Owens jumps into music industry with recording studio
JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr.
ATLANTA - If Terrell Owens has another falling out with the Philadelphia Eagles, he's got his own business to fall back on.
T.O. has muscled into Atlanta's thriving R&B and hip-hop scene with Dirty South Studios. No, the five-time Pro Bowl receiver isn't getting behind the mike, a la Deion Sanders and other forgettable athletes-turned-singers. Get this, Owens prefers to stay in the background when it comes to music, providing a place where artists can lay down their own tracks.
"It's an opportunity for artists to perfect their craft," Owens said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this summer at his studio. "They're getting their grind on, and I respect that. I want to help them be successful."
"American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard, actor-singer Jamie Foxx, rapper Young Jeezy, hip-hop producers Mannie Fresh and Lil Jon, and R&B group 112 have recorded at Dirty South. A multi-platinum quartet, the members of 112 never had recorded in their hometown until they visited Owens' studio.
"When we first walked into the studio, we all said, 'Oh yeah, this is it,'" said Q, a vocalist with the group.
Paintings in the lobby, hip furniture and a 50-inch plasma flat screen TV in the lounge room provide a comfortable atmosphere for clients. But Dirty South's ultramodern equipment has been the company's niche.
"It's off the hook," said Daron, who usually handles production for 112. "Everything was smooth, efficient and relaxing, with a family atmosphere."
Two years ago, Owens and his best friend, Theron Cooper, came up with the idea of starting a studio. Their passion for music and Owens' hefty income made it an easy decision.
"We both love music so much," said Cooper, who has known Owens for 12 years. "We both just came up with the idea one day, and we just did it."
Owens believed the studio's name had to represent the region.
"Atlanta is known for its dirt. The red clay and mud. Since it's in the South, we came up with Dirty South," he said.
Just a hobby at first, the clientele increased rapidly once producers and songwriters realized that Dirty South was owned by Owens. Sitting alongside popular recording companies Zac and OutKast's Stankonia Studios helped make the player's venture legit.
"Everyone loves T.O. in the music industry," Q said. "A lot of people in the sports world say that he gives the game a bad taste. He's just a confident guy and sometimes that rubs people in the wrong way. But you can't hate on him. He's the best in the league."
Owens stirred up controversy this preseason by demanding a new contract from the Eagles, just one year into a seven-year, $49 million deal. The team refused, and Owens was kicked out of training camp for a week after arguing with coach Andy Reid.
But in his first preseason game, Owens showed why teams are willing to put up with his antics. In one half, he caught five passes for 131 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown from Donovan McNabb - even though the two are not on speaking terms.
While many pro athletes have made regrettable forays into the music business, Owens has generated plenty of respect in the hip-hop community.
"I know that a lot of entertainers and actors watch football," said Owens, who has an offseason home in Atlanta. "It's a mutual respect when they use my facility."
The studio took a while to get off the ground. Then Cooper hired facility managers Clifford Henson and his wife, India, from Hitco, a well-known publishing company in the city.
Since then, Dirty South has grown into one of the city's most popular recording facilities.
"Right now with Coop, Cliff and India, I don't know if I could've ever found any better people," Owens said. "I'm just blessed that they came on board. I'm using my blessing from football to help them out."
For now, Dirty South only has two recording rooms. With a growing clientele, Owens hopes to purchase a larger facility that will include Dirty South and his foundation that raises money for Alzheimer's research.
"Expanding into different ventures is a good move since the South is an area heading for success," Owens said. "With the music traffic down here, it's a chance for a business like this to succeed."