Rawkus Records is an American hip hop record label, known for jump-starting the careers of both Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Rawkus was at first a label searching for a sound. Initial releases were in the genre of House and Drum & Bass. Label heads Brian Brater and Jarret Meyer were introduced to local talent from the New York area notably Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Company Flow among others. From these introductions began a new direction for them. Rawkus developed into one the dominant hip hop labels of the 90's, issuing a string of 12" releases. These releases helped initiate a resurgence in the New York/ East Coast sound. Many of Rawkus' releases are considered "classics" among hip hop aficionados. At the time of the mid to late 90's Rawkus among other burgening labels was considered a top independent record label in the underground hip hop scene. News began to surface that Rawkus was not truly independent but in fact funded in an indirect way by Rupert Murdoch through son James Murdoch. Rawkus was able to secure distribution deals with major labels and continued to release albums with varying success. With associations with major label limiting their album releases, many of their artist pursued other ventures. Recently, Rawkus Records released a "Best Of" album and have developed a large roster of new artists and upcoming releases.
Rawkus Records was established in 1996 by Brian Brater and Jarret Meyer, with financial backing from a school friend, James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch. In 1999 the label entered into a distribution deal with Priority Records. Over the years, Rawkus has recorded several notable independent hip hop artists, including Company Flow, the High and Mighty, Mos Def and Talib Kweli (as Blackstar), Common, Pharoahe Monch, and Skillz. In 2002 Rawkus signed a joint venture deal with MCA. Soon after joining with MCA, MCA folded and Interscope/Geffen bought Rawkus. In January 2004, however, Rawkus split from Geffen. In July 2005 it was announced that Rawkus had re-emerged with a new distribution deal with RED Distribution, with releases planned for 2006. New releases are scheduled from hip hop group The Procussions and Chicago rapper Naledge and Double-0 (Kidz in the Hall), as well as hip hop group Panacea. The label will be working in a joint venture with Soulspazm Records to release Canadian producer Marco Polo's album Port Authority. The Rawkus 50 is a campaign from the noted Hip Hop label Rawkus Records, a group of "the 50 next important Hip Hop artists." In early 2007, Rawkus Records accepted album submissions from Hip Hop artists, known or unknown, to be considered for their new campaign. The 50 artists chosen to wear the Rawkus 50 badge were signed to a digital distribution deal through IODA's (Independent Online Distribution Alliance) digital distribution network and had their albums released under the banner "Rawkus 50 presents".
The Rawkus 50, according to the promotional materials, is a group of "the 50 next important Hip Hop artists." In early 2007, Rawkus Records accepted album submissions from Hip Hop artists, known or unknown, to be considered for their new campaign. The 50 artists chosen to wear the Rawkus 50 badge were signed to a digital distribution deal through IODA's (Independent Online Distribution Alliance) digital distribution network and had their albums released under the banner "Rawkus 50 presents".
The Rawkus 50 project is a landmark undertaking in the music business. In an industry plagued with low physical album sales and and digital music becoming more and more the norm in society, record labels have been trying various strategies to adjust to the new landscape. The Rawkus 50 project focus' on a digital distribution model to get the music to the masses and mixes part traditional marketing and internet/social networking based forms of promotion. The idea is to use the accumulated fan base of all 50 artists to promote the project as a whole via mediums such as Myspace, YouTube, and Rawkus Records own Ning site MyRawkus. In addition, Rawkus has taken out an ad in a major Hip Hop magazine XXL listing the names of all artists in the 50. Other promotional efforts are to include National Internet marketing and promotion, sponsored NY and LA Showcases for the artists to perform and blog and podcast hosting, marketing and promotion. The musicians in the Rawkus 50 are: 12Bit , 3rd Brillyance , 6th Sense , Aarophat , Atllas , Barak Yalad , Bekay , Chuck Taylor , Clan Destined , Custom Made, Cymarshall Law , Cy Young , Doujah Raze , Dutchmassive , Dynas , East , Finale , Grandagent , Hassaan Mackey , Intricate Minds , Kaimbr , KAZE , Kojoe , Krukid , Laws , L.E.G.A.C.Y , Mookie Jones , Mr. Metaphor , Phenetiks , Pizon , Prime , Protoman , Red Clay , Roddy Rod , Scanz , Scavone , Sev Statik , The1Shanti , SiLent Knight ,The Smile Rays , SPAN PHLY , Spit Supreme , Spokinn Movement , SunN.Y. , theBREAX , The Foundation , The Regiment , Together Brothers , Wildabeast , Willie Evans Jr.