About Roc-A-Fella Records
In 1996, Jay-Z and then-business partners Damon 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. 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. In 1999, Jay-Z embroiled himself and the rest of the label in a verbal feud with rapper Nas which lasted until 2002.
In 2000, Production was handled largely by Just Blaze and Bink, with input by then-newcomer Kanye West, Rick Rock and The Neptunes.
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 its release, 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, Late Registration, was released along with Memphis Bleek's fourth album, 534. Only Kanye's album reached 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.