Gangster Rap Label Priority Records Relaunching

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Gangster Rap Label Priority Records Relaunching

One-time home to Ice Cube, N.W.A, Eazy-E and others, Priority Records is being relaunched next month. The label's first release will be Just Blaze and Baauer's "Higher" single, which features Jay Z.

Pioneering gangster rap label Priority Records is relaunching. Capitol Music Group and Insurgency Music have formed a joint venture to handle the reboot of the former home of N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Master P and Eazy-Eaccording to Billboard.com.

The new version of Priority Records will be much different than the old one, which also released albums by Mack 10, Westside Connection and C-Murder, among others. In its new incarnation, Priority Records will be a producer-driven label focusing on electronic and progressive urban music, as per Billboard.com

Priority Records' first project under new president Michael Cohen will be the August 13 release of the song “Higher” by Just Blaze and Baauer featuring Jay Z. “We’re so respectful of Priority’s important role in Capitol’s history,” Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett said to Billboard.com. “But it was also a street label focusing on music that thrives outside the mainstream. And that’s exactly what Michael and his team have been doing. They have a strong vision of the new generation of electronic and progressive urban music. Baauer was the first indication of that.”

Baauer released the hit single "Harlem Shake" and is managed by Insurgency Music. Cohen told Billboard that producer Harry Fraud and his Surf School label are among those who will also be releasing material through Priority. Fraud released the Saab Stories project with Action Bronson last month.

Even though Cohen says to Billboard that he does not come from the Hip Hop world, he said he appreciates what Priority Records stood for. "The genesis of that label was really about supporting the indie level," he says to Billboard. "It broke the mold in terms of working outside the system to bring street-level music to the mainstream without any compromise. And the producer—who has always played a strong role in Hip Hop—has become the focal point coming out of the global electronic music space. It’s heralded a paradigm shift in the way music is created, discovered and spread. Our first single ‘Higher’ epitomizes everything we’re trying to do with Priority.”

One veteran Rap business executive says that Priority's focus on urban music in general rather than Rap specifically will help the imprint be successful. “It’s more than being about a specific region or genre,” Kirdis Postelle, Capitol Music Group senior VP of marketing, says to Billboard. Postelle was the former General Manager of Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. “It’s more about the youth culture, and a lot of that stems from what people call EDM," Postelle continues. "But this isn’t classic EDM. It’s more of an underground street thing.”

After releasing compilations and albums by The California Raisins in the mid-1980s, Priority Records became one of rap's most prominent independent labels in the late 1980s thanks to its release of Eazy-E's Eazy-Duz-It and N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton. The success of those albums, which were released in conjunction with Eazy-E's Ruthless Records, led to Priority's subsequent distribution deals with such prominent Rap labels as Rap-A-Lot, Death Row, Roc-A-Fella and No Limit, among others.

EMI purchased Priority Records in 1998 and the imprint was absorbed into EMI's Capitol Records in 2001. The label shut down in 2004, was re-launched in 2006 and added Snoop Dogg to its executive roster three years later. 

RELATED: Ice Cube Provides Update On N.W.A. Movie, Current Relationship With Dr. Dre

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