Blackground Records

Blackground Records was an American record label founded and owned by Jomo and Barry Hankerson. Initially named Blackground Enterprises, the label switched its name to Blackground Entertainment and later Blackground Records in 2000. It co-operated with a publishing company founded by Hankerson, named Black Fountain Music.

Blackground Records.png
Founded1993 (1993)
FounderBarry Hankerson
Jomo Hankerson
Distributor(s)In USA: Jive (1994-1996), Atlantic (1996-2000), Virgin (2000-2002), Universal (2002-2012), Reservoir Media Management (2012-2019)
GenreHip Hop, R&B, Rap
Country of originUnited States of America


Barry Hankerson formed Blackground in 1993, as a result of unsuccessful efforts to sign his niece Aaliyah to big record labels. Using his connection with singer R. Kelly, who he managed at the time, Hankerson obtained a contract with Jive to distribute the release of Aaliyah's debut album Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.

After Aaliyah and R. Kelly parted ways, Jive and Blackground agreed to terminate their contract in 1996 and Hankerson signed a lucrative distribution deal with Craig Kallman at Atlantic. Months later Aaliyah released her second studio LP, One in a Million, and Blackground signed two singing groups, Both Ends and Kashmere (their music was never released).[1]

After positive reviews for Aaliyah's album, her producer Timbaland got his own artist deal with Blackground and in 1997 released Welcome to Our World, a collaboration album with rapper Magoo, as well as his solo album Tim's Bio: Life from da Bassment in 1998. Aaliyah's backup singer Tank also got his contract with Blackground in 1998.[2]

After Atlantic contract expiration in 2000, Blackground switched over to Virgin.[3] In 2001, after the death of Aaliyah, her self-titled and final album Aaliyah rose to #1 on the Billboard 200 becoming Blackground's first number one and best-selling album. Aaliyah sold over 13 million albums worldwide.

Aaliyah's plane crash in August 2001 resulted in Blackground and Virgin parting their ways few weeks later. A new distribution deal was signed with Universal Records in December 2001.[4]

In 2003, JoJo was signed to Blackground. JoJo released her first self-titled album JoJo in 2004, which went to number four on the Billboard 200 and was Platinum certified by the RIAA. In 2006, she released her second album The High Road, which debuted at number three on the album chart and was certified Gold. To date, JoJo sold over 7 million records worldwide. Her single "Leave (Get Out)" was produced by Soulshock & Karlin and "Too Little Too Late" by Billy Steinberg.

In 2006, Blackground signed Kasey Butler, Brianna Cara, Cristina Ballestero and Jamie Spradley who were all taking classes at the Hollywood Pop Academy, an extension of Musicians Institute located inside the Hollywood and Highland Center. The latter three girls formed the teen dance-pop group Willow before changing their name to L.A.X. Gurlz. Its only release was the single and video "Forget You", written and produced by Alex Cantrall, which premiered on MTV's TRLs "First Look" in March 2007 with an introduction by Chris Rock. It was ranked #98 on Billboard's 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[5]

In 2010, Blackground partnered with former Universal Motown Senior Vice President of Promotion Gary Marella to distribute his new label Roma Records. Their first signing was Jordy Towers, formerly known as Optimus and discovered by Charlie Clouser of Nine Inch Nails. He is now in the band SomeKindaWonderful. Later this year, Blackground signed a new artist Crystal Nicole better known as Cri$tyle, who began her career as a songwriter and has written songs for Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Keke Palmer and many more. In June 2011, Crystal released her first single "Pinch Me", which was produced by Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox. Other artists who were signed to the label but did not release anything included The Voice Season 4 contestant J. Lewis, Natalie La Rose as part of the group Amsterdam, and Howard Weitzman's daughter Brianna Tatiana Chahine.

In 2012, Blackground lost its distribution deal with Universal's label Interscope Records and in July that year, signed new contract with Reservoir Media Management. After speaking with Reservoir's CEO, Rell Lafargue, Billboard reported that "as part of the deal, Reservoir, (...), will market Aaliyah's music to television and film, as well as release songs to online services like iTunes and Spotify where much of her music cannot be currently found. Additionally, the company will assist with licensing of songs for covers and sampling".[6] These plans were put on hold after another company, Craze Productions claimed the rights to distribution of the late artist's music. On March 20, 2013, Reservoir filled a lawsuit against Craze and in September 2015, the jury agreed that Craze illegally distributed music through online services and that the rightful distributor of Blackground Records' catalog is Reservoir Media Management.[7] Despite the positive ruling, the promised release to streaming services did not happen. In December 2016, Complex wrote a detailed article on Blackground, Barry Hankerson and his role in the absence of Aaliyah's music.[8] In early 2019, Blackground, its music, artists, and articles in the news archive section were removed from Reservoir’s official website.

The latest studio album release from the label was Timbaland's Shock Value II in 2009, with singles: "Morning After Dark", "Say Something", "Carry Out" and "If We Ever Meet Again".

Former Blackground artists JoJo, Toni Braxton and Tank have all released albums on Atlantic Records after leaving the label.



Year Title Artist US Sales (based on RIAA certifications)
Billboard 200
1994 Age Ain't Nothing but a Number Aaliyah 2 million 18
1996 One in a Million Aaliyah 2 million 18
1997 Welcome to Our World Timbaland & Magoo 1 million[10] 33
1998 Tim's Bio: Life from da Bassment Timbaland - 50
2000 Romeo Must Die Various Artists 1 million 3
2001 Aaliyah Aaliyah 2 million 1
Force of Nature Tank 500,000[10][11] 7
Indecent Proposal Timbaland & Magoo - 29
2002 I Care 4 U Aaliyah 1 million 3
One Man Tank - 20
2003 Under Construction, Part II Timbaland & Magoo - 50
2004 JoJo JoJo 1 million[10] 4
2005 Libra Toni Braxton 500,000[10] 4
Ultimate Aaliyah Aaliyah -* -
2006 Soundtrack to Your Life Ashley Parker Angel - 5
The High Road JoJo 500,000[10] 3
2007 Timbaland Presents Shock Value Timbaland 1 million[10] 5
Sex, Love & Pain Tank - 2
2009 Timbaland Presents Shock Value II Timbaland - 36

*not released in USA


  1. ^ "Billboard", June 22, 1996, p. 4, 14
  2. ^ "Billboard", March 10, 2001, p. 35
  3. ^ "Billboard", August 26, 2000, p. 8
  4. ^ "Billboard", December 9, 2001, p. 97
  5. ^ "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-08-03.
  6. ^ "Blackground Clarifies Rumors of Aaliyah's Posthumous Album". Billboard.
  7. ^ "Reservoir Media Management Inc. v. Craze Productions et al, No. 1:2013cv01847 - Document 78 (S.D.N.Y. 2015)". Justia Law.
  8. ^ "The Inexplicable Online Absence of Aaliyah's Best Music". Complex.
  9. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (2014-01-15). "JoJo's New Deal With Atlantic Records Has Fans Shouting 'Hallelujah'". Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - March 03, 2014". RIAA. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  11. ^ "AALIYAH in pictures and photos, There are 190 pictures in this album". Retrieved 2014-03-03.