Busta Rhymes surprised hip-hop fans when news surfaced that he signed with Cash Money last month. A free agent since 2009's Back on My B.S., the 20-year vet—who's still buzzing off notable guest appearances this year—most likely had enough leverage to ink a joint venture for an imprint of his own. Earlier this week, Juicy J reportedly signed a deal with Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang as a solo artist. Like Bus, Juicy's been a boss for the bulk of his 16-year career. Releasing acts like Project Pat, Gangsta Boo and Lil Wyte—in addition to Three 6 albums—on his Hypnotize Minds label. But Bus and Juicy aren't the first MCs to sign brow-raising deals. XXLMag.com looks back at the Top 20 left field signings in hip-hop.—XXL Staff
Snoop left Death Row in 1996 and signed with Master P's red-hot No Limit Records two years later. The Dogfather initially adopted the Down South sound for his first LP on the label—Da Game Is to Be Sold Not to Be Told—before returning to G-funk form for his last two albums for P, No Limit Top Dogg and The Last Meal.
In 2005—a year after releasing Welcome Back on Bad Boy—Ma$e joined 50 Cent's G-Unit. Though he collaborated with the Unit on several songs, it turns out that he was still contractually bound to Bad Boy. He never officially signed with Fif and never released an album on the label.
After dropping a forgettable sophomore album, platinum pop star Vanessa Carlton signed to The Inc. when in 2006 when the label was on the decline. She dropped her third disc, Heroes & Thieves in 2007. The offering has only sold 75, 000 to date.
With Juvenile and B.G. abandoning ship, Birdman began expanding his roster beyond hip-hop. He signed legendary R&B singer Teena Marie in 2004. She released the gold-selling, La Doña, that same year.
L-O inked a deal with Fif's revamped imprint, G-Note, earlier this year. He'd previously had his own label, D4L Records.
The Jersey Shore star signed a deal with G-Unit earlier this year. Though he's a DJ, there's no telling what he'll release on G-Unit.
Nas came under fire when he inked a deal with Def Jam during Jay-Z's tenure as the president. At the time, Nas's fans found it hard to believe that God's Son would sign to the God MC considering that their feud—though now squashed—had grown so personal.
Dame Dash went on a signing spree during the early 2000s, including Old Dirty Bastard in 2003. Though RZA was still involved musically, seeing ODB sign to a label unaffiliated with the Wu-Tang Clan was a bit strange.
Mack 10 earned his bread and butter via his own Hoo-Bangin' Records for years, but signed with Cash Money at the turn of the millennium. He released his fifth album, Bang or Ball in 2001.
The colorful TLC member signed with Suge Knight Tha Row (Death Row) as a solo artist in 2002. As if the pop star's signing to a hardcore rap label wasn't already strange, she'd plan on releasing her Row album under the moniker, N.I.N.A. She died months later before having a chance to release any music on the label.
In the mid aughts, Katt Williams repped Dipset nearly as much as he performed stand-up. Though he recorded with the crew, he never released material on the label.
Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa have been collaborating heavily as of late, but the Juice man's signing to Taylor Gang is still a head-scratcher. Three 6 Mafia's Hypnotize Minds has released several gold and platinum records in the last decade. Meanwhile, Taylor Gang has yet to find a distributor.
Though he's good friends with Diddy, no one expected Jay Electronica to sign to Bad Boy. He threw a curveball earlier this year when he sign to Jay-Z's Roc Nation to everyone's surprise, even Puff.
Jay Rock went from building a healthy buzz as a Warner Bros. artist to abruptly joining Tech N9ne's Strange Music in 2010. He released his debut, Follow Me Home, earlier this year.
During his signing spree, Dame Dash oddly signed former Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham, to the Roc. She never released an album on the label.
As a video model, Angel "Lola Luv" Monroe borders on legendary, but as a rapper, she's a laughing stock. Still, Wiz Khalifa unexpectedly signed the former vixen to his Taylor Gang earlier this year.
Though Akon was featured on Lady Gaga's introductory single, "Just Dance," her being signed to Konvict wasn't common knowledge until she became a platinum pop star. With the exception of Colby O'Donis, Kon's roster had mostly consisted of rappers and R&B singers up to that point.
Mark Ronson and Rick Ross don't have much in common. After releasing the commercially-underwhelming, Attention Deficit, Wale joined Ross's Maybach Music Group earlier this year. Though it seemed like an odd match at first, the alliance paid off. Young Folarin's first release via MMG, Ambition, sold 164, 000 in its first week—136, 000 more copies than its predecessor—and is closing in on 300, 000 units roughly a month after its release.