Future Leaders

Looking at today and tomorrow, TRENCH celebrates 10 key individuals leading Black British music and culture into its next phase

Future Leader Despa Robinson of Be83 (2022) by Jamie DrewTRENCH

Despa Robinson

Since the early 2000s, Birmingham mogul Despa Robinson has evolved from video producer to top flight music exec and tech entrepreneur. Having hosted shows on Rinse FM and directing videos for stars such as Skepta, Despa founded his grime label StayFresh.

Despa Robinson

After closing the doors on StayFresh, Despa founded BE83, specialising in content production, artist management and recordings. BE83 have represented big-name acts, both local and national, including Jaykae and Dapz On The Map, with Despa recently appointed to the AIM Board.

Future Leader Jamz Supernova (2022) by Sarah Harry IsaacsTRENCH

Jamz Supernova

DJ, presenter and founder of Future Bounce—which celebrates its fifth birthday this year—Jamz's sets range from experimental jazz to high-energy club music. She’s appeared on stages at Glastonbury, Sonar, Ibiza Rocks and hosted radio shows from BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and 6Music.

Jamz Supernova

With her DIY Generation platform, Jamz spotlights the next wave of young women and POC talent. Alongside that, she also hosts the DIY Handbook podcast where she speaks to guests like Otegha Uwagba and Conducta about her journey and the inner workings of the music industry.

Future Leader Elijah (2023) by Ejatu ShawTRENCH

Elijah

Elijah first started out as a DJ alongside Skilliam on Rinse FM before the pair went on to found the Butterz label in 2007. Since its inception, Butterz has released music by acts such as Terror Danjah, Newham Generals, Royal-T, DJ Q, Flava D Swindle and P Money.

Elijah

Since then, Elijah has gone on to be a public speaker and consultant, including working with Youth Music. During lockdown, he started the Yellow Squares project that has since grown to become a motivational powerhouse and has even inspired a joint album with grime MC Jammz.

Future Leader Laura Lewis-Paul (2022) by Tom HamTRENCH

Laura Lewis-Paul

Laura Lewis-Paul founded Bristol-based Saffron in 2015, originally intending it to be a non-profit record label. It has since grown to become a global platform offering education, online workshops, and artist development to support POC women, trans and non-binary people.

Laura Lewis-Paul

Pushing diversity in the music tech sector, Saffron offers training in music production, sound engineering and DJing. They continue to run regular live events, including the ongoing Funding With Mina series and Mix Nights, which this year was featured on the Boomtown lineup.

Future Leader Michael Adex (2023) by AwaitingTRENCH

Michael Adex

Founder and CEO of Manchester's NQ label, Michael Adex started out scouting local talent and connected with chart-topping rapper Aitch early in his career. NQ has since expanded to become a recording studio and management company with an influence that extends beyond the North.

Michael Adex

NQ recently celebrated its fifth birthday at their lavish Manchester headquarters. With a roster that includes Birmingham rapper MIST and chart-topping producers LiTek and WhyJay, their growing list of partners and clients includes Sony, Warner, Channel 4 and Manchester United.

Future Leader Sheniece Charway (2022) by Sheniece CharwayTRENCH

Sheniece Charway

Starting in marketing at Columbia Records, Sheniece joined YouTube in 2019, rising to Artist Relations Manager at YouTube Music in 2020 where she has worked with talents like Rick Ross, Skepta, Wretch 32 and more.

Sheniece Charway

Sheniece was also responsible for launching The Excellence Brunch with Lyor Cohen and Tuma Basa ahead of the 2020 BRIT Awards. She also started The Legacy Series, an event series celebrating Black British culture and helping to push Black fashion designers and music talent.

Future Leader Kima Otung (2022) by Kima OtungTRENCH

Kima Otung

A prodigious talent, Nigerian-born, Welsh-raised Kima Otung was the youngest member of the Welsh National Youth Opera. Now blending pop and R&B as a solo artist, she has been tipped by Music Insider and the BBC for big things.  

Kima Otung

Otung is also the co-founder of Insidr Music, an app designed to push unreleased music. Billed as “Spotify meets Patreon”, the streaming app pays artists 4000% more than other streaming platforms by paying royalties directly to artists.

Future Leader Jojo Sonubi (2022) by Tia PayneTRENCH

Jojo Sonubi

Jojo Sonubi began documenting Black British culture in 2015 with the submission-based archive project, Black In The Day, before co-founding the ongoing RECESS event series with David Sonubi, which later spawned No Signal online radio and the immensely popular 10v10 series.

Jojo Sonubi

In May this year, RECESS took over the Dreamland Margate theme park for the first ever RECESSland for the 100th edition of the event series. And in August, No Signal hosted their first takeover at fabric with acts including Hagan, Supa D, Tuggzy and more.

Future Leader Des Agyekumhene (2022) by Des AgyekumheneTRENCH

Des Agyekumhene

Des Agyekumhene has spent his career driving the use of Web3 technology to push the music industry forward. He co-founded Soga World, one of the world's NFT brokerage agencies. He's also an award-winning PhD candidate researching artist remuneration rights in the digital era.

Des Agyekumhene

More recently, Soga World collaborated with Limewire to launch the NFT campaign for Aitch’s album Close To Home, making it the first artist to hit the UK’s official album charts with an NFT campaign.

Future Leader Shakira Walters of Girls Of Grime (2022) by Shakira WalterTRENCH

Shakira Walters

Previously an A&R at Warner Music, East Londoner Shakira Walters founded Girls Of Grime in 2017 to offer a platform for women in the male-dominated world of grime. In 2020, Girls Of Grime was awarded PRS Foundation’s Open Fund to help produce the LOCKED+LIVE digital showcase.

Shakira Walters

As Artist Manager with the other company she founded, Moor Music Management, Shakira also nurtures talent in hip-hop, R&B and UK garage, representing a number of artists including C Cane, DJ Shaxx and Lauren Marshall. Shakira was also included on the PRS Power Up 2023 list.

Credits: Story

Words by James Keith
Photography by Ejatu Shaw [Courtesy of DMY], Sheniece Charway, Tom Ham, Des Agyekumhene, Tia Payne, Sarah Harry Isaacs, Jamie Drew, Shakira Walter, Kima Otung.
Videos by Jaykae, Be83 Records, James Locksmith, Dazed, Elijah, Aitch, Girls Of Grime and Shauna Pau.
Commissioned by TRENCH

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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