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The Love/Hate Relations of Rap and The Record Label

May 7, 2013 by
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As society’s infatuation with hip hop transpires, the role of the record label is one that rappers love to hate but often find necessary to boost profiles and earn a solid dollar.

On Saturday, May 4 Lauryn Hill released Neurotic Society: Compulsory Mix. Alongside the drop she asserted her emotional perspective via Tumblr: “Here is a link to a piece that I was ‘required’ to release immediately, by virtue of the impending legal deadline…”

Miss Hill’s relationship with Sony Music stems from the criminal tax debt she’s been litigating since April. She signed with the major label in order to earn a dollar to repay the debt that exceeds $970 thousand, which she successfully repaid. But prison time was imminent, originally facing a sentence range of between 24 to 36 months.

Today Hill was sentenced to three months prison plus three months house arrest followed by nine months supervised release[1]

The necessity of signing to make money, dichotomised by a yearning to create and master music before it is shared with her fans is clear.

The disillusion that faced Lupe Fiasco was a lot darker. “I am hostage,” he said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “I gave them what they wanted. If I didn’t, at the end of the day the album wasn’t coming out.” Lupe describes the label as bullying him for that number one record and vilely diluting the true complexity of the social and political messages often found within his rhymes.

In 2010, Nas wrote an irate email to Def Jam Recordings advising them to release The Lost Tapes, Vol. 2, “I have a fan base that dies for my music and a RAP label that doesn’t understand RAP.”

Although Nas’ audacity is esteemed on the opposing side of the spectrum, the assistance labels provide to the artist is respected.

A$AP Rocky signed to Polo Grounds Music (a subdivision of Sony) for a $3 million sum; $1.7 million for his solo output and $1.3 million to fund a label called A$AP Worldwide[2]. While Interscope signed Chief Keef to a three-album contract worth approximately $6 million[3]. This is a conditional contract, which only pays out if his debut album Finally Rich sells 250,000 copies by December 2013. Otherwise Interscope can terminate the contract: raw deal or great opportunity?

A true recount of the rapper and record label love hate relationship can be discussed by hip hop heads for days, but something that we tend to agree on is that often, what the labels force out of the industry’s most talented rappers is far from their best.

J. Cole’s latest track Cole Summer, sheds perspective: “Wanted to drop the album in the summer, but the label didn’t think that they could sell it. Recoup the first week, I think it ain’t sh*t they can tell us.[4]





albumFinally Richhip hopInterscopeLauryn HillSony Music

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