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SCRATCH:When Record Labels Go Wrong

With the news of Jermaine Dupri being let go at Island Def Jam because of poor performance, it got me thinking about a whole melange of rappers and music industry start-up CEOs who’ve come from the urban space. Some of them have been successful, others not so much.

So what I wanted to do was use XXL’s famed rating system (S-M-L-XL-XXL) to rate some of these urban executive guys. Granted, every rapper in the entire music business has their own label, so we’d be here all day if we wanted to include Lil Kim’s Queen Bee Records and shit like that.

Jay-Z– Always seemed to me like Dame and Biggs were the executive muscle behind Roc-A-Fella, so why Jay-Z got hired as an executive at Def Jam is beyond me. From the hip-hop side, I’m having trouble really understanding what exactly he did over there. Rick Ross and Jeezy are the two acts that come to mind, but other than jumping on a few of their records, what did Jay really do during his tenure?

Rating: M

Irv Gotti– Irv basically rescued Def Jam in the late 90s when he brought DMX and Jay-Z to Rush’s crumbling house of hip-hop. As an A&R guy, he was the shit. Then he got on his Murder Inc. run and it was just hit after hit. Until 50 destroyed Murder Inc. Still, he managed to break Ashanti and even Lloyd, who he’s still eating off of. So who cares if his VH1 show lead to nowhere and Black Child is still in the hood?

Rating: XL

Master P– Everyone forgets about P. Back in the mid 90s, I used to see these ads in The Source that looked so stupid, rappers from the South with all kinds of photoshopped jewelry and whatnot. I always thought to myself, who was buying this crap? Apparently, the whole entire Southern region of the United States! P rode the CD craze of the late 90s to millions, and then distracted himself by trying to play in the NBA and have his son Romeo compete with Bow Wow for best little tike rapper in the game. But before it all fell down, P set the blueprint for every southern rap label to follow.

Rating: XL

50 Cent– nothing contributed more to the tarnishing of the G-Unit brand than the bloated roster 50 Cent created when he signed Mobb Deep, MOP, Olivia, Spider Locc and Hot Rod. I mean seriously, what was this guy thinking? I haven’t the slightest clue as to how 50 thought he could actually sell records with that motley crew. Still, give him credit for G-Unit’s early success. 50, Banks, Buck, G-Unit album… they had HITS.

Rating: L

Dame Dash– Dame Dash Music Group? Total failure. Jim Jones is the new Jay-Z? I think not. That said, give Dame and Biggs the credit they deserve for Roc-A-Fella’s halfway dynasty. I call it the halfway dynasty because I think folks overstate how successful that label was. Jay sold mad records, but Beanie, Bleek, State Property, those guys didn’t really sell many records. Cam’ron went platinum off his own movement. He did give Kanye a shot though, so he gets bonus point for that.

Rating: L

Dr. Dre– Dre is the Osirus of this rap label executive shit. He was the musical mastermind and face of Deathrow Records, which yielded us Snoop Dogg and a gazillion other branches off that tree. Then he created Aftermath Records, gave us Slim Shady, who in turn gave us D12, and then 50, and so on and so forth. But it all sprang from Dre.

Rating: XL

Jermaine Dupri– I think we already know by now that as a major label exec, JD’s been a failure. So So Def has just been So So for a couple of years. In its heyday tho, they had Da Brat, Jagged Edge and Bow Wow. Over the past few years tho, the label’s been marred with failure, like JD’s own unsuccessful compilation projects, and one hit wonders like J-Kwon, Bonecrusher and Hot Dollar.

Rating: L

Akon– Kon could be the smartest man in all of the urban music business. Because while everyone else is trying to break rap and r&b acts, he’s riding the wave of the singles format to ridiculous riches. Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” only has 142 MILLION plays on Myspace. And who can deny that Kardinal Offishall had one of the biggest records of ’08 with “Dangerous.” And let’s not forget, T-Pain is a Konvict Music artist. Akon has the game on smash at the executive level right now.

Rating: XXL

Ludacris– Disturbing Tha Peace had some success with Chingy a few years back, ya’know, when people actually bought those type of records. They haven’t been as successful breaking anyone else though. Bobby Valentino had a few hits, so did Shawnna. I-20 never connected. And Playaz Circle had one hit, perhaps because of the Wayne feature, and they were gone.

Rating: M

Kanye West– Kanye is clearly better at making records than he is at putting out other artists. Despite the association, John Legend was signed to Columbia before Kanye came along. And Common, well he was already Common. But Sa Ra? Fonzworth Bentley? Consequence? I rest my case.

Rating: M

Ok…. who am I leaving out and what rating do they deserve?

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