Earlier this month, Curren$y signed Sir Michael Rocks of The Cool Kids to Jet Life Records. Mikey will be joining former No Limit Records star Fiend at the fledgling label, which is primarily dedicated to free mixtape releases, spot dates and retail projects from the label’s New Orleans founder and flagship artist.
To many, Curren$y and Sir Michael Rocks are of the same class of emcees. The Cool Kids were breaking into the media in 2006, the same year the former 504 Boyz emcee stepped out under a still-wet Young Money Records for “Where Da Cash At?” It was not until just two years ago that Curren$y was deemed a XXL “Freshman,” but already the artist who has hopped from No Limit to Young Money to DD172/Def Jam to Warner Brothers is assembling his own roster. The 30 year-old has signed a rapper five years his senior, and an upper-twenties “blog-rapper” peer. Is signing veterans and peers a re-emerging trend from several years ago? HipHopDX looks back to the history, triumphs and tribulations of this act.
Kanye West and Common
Albums Together: 4
Result: As “Big Brother” tells it, Kanye West’s mentor was Common‘s longtime producer No I.D. After MCA Records merged with Geffen Records, Common’s musical output and his street credibility were in jeopardy. 2002’s Electric Circus was viewed as a departure for the Chicago emcee veteran, where he just stepped a bit too far out on the ledge of experimentation. Having just released one album, a Grammy Award-winning, four-times platinum debut album in The College Dropout, ‘Ye was in a perfect position to help out. Although later deemed a “strategic partnership,” West’s fledgling G.O.O.D. Music imprint backed Common’s sixth album, Be. With Kanye and J Dilla on the boards, the new Chicago superstar helped an original regain some ground, and score a gold, Grammy-nominated album. With West’s sophomore Late Registration released later that same year, 2005 will be remembered as a benchmark for Chicago Hip Hop, and younger artists getting out their dreams, and working with their inspirations.
50 Cent and Mobb Deep
Albums Together: 1
Result: You cannot talk about Queens, Hip Hop and not mention Mobb Deep. At the height of G-Unit Records’ run with Interscope, 50 Cent assembled a dream-team of artists. As the mid-’00s helped brand Young Buck, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo to the mainstream, Fif began grabbing up acts left and right to add to his roster. There was M.O.P., there was Ma$e, there was Spider Loc, and even Olivia. Of the acquisitions, the only group to ever release a properly-backed G-Unit album was Mobb Deep, two artists who Fif held in the highest regard. After a brief stint with Jive Records to release the commercially-dipping Amerikaz Nightmare, Curtis Jackson pulled Havoc and Prodigy into his own spotlight. 2006’s Blood Money did not do any better than the previous album, despite involvement from Dr. Dre and a heavy-hand from 50 Cent. As legal woes compromised the Mobb Deep brand, the pair focused on solo works for the next five years. Although the personal relationship appears in tact, 50 Cent’s power-move offered the Poetical Prophets little more than they had earned themselves.
Diddy and 8Ball & MJG
Albums Together: 2
Result: Diddy began Bad Boy Records’ reign by releasing longtime EPMD affiliate Craig Mack’s solo debut album, Project: Funk Da World. A decade into his label empire, the Uptown Records-exec-turned-Bad Boy-mogul signed Memphis, Tennessee duo 8Ball & MJG. The space-age-pimpin’ pair had been striking gold with Houston, Texas independent Sauve House Records for over a decade. Backed by Universal and Relativity Records at stints, ‘Ball and G lacked the marketing excitement Bad Boy is known for. Diddy inked the duo to Bad Boy South, his fledgling subsidiary and pushed the veterans into the lab with his Hit-Men, as well as Lil Jon, Cool & Dre and Bangladesh. 2004’s Living Legends scored another gold plaque for the pair and a Top 3 debut on the charts. However, 2007’s Ridin’ High would be a decline for the pair, who spent three years recording the effort. By last year, ‘Ball & ‘G had now found a new home in T.I.‘s Grand Hustle Records, although they were not privy to his Atlantic Records distribution enjoyed by B.o.B. and Young Dro.
Jermaine Dupri and Whodini
Result: J.D. is largely known for pushing kiddie and teen rappers to the marketplace, including young debuts from Lil Bow Wow, Da’Brat and J-Kwon. However, the onetime back-up dancer has a soft-spot for some golden-era greats. In addition to leading the direction in MC Lyte‘s Bad As I Wanna B, Jermaine signed the group that gave him his start: Whodini. In 1996, J.D. released Six from Jalil, Ecstasy and Grandmaster Dee. The work paired the Brooklyn, New York originals with the likes of R. Kelly, Lost Boyz and Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz. Whodini’s first album in five years is still remembered as their last. The trio and So So Def parted ways after the critical and commercial thud.
Atmosphere and MF DOOM
Albums Together: 1.5
Result: MF DOOM is the king of the one-off. The same year that the KMD front-man released Madvillainy (as Madvillain with Madlib) on Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw Records, he made a stop in the Twin Cities to partner with Rhymesayers Entertainment. MM..Food, released seven years ago this week brought DOOM’s self-production back into the spotlight, and was presented as an artistic follow-up to Operation Doomsday, the emcee/producer’s previous studio release under the same moniker. Although not as commercially successful as DOOM’s collaborative ’04 release, MM..Food is a highly-regarded jewel in the veteran’s catalog. Released by Slug, Ant and Brent “Siddiq” Sayers’ RSE, the work featured no appearances from Atmosphere or any other label artists. Both leaders in the late ’90s underground Hip Hop movement, Atmosphere were students of DOOM’s early Elektra Records releases with KMD, and production for 3rd Bass-affiliated projects. With DOOM-related project, Monsta Island Czars‘ Escape From Monsta Island released a year previous, this would be the last MF/RSE collaboration to date – though rumors swirl of more material.
Mack 10 and MC Eiht
Albums Together: 2
Result: During the success of Westside Connection, Inglewood’s Mack 10 launched a label in Hoo Bangin’ Records. The Priorty-distributed imprint picked up some bench-warmers for other labels in CJ Mac (Rap-A-Lot), Techniec (Doggystyle) and The Comrads (Jive/Zomba). The jewel of his roster however, was MC Eiht of Comptons Most Wanted fame, who reportedly went there after passing up a seat at Master P’s No Limit Records. The Compton Rap pioneer was five years removed from a gold album in We Come Strapped when Mack 10 released his Section 8 effort in 1999. Eiht traded major label backing at Epic for Mack’s indie machine. The sizzle of W.S.C. didn’t help C.M.W. at all, and a year later, Eiht had vacated the imprint. Years later, the “Jeah” trademark emcee would make a similar partnership with Snoop Dogg, through his shelved super-group with Kam and Goldie Loc, Warzone.
Tech N9ne and Brotha Lynch Hung
Albums Togerther: 2
Result: After witnessing the perils of botched label deals first-hand, Tech N9ne has created a solace in Strange Music. The Missouri independent label with a sizable staff has made a home for refugees like Jay Rock and Young Bleed in the past year. However the first artist to prove the Technician formula was Sacramento Rap legend Brotha Lynch Hung. After going to war with his former label, Black Market Records, Lynch has enjoyed charting success at Strange in two celebrated releases: Dinner and A Movie and Coathangastrangla. The horror-core emcee also benefited from the budgets allowing his murderous gang-bang tales to mini-movie and national tours.
Kottonmouth Kingz and X-Clan
Albums Together: 2
Result: Seminal late 1980s New York Hip Hop group X-Clan was among the first veteran acts to find a new home at Kottonmouth Kingz‘ Suburban Noize Records. While Suga Free, Saigon and Glasses Malone would follow, Brother J’s ’00s lineup on X-Clan released two albums at the California-based imprint. 2007’s Return From Mecca was the first X-Clan album in 15 years, and featured the likes of DJ Quik, Tech N9ne and Chali 2na. However with J’s new supporting cast, this and 2009’s Maintream Outlawz may have doubled X-Clan’s catalog, but it failed to find them a proper reintroduction to the fans of artists the group undoubtedly influenced.
El-P and Del The Funkee Homosapien
Albums Together: 1
Result: In the last days of Def Jux Records, El-P released an album from Del The Funkee Homosapien. The Hieroglyphics‘ front-man’s career began just several years before Company Flow began making records, though the Oakland veteran surely influenced the FanDam sound. In 2008, Def Jux released Del’s fifth studio album, Eleventh Hour. The work scored a Top 200 Soundscan appearance to the former Elektra Records star. However, the work was among the final Def Jux releases, and failed to meet the success of previous albums from Murs, RJD2 or Cage in changing times at the music marketplace. Del has subsequently self-released subsequent product, and done collaborations with K7, which now also releases El-P’s work.
High & Mighty and Tame One
Albums Together: 2.5
Result: After The Artifacts break-up in the late 1990s, it became apparent that El Da Sensei and Tame One had very different styles. One was into releasing, relaxing and relating, while another was into drugs and debauchery. Now defunct, Eastern Conference Records was a sanctuary for the former. Nearly a decade removed from Between A Rock and A Hard Place and a deal with Big Beat/Atlantic Records, Tame went solo with DJ Mighty Mi and Mr. Eon’s label, and released When Rappers Attack in 2003. The emcee helped cultivate a new audience, but like his former partner, failed to match the group success as when alone. Even as The Leak Bros. with Cage, Tame didn’t finish first in the Eastern Conference.
What are some of your examples of this phenomenon? Satisfied with the results?