Rawkus Records

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Rawkus Records
Rawkus Entertainment logo.png
Founded1995 (1995)
FounderBrian Brater
Jarret Myer
Defunct2007 (2007)
Distributor(s) Priority Records (1999-2002)
MCA Records (2002-2003)
Geffen Records (2004)
RED Distribution (2006-2007)
Genre Hip hop
Country of originU.S.
LocationNew York City

Rawkus Records was an American hip hop record label known for starting the careers of many rappers. Rawkus started in 1995 with releases in hip-hop, drum and bass and fun-dustrial (Dystopia One).

A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos, while also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists, and maintaining contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information. Within the mainstream music industry, recording artists have traditionally been reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on music streaming services, radio, and television. Record labels also provide publicists, who assist performers in gaining positive media coverage, and arrange for their merchandise to be available via stores and other media outlets.

Drum and bass, is a genre and branch of electronic music characterised by fast breakbeats with heavy bass and sub-bass lines, sampled sources, and synthesizers.


Label heads Brian Brater and Jarret Myer then signed some of the top underground talent from the New York area, notably Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Hi-Tek and Company Flow, who went on to define the label's sound. The string of 12" releases and full-length albums that followed helped initiate a resurgence in the New York/East Coast sound. Many of these are considered classics among hip-hop aficionados. During the mid to late 1990s, Rawkus became a dominant label in the underground hip-hop scene, producing a string of gold albums and a platinum album.

Jarret Myer is an American media entrepreneur who co-founded the record label Rawkus Records, the YouTube talent company Big Frame, and the digital media brand Uproxx. Since the sale of Uproxx to Woven Digital in 2014, Myer has served as Woven Digital's general manager of publishing.

Mos Def American rapper, actor and activist from New York

Yasiin Bey, better known by his stage name Mos Def, is an American rapper, singer, actor and activist. Best known for his music, Bey began his hip hop career in 1994, alongside his siblings in the short-lived rap group Urban Thermo Dynamics (UTD), after which he appeared on albums by Da Bush Babees and De La Soul. He subsequently formed the duo Black Star, alongside fellow Brooklyn-based rapper Talib Kweli, and they released their eponymous debut album in 1998. He was featured on the roster of Rawkus Records and in 1999 released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides. His debut was followed by The New Danger (2004), True Magic (2006) and The Ecstatic (2009). The editors at About.com listed him as the 14th greatest emcee of all time on their "50 greatest MC's of our time" list. Some of Mos Def's top hits include, "Oh No", "Definition" and "Respiration".

Talib Kweli American rapper from New York

Talib Kweli Greene is an American rapper, entrepreneur, and activist. Kweli earned recognition early on through his collaboration with fellow Brooklyn rapper Mos Def, when they formed the group Black Star. Kweli's musical career continued with solo success including collaborations with producers and rappers Kanye West, Just Blaze, and Pharrell Williams. His most recent solo album is titled Radio Silence, released in 2017. In 2011, Kweli founded his own record label, Javotti Media.


Rawkus Records was established in 1995 by Brian Brater and Jarret Myer, with financial backing from James Murdoch, [1] [2] [3] son of Rupert Murdoch. In 1996, Rupert Murdoch bought a majority of Rawkus. [4] [5] In 1999 the label entered into a distribution deal with Priority Records.

Rupert Murdoch Australian-born American media mogul

Keith Rupert Murdoch, is an Australian-born American media mogul who founded News Corp.

Priority Records is an American distribution company and record label known for artists including N.W.A, Ice-T, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Silkk the Shocker and Westside Connection. It also distributed hip hop record labels including Death Row Records, Hoo-Bangin' Records, No Limit Records, Posthuman Records, Rap-A-Lot Records, Rawkus Records, Roc-A-Fella Records, Ruthless Records and Wu-Tang Records. According to Billboard, "few record labels were as important to the rise of West Coast hip hop as Priority Records."

Over the years, Rawkus recorded several notable independent hip hop artists, [6] including Reflection Eternal, Company Flow, the High and Mighty, Mos Def and Talib Kweli (as Blackstar), Eminem, Common, Pharoahe Monch and Skillz.

Company Flow band

Company Flow was an American hip hop trio from Brooklyn, New York City, consisting of Bigg Jus, El-P and Mr. Len.

Eminem American rapper and actor

Marshall Bruce Mathers III, known professionally as Eminem, is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, record executive, film producer, and actor. He is consistently cited as one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time, and has been labelled the "King of Hip Hop". In addition to his solo career, Eminem was a member of the hip hop group D12. He is also known for his collaborations with fellow Detroit-based rapper Royce da 5'9"; the two are collectively known as Bad Meets Evil.

Common (rapper) American rapper, actor and author from Illinois

Lonnie Corant Jaman Shuka Rashid Lynn, better known by his stage name Common, is an American rapper, actor, writer, and philanthropist. Common debuted in 1992 with the album Can I Borrow a Dollar? and maintained an underground following into the late 1990s, after which he gained mainstream success through his work with the Soulquarians.

In 2002, Rawkus signed a joint venture deal with MCA. Soon after, MCA folded and Interscope/Geffen bought Rawkus. After the sale of its catalog in 2004, Rawkus split from Geffen.

MCA Records US record label, imprint of MCA Records, Inc.

MCA Records was an American record label owned by MCA Inc., which later gave way to the larger MCA Music Entertainment Group, which the label was part of until its dissolution in 2003. The label's country division MCA Nashville is a still active imprint of Universal Music Group Nashville.

Interscope Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group through its Interscope Geffen A&M imprint. It was founded in late 1990 by Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field as a $20 million joint venture with Warner Music Group's Atlantic Records. At the time, it differed from most record companies by giving decision-making authority to its A&R staff and allowing artists and producers complete creative control. It had its first hit records less than a year after it was founded, and achieved profitability in 1993. Iovine served as chairman and CEO until May 2014, when he was succeeded by John Janick.

Geffen Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group through its Interscope Geffen A&M Records imprint.

In 2006, Rawkus signed with RED, a Sony Music distribution company and reemerged with a new line up of notable independent hip hop artists.

Sony Music American record label

Sony Music Entertainment (SME), known as Sony Music, is an American global music conglomerate owned by Sony and incorporated as a general partnership of Sony Music Holdings Inc. through Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Japanese Sony Corporation. It was originally founded in 1929 as American Record Corporation and renamed as Columbia Recording Corporation in 1938, following its acquisition by the Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1966, the company was reorganized to become CBS Records, and Sony Corporation bought the company in 1988, renaming it under its current name in 1991. In 2004, Sony and Bertelsmann established a 50-50 joint venture known as Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which transferred the businesses of Sony Music and Bertelsmann Music Group into one entity. However, in 2008, Sony acquired Bertelsmann's stake, and the company reverted to the SME name shortly after; the buyout allowed Sony to acquire all of BMG's labels, and led to the dissolution of BMG, which instead relaunched as BMG Rights Management.

In early 2007, Rawkus Records accepted album submissions from Hip Hop artists, known or unknown, to be considered for their new campaign. The 50 artists chosen to wear the Rawkus 50 badge were signed to a digital distribution deal through IODA's (Independent Online Distribution Alliance) digital distribution network and had their albums released under the banner "Rawkus 50 presents". Among the 50 were artists including Custom Made, L.E.G.A.C.Y. and Pizon.


Rawkus 50

The "Rawkus 50" marketing campaign saw the release of fifty digital hip-hop albums. They were all made available on 27th November, 2007.

  1. 12Bit - "Rawkus 50 Presents..."
  2. 3rd Brillyance - "Grass Roots"
  3. Aarophat - "Aarodynamix"
  4. Attlas - "Rawkus 50 Presents..."
  5. Bekay - "The Horror Flick"
  6. Barak Yalad - "A Loss For Words"
  7. Chuck Taylor - "Black Hop"
  8. Clan Destined - "And For Our Next Trick"
  9. Custom Made - "Truth Be Told"
  10. Cymarshall Law - "Hip Hop in the Flesh"
  11. Cy Young - "Exactly"
  12. Doujah Raze - "Where You Are"
  13. Dutchmassive - "Crush Your System"
  14. Dynas - "Me, Myself and Rhymes"
  15. East - "The Right Direction"
  16. Finale - "Develop"
  17. Grand Agent - "Peak Oil"
  18. Hassaan Mackey - "Soul For Sale"
  19. Intricate Minds - "Self Hypnosis"
  20. Kaimbr - "Why Be Somebody Else"
  21. Kaze - "Block 2 the Basement"
  22. Kojoe - "Rawnin'"
  23. Krukid - "African"
  24. Laws - "Super Thug Killa Rap"
  25. LEGACY - "Rawkus 50 Presents..."
  26. Mookie Jones - "Catch Me If You Can"
  27. Mr. Metaphor - "The Evolution of Marc Bars"
  28. Phenetiks - "Revolutionary Non Pollutionary"
  29. Pizon - "I Am Hip Hop"
  30. Prime - "From the Ground Up"
  31. Protoman - "Grey Area"
  32. Red Clay - "The Red Dawn"
  33. Roddy Rod - "Blunt Park Sessions"
  34. Scanz - "Prelude to a Legacy"
  35. Scavone - "The Rehab Record"
  36. Sev Statik & Dust - "Back to Dust"
  37. Silent Knight - "Hunger Strike 2"
  38. Brooklyn Shanti - "The1Shanti"
  39. 6th Sense - "It's Coming Soon"
  40. The Smile Rays - "Smilin' on You"
  41. Span Phly - "Two Weeks Notice"
  42. Spit Supreme - "Whole Life For This"
  43. Spokinn Movement - "60 Min. Spin Cycle"
  44. SunN.Y. - "Rawkus 50 Presents..."
  45. The Breax - "Rawkus 50 Presents..."
  46. The Foundation - "Forever Behind the Music"
  47. The Regiment - "The Come Up"
  48. Together Brothers - "Rawkus 50 Presents..."
  49. Wildabeast - "Many Levels"
  50. Willie Evans Jr. - "Communication"

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