“The way these labels try to deal with rappers got me fucking mad like I’m watching roots.” Nipsey Hussle- “Like Me” Mailbox Money
I am particularly interested in the money derived off the mainstream rap game in America. Analyzing the way the game is set up, the money involved, where exactly this money is going and to whom, makes me very uncomfortable. We should all know by now that there are 3 major corporate labels (Sony, Universal & Warner) who have subsidiary labels which are running about 95% of the music game in America & abroad. Many of these subsidiary labels were bought out by the larger companies over time, in return creating these large conglomerates.
For example, Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope who cashed in on rap back in the day and currently, is under Universal and acts as a division of the company. On top of that, Universal which is the largest music corporation in the world, is owned by this French company named Vivendi and acts as a subsidiary of this company which is based in Paris. Warner Music Group, is owned by this holding company named Access Industries. Access industries has interest in natural resources, chemicals, real estate and media.
So with that being said, who is cashing in the most from the Black musical epxression in America currently? When I look around, my generation seems to have no innovative people that want to go against the grain. Why are these youth so focused on a “record deal?” Why not owning the label and negotiating deals with the larger labels?
I know why, most of these youth are trying to escape poverty. And have little to no resources to start a label. But man, those 360 deals mean no real money anyways. Not understanding the point system and recouping will have a rapper near debt than actual wealth. No wonder perception within the rap game is everything. Fake it till you make it foreal.
I think we need more real artist. And something major to create a cultural shift. And we need more black owned labels and executives behind the scenes so we can cash in and direct our own shit. We need businesspeople who really care about the culture, not just cosigning detrimental BS for crumbs of the larger pie.
I was feeling real nostalgic over the last few days, so I was doing a lot of research on the music industry from back in the day. The old school Berry Gordy hustle. The 90’s Death Row. And how about early 2000’s Irv Gotti? Suge Knight is definitely a complicated figure and every time I do research into the label I find something new. From Harry O, David Kenner, to off duty police working as security. My most recent search led me to the fact that Suge Knight before he formed Death Row, sought out the direction of a OG music vet, Dick Griffey.
Griffey at the time was working with Don Cornelius on Soul Train and had a company called SOLAR (Sound of Los Angeles) Records which was rolling in multi millions annually. I mean Dick Griffey found LA Reid and Babyface and SOLAR was responsible for a specific sound that was producing hits in their day.
Griffey was Suge’s mentor and even gave Suge a space in his building to record because he believed in Suge’s vision with Dre. Everyone knew Dre was a musical genius at the time, but with the recent turmoil with N.W.A none of the major labels wanted to take a chance with gangster rap. Suge was indeed smart to seek out the direction of Mr. Griffey. Dick Griffey is quoted as saying,
“What oil is to Arabs, our music is to us. A lucrative and seemingly endless economic resource. And two, the music reflected where African Americans were in our historical evolution in American society.”
If this is true, who is cashing in the most from our economic resource (aka music) in our generation? These major corporations? And what is the music of the day, saying about blacks evolution in American society?
Thats why I respect Nipsey Hussle so much. He is one of the few rapper that I see from LA who has established a team of like-minded individuals, who are going against the traditional ways of the day. He is not signed to any major label and saying fuck the middle man, I’m taking all that’s mine. Rightfully so. These rapper’s are taking home crumbs compared to what these labels make off their CD’s & songs going platinum, etc. Maybe because they sign these contracts and don’t understand truly the value of these CD’s & songs and how they make money over time.
His most recent mixtape MailBox Money, is a project that is brilliant when you really grasp the message. Nipsey is saying that he’s on a mission to own everything and he’s plotting on equity and master’s. Mailbox Money could be best illustrated as a synonym for royalties. Showing the true genius of this street hustler turned rapper.
With the way the game is consolidated these days you have to respect Nipsey for standing out and actually doing it the right way. And this is why Nipsey’s journey is so important.
At least back in the day guys like Suge Knight had the brains to seek out the direction of an elder who knew the game. Someone who was successful and someone who knew how important it was to be Black owned in America.
In 2015, I don’t think there is much of that anymore. Shouts out to Nipsey though, giving me mad hope for the future of West Coast music and business.
In my overall opinion, the day we have Black owned distribution and actually own the economics behind Hip-Hop, is the day we know that we are truly winning.
“We picked cotton and at the end of the day we turned that over to the master who would then market and distribute it for us and we’d get back a ‘royalty.’ In order words we’d get back enough to get a little shack, a horse and a buggy. They called that share cropping. Well today, we pick talent. Whether it’s Janet, the Whisper’s, Michael, or Snoop or Dre. In the end, it comes down to something we call a ‘master.’ Then we turn the master over to the master. Who markets and distributes it for us, so now some of us can get a royalty. We can get a bigger house, a Mercedes. But the name of the game is still the same. We still sharecropping. We still creating assets for other people.”