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Record label makes gains

He was an electrician who got hurt on the job.

Now he has a new, even more haphazard line of work: running a record label, the occupational equivalent of attempting to roll a boulder through quicksand.

“I think that pushed me, focusing on what I really want to do,” Damione Ward-Banks says of his life-changing accident. “And this was really what I wanted to do.”

Starting a label is a tough, often thankless task, though, best suited for those with piles of bothersome cash laying around the house that they just desperately need to get rid of.

But Ward-Banks has made a major breakthrough of late with his hip-hop/R&B/pop-centered company, T.F.E. Entertainment, recently signing a worldwide distribution deal with Universal Records, the biggest music company there is.

This is a big development for a Vegas-based label.

“It’s been real hard,” says Ward-Banks, a California native who relocated to Vegas to launch T.F.E., sitting inside one of the lounges at the Golden Nugget on a recent weekday afternoon. “Even when I went to go get all my paperwork together, it was like, ‘You’re trying to open up a record company out here?’ But I was ready to take this journey.”

Shortly thereafter, Ward-Banks’ first artist, sinewy, heavily tattooed young rapper Twitch Flava, shows up.

Flava’s debut, “Area 51,” will be T.F.E.’s initial release to be issued first in Europe before getting dropped stateside in the coming months.

He has been rapping since he was in his early teens, and with his bright, fleet, nimble-tongued delivery, Flava often gets mentioned in relation to a certain of-the-moment New Orleans rapper.

“The comparison of me and Lil Wayne gets stupid at times,” sighs Flava, sporting a red ball cap and a gold chain around his neck. “But that’s one of the things that makes ’em want to listen as well, so I’m really not mad at that.”

Flava’s a versatile presence on the mic, sounding equally at home in pop and rock flavored contexts as he does in hip-hop settings.

“I hear the beat and I express myself the best way the beat fits me,” he says. “It’s just basically real life stuff.”

With a potential three-week tour coming up, Flava will be out front in building up the T.F.E. name, though he and Ward-Banks hope to simultaneously do the same with the city they call home.

“It’s a big thing that we made it, but we want to put it like Vegas made it,” Ward-Banks says. “If I can do this, I want to show other people that they can do this, too.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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