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Hot! Early Distributor Of 90’s West Coast Gangsta Rap Returns | Rap News

Few record labels were as important to the rise of West Coast hip-hop as Priority Records. Founded in 1985 by Bryan Turner and Mark Cerami, the indie took a chance on a crew of MCs bubbling out of Los Angeles at a time when rap was dominated by the East Coast and helped turn N.W.A into a national powerhouse with the release of 1988’s Straight Outta Compton, putting the West Coast, and gangsta rap, on the map.

Priority’s ownership has shifted over the years since it was sold to EMI in 2001; it was acquired by Universal Music Group in its $1.9 billion acquisition of EMI in 2012, then shifted from Island Def Jam to Capitol when IDJ was broken up in 2014. Now, CMG is relaunching the legendary imprint as an indie-leaning, versatile distribution wing focused largely on emerging hip-hop acts. Overseen by CMG chairman/CEO Steve Barnett, COO Michelle Jubelirer, new executive vp Dion “No I.D.” Wilson, CFO Geoff Harris and Motown president Ethiopia Habtemariam, Priority will be run by L.A. radio veteran William “Fuzzy” West and A&R executive Serge Durand to help push Capitol deeper into the hip-hop market.

“Until Ethiopia arrived with Motown [in 2014], Capitol hadn’t been in the urban business for probably 25 years from a real commitment point of view,” says Barnett. “I spent a lot of time looking at the marketplace and what the competition was doing, and it just seemed to be the right time to do it now.”

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