Yusuf Muhammad talks living your best life and true happiness

Updated: Dec 23, 2018



Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

This month Level Up Atlanta caught up with event curator and talent buyer, Yusuf Muhammad. As the current Programs Director for the A3C Festival & Conference, Yusuf has developed his brand and grown its national presence in eight short years. Still fresh from his recent move to Atlanta, Level Up got a chance to catch up with Yusuf for August's edition of the Movers & Shakers series.


Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

"The one thing I like about Atlanta is that if it's authentic people will support and if it's cool people will come."

After testing out of high school and receiving a diploma at fourteen years old, Yusuf received a degree in filmmaking and began his journey in the music industry through documenting recaps of artists’ shows as a videographer. Yusuf was invited to United Nations in 2014 to speak on his educational journey and career. Through going on tours and filming for multiple artists, Yusuf developed strong relationships with many up-and-coming artists in the Philadelphia area and curated his first concert at 25 years old.

“It basically came about because I had relationships with artists that a lot of people messed with and wanted to see, but no one was booking them...I facilitated a lot of artist first show in the market, including Dom Kennedy, Joey BadA$$, Kehlani, Ty Dolla $ign, Jacquees and more. And from working as a videographer to throwing these concerts, a career in the music industry formed and became a life of its own.


Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

Yusuf is a transplant to Atlanta by way of Philly with a brief stay in Las Vegas, and after building a reputation for curating dope shows and highlighting artists who deserve to be on a bigger stage, Yusuf felt he reached his “creative ceiling” in his hometown and was compelled to explore new markets. While still working with A3C and other popular festivals, he decided to move to Vegas at the end of 2015.

Based off a conversation with a friend, the move to Vegas was motivated by impacting the 18-20 year old demographic that seemed to be overlooked in Sin City. After spending two and a half years in Vegas, he pondered three cities: Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. Typical cities for someone involved and pursuing a career in the music or entertainment industry, but how did he choose Atlanta???

"At 25, you kind of reach that quarter-life crisis and that’s where you swear up and down you feel like you have wasted time. You’re like, “oh my God, I was 21 yesterday and now I’m 25 and I need to have a million tomorrow.” Which is not the reality at all"

Well Atlanta is home to the A3C Festival & Conference that happens once a year, but honestly, it was an experience at a local party, “The Groove”, that convinced Yusuf Atlanta was the place to be. “I went to that party and was overwhelmed by all the beautiful black people in one room, and I was like yeah, I’m moving [ha ha].” And although it may seem simple, what that party represented was the unique culture of Atlanta that has attracted such a diverse network of millennials to the city.

“There were people that talked like me, looked like me and I missed that. Here in Atlanta, it is literally feels like the black L.A. Sort of like the Los Angeles of the South. I just felt like it was so much opportunity, relationships and connections that I [already] had and I knew I would come out here and have a good time.”


Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

Since his move, the city has been everything that its promised. Being immersed in the city, you see an up close view of the evolution of Atlanta. In addition to his work with A3C, Yusuf has also worked with numerous brands including Live Nation, AEG Live, Red Bull, Jam Nation and Heineken. He has also worked in programming and stage production for various festivals including Art of Cool, Afropunk, Roots Picnic and One Music Fest.

Read below to check out some of the top moments from our interview with Yusuf Muhammad:

What is your exact title of what you do in the music industry?

Yusuf: Well, I don’t know how to describe that in one sentence, but I can say I’m currently a talent buyer and event curator and I also do creative marketing in the music world, which is where I kinda go in and create marketing proposals and campaigns for different companies.

Okay, so let’s start from the beginning and just walk me through how you traveled from your hometown to where you are now.

Yusuf: My hometown is Philadelphia and my educational background is really random, but I got a degree in filmmaking and I found a way to combine both my love for music and my traveling all into one. As a videographer, I thought artists would want really dope recaps for their shows. I would go SXSW, A3C and other shows and in me going on the road and filming for these artists, in my early 20s, I established relationships with them.


Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

I began throwing concerts at 25 by using my personal relationships with artists that young people wanted to see. This was before Twitter really got popping, back when it was really kind of Facebook and you would only know about these artists if you went to festivals like CMJ, SXSW, and A3C. Showcases were very very impactful back then. Many of the artist that I ended up working with came from those shows I attended.

So after Philadelphia, what was the next city that you migrated to next?

Yusuf: So I lived in Philadelphia until 2015. I was managing a visual artist and we were touring the country and I realized, “I’m turning 30 next year" and I felt it was best to move and start in a new market but stay rooted in Philly. I had kind of reached my creative ceiling in Philadelphia, I was still working with A3C and working with all these different festivals and I just felt like there was more that I could have been doing.

So a friend of mine was like, “hey, you should look into Vegas” and it made no sense to me at the time, I was like why would I go to Vegas and she was basically said, “you do shows, you have a lot of relationships, and everything here is 21 plus, but no one really does anything for 18+ crowd.

So I went out there to visit and ended up linking up with a local promotion company by the name of Jamnation and about month later I signed a lease and moved out there. Within a year we produced multiple sold out shows and our own mini music festival Jamfest headlined by Lil B, Maxo Kream, local talent and more.


Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

And after Vegas, you then moved here to Atlanta?

Yusuf: After A3C 2017, I was figuring out where I was going to move next from Vegas and it was either gonna be L.A., New York, or I was actually thinking overseas to be honest. A3C asked me if I would ever think about moving to Atlanta and then my homeboy was like you should come to this party called “The Groove” and that solidified my move.

So aside from A3C and the parties, was there anything else that really made you think Atlanta was the best place for you?

Yusuf: For me personal, the culture in Atlanta took me back to my early days of creating in Philadelphia. From the way people supported each other and sense of community. I just felt like it was so much opportunity, relationships and connections that I knew I would come out here and learn, grow and add to the culture and I am grateful that Atlanta has embraced me with open arms.


Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

And since you began talking about one of your current jobs, I would just like to know what was your initial plan going into the music industry? And has it remained the same?

Yusuf: For a long time I just remember saying I wish I could work for a company or even a music label. I learned to take it day by day and allow the journey to manifest itself. Just recently, I was blessed to work on the management team for Puff's son, King Combs. I was doing booking and road management and curated his first multi-city tour.

The blessing of having this experience is that it taught me that you can move forward from situations without burning bridges. I'm grateful that the team understood where I am in my career and my decision to explore other ventures. What I will say to all creatives is that, if you get to a point where you just like the work, but don't love it, sometimes it is best to walk away and you have to be content with that decision.

Being on the topic of holding yourself accountable for your happiness, a lot of people have said that in your thirties is where you will peak in this industry or when you will feel like your hard work has paid off and you have arrived?

Yusuf: So I wrote a thread on Twitter and I was telling everybody that life kind of goes in threes. So from 21-24, 24-27 and 27-30, you will be a different person in each one of those threes. The person you were at 21, you will not be that same person at 24. The person you were at 24, you will not be that same person at 27.


And around 27/28, that’s when I really started to realize… So at 25, you kind of reach that quarter-life crisis and that’s where you swear up and down you feel like you have wasted time. You’re like, “oh my God, I was 21 yesterday and now I’m 25 and I need to have a million tomorrow.” Which is not the reality at all, but you feel that sense of pressure and that pressure is bullshit, It’s not real. It’s not a real thing.


Photo by Visions x JB | Creative Directed by Adonis Thrax

What do you see yourself doing as you further whole career? Do you want to stay independent?

Yusuf: I think that’s best for me. I’m not a real good employee [ha ha] because I prefer to move around and I like to be a part of a team but the independence of being able to create on my own. As an employee, you really have to be dedicated to that one brand and that’s really hard for me to do. So I prefer the higher gun role because it allows me to tap into all of my creativity. One of the best quotes that sticks with me from one of my many mentors is "there is no such thing as job security." If you know you know.

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