The star-maker has discovered talents such as Usher, Avril Lavigne and OutKast. But Reid has not forgotten his Cincinnati roots. He flies into town every April to take his mother, who lives in Blue Ash, to dinner on her birthday
Last week, he expressed interest in helping his old high school, Hughes, renovate its outdated auditorium. "I'd be happy to come back and help them rebuild that auditorium, are you kidding?" he said. "That's important." No commitments have been made.
"The beauty of growing up in Cincinnati and how that's impacted and affected my career is really great," says Reid, 51. "I was able to listen to all kinds of music growing up. My taste in music has been vast and broad from the very beginning, because that's what you learn in Cincinnati, that diversity."
That Cincinnati experience is influencing how he is expanding Island Def Jam's vision to encompass a smorgasbord of musical genres.
"I'm the only African-American in the business that does music across the board. That's the thing that makes me unique," he says, ticking off a diverse list of artists he is guiding, from Fall Out Boy, the Killers, Bon Jovi, Melissa Etheridge and Lionel Richie to Jay-Z and Ludacris.
Today, his Cincinnati upbringing might seem a distant memory. Celebrity headlines show him with Oprah at his 50th birthday party. Helping Barack Obama raise money for his presidential campaign. Inviting Jermaine Dupri, Kanye West and Diddy to perform at his son Aaron's 16th birthday party at Jay-Z's club, for MTV's "My Super Sweet 16."
He's the man behind Mariah Carey's comeback and last month's triumph of Kanye West's rap album sales over 50 Cent's. The latter, a battle of albums released on the same day, played out at the MTV Video Music Awards, on BET and in Rolling Stone.
Reid saw past the media hype.
"The thing that excited me most wasn't the fact that we had a showdown. It was that people still buy music," he says. "Because there's been so many reports from industry analysts, the media and skeptics, taking a position that our industry was a dying industry. ... Sales are down everywhere, but great music still sells and people still want to buy it." read more >>