The music business is 10 percent music and 90 percent business, a fact that became abundantly clear when hip-hop producer and Murder Inc. label owner Irv Gotti appeared on a recent episode of N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN’s “Drink Champs” podcast.
During the interview, Gotti, who is responsible for the early success of artists like DMX, Jay-Z, and Ja Rule, explained why he did not give his Murder Inc. roster their masters. He said it is simple, he is a businessman, so such a move doesn’t make “dollars” or “sense.”
“When people talk about the masters … and they’re like, ‘Oh, you should give your artists their masters.’ No, because that’s how I make my money,” the Queens native said.
Adding, “Like Ja, Ashanti, millions of dollars they make every year [from their shows]. I don’t get a dime of that. I don’t get one f##king penny of that.”
He said the only artist he gave anything to regarding their masters was Ja Rule, noting how unique a talent his Hollis, Queens, friend is. When asked what about the other artists he signed, Gotti said they “ain’t f##king Ja.”
What Made Ja Rule Different?
The “Put It On Me” artist, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, has an impressive musical portfolio featuring three songs that reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He also had eight tracks that reached the Hot 100 top 10, and a total of 17 charting hits.
Additionally, he put out two albums that went No. 1, with six out of his seven records breaking into the top 10.
Ja Rule has sold more than 9,740,000 albums worldwide, with 8,500,000 of them being purchased in the United States. His best-selling album was “Pain Is Love” which sold 3,725,000 copies to date, followed by “RULE 3:36,” which sold 3,160,000, “The Last Temptation” which sold 1,235,000 and “Venni, Vetti, Vecci” which sold 1,000,000 copies.
Outside of his accolades achieved as an artist, Ja Rule was the loudest mascot for the brand — always repping Murder Inc. no matter where he was.
Gotti said he cut the rapper, songwriter, and producer a seven-figure check presumably from the $300 million deal he reportedly did with Iconoclast in 2022, where he sold his portion of the Murder Inc. masters.
Diddy Did It
Not every hip-hop producer and label owner feels the same way.
According to Billboard, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs has recently decided he will reassign the publishing rights he once owned to various Bad Boy artists and songwriters signed to him in the ’90s and 2000s.
Top recording artists like the Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Faith Evans, The Lox, 112, and more will regain the music rights that they created.
The exact terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
This is a 180 from just a few years ago after Diddy received the Icon Award, rapper Ma$e blasted the mogul for keeping the publishing rights for the projects he put out on Bad Boy decades ago.
He said in a now-deleted post, “Your past business practices knowingly has continued purposely starved your artist and been extremely unfair to the very same artist that helped u obtain that Icon Award on the iconic Badboy label. For example, u still got my publishing from 24 years ago in which u gave me $20k. Which makes me never want to work w/ u as any artist wouldn’t … This is not Black excellence at all.”
The Gotti vs. Combs Dilema
Gotti and Combs are not quite the same, although they both are music executives and producers. Combs is also an artist and entrepreneur in other arenas with an abundance of lucrative opportunities to make money from.
In 2022, Combs’ net worth reportedly ballooned to $1 billion. To the contrary, despite his alleged deal with Iconoclast, sources still have Gotti at $25 million.
This may speak to Gotti’s point about how as an executive this is how he makes his money.