1995-1998: Roc-A-Fella Records
Founded in 1995 by Jay Z, Dame Dash and Biggs, Roc-A-Fella Records was born with the release of Jay’s Reasonable Doubt album when he was struggling to find any labels willing to back the record. Initially Hov started off as the only artist attached to Roc-A-Fella, with his album slowly gaining popularity. Success came for Roc-A-Fella with the backing of Biggie’s producer DJ Clark Kent, and DJ Ski. Following this, Hova gained further recognition with his appearance on B.I.G.’s Life After Death album.
As Jay Z grew so did the label, which led to further signees. Memphis Bleek signed to the Roc in 1999, and the following year, the label took on Beanie Sigel. The noughties saw some huge signings for Roc-A-Fella, with Cam’ron, M.O.P. and Ol’ Dirty Bastard all coming on board.
In 2002, after releasing the The Blueprint 2, Jay Z spoke of retiring whilst Dame Dash put his energy into new signings. It was also around this time that Dash and Jigga started to have their differences.
Jay Z made a smart business move, when it was revealed he had become the President of Def Jam Records. Hov, Dash and Burke all sold their 50% of the label to Def Jam. This meant that whilst Jay had managed to oust both Dash and Burke, he simultaneously took control of the artists acquired by Def Jam from Roc-A-Fella.
Hov’s venture took many twists and turns following this as Dash created his own label, under Def Jam. Dash and his acquired artists showed visible animosity towards to Jay Z. Dash would eventually leave Def Jam Records which dissolved his label, the Dame Dash Music Group. Jay Z would eventually step down from his Def Jam position as well, with the release of American Gangsta in 2007.