Jimmy Iovine Death Row: The Ugly Side of The Music Business

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Jimmy Iovine, a former executive at Interscope Records, sold his music catalog for two hundred and fifty million. His catalog was bought in 2021 by Hipgnosis and Merck. Jimmy was responsible for producing some great hits in the seventies. Artists like John Lennon, Patti Smith, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen were part of Iovine’s resume. It wasn’t till the late eighties that he and Ted Fields found fame and fortune in hip hop.

Death Row Is Born

In the late eighties, Ruthless Records was being distributed by Priority Records. The label had a young producer name Andre Young, aka Dr. Dre had become tired of the antics with Easy E and Jerry Heller. Dr. Dre connects with a 6’2 bodyguard name Suge Knight. And they set out to form their own label, called Death Row Records. With help from drug kingpin Michael “Harry O” Harris, Death Row was created. The 90s brought about some of the most prolific hip-hop music in history.

The Catalog Ended Up In Corporate Hands

Fast forward 20 years later, Death Row is bankrupt and sold off, Jimmy Iovine is retired, and Dr. Dre is the greatest producer in history. The music catalog was bought by a white woman and then sold to another corporate entity. Finally, ending up in the hands of the toy company Hasbro. Artists like Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and other artists were allegedly part of that deal. The deal gave the company control of the catalog and the masters. Jimmy Iovine at no time bought any of the music catalogs to help the artists gain control of the music.

The label was near bankruptcy until they met Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. Black music saved the company from going under. In the 90s, Death Row made hundreds of millions of dollars for Interscope Records. Violence, murder, drugs, and bad accounting slowly started to bring the label to its knees. Jimmy never helped Suge Knight or Dr. Dre secure Death Row’s catalog rights. I guess they owned the rights to the music from the beginning. But Death Row’s catalog, like most black music, ended up in the hands of some corporate entity who didn’t have the best interest of the music in mind.

With all his power as an executive, Jimmy let the catalog get away from Death Row. Suge and Dre eventually parted ways. The music that helps save Interscope Records from bankruptcy is in corporate hands. Does Jimmy Iovine love hip-hop as much as he does his own catalog? Probably not. No matter how much black artists and black-owned companies fight for control of their music, they never seem to come out on top. The music business is a game of chance and luck when you start fighting for power and control.


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