Russell “Block” Spencer Talks Reality TV Projects, Fox’s “Empire” & How Music Streaming Is Hurting Artists


In part two of’s exclusive interview with Russell “Block” Spencer, the CEO of Block Entertainment discusses a couple of reality television programs he has in the works. One of which is set to feature a former star of the hit show Scandal.

The cousin of TDE founder Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith also gives his opinion on another breakout TV series. Fox’s Hip Hop drama Empire centers around a successful music executive, so with a résumé that includes jump starting the thriving careers of Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and Ciara, Block is an ideal person to comment on the authenticity of the smash series.

While television looks to be in Spencer’s future, the Atlanta-based mogul still has his hands in the music business as well. The tides of the industry are rapidly shifting from purchasing CDs/downloading MP3’s to streaming music via platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Pandora. Block addresses how this transition is affecting the artists creating the content.

[ALSO READ: Block Entertainment’s Russell “Block” Spencer Talks Compilation Album, Working With Columbus Short & Christian Combs]


Rightfully or wrongfully, Atlanta has kind of gotten this reputation for reality shows. With you having so much insight into the business and having so many connections, have you ever thought about doing your own reality show?

We have two reality shows right now that I’m in negotiations with. One of them is with Columbus Short called Coming Up Short. It’s not going to be a lot of bullsh*t drama. It’s going to be showing how Block Ent is rebuilding the brand for music and new artists.

Then I’m doing the Rebuilding Hip-Hop Block By Block reality show. I go around to untapped markets, and I’m doing a talent search/documentary. I’m going to pick new artists to be on my album.

They’ll have a chance to be on a major motion picture soundtrack or in the movie. They’ll have a chance to sign with a major label. I’m going to film all of that.

My mom is from Atlanta, and my dad’s from Watts. Me and Top Dawg at TDE are relatives on my pop’s side. So culturally, I was raised in both [cities]. I went to Washington High in L.A., and I went to Decatur High in Atlanta. I came up around Hosea Williams as well.

Before Hosea died, he came to the studio with me and just talked. I have a whole bunch of stuff with Hosea. I have a whole bunch of stuff with Andrew Young.

So culturally, I don’t get involved with the drama reality shows. My daughter’s mother [former Xscape singer Kandi Burruss] is on Real Housewives of Atlanta. They’ve been trying to get me on there for years. I will not do it.

Why is that?

I’m too real. Anything could pop off with me. [laughs] I’m too real to go through that drama. It’s hard to break old habits. I can’t fake it. I just don’t see the reality of that when it comes to my brand and me personally. I don’t knock it, but me dealing with “drama” reality shows – that will never happen.

Block + Kandi + daughter Riley
Block + Kandi + daughter Riley

Did you follow Empire?

Yes and no. But I love the show.

As a label CEO, what are your thoughts on the “inside industry” theme that was presented on that show?

Coming out of the streets, coming out of raising my kids – that sh*t is 85% real. I don’t think the money’s real. The hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t real, but the chances and the springboards that come along with it is real.

Could you make $100 million in the music business? Yes, but the music business is sick now. I think people use the music to promote what they have going on. So just straight music? Hell no. But having chances to get sponsors or start another company to generate money? Yes.

What do you think about the “streaming wars” between Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc? A lot of people feel like that is where the music business is headed, because people don’t buy CDs anymore.

That streaming sh*t is killing us. People really need to understand how artists are being paid. Streaming equals pennies. I guess the logic of it all is okay. People are going to steal anyway, so we would rather have pennies than nothing.

My label deal is with Sony/RCA, but it’s non-exclusive. At first when I was with Atlantic for 12 years, I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t do sh*t. But now, I can go anywhere.

I was in a meeting about six months ago. Some of these artists and labels are not even putting their sh*t on streaming. You can’t stream a lot of albums. So I think streaming is really f*cking us.

Block Kris
Kris Kelli + Block Spencer

Spotify only pays out $0.00225 per stream. How do you make any money off of that?

You can’t. You can’t eat off that. Them cats out of Houston and The Bay kind of started off not needing labels. Too $hort, Spice 1, you come down to Paul Wall and his crew – California and Texas artists don’t need a label. If they can work a single off radio, they got tour money.

Just like the people in the Caribbean. My artist Kris Kelli is Jamaican. She was on the Reggae scene for a while. She told me how Caribbean folk can go on tour and make money all over the world.

So once you get one record to go, f*ck record sales. You’re going to get paid. Artists don’t really make money anyway, because they never recoup. All they need is one good record. You can get your own radio team and work your record.

Now that social media made the world smaller, it’s needed. If you have 10 million people following you and you tell your followers to go buy my single, I guarantee you 10,000 out of 10 million are going to go get your single.

It was the 2000’s when the war started between record labels and artists. Record labels felt like “We’re spending $500,000 -$600,000 to get you up and running, but we can’t make no money because you ain’t selling. You’re making money because you have a single or two and you’re touring.”

So I can see how both sides are looking at it, but record labels don’t have all the control like they used to. They used to have them, but now – we don’t care about no record labels.

You’ve had the opportunity to be in this business a long time, and you’ve been very successful. What do you think are the keys to maintaining that long-term success in the music business?

I’m very spiritual. I’m Muslim. I put God first, because I know that I didn’t get here by myself. There’s people who helped me get where I’m at. I think when people not only think that way, but live that way, you’ll naturally evolve.

[ALSO READ: Atlanta Exec Block Signs Kris Kelli, Rappers 48 Slim & Chip; Executive Producing New Ice Cube Movie]

Follow Russell “Block” Spencer on Twitter @bigblockesc and Instagram @bigblockesc.

Read part one of’s interview with Block here.