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Daniel Stephenson, of Maidstone, making waves with Drake, Mark Morrison and more

By Lewis Dyson

Maidstone mogul Daniel Stephenson is bringing those lyrics to life as his success in the music business following council estate beginnings has seen him work with the Canadian rapper.

As president of Straight Forward Music the 32-year-old oversees such things as the signing, nurturing and marketing of talent, as well as guiding their creative and artistic direction and helping them define a sound.

Maidstone music mogul Daniel Stephenson

Maidstone music mogul Daniel Stephenson

His work has taken him to Stockholm, Amsterdam, Berlin, Los Angeles, New York and Nashville. He often works from 9am to 6pm covering the UK and European markets and then from 6pm until 2am on the US.

One of the acts signed to Straight Forward Music, which is under licence to Capitol Records UK, is Swedish DJ, Nevada, who collaborated with R&B singer Mark Morrison on a remix of his 90s classic Return of the Mack last year.

The single, which is called The Mack, and also features American rapper Fetty Wap, has been streamed more than 180 million times on Spotify.

Mr Stephenson said he was always hesitant of re-working Return of The Mack as it represented a huge “turning point” for UK R&B with Mark Morrison the first artist from that genre to break America. As the song reached its 20th anniversary, however, he was determined to do it justice.

He said: “When releasing records I often get a gut feeling. That’s when I know I have a smash on my hands . Nevada did such a great job of producing a record worthy of such a classic, he made the magic happen.

“Personally, I think it will be hard to top The Mack as it’s a song I care about. It played a big part in my musical journey throughout my youth. ”

Daniel Stephenson (far left) with Nevada (third from the left) with their plaque for The Mack

Daniel Stephenson (far left) with Nevada (third from the left) with their plaque for The Mack

Other acts signed to Straight Forward Music include Aleisha Lee, of Girls Like fame, Esty, Pyramids In Paris and Medway’s David Zowie, known for House Every Weekend.

Nana Rouges, an artist Mr Stephenson manages through another company, produced two records on Drake’s new album, More Life, including the song Passionfruit, and is helping him on his new album for 2018.

Mr Stephenson was born in Essex but grew up on council estates in Park Wood and then Shepway in his teens. He also has deep-rooted family connections to Maidstone and attended North Borough Junior and Maplesden Noakes schools.

He said: “I feel the struggles gave me an advantage. It gives you a different outlook on life, it defines you more so than those that had it easy.

“There are no limits to what we can achieve in life, except the limits we create for ourselves.”  

He said his mother, Amanda Stephenson, a single parent, was his biggest inspiration. She used to run the Hope Tovil Community House project, helping ex-offenders find education and work as well as offering young people a place to socialise.

Mr Stephenson working in the entertainment industry for 14 years, has a meeting planned with MP Helen Grant with the aim of implementing initiatives in music, entertainment and sport in Maidstone.

Daniel Stephenson was born in Essex but grew up on council estates in Park Wood and then Shepway in his teens.

"There are no limits to what we can achieve in life, except the limits we create for ourselves." - Daniel Stephenson, from Maidstone

He also has deep-rooted family connections to Maidstone and attended North Borough Junior and Maplesden Noakes schools.

He said: “I feel the struggles gave me an advantage. It gives you a different outlook on life, it defines you more so than those that had it easy.

“There are no limits to what we can achieve in life, except the limits we create for ourselves.”

He said his mother, Amanda Stephenson, a single parent, was his biggest inspiration. She used to run the Hope Tovil Community House project, helping ex-offenders find education and work as well as offering young people a place to socialise.

Mr Stephenson working in the entertainment industry for 14 years, has a meeting planned with MP Helen Grant with the aim of implementing initiatives in music, entertainment and sport in Maidstone.

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