There wasn’t a more fitting location to interview Ned “Leedz” Wellbery than the Middle East. The historic club has served as the backdrop for some of the most groundbreaking hip hop shows in Boston for the last decade. Wellbery, who prides himself on his resilience as much as he does his keen business acumen, has adjusted well to being the epicenter of Leedz Edutainment (his independent promotion company). As expected, it was an adjustment that came with a palpable price tag: his personal life.
“I work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. It definitely has taken its toll on me—but I’m more balanced these days.”
Almost immediately, the topic evolves into his controversial reputation. Over the years, the eminence that Wellbery has garnered is, at best, unflattering. At worst, his methods for making local hip hop profitable were downright tyrannical. But he manages to keep an honest and mature outlook on the subject. “[My reputation] is better now. In the beginning, I quickly realized that being a promoter means that you can’t always be likeable—someone has to enforce the rules.”
His inherently stern demeanor throughout our conversation peaks at this point. “I’ve been put through a lot of tests. There are limited outlets in this city to get on, so some see this as a free for all. It becomes very competitive, and people get very critical.” The notion of Boston having a transient music scene is also applicable to this particular genre. “Boston is in a constant state of development,” Wellbery claims. “It’s still finding its way. People want it to be more than what it actually is—and they complain about it. The truth is, you can’t see shows like these in other cities, except for places like New York and LA. Things that work well here might not work anywhere else—this city has a uniqueness to it.”
Despite the intense discussion at hand, he lightens up to reminisce over a few of Leedz Edutainment’s most memorable performances. “A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Immortal Technique. But [the list] also includes the people I grew up listening to—like the Geto Boys, DJ Premier, and Bone Thugz.” The Lox, who are headlining his 10th anniversary affair, will most likely be added to this indelible list of favorites. But when they roll through the Middle East on April 26th, it won’t just be another legendary rap group leaving their mark on one of Boston’s favorite music venues—it’ll be yet another declaration of Wellbery’s undisputed staying power. He has no plans of relinquishing his reign for the foreseeable future.
“I just want to keep doing the biggest hip hop shows possible. I could see myself expanding out of Boston,” he prophesizes. “But I’m not leaving anytime soon—this city is my home.”
[Photo Credit: NEHip-Hop.com]