Let’s be clear, Detroit gave the world sound.
While the city may not have invented music, it certainly shaped and molded modern music.
For many artists, Motown Records was the recording home to many of their earliest influences. What started in a blue and white house on Detroit’s west side became a legacy that cemented Detroit in music history.
Though the business may have left Detroit, the music and creativity never left the city.
Now, Che Pope, the former COO of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, is partnering with billionaire Dan Gilbert to make Detroit a hub for the music business once again. WRKSHP, a music-focused lifestyle company and record label, launched Wednesday in downtown Detroit’s Capitol Park — the 63rd anniversary of the date Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. founded his label.
Pope says he wants WRKSHP — pronounced “workshop” — to transform the way business in the music industry is done, and is aiming to make it less exploitative and more beneficial for artists.
“Instead of signing artists to these ‘360-degree’ deals, WRKSHP will partner with and educate creatives so they profit share from revenues derived from their intellectual property and most effectively monetize their art,” Pope said in a press release. “By being truly transparent, WRKSHP empowers artists to realize their maximum potential.”
Pope is no stranger to the music industry. In fact, he’s a legend of his own making. Hailing from Boston, Pope’s career began in the early ’90s, entering the industry working alongside singer and producer Teddy Riley. For nearly three decades, he has worked with some of the industry’s biggest names, including Lauryn Hill, Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, and Aretha Franklin.
With a career as extensive as his, Pope could have started his label anywhere, but he tells Metro Times that he wanted his company to be in a place that was well-suited for his mission. With Detroit’s deep music roots, the Motor City was the best option.
“If I started this in L.A., even though it’s a very progressive music company, it would have just been another entertainment company in L.A., but it’s so much more,” says Pope in a phone interview. “To be a part of the culture and a city that’s reinvigorating in arts and culture, it’s about being a part of that.”
One thing Pope made very clear is that his intention is not just to use Detroit as an office without being invested in Detroit culturally. Pope has hired photographer and creator Bre’Ann White as the head of content at WRKSHP, and mentioned he met with Detroit rap legend Street Lord Juan.
“When it comes to this, I take this very seriously about the culture,” says Pope. “Dan has his ISMs and I have mine: protect the culture, respect the culture, reflect the culture, protect the culture, and then we are the culture. We’re not here to steal the sauce, we’re here to help season it.”
While Dan Gilbert is WRKSHP’s most prominent investor, he is not the only one. Other investors include Greg Schwartz, COO of StockX, and Sean McCaffrey, CEO of Gas Station TV. Two surprising investors include former Detroit Lions player Ndamukong Suh and William Wesley (aka World Wide Wes), executive vice president and senior basketball advisor for the New York Knicks.
WRKSHP isn’t coming to the city empty-handed. According to Pope, he already has a roster of artists he’s preparing to roll out, and he is also actively seeking new creative talent.
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