Nas, who turned hip-hop on its ear 20 years ago with his groundbreaking debut album “Illmatic,” is going indie. The venerated rapper, 40, is launching Mass Appeal Records, an independent record label, which, in addition to shepherding a new generation of hip-hop hopefuls, also will provide an outlet for new Nas music when his contract with Def Jam expires later this year.
Mass Appeal Records, co-founded with Peter Bittenbender, 36, will succeed Decon Records, a boutique label-turned-creative studio started by Bittenbender and video director Jason Goldwatch in 2002. Last spring, Nas and Bittenbender raised $1.2 million to relaunch the street culture magazine Mass Appeal, which will serve as a sister company to Mass Appeal Records, in a relationship akin to that between Vice Records and Vice magazine. “I’m excited to be a part of creating and supporting future careers and legacy artists, promoting love and finding new genius to help the world,” said Nas in an email.
First among Mass Appeal Records’ releases, arriving late this summer, will be an annual compilation album featuring friends of the brand like Future, Pusha T, Mac Miller and Nas himself, performing a cover of the 1994 Gang Starr song that gave the company its name. Also on deck is Lost Tapes 2, a collection of unreleased Nas music, and a posthumous set from Pimp C that will pair the iconic UGK member with current hitmaking producers like Mike Will Made It and DJ Mustard.
Sony’s RED is Mass Appeal’s distributor, reuniting Nas with the parent company that released “Illmatic.” RED won the rights to the label in a bidding war with Caroline and the Alternative Distribution Alliance, putting up an advance in the low seven figures for a multiple-year agreement.
“We want to become the next XL,” says Bittenbender. “This is an opportunity to take everything we’ve learned and build a global label from the ground up.”