If you reside in Toronto and don't live under a rock, chances are that Cory Litwin isn't a foreign name to you. The grill-maker, entrepreneur, artist manager, cultural tastemaker, and social connecter has had his fair share of dipping his hands in almost every aspect of Hip-Hop and is a big contributor to the Hip-Hop culture that exists in Toronto. You'll see him posted up on Instagram (@cory_litwin) with pretty much every relevant rapper in the game, either in the studio where his client/partner Murda (@murdabeatz_) will be creating production magic for the artist and Cory will be taking grill impressions, or just showing the artists a good time around town at some of his favourite clubs. We sat down with Cory at Dineen Coffee located in Downtown Toronto and talked about exactly what it is that he does, how he started his company Goldie Rocks Grills, the importance of his relationships within the industry, what happened in the three months he recently spent in L.A., and much more. Check out our in-depth conversation with Cory Litwin below.
HHWAP: Looking into you [a couple years back] and seeing the relationships you had built, I originally wondered, "what exactly does this guy do"? I now know what you do of course, but how would you explain it to anyone who doesn't understand?
CL: I started promoting parties in London for [University of] Western [Ontario], and when we started there weren't really any other promoters. Me and a couple friends grew really quickly and started taking over that game [promoting] in the city, where I started my own company. This was around the time when EDM Dj's were getting really big so everyone was bringing those Dj's out, but as Hip-Hop fans there wasn't really anyone doing it out there, so I started bringing a couple artists out.
HHWAP: I think Fat Man Scoop was one of the artists you brought out at that time.
CL: That was the first celebrity/artist that I ever booked on my own.
[The list also includes artists such as DJ Drama and Wale].
HHWAP: How did it all start out?
CL: Well I always wanted to work around music and entertainment, and the parties just kind of started cause i'm such a social guy, and I realized I could make money doing it. I'd be bringing 50 people to every party because I wanted everyone I knew to be wherever I was. But the parties in the career path were only a quadrant of what I wanted to do. I was around the entertainment industry, and I was around a lot of the artists in the city that are big now. Like for example, I helped throw Drake's first ever concert that he had.
HHWAP: In Toronto?
CL: In Toronto. I helped organize one of the Weeknd's first shows as well; it was a 3000 person festival in London. I wanted to be involved in music, and I thought maybe I was gonna be a rapper.
HHWAP: I did wonder at one point whether you were a rapper.
CL: I freestyle. And I played with potentially managing a couple artists, but I didn't want to put my time into anyone unless I genuinely believed that together we could do something great. The grills thing just came up a little over a year ago with my partner, Bianca Tomash. She had the idea and I instantly loved it, and I saw great opportunity and potential. Around the same time I met a young, 20 year old kid from Canada [Murda Beatz], a producer, and I started working with him more or less organically at the beginning just to kind of help him out and introduce him to some people. That's my main focus now. I feel like that's my biggest skill, connecting with people and building relationships.
HHWAP: How did it all start, having the relationships with all these artists that you do now?
CL: Anytime any artist was in town I would always try and connect with them. I would throw a party called Turnt Up for a while when I moved to Toronto 3 years ago, because when artists or basketball players are in Toronto for a night off, they love partying in the city. The nightlife, the women, it's exotic to them because it's a different country. The grills is something cool, because now I have something to offer that's mine, my own product. And it's a product that everyone wants. So when we went out to L.A., now I also have this dope producer with an amazing sound that everyone wants. He's extremely self-driven; He did a lot of the groundwork and built himself up on his own before even meeting me.
HHWAP: Which is important as well, that the artist has created a foundation for themselves.
CL: Yea, exactly. And now when I'm networking, I'm doing it with a purpose. On one side I have the grills, on the other side I have the music. The grills is almost like an angle to open doors for what I'm doing with Murda and the relationships I'm building. In L.A., whenever I'd see a famous rapper in a restaurant, I'd go up to them and tell them about Murda and what he's done. Then I'd mention the grills.
HHWAP: So you almost have no issue at this point just going up to an artist and putting yourself out there.
CL: That's kind of how my success has always come along. It comes down to the fact that I don't care about what's appropriate or what's not appropriate. I see an opportunity and I take it.
HHWAP: When it comes to Goldie Rocks Grills, that seems like such an odd choice of a company to have decided to build, yet at the same time so smart because it seems as if you filled a niche in Toronto.
CL: There's actually a ton of other people in Toronto doing it. It's just that I'm really good at making noise in the city. My networks include major players in all different parts of the city. If you told me a year and a half ago I'd even wear a grill, I'd say you're fucking crazy. I looked online and saw every female celebrity from Madonna to Cara Delevingne starting to wear a grill. So I knew. And I knew I would be able to make this blow up quickly.
HHWAP: Not only did Goldie Rocks Grills blow up within a month of starting, but now I see almost everyone on Instagram wearing a grill.
CL: It's now just another accessory.
HHWAP: Exactly. It always was a norm within Hip-Hop culture, but now you can see people of all different types rocking them.
CL: XXL wrote an article on Goldie Rocks Grills.
HHWAP: That must've been surreal for you.
CL: I was at the bar at like 1 am, and my friend's like "Yo, your company's on XXL". I make grills for a lot of famous models like Madzilla and Iesha Marie. [XXL magazine's article highlighted Goldie Rocks Grills, and deemed them as trendsetters in grills for women. Madzilla and Iesha Marie are also highlighted in the article, shown wearing the grills that Cory and his team created for them. Check out the article here]
HHWAP: I also see you making grills for a lot of artists out in L.A., and I see you spend a lot of time out there with Murda. How did the whole L.A. situation come about?
CL: L.A. to me is the capital of the entertainment world. Out there, there's just so much opportunity. Everything is relationships, and it's so much easier to build them in person. But on another end, because there is so much going on, it can almost be a distraction. But with L.A., it kind of went hand in hand. We were always networking strategically and aggressively.
HHWAP: Well, you have to be aggressive and mix it with persistence.
CL: And the thing is, I know I have a great product [the grills], and I know Murda's an amazing producer who's big in trap music right now, which is the sound that everybody wants. When we're in the studio with an artist, like when we were with Snoop in Toronto, I mention I make grills and make one for the artist. So they compliment each other and go hand in hand.
HHWAP: So do you just carry your grill equipment with you all the time so you can make impressions at any given moment?
CL: In L.A., yea I do. To be honest, I wish I did more here [Toronto]. Last night I was in the studio with P.Reign and one of his friends was like "Where's the grills man?" and I'm like, damn, I don't have it on me.
HHWAP: You've made grills for P. Reign of coarse. Another big one was Snoop Dogg, and Tyga as well [You'll be able to catch Cory making grills for Tyga in an episode of his new MTV2 series #KinginWithTyga]. What other artists can you name from your catalogue?
CL: Rae Sremmurd, I Love Makonnen, Terrence Ross, OB OBrien, Sage the Gemini, Boi-1da, Tory Lanez, Marcus Stroman, Princeton- who actually made my page blow up the most. [Continues] Omarion, K.Camp [2015 XXL Freshman], and Oh! Lil Fizz.
[Check out Goldie Rocks Grills' Instagram for the entire catalogue].
HHWAP: You recently just had your 1 year anniversary party with Kehlani and a lot of familiar faces from Toronto, which is crazy. How does it feel that within a short amount of time, when so many businesses fail, you had so much success?
CL: It's surreal, cause I imagine what this would be like if it was my main focus. I have an amazing partner, Bianca, who's a dental student. Both of our dads are dentists as well. It's been going amazing, and we're doing well and growing. Next step is doing more jewelry, more than just grills, you know? Now we're doing people's iced out cubans, pendants, and rings. It's been cool, it's been fun.
HHWAP: It's blowing up like crazy for you.
CL: It gives me another thing to bring to the table. At the end of the day, my goals are within the music industry. I want to devote all my attention right now to Murda, then later on start managing other artists.
HHWAP: It's important for you to believe that you're in the position you want to be [with Murda] before you start focusing on anybody else.
CL: Our relationship is very different than most manager/artist relationships. We're very close, we're like partners. I'd rather be managing one superstar than managing five mediocre artists. It's a slow process, but we're actually moving quite quickly.
HHWAP: One of your experiences that I really want to hear about, because he's one of my personal favourite rappers and The Documentary is bound to be on every Hip-Hop head's list of favourite albums, is your time in the studio with The Game while you were out in L.A. Tell me about that experience in general, because I know he's one of your favourite rappers as well.
CL: Yea, since I was like super young. I was with him for many nights during a month in the studio. A couple times I had to stop and be like, "Wait a second, Cory. You're chilling in the studio, listening to a song that you just made with The Game". When I first met him, even just talking to him was surreal. I mean, after a while, they're all just people. At the end, it all started seeming a lot more normal. But The Game experience was really cool. We kept postponing our trip a lot to continue working with him because he's working on his album now, The Documentary 2. There's a lot I'd love to tell you about but can't. We formed a really great relationship with the whole team. I was making grills for his assistant, his right hand man, his Dj, so we all became friends. The album still isn't finished, so we're still working with him and waiting to see what happens.
HHWAP: What does the future hold in store? We know you're expanding the grill company, and you're building up the situation with Murda. Do you see yourself staying in Toronto?
CL: Toronto will always be home. We have Murda's first major album placement that comes out July 31st, the Migos album [YRN: Tha Album]. He has 3 songs on there, one being the lead single that's already out "Pipe It Up". Another single is going to be ["Just For Tonight"] featuring Chris Brown, that Murda produced as well.
HHWAP: I've seen you posted at record labels like Capitol Records and Warner. Would you see yourself in the future doing a major label situation?
CL: Potentially. For now we're staying independent. We're taking it one day at a time. There's a couple other business ventures I have in mind, and I'm gonna keep expanding the jewelry company. And just keep going, you know?
HHWAP: Tell me about some of the artists you grew up listening to.
CL: There are so many different eras in my life. The first CD I ever bought was The Fugees. Lauryn Hill is one of my all time favourites. I grew up listening to a lot of Biggie, Biggie's a favourite. A lot of Stevie Wonder. And I definitely loved The Game growing up. I supported Drake since day 1. I love Nas. I love Cam'ron. Lloyd Banks, the whole G-Unit thing. Love Cassidy. I was really into Wu-Tang for a while, and RZA I still thing is a genius, a God.
HHWAP: RZA is a legend.
CL: Big L, I love Big L.
HHWAP: Of coarse. R.I.P, Big L.
CL: Kanye as well. Since the beginning. I've always loved Hip-Hop, I've just been in love with it. If I was alone I'd read the blogs and watch interviews. The music industry is so crazy though, there's so much behind the scenes that the average fan would never know. I'm loving the journey so far, and I'm excited for the future. ♠