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Hip-Hop Fridays: Industry And Street Notes...April 5, 2002


The street and industry is lit right now over the new Scarface cut, "Guess Who's Back?", featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel. The hypnotic track which is produced by Kanye West of "Izzo" and "TakeOver" fame, marks an additional chapter in the book of collaborations by the trio of 'Face, Jigga and Beans. Die-hard Scarface and Roc-A-Fella fans will remember "Mack and Brad" from Beanie Sigel's first album, The Truth featuring a Scarface-Sigel collaboration; the touching "Mom Praying", a sequel with 'Face from Sigel's second album The Reason; and "Get Out" on Scarface's Last Of A Dying Breed. The new Scarface album drops June 25th - we'll be there. Perhaps we should all lobby for a Scarface, Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel album in this era of all-star projects...Speaking of Kanye West, we didn't know that the producer extraordinaire had mic skills, but that is just what the Chicago-native displayed on the brand new DJ Enuff and DJ Absolut "Don't Drop Wit Us!" mixtape with a guest freestyle...

...Sources tell us that Puffy and Sony are close to working out a deal that would bring the Bad Boy label over to the distributer that is home to Columbia Records and well, so much more. But with other labels pursuing Puffy's (OK - P.Diddy's) "old" groups and with those acts attempting to leave on their own - who would come over to Sony with Puffy? Right now, G-Dep and Black Rob are all that is left from the main rostrum and word is that Black Rob wants to leave the nest. But even beyond the question of who would make up the roster of Bad Boy/Sony is the talk, among those informed of the negotiations, of whether or not the very idea of a Bad Boy marriage with Sony represents an internal inconsistency at Sony. Sources tell us that the two arguments used against Loud Records owner, Steve Rifkind, by Sony execs who decided that Columbia should swallow Loud Records, were 1) Steve Rifkind did not fit well into the Sony corporate culture and 2) Loud spent too much money on commercially successful but too infrequent releases. But these are the exact same charges hurled at Puffy by his detractors at his old distributer BMG. We hear that a deal could be closed within a month...

...There is no shortage of hot tracks bubbling on the underground and on mixtapes these days. The Cam'ron hour continues with "I'm Ready", the latest banger from the Harlem Diplomats set - Killa' Cam, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones. The sampled-voice laden beat actually steals the show, with Juelz, Cam'ron and Jim Jones taking patient, intermittent pauses throughout their verses. "I'm Ready", according to Cam'ron is the first single off of an upcoming Diplomats album in the early fall. He's looking for a 7 digit-figure deal for the Diplomats, who are unsigned. But Killa' says that with or without a deal, he and the crew will drop the album as Volume 1. Cam'ron's meteoric comeback continues to turn heads after an otherwise quiet first quarter of music. As the "drama-king" D.J. Kay-Slay would put it, "Halem to the rescue!" The May 14th album date remains firm for the Harlem-native and there is even talk that an "Oh Boy" remix and video may be in the works, featuring H.O.V.A. That would be something...

...Raekwon came through to see us earlier this week. The Chef tells us that he is busy, involved with the Method Man album that Meth has been working on, off and on, for over a year. Everyone at Def Jam and in the Wu camp knows that a Method Man album is not produced, it is marinated and made over time, like wine. In other words, Mr. Mef makes you wait forever until the sound and the money is right. I (Cedric speaking here) will never forget a meeting I had with Lyor Cohen in the Spring of 1996 where he literally begged us for a Method Man album. Lyor didn't get that album until late in 1998! The Chef commented on the recent Loud-swallowed-by-Columbia situation, telling us that he is looking forward to the new environment, which will have him directly signed to Columbia. Rae was coming fresh off of a Wu-Tang Clan that has criss-crossed the country. We built for a few. Raekwon is business-minded these days and focused. Oh, and for what its worth, he's listening to Ashanti, these days. We suggested that he, Power, Divine and RZA holler at her and Irv Gotti about a possible collaboration. Don't sleeep. Rae is a serious R&B fan. We will never forget the summer of 1997 when the man who made the classic album "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" could be found, on the tour bus of the Rage Against The Machine/Wu-Tang Tour playing Big Bub's album, over and over again. Two years later Rae featured Big Bub on his sophomore album with the track, " All I Got Is You Pt. II"..."

...we just got word that Eminem's 3rd album will be released on May 28th. The album called "The Eminem Show", coming out on Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope. The early promo material only features a closed red curtain, an empty stage, a microphone stand and a spotlight. Well, Eminem can do whatever he wants - the legions will be there the last Tuesday of May to cop the album, regardless...

...Joe Buddens, who has been shining brightly of late, is so hot that he has leapfrogged over N.O.R.E in the Def Jam release rotation. Word is that the freestyle-specialist, Mr. Buddens or "Regular Joe" as he is referred to, at times, can be heard murdering another track on the brand new Funk Master Flex "Fast Lane Part 1 " mixtape. Jersey is back!...

...a brilliant creative effort circulating these days is a "Who would of thunk it?" type-collaboration called "The Lifestyle" by Styles P. of the Lox and the ill flowsmith, Pharoah Monch. Maybe their work together will help to kill some of the ridiculous streets vs. underground nonsense that divides the Hip-Hop community...

...Super producer Megahertz of Nas' "Got Ur Self A...", Babyface's, "Baby's Mama", P. Diddy's "Bad Boy For Life" and most recently, R. Kelly/Jay-Z's "Best of Both Worlds" came through yesterday. He tells us that he is now focusing on his own artists and is reducing his current outside production work, which of late we had been told included production work for TLC. What is Megahertz, one of the most sought-after producers in all of Hip-Hop and R&B listening to these days? The Jersey-native is feeling the flavor of the hot rock group System Of A Down...

...Island Def Jam Music Group has re-signed its hottest urban label at the moment Murder Inc. to an exclusive agreement. The new deal was announced earlier in the week by Def Jam's President/CEO Lyor Cohen, Def Jam/Def Soul President Kevin Liles and Murder Inc. Founder/CEO Irv Gotti. The close mentor-protege relationship between Cohen and Gotti made the deal a natural. On Tuesday Gotti, Murder Inc's president and CEO said, "I re-signed with Island Def Jam because of my relationship with 'Lansky,' a.k.a. Lyor Cohen, who I feel is like my father in the music business,". "I started with him, and I'm going to finish with him." The industry is abuzz over the success of Murder Inc. which for years had problems getting its records played and in record stores because of the word "Murder" in its name. That has all changed largely due to Gotti's persistence and the commercial success of Ja Rule. Folks should remember that it was Gotti, who as A&R for Def Jam, in the late 90s, was responsible for the development of Ja Rule and DMX as platinum artists...

...Speaking of Murder Inc.,the early indications are that Ashanti is the winner in her much talked about April 2nd debut battle with Tweet. Retailers tell us that Ashanti came out the gates blazing, leaving Tweet behind early. It seems that the very young ladies (17-22) prefer the self-proclaimed "princess of Hip-Hop soul" over the 30-something, and some say, "new drama queen", Tweet. Although Tweet's video rules on MTV and BET and on the R&B singles charts, Ashanti's "Foolish", and the remix for said song - "Unfoolish" (featuring the late Notorious B.I.G.) is more requested on radio airwaves and creating a bigger buzz on the block. Looks like the April 2nd release date caught Ashanti in an upward trajectory while Tweet was reaching the point of diminishing returns. Universal sent out word late Wednesday, only one day after the Ashanti release, that the album was approaching backorder status, it was moving so fast. That is unusual and a testament to both Ashanti's success and somebody blowing it at Universal. You never want to get caught without product, unable to match supply with demand. That is leaving money on the table. The ultimate industry no-no...

...Speaking of Ja Rule, the superstar rapper-plus has gone platinum in the UK, a rare achievement for a Hip-Hop artist. And Christina Milian, who was featured on Ja Rule's hit, "Between Me and You" has gone gold in Japan. Milian, an international star, is looking to release a new album domestically, in the U.S. The folks at Def Jam tell us that she is actively looking for new, fresh producers to help her achieve an innovative sound. They are looking for something other than the work of the top 5-6 producers that seem to keep popping up on everybody's albums these days. Milian is currently touring in Europe...

...A big congratulations go out to the hot Dallas, Texas independent group Power Houze, whose album just debuted at #54 on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts. The effort shipped 10,000 and sold 5,000 in its first week. For those of us who know the math, that means that Power Houze, as an independent, can take home more money with 5,000 sold than any of the top Hip-Hop artists take home off of a gold album - 500,000 sold, having not recouped their album costs. Do you want the money or the fame?

...For true Hip-Hop and live music underground heads, Groove Gumbo hosts their first event in Baltimore, MD at Gallery 409 tonight - Friday, April 5th. Groove Gumbo will feature Eboni, Titi, Head Roc, K'Alyn and W. Ellington Felton. In addition to the fantastic performances will be art displays, poetry, a film, dj, and other artistic highlights that Groove Gumbo is famous for launching. And of course there is a buffet...


Cedric Muhammad and John Chambers

Friday, April 5, 2002

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