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What these guys SHOULD be doing.
Most Hip-hop labels just deserve shit for over promoting gimmicky records at the expense of raw shit, but there have always been a few truly wretched “Hip-Hop run” companies which ruined everything they touched. I’m talking about labels that go out of their way to release 5th rate weed carrier albums, labels that remix entire Kool Keith projects as techno and labels with the marketing acumen of Wildpitch and the quality control of your local mixtape retailer. Yet all of these pale in comparison next to the TRULY abominable labels: the ones with extremely poor taste that somehow manage to capture the public’s attention, ruining the next few years for anyone involved in the scene. Today, we celebrate the places where good rap music went to curl up and die, only to be reanimated as a twisted Frankenstein’s monster.
5. Ruff Ryder records
Why the motorcycles? That shit was never really Hip-hop and combined with Swizz Beats’ 1-finger keyboard melodies, it set the stage for all sorts of dumb trends that combined Death Row’s over the top gangsta sales pitch to gimmicky local phenomena. Whether saddling Eve with dollar store meringue beats, managing to make the Lox’ debut look good, signing Drag-On or overexposing DMX by having him drop 2 records in a year, Dean and Waah’s boutique label epitomized flash over substance. While the label died a quick death as soon as people figured out that bikes weren’t cool, their influence still permeates to this day: DMX is still dropping records, the Lox still haven’t recovered and Swizz Beats still has a career. For shame.
Saving Grace: They still had a couple of worthwhile tracks.
4. No Limit Records
It used to be easy to use Master P’s label as a punch line but revisionist history has been relatively kind to the Colonel as some dedicated (and possibly insane) souls have dug through the vaults to find worthwhile material in their massive catalogue. That said, they saddled Fiend, Mystikal and Snoop with unbearably bad production, gave Silk the Shocker the opportunity to rap and generally released turd after turd with a few hidden gems for those willing to dig through that shit. Worse, they showed the South’s absolute worst face to the world resulting in discrimination that persists to this day, discrimination that would be unfair except people actually supported this stuff and thus, kind of deserve to be hated on. Here’s the deal South: make sure Lil Romeo never puts out another CD and we’ll finally forgive you for 1997.
Saving Grace: Their Bay Area era material has a better “trash to dope” ratio. If that’s your thing.
3. Eastern Conference Records
By now the entire internet is aware that Mighty Mi is a sleazy douche-bag who didn’t pay his artists, but the fact that he actually released their records in the first place is an even more hideous offence. Mr Eon’s jock-jams, Cage’s increasingly juvenile indie-Eminem shtick, Tame One’s embarrassing post Artifacts career and anything by Vast Aire are just SOME of the bullshit these guys are responsible for. Worse, Eastern Conference epitomized corny white internet b-boy rap: not as musically adventurous as Def Jux and not nearly as fun as actual Hip-hop music, it’s hard to believe that this stuff sold enough records to justify a whole scene for half a decade. Plus they somehow managed to NOT drop R.A The Rugged Man’s album.
Saving Grace: I guess that record with Cage and Tame on PCP was interesting. Plus they didn’t really blow up like these other labels.
2. G-Unit Records
Despite what backpackers might have you believe, there’s a lot of potential in modern criminal minded rap music. By combining an engaging personality, clever storytelling, skillful use of the English language and an original take on the formula, artists ranging from Pusha T to Lil Wayne to Cam’ron to San Quinn have dropped dynamic, captivating records that defy the notion that there’s nothing left to rap about. At first glance, G-Unit seemed liked the perfect candidates for this kind of music: their mixtapes hilariously beatjacked everyone from De La Soul to Busta Rhymes and there was enough humor in their style to ensure that Fiddy and company didn’t fall victim to their own hype. No such luck: since 2003 G-Unit records has churned out formulaic platters of sex guns and drugs and has failed to contribute one single original idea to the music industry. Think Ruff Ryders without the leather and 2 wheelers if you will. They’d be perfectly ignorable if it wasn’t for the fact that they managed to make Mobb Deep sound even more ridiculous than they did post-Takeover and are probably recording the world’s most boring M.O.P album as we speak.
Saving Grace: their 15 minutes is ending and they didn’t have a chance to put out a Ma$e record.
1. Murder INC Records
Not to spoil Ja Rule’s attempted come back, but Murder INC not only defined the idea of “selling out” by watering down rap music to the kind of painfully bland R&B-rap that made Sugarhill seem hardcore, but they were almost gleeful in admitting to it. There’s nothing wrong with club records but for a while Rule’s cookie monster growl was ubiquitous and Ashanti’s paper thin voice was ruining a new mid 90’s beat jack every other week. I’m all for giving Irv and Ja another chance, they’ve learned their lesson; but let us never forget the horrors we were all subjected to from 2G to 02. Oh wait, we already did and somehow let 50 Cent of all people reprise the same formula. Although NO ONE can recreate the Inc’s blend of softbatch beats and middle of the road club appeal.
Saving Grace: I dunno…they didn’t sign Hammer right?