It must be easier than ever to assemble a label with a huge roster of artists, along the lines of the early ’00s-era Roc-a-fella, if you’re one of the few artists who have a viable career on a major label at this point.
Like, if you were Eminem, whose album just got knocked out of the top 5 but still managed to sell more copies last week – its umpteenth week in stores – than most rap albums sell their first week out these days. You could have your pick of once big name rappers from back when people still bought CDs – if you could talk them into making another go at a career in rap music. Even if they weren’t really interested, it might still be worth it, for that check they give you when you sign, which they aren’t really giving you per se, but you could still go out and spend it on champagne and strippers just the same. If you never end up releasing an album, because it turns out there was no business case for it, I’m pretty sure you don’t even have to pay them back. That was the impression that I got from reading Combat Jack’s top 25 exercises in name dropping, or whatever it was called, over at Complex. (I kid.) Those stories were full of people who don’t have very extensive discographies but supposedly still made a lot of money anyway. Must have been nice.
But what does Eminem need with a vanity label full of has beens? He could probably sell more records by himself than a lot of these rap labels. Selling an extra 60,000 Clipse albums wouldn’t be worth the aggravation of having to wonder if the older one (who’s mad old) really is a drug dealer. It seemed like he was fucking with us, in that video where he was making those pancakes. So what his house and that BMW SUV he drives look mad average to people who grew up in the suburbs. I’m sure that’s Shangri-La, for someone who grew up selling crack in the ghetto. The esteemed Mike Bigga’s circa 2000 Honda Accord is like a Maybach 62, with the added bonus that you don’t look silly driving yourself around in it. Not to put anyone’s business out there in the street. I’m just saying. It’s all relative.
I don’t know if Kanye West needs the money, or if signing all of the best acts from around the time Mike Bigga’s car rolled off the assembly line is an ego thing, or what it. It could be a little bit of both. It’s not like he should be hurting for money. Graduation sold something like a million copies in a week, in a week when a 50 Cent album came out (hey, it may have cut into his sales some…), and I seem to recall reading that 808s & Heartbreak sold way better than you’d think, to hear the songs on it. But I’m sure he spends a shedload of money, flying around the world to fashion shows with the team of teh ghey guys he travels with, for no apparent reason. It’s not like he has a clothing line coming out. And even if he dead, it would probably be for the best if he had minimal involvement with the designs. The death of his clothing line before it was even born – as if it was one of Drew Barrymore’s children – was blamed on the incident at last year’s VMAs, but, as I explained in a post here a while back, I suspect that the real reason was because the clothes didn’t look like anything a straight guy would wear, and the TIs who really owned the company got nervous and cut off the funding. The VMAs were just a convenient excuse. He may have even pulled that stunt he pulled on purpose, for that very reason. Was there really Hennessy in that bottle? Someone get Joe Jackson on the phone.
The two most high profile recent signings to Kanye’s GOOD Music are Mos Def and the Clipse. I’m much more concerned with Mos Def than I am the Clipse. Not that I hate the Clipse or anything. It’s just, I’m not as concerned with what happens to their career. This was probably the best option they had on the table, and the second best option was to put out another album on Koch Graveyard, where they put out that album of songs from their mixtapes, with extremely gay (meaning lame or undesirable) production, thus seemingly proving that a lot of their appeal lies in cherrypicking beats from other people’s albums. Mos Def, on the other hand, is coming off of a successful album. I guess we could go back and forth about whether or not The Ecstatic was an artistic triumph. I’ll just point out that (a) I’m obsessed with it almost as much as I’m obsessed with pr0n; and (b) it was one of the top rap albums in last year’s Pazz and Jop – and you know the kind of white people who vote in that shit don’t really fuck with Mos Def like that. Not ignorant enough. The album may not have sold enough to take care of his umpteen kids for more than a few weeks, but I seem to recall songs from it popping up in a lot of commercials and what have you. I think that label he was on is big on “strategic partnerships,” or whatever the term is they use for it. He probably made as much money from The Ecstatic as you can make from a rap album without having an actual hit.
My fear, then, is that’s what he’s gonna try to do on this Kanye label. He’s gonna try to craft himself a career renaissance similar to the one Common experienced after he started putting out ultra boring albums with Kanye, circa ’05 (as opposed to those ultra boring albums with ?uestlove from about ’00 to ’05). Now Common is big time, acting in movies for bourgeois black people, in which he has to have a romantic relationship with Queen Latifah. I can only imagine what the pay is like. Mos Def has been in movies since forever, but I don’t know if he’s been in anything that actually played in the theater since The Italian Job. That may even be the real reason behind this label switch.