Tommy Boy Records

by: Stephen Grand

Tom Silverman founded Tommy Boy Records (now Tommy Boy Entertainment, LLC) back in 1981, which is an indie label noted for contributing to the the development of Hip Hop and Dance Music.  In 1978, Tom borrowed some money from his parents and started Dance Music Report magazine with a couple of his friends.  This magazine ran from 1978-1992 and was released biweekly and oriented toward nightclub and radio DJs in the dance music industry, as well as reported on local music from different regions.  Tommy Boy Records would later emerge from Dance Music Report.

Tommy Boy begins in 1981 and in 1985, Warner Bros. Records buys 50% of the label.  Warner would purchase the remaining 50% in 1990 and make Tom Silverman the Vice President of Warner.  During this time, Tommy Boy would jump start the careers of people who would later greatly influence the Hip Hop and Dance movement.

De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, and the Digital Underground signed in 1987, and Coolio in 1994.  After great success with the mega-hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” , Coolio would be dropped in 2001.  RZA, or as most know, Rakeem would join the label in the late 80s and released albums in the early 90s.  Rakeem would soon be a prominent figure in the Hip Hop community, becoming the leader of Wu-Tang Clan.  He has produced most of Wu-Tang’s albums as well as many Wu-Tang solo and affiliate projects.  Rap duo Capone-N-Noreaga would sign in 1996 and go platinum.  But Capone was in and out of jail on gun charges, so Tommy Boy dropped the act.  Since then, Noreaga has signed with Def Jam under the name NORE (N.O.R.E.) because Tommy Boy still owned the rights to the name “Noreaga.”  Tommy Boy can also be credited to the jump start of Everlast’s career.  Right after signing in 1992, Everlast released a debut album that would go multi-platinum.  The Afrika Bambaataa also contributed to the Hip Hop movement by working under Tommy Boy in 1986, 1992, and in 2004-05.

During this time, Warner allowed Tommy Boy to use independent distribution as they saw fit and even gave the option to put artists through major-label channels through Warner Bros.  and Reprise Records.  This gave indie artists the opportunity to develop and gain exposure through help of the majors, yet remain independent.

In 1995, Tom buys back 50% of Tommy Boy due to the Warner controversy over the censorship of Hip Hop acts.  And in 1998, he would launch Tommy Boy Black Label and Silver Label.  Tommy Boy Silver Label specialized in Dance Music while the Black label specialized in underground Hip Hop.  Tom would eventually buy the remaining 50% in 2002.  He has been honored by many organizations and received countless recognition for his influence, and contribution to the development of Hip Hop.  Silverman honored with the Independent Spirit Award

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