Toby Oniyitan, CEO, and Ezra Averill, President of Stomp Down Entertainment sit at the helm of the new era of sound in Houston. Together, both create a localized effort to bring an acclaimed sound back to the Bayou City. After launching the successful careers of rappers Maxo Kream and Tay-K in Los Angeles, in April 2020, the pair decided to come back to their roots in Texas; outlining a vision to build Houston’s musical infrastructure. In an attempt to position Houston to stand alongside other major music hubs like Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta.
While the two say their firm is “very much in its infancy,” and that the imprint has yet to reach its peak, they’ve made significant waves in the music industry. Stomp Down is the manifestation of the nation’s most diverse city. Artists under the umbrella have received national plaudits for their works, like Reggie’s latest with St. Louis artist Smino, “Avalanche” and flourishing young talent Monaleo’s “Beating Down Yo Block.”
“Houston being the cultural mecca of Texas, we figured our footprint—and our stomp—would be louder,” Averill shared a similar sentiment, being an Arlington native. “I came to Houston and I fell in love with it, because there are so many different worlds within Houston, and we’ve lived in so many different places and occupied all these spaces, so we want to bring all of that back here.”
As teenagers, the pair worked closely with friends and family members to get their first tastes of the music business. Oniyitan, a Nigerian-American Houston native, is a cousin of Alief emcee Maxo Kream, and Averill is a best friend of North Texas rapper Tay-K. The two connected to conceive Stomp Down because collectively, they fit together, like the missing pieces of the metaphorical puzzle of music industry success.
Oniyitan began to fully manage Maxo Kream in 2014, following the release of the Houston rapper’s 2013 effort, Quicc Strikes. On the other hand, Averill, now 20, who’s affinity for rap music precedes his age, recalls hosting concerts in Dallas as a teen, which eventually led to him managing Tay-K, and taking meetings in the bathroom in high school.
“I was 15 years old and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Averill recalls. “You can read as many books as you want, but nothing prepares you for those viral moments,” he says, reflecting on the meteoric rise of Tay-K’s 2017 platinum record, “The Race.” It’s a bombastic, police-taunting track that details the rapper’s violent past, and evading arrest. Tay-K was later sentenced in 2019 to 55 years in prison on a murder charge stemming from that incident. The duo’s decision to return to Houston comes after spending nearly two years in Los Angeles, independently managing artists, where their work quickly became a “mundane cycle of life,” according to Averill. The two were managing a plethora of artists, who—at the height of streaming—could go viral overnight, and labels were eager to sign them. “We were running around California, getting deals for artists, ” Oniyitan explains.
“I didn’t want our lives to become a rat race, so we decided to scale things back, and move more intentionally.” The two took time to reevaluate the work they were doing, shifted gears, and fixated on creating a lasting legacy more attuned to their roots.
The Stomp Down conglomerate is broken up into two parts—artist management and the music label. The multifaceted entertainment group was founded solely to manage artists, but quickly broadened its scope to pursue other entertainment-related ventures, such as movies, and even sports. “We come from the management world, but we approach all of our other ventures with that same managerial mindset,” Averill says.
The two work together to champion the street-certified sounds of Maxo Kream, the resurgence of punk rock with Fade Em All, and serve as managers for rising Houston stars Guapo, Reggie, and Monaleo. Filled with contrasting sounds with different motifs, the local camp aims for each of its artists to blaze their paths in music, while simultaneously carrying the Houston torch heralded by the legends before them like Pimp C, Bun B, and Slim Thug.
Their vision for the future is to expand their reach much further, but first they want to solidify where they stand in the rap game. “We’re focused on making Houston a mainstay in hip-hop again. We want Texas to be a permanent figure in music—touching all these different people and making an impact, leaving a legacy.”