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10 Iconic Black-Owned Record Labels You Should Know

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Music is not just sound and words. In most cases, listening to this music serves as a form of healing since it is about roots and purposeful stories. In spite of this, sometimes the best music goes unheard for a number of reasons.

An artist whose music is not heard enough could find success with a good record label. Record labels are more likely to be beneficial when they understand and relate to an artist’s rhythm. Black culture has always been characterized by music, and in this blog, I will share ten iconic black-owned record labels.

There are probably a few names on this list you’re already familiar with, but what about the others?

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10 Iconic Black-Owned Record Labels

Bad Boy Records– Sean “Diddy” Combs

A pioneering record label in hip-hop production, Bad Boy Records was founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs. The global music, media, and entertainment company has been one of the music industry’s premiere production, distribution, publicity, promotion, and marketing companies for more than two decades.

The record influenced the music careers of hip-hop artists like the Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Faith Evans, 112, Mario Winans, The Lox, New Edition, Carl Thomas, and Total, including Sean Combs himself. 

Black Swan Records–Harry Pace

Black Swan Records, which was founded in 1921, is one of the most well-known black-owned record companies in the world. It was the first black-owned record label in America, giving listeners the option to choose between conventional music created for entertainment and top-notch music created for joy and inspiration.

This record label gave the black community in the USA a genuine voice and tone at a time when the majority of black music was a minstrel show adaptation. Black artists had a platform that didn’t discriminate against them, as was the norm back then. Some of the influential artists recorded include:

  • Ethel Waters
  • Alberta Hunter
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Fletcher Henderson

The record firm significantly impacted the popularization of jazz and blues.

Although it later filed for bankruptcy, it left an incredible mark in black music and entrepreneurship history. More African-American artists recorded their music, as well as the establishment of more black-owned record labels.

People Also Read: African Music: 10 African Sounds Making Global Waves

Alikoto Music Consultant–Sam Kwabena-Wusu Ose

Bad-Boy-record-label
Source: Alikoto Music

Sam Kwabena-Wusu Osei established Alikoto Music Consultant, a business dedicated to the development and prosperity of the African music sector.

To maximize their music, La Meme Gang, Darkovibes, Streetbeatz, Joey B, Patricia Baloge, and many other musicians collaborate with Alikoto.

Cactus Jack Records–Travis Scott

Travis Scott started Cactus Jack Records in Houston, which helped some well-known rappers gain recognition. After signing with Smokepurpp, the label released its debut album in 2017.

Rapper Sheck Wes from Harlem also agreed to a joint record deal with Cactus Jack and G.O.O.D. Music in October of that year. Scott recruited Don Toliver, who was featured on the album cut “Can’t Say,” a few days following the release of his eagerly awaited album, Astroworld.

The firm has released singles and albums that helped it achieve its commercial success. Besides, the firm has collaborated with artists inside and outside the label for music production and other creative projects. Some creative projects include collaborating with fashion brands, merchandise drops, and music videos.

Def Jam Records–Russell Simmons

Bad-Boy-record-label
Source: Music Week

With the help of well-known musicians, Def Jam has become one of the most prosperous independent record labels in the United States. In 1984, Russell Simmons established the record company, which is owned by black people.

Following its merger with Island Records, the firm established a record. Stars like Dru Hill, Kelly Price, and Christina Milian, as well as industry stalwarts like Montell Jordan, Case, and Patti LaBelle, contributed to the success of the corporation and its multiple subsidiaries.

Notably, Jay-Z has played a crucial role in the history of Def Jam and is the most commercially successful rapper of all time. Def Jam and Roc-a-Fella were both owned or distributed for more than 20 years, making it difficult to distinguish between the two.

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Vee-Jay Records–Vivian Carter and James Bracken

Vee-Jay as the name suggests is a husband-and-wife black-owned record label. The couple founded the record company in 1953, signing jazz, blues, rock n’ roll, R&B, soul, and gospel artists from various backgrounds. 

The Impressions and Jimmy Reed, a blues singer and musician, were two of the label’s most well-liked performers. Gladys Knight, Wayne Shorter, and The Staple Singers are a few of the label’s other notable artists.

Vee-Jay declared bankruptcy in 1964 as a result of legal troubles. After 40 years of ownership changes, Concord Music Group bought the label.

Ariwa Sounds–Neil Fraser

Ariwa was established in 1979 by Neil Fraser, a.k.a. “the mad professor,” as a remix recording studio and record label. The name Ariwa derives from the Yoruba word ariwo, which signifies communication.

The Guyana-born professor moved to London with his family and started working as a technician before establishing his recording studio in the South London neighborhood. The roster of Ariwa also includes Sandra Cross, John Mclean, and Macka B.

Ariwa is an influential reggae recording studio and record label. Numerous dub, dancehall, and reggae artists in the UK and internationally have worked with them. Also, they have collaborated with Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly and Robbie, Horace Andy, and many others. These collaborations have contributed to them being prominent figures in the reggae and dub genres.

OVO Sound–  Drake

Drake, Producer 40, and Oliver El-Khatib established OVO Sound. It is a Toronto-based Canadian record company that is distributed by Warner Records, a division of the Warner Music Group.

The label manages a number of artists, including Drake, PartyNextDoor, Majid Jordan, Roy Woods, DVSN, Baka Not Nice, and Popcaan. Certified Lover Boy, Drake’s sixth studio album, was the project’s first formal release through his label in 2021.

The 21-track album received 744 million streams in the US in its first week. The number of streams in a single day was broken by Spotify.

People Also Read: 10 Contemporary Black Artists You Should Know

Motown Record– Berry Gordy Jr.

black-owned-record-labels
Source: berry-gordy

Its most well-known R&B and soul music date back to 1959, when it was created. Artists on the label include Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, and others.

It has been around for ages and still puts out music today, with singers like Erykah Badu and Migos on their list. This iconic black-owned record label implies that superior music and sound are capable of overcoming all challenges.

Cash Money Records–Bryan and Ronald

Bryan and Ronald, two brothers, collaborated to build it in 1991. They also happen to be one of the most recognizable and successful record labels in the history of the genre, in addition to boasting a roster of artists who are regarded as the most influential in hip-hop.

Artists like Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Drake are just a handful of the famous names connected to this record label.

Which among these are your favorite black-owned record labels?

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Sedi Djentuh
Sedi Djentuh
Hey, Sedi here, a content writer. She's fascinated by the interplay between people, lifestyle, relationships, tech and communication dedicated to empowering and spreading positive messages about humanity. She's an avid reader and a student of personal weekly workouts. When she's not writing, Sedi is busy advocating for plastic-free earth with her local NGO.

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