Throughout the course of his 16-year music career, Irv Gotti has served as a DJ, record producer, A&R, video director and label CEO, but when he appeared on “RapFix Live” last week, the Murder Inc. founder revealed that he was at one time also looking to add labor organizer to his already-extensive résumé.
In the early 2000s, it was rumored that Irv, along with Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight and Rap-A-Lot CEO James Prince, was looking to start a black-owned record distribution company. Gotti, however, revealed that the now-aborted plan was much bigger.
“It wasn’t a distribution; it was a union. In the music business, the artists, we have no union. There’s no health care, it’s nothing like that. It should be done,” Gotti said, crediting Suge with devising the plan.
“It was all his plan, and it was a hell of a plan,” Irv said of the union that would include all artists of every genre. “He was like, ’OK, say you got a million-dollar budget. We’re gonna make the record label make it a million and one.’ Now, this will all get recouped back to the artist, but that hundred thousand will go for the union.”
Under the plan, record labels would front the union dues to artists by including the extra money in their recording budgets. The artist would then have to pay the label back the recoupable costs, just as they would with any advance when their album is sold. In theory, the deal would provide artists with necessary health care and retirement plan options. “Now you can take your kids to [the doctor] — because we have no insurance, no dental, no nothing,” he said. “It’ll go towards an annuity, it’ll go towards a retirement fund, so now when you’re a rapper and you aren’t making so many records no more, maybe you got a million dollars that built up when you were hot.”
Irv told Sway that he, Suge and Prince even went as far as to meet with the same labor organizers who helped set up the player’s union for Major League Baseball, but shortly after, things went awry. “Baseball, football, all the other forms of entertainment have a union, they have representatives, they have pensions, they have all this other stuff. So he was talking everything right, it was right,” Gotti said. “The Feds came in shortly after we were talking.”
In January 2003, Irv’s Murder Inc. New York offices were raided by federal instigators, and the producer and his brother Chris were later charged with money laundering and faced up to 20 years in prison. The Gotti brothers beat the charges in 2005 , but despite Irv’s claims, there was no documented link to his case and his plans to unionize the music industry.
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