During the mid-2010s, South Florida was in the process of becoming a hotspot for its growing music and art scene. Music festivals and other live events were more frequent and bringing experiences like no other. Wynwood was increasingly vibrant, opening doors for artists to show self-expression, and Rolling Loud was on its way to becoming hip-hop’s biggest music festival.
Alongside that, emerging artists were breaking the mainstream, including Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, and the late XXXTentacion. But as the region was bubbling for its punk-rap scene, R&B was pushed to the back burner.
“We would literally have shows every single day, no matter if it was the weekend or weekday," Akeem Brownlee says. “This is before Wynwood was Wynwood before it got gentrified. This is when kids like [XXXTentacion] and Lil Pump were nobodies. You would be able to see those kids before they even blew up. R&B was not even present at all.”
Originally launched in 2014 as a blog highlighting South Florida artists, TheNuMiami was rebranded by the 28-year-old into a full-fledged music and entertainment company that offered talent management, digital distribution, and label services. The company also played a role in R&B's resurgence, helping break acts such as Savannah Cristina, Twelve’Len, and, as of late, Zya.
Growing up in Carol City, Brownlee got his love for R&B from his mom, who played '90s acts like Mary J. Blige, Kelly Price, SWV, and Xscape at home. For him, it was a no-brainer to turn TheNuMiami into an R&B hub.
“R&B is what I've grown to love and what I'm truly good at. It’s like it’s embedded in me," he says. "I told myself after working with rappers that if I’m going to do this music thing, I have to love it, and that’s why TheNuMiami has solely worked with R&B acts.”
The company's humble beginnings began inside his bedroom at his parent’s home. Akeem taught himself how to mix and audio engineering with a makeshift studio while saving all the money he could.
Slowly, he accrued knowledge by watching countless hours of interviews and documentaries, learning the ins and outs of the music industry, from marketing to A&R.
Soon, Brownlee started working with vocalist Muvasmilk (formerly known as Vnusamr). When that collaboration came to an end, he stumbled upon Savannah Cristina through a video she posted on Twitter in 2016. He immediately noticed something undeniable about the self-care queen: an ability to connect and encompass the listener.
“It was her delivery and lyrics for me,” Brownless says. “Once I found out she writes all of her stuff, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be something,’ because most people can sing but can’t write or vice versa. But Savannah, she had the pen game, and she can sing. I was like, all we need to do is just get her in the studio and get her around the right people so she can learn how this system works.”
From there on out, Brownlee stepped into the liaison role for Cristina, taking time behind the scenes to develop her artistry. Then, in 2020, the “soul therapist” landed a deal with Warner Records, which allowed Brownlee to quit his full-time job at Home Depot.
Then there is his relationship with Twelve’Len — the two grew up as childhood friends. Although he doesn't manage the Carol City artist, Brownlee served as Twelve’Len’s go-to guy. Twelve’Len would often be the brains behind various creative projects, with the job of executing the vision falling to Brownlee.
“[Twelve’Len] is the brains when it comes to the visionary stuff, and I’m the guy to get it done. So, like scouting the talent, reaching out to the people, helping him put everything together," he explains.
Their longtime friendship led Brownlee to his most recent signee. In 2019, Twelve'Len introduced him to Zya, who impressed Brownlee with her velvety vocals and freestyle lyricism. For her latest project, 333, Brownlee enlisted the help of Justin Wiggins, a producer for TheNuMiami.
That same year, Brownlee secured an office space to serve as headquarter of TheNuMiami and SoundWAV recording studio.
With a DIY approach, Brownlee has crafted a label that’s treading to become Miami's version of LaFace Record.
“If you have the idea, start it. Act on it ASAP," he says. "Don’t sleep on your ideas. Just start.”