134 Rapper-Launched Record Labels From the Past and Present
In hip-hop, new record labels are created on the daily but imprints that have been around for decades still continue to flourish. Unlike other genres, many hip-hop artists go on to start their own labels resulting in a surplus of labels in the rap game. These days, it seems like every rapper has their own label, going the indie route and reaping the full rewards of their success. As more newcomers come into the game, they’re using this model and kicking off record companies of their own. Boss moves for real.
Rapper-bred record labels are responsible for some of the most successful acts in hip-hop. Dr. Dre launched Aftermath Entertainment in 1996, after he split from Death Row, and has built an empire over the past 20 years that still reigns in the hip-hop game. In the early 2000s, the label found success with Eminem and 50 Cent, selling diamond rap albums and earning a host of Grammys. Fast forward to the present and the label still shines bright with platinum-selling artists like Kendrick Lamar. But before Dre ventured out to become his own CEO, he learned the rules of the game from Eazy-E, who started Ruthless Records in 1987, where Dre signed one of his first record deals. Ruthless was responsible for birthing Ice Cube, Dre, Eazy, MC Ren and DJ Yella as N.W.A, the no holds-barred group that cultivated gangsta rap.
Bad Boy Records also falls into this category. Started in 1994, the label has remained a staple in hip-hop for over two decades, all while birthing acts like The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e and more recently French Montana. No Limit Records, founded the same year as Bad Boy, is also a notable mention and who can forget Birdman’s Cash Money Records.
XXL compiled a massive gallery of the rapper-launched record labels from the past and present. Which one would you say is the most successful of all time? Take a look in the gallery above.
Watch XXL’s French Montana: Born to Win Documentary
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