By Musa Jackson
Photos: Courtney Douglas / Musa Jackson Management
The stunning music industry veteran Angelique Miles’ life reads like a juicy novel. She sits down for a Q& A with the Harlem Ambassador Musa Jackson to talk about ‘90s Hip Hop superstars, high profile marriage, surviving a personal financial crisis, and how Harlem and staying fit gave her life an exciting new chapter.
MJ: Where are you from?
AM: I’m from Laurelton, Queens, New York City. I am a lifelong, native New Yorker.
MJ: What kind of music was this Queens girl into?
AM: I have always loved music. I attribute some of that to my youngest uncle. He had a huge record collection that included Earth, Wind & Fire, Maze, Roy Ayers, and Parliament (they were not called Funkadelic yet). I remember I loved the song, Boogie Nights by Heatwave. I would listen to the radio all day just to hear that song until my mother finally bought me the album, Too Hot To Handle. Another one of my father’s brothers, my uncle who lived in DC, also had a huge record collection. When I would go down there to visit, I would take over the stereo in his room. He introduced me to R&B classics such as LaBelle’s Going Down To The River, and Average White Band’s A Love Of Your Own. Other music influences and standouts for me were Aretha Franklin’s“Day Dreaming” which my mother always had on repeat, a lot of the music legendary NYC DJ Frankie Crocker played during his show, and I am old enough to remember the birth of Hip Hop and all the park jams you had to go to if you wanted to hear it.
MJ: Tell me about your career trajectory.
AM: Almost immediately after I left Hampton University, I worked in the financial district at the now defunct Shearson Lehman Hutton in mutual fund sales on the 102nd floor of 2 World Trade Center. I hated it. I was self aware enough to know that the finance world was not for me. I was only 21 years old, I was living with my parents, no real obligations or responsibilities, so I quit. I decided to temp until I could figure out what I wanted to do, and was sent to Capitol Records A&R Department, which was in the same building as EMI Records. The woman across from me informed me there was an A& R Assistant position available upstairs at EMI. She said, ”Give me your resume and I will forward it to Dwayne Alexander”, who was an A&R Director there at the time. To make a long story short, I got the job and spent the next 20 years of my life working in the music industry.
MJ: So it’s 1990 and you’re an A& R Assistant at EMI Records. Hip Hop was coming into its own. So what was that like?
AM: Electrifying. Almost every artist had an album release party in those days. For a young person just getting into the music industry like me, it was always exciting to meet some of the artists I had always admired. A Tribe Called Quest, Chubb Rock, The DOC were a few of my favorite artists at the time. Also during this time I had moved from parents’ house in Queens to my own place in Brooklyn, and met my son’s father. As things always go in that industry, my boss was let go, so that meant I was let go also. During my pregnancy I worked as an A&R assistant at MC Hammer’s (who was a multiplatinum artist at the time) label, Bust It Records. Soon after I had my son, I worked as an A&R Assistant to my dear friend Paris Davis at Epic Records, who signed Groove Theory and would later famously hire Rodney Jerkins to produce Brandy. I had also become friendly with Vivian Scott (later Chew), who was also an A&R Director at the label. One day when I was having issues with my son’s father. Vivian, who was also a single mother, told me that I needed my own job so that I wouldn’t have to depend on my son’s father for anything. Jocelyn Cooper just so happened to be leaving Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, so Vivian connected me with Rachelle Fields, the head of urban music at the time. As fate would have it, Rachelle was also a single mother, so we immediately connected, and I got the job. The rest is Music Publishing history! (laughs)
MJ: You had one of those fabulous high profile weddings and marriages. What was that like?
AM: I had a beautiful, dream wedding at the Four Seasons Nevis. It was covered in Ebony, Essence and the New York Times. My ex-husband and I are still friendly, and I have only good things to say about him.
MJ; Who were some of your most significant signings?
AM: I signed Timbaland and Missy Elliott to their first publishing deals. Timbaland played one song for me, Pony (Ginuwine), and I signed him immediately. Missy already had a few songwriting credits (702 & Gina Thompson), but had yet to sign her deal with Elektra Records. After I signed them, Aaliyah’s One In A Million album dropped, and Missy signed her record deal. Needless to say, those two deals were very successful. I also signed Terri Robinson, who co-wrote hits for Total (Can’t You See), Soul 4 Real (Candy Rain, Every Little Thing I Do) and a bunch of other hits. Other significant signings were Busta Rhymes, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killa, Anthony Hamilton, Junior M.A.F.I.A. (which included Lil’ Kim) and a host of other award winning, talented songwriters. Too many to name them all. (Laughs). I did a lot, but I loved it, so it almost didn’t feel like work to me. Looking back, so many things came easily to me.
MJ; So how did your life change after that?
AM: My circle changed. I met my ex-husband. I traveled a lot. Working in music publishing was a lot different than working at a label back then. It was a bit more exclusive, I think. I was given the famous songwriter Sammy Cahn’s (Let It Snow, Let It Snow) office soon after he passed away when I started at Warner/Chappell. I had always been well-versed in R&B and Hip Hop Music, but working at a publishing company like Warner/Chappell introduced me to songwriters from all different genres of music: Broadway, country, pop…everything. As a company we attended a ton of awards and fundrasing events: Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame, Songwriters Hall Of Fame, TJ Martell dinners, etc, which is another world unto itself as well. It was an exciting time for me, especially being so young. It was a wave I rode for a long time, and frankly took for granted.
MJ: So what happened? How did it all end?
AM: The country started to slip into the recession. iTunes and iPods had really taken off, so CDs weren’t selling like they used to, so without getting into too much detail, I was laid off. I had been laid off before, but that was just part of the business. I never worried about landing another job, but times had changed, the business had completely changed, and there were just no jobs in my field available at the time. I managed a successful songwriter/producer for a while, and did other independent things, but my income changed drastically. Under my contract I was still paid full salary for a year after I was let go, and I did all the wrong things: I went and bought another car – an expensive one. I renovated my kitchen. I didn’t prepare for the worst, and knowing what I know now, it’s not a matter of if the worst is coming, it’s when. I had saved some, but not nearly as much as I should have. When I got my last check, could not find a job, and realized there was nothing significant enough coming in to maintain my lifestyle, I was literally sick. Everything came to a head: my car was repossessed, the bank was threatening to foreclose on my house. It was a very trying and dark period in my life. By God’s grace and mercy, I was able to sell my house, and to walk away with zero debt. Looking back, it was a blessing to get out of the house – it began to feel like a coffin. It was so stressful trying to keep it all together, and I failed miserably at trying to do so. It was a very, very rough time. I lost everything financially. People who I thought were close friends disappeared and/or didn’t return my calls. People whose lives were changed because of deals I did with them moved on to the next person who could write a check (laughs). Now I realize it is a blessing to see people for who they really are and what they really think of me without the money and the “stuff”.
MJ: So how did you come to Harlem?
AM: I will tell you that you can truly manifest things. I was dating a guy who had a really nice place in Harlem, so I spent a lot of time here. That was around 2009, and Harlem was noticably changing. I remember sitting in my den and looking at apartment listings in Harlem. For about 3 or 4 years I also considered staying in Long Island or moving back to New Jersey, but it was meant for me to be here in Harlem – it changed my life.
MJ: So when did you get into fitness?
AM: I’ve always dabbled in fitness. Even as a young executive, I had an awesome trainer named Flipper who introduced me to not only fitness, but healthy living in genereal. I trained with him for a while at Prescriptives Fitness, (now Crunch Fitness) which was across the street from the Hit Factory. Sadly, he passed away some years ago. A while after that, my dear friend Nicole Bernard told me about this place called The Lotte Berk Method, which was on East 67th Street and Madison Avenue. Lotte Berk is the mother of all barre fitness and boutique fitness. Nicole and I would take class and then go have champagne and french fries around the corner at La Goulue (laughs).
MJ: Of course you did.
AM: (Laughs) I always cared about how I looked. Even when I was going through a rough time financially, I was committed to being fit. I intuitively knew going through that rough patch AND being out of shape would have just taken me over the edge (laughs). Eventually I got a part time job at a barre studio. I figured I could take unlimited classes free of charge, and I since I lived in Long Island, it would put me in the city a few days a week for interviews or whatever, so that’s what I did. It was very humbling working there since I used to be on the other side of the desk. I would run into people I knew. One person asked me, “What are you doing here?” and I used to think, “Good question!” (laughs). During this time, I felt like being fit was the only thing I could control. I may not have been where I wanted to be in my career or in my life in general, but I could get up and work out 4-5 days a week. I stayed fit through it all. After years of working independently and chasing checks in the entertainment industry, I had an “aha” moment one day and thought, with my experience and pedigree it should not be this difficult to find a job, so maybe I should be doing something else. The music industry was no longer serving me, so my thoughts and prayers were all about what that next thing was going to be for me. One night out with my sister friend Bevy Smith, she said to me, “I think you would be a great fitness guru. You’re over 40, you love working out, and you look great. You could inspire a lot of people. I think you would be great at that.”
MJ: So was she right?
AM: I don’t know about being a guru, but she definitely planted a seed that fitness or wellness should be a big part of my next chapter.
MJ: Can you explain the Angelique Miles brand and mission?
AM: To empower and educate women to understand and embrace the necessity of overall wellness. Overall wellness meaning mind, body, and soul. If you achieve that you can do anything.