A Written History
I imagine the concept of the Indie Label has existed as long as music has been marketable. For Hip Hop, as well as other forms of music, the term initially meant there was some outsider of the culture who saw an opportunity. That opportunity may have been genuine interest in helping the culture grow, a chance to cash in on what’s “hot” or perhaps even a combination of the two. From the start of rap records there were Indies such as Enjoy, Tommy Boy, Def Jam and countless others paving the way and giving a platform to the key talents of the time. Some were able to work the system and survive. Most weren’t able to navigate the long-winded road to success and were forced to fold. Once the late 80s/early 90s were upon us the Major Labels had a firm grip on the future of Hip Hop. By the time EPMD had pleaded those in power to “Please Listen To My Demo”, it had already long been the standard for young upcoming Hip Hoppers to develop their chosen craft and get a tape into the hands of that magic A&R who would give them their big break.
Of course, only so few people got the record deals and fame they dreamed of and as a result frustrations began to set in. Similar to how the struggles of the community birthed Hip Hop in the first place, the struggles of the industry gave rise to the other meaning of being Independent...perhaps a more true meaning. The time had come for self-empowerment; the act of putting one’s dreams, passions, and destinies in their own hands. This wasn’t necessarily a new concept. The legends of such artists as Too Short (Oakland), Blade (U.K.), Show & A.G. (Bronx) and many others had already made a name doing just this. However, it is often Wu Tang Clan who is cited as the spark that ultimately inspired in a new standard.
However, before 1993, when Wu Tangs’ breakthrough record, “Protect Your Neck”, planted the seeds for industry evolution, in the Twin Cities the early warnings for the coming of the Rhymesayers had long been in progress. Ant had been learning to project moods into his music. Slug was already placing his heart in his pen. Musab (formerly Beyond) had been communicating the complications as well as joys of everyday life. Brent Sayers bka Siddiq (CEO) was active in various aspects of the culture unknowingly gaining the knowledge of each that would eventually give him a greater understanding of it all since the days of Headshots.
Take one step back and you witness the forming of a crew, now legendary in the Twin Cities, called Headshots. This collection of MCs, DJs, Producers, B Boys, Graf Artists, Promoters, Entrepreneurs and the like were acting purely on blind passion. They were operating on the strength in numbers theory and perhaps without even knowing it they realized it was more than about putting out records & CDs. It isn’t just about “owning your masters” but being in complete control of your artistic futures. Nonetheless, as with most things, with a vast array of personalities and individuals existing in each other’s space too often for too long changes begin to occur. Conflicts arose, natural growth took place, and eventually egos became bruised and soon the volatile contents of the situations resulted in a “Big Bang”... In the aftermath of it all was The Rhymesayers.
With the experience of all of this behind them they moved forward to continue what had been started. They were able to persevere with only talent and a dream that became a successful reality. Rhymesayers, or the Headshots for that matter, weren’t the first Hip Hop movement in the Twin Cities. Since the early 80s there had been a host of artists laying some groundwork to build the scene. However, it was Rhymesayers who were first able to gain significant national and ultimately international attention. With a solidified reputation in their hometown, as well as naturally becoming masters of their chosen crafts, it was time to expose the world to what the Twin Cities had already long knew.
The first official offering was Beyond’s “Comparison” in ‘96. Ants soulful production laced with a slightly grimey feel provided Beyond with the perfect canvas to paint well-crafted and personal words that were a direct result of his surrounding environment. This was shortly followed by Atmosphere’s “Overcast” in ‘97. “Overcast” is now considered a classic in it’s genre of Hip Hop with it’s dark yet melodic beats, courtesy of Ant, complemented by Slug’s balance of braggadocio & self humility all delivered with what was to become his signature touch. This effort accelerated the growth of a seed into a tree. Opportunities soon presented themselves to take the music on the road and it was there that the legacy truly began to take shape. Still as hungry as ever, yet focused and in possession of a great work ethic they hit every town they could. No matter how big or small the crowd they poured their hearts, energy and raw abilities out on stage. The people could relate and as the travels continued the fan base steadily grew and the legend was undeniable; a group of friends from the Twin Cities had established a thriving record label and made an impression on the Hip Hop world. Later branching out to embrace like-minded artists from across the country R.S.E still continues to grow and inspire fans, artists, and aspiring entrepreneurs alike.
Years after it all began, Rhymesayers boasts one of independent Hip Hop’s strongest and most respected rosters in the game. By pushing the boundaries creatively while still maintaining a rigorous touring schedule, significant sales numbers and an ever growing fan base, Rhymesayers Entertainment continues to navigate the long but gratifying road of independent success!