How the Music Biz Boom Brought Xzibit's Label Back to Life

ISSUE 6 2019 - DO NOT EVER REUSE THIS!!!
Angelo Sgambati
Xzibit (right) with Savage.

A slew of old label revivals, especially hip-hop ones, is shaking up the industry, from Patrick Moxey’s Payday Records to West Coast rap pioneer Priority, which both relaunched in 2017. Last year, LOUD, the label behind Wu-Tang Clan, bounced back. And now, rapper-actor Xzibit is getting in on the action with the resurrection of Open Bar Entertainment, the boutique label he founded in 1999 under Sony Entertainment.

The newly independent “hybrid” label now includes film production and management divisions. Xzibit, 44, who has released eight albums, says the revamp will allow him to mentor aspiring artists: “I’m always going to create music, but now I want to see how I can bring shine to somebody else.” The industry, he says, is more open than ever to artist-run labels like Dr. Dre’s Aftermath and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. “I know what it feels like to be treated incorrectly” as an artist, says Xzibit, who is currently on a 24-date U.S. tour with Cypress Hill and Hollywood Undead. “The experiences that I’ve had in the music industry have given me a learning curve.”

Open Bar intends to treat artists as equal partners. “Artists create the music, the vibe, everything, but labels deserve [a higher] percentage? That’s not the right business model coming into 2019,” says Xzibit. The label celebrated its first signee, rapper James Savage (formerly known as Jayo Felony), in February with the premiere of the four-part documentary Broken Ground at the Mammoth Film Festival in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. “We didn’t want to just throw a rap album out there, so we created this storyline around it,” says Xzibit of the film, which is also his directorial debut. “There used to be artist development and marketing budgets that would be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars,” he says of his label’s push for video. “Attention spans are different now. It’s about making sure your fans are [always] engaged.”

This article originally ran in the March 9 issue of Billboard.