People may not realize what all goes on behind the scenes to make music reach the masses. This is the spot where you’ll see who’s who in the Industry. The people behind the scenes who makes things happen. This will be the section where we feature professionals whom we think deserve the credit and recognition for their hard work that they contribute to this business we call the RAP INDUSTRY..
Each month we’ll bring to you a new professional along with their background.
THIS MONTH’S FEATURE IS: RUDY ACOSTA – The Legion Records (Founder and CEO)
Acosta’s gearing up for the Legion’s rebirth. He has a new major-label partner, a raft of fresh signings,
a long list of upcoming releases, and all the confidence you could want in a hip-hop impresario — and then some.
“We’re about to shock people with all the things we have coming up,” he says. “Trust me, we’re getting ready to dominate.”
A 30-year-old real-estate developer and Pilsen native, Acosta founded the Legion in late 2003. His first signing was Do or Die, who’d scored a pair of gold records in the late 90s. The trio was in a slump when Acosta stepped in, but in the summer of 2004 it had a hit single with “Higher,” which featured a cameo by Kanye West. Major labels soon started sniffing around.
“We had the Kanye West record, we had 1,300 spins a week, we had it in video rotation, we had magazine ads, strong marketing and promotion,” Acosta says. “[Warner Music Group] saw that there was a label out here that knew what they were doing and were making a strong buzz on the streets. There was an opportunity for them to make money — that’s what they’re in the business of. And the way I do things, and with the quality I demand, there was no way I was gonna do business with anybody but a major. Lyor Cohen [Warner Music Group’s head of recorded music in the U.S.] put the best deal on the table, and I took it.”
In January 2005 Warner announced that it had signed the Legion to a multiyear U.S. distribution deal through Atlantic Records, an agreement that also gave Acosta access to Atlantic’s marketing and promotional muscle.
The press release for the announcement closed with Acosta’s declaration of his pugnacious personal motto, which leaped out from the paragraphs of dry corporatespeak: “I specialize in rolling with the punches and I make sure it ends with mine.”
Do or Die’s album came out a month later, but despite guest spots by West, R. Kelly, and Twista and assists from top-shelf producers like Scott Storch and DJ Quik, D.O.D. struggled, stalling at 40 on Billboard’s album chart with no hits. Acosta blames the disc’s sluggish sales on the label’s inability to keep the disc on the shelves. “We had a bad problem with [Atlantic] undershipping the record,” he says. “We ended up having six different major retailers in Chicago alone that sold out of DOD’s record the first day, and first-week sales are everything. People are only going to go to one store, maybe two stores if you’re lucky. But they’re not going to go to several different places if they can’t find it. They’ll just buy something else.”
Acosta went on a small signing spree, locking up local MCs like former Motown artist Cap-1, north-side hardcore rapper Payroll, and Speedknot Mobstaz vet and Twista collaborator Turtle Banxx. He also sent his roster into the studio for much of 2005 and early 2006, stockpiling a trove of material that included solo discs by Do or Die’s Belo and Hammond MC Ric Jilla. For production duties Acosta recruited local talents like Mush Millions, No ID, Crucial Conflict’s Wildstyle, and Legion mainstay the Legendary Traxster, as well as Texas-based Mr. Lee and Mississippi crew the Drum Squad.
But though the label was busy in the studio, albums from the Legion’s new artists weren’t arriving in stores. Acosta says he held off because he was concerned that any new Legion product would suffer the same distribution woes as D.O.D. Frustrated, he headed to New York in the spring to sit down with Warner management and terminate their agreement. “I went to New York to get my release papers,” he says. “I wanted my release from Warner Brothers. I was fed up with the way the whole business was going with Warner. And so I met with them and I dropped a bunch of product on the table — all the records we’d been working on. When they saw that, they were like, ‘Whoa, let’s really try and rethink this. How can we make this work for you so we can stay in business with each other?'”
In response, Warner offered a new arrangement in which the Legion would join forces with Asylum Records, which unlike Atlantic is exclusively dedicated to working with indie hip-hop labels. Asylum has been operating as an incubator since 2004, and it’s struck up successful partnerships with labels like Swishahouse, Rap-a-Lot, and Dee Money; in the past year it’s enjoyed a string of chart successes, including Mike Jones’s Who Is Mike Jones?, Webbie’s Savage Life, Paul Wall’s The Peoples Champ, Bun B’s Trill, and D4L’s Down for Life.
After the meeting in New York, Acosta and Warner renegotiated, and the Legion moved from Atlantic to Asylum. “Ultimately we cut a better deal, and I feel ten times more confident with the way the business is structured,” Acosta says. “I feel more protected now.”
“The main thing is we’re gonna be consistent with our releases,” Acosta says. “We’re gonna come out strong and not settle down. We’re not gonna cause a buzz and then have the buzz go down again.”
The Legion Records, the hottest independent record company in the Midwest, has 19 albums gearing up for release, including blockbuster projects from Do Or Die’s Belo, Ric Jilla, Cap.1, Turtle Banxx, Payroll, The Legendary Traxster and Do Or Die, all followed by Chopped & Screwed Albums produced by Paul Wall.
“We have Chicago, the Midwest and the industry’s All-Star rap roster,” says Rudy Acosta, owner and visionary of The Legion Records. “With The Legion’s power house marketing and promotion tactics, as well as the best production in the game, The Legion is destined to be the newest, hottest, street hip-hop record label in the industry.”
Acosta is determined to fill the void in true street records, ones that feature the next level of production. He’s building an empire that will take Chicago’s hometown sound and artists to a national level by delivering the kind of hard-core rap that the game is missing.
“We know how to bob and weave without getting our legs cut from underneath us,” says Rudy. “We have much more experience and we know how to maneuver and to promote our music in the streets harder & we will not put our future in radio’s hands. There are many outlets to get our music promoted. With us utilizing more aggressive promotion approaches that independents must use to stay competitive in the industry such as strong publicity, online press, video promotion, street teams, promo tours, mix show, & radio as well as our own Midwest “Belly Of The Beast Tour”, we’ll be hitting the streets really hard where we cant be stopped.”
The Legion’s first release will be the debut album from standout Do Or Die member Belo. The Truth features the hit single “So Exclusive,” as well as production from fellow The Legion artist The Legendary Traxster (Mariah Carey, Twista, Cam’ron). Other forthcoming The Legion releases include the national debut album from Ric Jilla. Ricdiculous is highly anticipated throughout the Midwest and will put the Pride Of Gary, Indiana on rap’s national map. Cap.1 will make his The Legion debut in 2006 with Swagger Music, one of the flashiest albums a Chicago rapper has ever recorded. The Legion’s other artists include former Twista affiliate Turtle Banxx, hard-core gangster rapper Payroll and red-hot reggaeton artist Dwise.