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Rewind That: The historic trade that sent Fabolous to Def Jam


Ismail Sayeed // calligrafist

When it comes to company trades, the most commonly referenced are the ones that involve professional athletes. After all, it’s not everyday that you hear two competing record labels swapping artists. Be that as it may, such a rare moment did occur and this is what leads us to the year 2007. 2007 was a weird year in rap. Not only were ringtone jingles crossing over as a new genre within rap, but it was also the beginning of poor record sales.

At Atlantic Records, rapper Fabolous, who was coming off platinum success for Ghetto Fabolous and Street Dreams, hit a standstill on his 2004 album Real Talk. Although it received general acclaim from critics, the project, which spawned hits like "Breathe" and "Baby" did poor in sales. Fab credited this to under promotion by the label and, in addition to other qualms with the moving parts within the imprint, he wanted out.

Over at Def Jam, singer Musiq Soulchild was also experiencing similar issues, in his case it was shifts within the label. His mentor Kevin Liles had left the company and ventured off to Warner Music Group, the parent company of Atlantic Records. "He’s the one that signed me. So I was like his baby project and everything," the singer would tell AllHipHop in a 2007 interview. After watching Liles go over to Atlantic, Soulchild had a decision to make. "When he went over to Warner Music Group, basically he still wanted to be involved in my career. Like, intimately involved in my career, and I guess he figured he could do a lot better if I was closer to him, and Atlantic Records is under them."

So, after a few talks between Liles, L.A. Reid and then-president of Def Jam Shawn "JAY Z" Carter, a decision was made.

"That usually doesn’t happen," Fab would tell REVOLT. "Labels don’t like to let go artist that owe money or they still can get money out of. It was the right people who made it go through." So careful deliberating, the first-ever music NBA-like trade-off was made. Def Jam got Fab in exchange for Atlantic Records getting Musiq Soulchild. The move was not only historic, but also a win.

After the Def Jam deal, Fab scored his first No. 1 with 2007’s From Nothin to Somethin and then in 2009 with Loso’s Way. Musiq also back swinging following the trade as he delivered the critically acclaimed Luvanmusiq. Not only did it hit no. 1 on the charts and it went gold — despite the industry’s declining climate.

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