Mike Russ is an independent entrepreneur who’s here to turn his music dreams into a reality — while giving other rising artists a platform to do the same. The San Bernardino native is the founder of LYF RECORDS, which stands for Live Your Future, LLC.
Through creating his own record label, he’s able to assist independent artists, producers, and brands to get closer into the music industry, giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Being a 90’s baby, Mike was real stern in growing up old school, but still went through the transition of the modern world. He states, “I had a great perspective on everything. I’m a very outgoing person for the better of everyone around me.”
The “On” recording artist prides himself in his ability to both sing and rap, residing somewhere within the brink of breaking through from the underground to mainstream light. Most recently, he celebrated his 26th birthday in Las Vegas, inviting 20 artists and producers to share his penthouse space at Caesars Palace. The songwriting and production camp drew artists from all over the States to conjoin, collaborate, and do what they love most: make music.
AllHipHop: How would you describe your sound?
Mike Russ: For a long time, I was developing in a commercial studio. My engineer is the same engineers WHO were assisting with The Black Panther album. They were learning a lot as they were growing and I was developing with them, paying a lot of money to practice in the studio. Not even drop music, just to go practice in the studio. $150 an hour, whatever it was. While they learned, developed and equipped their skills, I waited until the time where I’m like “alright it’s time to show them my sound.” That sound “On” was 100% organically produced and made by us: my producer, me, the guitar, everything.
AllHipHop: What is it about Mike Russ that fans love?
Mike Russ: They love the mysteriousness because I have a mysterious vibe when I walk in. “Who the fuck is this guy? What is he doing? What’s his motive?” I try to give that vibe on my social media. I call it the Lil Uzi affect: you keep them on the line. They wait for so long and you build a funnel of attention and traffic. When it’s time, it’ll be time. But right now, it’s not my time. You see all the things happening on the internet, it’s not Mike Russ’ time.
AllHipHop: Being an independent artist, how are you able to do all that you do? This penthouse is next level.
Mike Russ: Honestly, I told myself “what would you want?” And I gave it to myself. They say this room cost $2000, a night? Alright, let’s go invite 20 artists and tell them it’s $2000. Make times 10, go and make their money worth it, then also give it back into them. Take them out to dinner on my damn birthday and spend money on them. No one’s going to pay for me? I don’t have that mentality. I make sure everybody is straight. “Oh Shirley, I don’t want her walking all the way over to Planet Hollywood. Cancel that room and put her in the room next to us.” “Okay sir well that’s going to be this amount.” I don’t care, boom.
“We forgot the mic and the mic stand.” Okay, send them to Sam Ash and tell them to go buy everything right now. Here’s my card, boom. I don’t give a fuck. I know if I put it in, it’ll come back to me. Waking up to this right here [music playing in the background], I wake up like “damn, ya’ll working already?” They’re like “man, we haven’t even slept yet.” I’m like “oh my fucking God, what? It’s been 48 hours.” They’re like “bro, I have to take as much time as I can into this because this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.” That’s good enough for me.
AllHipHop: When did you first start these producing/writing camps?
Mike Russ: How it started was I did individual projects. I used to charge people for individual projects: flew them out, put them into hotels, took them to the studio. Put them on jets if they did a bigger package, just gave them the look that they wanted to have for their campaign. On top of that in 2016, I started flying people out monthly. I started creating monthly packages for x amount per month, would start flying ya’ll out monthly and line everyone up together.
It’s not a penthouse every time unless it’s a really big serious event. It was my birthday, I made sure everyone got to network on my birthday and have a great ass time — including you. Three years ago was when I started doing this one artist at a time. It picked up so fast that I couldn’t physically go and hang out with 19 artists. It hurt my body. [chuckles] Literally. I’m like “from now on, 10, 15, 20 people per event and we’ll do ‘em every month.”
AllHipHop: Why Las Vegas?
Mike Russ: Honestly, Vegas was the most entertaining city for me while they had downtime. Because LA is LA, but they’re going to get LA when they go to LA. Some of these kids aren’t even 21 but if we put them in a nice ass 2000 square-foot room, they’ll have a blast. That’s why I do it here because I can’t get this over in LA. They have so much selection, so much choice here. I fly out 20 people at a time sometimes, so I need a nice 7-star hotel for 20 people. There’s damn near 50 hotels on the strip, so it’s easy.
AllHipHop: Talk about your own label LYF Records. When did you come up with Live Your Future?
Mike Russ: Back in the day, I had some guy tell me he was with Atlantic Records and he really wasn’t. He’s like “yeah, I’ll get you an Atlantic Records session. I’ll have them listen to your music, da-da-da.” He pulled me along for months and months, kept canceling on me. That’s what got me searching for the source. That’s how bad I wanted it.
I used to go out to LA. I don’t know where I was going, but I drove out there and sat at McDonald’s in Beverly Hills like “what’s the move? Where’s the move?” Looking at Instagram, DM whoever posted something. They’re like “we’re in so-and-so’s house.” I don’t want to say the house but they’d be like “come through, it’s a turn up.” I go over there and we’d party all of time. Now, I’m coming on a regular. All of a sudden, I’m like “you know what, all of these people said that they’re with this place, that place.” I’m like “I need to have my own place to go to because I don’t want to depend on Atlantic Records.”
I’d been yearning to get with them because I’d seen everybody there. Some people may not know me, but there’s enough people I do know that does know my name. That’s what was frustrating because I wanted my own OVO, my own Young Money. So I said “fuck that, I’m making my own shit.” In an instant — I kid you not, it was one thought. I said “I’ll have my own shit. Three-letter acronym, what’s it gon’ be? LYF: Live Your Future.” That goes. Damn, that’s hard. Fuck it, let’s do it. Changed my Instagram and put signed to LYF Records. My whole family’s like “you’re signed to a record label?” They didn’t even know it was me. I saw the hype behind it. I created a LYF Records account, started building it up, and the rest is history. Everybody’s got penthouses now [chuckles], working with everybody.
AllHipHop: Are you signing artists?
Mike Russ: The thing about signing artists is that we’re trying to teach them to be independent, giving them a choice to have an independent process. See where that goes before we get into any serious paperwork. Because at the end of the day, if you’re a record label and you’re signing an artist, you are a bank and you’re loaning money. Otherwise, you’re just doing it for a hobby.
To me, I’m not at the point where I’m going to just loan money to people and have all this beef go on. “Fuck this label. Fuck that, they never did this.” I’d rather you guys be the reason of your downfall, the reason of whatever it is. I have no input on what you do. All I have is everything I have to offer from my services. That’s all I got to give you. I’m not selling you a dream, I’m not selling you nothing. I’m telling you this is what we got and that’s it.
AllHipHop: Talk about wanting to be the next Jay-Z.
Mike Russ: I want to be the next Jay-Z because I watched him help build his wife’s platform and himself at the same time with no Instagram. That’s what I’m saying, people are like “what? Oh yeah, he doesn’t have Instagram.”