Last weekend, 300 Entertainment CEO Kevin Liles and 1/ST EXPERIENCE partnered to put together the first annual Preakness LIVE Culinary, Art & Music Festival. The immersive two-day Baltimore-based event featured some of the nation’s top chefs, musicians, and artists during Preakness 147.
Preakness is one of three horse racing competitions held at the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course in Charm City. There were over 60,000 guests during the two-day celebration. Preakness LIVE’s line-up boasted a bevy of talented artists from every genre. The exciting celebration of culture was headlined by 2022 Billboard Music Awards top rap female artist winner Megan Thee Stallion, Moneybagg Yo, Marshmello, D-Nice, the legendary Lauryn Hill, and more. Moreover, fans were also treated to an exceptional performance by Morgan State University’s Marching Band.
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While growing up in Baltimore, Liles even spent time at Morgan State University before dropping out to pursue music. Therefore, curating this experience in his hometown was extremely important for the longtime music executive, especially after having MSU be the first HBCU invited to perform at a Triple Crown event.
“To have one of the Super Bowls of horse racing in Baltimore invest in the city, bring the city’s soul out, is a blessing, man; I am so happy,” exclaimed Liles.
And despite recently losing one of the label’s rising stars in Lil Keed — who passed earlier this month — and the recent arrests of Young Thug and Gunna, Liles kept his head high about 300’s future during the celebration.
“Artists are human beings, too, and my goal is to humanize the business,” he said. “So when I talk about them and their projects, I want to celebrate and uplift them as humans. I am going through with the passing of Keed, and with Thug and Gunna locked up, it is a lot of work to do. So in the words of the great Kobe Bryant, ‘Job not finished!'”
Below, Billboard chatted with Kevin Liles to discuss his involvement with the first annual Preakness LIVE, his excitement surrounding Megan Thee Stallion’s forthcoming album, and her growth as an artist.
Many people do not know that you went to Morgan State University on a scholarship from NASA. What pushed you to make that jump into the music business?
I think early in high school, when I heard Run DMC’s “Sucker M.C’s,” I lost my mind. I didn’t know what it was, but something made me want to participate. I became an artist, someone stole my song, and I sold 100,000 copies, and they sold 18 million copies. So I had to sue them; it was a group called Milli Vanilli. I was dealing with that at 17 years old. From then on, I knew I didn’t want to be in the music business, but the business of music. If I focused on that, there was no way I wouldn’t learn from the best — so I interned at Def Jam. I did not make any money for the first two years, and then they hired me, and then six years later, I became the President/CEO. It’s all about that Baltimore hustle, you know?
With Meg Thee Stallion’s rise to prominence, how much does it mean to you to watch her star grow?
I was there from day one with Meg. Her mom looked at me when we signed the contract and asked if I would take care of her baby. Meg is like a daughter to me. To see your daughter do well means a lot. I just flew in from North Carolina; my daughter Kayla just graduated. So to see my other daughter doing well, and how she embraces culture, education, and the power of being a woman is impressive. Meg Thee Stallion is a superhero, and she truly stands for women’s rights. Her hotties are from all over the world, and they come in all shapes and sizes.
You brought Morgan State University’s marching band to perform here at Preakness 147. Why was it so important to you to spotlight young black talent in your hometown?
This is the first time an HBCU has performed at a Triple Crown. Then it being Morgan State? It just felt right. I was with Dr. Wilson [Morgan State’s band director], and we discussed how MSU provides more African-American engineers than any other institution. I had to make it happen.
Just imagine the experience that these kids and their parents will have because of this performance. God is good, man; it’s a blessing. I love Morgan State.
Your track record as a philanthropist is well-documented. Is there anything you have in the works right now that you would like to highlight?
One of the biggest things I focus on is education. The war on lyrics and also mass incarceration is significant to me. There is a problem with our system. I sit on boards and try to do what I can to fight for these issues. You cannot have success without responsibility. Therefore, I must do what I can to help. I have a lot of work to do.
300 Entertainment is one of the biggest powerhouses right now. Is there anything coming up soon that you can allude to let people know?
Well, we got a Meg Thee Stallion album coming. We just merged with Elektra Records, so I oversee both labels, and we have a Twenty One Pilots album that just dropped. I have a group from Baltimore called Turnstile that is so dope, and I am so excited about it. There is an album coming in June that I cannot tell you about just yet, but it is coming. There are a couple of other new artists that I have signed that we are excited about — so it is so much going on.