Youngtrell.

ED: Growing up in Harlem, New York, we’re used to go to every block party and house party. I became real popular for dancing when I was younger I started dancing when I was five. When I became a teenager I was pretty much known around the neighborhood as one of the best dancers and that popularity made me famous in my neighborhood.

I joined a group when I was young and we called ourselves Kids In Session. We performed at the the local neighborhood block party, but at the State Office Building performance is where I realized we were more than just a neighborhood R&B group. I learned at a young age to write and produce music as well as have the ability to put a group together and be a leader with the dream. I think dancing pretty much opened the door for me, it took me all over the world I was able to perform at big arenas with artists such as: Rob Base & Dj EZ Rock, Bobby Brown, Troop, Meant Condition, 2 live crew, Salt & Pepper, MC Hammer, DaLaSoul, Tony Toni Tone. NWA, Tone Loc. Will Smith, Karen White, and so many great other talents.

EWH: How well is he doing in school?

ED: His blossoming career affected relationships with his peers? He’s doing absolutely amazing in school, he’s passing all of his classes and he is absolutely aware of just how important school is. He understands that school is first. He also understands how to separate the two identities.

EWH: Do you plan to produce other child acts?

ED: In the beginning that was my idea, I thought that if I could create a catalog of music with his age bracket that would be something great to add to my catalog of music. To answer your question if I’m presented a situation I can execute the job.

EWH: Thank you.

ED: Thank you.

Eartha Watts Hicks is editor-in-chief of Harlem World Magazine, member of The Harlem Writers Guild, author of Love Changes, and publisher of Earthatone Books, including A Planner Is A Girl’s Best Friend.

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