How Rich Music’s Father-Son Duo Are Leading the Way For Latin R&B

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In August 2013, Josh Mendez was at a barbershop in Kissimmee, Fla., just south of Orlando, when he heard Justin Quiles playing on the stereo. He couldn’t understand what the young reggaetonero was singing, but he liked the melodies. He called his father, Rich Mendez, a former car-dealership owner who founded the Rich Music label in 2007, and they scheduled a recording session with Quiles later that day. “We didn’t have money,” recalls Rich, so they sold their cars, gave Quiles a $10,000 advance and signed him to a recording contract. A month later, Quiles’ first single, “Orgullo,” was on the radio. Since then, Rich Music has been quiet -- until now. The label has grown to 17 employees, all of whom work at the Social Hive, its Miami-based office built inside a refurbished warehouse in the Wynwood District. It also has signed rising acts like Puerto Rico’s Dalex and Panama’s Sech; together, their R&B take on reggaetĂłn is leading Rich Music down a path of its own in a saturated urban market.

Background: Born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents, Rich, 49, launched his label 12 years ago to jump-start his brother’s short-lived musical career; through Rich Music, he got him a distribution deal with Epic Records. Six years later, after Rich’s car dealership closed during the recession, he turned to Rich Music full time and brought on Josh, now 30, as COO. “This was tooth and nail,” recalls Rich of running the family business from their small house. By the start of 2017, Rich had struck a distribution deal for Quiles through Warner, expanding the label’s reach.

Artists: In 2017, Rich signed Quiles’ producer, DĂ­melo Flow, as an artist, and also hired him as head of A&R. DĂ­melo Flow’s first success was turning the label onto Sech, a Panamenian artist who sings reggaetĂłn with traces of dancehall and R&B. Rich Music signed him in 2018. “We liked the fact that he was different,” says Rich. Josh says the label’s goals are clearer than ever: “For Dalex and Sech to become superstars, and for DĂ­melo Flow to become the Latin DJ Khaled.”

Key Stats: Rich Music has landed six entries on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart since 2016. Four are by Quiles, including three as a solo act -- an anomaly in reggaetĂłn, where artists usually need features to boost a song’s success. Dalex scored his first single on the chart in June, with “Pa Mi” (featuring Rafa PabĂłn) reaching No. 24; Sech broke into the top five with debut single “Otro Trago” (featuring Darell). And in the past year, DĂ­melo Flow has placed six entries on the chart (including tracks outside of Rich Music’s catalog from Farruko and Bad Bunny).

What's Next: The Rich Music roster is small, but that’s exactly how Josh wants it: “We have four artists who not only do music together, but everything else,” he says, from social media content to video. For now, Josh and Rich are focused on establishing a larger presence in Colombia, with plans to open an office in MedellĂ­n, rather than growing their roster. “We’ve been approached by everyone -- both Latin and mainstream labels -- to come and partner with us,” says Josh. “But we feel we can do it on our own.”

This article originally appeared in the July 20 issue of Billboard.