On May 2, Rick Ross and the major players of his Maybach Music Group label assembled at New York's Eventi Hotel to announce the upcoming plans and further expansion of the Warner Bros. hip-hop imprint. MMG's next posse album, "Self Made 2," will be released June 26; rapper Meek Mill's debut album, "Dreams and Nightmares," arrives Aug. 28; and R&B singer Omarion will be the newest member of the MMG family. Meanwhile, "God Forgives, I Don't," Ross' fifth studio album, is due July 31 through Def Jam, where he's signed as a solo artist.
The slew of announcements follow a blockbuster 2011 for MMG, highlighted by the signings of Meek Mill and Wale, whose sophomore album, "Ambition," started at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 last November and has sold 417,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Hosted by Rap Radar CEO Elliott Wilson, the press event also followed six months of relative radio silence for MMG: A pair of seizures Ross suffered in October delayed the planned December release date of "God Forgives, I Don't," and the only MMG releases since "Ambition" have been mixtapes like Ross' "Rich Forever," Stalley's "Savage Journey to the American Dream" and Mill's "Dreamchasers 2," the lattermost due May 7.
Joie Manda, the former executive VP/head of urban music at Warner Bros. who jumped to Universal to become president of Def Jam in March, attended the May 2 press conference along with a slate of other executives, including Island Def Jam Music Group president/COO Steve Bartels and Warner Bros. Records co-president/CEO Todd Moscowitz. Manda says that he and his former label will work closely to roll out Ross' project and the multiple MMG releases in a manner that makes sense for both sides.
"Warner Bros. are our competitors, but they're our friendly competitors," Manda says. "We're both taking direction from Ross, but obviously we need to share information and compare notes to maximize each single and each album date."
Ross' official follow-up to 2010's "Teflon Don" (724,000 sold, according to SoundScan) will not include any material from "Rich Forever," although Manda says he's unsure if "You the Boss" and "I Love My Bitches" -- two singles released last fall as previews of "God Forgives, I Don't" -- will make the final album. However, the new Def Jam head promised more hit singles from Ross, and "movie-like videos" to go along with them. On the day after the press conference, Ross was confirmed to perform at WQHT (Hot 97) New York's annual Summer Jam festival in East Rutherford, N.J., on June 3. (Wale and Meek Mill are also on this year's lineup.)
For Warner Bros., the Omarion signing gives the MMG roster a veteran R&B presence whose recent output hasn't connected at retail. The former B2K singer sold 765,000 copies of his 2005 solo debut, "O" (T.U.G./Epic/Sony Music), but his last album, 2010's "Ollusion" (Starworld/Musicworks), moved only 78,000, according to SoundScan. Omarion will make his MMG debut with the Ross-assisted single "Let's Talk" and a still-untitled EP, neither of which has a release date.
Manda says that Omarion's signing started coming together just before he left Warner Bros. in March, and, like the MMG signings of Wale and Meek Mill, things moved quickly once Ross flew Omarion to his Miami studio and started working on different tracks with the singer.
"[Ross] will have somebody for five to seven days, and he'll measure how many songs can this person do in this amount of days," Manda says. "He has a very clinical direction."