Steve Rifkind
Caked Up

steverifkind.jpgSteve Rifkind is responsible for breaking some of hip-hop’s biggest artists in his 25 years in the business. He first got his start in street promotions even coining the term “the street team,” but in 1992 the New York native switched gears a bit and formed the renowned Loud Records, signing and breaking artists such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun, Mobb Deep and Xzibit. After a decade of success Loud was absorbed into Sony Music Group but that didn’t stop Rifkind who went on to form SRC (Street Records Corporation) with Universal Records in 2002 and signed David Banner, Akon, Remy Ma and Pharoahe Monch.

Four years later SRC is steadily growing. Rifkind and his label are looking at a full 2007 with a slew of big projects. First there’s Loud.com Presents Battle Rap, an online contest, which allows aspiring rappers to download free beats from big name producers to make songs, which they then submit back for a chance at winning $100,000 and a record deal with SRC. Also in the works is the reunion of the Wu-Tang Clan for their fifth LP 8 Diagrams, projects from David Banner, Pharoahe Monch and a deal to release the rapper formally known as Murder Ma$e’s next album.

The rap mogul, (and R&B, folks, don’t forget Akon’s two times platinum) talked with XXLMag.com about his online endeavors, what went wrong with Banner’s last project, reuniting some legends and signing Mason Betha.

Tell us about SRC Records’ battle rap contest at Loud.com.
It’s three things in one — a MySpace community meets 8 Mile meets American Idol. It’s incredible. We have so many producers already lined up — Akon, David Banner, RZA, Sha Money XL, Play N Skillz, DJ Khaled and Cool & Dre. We already have over six thousand registered users.

There have been contests like this before, but you never really hear from the artist who wins. Why will this contest be different?
First of all, you get an opportunity to work with the best producers in the world. Who really has the opportunity to get an Akon, RZA or David Banner beat for 99 cents? The winner really is going to get a record deal and we’re going to make an incredible album. Just look at my track record: Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Big Pun, Three 6 Mafia, David Banner and Akon. It’s all about artist development.

Many feel after Loud Records folded it left a big hole in hip-hop. There weren’t other places where artists could be themselves but also get major label promotion. Do you think that’s true?
Yeah. It’s something that I fight with Universal Records [about] everyday. With David Banner, who would have taken somebody from Jackson, Mississippi? Even though his biggest [hit] was “Play,” [the album] didn’t sell [as expected]. But I blame that on one person and that’s me. I didn’t fight for what I really believe in. I got caught up in the whole radio game. That was my fault.

A lot of executives probably wouldn’t admit that.
You got to. When I brush my teeth every morning, there is a lot on my plate. I gotta think about my immediate family, my business family and all my artists. We all have families to feed. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. You have to accept responsibility. [With David Banner’s last album Certified,] I got caught up in the hype with the audience and the airplay. Then, I realized three or four weeks before the record was going to come out, we weren’t going to scan a hundred thousand [the first week]. Everybody looked at me like I was on crack. They said, “Why?” I told them, “There’s no movement on this record. The streets aren’t talking about it. It’s just another record.” It was a great record but [I knew] we weren’t going to break a hundred [thousand]. You have to take responsibility. It’s the only way you can have a real relationship with the artists.

What caused the demise of Loud?
There were four [main hip-hop] labels: Death Row, Bad Boy, Def Jam and Loud. Death Row, Def Jam and Bad Boy had their big radio records. They had incredible partners. [Dr.] Dre and Suge [Knight] had Jimmy [Iovine]. Lyor [Cohen] and Russell [Simmons] had Doug Morris. Puff had Clive Davis. I was stuck at a company…we had everybody first. Jay-Z or Dame Dash will tell you, they came to us before they went to Def Jam. RCA (original distributor for Loud) wouldn’t allow us to [sign them]. Nobody really believed in us. We were the grimy, street company. We didn’t really care about radio [but] we sold records.

Did you change your philosophy with SRC Records?
I changed my philosophy because Universal would never understand my outlook. All they cared about was radio and research. They couldn’t tell you what the street [was feeling]. When I said Akon would be the biggest artist on my label, they all looked at me like I was crazy. So I took a million and a half out of my own pocket and broke him. We are willing to get our hands dirty and go in the mud. If we believe in something, we’re gonna fight.

How did you and RZA organize the Wu-Tang reunion for 8 Diagrams?
RZA and me are family. That’s our first child. I never had closure with them. When we put out Iron Flag, I thought it was an incredible album, but it was more of a Sony [Records] cluster fuck. But [RZA and me] still spoke around once a week. We were like, “Can we do this?” Then, I flew in from London for VH1 Honors [last summer]. I still saw the charisma and energy on stage. I saw the response. So I said, Let’s do this one last time. That’s how it went down.

There has been talk Ghostface isn’t really involved in the album.
He was on the road promoting his album [at the time of the announcement]. I spoke to him a couple of times. Was he having second thoughts? Yeah. But as far as I know, he’s in.

Is this the album going to be on SRC?
Hopefully, Sony [Records] will let us use the Loud name for this one record.

When’s the album dropping?
This summer. Hopefully, you’ll hear a single in two weeks. What I heard sounds amazing.

What else can we expect from SRC this year?
We got Pharoahe Monch, the Wu and David Banner coming this summer. We are [also] closing the Ma$e deal. His album is crazy.

G-Unit’s Ma$e?
Nah, its SRC’s Ma$e now. We are doing a production and distribution deal with him. We don’t have a date for the album yet, but it will be [out] by the end of the year. [It's] all brand new material.

If G-Unit was having problems getting him off Bad Boy, how did this happen?
Well, he’s taking care of it. Him and Puff are working it out themselves.

  • http://none Toine Terrell

    First!!!!! Damn good interview.

  • Holla

    50 lost, again LOL. He can’t even keep his own artists.

  • Bonafide

    Ma$e sucks 1st bitches

  • Chozen

    I think they did FIf a favour…I mean…Fif is the Biz and “Pastor Murda” is dead product. So I doubt its his loss…

  • http://www.myspace.com/LarryBrite Larry Brite

    Didn’t David Banner get like 50 mill or something???

  • GATE13

    Good Interview.

    Iwanna hear that wu tang shit now. After waiting so long it best be good.

  • harlem B

    david banner is broke these niggas be making up these numbers like kock pays 10 per record. That’s all artis bullshit trying to appear richer than they are. All the money the artist gets goes to promotion,etc and they gotta pay that shit back.

  • harlem B

    mase is dead ain’t no one feeling that nigga. He was another 5 mil down the drain like mobb deep.

  • smog

    that dude looks like the guy from snatch

  • Lo

    good interview – interesting

  • http://- damage

    Wu Tang Clan is gonna crack ribz

  • T-Boye

    I guess when Ma$e heard Lox signed with Jay & The Roc, he knew what was going down and decided not to do the deal with Fif.

  • Dipset

    Who the fuck cares about ma$e, 50 cent or this white fool?

    Fuck, Fuck, Fuck’em all!!! (No-Homo)

    Ya dig?

  • Holla

    Dipset is just mad Cam’s officially a pussy by naming his album – Curtis.

    Don’t worry, you’ll find a new group to dickride soon cause Dipset is basically over.

  • Were Read 2 Def

    Ghost better be on the album. It wouldn’t be the same. Hopefully, Cappa is takin ODB’s place.

  • http://www.lifeasnick.com nick

    im gay

    Wu-Tang FTW shits gonna be gangsta

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  • Neil Nice

    All i got to say is “36 Chambers” and “The Infamous” Motherfuckers!!!!!

    Big Up to Steve Rifkind all day!!!! Dude is a record industry legend!!!

  • slobbythegreat

    i been hearing shit about ghost not being on the wu album…if ghost ur reading this fuck you…you better get ur fucking ass on their or i will beat the shit out of you!! its the Wu Tang Clan mother fucker none of this solo shit…and the fuckwit who said cappa taking dirtys place is a fucking homo, no one takes dirtys place, dirty will always be wu tang u fucker, no replacing osirus in this motherfucker…8 diagrams wu tang wu tang….OH AND FUCK WUTANGCORP.COM THE FUCKING CILVARINGZ ALBUM IS FUCKING SHIT..GET SOME NEW SHIT UP ON UR FUCKING SITE U PUSSY CUNTS!

  • http://www.myspace.com/bigsydproductions i say

    there are some people who are real in the industry and steve is top of that.real talk.hes respected everywhere.thanks for loud records,it made my youth go by easier.

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  • skinnykennyp

    steve rifkind mustve been sniffin if he thinks Ma$e will sell any records

  • SIR BAY DA GREAT

    STEVE RIFKIN IS THE ONLY WHITE MAN IN THE INDUSTRY THAT KNOWS “REAL STREET HIP HOP!!”THEIR STREET TEAM WAS SERIOUS…THE BIG PUN STICKER MUST OFF MADE HISTORY IN THE STREETS..THAT SHIT WAS EVERYWHERE..LOUD WAS AND WILL BE THE SHIT!!! YO STEVE IF YOUR READING THIS “WON’T YOU GO GET M.O.P & THEN MOBB DEEP?” YOU ALREADY GOT MA$E!!!!!!!!ONE

  • CARAmel

    Dam – he’s SEXY _ can’t wait to hear new material from Wu Tang and MA$e! Harlem World…represent.

  • http://myspace.com/ninjabeav >>–Allegany-Arrows–>

    damn good interview, cant wait for that wu-tang shit, shit gon be fiya
    holla at ya boy

  • Frank Grimes

    I think Steve got the wrong “M” in the G-Unit stable, he should have re-signed Mobb Deep. Jus’ to prove Blood Money was not a flop. Check out Return of the Mac by Prodigy, with the right production (Alchemist)the Mobb is still “The Infamous”.

  • Face Phoenix

    SRC just isn’t Loud. Loud had a superline up of street music. SRC doesn’t suck but I expected at least Jae Millz to be released by now. Banner is my boy, Akon is cool & Remy is good (though her album sucked!) but what happened to all the good music the man behind Loud Records put out. The Loud Alumni smashes his current SRC lineup to bits and pieces. This guy signed up Three 6 Mafia (before they became pop icons), Tha Liks, The Beatnuts & The Wu. Maybe I’m being too critical but SRC been up and running for years and really hasn’t made an impact.

  • essie

    It’s a good thing to sign in ma$e, just be honest his flow is a one man thing, only he knows how to do,what he do, when he do he is thing.
    There are a lot of rappers who try’d to rap the same way he rap, but eheh he is tha original.
    I’m glad for him and I hope he will even grow bigger than 1997.
    I think He is hot I like he latest albums also welcomeback and Crucified 4 The Hood only the sound was not that good. but what wasn’t there will be here. Show the brother some love.

  • http://myspace.com/earthraidaz JON DA REVALAYTOR,,HOLY-HiP HOP..ATX!!

    Like mase and those who have chosen to pick up the cross and walk with ,Christ,Holy Hip Hop has alot to offer Hip hop/rap and the world beond meshure,STOP thinking its Religion,Right now thousands are rising up,And will continue Jesus is as real a M.C. as it gets.just Check the lyric book,thats bible for demon hatters,The youth to come deserves real Hip Hop,,Nas said say the music yall,I say that and our chilrens minds and souls..Jon Da Revalaytor….

  • http://myspace.com/earthraidaz JON DA REVALAYTOR,,HOLY-HiP HOP..ATX!!

    Every body including Steve Rifkind should check out The testimonys of some Holy Hip Hop rappers,,its az Street as it gets,I love Jesus and I love Hip Hop,,yall do ya thang..Jon Da Revalaytor..

  • kkk up front

    fuck you

  • http://www.blogspot.com Nitty Gritty

    I think that Steve Rifkind is an abomination. WHen he signs artists on his label he is doing just like other record companies. He is buying the creativity and voice of the artist. Many of his artists were better as independents than they ever have been under contract with SRC/Universal. He has a new project and in it will involve taking advantage of hopefuls in search of a record deal.

    Aspiring artists need to use myspace and other websites to market their music. This whole scheme that Steve and his band of robbers has concocted is just one more way to prostitute the living hell out of any artist. It is equivalent to a shrimper throwing out a net and catching all the shrimp, ducks, turtles, and every damn thing else for 400 square miles. This contest is just one more attempt by someone who has power enough to make others do his bidding and then he profits. If I had a son who rapped, Steve and no other record label exec would get hands on him. I would advise anyone to stay indpendent for as long as possible. Record labels will soon be a thing of the past. Technology is a bitch and I’m glad for it happening. Steve needs to go sit on his ass and make sure he ain’t got no shit on it. Artists and aspiring people need to step off of this latest endeavor by Steve Rifkind. A lot of the artists he paid good money for were worth way more than he paid them, way more. He paid one artist ten mill and if the man had stayed independent he would have BEEN another Universal. He would have been worth 50 mill by now.

  • Money Mike

    Steve iz a legend, theres this other white kid on the rize that reminds me of a younger Steve, Defient entertainment. Money money money

  • http://n/a Chad Carlson

    In any business you have pros and cons. I’ve never heard anything bad about Steve. People hate. Kick ass SRC!