Noah Rosenberg changed his name to Webster in eighth grade when he realized nobody would listen to rap music by a white kid from New Jersey named Rosenberg. He thought they might listen to rap music by a kid named after the man who created Webster’s Dictionary instead. As a junior in college sitting in his room, aptly referred to as “the cave,” partly because he’s always working there and partly because of the black curtains drawn shut over open windows, abstract posters of his favorite rappers plaster the walls. A sleepy hip-hop playlist plays softly from his laptop. Webster flips open a bright red Zippo and lights a spliff; he writes for Underground Underdogs, an online music magazine, and loves to watch artists get high during FaceTime interviews.
When he entered the Syracuse University Bandier program in 2016, Webster shifted from making his own music to supporting artists under Veravie, the full-service creative label and clothing brand he runs with two friends, Henry Touma and Jakob Kaplan. Touma named the company Veravie, which means “real life” in Italian and French, he says, because the boys wanted to bring artists real success, and “the chance to express what is real to them.” When Touma announced Veravie as a clothing company his senior year of high school, he wrote the company’s URL in towering red duct tape in the school cafeteria. A week later, he hosted a party where 15 of his friends showed up in Veravie shirts to promote the company; the shirts sold out later that week.
Veravie is unlike a traditional record label in that it mostly works with artists on visuals and promotion one drop at a time, rather than sign them for the foreseeable future of their careers.
“The breaking down of every traditional barrier from content creation to distribution has put so much more power in artists’ hands to be independent,” Webster says.
He and his team watched the record industry crumble; as of 2015, CD sales dropped 84% in only a decade. To Webster, it makes sense to be nimble and work with artists on a case-by-case basis; him and his boys aren’t exactly rolling in cash from managing young artists, and working on individual drops allows them to assemble the right group of creatives for each project. The team works with a wide range of hip-hop bloggers they’ve met through past internships, including Webster’s stint at FADER, as well as on-campus videographers and graphic designers. Webster also creates visuals; he stayed up until five in the morning banging out artwork for rapper Sadio Muzic’s most recent song release this September.
The team discovered Sadio, a 16-year-old rapper from Brooklyn, in a now-viral clip of the teenager drumming hits by everyone from Rihanna to the Temptations on the subway. He is the only artist Veravie officially manages, rather than work with project by project. After he performed on Good Morning America last year, Sadio wowed the Veravie team so much, the boys decided they wanted to see him through his career.
“I think Sadio will be the biggest artist in the world one day,” Webster says, pressing the recorder to his mouth for extra emphasis. “In an ideal world, when Sadio gets signed, we sign him and Veravie to the same record label. You gotta dream about it, because when it comes you gotta be ready.”
As an LLC, Veravie earns a small commission from artists’ performances, and sells their T-shirts at pop-up shops. Signing to a label offers “a huge resource and money injection,” Webster says. Webster works with some prominent record labels already as Concerts Director for University Union, a student-run organization that hosts every major concert at SU. As director, Webster fine-tunes the lineup for every concert, and oversees each artist that performs at the school.
“I make the lineup, I reach out to the agents, I draft the offer to be sent out officially by the school,” Webster says. “I don’t mean to overstate the position, but for an event like Juice Jam, everything that a student experiences throughout the day is under my sight.”
This year, he helped bring Playboy Carti and A$AP Ferg to Juice Jam, SU’s biggest annual fall concert.
If Veravie signs to a record label, Webster says, the company maintains creative control over their artists’ work, with the added bonus of exposure and money. The more people talk about Webster’s dreams for Veravie, the faster his words speed up and the further he leans forward in his swivel chair, like the motion will propel those plans into existence.