The man behind some of the biggest names in rap music like Jay-Z, Ja Rule, and the late DMX and the co-founder of the once high-riding Murder Inc. has made a major business deal. Hit-making producer Irv Gotti has sold his portion of his label’s publishing, inching him to become one of the richest persons in the rap game.
Over the BET weekend, Gotti (born Irv Lorenzo) shared that he entered into a $300 million arrangement with Iconoclast’s Oliver Chastan where the music company will receive 50 percent of Murder Inc.’s masters, giving his rights to any future mechanical royalties for the projects he worked on during his tenure with the label as a co-owner. This portion of the catalog, which includes Ja Rule, Ashanti, Lloyd, and Charlie Baltimore, is valued at $100 million — constituting a third of the deal.
With the other two-thirds Iconoclast will acquire his stock of film and television properties.
In a video of him signing his deal, the Queens native can be seen tearfully relishing the moment.
“Today is a big day for me,” he said. “I’m signing a deal that’s basically gonna change the lives of my family.”
Among the hit songs from Murder Inc. include: “It’s Murda/Kill Em All (feat. Jay-Z)” by Ja Rule; “Grand Finale” (feat. Method Man, Nas & Ja Rule) by DMX; “Holla Holla” by Ja Rule; Ashanti’s “Happy”; Get Away “(feat. Ja Rule) by Christina Milian; Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv” (feat. Ashanti); and Irv Gotti’s “Down 4 U” (feat. Ashanti, Ja Rule, Charli Baltimore & Vita).
Founded in 2021 by Chastan, Iconoclast promises to be a prominent force in the music rights acquisition market space, entering into the game with the music publishing, recorded music, and name, image, and likeness rights of Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Robbie Robertson. The company targets the catalogs of both legacy artists and pure catalog acquisition, Synchtank reports.
While the main focus has been acquiring Anglo-American repertoire, Chastan says they are currently exploring other acts with strong fan bases and appeal. The Gotti deal is one step in the company developing a more diverse portfolio of catalogs and properties.
“The primary criteria for me is artists where I feel we have a lifetime of stories and a brand we can develop – a legacy we can help perpetuate,” he said.
An artist’s music is supported to be dear to him or her and is the root of their professional currency. Why would Black creatives sell those rights, when owning them has been such a monumental and historic desire for so many who had been robbed of publishing in the past?
Rolling Stone magazine notes that while it is true acquiring the music rights of certain artists will give these houses the leverage to “reap the money from royalties, licensing, brand deals, and other revenue streams that would have [otherwise] gone to the artist,” there is a benefit to the creative.
Artists are handsomely compensated for the works, possibly receiving more in one lump than some may project they would make in the remainder of their lives, reading the market and assessing their owning power outside of the firm. Also, creatives receive tax benefits and others just need the money.
While the $300 million figure is not been verified, Gotti’s move solidifies a trend of creatives selling off their masters.
Over the last four years, particularly with the onset of COVID-19 and slowdown of touring (which many artists look to for the bulk of their income), creatives (artists, songwriters, and producers) like Johnta Austin (songwriter for Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey), Sean Garett (songwriter for Usher, Ciara, and Beyoncé) and Timbaland (produced for Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake, and Jay-Z) have sold their rights to Hipgnosis.
The company also can boast having Rick James and Barry Manilow’s copyrights.
The estates for both Whitney Houston and Ray Charles have sold 50 percent of their publishing to a firm called Primary Wave.
Recently, John Legend sold his extensive catalog to KKR-BMG, according to Bloomberg, for an undisclosed amount.
What is remarkable about the Legend deal, is that he “sold the copyrights and the rights to receive royalties from music he wrote between late 2004 through early 2020. The two companies both have since September a 50 percent stake in each of Legend’s works.
Gotti, who not only is a music executive, starting his career as an A&R at Def Jam, is also a producer. This deal does not include his publishing outside of the independent label he founded in 1999.
With this deal, Gotti will find himself ranked as one of the richest persons in hip-hop.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, he would be ranked in the No. 6 spot, bumping Drake ($250 million) down one spot. Above Gotti, whose cumulative net worth with this acquisition and an earlier assessment may total around $314 million, are Russell Simmons ($340 million), Dr. Dre ($500 million), Sean “Brother Love aka Diddy” Combs ($900 million), Jay-Z ($1.3 billion) and Kanye West ($6.6 billion).
Gotti has had a major upturn from he when was indicted on money-laundering charges in 2005. The government seized all of Gotti’s assets, which basically caused Murder Inc. to collapse. Feds charged that convicted drug lord Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, a friend of Gotti’s and his brother, Christopher Lorenzo, was in partnership with Murder Inc. Prosecutors claimed the record company was used to launder cash from illegal drug sales, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Later that year Irv and Christopher went to court and were found not guilty. But Murder Inc. was already destroyed.