By: Justin Smith and Melvin Deberry
In 1999 Marlon “Big Cat” Rowe and Mel “Mel Man” Breeden joined forces to launch an independent hip hop label. The Atlanta, GA based record label was to be called Big Cat Records. Over the past decade the company has grown into one of the most successful and well-respected independent hip hop record labels in the industry. In 2005 Billboard magazine deemed Big Cat Records one of the “Top 15 R&B and Hip Hop Labels of the Year”. 
Big Cat Records has put out a number of successful albums. Some of the label’s more noteworthy releases include KHIA’s Nasti Muzik, Street Certified: The Mixtape Vols. 1 & 2, and several albums featuring Big Cat’s most successful artist, Gucci Mane.
Gucci Mane began recording his debut album, Trap House, in 2004. In May of 2005 Big Cat released the album, which eventually peaked at #1 on U.S. Billboard’s Top Heatseekers Chart and #5 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums. Trap House features Gucci Mane’s hit debut single “Icy”. 
At the end of 2006 Big Cat sold Gucci Mane’s contract to Atlantic for $300,000 plus future royalties. Shortly before Atlantic released Back to the Trap House, Big Cat released Trap-A-Thon. Atlantic filed a lawsuit against Big Cat claiming the label violated terms of their buyout agreement. The two labels ended up settling privately. 
Since the release of Trap-A-Thon, Big Cat has put out two more albums featuring Gucci Mane. In September 2008 Big Cat capitalized on headlines surrounding the artist’s incarceration by releasing a greatest hits album titled Hood Classics. Gucci Mane, aka Radric Davis, was sentenced to six months in prison for violating the terms of his probation. The artist was sentenced to 600 hours of community service for assaulting promoter Tyrone Tucker with a pool cue. Davis only completed 25 of the 600 hours of community services, and as a result spent six months in the Fulton County Jail.  
Last month, just three months after Gucci Mane was released from prison, Big Cat released yet another album titled Murder Was the Case. The new album is a collection of songs Gucci Mane recorded back in 2007. Although Gucci Mane refuses to endorse the album, it has been the artist’s highest charting album to date debuting at #23 on the Billboard 200. Gucci Mane has just signed to Warner Bros. Records, and he plans on releasing an “official” album in August.  
Davis is not the only one from Big Cat to serve time. The label’s CEO Marlon Rowe served 14 months in 2006 and 2007 on a gun charge. Since Rowe’s release from prison the label has been working hard on promoting a number of new artists including Freeky Zekey, KHIA, Maceo, Yung Ralph, and several others. 
Big Cat Records does a lot of grassroots marketing. The label recently released a free mix tape promoting Maceo titled Flatline. The company also focuses much of its marketing efforts on internet promotion through email blasts and sites like MySpace and YouTube.
Over the past decade Big Cat has established itself as a prominent player in the world of hip hop. Big Cat Records has managed to successfully compete with both independent and major labels alike. The label is doing very well, and there is currently no end in sight for Big Cat.