Here at The Orchard we work with many exceptional labels across all specialities, countries, cultures and genres — from Jazz to Hip-hop, World to Blues, and so much more. This week, we’re putting a spotlight on the labels we work with that are operated with Black leadership. These independent founders, CEOs, owners, presidents, and directors inspire us every day and continue to shape and influence the music industry.
Learn about each label, follow them and show your support by listening to the incredible music they’ve created and shared with the world.
21ST HAPILOS (JM)
Based in Jamaican and led by President, Kelly Dudley, 21st Hapilos is an independent label and distributor that gives full control and support to local artists including Spice, Jahmiel, Sean Paul and more. Their goal is to secure the legacies of their artists with formal contracts and agreements to clarify ownership.
Follow on Instagram: @hapilos
A father, Veteran of the United States Air Force, and alumni of the Juilliard School, Roney A. Hooks, worked as a musician in the infamous production team from Long Island known as “The Bomb Squad” before founding his own label 26 Records. With a degree in Industrial Organization Psychology, Roney always had a passion for music. 26 Records is an artist-friendly label with a goal to become the #1 indie record company in the US and has released music from G Strong, Grace Parry, Eliz Camacho, RoneStone, and many more.
Follow 26 Records on Instagram: @26recordsusa
ARIWA SOUNDS (UK)
A dub/reggae recording studio and label, Ariwa was founded in 1979 by Neil Fraser also known as the Mad Professor. Ariwa comes from the word “ariwo,” a Yoruba word meaning “communication.” Growing up in Guyana, along the Carribean coastline, the Professor relocated to South London with his family and got his start as a technician before opening his own studio. Additional artists on the Ariwa roster include Macka B, John Mclean, and Sandra Cross.
ALIKOTO MUSIC CONSULTANT (GHANA)
Founded by Sam Kwabena-Wusu Osei, Alikoto Music Consultant is a company dedicated to the growth and advancement of the music sphere in Africa. Alikoto works with artists such as La Meme Gang, Darkovibes, Streetbeatz, Joey B, Patricia Baloge, and many more, to make the most out of the music they own in terms of monetization and reach.
Follow on Instagram: @alikotomusicconsult
AWFUL RECORDS (US)
Far from awful, Father heard a new sound taking root within the Atlanta music scene and sought an alternative route to showcase independent rap. At the forefront of the SoundCloud era, Awful Records sought to fill an opening in the market of alternative rap, bringing to light Father’s own music along with ABRA, Danger Incorporated, Big Baby Scumbag, and Meltycanon.
Follow on Instagram: @awfulrecords
BABYGRANDE / IHIPHOP (US)
With a history of releases by Jean Grae, Raekwon, Jedi Mind Tricks, GZA, Mercy and many more, Chuck Wilson founded Babygrande Records in 2001. With an impressive background across music, TV and film, Wilson has been named executive producer for over 100 titles, co-wrote the film Soul Plane and worked as Director of Business Affairs for BET.
Follow on Instagram: @babygranderecords
BBE [Barely Breaking Even] (UK)
BBE (Barely Breaking Even) gets its name from an iconic disco album by Universal Robot Band. The album title inspired a club night hosted by Peter Adarkwah and Ben Jolly, who decided to share their favorite collections through their own label. In their two plus decades, BBE has released music from J Dilla, Roy Ayers, and Pete Rock, to name a few.
Follow BBE on Instagram: @bbemusic
BIG TOP ENTERTAINMENT (US)
Led by Curtis Johnson (CEO), Jay Johnson (COO) and Bobby Robinson (President), Big Top Entertainment LLC (BTELLC) is pushing the standard for releasing independent music, licensing and song placements. Created to be a stand alone brand in music and film, Big Top Entertainment has earned multiple spots on the Billboard charts, along with placements in film and television. Their increasingly aware “Already On” music series has featured Platinum selling rapper Kevin Gates, singer-songwriter Sha Sha Jones, Grammy-winning writer Steven Russell, Rapper Papoose, Karencitta, as well as many nominated R&B artists from the 80’s and 90’s.
Follow on Instagram: @bte_llc
BLUE ENGINE RECORDS (US)
Blue Engine Records is a label division within Jazz at Lincoln Center, led by GRAMMY-Award winner Wynton Marsalis (Managing and Artistic Director, Founding Member). The mission of Jazz at Lincoln Center is to “to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education, and advocacy.” Their principles are reflective of the genre’s history and improvisational elements that embrace freedom and optimism in opposition to adversity.
Follow on Instagram: @jazzdotorg
BLUKU MUSIC (UK)
Founded and operated by grime artist D Double E (Darren Dixon) and Daniel Dixon, Bluku Music is entirely independent with recent releases including “Lockdown” and “Frontline” from D Double E.
Follow on YouTube: Bluku Music
BOASTY ENTERTAINMENT (UK)
Boasty Entertainment is a brand new label founded by U.K artist Wiley. Wiley is considered a pioneer in the British underground music scene, and has been largely influential in the U.K grime scene. In the early 2000’s Wiley formed Roll Deep, a British grime crew. Boasty Entertainment just began releasing new music on June 5, with it’s first single from Ejay “Top Baller.”
Follow Wiley and stay tuned: @wiley__
BOY BETTER KNOW (UK)
Boy Better Know was founded by Jamie Adenuga (JME), a grime MC and producer alongside Skepta and grime pioneer Wiley. Together the collective continues to grow and release music from the grime scene including JME, Frisco, Shorty and more.
Follow updated from BBK on Instagram: @bbkupdates
COLOGNE AND COGNAC ENTERTAINMENT (US)
Cologne and Cognac Entertainment, led by R&B artist Trav Torch, is a boutique-style, independent record label specializing in R&B and hip-hop music. In 2019, Trav Torch self-released his debut album Bachelor Life through Cologne And Cognac Entertainment.
Follow on Instagram: @cologneandcognacentertainment
DIGITAL JUKEBOX RECORDS (US/UK)
Black-led and controlled label Digital Jukebox Records was founded in the late 90’s by artist and activist, Blak Prophetz. Since its inception, Digital Jukebox has signed many UK acts and also manages celebrities like Dawn Penn, Yvonne Curtis, Fonda Rae and more.
DIGITAL SOUNDBOY (UK)
Digital Soundboy was founded in 2005 by Andre Williams, also known as Shy FX, with a focus on drum’n’bass and dubstep music. In addition to his own mixes, artists such as Breakage, Benny Page ,and Ms Dynamite are featured on the label’s roster.
Follow Shy FX on Instagram: @shyfx
DIP DOUNDOU GUISS (SN)
Dominique Preira, known as DIP DOUNDOU GUISS, is a Hip-Hop artist from Senegal. He recently founded his own label in his name and has been self-releasing music.
Follow on Instagram: @dip_doundouguissofficiel
EASY STAR RECORDS (US)
Founded in 1996, based in New York City, Easy Star Records primarily produces and releases albums in the genres of reggae and dub. Co-owned by CEO, Eric Smith, the label has had multiple albums chart at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Reggae Albums chart, including releases by Lonely Hearts Dub Band, The Green, and Passafire. Additional artists the label has worked previously include Grammy Award nominees Rebelution and Protoje as well as artists outside of the reggae genre such as Citizen Cope, Corey Harris, Janelle Monae, Jason Mraz, Kelly Clarkson, and Yoko Ono.
Follow Easy Star Records on Instagram: @easystarrecords
Born in Nigeria and currently based in Sweden, Emmanuel Okon and his team at Embolab are releasing music from artists around Africa, with many artists from Nigeria and Kenya specifically. Artists Embo Lab represents include Majorboi, Narutto, TeejayMilez, and many more.
Follow Embolab on Instagram: @embolab
Run by Zubin Irani, Jorja Smith, and Uche Uchendu, FAMM is a management company and label which independently releases music from award-winning recording artist Jorja Smith, Maverick Sabre, and more.
Follow Jorja Smith on Instagram: @jorjasmith_
G-MAN ENTERTAINMENT MUSIC GROUP (US)
Founded by CEO, George ‘G-Man’ Waters, G-Man Entertainment Music Group is a record label, artist management and development company with recent releases from Ghetto Ghost, Michael Chad, and Vizion.
Follow G-Man on Instagram: @gmanmusicgroup
Gooise Music Group is a Dutch hip-hop label run by Derek Oduro. Oduro goes by the stage name of Rasskulz and is very well known for his performance on Dutch YouTube channel 101 Barz (289K views). Oduro hopes to inspire the youth with his music encouraging students to stay in school and do their best.
Follow on Instagram: @rasskulz
GMG ENTERTAINMENT (US)
GMG aka Get Money Gang, launched in 2008 by the legendary emcee TWISTA. Home to TWISTA’s independent projects such as Category F5 and most recently, Summer 96, the once World Record holder for fastest rapper has not slowed down.
Follow on Instagram: @twistagmg
The label known as HOODISTRO is the creation of entrepreneur and recording artist Makk Moshe who’s most latest single “Keep it Crakkin” released last year featuring K.E.V.
Follow on Instagram: @hoodistromusic
HOPE MUSIC GROUP (Africa – Cameroon)
Hope Music Group was founded by Philippe Nkouaya in 2012. The label is based out of Cameroon in Central Africa and home to artists such as Maahlox Le Vibeur, Dynastie le tigre, Featurist, and Michael Kiessou.
Follow on Instagram: @hopemgroup
INVESTING BLACK RECORDS (US)
Founded and operated by Harold Tillery also known as 28th & Tivoly, Investing Black Records has recently worked on new releases from Cherae Leri, Bloonz Billionfold, Drea Love and more.
Follow Investing Black Records on Instagram: @28ntivoly
INTEC DIGITAL (UK)
Described as “as one of electronic music’s most forward thinking imprints,” Intec Digital was founded in 1999 by Carl Cox. Since its inception the label has completed over 100 releases featuring many works by Cox, Nicole Moudaber, Filterheadz, Eats Everything, and a variety of electronic compilations.
Follow Intec Digital on Instagram: @intecdigital
JAY-VEE RECORDS (US)
Led by Steve Jordan, Jay-Vee is a joint venture record company offering one-off record and distribution deals to established and emerging artists. Jay-vee Records is judged to have significant potential in the market, leveraging the knowledge, reputation, and personal relationships of its management team – music industry veterans with more than a century of experience.
Follow on Instagram: @jayveerecords
JET MUSIC (NL)
Jet Music is a Dutch hip-hop label run by artist Tur-G. At just 18 years old, Tur-G is the youngest label owner in the Netherlands. His song “Beyonce” has over 13 Million streams on Spotify!
Follow Jet Music on Instagram: @jetmusiq
Janée Bennett also known as Jin Jin, is a songwriter and performer who has written for massive stars such as ITZY, Hailee Steinfeld and Jess Glynne. Founding her own label, Bennett manages and releases music from noteworthy DJ, Blaise.
Follow on Instagram: @jinsingmusic
KK RECORDS (FR)
KK Records was created by French singer/performer Khadyak. She describes her music as “electronic music with elements of hip-hop, afro-dance, and house.” In March of this year, Khadyak released her debut EP Rise & Walk. The Orchard recently interviewed Khadyak about her upbringing as a creative individual and releasing her first EP.
Follow on Instagram: Khadyak
LORD OF THE MICS (UK)
Lord of the Mics (#LOTM) is a series of releases featuring “clashes” by various grime artists. The label has released eight albums featuring the likes of Wiley, Shorty, Jammer, Ten Dixon, SBK, Skinner and “seeks to elevate underground UK street culture and the artists within it.” These releases have been managed by Jahmek ‘Jammer’ Power and Chad ‘Ratty’ Stennett over more than 10 years.
Follow on Instagram: @lordofthemics_
LUNJEAL MUSIC GROUP (US)
Home to a bright light of positivity, gospel singer Jekalyn Carr, Lunjeal is led by Jekalyn and Allen Carr. Jekalyn has been named by Ebony magazine as one of the Top 100 most Influential People in the World. Guided by faith and joy, the family label continues to sign additional artists.
Follow on Twitter: @lunjealmg
MACHINE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP (US)
In 2012 at age 17, G Herbo became an overnight Chicago sensation following a collaboration with Lil Bibby on “Kill That Shit.” Shortly after he was introduced to Mikkey Halsted & Joseph “JB” Bowden who, together, formed Machine Entertainment.
Follow G Herbo: @nolimitherbo
MAJESTIC CASUAL (DE)
With nearly 2 billion views on YouTube, Majestic Casual values “ authenticity and diversity, things that spark our memories and emotions.” Owned by Hans-Peter Nick, artists on the roster include seritheking, Racoon Racoon, starRo and many more.
Subscribe on YouTube: Majestic Casual
MY BLOCK RECORDS
My Block is operated and owned by power couple Erica Campbell and Warryn Campbell. In addition to Erica’s own Billboard charting releases, the label works with many Christian and gospel artists including releases by Toni Estes, Jason McGee & The Choir, and MC Lyte.
Follow Erica Campbell on Instagram: @imericacampbell
NEW CITIZEN RECORDS
Owned and operated by the one and only Mario, known for R&B hits such as “Let Me Love You.” Marios recently partnered with The Orchard to distribute new music including the latest single, “Rewrite It” and “Closer.”
Follow Mario on Instagram: @marioworldwide
NO CHOICE MUSIC (US)
No Choice Music was created in 1995 by artist Sleepy Wonder alongside his best friend and musical partner Shinehead. No Choice Music continues to release new music from Sleepy Wonder while also picking up additional projects like Golia.
Follow on Instagram: @nochoicemusic
ODDCHILD MUSIC (UK)
Founded in 2011 by Marc Williams, OddChild Music embraces creative freedom across all genres of music and got its name from Marc description of Labrinth, whose talents were so vast Marc deemed the artist an “odd child.” To this day the talented and odd repertoire includes Etta Bond, Avelino, and Raf Riley.
Follow OddChild Music on Twitter: @oddchildmusicuk
PARA MUSIC GROUP (US)
Para Music Group has a history releasing hits all over the world, with a growing presence in Trinidad and the West Indies. Founded by CEO, Corey J. Stanford, the one-stop-shop for talented entertainers is based in New York City and has released music alongside Bianca Bonnie, London Savoy, Sharaya J, Breadwinner Kane and Garrett Douglas.
Follow Para Music Group on Instagram: @paramusicgroup
Founded in 2007, Planet 9 is the creation of GRAMMY award-winning recording artist, singer, songwriter, activist and philanthropist, Mýa. In addition to her latest album, TKO (The Knock Out), Mýa has self-released and executive produced upwards of 13 releases.
Follow Mýa/Planet 9 on Instagram: @myaplanet9
Formed in 1986 in Houston, Texas, James Prince founded Rap-A-Lot as a means to help his brother Sir Rap-A-Lot and provide for the overlooked music scene in Texas. The label first saw success with Geto Boys and has since worked with Pimp C, Bun B, Z-Ro, Trae tha Truth, Lil Keke, Slim Thug, Lil FlipNow, and more. In conversation with Forbes, Prince states ““I really had no idea that it would be this fruitful.”
Follow James Prince: @jprincerespect
ROCKSTARR MUSIC GROUP
We all know Trina — An artist, television star and brilliant entrepreneur. Therefore it’s no surprise the Trina has her own label Rockstar Music Group, featuring her own releases as well as up and coming artists. Listen to Trina’s recent self-released album The One.
Follow Rockstarr Music Group on Instagram: @rockstarrmusicgroup1
RuCo is the creation of the artist, actor, model, radio and TV personality, host and creator of RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul. A household name, RuPaul continues to release upbeat pop anthems including “American” and “Realness.”
Follow RuPaul on Instagram: @rupaulofficial
RUTHLESS RECORDS (US)
Originally co-founded by Eazy-E, the late rapper’s wife, Tomica Woods-Wright has taken lead as President/CEO of Ruthless Records. The label has released music from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Eazy-E, Hopsin, and Stevie Stone. Tomica continues to sign artists whose goals parallel that of the label’s drive for growth and sustainability.
Learn more: here
In 2018, Managing Director and 12-year employee, Fred Jude, became the majority shareholder of Snapper Music. Snapper is known for talent including W.A.S.P. , TesseracT, Katatonia, Candlemass, Opeth and more.
Learn more about Snapper: website
SPENT SHELL (UK)
Founded and managed by artists Flowdan, Spent Shell continues to release works from Flowdan as well as Ruby K, YGG, PK and more.
Follow on Instagram: @spentshellmusic
STATION HOUSE RECORDINGS (US)
A label arm of Strong Management, Station House Recordings along with Strong was co-founded by band manager Vaughn Lewis. The prominent management company has represented major names in metal including Killswitch Engage, Memphis May Fire and As I Lay Dying.
Follow on Instagram: @strong_mgmt
STATUS RECORDS (US)
Founded in 2018, the Hip-Hop and R&B label has roots in both NYC and Atlanta. Founded by Darryl “Profit” Kornegay and Erin Larsen, the pair provide a mix of industry expertise and creative innovation. Status is multifaceted working alongside producers, writers, as well as artists; currently which include soWAYV, Olah Only, VII$N, and Noori Belai.
Follow on Instagram: @statusthelabel
STRIKER RECORDINGS (NL)
Follow on Instagram: @wearestrikernl
TILLYMANN ENTERTAINMENT (US)
“The home of David and Tamela Mann,” Tillymann Music Group was founded by the Grammy-winning Gospel artist and her partner; comedian, screenwriter and director, David Mann. Together they have made appearances across film, TV, stage and radio and even wrote a book “Us Against The World.” This past year TillyMann earned the 6th spot on Billboard’s Top Gospel Labels.
Follow on Instagram: @davidandtamela
TOP BOY ENTERTAINMENT (NG)
Nigerian musical group DRB Lasgidi have had an incredible influence on the youth culture (sometimes referred to as the Alté scene) of Lagos since the early 2000’s. DRB members Teezee and Boj first coined the term ‘Alté’ back on their 2014 track “Paper” — “The ladies like me because I’m an Alté guy.” In addition to being pioneers on the Lagos Alté scene, DRB Lasgidi also operate their own independent label Top Boy Entertainment out of Nigeria.
Follow on Instagram: @drblasgidi
TRAP HOUSE (FR)
Trap House is an independent record label created by French rapper Le Juiice. Le Juiice is a rising artist within the French music scene, and with her honest lyrics and unstoppable flow, she continues to break barriers in the rap and music world.
Follow on instagram: Le Juiice
TTM NIC3 ENT (US)
Founded by tvlktomenice, TTM NIC3 Ent works closely with artist Tragic City Baby and Lia Lanez. Listen to the new track “Designer” and follow @tragiccitybaby and stay tuned for more music, coming soon.
Follow on Instagram: @ttmnic3ent
UNION IV (UK)
Founder & CEO, Kerwin Alabi “is a maverick music executive with dynamic industry experience and knowledge combined with an innovative business background in Artists and Repertoire, product and talent development.” Union IV is an entertainment collective which uses technology to provide full autonomy to artists, brands and more. Union IV is the label behind legendary UK rapper IAMDDB.
Follow Union IV on Instagram: @unionivmusic
Founded by Picasso, T.K Kimbro and Doc, the managers/entrepreneurs who discovered and developed Shoreline Mafia, Maxo Kream, 03Greedo and Drakeo The Ruler, the team have launched their own label, UPANDON1, through The Orchard with an initial roster of Doley Bernays, Johnny Pe, 1TakeJay, Slumlord Trill.
Follow on Instagram: @up_and_on_1
UPPERROOM RECORDS (UK)
Created by John Boyega to showcase African artists and soundtracks for upcoming films, UPPERRROOM is led by Yara Shaika and Eddie Smith and is best known for talent such as Ego Ella May, Jamilah Barry, and Midnight Phunk.
Follow on Twitter: @upperroom_rec
URBAN TRACKS RECORDS (US)
Rodney K Jackson, a.k.a. R.K. Jackson, is a music producer, composer, remixer, engineer and founder of Urban Tracks Records. Jackson produced and co-wrote Cece Peniston’s Billboard Top 40 hit “Finally” along with the album of the same title. Jackson also played keyboards on Madonna’s remix of “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” Urban Tracks Record’s releases include Pop, Dance, House, and Soul/R&B.
Follow on Instagram: @heatcityrecords
WAB NATION ENTERTAIMENT (US)
Wab Nation Records was founded in 1991 by Warren Allen Brooks and Anthony Lee Friesen (Sirmusicmogul AKA Prince Anthony). In 2014, the team expanded their company into Wab Nation Entertainment, providing worldwide distribution for artists including Uptown Crew, Prince Anthony, Splash Party, No One Else, and more.
Follow on Facebook: Wab Nation Entertainment
Founded by Antz & Abdi, WeAreBLK is an entertainment network and label centered on London culture with releases from Niko B, J Fado, Jordan, Cadet, and Gino J to name a few.
Follow on Instagram: @weareblkofficial
Weirdo Workshop is the brainchild of Louis York, the musical duo composed of Claude Kelly & Chuck Harmony. “Original Composers for the 21st Century,” Louis York are always creating artistic experiences that challenge the convention. The multi-grammy nominated pair have produced throughout the pop and R&B industry for artists such as Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Bruno Mars and recently wrote and produced for another artist feature on this list, Mýa.
Follow Louis York on Instagram: @louisyorkmusic
Owned and run by The Orchard’s Lamar Leggard, WhatevaOK was established in 2009. Artists on the roster including releases by Consequence & Lupe Fiasco, Kid Frost, Skip Martin, Mickie James, Bebe Zahara Bennett, Jodeci, Alandon, and more.
Follow on Facebook: WhatevaOK
WYLD PYTCH REKORDS (UK)
Wyld Pytch began as a small independent record store. Now, paired with 51 Lex Records and led by Managing Director, Digger Elias, Wyld Pytch is “one of Africa’s largest content distributors” and home to music from Olamide, Mercy Ken, and more.
Listen on YouTube: Wyld Pytch Rekords
ZON & ROGEN (FR)
Founded by French singer/ rapper Alvin Chris, Alvin talks about how he thinks as a music business owner: “Through my music, I try to bring a positive experience to the people who listen to me. I think that creation of any kind is the only form of freedom that we all still have equal access to. The goal of Zon & Rogen is to share our passion with the world, and maybe inspire other young people to do the same.”
Follow on Instagram: Alvin Chris
ZWARE JONGENZ (NL)
Zware Jongenz is a Dutch hip-hop label run by Aiky Girigorie. Aiky grew up in the south of Holland, and founded Zware Jongenz to help provide young rappers the opportunity to follow their dreams as he once did. Aiky is very involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, and encourages his artist to speak message of their truth, such as the ZJ artist Miggs de Bruijn, who raps about how we shouldn’t profile people based on race.
Follow on Instagram: @aikyzj