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Record Label

Top 10 Empire Record Label Artists

Photograph of the blog post author, Molly Davidson

Molly Davidson


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By Molly Davidson

Who is Empire?

Empire Record Label is a renowned independent record label, distributor and publisher founded in 2010 by music technology graduate Ghazi Shami. Shami notes that his passion for music technology has always ‘run hand in hand’; undoubtedly, this is why Empire Distributions is what it is today.

Empire doesn’t just provide marketing, advertising and record services, but they build relationships and sign deals with retail stores, so an artist can sell CDs or Vinyl. 

Like many brilliant companies, Empire Records started off small. But they’re now globally known for working with big names such as XXXTentacion, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dog, Adam Lambert, Iggy Azalea – and that’s just scraping the surface. To date, Empire Records have been nominated for eight Grammy Awards (between 2015-2017 alone!) and won a Grammy with Morgan Heritage’s ‘Strictly Roots’ for Best Reggae Album.

But how did they get to where they are today? Have they always been so successful? The short answer is no. It takes a lot of work to become an expert in your field. And Rome wasn’t built in a day.

What makes Empire Record Label so successful?

  1. Know your brand

So. First things first. Brand identity. To be a successful label, you have to know your brand. What genre do you fall in? What are your characteristics? Your unique selling point? Where does your expertise lie? 

Empire Record Label initially started publishing work from a variety of artists, each with different genres. But then the label swayed more toward hip-hop – and that’s where the label’s success properly begins. 

  1. Know your audience

Once you have your genre, you have your audience. In Empire’s case, it’s hip-hop artists. The better you know your audience, the better you can target them with your expertise, but also through tailored marketing strategies. An artist with specific needs looking to be signed 🤝 A record label with a strong brand identity. It’s a match made in heaven.

  1. Build relationships

As well as building an amicable rapport with artists, it’s important to connect with people in the business, too. Whether it be social media influencers, retailers, or streaming services – these relationships are what a successful record label is based on, and exactly how it will develop.

Top Empire Record Label Artists

After visiting Empire’s San Fransisco Office, Adrian Spinelli describes the walls as being decorated with ‘Platinum or Gold record plaque[s]’, from Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s ‘All The Way Up’ to Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 album. He writes a great article about how Empire managed to succeed in a city almost totally devoid of major music industry label presence. Bigger cities like New York or L.A. are more common to have the ingredients a talent will need for a record label. 

Empire Records have worked with a diverse range of musicians and artists over the years; some of them are now known internationally. So if the record label doesn’t ring a bell, the artists definitely will. 

  1. Kendrick Lamar

Empire Record Label worked on Lamar’s debut studio album, Section.80. In its first week, the album sold 5,000 copies in the US and even debuted at number 113 on the Us Billboard 200. Within 2 weeks it sold 9,000 copies. The debut was skyrocketing and Lamar’s work was getting well-deserved attention.

  1. 50 Cent

A well-known name. Born in Queens and now one of the biggest names in hip-hop, 50 Cent has gained a lot of success through his consistent music-making and movie roles. Known for his hits ‘Down on Me’, ‘How We Do’ and ‘Disco Inferno’, 50 Cent is still working hard making music.

  1. Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert: the richest artist who has been signed under Empire Records, with a net worth of over thirty million dollars. He began as a singer-songwriter and actor but gained his first bout of fame during his appearance on American Idol. Once he got his name out there, the word was his oyster.

  1. Anderson Paak

Rapper, singer, songwriter, producer and drummer. Empire marketed Paak’s 2014 album Venice and 2016 album Malibu, which received a nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy Awards. He won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance with ‘Bubblin’ and went on to win two more Grammy awards in 2020 for Best R&B album Ventura and for Best R&B Performance for ‘Come Home’. 

  1. Iggy Azalea

Azalea is an Australian rapper, songwriter and model, who, at 16 decided to move to the US to kick-start her music career. Azalea signed a deal with Empire Records Label in 2018. Ghazi Shami, CEO of Empire Records said ‘We’re excited to welcome Iggy to the Empire family. Over the years, I’ve admired Iggy’s artistry, honest and direct relationship with her fans and tenacity as a businesswoman.’ 

Safe to say, Empire certainly played a part in encouraging Azalea’s development as an artist as many people argue that this was the very beginning of Azalea’s Indie career.

  1. XXXTentacion

Ghazi Shami told XXXTentacion that he was a ‘musical phenomenon’. Kendrick Lamar said his music was an expression of ‘Raw thoughts’; even telling people to listen to his music ‘if [they] feel anything’. 

XXXTentacion signed a deal with Empire for his album ‘17’ for – rumour has it – ten million dollars. A nice sum for the artist. Shami told the press that XXXTentacion had already made a significant amount of material for the new album before he passed. 

Like Shami, XXXTentacion started his music-making journey on Soundcloud but leaned more towards homemade lo-fi sounds. Empire helped XXXTentacion produce his music more professionally, in a studio.

  1. Snoop Dog

Snoop Dog is another prominent industry name that Empire has released. Snoop had taken the loud, aggressive vocals of rap and softened them. He brought a new, soft-spoken style to his delivery. And it was a success. He’s worked with big names such as Dr. Dre, had seventeen Grammy Nominations and even sold over thirty-five million albums worldwide. Pretty impressive stuff.

  1. DRAM

DRAM. Well, we’ve heard weirder artist names before now. This one, however, stands for something. It’s an abbreviation, supposedly, of ‘Does Weird Ass Music’. And we dig it. DRAM is an American rapper, singer and record producer. He’s signed to both Atlantic Records and Empire Record Labels and is most well-known for his hits ‘Broccoli’, ‘Caretaker’ and ‘AIGHT’. 

  1. TYGA

TYGA is an American rapper signed under Empire, whose artist name is a backronym for Thank you God always. He’s most famous for his iconic album Careless World: Ride of the Last King, which features big industry names such as Lil Wayne, Drake and Chris Richardson.

  1. Cardi B

This American rapper and songwriter first gained popularity as an influencer on Vine and Instagram. From 2015-2017 she was a regular guest cast member on Love and Hip Hop: New York. Her first studio album Invasion of Privacy (2018) debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 which made her the first and only woman to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album as a solo artist. 

But this isn’t it. Cardi B has a very impressive collection. She has eight Billboard Music Awards, six Guinness World Records, six American Music Awards, fourteen BET Hip Hop Awards and two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year awards, and in 2020, Billboard coined her Woman of the Year. 

Needless to say, Empire has quite an impressive repertoire. Ghazi Shami himself started as an artist, and he knows the industry like the back of his hand. He prides himself on always supporting artists and being there whenever they need him. He’s changing the game for artists. We can already see it happening…


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