Death Row Records Celebrates 20th Anniversary
I recently had the opportunity to speak with John Payne, the president of Death Row Records and, I must say, that his warmth and enthusiasm left a lasting impression. Music fans are undoubtedly familiar with Death Row’s turbulent past but, with its 20th anniversary looming on the horizon, it is clear that this label is all about positivity, the music and the artists.
KO Video: Death Row Records is one of the most recognizable labels in the world. How do you plan to commemorate its 20th anniversary?
Payne: By giving people a historical look at the label by focusing on music and the artists and by leaving the negativity, which all occurred more than 10 years ago, behind us. We have material that was never released before. We’re planning to put out a Snoop Dogg Greatest Hits album. We also will be launching the Rap Rivals iPhone app
KO Video: Tell me more about this app!
Payne: The app is expected to be released 4-6 weeks from now. Players, who will have the option of remaining anonymous, will be able to mix tracks and compete with people around the world. It’s great because they can be here in the United States while making friends and sharing music with someone in Australia, for example. Users will be able to vote on the tracks and, at the end of the year, a “Distribution Award” will be determined in each country, and someone will be deemed the “Winner of the World.”
KO Video: Death Row Records released iconic albums like Dr Dre's "The Chronic," Snoop Dogg's "Doggystyle" and Tupac's "All Eyez on Me." What do you think it takes today to become the next big hip hop star?
Payne: Originality. It all comes down to originality. Hip Hop hasn't really grown as it should. Don`t try to be the next Dre, Snoop or Tupac. We’re into a lot of autotune. Everyone’s doing the same thing. We need something fresh. Competitiveness raises the level that artists strive to attain so that’s an important part of forcing to people to be innovative.
KO Video: Canadian indie company, WIDEawake Entertainment Group, now owns Death Row Records. How has that changed the future of the label?
Payne: It has been good for identity. It’s no longer limited to just being west coast. It’s worldwide and it’s been a great transition for us.
KO Video: WIDEawake has built a new studio in Toronto. Can you tell our readers about it?
Payne: Liberty Studios opened in June and was named in Mix magazine’s "The Class of 2011: A Collection Of This Year's Hottest New Studios." It feels good. People like the vibe in there. I’m pleased with the design and I’m pleased with the staff. It’s just a great studio.
KO Video: The label has been through a lot in two decades. What do you want people to remember most?
Payne: The music and the artists. I was in Cannes last week and some Death Row tracks came on. People think about the music and not the trouble and the violence. I’m also just really pleased with how people are accepting and supporting WIDEawake. We started off in the right direction and people around the label negatively influenced our image but now we are again heading in the correct direction and it’s rewarding. I also want to say how much I appreciate when people are open-minded about Death Row Records and not jaded by the past. It feels good.
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