Diddy, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre are currently the number one, two and three spots on Forbes’ list of Wealthiest Hip-Hop Earners. While stories of their successes are widely known, another thing they all have in common beyond their riches, is their questionable track record when it comes to the careers of their artists.
Many already know of Diddy and the so-called “Bad Boy curse”. Jay-Z, during his term as CEO of Def Jam/Roc-a-fella Records, was publicly criticized by a few artists due to lack of promotion. But Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records, home to Eminem, the highest selling rapper, has a list of failures and incompletes that far surpasses its number of successes.
Dr. Dre rose to prominence in the 80’s in the L.A. -based rap group, N.W.A. After departing from the group, he co-founded Death Row Records with Suge Knight; abruptly leaving in 1996. After leaving Death Row, he started Aftermath Records, which made many missteps in its infancy, and did not experience any real commercial success until the release of Eminem’s, Slim Shady LP.
Aftermath Records reminds me of the quote, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. Dre had big aspirations for the label, and the best of intentions for his roster, yet for the following artists, their time spent at Aftermath meant languishing in musical purgatory.
The Firm – A super group of New York rappers, Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature, The Firm’s 1997 album The Firm: The Album, was a critical and commercial letdown. The group quietly disbanded shortly after their album’s release.
Eve – Before attaining commercial success with the Ruff Ryders, Eve was initially on Aftermath. Her departure was obviously amicable, as she worked with Dr. Dre 2002 for her hit single, “Let Me Blow Your Mind”. The release of her fourth album has been pending since 2007. After numerous delays, album title and label changes, it is rumoured that Eve will drop an album before the end of 2012.
King Tee – The West Coast rapper and producer released a few singles. His album was repeatedly pushed-back and eventually shelved. He left the label in 2001.
Rakim – At the time, Dr. Dre and Rakim working together would have been the biggest musical pairing in hip-hop history. Despite a prominent feature on Truth Hurts’ top 10 single, “Addictive”, Rakim never released an album, parting ways with the label due to creative differences with Dr. Dre.
Busta Rhymes – Signing to the label in 2004, Busta scored his first number one album with 2006’s, The Big Bang. He began recording his second album for the label, Back on My B.S., but left the label in 2008 due to creative differences with Interscope chairmen, Jimmy Iovine.
Plus, let’s not get into the ‘will he-or-won’t he’ of Dre’s Detox album. After many years of speculation, it seems doubtful the album will ever have release date.
There are many others to be added to this list, all suffering a similar fate: never seeing their album get a proper release date, their single not being promoted, or even worse, little to no music being recorded at all. Occupied by numerous business ventures such as his, “Beats by Dre” headphones, it’s not surprising to see why Dre’s former artists are feeling like their aren’t a top priority of their label.
With West Coast rapper Kendrick Lamar being a recent signee, fans can only hope that Dre puts the proper time, effort and attention into his label. Let’s hope that Kendrick doesn’t suffer the fate of so many other one-time Aftermath signees.