Face to Face with Silvia Bonora, co-owner of Italian hip-hop label Bullz Records

Face to Face with Silvia Bonora, co-owner of Italian hip-hop label Bullz Records
Published Jun 25, 2024
8 min read

Once again, Believe’s Face to Face series takes a trip to Italy! After exploring the local jazz scene, we took a lesson about the current hip-hop scene, how to grow an independent label and develop an artist’s career from scratch with Silvia Bonora, co-owner of Milanese hip-hop label Bullz Records.

We've said it before, and you've heard it everywhere else, but hip-hop is probably the most popular genre worldwide today. And Italy is no exception. As in much of Europe, the genre emerged in the 80s, imported from the USA, and Italian hip-hop followed its own life over the next 40 years.

As an independent player on the Italian scene, Milan-based label Bullz Record plays a major role in defining the current sound of local hip-hop. Created in 2012 by music producers Oscar White and Andrea Iasella, Bullz took its present form in 2018, organized around a trio made up of Oscar White, in-house music producer Sick Budd and Silvia Bonora. Rappers Silent Bob and Revé round out this crack team.

Silvia Bonora visited Paolo Colavolpe, Head of M.A.S.T., at the Believe Italy offices, to talk about the Italian hip-hop scene, the philosophy and future of Bullz Records, but above all the importance of artist development.

Paolo Colavolpe:  There is an important reality that has represented in the past ten years a different way of building and working on hip hop projects, with a very peculiar taste, and this label is Bullz Records. I'm here with Silvia Bonora who runs the label with Oscar White and Sick Budd.

Silvia Bonora: Thanks for inviting me to have this chat. Very happy about this!

So, Bullz Records was born as an independent label in 2012, and has evolved over the years in a structure that doesn't just do recordings, but also artist management, editions, etc.  I mainly deal with the administrative, accounting and managerial part.

All of us, the three partners, do the scouting activities and the development. Our main artists are Silent Bob and Sick Budd, and we now have a third artist named Revé.

We start working with artists from scratch, which is the funniest part for us. I would say that artists development is what truly characterizes us, and galvanizes us as well.

Paolo Colavolpe:  You were born in 2012. This is your structure, and this is the way you work.

You have mainly three artists. And this is one of your pillars to me, because it totally represents what I would call one of fundamental things, that is often left behind in discussions when it comes to artists, that is the medium-long term vision.

It means that every artist must have the right attention, must have the right timings, shouldn't have too much pressure. Basically, they should not be the “cash cow”. I imagine that you totally embrace this philosophy.

Silvia Bonora: Absolutely. I would even discard the medium-term vision! We really work only in the long-term period.

We also have few artists also for our philosophy, "selected no’s are more important than many yeses”. Sometimes you might feel like you’re losing someone cool or not taking advantage of many opportunities. But we choose to be able to work well with everyone, following everything step by step and organically.

And the world of rap in particular is full of very young artists, so, there is a human personal growth that we like to assist.  For instance, we met Silent Bob and Revé when they were 17 and 20 years old respectively.

These artists may haven't worked before in big venues or environments, considering the young age, and we like to help them to grow, from a human point of view too.

Paolo Colavolpe: The development of emerging artists is fundamental. I mean, I think it's one the best thing to do within the industry!

You were talking about Silent Bob, signed at 17 years old and now he is 24. I saw him grow in the past two years in an incredible; exponential way, but above all in an authentic way. What I really like about a label as Bullz is the constant search for truth. Which I totally embrace myself. And this is what we are absolutely looking for as M.A.S.T., to embrace the cause of artists who are authentic, who grow organically, whose streams are good but that at the same time they know how to perform.

I saw Silent Bob performing at Magazzini Generali and Fabric (Milanese venues) in the same year, with a mixed audience of wild people, ranging from young folks to older people because his sound is timeless. He doesn't try to photograph any period in particular. He really has a vision and a stylistic choice which works regardless of everything around us. Speaking of this, how do you see the hip hop scene right now?

Silvia Bonora: I must say that I am increasingly happy of how things are going.

It seems to me that after a boom period; in which many things were a little flattened regarding the level of provocation, attention to details, originality and so on..  Now we're starting to do some research again, we care again about the technical aspects, the bars, the flow, the originality.  There is also the fact that people are singing what they really feel to talk about, not necessarily boxing themselves in a specific genre like gangsta, love or whatever. I believe we are moving forward to a period of great balance.

Clearly when you are an artist doing this for a living, you must deal with expectations by the public.  An artist can’t pretend not to feel that kind of pressure, it is normal. But you always try to stay yourself as much as possible, and that thing also becomes part of your daily reality.

Paolo Colavolpe: Every year less and less artists stand out and the long-term vision became even more valuable. From an A&R point of view, I think that in an artist long term career, as in all things, there are ups and downs. I wanted to understand your point of view about this,  and about the relationship with the artists.

In my opinion the importance of professionals like you, but also like us, is to normalize that, over a long period, what you have to show is the big picture. Like, there will always be releases that will work better or others not. What’s your personal way of artist management?

Silvia Bonora:  Let's say that normalizing a lot is something that strongly characterizes us, and it's not always perceived as a very positive thing by everyone.

We try to maintain everything very down to earth and working hard. Feedback from the outside is important indeed. We have a job that wouldn’t exist without external feedback.

And yet it is important to always remember that being authentic with your choices will pay off in the long period. Being authentic in the relationships management–artist  and artist with themselves too.

Developing artists and knowing how to choose artists with whom we can have a very strong human bond, helped us to keep everything working smoothly without trust issues.

It is very clear that both us, staff and artists  work for the same goal. Also the relation with you, M.A.S.T., is very clear. I’m talking about Silent Bob project. Having a very open dialogue about timings, ways and needs, is very important. In my opinion, this is possible only if it is based on a human relationship that also helps you anticipating the needs.

Paolo Colavolpe:  Yes, indeed.  The human relationship is built over time. Trust is built over time. All the things have the right time to happen. That's one thing you and I always agree on…

Silvia Bonora:   The long-term vision, that’s it.

Paolo Colavolpe: Absolutely, yes.  ****Talking about emerging artists, what are the “must have” of an artist to get your attention?

Silvia Bonora: I'll say something that doesn't seem important to many nowadays, but for us it remains fundamental: knowing how to stand behind a microphone whether in the studio or on stage. It's true that certain things can be learned. Even artists who were not born like stage gods have learned how to do it. However, it is still important that they can surprise us, that they...

Paolo Colavolpe: They can be raw, but at the same time it's something that you feel. I always say that it’s important to acknowledge artists before signing them.

My final question is the future of Bullz Records. What are your dreams for the next 5 years, 10 years?  I don’t even know how far to go! Let’s say 20 years.

Silvia Bonora: We dream big. We would love to keep working as we are currently doing, in terms of timings, methods and relationships with the artists. We don't want to grow excessively just for the sake of it. Absolutely not.

We would love to be able to lead by example - a big thing! - an example of working in music industry while remaining very simple, very faithful, concrete to expectations and sincere goals, respecting the various peculiarities of the artists.

We have Bob, Sick Budd and Revé, all three with different expectations and objectives. What they have in common is that they want to do art, and not so many other things related to industry.

I mean, everyone can do whatever they want, but we are very into doing things properly from an artistic point of view.

I imagine Bullz in five years from now, not more because it becomes unthinkable. All our artists are produced by Sick Budd, therefore, among the goals there is also to push a “sound”, or put attention to a certain type of sound, or production methods and musical research.

Paolo Colavolpe: So, create a sort of “school”?

Silvia Bonora: Yes. I wouldn’t think of 20 years of having everything produced by Sick Budd. It sounds crazy. Poor Sick Budd, he needs to live too!

Paolo Colavolpe: I see what you mean! More than a school, maybe to create a world? Surely other artists than Sick Budd will come to join it in the future. To create a world, a sound that can be more and more identifying for Bullz Records. Silvia, thank you very much for this chat.

Silvia Bonora; Thank you.


Check Bullz Records latest release, PLD by Silent Bob & Sick Budd, on your favorite platforms.

You can also check Bullz Records website for all their latest news and catalog, or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.