Capitol Music Group (CMG) and Insurgency Music joined forces to relaunch the pioneering rap imprint Priority as CMG chairman/CEO Steve Barnett pursues an aggressive strategy to rebuild the storied label group from the ground up.
?Priority, once home to names like N.W.A, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion), will now be a producer-driven label focusing on electronic and progressive urban music. Helming Priority as president is Insurgency Music co-founder and electronic music veteran Michael Cohen.?
The Aug. 13 release of underground club track “Higher,” by Just Blaze & Baauer featuring Jay Z, will formally signal Priority’s relaunch. Simultaneously, Cohen also announced that producer Harry Fraud’s Surf School label has signed with Priority. Fraud’s production credits include Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, French Montana and Mac Miller.?
Appointed chairman/CEO of CMG last year, Barnett stated that his goal was to “help bring the tower back to its former glory,” referring to Capitol’s famous Hollywood, Calif., headquarters. The label behind such legends as the Beatles, the Beastie Boys, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and many contemporary hit makers, from Katy Perry to David Guetta to Coldplay, has clocked success during the last several months with projects by Swedish House Mafia and Emeli Sande. Also home to such stalwart label entities as Blue Note, Capitol recently welcomed Grammy Award-winning producer RedOne’s 2101 Records to the fold. ?
Barnett’s revival of the dormant Priority is in keeping with the executive’s focus on embracing both Capitol’s historic legacy and the next generation of music. Cohen notes, “There’s a real energy building at Capitol.”?
Based in the historic tower, Priority will operate on a two-tier level. Releases will be distributed domestically through CMG’s independent services division Caroline, as well as through the worldwide Universal Music Group system.?
Citing Priority’s defining role in Capitol’s history, Barnett notes, “Priority was also a street label focusing on music that thrives outside the mainstream.”?
Baauer shot to fame with the viral video phenom and No. 1 single “Harlem Shake.” He’s among the artists managed under the Insurgency Music umbrella. Insurgency comprises Complete Control Management and its associated Control Music Group management companies: United Management, Undocumented Management and Mixed Management.
?“I don’t come from the hip-hop world,” Cohen acknowledges. “But Priority broke the mold in terms of bringing street-level music to the mainstream without any compromise. And the producer—who has always played a strong role in hip-hop—has become the focal point coming out of the global electronic music space.”?
Both Barnett and Cohen say that future releases could also involve Priority’s rich catalog. Established in 1985, Priority Records helped bring West Coast rap to prominence with its who’s-who roster and such distributed labels as Rap-a-Lot, Ruthless, Death Row and Roc-a-Fella. An early-’90s distribution deal with EMI eventually led to EMI fully owning Priority in 1998. After ceasing operations in 2004, Priority was initially relaunched in 2006, with Snoop Dogg appointed creative chairman in 2009.?
Cohen’s senior executive team includes chief marketing officer Josh Neuman; executive VPs Adrian Martinez, Simon White and Chris Gentry; and senior VPs of A&R Ben Persky and Mason Klein.