The United States has celebrated African American Music in June since 1979. What’s commonly referred to as “Black Music Month” is now officially observed every June and is backed by a big push from the music industry, including enhancing visibility across streaming services, music retailers, radio stations, and social media. For the month and beyond, Black singers, musicians, songwriters, and composers are celebrated.
It’s no secret Black musicians pioneered many genres of music, including hip hop, jazz, swing, rhythm and blues, house and more. Throughout the last century, these genres have redefined America’s cultural landscape. Music brought entire generations together and became another way to express ourselves. Black musicians have also undeniably influenced the music we hear today.
In honor of Black Music Month, REVOLT has curated a list of successful Black artists who went on to create their own record labels.
1. Sean “Diddy” Combs – Bad Boy Records
Bad Boy Records is the award-winning, globally celebrated music, media, and entertainment company founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs. Bad Boy was a pioneering label in hip hop and, for more than 20 years, has been one of the music industry’s premiere production, distribution, publicity, promotions and marketing companies. Bad Boy helped to launch the careers of hip hop and R&B heavyweights like Diddy himself, The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Faith Evans, 112, Mario Winans, The Lox, New Edition, Carl Thomas, Total, and dozens of others.
2. Kanye West- G.O.O.D. Music
G.O.O.D. Music is an American record label founded by Kanye West in 2004. The label is recognized for having signed influential acts such as Big Sean, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, Mos Def, John Legend and others who are still leading the culture today.
3. Travis Scott – Cactus Jack Records
Cactus Jack Records was founded by Houston rapper Travis Scott. The label saw its first signee, Smokepurpp, in September of 2017. In October of that year, Harlem rapper Sheck Wes also signed a joint record deal with Cactus Jack and G.O.O.D. Music. A couple of days after the release of his highly anticipated album, ASTROWORLD, Scott also also Don Toliver, who was featured on his album cut “CAN’T SAY.” Cactus Jack has previously teamed up with brands such as Nike and McDonald’s.
4. Drake – OVO Sound
OVO Sound is a Toronto-based Canadian record label founded in 2012 by hip hop artist Drake, producer 40, and Oliver El-Khatib. It operates as a subsidiary of, and is distributed through, Warner Music Group’s Warner Records. The label represents Drake, PartyNextDoor, Majid Jordan, Roy Woods, DVSN, Baka Not Nice, Popcaan, and more. Drake’s sixth studio album Certified Lover Boy was his first official release under his label. In its first week out, the 21-track album racked up 744 million streams in the United States. It broke Spotify’s record for most streams in a single day.
5. Yo Gotti – Collective Music Group (CMG)
With 10 signees, Gotti has established CMG as a formidable brand in the music industry. The label scored its highest-charting projects within the past year as it kicked off a new partnership with Interscope Records. Yo Gotti’s roster of artists includes Moneybagg Yo, Blac Youngsta, 42 Dugg, EST Gee, Moozy, and more. Moneybagg Yo’s A Gangsta’s Pain spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200.
6. Tyler, The Creator – Odd Future Records
Odd Future Records was an American record label founded by rapper and producer Tyler, the Creator of Odd Future in 2011. The group signed a deal with both Sony and RED Distribution to create their own label. On March 20, 2012, under the new venture, Odd Future released The OF Tape Vol. 2, the sequel to their 2008 offering The Odd Future Tape. The album debuted at No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 40,000 copies in its first week.
7. Future – Freebandz
Freebandz is an international, full-service entertainment company founded by Grammy award-winning, multi-platinum recording artist Future in 2011. The company supports a diverse roster of talent via label services like artist management, music publishing, production, touring, strategic brand development, merchandising, and more. The label’s releases are distributed through Epic Records. Their roster includes DOE BOY, Young Scooter, DJ Esco, Zoey Dollaz, Guap Tarantino, and the list goes on.
8. Lil Durk – OTF
OTF, better known as Only The Family, was founded by Lil Durk. The label is home to recording artists such as the late King Von, Booka600, Doodie Lo, THF Zoo, JusBlow600, OTF Ikey, Slimelife Shawty, and more. In April 2020, Lil Durk made his first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 with the single “Viral Moment” off his fifth studio album, Just Cause Y’all Waited 2. Lil Durk’s commercial success continued with singles such as “3 Headed Goat,” “Backdoor,” “The Voice,” and his features on Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later” and Pooh Shiesty’s “Back in Blood.”
9. Lil Baby- 4PF
Quality Control superstar Lil Baby is one of the biggest rappers coming out of Atlanta. His My Turn album went double platinum and hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in March 2020, spending six non-consecutive weeks in the top spot. He was also crowned the biggest all-genre Artist of the Year at the 2020 Apple Music Awards. The same year, he launched his label 4PF (or, Four Pockets Full). 4PF already has a few talented artists signed, including 42 Dugg (who has a joint deal with Yo Gotti’s CMG), Rylo Rodriguez, Lil Kee, Lil Dan, and most recently his first female singer, Chalynn Monee.
10. Chief Keef – 43B
Earlier this month, Chicago drill legend Chief Keef announced that he teamed up with RBC Records/BMG to launch his own label 43B. His new venture offers both distribution and marketing services for artists and producers. Its first signee is Atlanta rapper Lil Gnar. Head of A&R and Marketing Sophie Kaut says 43B will operate on an artist-friendly model, giving artists and producers the means to flourish in their careers.
11. Meek Mill – Dream Chasers Records
Dream Chasers Records is a joint venture with Roc Nation spearheaded by Meek Mill in 2019. The company engages in talent acquisition and offers creative strategy and marketing services, along with recording studio facilities, to help budding artists grow their popularity and album sales. Their roster includes Vory, KUR, Tafia, and Yungro.
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