Observation 101 – The Roc Nation vs. YMCMB debate

When Jay-Z ‘signs’ someone to Roc Nation no one says anything but when Baby ‘signs’ someone to Cash Money, everyone’s got an opinion. Why is that?

It’s a lot to do with perception and presentation. For the most part Cash Money is a record label known for artists such as Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicky Minaj, and Hot Boys (Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, Baby, Turk, BG). Cash Money isn’t an independent entity from what I understand, it’s a joint venture subsidiary of sorts as Roc A Fella, Death Row, Ruff Ryders etc were in the 90s. Cash Money are renowned for their vulgarity: jewellery, flaunting their riches, hypersexual imagery.
Roc Nation on the other hand is an administration company. It boasts a whole lot of affiliates and members but there are only a few signees. Wale is signed up to a Roc Nation management deal but he’s signed to MMG, Rick Ross’ joint venture with a major record label. Roc Nation’s artist roster covers a wider artistic spectrum having acts as diverse as J. Cole, to Chase & Status and The Ting Tings. There’s also a songwriting and talent development division and booking agency.

Roc Nation is a new business model within the ever evolving music industry, it’s a partnership between Shawn Carter and Live Nation. It’s also a no brainer to cut out all of the bureaucracy surrounding the artistry, the major record label, resulting in a great slice out of the meatier side of an artist -creative content. If an artist parts ways with their record label, they’ll still be able to fall back and earn with Roc Nation. The artist will still be able to record new material, collaborate and go on tour to maintain a buzz whilst negotiating the right distribution deal elsewhere.

If we compare this to YMCMB, we begin to notice that Brian ‘Baby’ Williams’ record label is in the midst of transition, it’s trying to diversify in order to survive. A lot of people question YMCMB’s recent signees Christina Milian, Busta Rhymes and most recently Limp Bizkit, but they fail to focus on the bigger picture. All three have had major success; Christina Milian has written tracks for J-Lo whose track Play went to Number 1 in numerous countries worldwide, Limp Bizkit already has a core fanbase of followers who will buy any new releases and concert tickets when it’s tour time, and Busta Rhymes is the feature man of the moment who seems to disappear every few years and come back with a hit, a new flow and sound which goes straight to the top of the charts -Busta also has been in the industry for nearly 20 years and is well ‘respected’.

In the context of the bigger picture, YMCMB are simply signing artists who’ve already got a proven track record, artists who could have sold out tours, number 1 records and feature hype revenue in comparison to Roc Nation who focus is on developing new emerging artists and finding them distribution deals with major record labels but also look after the creme de la creme of touring entertainers such as their recent signee Shakira. The reason why people have an issue with YMCMB moreso than Roc Nation is that they feel YMCMB is trying to sign everyone to spin a profit, as I once thought they were doing. I have ignorantly compared it to the final hours of Roc A Fella Records when Damon Dash did the same thing. What I once deemed ‘trying to find Jay-Z’s replacement and potential cash cow’ was simply what Birdman is doing.

As much as I can find a reason to justify YMCMB’s actions, even if it’s just a theory which puts my ignorance to rest, I can’t help but feel that this plan of rebranding its services through diversification may fail in some respect. I also wonder how long Drake will stay around before he defects to Roc Nation after a long spell out in the administory wilderness when he finally airs his grievances about the amount of artists he has to share the roster with and financing the revival dead rappers’ careers and Nicki Minaj’s outlandish tryhardery to outdo and become the black Lady GaGa -but little does she know she’ll always be three steps behind…

If you’re going to rebrand and diversify, start afresh or as they say in Rap ‘Go hard or go home‘ because you need people to take you seriously. That’s exactly the difference between Jay-Z and Baby. One is perceived as a business man and the other as a someone you can’t really take seriously although his business survival and diversification acumen speak for themselves.



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