'It can't always be a straight line in this industry': 5K bosses Moe Bah & Kilo Jalloh talk business

'It can't always be a straight line in this industry': 5K bosses Moe Bah & Kilo Jalloh talk business

Moe Bah and Kilo Jalloh, co-founders of 2K Management and 5K Records, have told Music Week that the secret to their success with acts such as J Hus and Libianca is “being close with our artists”.

“That is one of our principles,” said Bah (above, right), speaking alongside Jalloh (left) for The Music Week Interview in our latest issue. 

“I think a lot of labels tend not to be too close to the artists,” he added. “It’s really just the A&R in the middle and they pretty much deal with it and the presidents don’t speak to the A&R, they’re not active, they don’t go to the studio, they’re not in it, breathing it.” 

Bah said that he, Jalloh and their team invest everything into building relationships with their artists.

“For us it’s like, ‘Let’s stick to what we know from management and let that reflect in what we do on the label,’” he said. “We are in constant communication with our artists, we make sure we’re in all the group chats, all the sessions and actually understand them.”

Expanding on how that operates in practice, Jalloh stressed that closeness is reflected in how 5K and 2K do business.

“It’s a very close friendship, family vibe,” he said. “The 2K team comes in every Tuesday and Thursday, and on Thursdays we all do a big brainstorm. We take one artist from the label, one artist from the management roster and we come up with ideas. It’s inclusion, appreciating everyone’s efforts.” 

The pair, who are half brothers, grew up on opposite sides of London and came together as managers to steer the nascent career of their friend J Hus. In the wake of the rapper’s Mercury Prize nominated debut Common Sense, they starred in Music Week’s Rising Star column in 2017.

In 2020, buoyed by further success for Hus, Jae5, Young T & Bugsey and more, they founded 5K Records in partnership with Sony Music UK. This year, they scored a huge hit with Libianca’s People, after A&R Melanie Ijieh discovered the singer on TikTok.


Bah reflected on the early days of 5K.

“We had an approach of just doing what every other label does and hiring a general manager, or this person because Warner or Columbia has them, or this is how these corporate buildings work…” he explained. “But what has worked is just sticking to the basics and following our core principles. Once we started doing that and brought in a few people from 2K, we started seeing a lot more success.”

The pair also revealed the ways in which their experience in management influences their work with 5K.

“As managers, we’ve been in situations where it feels like we’re not getting the full information and it just seems a bit strange,” said Bah. “It’s like, ‘Just be honest, because we understand how business works, we’re not going to kick up a fuss.’ Where we come from, everything’s just about being honest and loyal.”

“For the first two years, the mistake we made at the label was coming into it too much like managers,” added Jalloh. “So if an artist told us their vision for a video, we were like, ‘I get it, 30 grand video, let’s go!’ Then things like, ‘We’ll take a cab to here, get vocal coaching, this and get that…’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re spending a lot here!’”

Bah suggested that the methodology they’ve settled upon stands apart in the industry.

“The way we do it might not be normal, it might be a bit rogue, it might be a bit, you know, scatty and sometimes it’s a bit messy, but it works,” he said. “It can’t always be a straight line in the music industry and if it’s too straight it doesn’t work for us. It’s like a rollercoaster, and that’s what works for us.”

There are still some [ways of working] that we’ve kept, and I don’t want to say rogue, but there are some bits that work better our way, some things in Black music are just a bit different from a big corporate organisation, so [sometimes] it’s just like, ‘We’re going to get a bit of trouble there, but it will be worth in the long run.

Jalloh went on to emphasise that “transparency” is at the heart of their operation.

“We tell the artists, ‘We love you, we would not have put pen to paper if we didn’t, but we have to understand it’s a business,’” he said. “Sometimes we break it down and show them, ‘This is how much you’ve made in total, this is how much you’re in minus. Let’s make this make sense.’ We even put it down to KPIs with one artist. It was like, ‘This is the budget, let’s break it down, divide it by how many songs we want to put out. This is the bare minimum we will spend, and if you reach this amount of views, streams, recreations, we’ll spend more.’” 


The duo believe that this approach can lead to more productivity.

“I think that motivates [artists] because sometimes they get to a label, give you the song, shoot the video and think the label does the rest,” said Jalloh. “Jae5 came up with the analogy that it’s like a relay race. If you do your 100 or 200 metres, then we can bring it home. But if you don’t, we can’t do the whole race.” 

Bah pointed to one further source of motivation for 5K, which plans to broaden its roster into 2024.

“I remember someone said to me, ‘Don’t start a record label, because when you do start one, your management company will suffer,’” he revealed. “And I said to them, ‘Not ours, I’m going to prove you wrong, and we’re going to make sure they’re both levelling up and doing as well as each other.’ That is something that still really keeps us going.”

Pick up the new edition of Music Week to read the interview in full. Subscribers can read it online here.

PHOTO: Richard Kattah

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