Jeylina Burgos has built an impressive career centered around her pulse on musical talent, an ability that was nurtured by her early exposure to different sounds. Growing up in Harlem, New York, she remembers driving around with her dad listening to a range of genres, including salsa, merengue, hip-hop, salsa, and reggae. But it wasn’t until she heard DMX’s “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” at the age of seven or eight that she felt mesmerized by hip-hop, a moment that foreshadowed her future career in the music industry. “I remember asking, “Yo, what is this? That’s when I really fell in love with hip-hop,” she tells Remezcla.
Her passion for music eventually led her to Daddy’s House, a recording studio under Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment Group. Although she gained valuable studio experience working with Diddy and his artists at the time, such as French Montana and Mario Winans, she knew that her ultimate goal was to work at a record label. “I always wanted to work at a label, but that was my way in,” she shares.
After the studio closed, Burgos finally found herself at a label when she secured an internship at 300 Entertainment, where she quickly rose through the ranks in just seven years, going from an intern to a promotions and marketing assistant coordinator, to the head of radio promotions. “I just kept proving myself,” she says. Now, as in A&R at the independent label, where she works closely with the artists and keeps an eye on new talent.
One artist she has worked closely with is Megan Thee Stallion, whom she went on tour with and remembered returning to the team to say, “Guys, we have a f*cking superstar.” This ability to identify talent has gained her the trust of the label, and she now uses her position to discover and work with Latine talent, which is a growing passion of hers.
While Burgos has achieved a lot in her career so far, she firmly believes that she is just getting started and has much more to accomplish. “I’m not done,” she tells us. As we look to the future of her career, we chatted with Burgos about how she manifested her place at 300 Entertainment, why she’s never wanted to quit, and more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
When was that one moment or turning point in which you felt you were in the right space?
“When I first walked into 300 Entertainment and saw Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles, and Todd Moscowitz meeting in the conference room, it felt spiritual. I felt like I had manifested it. I was interning at Interscope and had been visiting some of these buildings. When I was 14 or 15 years old, I saw a VH1 special celebrating Def Jam, with Def Jam artists performing and executives being highlighted. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to work with them. Watch.’ When I walked into 300 Entertainment, it was a moment of realization, and my body felt like it was experiencing deja vu. It was like ‘Ok, this is the beginning for real.’”
So often, we see people advancing in their careers or making “big moves” on social media, but it’s rare we hear or see those introspective moments in which a person considers quitting or transitioning — did you ever have a moment like that and how did you overcome it?
I’ve never had a moment where I’ve wanted to quit. Instead, I’ve had moments where the culture feels stagnant, and I think of ways to make things more exciting and progressive ideas to advance our culture. For me, it’s just staying present and conscious, doing a lot of mental health work, doing a lot of exercises, and basically trying to stay clear on what’s going on. Some young artists don’t know what’s in store for them when they get into the industry, all the eyeballs they will have on them, and you need to be there to put them on the right path as much as possible. Because you give a kid $500,000, they think it’s the end-all-be-all, and they could return to the hood. I grew up around those types of kids. I’m from Harlem, so we’re relatable; it resonates. So I don’t know, it’s just like I am the culture. There are ups and downs; once you have that clarity, there’s no quitting.
Were there any mentors or other women that inspired or helped you get to where you are now?
Yes, Rayna Bass, Co-President of 300 Entertainment, and Lallie Jones, Marketing Director of 300 Entertainment. They are incredible women that make it their mission to help push others forward.
What’s one of the biggest hardships you’ve faced as a woman — or even as a Latina — in the music industry?
When you walk into a room as a woman, you have to earn a different level of respect, and even if you already have it, you still have to earn it all over again. This is in contrast to men who may act unprofessionally and still maintain their respect. I also believe there is ageism within sexism. As a young woman in a room with powerful men, you may not be taken seriously. You’re young and you walk in a room as a woman, and you’ve got these big ‘honchos’ in the room and they’re disregarding you much more. But when you realize, “Ok, these are the cards that I’m dealt, estos son las cartas,’ you figure out how to move forward with it, push against it.”
What’s one of your favorite parts of where you are now in your journey?
One of my favorite parts has been moving to Miami from Harlem to learn about the Latin music industry. I have been working in the hip-hop space for so long, so it’s been refreshing to learn about the Latin music space. My mom calls me when she sees our Latin artist on the networks she watches. It’s quite funny, actually, because she never understood what I did until now.
What do you feel can be done to make the music industry feel more safe and collective for women?
I believe a lot in polarity. There’s black; there’s white; there’s water; there’s fire. There are men, and there are women, and we both possess qualities that the other doesn’t have. So, if you expect me to work like a man, I won’t get the job done because I’m not a man. Now, if you understand the psychology, the power, and the love that the woman has and what she could bring to the table, we could be in a much better place as an industry. Some artists need nurturing, and some plans need a woman’s perspective. Women are capable of anything, but I need to do it my way – as a woman – not how a man would do it. What’s the point of me being here if I’m just doing the same thing you’re doing?”
But it’s not just men, women can also affect each other’s journey or success. Can you explain why a crabs in a barrel mentality (“if I can’t have it, neither can you”) is harmful to women?
It leaves such a bad taste in my mouth, and I have experienced that. It’s bad energy, and it’s so negative. It does affect how you work, and then it affects the artists. I’m always going to bring it back to the artists.The culture can’t move forward. People don’t see the bigger picture, and it’s ruining the overall result of music. If you’re thinking crabs in the barrel mentality, you are thinking small. As a woman, if you come to me, I will support you even more.
I want to see more comradery, how the men do it. Remember when Drake, Lil Wayne, and others were getting on songs together? If we could get Nicki, Megan, and Cardi together, for example, and do a lot more of that. I would like to see more overall positivity, even across music, because the violence in music and the industry is bleeding onto the streets. We need to be passing along wins and educating one another. Let’s offer guidance to one another, saying, ‘Hey, I just met this accountant’ or ‘Make sure that you have life or disability insurance.’ We need to be having those type of conversations amongst each other
What do you hope to personally change about the music industry, especially for the next generation of women in this space?
I would love to partner with a few people and create an afterschool program for high school kids in poor communities, where they learn Excel, Word, and professionalism, speak to them about the music business, and help prepare them for their future. I’m a kid from the streets, and I came into the building trying to figure everything out and act professionally, and I didn’t know what to say. I often felt very small sitting in those conference rooms because I’m figuring it out as I go. And sometimes, I see certain kids who come into some internships, and they fake their way in, and you can see them struggling even to type an email. Some kids don’t even know how to use Outlook and applications like that.
It could be a four-three week program, and it should be for Black and Latino kids. Why is it that it’s only this executive’s nephew that went to NYU all the time? It could be him too, but there should be a bunch of other girls and much more diversity in the building. And that would help push our culture forward. Because if all these internships consist of white kids from these prestigious Ivy League schools, what will that do for us? I can’t communicate with you. I want some people in the building that I can communicate, that our community can communicate and resonate with.