Q&A: Dre London

The musician manager and entrepreneur who discovered rapper Post Malone discusses his work ethic, a scary emergency landing, and more.

Dre London discovered Post Malone in 2014 and is widely credited with the rapper, singer, and songwriter’s swift rise to global stardom. With London as his manager, Malone has scored four multiplatinum singles, sold tens of millions of albums, performed in sold-out arenas, and been nominated for six Grammy awards. 

At first glance, the success of London—who was named Manager of the Year by Variety in 2018—may seem to have happened effortlessly. A look behind the scenes, however, reveals him to be a brilliant, ambitious visionary who prides himself on working harder than anyone else. Singer and rapper Tyla Yaweh, Canadian DJ and record producer Dzeko, and singer and actor Mario are signed to his label, and his businesses include London Entertainment and London Music Group. His other holdings include a wine company called Maison No. 9 (which he co-founded with Malone and another partner), Don Londres tequila, a digital platform known as Aux Live, and Skrt hard seltzer. 

The defining moment of London’s humble childhood in Brixton, England, came when he was kicked out of high school. It was a traumatic experience, but he characteristically insists that he is now grateful for it, because it fueled his desire to achieve. 

London, who came to the U.S. in 2008 and now lives in Los Angeles, travels on his own Gulfstream GIV-SP. He radiates effervescence and a zest for life and, despite his success, seems to have his feet planted firmly on the ground. He also appears committed to helping others achieve their dreams, aiming to spread light and inspiration “one candle to another.”

Dre London boarding his Gulfstream private jet
Dre London boarding his Gulfstream private jet

Is there a secret behind your success with Post Malone?

We were so prepared—and that preparation meant opportunity. Energy, timing…all these things helped us to keep hitting the yellow brick road. We had to really, really hustle, and we took it to another level. But it wasn’t overnight. I just kept saying, “We're not there yet!” Because at a certain point, it looks good on the outside. When we started to sell out arenas in 2019, that's when it felt like, OK, we’ve arrived. Because not just any artist can sell out an arena. 

How did he react once the fame hit? 

Post doesn't take fame the way other people would, and he doesn't let it get to his head. He's such a humble person. Post is truly one of the nicest Americans I've ever met. 

You and he survived a harrowing landing on a private jet in 2018.

We took off from Teterboro [New Jersey] and there was something wrong, so we had to land. Then we took off for the second time, and there was a little wind in the cabin, some smoke coming from the AC. The flight attendant was saying, “It's OK. It's normal.” But it wasn't normal because we then had to do a flyby—going low so they could look underneath the plane to see what was going on. Two tires had burst. We had to fly around for six hours to burn the fuel. We went from New York to Connecticut to Boston, then back to New York, Connecticut, and Boston, flying around in circles till we burned six hours’ worth of fuel—knowing we would then have to land on two tires. And it didn’t help that we hadn’t slept at all the night before! We were up partying after winning the VMA [Video Music] awards.

Dre London Talks About That Scary Emergency Landing

Were you terrified?

I know this sounds crazy, but I fell asleep for two or three hours. I had to—I had been awake for the whole night. People are always asking me, “How did you sleep?” We didn't know our fate. We had to land on two tires. We didn't know what was going on, so I continued to be positive. [I thought], “Life is going to be great. I'm going to sleep, I’m going to wake up. We’re good.”

After we burned the fuel off, the pilots told us we were going to land and told us to bend over with our heads over our legs, which I had never had to do before. I'll never forget the look on Post’s face. Post hates flying in general. He saw me praying and he gave me a look [that said], “Thank you, pray for all of us.” It was the most worried I’ve ever seen him. The pilots did very, very well. Afterward, I was a little shook up—but I fly a lot, so in the end, I was kind of all right with it. We flew commercially on Virgin that same day and got right back to work. Soon after that, I bought my own jet, a Gulfstream GIV-SP.

Dre London sitting on his private jet
Dre London sitting on his private jet

How does having your own plane help your business?

Recently, I had a meeting on a Saturday in New York. I left Los Angeles at 3 in the morning Friday and came back around 3 Sunday morning. And I have meetings all over the place; I have so much stuff going on. So, the plane just helps. I have a tequila brand that I’m coming out with that I've been working on for two years. I've been going back and forth to the distillery in Mexico.

What is your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

If you're serious about it, you’ve got to go and get it. You can't cheat the grind. Success happens over a long period and there are no shortcuts, but if you really believe in something, you have to keep going and no stopping to look left or right. When a horse is racing, he just looks at his lane. My advice is to find something that you really love. You’ve got to think, “If I wasn't getting paid for the next year, could I still do this? Could I still wake up every day and do this?” At the beginning of Post Malone’s career, I didn't get paid. I was shelling money out. 

What do you look for when you’re hiring?

I'm looking for great energy first. Someone who's aspirational, someone who wants bigger things. What is your three- to five-year goal? I’m also looking for a will to win and get results. 

Dre London
Dre London

Do you expect everyone who works for you to have the same drive that you have?

I evaluate my staff like I would a sports team. Are we going to have the same players next season? No. Is an NFL team going to go with the same players every year? No. Every season they try to adjust and make the team stronger—from the coach to the franchisee. That’s how I look at my business. Have I got the right team to go forward to keep winning championships? If I don’t, I have to edit. The Reed Hastings Netflix model of “I’ll give you the rope and you can hang yourself” is really good. You can also climb that rope.

I'm not here to be a friend. This is showbiz, not the brobiz. If I don’t see results, then I don't see why we're working together. I'm here to make you better and help us all climb higher, and you may not thank me now, but you'll thank me later. 

I understand you were kicked out of high school.

The deputy head of the school, Mr. Vickers, made me do all my coursework, everything leading up to my final exams. I did so much work and at the end, my mom got a letter saying don’t come back to the school and that was it. I remember thinking my life was over. 

What exactly did you get in trouble for?

I was a big instigator in the classroom. I might not have been the bad guy, but I would have other kids being bad. Maybe “instigator” is the best word. But what I got in trouble for actually became a plus for me today. Today I’m instigating the biggest business, the biggest music entertainment. But you can’t instigate kids to be bad in class and that’s what I was doing, and I guess the class snitched on me. But thank you, Mr. Vickers, because that helped me, to have my back against the wall.

It put me in a different mind state. I didn’t want to be a statistic—another young black kid getting kicked out of school, turning out to the streets. Now I'm here to provide a different example that you can look like me and you can accomplish the same things as me. When you go through stuff in life, sometimes you take one step back to take two steps forward. Who would have ever thought when I was getting kicked out of school that 20 or 30 years later, I'd be here, talking to you guys about my plane?

This interview has been edited and condensed.