Los Signs With Bad Boy Records. . .Again
On Monday afternoon, MTV News blew up the rap blogosphere with some news regarding up-and-coming Baltimore rapper Los and legendary hip-hop label Bad Boy Records. “We have a new artist named Los that we signed,” Sean “Diddy” Combs told MTV cameras in an interview taped last week. It was an interesting choice of words from the mogul, since this is actually the third time Los and Bad Boy have crossed paths over the course of nearly 10 years. In 2002, the Baltimore rapper, then fresh out of high school, auditioned for the Bad Boy rap group being assembled on the MTV series Making the Band 2. But when Diddy picked Los to be a member of Da Band, the rapper balked and opted out of both the group and the release forms to appear on the show. Three years later, well after Da Band released one forgettable album and disbanded, Los signed on with Bad Boy as a solo artist. But by 2008, his time on the label had proven fruitless, and he was cut loose as a free agent, where he became a monster on the mixtape circuit, culminating with December’s release of the DJ Drama-hosted The Crown Ain’t Safe and his nomination for XXL’s annual Freshmen 10 issue.
The news of Los returning to Bad Boy, then, is both exciting and surprising, and perhaps should be greeted with some healthy skepticism. After all, Los leaving Bad Boy four years ago was arguably the best thing that ever happened to his career; it was only after he went independent that he began giving away tons of mixtapes and freestyles online and building the estimable fan base he has today. And though Bad Boy has been one of the most famous brand names in urban music for nearly two decades, it’s had a shaky history with rappers since the late ’90s, after it experienced the tragic death of its marquee star, Notorious B.I.G. Soon after, Craig Mack disappeared, the LOX defected, Ma$e retired, the then Puff Daddy became more of a professional celebrity than a rap star, Shyne went to jail, and the label was kept afloat mainly by R&B acts like 112, Faith Evans, Carl Thomas, and Cassie.
Around the time of Los’ initial 2005 signing, Bad Boy’s hip-hop roster was enjoying a resurgence with the success of southern acts like Yung Joc, Boyz N Da Hood, and 8Ball and MJG. Since then, however, things have been relatively quiet; Bad Boy released two critically acclaimed R&B albums, by Janelle Monae and Diddy-Dirty Money, in 2010, but last year marked the first in the label’s history that it didn’t drop a single full-length. Last year was a rebuilding year, as Diddy started signing buzzed-about new rappers like French Montana and Machine Gun Kelly who, along with the label’s longtime also-ran Red Café, are set to drop debuts in 2012. So Los is not only returning to Bad Boy with the leverage of an actual following, but is now part of a roster that he fits in with a little better, one that’s set to actually make some noise this year. In hip-hop, getting “signed” is often looked at as a goal in and of itself, the reward for a rapper’s hard work rather than the opportunity to work even harder for a more concrete type of success. But we know better than that, and more importantly, so does Los.