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What Hip Hop taught me about "Contracts"

By: Sabrina Clarke

· Media,Entrepreneurship,Lateral Theory

It is no secret the music industry is exploitative, and Hip Hop is no exception to that rule. As with most business dealings, whether an artist is independent or signed with a label, a contract is required. The main lessons I have learnt about contracts in Hip Hop, is first know what everything means. Second, don't hire a lawyer recommended or linked.

What do I mean by recommended or linked?

We all utilise and love professional recommendations for those who are highly effective at their skill. However, relationships can overshadow professional obligations and can be vindictive. As in Hip Hop, lawyers recommended by business partners for the deal you both are engaged in is a hard "no". In some cases, lawyers linked to people "you know" are a "no" unless they are vetted and you have seen for yourself their ability to maintain professional and relational ethics and integrity.

Let's look at a case study.

Ice Cube refused to sign a contract provided by "NWA's Lawyer", who was recommended and linked to their label. Cube got his own lawyer, who read the contract and confirmed what Cube suspected, it was trash; he didn't sign it and subsequently left the group. What followed was one of the greatest Hip Hop diss tracks of all time, "No Vaseline".

Through the years, there has rightfully been a lot of conversation about Jerry Heller's influence on Eazy-E. In addition to Heller, a significant contributing factor that is sparingly discussed about NWA's downfall is the role of their shady lawyer and trash contract.

Read what's in your contract, do your own research and find your own lawyer whose primary interest is your business affairs.

Ps. I am celebrating Hip Hop's 50th with my series in July, "What Hip Hop taught me about..."