Quinn Coleman, the Son of Former BET CEO Debra Lee, Dead at 31

Getty Quinn Coleman.

Quinn Coleman, a prominent DJ, executive with Capitol Records A & R and the son of former Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee, died August 16 at the age of 31, Variety reported.

The cause of death has not yet been released, but tributes on social media have poured in from supporters of Coleman and his family.

“Man, this one hurts! Since we started @livenationurban, I have been blessed to meet and connect with so many super smart young creatives and business leaders. Amazing young minds that I lean on and have learned so much from and Quinn was part of that circle. Such a bright, positive, smart dude. I appreciate the times we spent together. Rest well young king! Your voice was heard and your impact was felt! @trillectro #Quinncoleman,” Live Urban Nation wrote on Instagram.


Coleman Helped Found the Trillectro Music Festival

As a DJ, Coleman was known as DJ Spicoli.

While he was at Boston College in 2008, The Washington Post reported, Coleman co-founded a marketing group that put on a music festival in Washington, D.C., called “Trillectro,” meant to highlight burgeoning hip-hop and electronic artists, The Grio reported. One of his partners in that venture, Modele “Modi” Oyewole, wrote a tribute to him on Twitter, saying in part: “everything i’m doing now is cuz of this dude. … grateful for the memories, devastated that making new ones ends here.”

Quinn worked his way up in the music industry, Variety reported, first as an intern at Sirius XM and then becoming a music programming coordinator. He went to work for Warner Bros. Records, where he was their “Artists & Repertoire” manager and a marketing coordinator. In May of 2018, he was hired at Capitol Records to be an A & R executive, giving him access to new and upcoming talent.

The Brasstracks, the first group Coleman signed to the label, wrote on Twitter that their album due out August 21 is dedicated to their friend. “RIP Quinn Coleman. We’ll miss you. We dedicate this album to you. You worked so so hard on it,” the group said.

In a statement, according to Variety, Capitol Records President Jeff Vaughn said: “We are all devastated to learn of the untimely passing of our colleague and friend, Quinn Coleman. He will be greatly missed. We offer our deepest condolences to Quinn’s family and loved ones at this extremely 
difficult time.”


Coleman’s Mother, Debra Lee, Is an Icon in the Entertainment Industry

GettyColeman with his mother, Debra Lee, and sister Ava.

Lee rose from a place steeped in Southern segregation, attended an “all-black public high school” and eventually clerked for District of Columbia U.S. District Court Judge Barrington Parker in 1980, Bloomberg reported. Lee spent six years as an associate attorney at a law firm before joining BET Networks.

“I thought I was going to go back into the government. I was waiting for the Democrats to come back to office. I found that what I really enjoyed was communications, with a client called BET,” she told Bloomberg. She enjoyed it so much that she worked her way up from publisher to president and chief operating officer and eventually chairman and CEO.

By expanding the audience and production budgets and launching a network specifically designed for Black women — Centric, now known as BET Her — Lee helped lead BET in a new direction. After her retirement in May 2018, Lee expanded her philanthropic efforts and, according to the American Advertising Foundation, has served with Brown University’s Center for Slavery & Justice, The Paley Center for Media, The Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, the American Film Institute and the USC Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism. She is also a member emeritus of the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age.

No stranger to stars like Michelle Obama and Beyonce, Lee told Bloomberg that one of the life lessons she learned was to “bring your kids to events so they see the hard work you’re doing.”

Variety reported that a representative for Lee released a statement about Coleman’s death: “Quinn was a loving son, brother, cousin and friend, a passionate DJ and A&R executive with a bright future ahead of him. Debra and her family are devastated by Quinn’s passing and ask for privacy and respect as they grieve together.”


Coleman’s Death Has Wrought an Outpouring of Support

Fans and friends took to social media to share their sadness at Coleman’s death. Some tributes have been short, such as a tweet from Broccoli City that simply stated, “RIP Quinn Coleman. You will be missed.”

Others, like the post from Brasstracks, went more into depth about how Coleman impacted their lives and careers:

you really changed our lives and I didn’t get to tell you enough I was waiting to celebrate on Friday with you when our first album was out that you worked so hard on and now I just don’t know what to do. But I know you worked way too hard on this shit to not go through with getting it out there this week so this whole thing is for you.

By most accounts, those who worked with Coleman thought he was excellent at his job and an authentic human being.

“I owe a lot of my success to QUINN COLEMAN..,” one person wrote on Twitter. “bro from the jump was real, introduced me to a lot of folks and always had love to share. This one hit heavy.”

“RIP Quinn ‘Spicoli’ Coleman. Quinn played a handful of our events and event helped us grow Camp Trill when we were just starting B&L. Being an expert DJ, curator, and A&R, he always had his ears to the streets. Such a kind soul,” Brownies & Lemonade tweeted, adding, “Always tell ur friends u appreciate them.”

A user named Jordan tweeted, “RIP Quinn Coleman – truly one of the kindest people in the industry, you will be missed.”

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