Tupac Signs With Death Row From Prison: Sept. 16 in Hip-Hop History
On this day in hip-hop history, Tupac Shakur joined up with Death Row, Usher had his breakthrough, Jay-Z previewed In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 and Mariah Carey showed off a different side of her.
1995: Tupac signs three-album deal with Death Row while in prison
After the double-platinum success of Me Against the World, Tupac Shakur went looking for a new label. He found one in Suge Knight's Death Row, but there was one problem: he was incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., after his conviction for sexual assaulting a woman in 1993. Shakur had appealed the decision, and he could go free until the trial, provided he could post $1.4 million in bail.
On Sept. 16, 1995, he signed a deal that installed Knight as his manager for three years, during which time he would release three records for Death Row, including one comprised of material that had already been recorded. Tupac received $1 million up front, as well as a $250,000 legal defense fund and money for a car and a year's worth of expenses.
A month later, Death Row posted Shakur's bail, with the money coming from Interscope Records, which distributed Death Row. As Interscope head Jimmy Iovine said, their parent company, Time-Warner, was against the idea, but he found a way around it. “Time Warner wouldn’t allow us to bail out Tupac. So what happened was we advanced Death Row the money, and Death Row bailed out Tupac.”
1997: Usher breaks through with My Way
A month shy of his 19th birthday, Usher gave us his second album, My Way. Commercially, it was a massive leap from his 1994 debut, selling 6 million copies and peaking at No. 4. Its first two singles, "You Make Me Wanna..." and "Nice & Slow," topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, with the latter reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100, and the title track hit No. 4.
Co-producer Jermaine Dupri had originally been hesitant to work with him because Dupri felt he had already worked with too many young artists. But his remix of "Think of You" made him feel like they could work well together, and the result was what Dupri called " the beginning of who you know Usher to be now."
"I was just trying to make sure the music sounded like it was fitting the time that it came out," he told Complex. "That was it. I didn't really know, I mean it's hard to know. ...He didn't have a sound at that point and time. That's why the album was called My Way, because we were trying to make a point about getting it done his way. And creating his sound, that's what the whole album title was."
1997: Jay-Z teams up with Foxy Brown and Babyface for "(Always Be My) Sunshine"
The lead single from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, "(Always Be My) Sunshine" was built on samples from songs by Alexander O'Neal, MC Lyte, Kraftwerk and the Fearless Four. It featured Babyface on the chorus and Foxy Brown shows up midway through. But for all the star power on display, including the return of Foxy Brown the the previous year's "Ain't No N----," the song failed to match the chart positions of his previous hits.
1997: Mariah Carey asserts her independence on Butterfly
On her sixth record, Mariah Carey continued the shift towards hip-hop-infused material that began two years earlier on Daydream. Butterfly came in the wake of her split from her husband and label boss Tommy Mottola as she sought greater control over her career.
"In the past, people were scared to let me explore different types of music that I loved and enjoyed," Marc Shapiro quoted her as saying in Mariah Carey: The Unauthorized Biography. "They [the studio heads] saw me as having this instrument, and they wanted to get the most use out of it. There were a lot of people around me who were afraid of change. I was a valuable commodity, and they didn't want to lose that. I was encouraged to act drab, because drab sells records."
1977: Musiq Soulchild and Rodney Jerkins are born
The Boombox is celebrating two birthdays today, both of which took place in 1977. Taalib Johnson, known professionally as Musiq Soulchild, was born in Philadelphia. Since his 2000 debut, Aijuswanaseing, he's regularly blended hip-hop and soul, with his second record, Juslisen, giving him a pair of Top 20 hits in "Halfcrazy" and "Dontchange."
In a career that spans back to the mid-'90s, Rodney Jerkins has written and/or produced dozens of chart hits, including Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine," Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" and Beyonce's "Deja Vu." He's also provided raps on tracks by Mary J. Blige ("Everything"), Rhona ("Satisfied") and Immature ("I Can't Wait").