Today we’d like to introduce you to Lalaa Shepard.
Lalaa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
There are multiple layers as to how I got to where I am today and it all begins with my love and passion for music. Ever since a little girl, I always appreciated every genre of music and my parents were responsible for putting me on different sounds. My dad only listened to Reggae music and that’s how I fell in love with production and bass lines. My mom listened to everything from gangster rap, soft & erotic R&B, instrumental soundtracks, rock bands which enabled me to be open-minded to all types of music.
In high school, I was known for creating mixed CDs full of songs I downloaded from sites such as LimeWire and DatPiff and any other way I could find exclusive new tunes. Soulja Boy was one of my favorite artists at the time and plenty of other Atlanta based rappers, some who are still active others I’m not sure. I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, so I found a wide open market to introduce new artists and music too. We loved everything about the south from the style and culture to the music so we embraced their energy with open arms.
I attended St. John’s University my freshmen year in college with a major in Journalism and maintained a full-time job at Dunken Donuts which taught me discipline, how to multi-task, and how to deal with people. I was the only black girl and I was younger than all of my co-workers but it took me less than 1 week to prove that I had the same hustle and drive like everyone else. I also was a part-time news editor for Yo! Raps Magazine which is an online Hip Hop platform and that’s how I sharpened my writing skills which would later help me. The last three years of my college career was spent in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio at Xavier University where I studied Public Relations and Business Management. I always maintained a full-time job during my college career so that I could have the things I wanted and so I could be ahead of the curve but I always tell people who aren’t sure about attending college to at least try it for 1 full year as it helps you build your network and teaches you organization, other than that everything I know is from experience rather than school.
Graduating from college was one of the happiest and most liberating experiences of my life! It landed on Mother’s Day 2013 which was an awesome gift to my mother and my community of supporters plus it meant I could finally pursue what I wanted to do. I always knew I wanted to be in the music industry behind the scenes but I didn’t know how to get started. I always believed in the power of social media and reached out to several producers via Twitter such as Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, and Dun Deal to let them know I wanted to be an intern or an assistant. They all responded which was all the motivation I needed.
So, I packed up all my belongings and stuffed them in my new car at the time that I purchased for myself as a graduation gift to move to Atlanta, the mecca of music. Keep in mind, I did not know anyone except my aunt who lived one hour away from the city. She was gracious enough to allow me to live at her home for more than 1 year until I figured things out. When I moved to Atlanta, I didn’t know where to start but God had a purpose for me and somehow I found everyone I needed to know within that first year – the DJs, the artists, the producers, the studios, the strip clubs, the bullshitters, and everything in between. I learned right away that relationships were the key to success and I was careful not to burn any bridges, even when I got screwed over.
Each year in Atlanta has been different and the second year, I started to make a name for myself as the go-to girl for getting things done behind the scenes. I worked with the Coalition DJs as the social media manager and also I had to go around every strip club nightly to make sure priority records were being played. I also assisted Dun Deal making sure he was on point and we even have gone on to create our own production team called The Remedy Productions Group. I made money with damn near every trap producer in Atlanta, all of which gave me leverage.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road definitely has NOT been easy. From being a female to multiple setbacks, false promises, and let downs. I have considered quitting and getting a corporate job but that mindset never lasts too long as I know my purpose and what I am here to do. The hardest part is trusting the process but I never want to live in regret so I rather go broke pursuing my dreams than to have a guaranteed paycheck doing something I’m not passionate about. My advice to young women on the come up is to read, be on your shit, demand your respect immediately, keep your eye on the prize, don’t focus on the next person, and don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I started my own Digital Marketing and Public Relations company, The Progress Report Media Group LLC in 2015 and I quickly learned about the emotional rollercoasters of being an entrepreneur. I realized there was void missing in journalism and media and I started The Progress Report which is an interview series for artists and entrepreneurs to share their unique stories. I simply used my relationships to build up the platform. I invested in a camera and mac book pro and had no clue how to use either one but YouTube taught me everything! My first interviews were long as hell but I eventually got better over time and now the YouTube channel is nearing 12 thousand subscribers which is cool as it has all been done independently. Now, I have a team to help share the load and we have an all-female host live podcast of The Progress Report Wednesday nights 9-11 PM at Live Hip Hop Daily which airs on The Progress Report Media Group official website.
The Progress Report has been acknowledged by VLAD TV, DJ Akademiks, XXL, and SOHH for bringing back memories with underappreciated artists. 1 of the most notable interviews was with trap music legend, OJ Da Juiceman which got over 341 thousand views. Other guests of the platform include Zaytoven, Orlando Brown, Adina Howard, Gunna, Dom Kennedy, Goodie Mob, Lil Boosie, and many others. We even released our first ever all-female rap cipher which we called cypHER with four talented upcoming female artists.
I always kept my ears to the street and will continue to do so. Not only am I an entrepreneur, but I am also a sister, daughter, friend, mother figure, all things in one and I make sure I delegate my time efficiently to be all things. I know my purpose and I am trusting the process. My goal is to continue to provide valuable content that will stand the test of time and help push artists and brands to their fullest potential. Through my company, I am the in-house Public Relations Manager for Coalition DJs, Dun Deal & The Remedy Productions Group, a cannabis strand based in California called Funky OG, and several Hip Hop artists. I also am a music journalist for my site, The Progress Report Media Group, and a contributor for other Hip Hop sites such as Hot 107.9 Atlanta, Durtty Daily, and Dirty Glove Bastard. I also have a music recording studio opening 2019 in Buckhead Atlanta called Deaf Star Studios in partnership with Dun Deal and The Remedy Productions Group.
To know that everything started with a dream is amazing and I am truly excited to see what the future holds. My keyword in life is progress and every day is an opportunity to get better and wiser!
Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
My mother has always inspired me. She gave birth to me her senior year in high school and I remember being young watching her do paperwork and homework for her college courses and I even attended some of those classes with her. She eventually graduated college with her master’s degree and I will never forget how that made me feel. I knew the sacrifice, commitment, and willpower it took to stay focused during those years. That experience alone taught me never to quit no matter the turbulence of life.