What Do We Look For In Emerging Artists?

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Photo via FACT Magazine.

Back on November 24, 2015, I had the honor of being interviewed by one of my favorite new music discovery platforms, fanum.fm. When asked the question, “What characteristics or qualities do I find attractive in new and emerging artists?” I answered as follows:

When I was an A&R and music publisher, I was often asked: “What do I look for in emerging artists?” As strange as it may sound, this was never a simple question for me. In fact, I was always looking for better ways to explain what catches my attention. Even today, when it comes to discovering new and emerging talent, there are a few elements that I find myself…well…a “sucker for” — here they are!

1. Production Quality (Songs)

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Photo via GrungeCake.

My introduction into the world of recorded music came through producing and writing songs alongside a very good friend of mine. We were HUGE fans of The Neptunes and were always intrigued by the quality of their production and how they worked with a wide variety of artists. When it comes to identifying artists who catch my attention, I’m very production driven.

Here are a few attributes which I tend to look for:

  • Good selection of sounds (electronic, live, sampled, etc).
  • Catchy melodies and chord progressions.
  • Clear and audible vocals.
  • Interesting vocal and/or instrumental arrangements.
  • Thoughtful lyrics and storytelling.

In October of 2015, I was talking to one of my friends in the lobby of my apartment building. A few minutes into our conversation, I heard an ear-catching melody underneath some foreign female vocals. I immediately had to pause the conversation to find out exactly what song was being played. Thanks to Shazam, I discovered it was “Come” by Jain – a singer/songwriter from France. Due to the flavor and quality of her production, I was positively exposed to her music. As a result, I continue to follow her work as she proceeds to build her brand.

2. Brand Potential (Cohesive Aesthetic)

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Photo via The Fader.

I firmly believe that a strong brand should entail a cohesive aesthetic across all media platforms. It’s important to avoid confusing our potential consumers and make sure that they know where and how to find us. Our website, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Soundcloud, Twitter, and Youtube all serve as primary and secondary touch-points for people to find us. They need to be in sync. A GREAT example of an emerging artist with a cohesive aesthetic is Kali Uchis:

I’ve always been a sucker for the small things that tend to add up as our careers manifest down the line. Do you notice how Kali’s quality visuals match her personality, style, and theme across all channels? Even her color scheme is a consistent baby blue and pink. Brand cohesion plays a huge role when it comes to catching and keeping our consumers attention.

3. Diligence, Honesty, and Initiative

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Photo via Google.

Practicing diligence, taking initiative, and being honest with one’s self is truly what helps to set an artist up for the long-haul in regards to defining their legacy. I believe Kehlani is a prime example of this. Her current label, Atlantic Records, considers her a “mindie” act (‘Major’ artist with ‘Indie’ bonafides), having her fan base as an independent artist before garnering the attention of the majors.

It’s apparent that her hard work is just beginning to pay off, while her more subtle honesty bleeds through her music. In an interview with The Fader, she talks about going through foster care, losing her father as a child, and her wavering sexual identity. These are all topics that many artists shy away from for fear of compromising how they are viewed in public. Kehlani is different. She realizes that to inspire others is to accept herself for exactly who she is. She is such a shining light of truthful experience and authentic artistry! For this reason, Kehlani is continuing to win over fans and supporters even through her public challenges and setbacks. Keep striving Kehlani, keep striving!

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Cultural Curator, and Educator. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

Why Expose Our Children to GMO’s?

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Photo courtesy of Facebook.

On Sunday October 31, 2016 at around 1:15 am, I happened to make an (un)routine stop to pick up a late night/early morning snack at my local 7-Eleven. As I conducted my routine analysis of product labels, I was surprised to notice a “Produced with Genetic Engineering” label that appeared on the back of a carton of “Zesty Salsa” Pringles. In an effort to make sure that I was indeed seeing things correctly, I was then compelled to check the back of a nearby package of Cheez-It crackers. Low and behold, the same exact label was there again, “Produced with Genetic Engineering.” I began to notice a pattern. More importantly, I drew an instant connection to my observation of what our children are consuming on a daily basis in our schools, especially within our inner-city communities.

What Have I Observed?

I am currently an educator who works in the public school system. In my five years working for various school districts, I have payed particularly close attention to the food being served to our student population of young children and adolescents.

Here in the State of New Jersey, we have a “School Breakfast Program.” According to the State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture, “This program is aimed at providing a nutritious and well-balanced breakfast in order to promote sound eating habits and foster good health and academic achievement in school age children.” Although I am quite thankful for an initiative aimed at providing food to our children who are most in need, I am also quite concerned about the companies who provide this food. Many of these companies such as Kellogg and General Mills own brands including Cheerios, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Rice Krispies. Although these brands only represent a small portion of the Kellogg and General Mills portfolio, they certainly represent a much larger portion of the food being served to our children in schools for breakfast across the country.

For many reasons, I never agreed with the consumption of the ingredients in certain foods and snacks in our schools (ex: high-fructose corn syrup in ketchup). However, until now…it was never quite “apparent” that the food being offered to our children would blatantly contain ingredients produced with Genetic Engineering.

G.M.O. Labeling

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Photo courtesy of Food Business News.

After conducting some additional research, I have come to learn that on July 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed a G.M.O. labeling bill (S. 764). “This bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard” as mentioned by Jeff Gelski of Food Business News. Mark Bittman of The New York Times also disclosed that, “The new law mandates that the Department of Agriculture define what constitutes a genetically modified food ingredient and then requires food manufacturers to label products that contain them.

At this point in time, there still seems to be a lot of controversy and disappointment behind the underlining elements of this bill for a number of reasons according to Carey Wedler of theantimedia.org.

Here are a few:

  1. Food companies are not necessarily required to label genetically modified products in “text” form.
  2. Food derived from an animal is not to be considered bioengineered.
  3. Eggs will also not be subject to GM labels.

Okay, although there may be quite a bit of controversy and disappointment, I personally believe that the G.M.O. labeling bill is indeed a step forward. Can it be improved? Yes. Can the language be more clear and concise? Yes. However, what are some actions we can take as citizens, communities, and consumers to become more informed and enlightened in regards to what we decide to put on our plates?

How Can We Avoid G.M.O.’s?

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Photo courtesy of Boston Organics.

1. Pay Attention

As consumers, we are often driven by habit. We subscribe to and support “legacy” brands such as Cheerios, Froot Loops, M&M’s, and Pop-Tarts on a daily basis without question. For much of our lives, we express no concern about the ingredients these products may often contain. It is second nature for us to load our shopping carts with these items because we are so conditioned within our cultural and dietary traditions to do so. I truly believe that now is the time to begin paying very close attention to everything that we decide to put into our bodies in an effort to discover better solutions and sustainable options.

2. Research

I come across many “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” food, health, and household products on a regular basis. Every time I peruse through the aisles of stores such as Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, I stumble upon something new. Surprisingly, some of these products have actually been around for longer than we may think. For example, my family has been using Dr. Bronner’s since I was a very young child. This dates back to when Dr. Bronner’s was primarily sold at local neighborhood health food stores. Funny enough, I happened to catch Dr. Bronner’s being stocked at Food Town just the other day. A lot has changed in 25 years.

3. Support

Once we come across items that we deem to be suitable and sustainable for our health and wellness needs, it’s important that we begin to support companies with our pockets (until proven otherwise). Yes, healthier options are often more costly, but…”What is the cost of our health?” Why shouldn’t our grocery store aisles stock more of the food that is actually healthy for us? Why shouldn’t we deserve to live longer?

In closing, “What can we do as a community to protect the health and well-being of our children? More importantly, what can we do to provide healthy and sustainable food for those who live in our communities of much needed assistance?”

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Cultural Curator, and Educator. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

Idris Elba + Purdey’s Inspire The World To Thrive On!

When we saw a Facebook post from one of our clients yesterday, we couldn’t help but to click for sound and decide to watch the video. We must say – we are certainly pleased that we decided to do so. We learned a lot!

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Multi-vitamin fruit drink brand, Purdey’s teamed up with the multi-talented superstar, Idris Elba in an effort to help us get more out of life while introducing the world to Purdey’s belief that we should never stop growing.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Seems like a simple question…right? At first, the question received many laughs, a few surprising looks, and some uncertainty. Then, we were hit with a follow-up question:

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Ahhh…as adults, why do we believe that we’ve stopped growing? After all, we never stop growing…right? We actually don’t. In fact, when we are introduced to a fresh new perspective on life, it makes us view our potential quite differently.

Here are some of the inspiring answers we receive when we are able to get others to agree with the notion that we never stop growing:

I Want To …

… Make quilts, amazing quilts!

… Play drums!

… Be Madonna!

… Look after the people I love!

… Be an Actor!

… Be a Spoken Word artist!

… Be a Hot Air Balloon Pilot!

… Be a Football Coach – I think!

So…What Stops Us From Achieving Our Dreams?

There are an endless amount of reasons why we may feel as though we can no longer achieve our dreams. Age, time, discouragement, lack of ambition…LIFE?!? However, would we take the chance to achieve our dreams if we were given the opportunity? Can we get a HECK YES!!! Knowing this, what does it all come down to? It comes down to us, not life. Our lives are largely determined by the decisions we choose to make for ourselves.

From the land of “A Lovers Ambition,” we would arguably say that it’s finally time to spend less energy on creating excuses, and more energy on creating opportunities for ourselves to thrive and live the life of our dreams.

Thanks to Idris, Purdey’s, and Iris Worldwide for compelling us with the compassionate message to move forward and find our inner ambition to achieve our goals and thrive on!

Credits

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Music by Baptiste Thiry, “Dreams Come True”

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

Know Your Why: Michael Jr.

On February 1, 2016 one of my best friends shared this video with me on Facebook. Although I’m familiar with the concept of finding why we do what we do and the importance of knowing what our purpose is in life, I have yet to see it delivered as eloquently as how Michael Jr. presents it in this video.

Michael Jr. mentions, “When we know our why, we have options on what our what can be.” As mentioned in one of our previous posts entitled, “How Might We Discover our Purpose”, once we are able to discover, identify, and pursue our calling [“Our Why”], we are then better equipped to select and manage which assignments [“Our What”] are in our best interest in regards to achieving our ultimate success!

“When we know our why, our what has more impact because we are walking in or towards our purpose.” – Michael Jr.

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

iPad Mini Courtesy of Tai Lopez

Earlier today, I received a notification from Tai Lopez’s YouTube channel in regards to his latest video upload entitled, “5 Ways Personal Branding Can Increase Trust and Credibility.” An hour or two later, I made some time to check out the video while cooking dinner and washing the dishes. To my surprise, the video was actually a live stream. I had no idea how long the stream would last. Nonetheless, I did know that whatever information was being offered, it would be extremely valuable.

I learned a lot to say the least. It also happened that one of the members on Tai’s team, Andrew Copp is from Staten Island, NY just like myself. Considering the level of admiration I have for Tai Lopez, I definitely found Andrew’s story to be very inspiring to say the least. Towards the end of the live stream, Tai and his team always run contests to give listeners and watchers opportunities to win prizes via multiple social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Peeriscope. I have never been a huge fan of contests. However, because I just spent the last 2 hours listening and paying attention to the live stream, I thought that I might actually have a pretty solid chance at coming away with something in addition to all of the wonderful gems I had just learned.

Prior to me even knowing that there was going to be a contest taking place, I did my usual due diligence…RESEARCH. I like to get familiar with the people who I am listening to when it comes to  learning new information. When I checked out Andrew, I already knew that he was from Staten Island. I was curious to learn more. I looked into his LinkedIn and Twitter profiles and a few minutes later Andrew asked the following questions for the contest to win an iPad Mini:

  1. What was the name of the agency that I worked for when I dropped out of college?
  2. What was the first and last name of the person who hired me?

I already knew that I was equipped with everything that I needed to answer both of these questions. Sometimes it’s not about how much we know but rather it’s where we need to go to get the right information. Hence, because I just finished checking out Andrew’s LinkedIn, I had the answers right there in front of me (Answers: 1. MicroFame Media, 2. Michael Shein). Talk about taking notes! I spent 2 hours of my time investing in a free education and I also ended up coming away with an iPad Mini. Not a bad ROI. I owe it all to activating prior knowledge (research), paying attention to details (listening), and knowing how to properly utilize resources (LinkedIn).

Lesson learned? These are skills that could and should be applied to our everyday lives. Knowledge is key, knowledge is power. Let’s take action in applying and investing in the steps aimed towards helping us to achieve success. #ALOVERSAmbition

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

Resources We Love: 10 Ways To Amplify Your Blog

A week or so ago I came across Michael Hyatt’s weekly podcast dedicated to intentional leadership entitled, “This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt.” The first episode that I checked out was his interview with his co-host, Michele Cushatt entitled, “Blow Up Your Blog!” For anyone looking to start a blog or a website, this is a must watch.

Here are 10 Ways To Amplify Your Blog according to Michael Hyatt:

1. Create Content Worth Sharing:

As an owner of a blog, we are 100% in control of our content. The best way to create content worth sharing is to focus on quality material. Hyatt mentions, “Create content that’s so good that people are willing to share it with other people.”

2. Adhere to a Consistent Schedule:

“Consistency is far more important than frequency” says Hyatt. No matter how many times of week we create content, we must be consistent. Hyatt also mentions, “Trust is a necessity. The best way to build trust is to show up on a consistent basis.” Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you overwhelm yourself, you may be overwhelming your audience.

3. Get a Domain Name:

Create your own domain name. Stay away from name.tumblr.com or name.wordpress.com. It’s bad branding and shows that you are an amateur who does not take their work seriously. Once you create your own domain name, you can then link it to your Tumblr or WordPress blog.

4. Promote Your Website:

Do your best to promote your website. Whenever you get the opportunity to promote your work, the first thing that you want to share with people is your website address. If your website is set up correctly with the right contact and social media information, people will find out whatever they need to find out about you on your website.

For example, let’s examine Facebook and Youtube. Every time someone shares a piece of content that originates from either Facebook or Youtube, the names of those websites are being promoted as well. When you create content that is worth sharing, the name of your website begins to spread along with the content.

5. Make it Easy To Subscribe:

Have an option on your website that allows people to subscribe to updates. However, don’t ask for too much information. Why? According to Hyatt, “The more information you ask for, the more it diminishes your conversion rate.” People don’t want to give out all of their personal information. It is only necessary to collect a potential subscribers first name and email address.

6. Optimize Your Posts For SEO:

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” What search engine optimization does is populate your posts so that search engines can catalog them appropriately and boost your rankings on Google. If you’re on WordPress, check out the “All In One SEO” plug-in.

7. Utilize Social Media:

Use social media as an outpost to direct people back to the content on your website.

8. Engage in Conversation:

Certain content elicits certain conversations. It’s important to engage in conversations. Make sure to answer questions, thank people for comments, etc.

9. Comment on Other Websites:

It’s important to contribute and add meaningful value to other online communities. By doing this, it helps to increase your brand visibility  and awareness when someone takes an interest in something that you shared. When people like what you share, they want to keep up with what you’re doing. Thus, they become another supporter of your content.

10. Write Guest Posts:

Through writing guest posts on other platforms, people find you by linking back to your website.

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

Branding We Love: Jack Erwin

I come across Jack Erwin ads all of the time on Facebook and it’s probably because I was recently in the market for buying quality dress shoes. Long story short, I came across this video while revisiting Aloe Blacc’s “Love is The Answer” video to insert into my post entitled, “The Spiritual Partnership: Gary Zukav.”

Ronan Gallagher directed this short and both the music and video direction caught and kept my attention. Thus, I decided that it may be cool to share it with you all. Plus, as you may have already picked up on from previous posts, I absolutely love the documentation of almost any creative process.

– Enjoy…Ciao!

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

The Spiritual Partnership: Gary Zukav

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Hey! What can I say? First off, where should I start? Although my mother probably had his books laying all across our house when I was younger, I first remember coming across Gary Zukav when I checked out Oprah on her “Living Brave” interview with Brené Brown (2:44) earlier this year. Oprah mentioned Gary Zukav’s book on intention, which I believe was “The Seat of The Soul” as the spawning of a breakthrough in her life back in 1989. Interestingly enough, back in October of 2015 I stumbled upon one of his quotes on Pinterest. I just couldn’t help but to pin it to one of my boards and share it with my friends on Facebook. I believe that the quote was extracted from “Soul Stories” and it goes as follows:

“The new female and the new male are partners on a journey of spiritual growth. They want to make the journey. Their love and trust keep them together. Their intuition guides them. They consult with each other. They are friends. They laugh a lot. They are equals. That is what a spiritual partnership is: a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.” – Gary Zukav

How amazing right!?!?! This is the essence of it all! A true partnership. A spiritual journey. Divine love and connection. Sound a little too “woo woo” for you? You may want to consider opening up and digging deeper. Why settle for anything or anyone? You deserve the right to be selective with the people you choose to engage deeply with. We’re not talking about surface level relationships, I mean deep engagement.

When it comes to intimacy and romantic relationships, I like to use the term “Holistic Compatibility.” I consider holistic compatibility to be a prime partnership match on many if not all or most levels. Of course, not much can be perfect. However, whatever is not operating well can still be worked on. As long as good intentions remain the case, perfection is less in the result as it is in the willingness to persist, learn, and improve.

Love is the answer!

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

London Real Presents: Robert Greene

One of my good friends shared this video with me via Facebook last week and I certainly appreciate it! Robert Greene who is the author of a number of bestselling books including: The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction opens up to Brian Rose and Nic Gabriel for London Real regarding his thoughts on a variety of topics.

Here are some key takeaway points:

“Organization is a high level skill. Organizing your thoughts and surroundings is strategy at it’s highest level and it also requires creativity.” – Robert Greene (32:34)

“Young people are often too in a hurry to make it.” – Robert Greene (42:00)

“There’s no upside in escalating aggression with aggression.” – Brian Rose (48:37)

Hope you enjoy the video!

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

VEVO DSCVR Presents: Alessia Cara

Here at A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, we’re all about supporting emerging artists while providing them with a platform for their music to be discovered. VEVO DSCVR is a music incubator just for this. This time around, VEVO DSCVR brings to us EP Entertainment/Def Jam’s own 19 year-old songstress, Alessia Cara. “All you really need is a love for what you do, and the ambition to do it” says Alessia in the short description of her Facebook Fan Page. Alessia is once again another artist who embodies the philosophy of what it takes to have “A Lovers Ambition.”

Sit back, relax, and watch Alessia perform her debut single, “Here” off of her forthcoming EP, “Four Pink Walls” which is due out later this month on August 28th.

– Enjoy!

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Creative Consultant, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies such as Cornerstone Agency, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe.