How Not to Run an Indie Rap Label

Categories: Labels

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Matt Diamond and Kira (R.I.P.)

Ten years ago, Matt Diamond started Coalmine Records. The Brooklyn-based independent rap label's first release was "The Raw," a 12-inch single featuring the Wu-Tang Clan's Inspectah Deck, horrorcore-styled rapper Bekay, and one-time savior of New York hip-hop Saigon. Since then the Coalmine vault has stacked up contributions from a list of luminaries that includes Pharoahe Monch, Kool G Rap, and Talib Kweli, plus producers Alchemist and M-Phazes.

In celebration of a decade in the game, Coalmine has released Unearthed this week -- a 22-track compilation that's mixed by the dextrous hands of DJ Revolution and acts as the label's vital Soundbombing moment. Consider it your daily dose of fortified boom-bap goodness.

In honor of the milestone, here Diamond embarks on a good-natured reminisce about five vital learning steps that come with launching an indie rap label. Naturally, they involve advice on how to deal with Kanye West's notorious cock-blocking tendencies.

See also: Record Labels Aren't Dying, They're Thriving

1. Be Careful When Telling Members of the Wu-Tang Clan to Re-Record Their Verses


"The very first record that I released was "The Raw," which was a 12-inch single featuring Saigon, Bekay and Inspectah Deck. The track ended up going on Bekay's Hunger Pains LP after initially being released as a single in 2005. When the track was a work in progress, Saigon and Bekay tracked their vocals first, and with just two 16s it was a bit light time wise, so I gave some thought as to who would be dope to close out the track and Inspectah Deck came to mind.

"I ended up booking some studio time and Deck knocked out a dope verse, but I remember him ending his verse in a way that was kinda unorthodox for Deck -- like I think he threw in a really extended "yah kiiiid" as the end which would have been dope had it been Flava Flav, but it just sounded kinda off for Deck.

"I was trying to work up the courage to ask Deck if he'd mind changing up the end, and he was getting set to leave, so I realized I'd better hurry up. I think I had a very quiet panic attack in the process, but I realized this is a situation that's going to happen again and again if I'm going to be running a label, so I better learn to speak up. I did, and luckily Deck had no problem switching it up -- took him all of five seconds, and he gave me a dap, bounced, and that was that. Remember, closed mouths don't get fed."

2. Exercise Caution When Telling Rappers to Record Violent Raps


"Historically, Heltah Skeltah was always one of my favorite groups and I still bump Nocturnal on the regular to this day. Needless to say, they were one of the first groups I reached out to work with when I launched Coalmine. They ended up recording the track "Midnight Madness" which was the lead single off the Foundation project, produced by Shuko. The track also ended up getting remixed several times over for our Midnight Madness remix EP, as well.

"I always had a certain vision for the record, so I'll never forget meeting Ruck and Rock at this studio in Crown Heights. I remember talking to 'em about how I wanted the track to go in a really violent direction. I mean, you hear the instrumental, and it's just one of those tracks to start a riot to, so it seemed fitting, and if there was ever a group that could deliver on these terms, it would be them. But the hilarity is how they looked at each other -- and then looked at me like I was more crazy then they were. I guess the irony was that I was legitimately concerned that they'd be able to make the record violent enough, and having them realize that this was a grave concern of mine was comedy gold. I definitely got the dumbfounded Rodney Dangerfield-esque stare from P."


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Jimmy George
Jimmy George

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