The old saying “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family” doesn’t apply to Daniel Aquino. The founder and president of the independent record label 4Worn Records sees the artists he signs as family members, most of which he scouted out during the early stages of the label’s foundation nearly a year ago.
“I went to shows and eventually just got to a point where I started reaching out to these guys, and then we built something out of it,” said Aquino. “Whoever we start working with, we start off as friends but eventually develop that relationship to the point where we all see ourselves as family. We help one another and we’re constantly looking to expand.”
As 4Worn Records’ main driving force, Aquino adopts the role of the encouraging and always supportive father figure who tries to make sure he’s at every ball game and concert. Only instead of watching a Little League game, he’s seeing his artists like C-Note, Kisor Flowsay and SVG Kebo perform onstage or facilitating studio time.
Aquino’s dedication and ambition is what ultimately convinced Fred Jacobsen, aka Fetty Fred, to join 4Worn Records.
“He definitely has a lot of goals I see helping not only me but us as a team grow out of the local musician stage,” said Jacobsen. “I think he’s a person I trust to bring us to be more regional artists. He’s booking us at Cathouse Studios, getting us studio time and getting our names out there as an artist and as a team.”
While most of the 4Worn Records crew is based in hip-hop, the label has also signed three DJs, a rock band, a rock/country act and two singers, in addition to the nine rappers currently working in the organization.
"We got different variations," said Aquino. "I got more hip-hop acts with it because that's more of what I know."
Aquino’s background in music stems to his high school years working as a promoter for a band called Real Industry Assassins in 2008. After parting ways with the group, Aquino found himself working with rapper and businessman Kutt Calhoun, who was on same label as Kansas City hip-hop artist Tech N9ne. All the while, he was away from Sioux City.
“I felt bad because I kind of branched out away from Sioux City,” said “This time around I want to keep it here. Put it at a level where it should be.”
That’s where 4Worn Records comes into play. Since its creation, three EPs and numerous singles have been released under the label’s name. The first artist signed to 4Worn was Charlie Franklin III, aka C-Note. Aquino and Franklin worked together to develop branding and other ideas to grow the label.
Interestingly enough, there's no specific location or site for 4Worn Records. It doesn't have an address and it can't be found using a GPS. Most of the artists' recordings are arranged at Cathouse Studios, a premier recording studio stationed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; one that many Sioux City artists flock to for top-notch recordings.
“Everything that we’ve released so far has been mixed and mastered by Mike Dresch [owner of Cathouse Studios],” said Aquino. "This summer my fiancé and I were looking at a house or something to eventually build something out there to make as a headquarters and maybe make a basement into a studio, too."
In the meantime, 4Worn Records is providing its artists with promotion, artwork, digital distribution and other services. "Essentially everything is provided for them," said Aquino. "As much as we possibly can."
Kelvin Collins, aka SVG Kebo, said he was in the recording studio at Cathouse almost as soon as he joined 4Worn Records.
"He took me up there to record and put down a test track so I can get the experience," said Collins. "The dude is crazy organized. It was insane, man. He knows what to do and he's doing the right thing, the right way. He's giving me a shot and I don't want to mess up that chance."
Aquino is dedicated to 4Worn Records; so much so that he's tattooed the label's logo onto his forearm. It's a vision that's as real as that permanent ink stitched into his skin. "I'm married to it now," he said with a laugh.
Looking forward into 2018, Aquino said 4Worn Records will schedule more shows, shoot music videos and release at least six different albums.
"We have it started already," he said. "That's our plan. We're going to have a lot of releases and just keep pushing it. A lot of our new music is getting more hype and more energetic and just more aggressive."
And you can bet Aquino isn't taking any shortcuts to get his artists where he wants them to be.
"If I'm going to do this as a business or even just to get music out there," he said, "then I want it done right."