G.O.O.D. Music Family: Monsters, Inc.

Pusha T shot by Fabien Montique & Common shot by Marc Baptiste

On a drizzly mid-August night, Kanye West hosted a private party at an exclusive nightclub on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The Box’s unmarked entrance, sumptuous decor and frequently risqué performances have an elicit, Prohibition-era appeal that works nicely with his mature “Rosewood” aesthetic—attendees were instructed to wear suits or dresses, put on hard-bottom shoes or heels, and dial a number at midnight to receive event details. This was a high-profile affair to be sure, with British soccer star David Beckham lurking in a balcony booth, model Selita Ebanks dancing in a banquette and a foursquare founder waving his business card at any bouncer who would listen to his pleas to be permitted inside.

Bathed in red lighting and flanked by John Legend on a grand piano, Kanye took the stage at well after midnight in a crisp black suit and Oliver Peoples sunglasses. He exuberantly crashed through a medley of hits, occasionally racing over to a sampler to freak drums and slices of vocals. Between songs, he bantered with the crowd. “One of my friends said, ‘I’m sorry for not dressing up,’” Kanye explained while laughing. “I said, ‘I’m sorry for you!’” When the set was finished, rose petals were left on the stage, making the floor look like a honeymoon suite. Members of Yeezy’s label, G.O.O.D. Music—Mos Def, Pusha T, Mr. Hudson, Big Sean, CyHi Da Prynce—all decked out in fresh black suits, stood to applaud the man of the hour.

It’s not enough to be a Grammy-winning, platinum-selling, model-dating music star. You need a crew. Most often, this takes the form of a label: Jay-Z with Roc-A-Fella Records, Eminem with Shady Records, 50 Cent with G-Unit Records, Lil Wayne with Young Money Entertainment, etc. These collectives are not only a financial benefit, they’re also an emblem of stature and their leaders’ star-making magnetism. Kanye, once a black sheep within the pack of hard-edged Roc-A-Fella wolves, has appeared more interested in working with artists he seems a fan of than building such a stronghold around himself. “G.O.O.D. Music has always, always been the underdog,” says Kanye. “It never quite had what Roc-A-Fella had or G-Unit had. But we never try to force-feed a lot of products to you just off of the name. That was the thing. It was about the music just being really, really, really good. And then the fans chose and decided who they like.”

Now with his celebrity peaking, Kanye has an opportunity to wield substantial, yes, power. But it’s a fascinating situation that he’s created. While most musical unions focus on one style of music, Kanye’s crew is arguably the most wildly divergent group of hip-hop artists ever assembled. G.O.O.D. Music, which includes an acronym for “Getting Out Our Dreams,” includes long-term collaborators John Legend and Consequence, veteran ethicists Common and Mos Def, young Midwesterners Kid Cudi and Big Sean, British crooner Mr. Hudson, cocaine-dealing wordsmith Pusha T, and new Atlanta import CyHi. The thread that ties them? Well, it just seems to be Kanye West.

Before the MTV VMA interruption, before the controversial comments about George W. Bush, and way before the tweets about his “credenza game,” Kanye was an anonymous studio rat. In the late 1990s, the Chicago native managed to earn production credits in the liner notes of artists such as Foxy Brown, Jermaine Dupri and dead prez but was still two years away from his break. Nevertheless, he bubbled with grand designs. He had a local production collective called Kon-Man Productions that housed artists such as Rhymefest, Shayla G. and a group called The Go Getters (himself, GLC, Timmy G and Arrowstar). The company was tied to a promotions agency, Hustle Period, whose brain trust included Don Crowley and John “Monopoly” Johnson, two men who would become fixtures in Kanye’s management team. Everything changed in 2001, when Kanye handled four beats on Jay-Z’s revered LP The Blueprint—“Takeover,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” “Never Change”—and established a signature sound, with chirping vocal snippets, orchestral strings and moody pianos. He soon became an A-list producer whose work extended from the Roc-A-Fella camp to Ludacris, Scarface and Alicia Keys.

Kom-Man eventually transitioned into Very Good Beats, ’Ye’s new production company, and in 2004, his record label G.O.O.D. Music was born with an assorted roster including G.L.C., Consequence, Really Doe and soon added Common and R&B crooner John Legend. (It is unclear at press time if the first three are still down with the label.) G.O.O.D. soon landed a deal with Sony and released Legend’s 2004 album Get Lifted, the company’s first major release, and after selling over two million copies, it was a highly successful one. Soon G.O.O.D. Music had offices in the Sony building and a full-time staff. “I needed his name, in a lot of ways, to establish credibility in the business,” says Legend. “But once that credibility was attained, I didn’t need to piggyback off his fame to do well. We didn’t have to use it as much in marketing and press, so I didn’t have to keep name-dropping that affiliation.”

  • Kydnap

    How you gonna put Pusha’s mug on the cover story and not really say anything about him? I don’t know about yall, but I wanna know more about this Pusha/G.O.O.D. connection – Pusha is one of the, if not THE biggest talent out there that is most zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzd on!

    • http://nwso.net Anslem

      Gotta cop the issue for the full story, homie. It’s told in chronological order so of course Pusha wouldn’t be in this first half.

      See you at the newsstand

  • Sha

    This is an interesting article. But I think the author is forgetting a very important item (Maybe he included it in the full magazine article). That important item is……

    Jay-Z.

    While it is good to want to set up a vanity label after you have attained success, many artists just don’t have the connections to turn the “Vanity” into “Profitability”. Kanye spent years doing “low-balled” production work for Jigga, Jigga’s friends, and his label. For years Kanye was getting pimped and paid peanuts for it. At the time, I thought Kanye was a little stupid. But like most people, I failed to remember the golden rule. THERE IS MORE MONEY IN BUILDING LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS.

    So after Jay-Z basically nuked his Rocafella roster, he was left with his money-horse. Kanye (prior to the Def Jam deal). Pay-up time, bitches!!!!

    And if you’re Kanye, what better way to take advantage of your boss than picking his brain. What is Jigga gonna say? No? Jigga had to give up some of his trade secrets to keep his ONLY superstar happy. If Kanye leaves, so does millions in revenue. If Kanye leaves, so does THE BLUEPRINT 3.0. If Kanye leaves so does that Beyonce work. Kanye was straight holding power and he pimped it like a subtle anthrax vile.

    Kanye is turning into a very good business man. Now if he could only shut up about Taylor Swift and stop morphing into the person he dissed on THE COLLEGE DROPOUT. You know….. A Celebrity.

    • Jugo

      Well said…

  • alderman j

    PLEASE!!!! DAME DASH BETTER BE MENTIONED, jay didnt want kanye signed as a rapper he wanted him to stay doing beats so he could keep getting those beats for the low!! DAME SIGNED KANYE, so DAME BETTER BE MENTIONED. Revisionist history, i remember what really happened. NO DAME DASH = NO COLLEGE DROP OUT = NO GOOD MUSIC. the end.

    • http://xxlmag jayruckNYC

      Gotta agree with you. Dame was the one in the offices and in the studio being more hands on with the artist. I don’t know how Jay heard Through The Wire, Jesus Walks etc and fronted. I mean to keep it all the way real Dame also believed in Jay when nobody would sign him. Dame has gotten done dirty but I don’t know what happened behind closed doors….

  • http://xxlmag.com swisha t

    I thought mos def was fuckin with dame dash? And wouldnt the monster remix be even better with beans before he got on that bullshit?

  • John Cochran

    For the first time in like 2 years I actually bought the magazine. I gotta admit they did a good jod on this one. I agree with Sha, he gotta stop acting like that Taylor Swift shit was some life altering event. But thats how you can tell what kind of man Ye is, cause a real nigga wouldnt be pondering on that silly shit. I also wish people stop talking about the Roc era like it was all Jay Z, we all know Dame was and is the original asshole. I dig Ye and the rest of the crew, but I miss the hard shit. Gunit,Dipset,StateProp,D Block, hell Murder Inc, somebody,anybody, give us that hardcore. Im not walking through the hood in no suit yo.

    • wack

      THis nigga’s white

  • John Cochran

    Damn, they pulled my comment…

    • http://nwso.net Anslem

      What comment? No one pulled anything. I could check the spam filter

  • http://xxlmag jayruckNYC

    I hope G.O.O.D music does blow up. At least Kanye will make some REAL hip-hop. Unlike that Young Money trash. I also hope Kanye signs Beans/State Property but I kno it won’t happen. Especially after Beans just dissed and called him gay. lol. It was nothing like hearing Beans and Free over Kanye and Just Blaze beats tho.

  • Q461

    Mos was fuckin with Dame….but I have sources that said they may have been arguing a bit. and Mos signing with Kanye probably puts to bed any future dealings with Dame, since I think Dame is still a bit swoll at Kanye for leaving him high and dry when Dame was the one who went to bat for him at the Roc. In any case, Dame’s got a stable of artists now too so he should be ok even if Mos ain’t apart of it as much. Mos was always like an entity of his own anyway but I digress.

    Honestly I’m feelin this GOOD music movement. To me it’s like a new version of Native Tongues. Kanye, Common, Mos, Pusha, Cudi, Consequence,John Legend….Just dope music being made! And it’s unique cause none of dem really pushin the crew name like Dipset, G-unit etc….Kanye’s got just a collective of dope artists. I think he should try and sign fuckin Q-tip too. That would be crazy.

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  • kedordu

    MOS JAY ELECT AND CURRENCY ARE STILL DOING THAT ALBUM TOGETHER . THATS THE POINT OF CREATIVE CONTROL THE ARTIST CAN DO WHATEVER . AND I THINK DAME ISNT THAT GUY TO BE MAD SALTY ANYMORE.

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  • megulito

    im curiosu where all this money goes does this mean big bro get paid offa everything lil bro do cuz i cant really see any other way it would happen

  • http://spweirdcrazymemories.info/forum/feed.php Kurtis Kroes

    Seriously! I have been seeking bing for hours just for this and that i finally thought it was below!

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