Roc-A-Fella Records is an American hip hop/rap record label. It was co-founded in 1996 in New York City by hip hop mogul Damon Dash, Kareem "Biggs" Burke, and Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. The label is owned by Universal Music Group. The label is in reference to American oil magnate and businessman John Rockefeller.
In 1996, Jay-Z and then-business partners Dame Dash and Biggs Burke needed an avenue to put out Jay's music. With no luck signing to any major labels, they decided to found Roc-A-Fella Records and put out his first album, Reasonable Doubt, independently. They managed to procure distribution from Priority Records; though Reasonable Doubt was not a major commercial success, it was highly acclaimed critically, and (along with a cosign from The Notorious B.I.G.) helped propel Jay-Z to popularity. The early roster consisted of Jay-Z, Sauce Money, and Memphis Bleek; former friend Jaz-O, duo Da Ranjahz, and producers DJ Ski and DJ Clark Kent were also affiliated.The label's next release was Carter's second album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, in 1997; 1998 saw an increase in activity with the release of the Streets Is Watching Soundtrack, Memphis Bleek's Coming of Age and Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life. Vol. 2 was Jay-Z's first platinum release as well as the highest-selling, helping to secure Roc-A-Fella's future as a record label. By this time, Sauce Money had signed straight to Priority to release his album; Jaz-O had become more involved with his own label and roster; and Da Ranjahz had gone separate ways from the label, as had Ski and Clark Kent. In their places a new roster was signed, consisting of Amil and Beanie Sigel. In 1999, Jay-Z embroiled himself and (to a lesser extent) the rest of the label in a verbal feud with rapper Nas which lasted until 2002.
2000 saw Memphis Bleek release his second album, The Understanding, the first appearances by Beanie Sigel and Amil, and the first Roc-A-Fella release to feature heavy production by Just Blaze. The Understanding was followed by The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, a Roc roster album billed as a Jay-Z release. The album featured Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Jay-Z heavily, with appearances by Amil and Freeway, who was signed shortly thereafter. Production was handled largely by Just Blaze and Bink, with input by then-newcomer Kanye West, Rick Rock and The Neptunes. Later in 2000, Beanie Sigel released his first album, The Truth.
Jay-Z put out his sixth album, The Blueprint, in 2001, the same year Beanie Sigel released his second album, The Reason. Both were produced mainly by Bink!, Just Blaze, and Kanye West, who influenced the sound of Roc-A-Fella to include sped-up or heavily chopped 70's soul samples over an up-tempo framework of drums and bass. The label's disagreements with Nas began dying down; Amil was dropped from the label; and up until 2003, more and more artists were being signed to the roster. Beanie Sigel and Freeway put together State Property, a group of Philadelphia-based rappers; Cam'ron was signed, putting out his platinum-selling album Come Home With Me in 2002, before bringing his own group The Diplomats to the label.
From 2002 to 2003, Dame Dash signed several artists in response to Jay-Z's talk of retirement after his 2002 album The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse. He signed M.O.P. and Ol' Dirty Bastard, gave Grafh a joint-venture deal, and attempted to sign Twista and Joe Budden. Rumors of dissent among the ranks began to breed, as sources said Jay-Z wasn't getting along with Dame or Biggs, and Cam'ron was gunning for a CEO position promised to him by Dame Dash, among other things. This ultimately led to talk that Roc-A-Fella was breaking up.
Meanwhile, Beanie Sigel was going through murder trials, eventually leading to a year-long incarceration. Cam'ron's Diplomats and State Property released Diplomatic Immunity and The Chain Gang Vol. 2 respectively in 2003, as well as Freeway's first album Philadelphia Freeway, and Memphis Bleek's third album M.A.D.E.; but the label's highest-profile release that year was Jay-Z's "final" studio album, The Black Album. After it was out, Carter held a large retirement party-style concert in Madison Square Garden.
2004 brought Beanie Sigel's incarceration, rape charges against Dame Dash and Jay-Z's retirement. While Cam'ron released his second album Purple Haze and the Young Gunz released their debut, Tough Luv, Kanye West's The College Dropout became the biggest success for the label that year; however, these releases were overshadowed by rumors of goings-on behind the scene. When Carter, Dash and Burke finally split as business partners, each artist was given an ultimatum: either stay on Roc-A-Fella, or move to Dame and Biggs' Def Jam-subsidiary Dame Dash Music Group. M.O.P., Grafh, Cam'ron and seemingly Beanie Sigel opted to move off the Roc; while incarcerated, he released his third album The B. Coming on DDMG. There also sprouted controversy over the fate of State Property: while Dame claimed Sigel intended to move the group to his label, the rest of the group disagreed, leading to a temporary breakup.
While Jay-Z gained control of Roc-A-Fella, he also stepped up as president of Def Jam, and proceeded to focus more on the latter than the former. Kanye West's second album came and Memphis bleek s Album both had a Platinum status. During this time, Foxy Brown was briefly signed to the roster, but along with rumors of Cory Gunz joining the label, nothing materialized. Upon Beanie Sigel's release from prison, speculation began on whether he would return to Roc-A-Fella Records. In 2006, only Jay-Z released an album from Roc-A-Fella: his return album, Kingdom Come, although the signing of Uncle Murda and Tru Life occurred.
Sigel's status would not be made clear until 2007, when he would announce his next release The Solution on the Roc; he would later make clear that he had distanced himself from DDMG because of financial discrepancies. '07 also saw a huge increase in activity as compared to 2006; Kanye West's Graduation, Jay-Z's American Gangster, and Freeway's Free At Last materialized, as well as the signing of former rival Jadakiss. The label is currently set to release Sigel's The Solution, as well as a "Roc Boys" mixtape headed by Memphis Bleek and including the entire current roster.
In 1999, Damon Dash, Kareem "Biggs" Burke & Jay-Z launched the Rocawear clothing label. Since its launch Rocawear has announced annual sales of over $700 million. Recent expansion of its brand has led rocawear to develop lines for children, juniors, socks and sandals, leather suede and fur outerwear, handbags and belts, loungewear and big & tall, headwear, jewelry, and sunglasses; as well as co-branded product with Pro-Keds.
In March of 2007, Jay-Z sold his rights to the Rocawear brand to Iconix Brand Group, for $204 million. Jay-Z has announced he will retain his stake in the company and will continue to oversee the marketing, licensing and product development.
In 2002, following the release of the Rocawear clothing label, Roc-A-Fella Records released through Lions Gate Entertainment, State Property. The movie while not the first for Dame Dash, would be the start of ROC Films/Roc-A-Fella Films. The film studio would go on to release Paid In Full the same year and follow up in 2003 with Paper Soldiers and the hip-hop satire Death of a Dynasty. In 2005 the sequel to the studios debut release would hit theatres State Property 2, featuring rap stars such as Beanie Sigel and Damon Dash, who also produced and co-created the story. Cameo roles included musicians Kanye West, N.O.R.E and Mariah Carey, and Light Heavyweight champion boxers Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright.
In 2002 Roc-A-Fella Records announced they will be taking over US distribution rights for the Scottish, Armadale vodka, from the previous owner William Grant & Sons. The vodka is described as a 80-proof brand of "hand-crafted triple distilled vodka." Burke describes the motivation for purchasing the label: "You always hear about us talking about the [vodka] in the song so, like with the clothing and the music industry, we were like: ‘Why are we still making money for everyone else?'" It is believed the vodka was named after the town of Edinburgh town of Armadale due to its strong history of vodka distilling.
Roc La Familia
In July 2005 Roc-A-Fella Records expanded with the creation of the Roc La Familia sub-label created to promote reggaeton and Latino music, the first artist signed to the label was Colombian born rapper Aztek Escobar. Roc La Familia had officially signed New York rappers Tru Life and Uno Dos to the franchise, as well as N.O.R.E. and Hector El Father. It is believed the label is now defunct after releasing only two albums: Hector El Father's Los Rompe Discotekas and N.O.R.E.'s album, N.O.R.E. y la Familia...Ya Tú Sabe.
According to an recent interview with Philadelphia rapper Peedi Crakk on MediaTakeOut.com, he and the entire State Property family, including Beanie Sigel and Freeway, have been dropped from Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam. Peedi claims that Jay initially scheduled one-on-one meetings with each rapper to talk, but those meetings never happened. Instead, he sent an A&R from Def Jam out to Philly last week to deliver the bad news. “Which was a hoe move, to me. You could tell us some shit like that face to face,” said Peedi. “Niggas like Beanie Sigel and Freeway and Oschino and Sparks and Chris and Neef…they been there for almost 10 years.”
Peedi goes on to say that he’s not 100% sure which other artists were dropped, cryptically claiming that “he kept one person.” However, he also says that the A&R who gave them their walking papers said, “There’s no more Roc-A-Fella. Everyone’s free to leave.”
While he could not speak for the other artists, Peedi said that he’s happy about being dropped because he was tired of dealing with his album being delayed. “You won’t hear no Peedi Crakk diss songs,” he says.  also gay
Current Roc-A-Fella Artists
- Jay-Z (CEO)
- DJ Clue
- Beanie Sigel^
- Hector Bambino "El Father"
- Kanye West
- Memphis Bleek
- Tru Life
- Uncle Murda
- Young Gunz^
^ Artist is rumored to no longer be signed to Roc-a-fella Records. The status is still unclear.
- Allen Anthony
- Aztek Escobar
- Dame Dash(CEO)
- Da Ranjahz
- Diamonds In Da Ruff
- The Diplomats - Cam'Ron, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey, Hell Rell, J.R. Writer, 40 Cal, Duke Da God
- Foxy Brown
- Kareem Biggs Burke(CEO)
- Nicole Wray
- Ol' Dirty Bastard
- Omillio Sparks
- Peedi Peedi
- Samantha Ronson
- Sauce Money
- Teairra Mari
- Money Long Click
- Joe Budden
Labels Created by Roc-A-Fella artists
- Get Low Records
- State Property Records
- G.O.O.D. Music
- Fort Knocks Entertainment
- Getting Money Gangstas
- Beanie Sigel - The Truth
- DJ Clue - DJ Clue Presents: Backstage: A Hard Knock Life
- Amil - All Money Is Legal
- Jay-Z - The Dynasty: Roc La Familia
- Memphis Bleek - The Understanding
- DJ Clue - The Professional, Pt. 2
- Beanie Sigel - The Reason
- Jay-Z - The Blueprint
- Jay-Z - Jay-Z: Unplugged
- State Property - State Property
- R. Kelly & Jay-Z - The Best of Both Worlds
- Cam'ron - Come Home With Me
- Jay-Z - The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse
- Paid In Full Soundtrack / Dream Team
- Freeway - Philadelphia Freeway
- The Diplomats - Diplomatic Immunity
- Jay-Z - The Blueprint 2.1
- State Property - The Chain Gang, Vol. 2
- Jay-Z - The Black Album
- Memphis Bleek - M.A.D.E.
- The Roc Files, Vol. 1
- Kanye West - The College Dropout
- Young Gunz - Tough Luv
- R. Kelly & Jay-Z - Unfinished Business
- Jay-Z & Linkin Park - Collision Course
- Cam'ron - Purple Haze
- Memphis Bleek - 534
- Young Gunz - Brothers From Another
- Teairra Mari - Roc-A-Fella Presents: Teairra Mari
- Kanye West - Late Registration
- Hector Bambino "El Father" - Los Rompe Discotekas
- N.O.R.E. - N.O.R.E. y la Familia...Ya Tú Sabe
- Jay-Z - Kingdom Come
- DJ Clue - The Professional, Pt. 3
- Kanye West - Graduation
- Jay-Z - American Gangster
- Freeway - Free at Last
- Beanie Sigel - The Solution
- Jadakiss - Kiss My Ass
- Tru Life - Tru Life
- Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 / Reasonable Doubt 2: Return Of The Hustle
- Christión - Soul Survivors
- Diamonds in Da Ruff - Walk In My Shoes
- N.O.R.E. - TBA
- Nicole Wray - Lovechild
- Rell - Untitled
- Teairra Mari - Second Round
- Streets Is Watching (1998)
- Backstage (2000)
- State Property (2002)
- Paid in Full (2002)
- Paper Soldiers (2003)
- Death of a Dynasty (2003)
- State Property 2 (2005)
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