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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

Benny's Back

May 19, 1996|Steve Hochman

Benny Medina, a rising star as senior vice president of black music at Warner Bros. Records, left the company--and the music business--18 months ago, disillusioned by the corporate politics and posturings that plagued the company at the time.

Now, much to his own surprise, he's back, with partners James Lassiter and Peter Golden, in a management firm, Handprint Entertainment, working with two elite pop clients: producer-writer-performer Babyface and touted musician Me'Shell NdegeoCello. They've also just signed ambient-pop singer-songwriter Vanessa Daou.

Medina had already been edging away from music before leaving Warners--he created the NBC sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (based, to some extent, on his own life) and developed other film and TV projects for its star, Will Smith. Initially, the focus of the new venture was to be film and TV, with Smith and actress Jada Pinkett among the clients.

But Medina says he saw an opportunity to also work in the music world without the corporate binds.

"Whoever I talk to in the entertainment business, whether heads of film studios or record companies, they are constantly telling us what a need there is for creative management," he says. "Managers like Freddy DeMann [Madonna's manager] are now running companies rather than doing hands-on management. I'm really having fun now."

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