Blackground Records was an American record label found and owned by Jomo and Barry Hankerson. Initially named Blackground Enterprises, the label switched its name to Blackground Entertaiment and later Blackground Records in 2000. It co-operated with a publishing company found by Hankerson, named Black Fountain Music.
|Distributor(s)||In USA: Jive (1994-1996), Atlantic (1996-2000), Virgin (2000-2002), Universal (2002-2012), Reservoir Media Management (2012-2019)|
|Genre||Hip Hop, R&B, Rap|
|Country of origin||United States of America|
Barry Hankerson formed Blackground in 1993, as a result of unsuccessful efforts to sign his niece Babygirl (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 Barry 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).
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.
After Atlantic contract expiration in 2000, Blackground switched over to Virgin. 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 32 million albums worldwide.
In 2003, JoJo was signed to Blackground. JoJo released her first self-titled album JoJo in 2004, went number four on the Billboard 200 and was certified with Platinum. In 2006, she released her second album The High Road, which debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and was certified with Gold. To date, JoJo sold over 7 million records worldwide. Her singles "Leave (Get Out)" produced by Soulshock & Karlin and "Too Little Too Late" produced by Billy Steinberg. Blackground held her in a tight contract, refusing to release new music and tried to silence her as an artist. To this day JoJo has no rights to her old music, and has re-recorded the first two albums and other singles that Blackground has in the vault. Blackground also leaked hundreds of her unfinished music, resulting in her scrapping the songs altogether.
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 within the Hollywood and Highland Center mall. 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 and Soulpower, which premiered on MTV's TRL. The song, which fused synth-pop verses with nu metal guitars on the chorus, failed to chart anywhere but was ranked #98 on Billboard's 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time. The group disbanded after changing their name one final time to Kali Girls when promotion stalled on its unreleased second single "Beach Girl", produced by Static Major weeks before his sudden death.
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 Jeff 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". 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. Despite the positive ruling, the promised release to the streaming servies 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. In the early 2019, Blackground, its music, artists and articles in the news archive section, were removed from Reservoir official website.
Former Blackground artists JoJo, Toni Braxton and Tank have all released albums on Atlantic Records after leaving the label.
*Promotional copies of the debut album were printed, but the album was never released commercially.
|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||33|
|1998||Tim's Bio: Life from da Bassment||Timbaland||-||50|
|2000||Romeo Must Die||Various Artists||1 million||3|
|Force of Nature||Tank||500,000||7|
|Indecent Proposal||Timbaland & Magoo||-||29|
|2002||I Care 4 U||Aaliyah||1 million||3|
|2003||Under Construction, Part II||Timbaland & Magoo||-||50|
|2006||Soundtrack to Your Life||Ashley Parker Angel||-||5|
|The High Road||JoJo||500,000||3|
|2007||Timbaland Presents Shock Value||Timbaland||1 million||5|
|Sex, Love & Pain||Tank||-||2|
|2009||Timbaland Presents Shock Value II||Timbaland||-||36|
- "Billboard", June 22, 1996, p. 4, 14
- "Billboard", March 10, 2001, p. 35
- "Billboard", August 26, 2000, p. 8
- "Billboard", December 9, 2001, p. 97
- "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-08-03.
- Vena, Jocelyn (2014-01-15). "JoJo's New Deal With Atlantic Records Has Fans Shouting 'Hallelujah'". MTV.com. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - March 03, 2014". RIAA. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- "AALIYAH in pictures and photos, There are 190 pictures in this album". Pxdrive.com. Retrieved 2014-03-03.