In April 1992, historic seeds were planted in the world of hip-hop. With the release of a single from a moderately successful motion picture soundtrack, the music world was put on notice. “Yeah and you don’t stop.” We were forewarned.
In December 1992, the promise was fulfilled in form of “The Chronic.” Dr. Dre’s credibility and legacy were crystalized and solidified on his debut single and album that year, and he brought along a new crew of talent unlike the industry had seen. Daz, Kurupt, Nate Dog, Warren G, RBX, Lady of Rage, Snoop Doggy Dog and later, the crown jewel, Tupac Shakur. Together, they packed enough potent lyrics to match the genius production, and the balance of creative power had shifted to the left coast at Death Row Records. The proverbial day in the sun, however, were fleeting, and that beautiful, sunny sky gave way to a dark, ominous night—or dare I say, Knight.
Co-founder of the label Marion “Suge” Knight let greed, envy, ego and power cloud his judgment. He didn’t want to coexist in the parameters of the entertainment industry—he wanted to control it. And that practice started within his own organization, which led to the hostile takeover and ouster of co-owner Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg jumping ship to another label and, more importantly, producing a climate that led to the loss of Shakur.
Outside of his own camp, the toxin spread to New York City, as Knight had rival hip-hop label Bad Boy Records in his sights. That was a crazy chapter in the annals of hip-hop history, and it was in the not-so-distant past. Ironic this week was how two of the key figures from that period were being chided for moves being made that are far beyond the realms of producing, marketing and selling records.
Sean Combs received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Howard University this week after delivering the commencement speech for the 2014 graduating class. What was so dope about this was he was able to broadcast the ceremony as it happened on his television network, Revolt, for which he serves as chairman.
Said Combs of the television venture, “20 years in the music industry, my relationships with recording artists, my reputation of understanding how to curate music and find and identify that next star—it was a natural transition for me. The leaders of music television changed their business model and started getting into reality shows and abandoned music. They don’t really understand the passion kids have for music. There are more kids now that want to be musicians or music executives than those playing little league or pee wee football, so I’m going to bet on the future.
“If they really want to abandon this platform, I’m going to follow two of my media heroes, being CNN and ESPN. I’m going to cover music like CNN covers the elections, like ESPN covers the top 10 plays or Kobe [Bryant] before Game 7.”
Combs continued, “Shouts to Beats. They were with us from day one. Besides the relationship I have with Dre and Mr. [Jimmy] Iovine, they believe in music ,and we did something that was disruptive. They had a concert with myself, Eminem, Bones Thugs-n-Harmony and Nas, and we aired it 24 hours straight just to show support for those who support us from day one.”
As we‘ve heard by now, the Dr. Dre and Iovine partnership of the electronic brand Beats Electronics was rumored to have been purchased by Apple for $3.2 billion. Beats began as a headphone manufacturer, but in 2012, the company acquired the music streaming service MOG. The company then received a $500 million cash infusion from the Carlyle Group and launched Beats Music in January 2014. The $3.2 billion deal for Beats, Apple’s largest acquisition to date, would boost the tech giant’s efforts in the streaming music space, expanding upon its recently launched iTunes Radio.
Those are numbers! Hip-hop hooray! Holla next week. Till then, enjoy the nightlife.