The music industry has evolved from one generation to the next, but a regular complaint has been about contracts. It is common to hear stories about artists, especially rappers, who go from “rags to riches,” and we listen to them spit bars about coming up out of the trenches into their lives of luxury. However, we also know that much of that “good life” is an illusion because many artists are indebted to their labels for hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.
While visiting the I Am Athlete podcast, Noreaga broke down the business. “I don’t have no boss, I don’t have nobody to tell me to go, and that’s what I retired from,” said Noreaga. He was asked if he was given a pension or a 401k. “Ain’t no pension in Hip Hop,” said the rapper.
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“When you sign to a major label, that money that they give you, let’s say they give you $800,000, alright? That’s a loan,” N.O.R.E. continued. “You have to pay back that loan with interest. So, if you don’t make back that $800,000, what they do is, they put you in the red. You can still be hot and you didn’t make back that $800,000. So, they’ll give you another album, and instead of $800,000, they’ll give you $1.2 [million] this time.”
“But you still in the hole for that 800, you understand? But you got another $1.2 and if you don’t make that, then you’re just in the red for both. And this is a loan with interest that you don’t get nothing out of. Hip Hop is not meant for the artist to win. It’s never been meant for the artist to win and the more and more you learn, the more and more you read your contracts, the more and more it’s disturbing.”
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“And that’s why labels like [Quality Control] is winning, because they own it and they’re trying to put their artists on the game. That’s what a real—like when you hear that Jay-Z gave Rihanna back her masters, that’s a real move, ’cause that’s sayin’, ‘I don’t only want my own sh*t back, but I want something, I want other people to have it back as well.'”
Noreaga added that most record contracts are designed for the artists to “always have to need” the labels, not grow independently from them. Check out the clip as well as the full episode of I Am Athlete below.