James Murdoch’s Hip-Hop Head Days With Rawkus Records

Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us that the man in the middle of Britain's phone hacking scandal bankrolled an influential hip-hop label in the '90s.

By Jamilah King Jul 21, 2011

At Colorlines.com, we’ve talked quite a bit about Fox’s twisted relationship with hip-hop. Earlier this week, Adriel Luis and Nico Cary wrote about how the network’s race-baiting beefs with rappers have made driven ratings. But over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates takes a step back from Murdoch mania to remind us that one of the key players in the widening News International scandal, James Murdoch, is responsible for bankrolling some classic late 90s hip-hop.

Murdoch invested in Rawkus Records, helping to launch the label and thus Soundbombing, Soundbombing II, Black on Both Sides, and Black Star. Listing the albums doesn’t really capture the amount of good Murdoch did for the world of hip-hop. For me, Rawkus was always post-internet music company. It’s the individual tracks I remember best–"Weight," "The Fire In Which You Burn," "Holy Water," "Fortified Live," "Patriotism," "Any Man," "Two Thousand Seasons," "Arabian Nights."

The label was eventually bought by News International in 1998, and many of its signature acts moved on. Certainly doesn’t mean that either Fox or James Murdoch are absolved of whatever sins they’ve committed in the intervening decade. But it could mean that, at the very least, the guy had decent taste in music.