[With a record label legacy to his name with releases from Capone-N-Noreaga to Lord Finesse, Penalty Ent. head Neil Levine talks to SOHH about the misconception of the company only catering to New York acts.]

I like lyricists but when I was at Jive, I signed Travis Porter. I was in business with Lil Jon at TVT, so I get it. With a lot of the Southern acts, it’s not necessarily about the lyrics, it’s about a vibe, a feel, having a good time. I like to party, too.

I’m into that sh*t too. I like real lyricists but I like records that work in clubs. My only issue with some of the stuff that’s coming out is some of the artists are being defined by a hot song instead of building their brands and then coming up with a hot song.

I signed [GS Boyz] but they were defined for “Stanky Lgeg” and it’s hard to come out of that. I like all kinds of music. I do want to have some Southern acts on the label and I get the value of that and music is cultural.

We’re a New York company but we don’t want to necessarily be defined by a New York sound. We’re here. We’re in New York but we’re open to all types of music.

I’m always streaming radio from all over the country to see what’s going on. As an A&R and especially if you’ve been doing this for awhile, you can think, “This worked for me before, so I can do it again.” It’s hard to kind of stay in front of it and spot trends before those trends emerge. That’s the hard part.

That’s why it’s important to have a team around me. I can’t [always be available] to go to the clubs in Atlanta, so I’ve always tried to have good relationships because they define me and define the company.

I have a lot of people out there telling me what’s hot. It’s all hip-hop in a sense. It may have started in New York but it has grown.

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