Red Stripe beer and music/entertainment technology firm SUM Entertainment are the principals behind Ignite Urban. The new digital A&R platform is the latest entry in the talent competition ranks, giving pop, R&B/hip-hop and reggae artists the opportunity to win a recording contract and work with one of three top producers.
Signing on as Ignite Urban's artist ambassador is rapper/songwriter Nelly. "Ignite Urban is a great platform for young, aspiring artists to get into the game," said Nelly in a statement to Billboard. "I'm excited to help mentor future artists."
Also among the artists, songwriters, producers and executives providing professional insight and guidance throughout the competition are Run-D.M.C.'s Darryl McDaniels, songwriter/producer Daryl Simmons, Tony! Toni! Toné!'s Dwayne Wiggins, Johnny Gill, Midnight Star and Beenie Man. Contestants will get the chance as well to perform at Red Stripe-sponsored concerts and local "I Do Music" events produced by Ignite Urban and Atlanta's Patchwerk Recording Studios.
The top 10 finalists who emerge after completing a range of skill-determining challenges will travel to Los Angeles. Once there, they will each produce a music video for an original song in collaboration with an Ignite Urban mentor and top students from Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in nearby Orange, Calif. Following the finalists' performance at a live finale concert, the grand prize winner will be announced.
The winner will receive a recording contract for a single from Block Entertainment Worldwide, co-founded by Russell "Block" Spencer, and the choice to work with one of three high-profile producers. That trio includes Elvis "Blac Elvis" Williams (Beyoncé, Ciara, Fergie), Zaytoven (Migos, Future, Usher) and Jasper Cameron (Tinashe, Christina Aguilera, Nelly).
Helming the judges panel are Dina Marto, owner/operator of Atlanta's Twelve Studios and former Def Jam A&R coordinator; Kawan "KP" Prather, director of music for Pharrell Williams' I Am Other label and veteran A&R executive (LaFace, Sony Music); Issy Sanchez, founder/president of marketing/promotion firm Elite Music Group and English music producer Gary Miller (David Bowie, Lionel Richie, George Michael).
SUM Entertainment, founded by CEO Ron Berryman, plans to launch additional genre-specific national talent scouting competitions this year, including country, Latin, contemporary Christian and comedy. Ignite Urban is current accepting artist submissions through April 28. For more information, visit IgniteUrban.com.