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A 16-hour flight, a conversation with two gentlemen, a picture with Swae Lee

  • Published at 02:50 pm December 21st, 2019
music
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Unheard of and unseen, managers and assistants of popular artists almost never share the limelight they help create for the artists they manage. Aside from the rare flash-bang snaps on Swae Lee’s Instagram page, you would never know of Jacob Chavez or Amonte Potter, two men who pull rabbits out of hats on a regular basis for the artist they work for.

I was sitting in Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley terminal, casually reading a book near my flight departure gate, when I noticed a twinge of long blond dreadlocked hair flicker near my eye. I turned to look at what caught my eye. I thought I saw someone I recognized, and indeed it was. It wasn’t anyone I personally knew. It was someone I had seen multiple times on YouTube, billboards, and Instagram: Swae Lee. 

In America, his name needs no introduction. But for those who don’t know of him, you’ve certainly heard his song, “Unforgettable” (French Montana’s bouncy bop that took the world by storm). For me, seeing Swae Lee in person is a huge deal. As someone who also writes and records his own R&B songs, meeting a multiplatinum, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter represents the epitome of my own ambitions, so you can understand how seeing Swae in the flesh got me giddy.

So, what did I do? I went straight up to him and asked for a picture. Not the best idea, it turned out. His large 6’3” security guard with bulging muscles and intimidating tattoos told me that no pictures were allowed. I judged immediately that this won’t work. However, my luck was about to improve. On the way into the economy class, I did catch a glimpse of his entourage. This same entourage was seated in the same cabin as me on the Emirates flight. 

Right then and there, I knew that I had to conduct an interview with them, or at least one of them. Luckily, one man in Swae’s crew, Amonte Potter was seated only a few seats ahead of me and the seat next to him was empty. When the flight took off, I took my time to sit next to him and I asked him questions, a lot of them (it was a 16 hour flight, I would rather interview an entourage then watch reruns of Disney).

Amonte Potter is Swae Lee’s manager cum assistant. The things he told me that he had to arrange might surprise you. Like many of us, I was under the impression that in this ever increasing faked reality that is the social media page, stars flash images on Instagram as a ruse to hype up their stardom. As Amonte puts it, there are people who do that, but Swae isn’t one of them. What you see on Instagram is what you get. That means the cars, the girls, and the luxury is all real. Yes, even the $100,000 he dropped at Icebox, that was real. No show. And Amonte played his part in arranging them all. Amonte’s day to day jobs include anything from finding out where Swae’s next meal comes from to bringing and closing brand endorsements for his superstar. Pretty awesome job, right? You’d never think of Amonte as a businessman with his braids and long t-shirt, but don’t let the looks fool you, he is a true jack of all trades. 

After learning about his life with Swae, I wanted to know more. As Amonte opened up, he told me about his humble beginnings in Atlanta, Georgia and how we went to school to learn more about the music business. He didn’t initially have a calling for music but he was never going to pass up the opportunity to manage Swae Lee, and when the opportunity arrived, he took it with both hands. Amonte also happens to be Mike Will’s step brother. Don’t know Mike Will? Google him. He has credits with Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, and Gucci Mane. He’s a multiplatinum, Grammy award winning producer. Impressive right? Amonte agrees. In music, connections pay off and it was Mike Will’s passion that rubbed off on him. On Amonte’s Instagram page, you’ll see that he preaches “never block your blessings”. Indeed, those blessings will take him very far. 

When asked what he wants from his future, Amonte wasn’t shy to casually address his next few years. “I wanna be one of the great up and coming young A&Rs, the guy who sees talent a mile away before they blow.” He said that confidently, and judging by his esteemed position in Swae Lee’s crew, it will most likely happen. 

Most of all, Amonte was a gentleman. He was kind enough to listen to my music and also praise it for its vocal and lyrical quality. And for a guy who manages someone as massive as Swae Lee, I respect that he was humble enough to listen to a dude’s music he barely just met. 

Another one of Swae’s crew members I had the pleasure of meeting with was Jacob Chavez. Short regular hair, black regular t-shirt, and regular pants. Your typical regular guy; someone you could easily pass on the street. However, Jacob is anything but regular. He is Swae Lee’s tour manager and he has managed before for Mac Miller, G-Eazy, and also shadowed Drake’s tour manager. Yes, you heard that right. Drake The Almighty, The Almighty Drake. When it comes to touring pedigree, Jacob has the highest notches under his belt. 

Jacob is responsible for all things operational, from scheduling flights for Swae and his crew, to booking tours and venues, to scheduling studio sessions. According to Jacob, Swae’s work ethic is unparalleled. He continuously writes and records songs and Swae’s studio hours epitomize the workaholic night owl. From 12am to 9am  is when Swae recorded the night before he jumped on his Emirates flight, and Jacob and the rest of his team was there the whole time. Jacob constantly works to make Swae’s life easier on the road so that nobody on the team faces any roadblocks along the way. Jacob is the problem solver before the problem even happens and that is an achievement in and of itself.

When asked what was next for Jacob, he was sure of his answer. “I wanna stay with Swae and watch him grow.” It takes a lot for a person to say that, especially in the music industry where loyalty can be fleeting. However, for Jacob, it was Swae Lee’s humility and warmth that makes him stay. He sees Swae as a humble guy who came from nothing and someone who loves giving no-name artists and producers a chance to change their lives. He sees Swae Lee becoming a massive brand and this is driven by Swae’s humility and his love for his team. Jacob has all intentions to continue being a part of that. 

My biggest takeaway from this chance encounter was this. An artist’s manager and entourage don’t just merely enjoy the jet-setting luxury lifestyle. Underneath the glitz and the glamour is the work each crew member has to put in and just like any of our careers, work is still work, and these gentlemen on Swae Lee’s crew are putting in the longest hours and the hardest miles to keep the artist we love as the artist he is portrayed. 

To follow Amonte, check out his Instagram page, @montey_ede

To follow Jacob, check out his Instagram page, @jjac1988

Arneeb Mahbub (aka BABA NYZA) is currently an independent R&B singer-songwriter who also likes to write in his free time. He currently lives in Los Angeles and has released a few popular tracks on Spotify. His song “Rack Like Spice” generated over 400,000 thousand streams on Spotify. To follow Arneeb on Instagram visit his handle, @babanyza.