Atlanta’s Quality Control is expanding far beyond music for total media domination.
Kevin “Coach K” Lee surrounds himself with art and culture, and even sits on the board of the High Museum of Art.
Turn on the radio, and you’ll likely hear the work of Pierre “Pee” Thomas and Kevin “Coach K” Lee. Their hustle is in Migos’ signature triplet flow, Lil Baby’s meteoric rise and Cardi B’s chart domination.
Entirely self-taught, these media moguls built an entertainment empire off one thing: believing in their talent. “That’s why our company is called Quality Control,” Lee says. “We’re not going to sign 1,000 artists. Let’s find the diamonds in the rough and polish them until they’re the brightest-shining diamonds.”
Quality Control began as a label in 2013, and it’s grown into a full-service management group for artists and athletes branching into film, tech investment and more—but under all that success are a lot of paid dues.
Thomas was born and raised in the projects of Atlanta’s Westside. Music was never his passion, but getting his mom out from under the weight of rent checks was always a goal. It just so happens Thomas’ best friend is Gucci Mane, one of the most recognizable faces in Atlanta hip-hop. “I’d seen how much money he was making just being an artist,” Thomas says. “I wasn’t an artist, but I was always an entrepreneur, and I was never scared to try different business ventures.”
Pierre “Pee” Thomas was born and raised on the Westside of Atlanta, and he’s growing his community into a media empire.
Lee likewise came to music sideways. Both his mom and grandmother worked at the RCA pressing plant in Indianapolis. There was a record store in the factory, and employees got a nice discount with early access to releases. “We would all sit around, my grandmother would be cooking,” he says, “and we’d be playing good music in the house, a lot of Motown.”
As musical as his home was, Lee was really focused on sports. His mom enrolled him in every extracurricular she could, trying to keep his attention off the neighborhood’s drug dealing and prostitution. By 5, he was playing organized basketball, and when it came time for college, he went on a scholarship. Unfortunately, he got caught in the crossfire of a street shooting. “I was in the hospital for five months,” he says. “I would put my Walkman on, and I would escape out the room. … I fell in love with music like I loved sports.”
Both Thomas and Lee learned the industry the hard way. They started labels and management companies with friends, losing way more money than they made. Still, every loss was a lesson, and one thing they did understand was star power.
A real talent incubator, Quality Control sees itself as a storytelling machine that aims to turn artists into moguls themselves, so they too can provide for their families and inspire generations to come. “Motown and Berry Gordy really built the blueprint,” Lee says. “A brand lasts longer than a song. We are building career artists that can last at least 10 years.”
QC has grown from a two-man operation to a core five-person team, and finally a 30-employee-plus outfit. The west Atlanta headquarters boasts four recording studios and office spaces, pushing the boundaries of the industry to push their vision around the world.
“I just call it culture now,” Lee says. “You have athletes who want the coolness of the artists. Artists want to make money that athletes make. You turn on ESPN and you hear the rap song, then a commercial comes on and this hip-hop song is selling this brand. You’ve got talent in these films, and it’s all intertwined. We are on the forefront of that.”
Photography by: PHOTOS BY NATHAN C. - THE MAN BEHIND THE CAMERA