March 28, 2024

Read the full interview on TheSource.com!

Leila Steinberg deserves all her flowers.

Best known for being Tupac’s first manager, Steinberg wears many titles including artist, businesswoman, manager, activist, and educator. The Los Angeles native is also credited in playing a pivotal role to rapper Earl Sweatshirt’s career, and started her own non-profit called AIM4TheHeART dedicated to helping at-risk youth find their voice via writing workshops.

Fast forward to 2024, Steinberg now enters her newest venture as President of Gala Music, a music platform that uses blockchain technology to give artists full control over their music, while giving fans a more personable experience such as exclusive drops and merchandise. Artists like Snoop Dogg dropped his album Bacc on Death Row (B.O.D.R.) as NFTs via Gala.

The Source had the opportunity to chat with Leila Steinberg in downtown Los Angeles to discuss her earliest memories with Tupac, helping Earl The Sweatshirt, and why she took on the role as President of Gala Music.

What was the moment you fell in love with Hip-Hop?

Gosh, that’s a good question. In Venice, at the Rec Center. Kurtis Blow, Uncle Jamm’s Army, The Forum parties.

I met you at the Dear Mama documentary screening. How was it being able to tell your side in the documentary?

Allen [Hughes] did an incredible job of uncovering and exploring a different narrative. I still don’t know that I’ve really shared my story or my journey yet, we get chapters and pieces. But it was an important film. Out of all the films I’ve seen, he really painted a picture and did a tribute that was powerful.

What are your earliest memories of Tupac?

Meeting him and him joining our workshop. The day I met him, he was reciting “Panther Power.” I’m sure I know it by heart still.

In what ways do you think Tupac’s upbringing and early experiences influenced his approach to activism and social justice?

Like me, we both are the children of parents who were active in the 60’s. Our parents’ activism was crucial in shaping our lives and our narratives, but it was also a very toxic time to raise children. We had a lot of mixed messages, and it’s forced me to examine the downfall of many movements in all our revolutionaries. Hindsight, if I had to do it over again all the many things we would have all done differently. It’s important to study all of our mistakes. Especially now, we’re in a time, in a world where we require a different activism. And we have a big responsibility.

What do you miss most about Tupac?

His laugh.

Talk about working with Earl Sweatshirt as well. How did you guys tap in?

Earl, that’s a long story. There’s a whole book between us, but his mom is the reason. I was a fan of his mother’s work. She’s a very important law professor. I met Earl when he was 13 at The Boys & Girls Club, he didn’t want anything to do with me. My son told me he was this incredible artist and fate would have it that our paths crossed and I could help him out of his trouble. He got in trouble.

Earl all provided me an opportunity to do it again and do it right. So all the mistakes I made in the past, I got to rectify and clean up with him. I was able to really look at what the priorities were differently. And to know that his mental health was #1, his emotional health, spiritual health. My approach was different, ad I did it in partnership with my daughter the whole way. My youngest daughter, I couldn’t have done it without her. I didn’t know how to navigate this new world and social media and the challenges of living out loud, this new platform. I had the blessing of having a daughter who got it, who could guide me and the trust of this young artist who handed me his life and his career to protect him. That was my priority this time.

I didn’t know better the first time around. So by the time my connection with Earl, I was an adult. I was older. I knew better, and I could guide him in a way that he’s now doing amazing. He’s a healthy young man. His priorities are really different, and they’re definitely not materialistic priorities. They’re definitely not priorities that would add destruction to a community that needs healing, so I’m thankful I have that opportunity.

Definitely want to talk about your venture as President of Gala Music. Why did you feel this was a fit for you?

I don’t know that I even felt that it was or that I wanted to be in a high level career at this time in my life. What I felt was, in the same way that I had an opportunity to get it right with Earl — the industry is still a very toxic, unhealthy, unbalanced industry that’s never been about the artists. Gala was a platform that was artist-first and all about changing the narrative, and transparency and equity. I wanted to be in a position to help artists have a new reality and a new opportunity in engaging community and changing the paradigm. So it’s not something I love, I’m in my 60’s. I’m about to be 63 so not looking at oh, I’m going to have this long term career of President. I look at having an opportunity to bring infrastructure and credibility to something that could change things for the future. That’s really why I’m here, I’ll be here until I see that through.

What’re you most excited for? You guys just did the J Mak, NBA Youngboy drop with the mystery boxes. 

I’m most excited for what we can do globally. I’m excited about not having to box people in and that we have to have genre specific releases that people can control their destiny, and have an opportunity to build careers with their goals in mind. We were removing middle people and providing something that allows artists to take control. I’m excited about that.

You mentioned learning from your mistakes with Earl, are you talking about the mistakes with Tupac? 

Altogether, early on in the career. I was in Hip-Hop when it wasn’t even acknowledged as an art form. We were on the ground figuring it out, just like I am with Gala now. There are so many mistakes on so many levels that all of us made because no one had done it before. I never knew anyone that did the things that we were doing. Now, I’m older. I’m wiser, I know a lot more. Here we have a new platform, there are all these things that have never been done before. I’m excited to see how we can do it right.

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