Capitol Music Group and Insurgency Music have formed a joint venture to re-launch iconic imprint Priority Records. A pioneering independent force in rap music during its initial heyday whose roster included such West Coast hip-hop legends as N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Eazy-E, the relaunched Priority will now be a producer-driven label focusing on electronic and progressive urban music. Heading Priority’s revival as its president is Insurgency Music co-founder and electronic music veteran Michael Cohen.
Priority will formally launch with the Aug. 13 release of the underground club track “Higher” by Just Blaze & Baauer featuring Jay Z. A video is currently being filmed by director Nabil Elderkin. Cohen also announces today 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.
“We’re so respectful of Priority’s important role in Capitol’s history,” says Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett. “But it was also a street label focusing on music that thrives outside the mainstream. And that’s exactly what Michael and his team have been doing. They have a strong vision of the new generation of electronic and progressive urban music. Baauer was the first indication of that.”
Baauer, who shot to fame with the viral video smash and No. 1 single “Harlem Shake,” is among the artists managed under the Insurgency Music umbrella. Insurgency is comprised of Complete Control Management and its associated Control Music Group management companies: United Management, Undocumented Management and Mixed Management.
Cohen (left) says the opportunity to re-launch Priority struck a resonating chord. “I don’t come from the hip-hop world,” he acknowledges. “But the genesis of that label was really about supporting the indie level; it broke the mold in terms of working outside the system to bring 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. It’s heralded a paradigm shift in the way music is created, discovered and spread. Our first single ‘Higher’ epitomizes everything we’re trying to do with Priority.”
Based in Hollywood’s Capitol Records Tower, Priority Records 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.
Priority’s senior executive team is comprised of chief marketing officer Josh Neuman; executive VPs Adrian Martinez, Simon White and Chris Gentry; senior VPs of A&R Ben Persky and Mason Klein; VP of A&R Justin Scott; GM Cyrus Bader; senior VPs of marketing Jamal Dauda and Matt Sadie and senior VP of integrated disruption Toby Benson.
Working closely with Cohen and his team will be CMG senior VP of marketing Kirdis Postelle. In describing Priority’s electronic and progressive urban music focus, she says the term urban has taken on more of a youth connotation within the last five years. “It’s more than being about a specific region or genre,” explains Postelle, the former GM of Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. “It’s more about the youth culture, and a lot of that stems from what people call EDM. But this isn’t classic EDM. It’s more of an underground street thing.”
Cohen will also continue as co-CEO with Neuman of the aforementioned Complete Control Management and the Control Music Group’s associated management companies. In addition to Baauer, those companies manage Bloc Party, Dada Life, RL Grime and Digitalism, among other artists.
Originally established in 1985, indie upstart Priority Records helped bring West Coast rap to prominence through such cornerstones as N.W.A., Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Eazy-E. During its heyday, the label also distributed such labels as Rap-A-Lot, Ruthless, Death Row, No Limit and Roc-A-Fella. An early ‘90s distribution deal with EMI eventually led to EMI fully owning Priority in 1998. Three years later, the label’s operations were merged into EMI’s Capitol Records. After ceasing operations in 2004, Priority was re-launched in 2006 with Snoop Dogg appointed creative chairman in 2009. Priority celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010.