14 Defunct Hip-Hop Labels
In the history of hip-hop, the music business is littered with rap recording labels that made a swift impact before disappearing just as swiftly into the night. Success can be fleeting in rap and music labels can disappear as quick as your label's signature star jumping ship for greener pastures. From Sugar Hill to No Limit, hip-hop has seen some of it's biggest heavyweights get knocked out of the game with the speed of a Mayweather uppercut.
XXL wants to remember the labels that once were kings of the industry. That is why we have a compiled a list of over a dozen rap labels that have gone defunct over the years. There is no shame in ruling the rap world with an iron fist before watching the world slip quietly through your fingers. Being at the top is its own reward.
4th & B'Way Records
Established in 1984, 4th & B'Way Records was the flagship label of Island Trading Company and was the home of such hip-hop luminaries as Eric B. & Rakim, X Clan and Mobb Deep. It shuttered in 1998 when PolyGram and MCA merged together to create the Universal Music Group, leading to all of the label's hip-hop artists to be transferred to Def Jam.
Eric B. & Rakim - Paid In Full (1986)
X-Clan - To The East, Blackwards (1990)
Mobb Deep - Juvenile Hell (1992)
Cold Chillin' Records
In the 1980s, Cold Chillin' Records was one of the signature homes for hip-hop in America. The label was home of the legendary Juice Crew that featured such classic artists as MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shanté and Masta Ace. In 1998, the label shut down and it's expansive catalog was bought out by Massachusetts-based LandSpeed Records.
MC Shan - Down By Law (1988)
Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane (1988)
Biz Markie - Goin' Off (1988)
Marley Marl - In Control, Vol. 1 (1988)
Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo - Road To The Riches (1988)
Masta Ace - Take A Look Around (1990)
There was no greater label for independent hip-hop in the 200s than Definitive Jux. Founded by noted indie rapper/producer, El-P, Def Jux was the home of some of hip-hop's most cutting-edge independent acts in the business like Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock, Cage, Murs, Mr. Lif and label founder, El-P. The label announced that it was going on hiatus in February 2010 but has not emerged since then.
Cannibal Ox -The Cold Vein (2001)
El-P - Fantastic Damage (2002)
Aesop Rock - Bazooka Tooth (2003)
RJD2 - Since We Last Spoke (2004)
El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007)
Murder Inc./The Inc. Records
Founded by Irv and Chris Gotti, Murder Inc. Records was one of the premier music labels in all of the world during the early-2000s. Home to such acts as Ja Rule, Ashanti, Lloyd and Rah Digga, Murder Inc. was one of the most successful labels prior to troubles with other artists and the law slowed the momentum of the label to a crawl. While the label's status seems to be up-in-the air, the label has not released an album since Lloyd's Lessons In Love in 2008.
Ja Rule - Venni, Vetti, Vicci (1999)
Ja Rule - Rule 3:36 (2000)
Ja Rule - Pain Is Love (2001)
Ashanti - Ashanti (2002)
Lloyd - Southside (2004)
Closed: 2001; 2011
Founded by legendary music indusry executives, Kenneth "Baby Face" Edwards and Antonio "L.A." Reid, LaFace was one of the most influential and successful imprints in all of music. Although, they dabbled in R&B and hip-hop, LaFace was the home to such seminal acts as OutKast and Goodie Mob. The label has closed and re-formed several times but most recently, it shuttered its doors for good after its home at Jive Records was merged with RCA Records in 2011.
TLC - CrazySexyCool (1994)
OutKast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)
Goodie Mob - Soul Food (1995)
OutKast - ATLiens (1996)
Goodie Mob - Still Standing (1998)
OutKast - Aquemini (1998)
Loud Record was the brainchild of Steve Rifkind, a street marketing wunderkind who changed the way that corporations market products. Loud Records was the home of such hip-hop legends as the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Three 6 Mafia, M.O.P and Big Punisher. The label was shuttered in 2002 when distribution problems began after Loud shifted from RCA to Columbia.
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Mobb Deep - The Infamous (1995)
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)
Big Pun - Capital Punishment (1998)
No Limit Records
With modest beginnings as a small independent records store in the San Francisco Bay Area, No Limit Records grew to becoming one of the most important hip-hop labels in music history. By the late 1990s, No Limit had a roster of rappers that included founder Master P, Silkk The Shocker, Mystikal, Snoop Dogg and C-Murder. Over-expansion into movies, cell phone and sports agencies created money problems for Master P and the label filed for bankruptcy in 2003.
Master P - The Ghetto's Tryin' To Kill Me (1994)
Silkk - The Shocker (1996)
Master P - Ghetto D (1997)
TRU - Tru 2 Da Game (1997)
Mystikal - Unpredictable (1997)
Young Bleed - Balls & My Word (1998)
Silkk the Shocker - Charge It 2 Da Game (1998)
Snoop Dogg - Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told (1998)
Ruff Ryders Entertainment
Initally started as a management company,Ruff Ryders Enertainment was subsidiary of Def Jam that housed multiplatinum stars as DMX, The LOX and Eve. In the 2000s, they could be seen as one of the influential labels due to constant radio rotation of their stars, platinum albums and popular compilation records. The label officially ended in 2010 when label founders Joaquin and Darrin Dean revamped the label as "Ruff Ryders Indy."
DMX - It's Dark & Hell Is Hot (1998)
DMX - Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood (1998)
Eve - Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryder's First Lady (1999)
DMX - ...And Then There Was X (1999)
The LOX - We Are The Streets (2000)
JadaKiss - Kiss Tha Game Goodbye (2001)
Although, it was not started as a hip-hop label, Profile Records became a huge success as the label of Run-D.M.C. providing a home for some of their most beloved albums. Over the years, they provided shelter for such other noted hip-hop acts as Tone-Loc, Young MC, Camp Lo, Special Ed before closing its doors for good in 1996.
Run-D.M.C. - Run-D.M.C. (1984)
Run-D.M.C. - Raising Hell (1986)
Special Ed - Youngest In Charge (1989)
DJ Quik - Quik Is The Name (1991)
Sleeping Bag Records/Fresh Records
Sleeping Bag Records was founded by avant-garde cellist and underground disco artist Arthur Russell, William Socolov, and Juggy Gales in 1981. Over the years, it's Fresh Record imprint was home to some of hip-hop's finest old school groups including EPMD, Mantronix, Just-Ice and Nice & Smooth. While the record label closed in 1992, the catalog was eventually purchased by Warlock Records in 1996.
Mantronix - Mantronix: The Album (1985)
EPMD - Strictly Business (1988)
Nice & Smooth - Nice & Smooth (1989)
EPMD - Unfinished Business (1989)
Sugar Hill Records
Sugar Hill Records was founded by Sylvia Robinson with her husband, Joe, in 1979. After witnessing the burgeoning hip-hop scene firsthand, Sylvia went about to forming her own rap group creating the Sugarhill Gang whose instant smash, "Rapper's Delight," became a national phenomenon unlike anything ever seen. Over the years, Sugar Hill Records became the home to old school luminaries as Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and Funky Four + One. The label shuttered for good in 1986 after controversial distribution deal with RCA left them in protacted litigation.
Sugarhill Gang - "Rapper's Delight" (1979)
Funky Four Plus One - "Rapping & Rocking The House" (1979)
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - "The Message" (1982)
Wild Pitch Records
Wild Pitch Records was a favorite of hip-hop fans during the early 1990s. Home to such notable acts as Main Source, Lord Finesse, Gang Starr, Ultramagnetic MCs and O.C., Wild Pitch featured one of the greatest catalogs of Golden Age hip-hop ever.
Gang Starr - No More, Mr. Nice Guy (1989)
Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth - The Funky Technician (1990)
Main Source - Breaking Atoms (1991)
Ultramagnetic MC's - The Four Horsemen (1993)
O.C. - Word...Life (1994)
For a shining moment in time, Rawkus Records was the face of the revolution. In the late-1990s, the label seemed to house every important underground hip-hop act in the country. Whether it was Mos Def or Talib Kweli, Company Flow or Pharaohe Monch, hip-hop's most celebrated underground artists found a home at Rawkus over the year. When the label shuttered it's door in 2007, it signified an end of era in hip-hop. The majors raided them of their talent and the Internet revolution had taken their customers. Rawkus still remains one of the most important hip-hop labels in history.
Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus (1997)
Black Star - Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Stat (1998)
Mos Def - Black On Both Sides (1999)
Pharaohe Monch - Infernal Affairs (1999)
Big L - The Big Picture (2000)
Reflection Eternal - Train Of Thought (2000)
Talib Kweli - Quality (2002)
Fondle 'Em Records
Founded by the immensely popular radio DJ Robert "Bobbito" Garcia, Fondle 'Em Records was another memorable underground rap label in the 1990s. Garcia releasing that many of the talented artists that were freestyling in the studio for his Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Show were without a proper label for their talents, he started Fondle 'Em as way to house these acts. Over the label's memorable six -year run, it housed such artists as MF Doom, the Juggaknots, MF Grimm and KMD.
The Juggaknots - Clear Blue Skies LP (1996)
Cage - "Radiohead/Agent Orange" (1997)
MF Doom - Operation Doomsday (1999)