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African Execs make Billboard 2023 billboard 40 Under 40 list

Billboard’s 2023 40 Under 40 list has been revealed, celebrating the industry’s young leaders and the minds powering the live sector’s post-shutdown resurgence.

Mari Davies, who is the Vp of talent and booking at Live Nation Urban, received recognition for playing an integral role in the company’s festival curation.

The annual publication honors the top young executives and innovators across the music industry, as well as celebrates the next-gen executives defining the future of the music industry. Billboard’s 40 Under 40 list was chosen by editors from selected industry sectors, based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. This year’s list emphasized the live sector and its executives–considering their impact as measured by metrics including, but not limited to, chart, sales and streaming performance.

Three highly acclaimed African music executives, Mari Davies, Justin “Meezy” Williams and Noah Preston, were recognized on the list for their distinct roles, influence and overall impact on the live music industry.

Mari Davies, who is the Vp of talent and booking at Live Nation Urban, received recognition for playing an integral role in the company’s festival curation. Upon joining LNU, Davies formally established its new touring department “to build our hard-ticket business,” putting on emerging African artist Rema’s club run in 2022; LNU’s 2023 tours include Ari Lennox, Jill Scott, dvsn, Davido and LL COOL J’s first arena trek in 30 years. She’s also especially proud of curating and marketing Mary J. Blige and Pepsi’s inaugural Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit on Mother’s Day weekend in 2022 featuring Chaka Khan, City Girls and Blige herself; the fest returned to Atlanta May 11-14, planned again by the all-female team Davies calls a “special sisterhood.”

Prior to LNU, Davies spent 10 years as an ICM agent, representing R&B/hip-hop clients such as Kelly Rowland, Kodak Black, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Davido and Teyana Taylor. At the agency, she was also a founding member of Diversify ICM and was part of the initial class of mentors for Next Gem Femme, the mentorship program affiliated with Live Nation joint venture Femme It Forward.

Founder/manager of Meezy Entertainment, Justin “Meezy” Williams, is celebrated for his major role in the development of prominent artiste 21 Savage, who unrivaled by most of his peers in the music space, as well as helping the ATL rapper go the distance in his career. Before Justin “Meezy” Williams became 21 Savage’s manager in 2015, he was a well-known party promoter in Atlanta. “Everybody in Atlanta knew me,” he recalls. “I knew Future before he blew up. I knew Migos before they blew up. I knew 2 Chainz as Tity Boi, and I threw all the parties.” But despite his impressive Rolodex, his future wasn’t clear until he professionally connected with Savage.

Since Williams partnered with Savage, the formidable rapper has notched 14 Hot 100 top 10 singles, including two No. 1s, and three Billboard 200 chart-toppers, including last November’s Her Loss, a collaborative project with Drake. Through Meezy Entertainment and Slaughter Gang, Williams — who describes himself as part of “this new generation of managers; we do everything” — is applying lessons learned from Savage’s success to other clients. “[We’re] just really building up the artists that we have,” he says, referencing 21 Lil Harold, SG Tip and producer Kid Hazel. “Really establishing the company outside of you knowing the name because of 21 Savage and really getting hands-on feeling like we are creating something.”

The publication also recognized Noah Preston, Executive VP of A&R at Def Jam, for scoring major wins, from developing Jhené Aiko’s career (and handling A&R for her Grammy-nominated 2020 album, Chilombo) to signing acclaimed producers DJ Dahi and Hit-Boy as artists to helping YG score a Rhythmic Airplay No. 1 last year with “Toxic.” The 34-year old says his job is to “understand the artist’s vision and help them make it come to life” — and with that guiding principle.

Ten years ago, I was: “Still completing my undergraduate degree at Loyola Marymount, while also just completing my first year as a full-time A&R at Def Jam. I had signed Jhené, Logic, and August Alsina prior, and that year they all released debut albums. All projects have multi-platinum successes.”

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