When Ned Wellbery started Leedz Edutainment—his hip-hop promotions company—in 2004, he sold cellphones and handed out flyers on the side to fund his start-up. Today, Wellbery, aka Leedz, has booked and promoted hundreds of shows in Boston, from rap superstars like Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco, to legendary old-school heads like Pete Rock and DJ Premiere, to Boston-natives Viva La Hop and Cam Meekins. The guy is prolific—perhaps a requirement for success in promoting music more than anything else.

I caught up with Wellbery at The Middle East in Cambridge, the venue where he worked as a booking agent for three years and currently does promotion for both the upstairs and downstairs venues. “It’s always been like a second home,” Wellbery said. “Pete Rock vs. DJ Premiere, the first show I did with Immortal Technique, La Coka Nostra with Everlast, Talib Kweli, A$AP Rocky, Action Bronson, Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, Geto Boys… You name it—I’ve done it.” All roads, it seems, lead to Leedz.

Like many promoters, Wellbery was a fan first. As a kid he listened to metal, classic rock, folk music with his mom—anything that was on the radio or MTV. Originally from Georgetown, Mass., Wellbery moved to southern New Hampshire when he was 12, where his neighbor introduced him to hip hop: Ice-T, NWA, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill, and many others. Wellbery cites Ice T’s album Body Count as the album that drew him into hip hop—a combination of thrash metal and hip hop. “I liked the controversialness of it,” he said. “It seemed dangerous.”

Following a stint as a DJ, Wellbery turned to promoting hip-hop shows, feeling limited by playing only what other people wanted to hear—much of which was Top 40 dance music. “It’s what the scene needed at the time,” he said.

After doing a few shows at the now-defunct Cambridge bar All Asia, Wellbery booked his first show at The Middle East – Downstairs in 2004 with Royce da 5’9” and CunninLynguists. Thus kicked off the beginning of Leedz Edutainment.

At the time, Wellbery’s nickname was Leedz, and since his first name is Ed (and everyone at the time was Entertainment this or that), he called his company Leedz Edutainment. Edutainment, Wellbery was quick to point out, is also the name of an influential KRS-One album.

Working as a booking agent for The Middle East – Upstairs for three years, Wellbery booked all genres of music before deciding it was too much work to be both a booking agent and a promoter, so he went back to being exclusively a promoter.

As his career path has changed over the years, so to has his mode of promotion. “I haven’t printed a flyer in a very long time,” he said. “Not everyone’s outside. Everyone is on social media.”

His end goal for Leedz Edutainment? Keep expanding. “I’d like to open up my own venue,” Wellbery said. “You’re a promoter for so long, but then you realize I can get my own spot and do this. You can go to different markets, but that’s tough,” he said. So you might as well expand in the market you’re in.”

With opening his own place on his mind, the question then becomes: where? “Somewhere that people can get to easily,” Wellbery said, which we both agreed, laughing, would be not off of the Green Line.

With Bowery Presents (Royale, The Sinclair, Great Scott) and Crossroads Presents (House of Blues, Paradise Rock Club, Orpheum Theatre, Brighton Music Hall) booking the majority of the shows in Boston, booking and promotion haven’t been easy. But that hasn’t discouraged Wellbery. “In my opinion, if you’re good at your job, there’s enough business around,” he said.

Hip-hop heads take note: Leedz Edutainment is open for business.

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