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Hip-Hop Fridays: Industry And Street Notes...October 18, 2002

Murder Inc. is deep this weekend on the West Coast. People are buzzing about Ja Rule's over-the-top, mini-movie-as-video to be shot this weekend in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for his first single, "Thug Lovin'" featuring Bobby Brown . The 3-day shoot has been described as one of the most extravagant video productions, not only in Hip-Hop, but for any artist. Usually video filming takes place over a day or two at the most, but a three-day shoot in two major West Coast cities is both unusual and pricey. Reminds me of the major $1,000,000 video shoot that Wu-Tang had in May of 1997, for "Triumph", also shot in Los Angeles. The budget for Ja Rule's video has to be well over that. His album, "The Last Temptation", is slated for a November 19th, release. By the way, look for Suge Knight's presence in the video...

..."something" did happen weeks ago in the way of a confrontation up at the Universal offices in Manhattan between two platinum artists. I have been told by more than a few sources that the incident was between Ja Rule and DMX and as a result of what happened, security throughout the entire building has been tightened. Anyone who has been there within the last month can bear witness to that fact - with sign-ins, escorted walk-ups, and nametags, the rule of the day. With Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam, and Murder Inc. all operating in the same part of the building any beefs could rearrange the corporate furniture. Lyor Cohen - Island Def Jam head has described himself as a referee for the simmering tension among artists that he originally signed as labelmates. In a recent Philadelphia radio appearance DMX wisely side-stepped the subject of problems between he and Ja Rule and spoke of how the music industry financially rapes its artists when compared to the movie business. But it is obvious and public that there is a problem between the two platinum-plus artists. I now have confirmation that DMX has an album release scheduled for Nov. 26, 2002 - just one week after Ja Rule. Something just isn't right about this picture of beefing artists, in the same record label family with albums released so close together. Looks like the corporations (read non-Black) reap the financial rewards for the personal problems of their artists (read Black) -in the long and short-term...

...In other Island/Def Jam news, Mariah Carey, has completed the video shoot for "Through The Rain" which features one of the Soprano show actresses (we'll let you guess who)and her album is coming on December 3rd. Of course, we were the first to inform you that Mariah had signed to Def Jam, months before it was announced and we can authoritatively let you know that her album has the full-support of the Roc-A-Fella roster. Everyone from Jay-Z and Cam'ron is featured and production is provided by Just Blaze, Jermaine Dupri and Dr. Dre...

...In more R&B news Dru Hill is back. Releasing an album November 26th called the "Dru World Order". The album is being described by sources as classic Dru Hill, with the usual assortment of love ballads. The group has a new member named Scola, who is said to have taken the the group's harmonies to the next level. The album is executive produced by Nokio and features some home-grown production from some of the hottest talent from the group's native Baltimore. Let's see if Sisquo can rebound from a seemingly-endless array of personal disses and innuendo thrown at him by everybody from Nas to R. Kelly to Usher...

...If you are noticing that all of a sudden the record stores are about to be flooded with new Hip-Hop product you are correct. We are looking at Jay-Z, Nas, 50Cent (December 3rd), Fabolous (December 3rd), Ja Rule, DMX, and an Irv Gotti remix album (November 5th) all within 1 month of each other, when there were virtually no major releases from June to October. Of course some of this is naturally the byproduct of the desire of the record labels' to get what RZA from Wu-Tang used to call, "Christmas money". I told a record label representative this week that people, like myself, aren't buying the RIAA and music industry argument that CD-burning and MP3'ing is responsible for the dramatic slow-down in record sales. My argument, has been that the record labels flooded us with Hip-Hop product the last 3 months of 2001 desperately seeking to get "Christmas money" because of fears that 9/11 had damaged the economy so badly that the 1st and 2nd quarter (where many of these albums should have been released) album releases for 2002 were bumped up into the 4th quarter of 2001 . As a result, nothing came out of significance in Hip-Hop until May with Cam'ron's album. The delays, false-starts and non-releases that have devastated the traditional second and third quarter album releases are at least as much the problem as file-sharing and burning. Here is the response I received to that argument:

"In the first quarter everyone is paying off their credit card bills from Christmas and has no money left, so no real releases come out. In the Spring you get the R&B releases and in Summer, you have the spotty releases but kids are out of school and spending their money on other things. You naturally get an increase in the third and fourth quarter when kids have back-to-school money and of course, Christmas gift shopping."

...Next year is projected to look different in the way of release volume, as we are learning of a suprising volume of 1st quarter releases. Keith Murray and Redman have albums scheduled to come in the Winter as well as the hot-again, now-down-with P.Diddy - Foxxy Brown...

...In news from my old group Wu-Tang, Raekwon has left Loud Records, which was swallowed by Columbia earlier this year. He is now a free-agent and is fielding record deal offers as he continues to pursue his entrepreneurial interests in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Don't count out Def Jam or Jive as the eventual home of the Chef. If room can be made I would put the safe money on Def Jam. In a meeting Lyor Cohen once told me of his great respect for Raekwon and his belief, at the time, that "Only Built For Cuban Linx" was the best album any individual Clan member had put out. GZA is looking for "Christmas money" shooting for a December 10th release for his new album "Legend of the Liquid Sword." which features production from RZA, Mathematics and DJ Muggs. Earlier this week the video for the first single, "Knock, Knock" was shot, of course in New York...

...Sad news. One of Hip-Hop's most important symbols has burned down. Here is the report from Associated Press:

"The studio where the Sugar Hill Gang recorded the multi-platinum single "Rapper's Delight" - which in 1979 became what's widely believed to be rap music's first hit song - was destroyed by a fire early Friday morning.

The fire is being investigated by the arson squad at the Bergen County prosecutor's office, something officials say is standard procedure in such cases.

P. Diddy also recorded his first hit record - "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" - at the same studio. It and other records, plaques and a Grammy award were among the things that were recovered from the soot."

Officials now say the fire was accidental...

Is anyone else feeling Queen Latifah's The Unit's new posse cut, "Hater-Proof", or is it just us? My circle is head-nodding in respect to the track which features some exceptional rhyme-skills, delivery and presence. The video is excellent featuring an avalanche of cameos from Hip-Hop's hottest stars, as well as appearances from several Sopranos cast members. It's a Jersey thing. Shout out to Latifah and you must give Shakim his due. "Our current roster of artist reminds me of the hunger that groups like "Naughty By Nature, Outkast and LL Cool J had when they came to Flavor Unit Management" says CO-CEO Shakim Compere. Watch the "Hater-Proof" video, I think Shakim is right...

...Remember what we wrote in the March 22, 2002 edition of's Hip-Hop Fridays: Industry And Street Notes:

Sources have told us that the higher-ups at Radio One, Inc. the billion-dollar Black-owned radio network have admonished D.J.s and hosts against consistently spinning music that is not on the station's playlist until an assortment of record labels begin to "pay to play" - offer up money in exchange for airplay. The sources, from within, have informed us that on some Radio One stations across the country, if a Hip-Hop or R&B record that is not on the playlist is played more than five times the person responsible for such action risks being terminated. The drama inside of Radio One continues to unfold after the radio station made a controversial decision to hire an independent promoter Ventura Media Group, to pitch songs to program directors at its top 25 urban stations. Reportedly, the financial arrangement works like this: Ventura pays a fixed annual fee to each Radio One station for the right to serve as a promotional intermediary and in turn Ventura charges labels that sell urban music - Hip-Hop and R&B - $2,500 every time a program director (PD) adds a song to a station playlist. Radio One has reportedly defended the arrangement as a way to clean up an otherwise dirty system. Radio One Chief Operating Officer Mary Catherine Sneed has explained the standard corrupt process of "pay to play" in urban radio in the following manner, in a Black article, "The way it works now at urban radio is that (middlemen) give cash under the table to the program director at the station and then kick back money to the vice president of promotion at the record label," Sneed said. "It's not legal. We can't operate like that. Radio One intends to clean up this mess."

Well, it looks like the Black-owned Radio One loses out and the RIAA and larger corporate Radio outlets win. This, from today's (Oct. 18) edition of the Los Angeles Times, in an article written by Jeff Leeds:

Cox Radio Inc., one of the nation's largest radio chains, plans to sever its ties with independent record promoters to distance itself from a payola-like practice rampant in the music business.

The decision makes Cox the first big broadcaster to revolt against the record labels' three-decade-old practice of hiring independent "middlemen" to push songs to radio programmers. Critics say the promoters' existing deals with major radio companies smack of payola, or undisclosed payments made in exchange for airplay.

"We felt uncomfortable with these relationships because the system does invite abuse," said Robert Neil, Cox Radio's chief executive. "The record companies have been trying to get people to play records in different ways for a long time. The more we found out about this, the less comfortable we became."

...Hilary Rosen, chief of the Recording Industry Assn. of America, applauded Cox's move, saying, "I'm sure regulators will look favorably on this."

...We have a lot to learn about "the system" and the people who run it solely for their benefit...

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, October 18, 2002

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