NWA Owned Their Music While East Coast Rappers Pushed Demo Tapes and Wanted to Be Signed to a Label

nwa One of the biggest historical moments not brought up in the “Straight Out of Compton” movie was the how NWA spawned a massive rap empire and how West Coast Rap transformed the music scene as we know it today. If you have not seen the movie, it was a very great movie and what make the movie historic was the fact these cats from Compton made it to the point in life where not only can they tell their own story, but they can have their own children be the actors in the movie. Ain’t that something? However, there is one element in the story that was not highlighted but should be and that is understanding Priority Records – the key behind all of this. If you know about Priority Records, they did mostly (if not all) distribution deals and allowed both Ruthless Records, Rap-A-Lot and Ice Cube owned their label and their music and just distributed their music to record stores. This is the most important element that should have been explained better in the movie. Now another element is very historical - when Billboard Top 100 moved from record store reporting to a new accurate reporting system, they discovered NWA was the number one selling record in the country - the industry could not hold NWA back any more with fake reporting data and that is when the West Coast rap scene exploded. On the East Coast rap scene, you had cats running around talking about 5 mics and getting signed to a label and their demo tape getting heard by an A&R hoping to be acknowledged and validated and then screwed over by a record contract. The cats on the East Coast was so thirsty for a damn record deal and want to brag they got signed by Elektra or Tommy Boy and shit and get an advance and cannot recoup and have to produce five more records. And you also saw how they “gated” the rap scene with the Source magazine as some “authority” publication. So cats on the East Coast mostly did not own their masters, did not own rights to their songs and even when it came to doing promotions and tours, had to be obligated to show up and put in work and not getting paid but having to recoup the advance they spent on a gold chain and expensive car to show out – that’s how the East Coast did it. On the West Coast, you saw Eazy-E was in the actual record manufacturing shop boxing his own records in the movie right? That is how they did it on the West Coast – they printed their own records and worked with distributors like Priority Records to move it through the retail record stores back in the days and sent promotional copies to radio and DJs. We can also talk about the same thing with Luke Skywalker Records in Miami and Rap-A-Lot in Houston, these cats distributed their own recordings and owned their material. When Ice Cube left NWA, he created his own label that was distributed through Priority, he wasn’t “signed” – they did a distribution deal. So Priority Records was not properly portrayed in the movie as it was a distributor and a major game changer that allowed cats to own their material and just do distribution deals while East Coast cats were begging to be signed to a label pushing a demo tape. And we can look down the list with West Coast cats from E-40 and so on with cats who owned their own material and distribution while East Coast wanted to brag they been signed to a record deal by a major recording company. And as you saw, the West Coast cats didn’t have problems like being dropped from a label or had to do gigs and tours and recoup – you ain’t never heard that conversation from the movie or the West Coast rappers in general. And by owning their labels, you saw how former members of NWA like Dr. Dre was quickly able to bring on new talent and put them on from Mack 10 to Snoop to 50 cent with ease and they came up fast because despite all the beef, they own their recordings and materials and can move it around. The biggest takeaway is two things about NWA and why they are so historical. The first thing is to know the whole business and take ownership of everything in the business. The second is to be true to yourself and be yourself when you go out and do it. Today, we can look at the technology industry. Look at Angela Benton and NewMe running about desperate to be proud some VC company “signed” a black tech company giving them validation and acceptance by a white privilege structure. See, over and over we see the same pattern and brothas and sistas do not want to learn, except the hard way. You want to learn from NWA and take ownership and be true at what you do and don’t care how other people think because there is another untold story about NWA that was not mentioned. What was not mentioned was how these same East Coast artists like Queen Latifah and shit was trying to hate on both NWA and Geto Boys (who responded with a diss song) who were running their own labels and tours and getting distributed through Priority because these lame ass East Coast jokers were signed to deals and mad other cats were getting shine and owning their material at the same time. That part was not mentioned and I don’t blame “Straight Out of Compton” for leaving that part out, those East Coast cats were not even worth acknowledging. Hell, the East Coast scene was lame and did not even come back until Wu-Tang and Big Mack (Biggie/Craig Mack) released by Bad Boy arrived on the scene and P.Diddy has yet to even create the kind of generational rap empire that Dr. Dre did. This is why I stress learning how to code or understand the process in detail instead of thinking some white label package will run your business. Or build your hustle up from the ground up from the streets instead of trying to be validated and accepted by white privilege and mainstream media because they will throw you out the minute you acknowledge Minister Farrakhan for the good things he doing for the black community. Own your dream, own your hustle, own your business, own your customers, own your image and own your destiny. Because when all is said and done, the biggest measure of success is not white privilege giving you a write-up or an award, it is when you can pass something down to your family like have your son play you in a movie about you coming up.

8 thoughts on “NWA Owned Their Music While East Coast Rappers Pushed Demo Tapes and Wanted to Be Signed to a Label

  1. Priority did a distribution deal with No Limit. They had a distribution deal with Roc-a-fella they distributed Reasonable Doubt. In an interview Damon Dash basically said they went to Def Jam for a nostalgia thing smh. They did the joint venture thing and didn’t even own they masters at Def Jam smh.

  2. I recently listed to a podcast Uncle Luke was on and he said how he had no choice but to start his own label and distribute it himself. Everyone on the Eastcoast basically said the the 2Live Crew was wack because they were from the south. Luke had to take matters into his own hands and hit the streets hard. He also bought some East Coast cats down to Miami and changed the game by bridging the gap. He is really the reason why he popularized the Hip hop scene wanted to party and experience Miami.

  3. True a lot of black folks did own their own labels in various parts of the states. In the beginning all hip hop was a street phenomenon because radio wouldn’t play it and because back then you could easily make your own records or tapes, a lot of people were doing it to get their stuff heard. The most popular form of hip hop back then was the mix tape either produced by a DJ in their leisure or a recording from live parties or night clubs. In the East Coast many early records were made by the artists: SchoolyD had his own label and of course there was Sugar Hill Records.

    But yes after the 80s when rap began to be played on the radio many black folks across the board began looking for deals even those who had their own small labels at first. And this was across the board as well. Early on however, hard core “gangsta” rap had to be created independently as whatever was played on the radio was censored and anything with explicit lyrics would not be played.

    Either way even with their own record labels many of these black folks were still robbed by white folks no matter how you look at it. At the end of the day the problem was black folks were too concerned with “image” and not business which is how NWA fell apart in the first place. Being from the hood may be important to some 15 year old kid with no sense who doesn’t know any better but doesn’t mean jack to grown behind folks who actually run sh*t (the dominant society). This is the coon mentality that has destroyed the hip hop genre and wasted whatever opportunities black folks did have to really have their own entertainment empire which does not exist.

    1. I remember SchoolyD was going through the same thing as Eazy-E and 2 Live Crew back in 1988.

      However mix tapes did not exist in the form as you describing it back then. The technology wasn’t there and did not show up until smaller multi-track machines and DAT hit the market years later.

      But today as I indicated we still have black media reporting and our own people trying to chase validation and acceptance from white privilege instead of 100% ownership and control.

  4. Also luther Cambell. From 2live crew wrote a book about politics snd being independent recotd owner and how he fought the system and seeing record companies greed.
    Good post.

    1. Just FYI – Luke Skywalker Records mentioned in the article was 2 Live Crew until George Lucas made them change it to Luke Records.

  5. Wait!

    Wasnt SugarHill a Black Lable, back in the day. They produced the 1st Rap widely distributed Rap Song.
    “Rappers Delight”
    They also were the 1st Rap Group for “Sampling” which in this case was pure THEFT! they stole Chic’s entire soundtrack.

    I am surprised Puffy did not sued, all the songs they stole.

    Very enlightening article!

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