Shamar Willis took a big risk when he quit his corporate job to pursue his childhood dream of working in the music industry. But less than two years later, he has a successful business, Legna Entertainment, to show for it.
Willis grew up in Dallas without much in the way of material things, and always aspired to more. After graduating high school he attended college and eventually slid into the corporate world as an account executive. But the money wasn't enough to scratch his itch.
“The corporate world is filled with more security, but I knew it wouldn’t be able to fulfill me like chasing my dreams,” he says.
Willis had always been passionate about music, and in 2009, his attention was fixed on one of Dallas' biggest breakout artists, rapper Dorrough Music, who had a national hit with the song “Ice Cream Paint Job.” He knew Dorrough was managed by Mic Moodswing, one of the top managers in Dallas at the time.
“He was that guy,” Willis says. “If you were looking to start managing artists this is who you needed to connect with.”
Willis reached out and offered assistance to Moodswing, who accepted the offer and allowed him to help promote concerts and work with his artists. While still working as an account executive, Willis began to dip his toe into the management field, thinking it could be his ticket into the music industry.
Simultaneously, Willis began building connections with different radio street teams. That's how, in 2010, he stumbled across a successful local producer named Young Gem, whom he credits for giving him his big break into the industry.
Young Gem invited Willis into the studio, where he was working with local artists GS Boys, Sassy from Dirty South Rydaz, No Shame and Fat B, to learn more about the producing side of music. Soon national artists were opening up too.
In 2012, Willis completed a year of audio engineering study at Collin County Community College, and the following year he went to SMU to pursue a certificate in entrepreneurship. He aspires to be like Jay Z and P. Diddy; he wants to build a music and entertainment empire.
In 2014, Willis finally quit his job and founded Legna Entertainment. He picked the name Legna after seeing a play on a trip to a Christian theme park with his sister; Legna is “angel” spelled backwards.
“I feel like the name fit perfectly because I have a strong foundation of Christian morals and being respectful," says Willis. "It’s not a Christian-based company, but more so the beliefs of the company — doing things with integrity."
The original intention was for the company to be exclusively focused on artist management, but Willis eventually found it necessary to expand to promotion so he could get better opportunities for his artists. Willis teamed up with Surge Vasudevan, a close friend of his since ninth grade, and they started throwing concerts.
He was able to attract investors to help him put on shows with national artists, and this allowed him to slot in Legna's own artists as opening acts and bring more attention to Dallas' local music scene. But his new promotion venture got off to a rocky start.
The first show that flopped was with Scarface, which he described as a “passion project," since he's a big fan. The second, in Frisco, featured Ludacris. It was primed to be a blowout but then Future and Kendrick Lamar both announced concerts on the same day. Pouring rain the day of the concert didn't help matters.
But he got his first big win with a Young Jeezy concert last November, and his combined successes and failures taught him some critical lessons about aligning with other businesses to offset costs and how to market shows.
Legna has since put on successful shows with artists including Mario, KeKe Wyatt and Tory Lanez and proved they can hang with the bigger promotion entities. Last month Legna pulled off one of the year’s biggest rap concerts in Dallas, the ATL Invasion with super stars T.I. and 2 Chainz at The Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum. It brought out 3,000 people and put Legna Entertainment on the map.
“The most rewarding part is seeing the turnout and being able to introduce my closest friends, family and team to artists that they’re huge fans of,” he says.
The company is now a music management, promotions, consulting and production company. The next event will be Dec. 4 with trap rappers Lil Boosie, Lil Webbie and Young Dolph at Gas Monkey Live.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.