I had the pleasure of interviewing my good friend, peer, and boss, Dina Marto during the Creative Space Atlanta Song Camp in front of an audience of music creators at BNDWTH Studios. Dina is a force unlike any other in the Atlanta music scene and her contributions have had an impact far beyond the 404.
Let me start by saying how cool it is to be sitting with someone I deeply respect – someone whose journey I’ve been able to witness. We first met Dina Marto right here in Atlanta, at Velvet Underground, part of the iconic Hard Rock Cafe on Peachtree. She was a judge at one of our first shows back in ’07 or ’08 – feels like ages ago, right?
I gotta say, Dina looks no more than 20, but she’s got the wisdom of someone who’s seen it all. Her generosity in opening her home and business to me and others has been incredible. It’s rare to meet someone so influential who remains so humble and grounded. Rewinding to Dina’s early days, what’s fascinating is her transition from a singer-songwriter to a powerhouse in the music business. She quickly realized her strength lay in the business aspect, working with creatives throughout her career. And let’s not forget – Dina’s still got that unreleased demo somewhere!
What stands out about Atlanta, where Dina has spent most of her life, is its unique pull for creatives, especially in hip-hop. The city has led pop culture for decades, influencing music, dance, lingo, and style trends. Atlanta’s got this special sauce that you just don’t find anywhere else. It’s a city where talent is not only attracted but also nurtured. During her tenure at Island Def Jam, Dina was a part of L.A. Reid’s team, working with the late great Shakira Stewart. They recognized early on the importance of having a base in Atlanta, a city teeming with emerging hip-hop talent.
Post-Def Jam, Dina ventured into developing her own studio, aiming not just to create a business but to cultivate a space for growing and nurturing talent. 12 Studios was born out of this vision – a place where collaboration and creativity were paramount. With rooms named after iconic albums and a wall of hit songs, the studio inspired greatness.
The studio housed legends like Polo to Don, Ray Daniels, and saw the beginnings of major hits like Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” and Rihanna’s “Pour It Up”. But more than that, it was a hub for upcoming talent – a place where even someone as young as 13 could find their footing in the industry.
Dina’s philosophy of “build to sell” reflects her nature as a creator and innovator, always ready to evolve and embrace new challenges. This mindset led her to join T.I.’s management team, marking a new chapter in her dynamic career.
Handling talent can be draining, akin to adult babysitting, but Dina’s dedication to the industry and her ability to navigate complex situations is unmatched. Her journey with T.I. and her role in the Atlanta hip-hop scene demonstrate her incredible marketing skills and deep understanding of the industry.
As we delve into her experiences, it’s clear that Dina Marto’s story is one of passion, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to the growth of the music industry. Her influence and contributions continue to shape the landscape of hip-hop, not just in Atlanta, but across the globe.
Dina Marto’s career is a testament to the power of innovation, leadership, and advocacy in shaping industries and societal norms. Her influence goes beyond her projects, inspiring a new generation of women to pursue their ambitions with passion and resilience. As she continues to break barriers and forge new paths, Marto’s legacy is poised to leave an indelible mark on the entertainment industry, marketing, and political advocacy for years to come.