Photo by Ted Maider
Late last month, after spending much of the year celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Illmatic debut, Nas revealed his plans to begin recording a new album. As it turns out, though, that record won’t actually be released via his long-time label Def Jam, as Nas’ contract expires at the end of the year. Instead, he’s going independent, launching his own record label dubbed Mass Appeal (via Billboard).
For Mass Appeal, Nas teamed up with entrepreneur Peter Bittenbender, who own previously owned the boutique label-turned-creative studio Decon Records. (Decon will continue to serve clients like Nike and CNN, while music operations are folded into the Mass Appeal banner.) In addition to the label, the pair recently raised $1.2 million to relaunch the street art publication Mass Appeal magazine, which will serve as a sister company ala The FADER and The Fader label.
“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,” Nas wrote in an email to Billboard. “I’m going to be as involved as I need to be, but I also want to be respectful of the art and give artists the space they need to grow and become themselves.”
Added Bittenbender, “We want to become the next XL (Recordings, home to Adele, The xx, and Vampire Weekend). “This is an opportunity to take everything we’ve learned and build a global, diversified label from the ground up.”
As Billboard points out, the label will be distributed by Sony’s RED, who released Nas’ Illmatic back in 1994. To secure this contract, RED reportedly put up an advance in the “low seven figures for a multi-year agreement.”
Mass Appeal’s first release comes later this summer via a “compilation of brand friends”, including Pusha T, Future, Mac Miller, the ASAP Mob, and Nas himself, who will cover Gang Starr’s 1994 single “Mass Appeal”. Afterward, the label will release Lost Tapes 2, a long-fabled collection of unreleased Nas tracks, and a posthumous Pimp C record featuring production from DJ Mustard and Mike WiLL Made It.
The label has already signed a number of up-and-coming rappers, including 17-year-old Bishop Nehru and Fresno rapper Fashawn. There’s also plans to expand the roster to include singer-songwriters, DJs/producers, and EDM acts.
For the heck of it, revisit Illmatic below: