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Hip-Hop Fridays: Industry And Street Notes...April 19, 2002

Is Roc-A-Fella Records about to take over everything, or what? While a deal is not done yet, sources tell us that the street and underground legends, M.O.P. are about to sign with the R.O.C. The rumors of such a signing had everybody buzzing late last year and into the winter but the talk eventually died down. Everybody knows that the deal, at least on the surface, is a natural, with the Brownesville, Brooklyn-natives, MOP partnering with the Marcy-project founded Roc-A-Fella record label. Sources tell us that the Roc-A-Fella/MOP talks continue and that we could hear an announcement of a deal as early as next month. In some more impressive R.O.C. business acumen news, H.O.V.A. and Roc-A-Fella CEO Damon Dash are on the cover of this month's Black Enterprise Magazine. A shout to Black Enterprise for consistently trying to cover the Hip-Hop economy, for years. I (Cedric M.) remember back in the summer of 1997 helping to arrange B.E.'s story on Wu-Tang Clan's business empire. They approached their subject matter seriously and with respect...

...People are still talking about the appearance this Monday, on Philadelphia's Power 99FM by Randall Sullivan, author of LAbrynth. The interview, which took place on the station's "New Dream Team" morning show was hyped by the show's hosts for over an hour prior to Sullivan's appearance with the hosts openly stating that they believe that Suge Knight was responsible for Biggie's murder, but offering nothing but innuendo. Things took an even sharper turn in the 8AM hour when Sullivan finally got on-air and openly and in no uncertain terms, stated that he believes that Suge was behind both Biggie and Tupac's murders. Of course, our viewers know that we seriously question that argument put forth by Randall Sullivan. For those who are new to here are two links that will get you up to speed on our view that forces well above Suge Knight may have been involved. It is a fact that both undercover NYPD and federal agents were trailing Biggie's car at the exact moment that he was shot! Please read:

"Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COINTELPRO Part VI: Is The Murder Of Biggie Being Used To Set Up A Civil War In Hip-Hop And The Black Community?" and

Hip-Hop Fridays: BIGGIE, TUPAC & ANGRY WHITE MALES: A Review Of Randall Sullivan's "LAbyrinth" by Jeff Chang

...The Cam'ron album is coming at us like a locomotive, still locked in for a May 14th street date. We got an advance peek at the cover for the album entitled, Come Home With Me. If you would like to see it for yourself click here. Be sure to note one of Harlem's great Black institutions in the backdrop. Cam'ron is seeking to represent Harlem properly and is very blunt in that regard saying, "If people watch music videos, they might think Harlem is some giant amusement park where people in glitter suits dance around all day. My record is not about the Harlem shakers or Bill Clinton on 125th St. I want people to see that Harlem is still ghetto." The album features appearances by Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleak, The Diplomats, and Daz, and production by DR Period, Just Blaze and Ty Fyffe. By the way, we also learned late yesterday that the free-agent bidding is over, The Diplomats are now signed to Roc-A-Fella. It's Harlem to the rescue!...

...The Daily Challenge of New York City reported earlier this week that a proposed tour featuring Jay-Z, Ja Rule and P.Diddy was inked and then "canceled" because Jay-Z suddenly decided that he wanted to work on his new album rather than tour this summer. "The Triple Threat Tour" was to begin on June 12th. Irv Gotti and Ja Rule identified the Jigga Man as the impediment to the touring process but said they respected his decision. The Daily Challenge wrote:

"Jay pulled out," Gotti said. "It's as simple as that. We was going to do the tour, we signed off, and Jay decided he wanted to fall back and make an album, which is cool. Jay is like my brother, so I'm not mad at him or anything like that, but the tour was going to happen and everything was set. But I respect his decision and I ride with him."

...Speaking of the ROC, we've learned that a Freeway album is on the way. Our sources tell us that we can expect the Freeway album entitled, Philadelphia Freeway on June 23rd. Check out one of the album's cuts, "Line 'Em Up" feat. Young Chris by clicking here. Freeway is signed to Roc-A-Fella through Beanie Sigel's affiliated label...

...Speaking of Irv Gotti and Murder Inc., The Wall St. Journal and a few others are claiming that Ashanti's phenomenal sales tally of 751,000 in two weeks is not a result of her unique popularity and appeal. The Journal, in a lead article in the Marketplace section of its April 18, 2002 wrote:

Among recent new music releases, "Ashanti," the debut album by the female R&B singer of the same name, was expected to sell well. Her first single, "Foolish", got heavy radio spins, good video rotation and press buzz - all of which drove fans to buy the full album.

But there was another key reason the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard top 200 charts and sold 751,000 copies just two weeks after its March 28 release. It was priced unusually low.

At many retail outlets, the album sold for less than $12 after her label, Murder Inc./Island Def Jam, offered retailers a $2 rebate on every copy of the CD sold in the first two weeks. Retailers, in turn, were willing to lower the retail price and push the album hard in stores, which helped to quickly raise the new artist's profile. Now that the rebate program has ended, Universal hopes enough buzz has been generated that consumers will swallow a higher pricetag."

...BG from Cash Money is starting his own label and is actively seeking a distribution deal. The new company, called Chocolate City represents not only an entrepreneurial step for the artist but also a creative one. The member of one of Hip-Hop's most influential and commercially successful music teams, ever, has officially informed his Cash Money mates of his intentions to leave the fold. A distribution deal could be inked within weeks...

...Shockwaves are reverberating in Philly radio. One of the city's two Hip-Hop and R&B stations Philly 103.9FM - a Radio One-owned station, suddenly switched format this week, moving to what appears to be a pop/club format. Similar moves were made at other Radio One stations in the south. Insiders are unclear as to whether the changes are transitional or permanent. DJs and employees haven't been fired or laid off only told to sit tight for a couple of weeks...

...Nature and Sauce Money are setting it off right now. The Queens and Brooklyn-natives, respectively, are coming into their own, a little late, in the opinion of most. But it seems like the Jay-Z and Nas "battle" has caused a chain reaction that is bringing out the best of the two rappers who were in the shadows of the better-known Queens and Brooklyn superstars. However it does appear that the competitive juices are intersecting between the two MCs. Responding to Sauce Money's mention of him on some recent freestyles, Nature is in top form in a recent freestyle of his own taking issue with Sauce and even Nas, again. The language is heating up a bit. Let's hope for two things: 1) no escalation 2)commercial success for two artists who have paid their dues...

...Heads are discussing the Genius from Wu-Tang's "Celebrity", a track that has been bubbling for a couple of months on the underground and has just now broken through into airplay on radio. The track features GZA at its best, using metaphors and wordplay at a level that is matchless in its layered meanings. The song is nothing but GZA using the names of famous celebrities - actors, politicians, athletes, rappers, singers and executives; weaving it all into a storyline. Unbelievable. "Celebrity" is full confirmation that Genius is back, if anyone doubted it even after hearing GZA's incredible verse on Wu-Tang Clan's latest album Iron Flag on the track entitled "Babies"...

... If you plan to be in Philadelphia for Penn Relays Weekend, be sure to check out the Music Factory's Kid Capri Party at Transit nightclub, at 800 Spring Garden St. For those that don't know, the Penn Relays is the second-largest "Black" event that takes place in the city of Brotherly Love...

...If you missed it, please do check out our interview with one of the Hip-Hop community's favorite soul/R&B artists, Musiq. The interview is permanently archived at :

Cedric Muhammad and John Chambers

Friday, April 19, 2002

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