Open main menu

EMPIRE Distribution, Records and Publishing Inc. (marketed as EMPIRE) is an American distribution company and record label founded in 2010 by Ghazi Shami [1] and headquartered in San Francisco, California with offices in New York City, London and Atlanta. It has released albums in various genres but it is predominantly focused on hip hop music. Companies and artists such as Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, SZA), Steel Wool (Anderson Paak, Watsky, Jez Dior), Jazz Anderson, Cody Wolfe, Kane Brown, Funk Volume (Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton), ESGN (Freddie Gibbs), Think It's A Game Entertainment (Rich Homie Quan, YFN Lucci), Paper Route Empire (Young Dolph), Trill Entertainment (Boosie Badazz, Webbie), Last Kings Records (Tyga), Taylor Gang Entertainment (Berner, Chevy Woods), Hustle Gang (T.I., B.o.B, Trae tha Truth), No Limit Forever Records (Master P, Choppa, Romeo Miller, G5-J, Cymphonique, Silkk the Shocker), Nature Sounds (J Dilla, Devin the Dude, Pete Rock), Jamla Records (9th Wonder, Rapsody), Bad Vibes Forever (XXXTentacion) and Mastered Trax (C-Kan), Rich Broke Entertainment (Lil Duval) have partnerships with EMPIRE, with music being distributed across platforms such as iTunes, Google Play,, Deezer, Spotify, SoundCloud and Rdio, along with physical CDs and vinyl being distributed to traditional record stores.

Empire Distribution (Logo).png
FoundedGhazi Shami
Country of originUnited States
LocationSan Francisco, California, U.S.

EMPIRE has supported the debut albums and early singles of a number of early artists, frequently signing young talent. In the Atlanta scene, they were the first label to release Trinidad James, Rich Homie Quan, Migos, Rocko and K Camp. In Los Angeles, they have distributed and/or are still distributing artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Problem, Skeme and Crooked I. They've also been involved in New York with releases from Troy Ave, Styles P, Cam'ron and Busta Rhymes. On the R&B side, they have signed artists such as Eric Bellinger, Jacquees, Jesse Boykins III, Jonn Hart and Lyrica Anderson. EMPIRE has also had several chart topping reggae albums, including reggae artist J Boog's album Backyard Boogie[2] and Shaggy's 2013 release Out of Many, One Music.[3]

A number of albums and singles distributed by EMPIRE have charted on Billboard, including "Taste" by Tyga featuring Offset, "Look at Me" by XXXTentacion, "All the Way Up" by Fat Joe and Remy Ma, "Broccoli" by DRAM, "Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)" by Rich Homie Quan, "Might Be" and "OTW" by DJ Luke Nasty, Malibu by Anderson Paak, Section.80 by Kendrick Lamar, "Gas Pedal" by Sage the Gemini, Phantom and the Ghost by Styles P, "#IWantDat" by Mindless Behavior, Knock Madness by Hopsin, and Stoner's EP by Snoop Dogg.[4]




EMPIRE was founded in 2010 by CEO, Ghazi Shami,[1] a music technology graduate of San Francisco State University and the former Director of Urban Music at INgrooves.[5] In operating the company, Shami was joined by Nima Etminan, an MBA graduate in Media Management from Hamburg Media School. Etminan, co-founder of the hip hop platform,[6] worked to expand the mission and services, and as of 2011 was handling Marketing and A&R. Etminan now serves as Vice President of Operations and A&R.


One of the label's first charting releases was Authenticity by hip hop duo The Foreign Exchange, released on October 12, 2010. It peaked at #145 on the US Billboard 200, and #23 on the US R&B chart. Rapper ScHoolboy Q's album Setbacks, released on January 11, 2011, also charted, reaching #100 on the Billboard 200. Longterm Mentality by Ab-Soul, released the following April, peaked at #32 on the US Billboard Top Heatseekers. In November 2013, Hopsin's Knock Madness album peaked at #76 on the Billboard 200[7] and at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.[8]

Nima Etminan soon signed California hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar to the distribution company, and as of early 2012 EMPIRE began handling distribution for all the projects by Top Dawg Entertainment, including Lamar's Section.80.[6] Released on July 2, 2011, the album reached #113 on the US Billboard 200 and #1 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums.

2012 saw releases by artists such as Slum Village, Trinidad James, Snoop Dogg, and Freddie Gibbs, several of which charted. In 2012 the label helped organize a 2013 tour between Trae tha Truth and J. Stalin.[9] Also in 2013, EMPIRE distributed the album Still Goin In (Reloaded) by Rich Homie Quan, which was named tenth best mixtape of 2013 by Rolling Stone.[10] Recent albums include Phantom and the Ghost by Styles P, released on April 29, 2014. It charted at #74 on US Billboard 200, and #14 on US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

In 2013, EMPIRE established its recording division, with Fairfield, CA native Sage The Gemini being the first signee.[11] Sage's two debut singles "Gas Pedal" and "Red Nose" became nationwide hits, earning him and the label a platinum plaque for "Gas Pedal" and a gold plaque for "Red Nose". Sage's debut album Remember Me was released in March 2014 under EMPIRE Recordings/Republic Records. Other artists on Empire Recordings include Rayven Justice, Jonn Hart, D Lo, Emilio Rojas, Baeza, Dmac, M.I.C.Show Banga, Smoovie Baby and Priceless Da Roc. At 2014's SXSW Festival in Austin, TX, EMPIRE hosted their first official showcase, featuring performances by Slim Thug, Eric Bellinger, Problem, Dorrough Music, Emilio Rojas and the EMPIRE Recordings roster.[12]

In 2015 and 2016 EMPIRE saw tremendous success at radio with Rich Homie Quan’s “Flex (Ooh Ooh Ooh)” charting at #1 on Urban Mainstream Radio, DJ Luke Nasty’s single “Might Be” charting at #5 on Urban Mainstream Radio, Fat Joe & Remy Ma’s hip hop anthem, "All the Way Up" charting at #5 on both Rhythmic and Urban radio charts and Colonel Loud’s “California” charting at #8 on Urban Mainstream radio.

In 2018, it was announced that record producer and label executive L.A. Reid founded a new label Hitco Entertainment, which will be distributed by EMPIRE.[13][14]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Grammy AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2015 "Out of Many, One Music" (Shaggy) Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album Nominated
2016 "Strictly Roots" (Morgan Heritage) Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album Won
2017 "Malibu" (Anderson .Paak) Grammy Award for Best New Artist Nominated
2017 "Malibu" (Anderson .Paak) Best Urban Contemporary Album Nominated
2017 "All The Way Up" (Fat Joe & Remy Ma) Best Rap Performance Nominated
2017 "All The Way Up" (Fat Joe & Remy Ma) Best Rap Song Nominated
2017 "Broccoli" (DRAM) Best Rap/Sung Performance Nominated
2017 "Rose Petals EP" (J Boog) Best Reggae Album Nominated


Notable artists who have released music on EMPIRE:[15]

Selected discographyEdit

Incomplete list of releases for EMPIRE Distribution
Yr Cat Title Artist(s) Details Certifications
2010 ERE Authenticity The Foreign Exchange Oct 12, 2010 #145 on the Billboard 200
#23 US R&B
2011 ERE Setbacks ScHoolboy Q Jan 11, 2011 #100 on the US Billboard 200
2011 ERE Longterm Mentality Ab-Soul April 5, 2011 #32 on the US Billboard Top Heatseekers
#73 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums
2011 ERE Section.80 Kendrick Lamar July 2, 2011 #113 on the US Billboard 200
#1 on the US Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums
2011 ERE Charity Starts At Home Phonte Sep 27, 2011
2011 ERE Element of Surprise P.Watts Oct 25, 2011
2011 ERE In None We Trust Crooked I Nov 17, 2011
2011 ERE Gift Of Gab 2 Rocko Nov 24, 2011
2012 ERE Dirty Slums Slum Village Mar 27, 2012
2012 ERE Stoner's EP Snoop Dogg April 17, 2012 #31 on the US Billboard Independent Albums
#33 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums
2012 ERE Don't Be S.A.F.E. Trinidad James Sep 18, 2012 #103 on the US Billboard 200
#8 on the US Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums
2012 ERE Baby Face Killa Freddie Gibbs Sep 25, 2012
2013 ERE Still Goin In (Reloaded) Rich Homie Quan Feb 8, 2013 Named tenth best mixtape of 2013 by Rolling Stone.[10]
2013 ERE The Year of the Underdogz Young Noble & Gage Gully May 7, 2013
2013 ERE West Coast Gangsta Shit Daz Dillinger and WC June 19, 2013
2013 ERE ESGN (Evil Seeds Grow Naturally) Freddie Gibbs June 20, 2013 #8 on US Billboard Heatseekers Albums[16]
#24 on US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
2013 ERE Cold Turkey Starlito July 2, 2013
2013 ERE108 Apex Predator Crooked I July 30, 2013 #33 on US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[17]
2013 ERE110 3ChordFold Terrace Martin Aug 13, 2013 #43 on US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
#9 on US Billboard Heatseekers Albums
2013 ERE Travis Garland Travis Garland Sep 10, 2013
2013 ERE Gas Pedal EP Sage The Gemini Sep 10, 2013
2013 ERE O.K.E. (Deluxe Edition) The Game Oct 8, 2013 #89 on the US Billboard 200
#19 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums
2013 ERE Knock Madness Hopsin Nov 24, 2013 #1 on US Billboard Heatseekers Albums[18]
#7 on US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
#6 on US Billboard Independent
2014 ERE135 Tortoise and the Crow CD Grouch, Eligh Mar 04, 2014
2014 ERE136 Keep It On the D-Lo D-Lo Apr 01, 2014
2014 ERE139 Phantom and the Ghost Styles P Apr 29, 2014 #74 on US Billboard 200
#14 on US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
#18 on US Billboard Independent
2014 ERE Barrel Brothers Skyzoo and Torae May 27, 2014
2014 ERE141 Venice Anderson .Paak Oct 28, 2014
2015 ERE Strictly Roots Morgan Heritage June 8, 2015 Grammy Award Winning : Best Reggae Album
2015 ERE141 Fuk Wat They Talkin Bout Tyga Aug 24, 2015
2015 ERE141 Shadow of a Doubt Freddie Gibbs Nov 20, 2015
2016 ERE141 Malibu Anderson .Paak Jan 15, 2016
2016 ERE141 King of Memphis Young Dolph Feb 19, 2016 #49 on US Billboard 100
2016 ERE256 Rosecrans DJ Quik & Problem 2016
2017 ERE Acoustic Levitation Devin The Dude Mar 10, 2017
2017 ERE For Your Girl Too SELFISH. May 23, 2017
2017 ERE 17 XXXTentacion Aug 25, 2017 #2 on US Billboard 200
2018 ERE453 Tru LP Lloyd Aug 31, 2018
2018 ERE Dancing Shadows Mario Oct 5, 2018


Notable singles released by EMPIRE

  • 2011
    • Kendrick Lamar – "ADHD"
  • 2012
  • 2013
    • Alexis y Fido" – "Rompe La Cintura"
    • Problem – "Like Whaaat"
    • Rocko – "U.O.E.N.O."
    • Sage The Gemini – "Red Nose"
    • T.I. – "Memories Back Then"
  • 2014
    • Busta Rhymes – "Calm Down" ft. Eminem
    • Rayven Justice – "Hit or Nah"
    • Rich Homie Quan – "Walk Thru"
    • Sage The Gemini – "Gas Pedal"
    • Troy Ave – "About The Money"
  • 2015
    • Alexis y Fido – "Una en un Millon"
    • Colonel Loud – "California" ft. T.I., Young Dolph & Ricco Barrino
    • D.R.A.M. – "Cha Cha"
    • Jermaine Dupri – "WYA" ft. Bow Wow
    • Kane Brown – "Used To Love You Sober"
    • Nef The Pharaoh – "Big Tymin’"
    • P Diddy – "Finna Get Loose" ft. Pharrell
    • Popcaan – "Never Sober"
    • Rich Homie Quan – "Flex" (Ooh Ooh Ooh)
    • Rich Homie Quan – "The Most"
    • Tyga – "Stimulated"
  • 2016
    • D.R.A.M. – "Broccolli" ft. Lil Yachty
    • Fat Joe & Remy Ma – "All The Way Up" ft. French Montana & Jay-Z (Remix)
    • Lloyd – "Tru"
    • Luke Nasty – "Might Be"
    • Luke Nasty – "OTW"
    • Wizkid – "Shabba" ft. Chris Brown, Trey Songz & French Montana
    • Young Dolph – "Get Paid"
  • 2017
    • Sammie – "Coa"
    • Lamont Sincere – "Where It Came From"
    • Eric Bellinger – "Be The Change"
    • Mario – "Let Me Help You"
    • Trinidad James – "Father FiGGA"
    • Lamont Sincere – "Broken"
    • Xai Beats – "Can't Relate" ft. Ellah & Young Gully
    • J-HAZE - "The Body Guard"
  • 2018
  • 2019

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "EMPIRE: The Music Industry's Quiet Giant". HipHopDX.
  2. ^ "J Boog – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  3. ^ Billboard[dead link]
  4. ^ "Top Artists". Empire Distribution. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  5. ^ "Ghazi Shami". Linkedin. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  6. ^ a b "Nima Etminan: The Man Behind DubCNN". 2DBZ. 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  7. ^ "Hopsin – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  8. ^ "Hopsin – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  9. ^ Caples, Garret (December 11, 2012). "YEAR IN MUSIC 2012: Waiting for Four-O". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  10. ^ a b "10 Best Mixtapes of 2013: Rich Homie Quan, 'Still Goin' In Reloaded'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  11. ^ "Bay Area's Sage The Gemini Signs Deal with EMPIRE/Republic Records". 2013-08-22. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  12. ^ "EMPIRE Presents: YNGCA x YNGTX – The Tap Room – Austin, TX on 3/14/2014 – 25 photos, pictures and videos on CrowdAlbum". Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  13. ^ Karp, Hannah. "L.A. Reid's Hitco Ramps Up With 25 Hires and Handful Of New Acts". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  14. ^ Halperin, Shirley (2018-03-22). "L.A. Reid's First Post-Sony Signing Is a Member of Outkast (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  15. ^ "New Artists". Empire Distribution. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  16. ^ "Heatseekers Albums : Jul 06, 2013 | Billboard Chart Archive". Billboard. 2013-07-06. Retrieved 2013-08-27.
  17. ^ "Crooked I – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  18. ^ "Hopsin – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-01-26.

External linksEdit