Tommy Boy Records

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Tommy Boy Entertainment
Tommy Boy Logo.jpg
Founded1981; 39 years ago (1981)
FounderTom Silverman
Country of originUnited States
LocationNew York City, New York, U.S.

Tommy Boy Entertainment is an American independent[1][2] record label and multimedia brand founded in 1981 by Tom Silverman. The label is credited with launching the music careers of Queen Latifah, Afrika Bambaataa, Digital Underground, De La Soul, House of Pain, Naughty By Nature, and Force MDs.[3] Tommy Boy is also credited with introducing genres such as EDM, Latin freestyle, and Latin hip hop to mainstream audiences in America.[4]


Tom Silverman created Tommy Boy Music in 1981 in his New York City apartment with a $5,000 loan from his parents. The label was an outgrowth of Silverman's Dance Music Report bi-weekly publication, which spanned 14 years, beginning in September 1978.[5]

1985–2002: Partnership with Warner Bros. Records[edit]

In 1985, Warner Bros. Records entered into a partnership with Tommy Boy and acquired half of the label, and it allowed the label to use independent distribution as it saw fit, with the option to distribute artists through the major-label channel through Warner Bros. Records or sister label Reprise Records.[6]

A white female executive named Monica Lynch was president of the label in 1993, who was one of the first employees hired by Tom Silverman.[7][8] As A&R for the label she signed and managed Queen Latifah, De La Soul, and host of hip hop musicians.

Even though the male–female power struggle in hip hop music has always been present, Lynch and her peers said that the early days of hip hop were magical times for women looking to make it in the record business. Julie Greenwald, Sylvia Robinson, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Mona Scott, and Claudine Joseph also made their mark on different areas of hip-hop. Greenwald and Robinson, like Lynch, became powerful music executives. For more than 25 years, DJ Jazzy Joyce has been one of the most visible and in-demand female turntablists. And Scott and Joseph have managed the careers of some of the biggest names in hip-hop. “Hip-hop provided a tremendous amount of opportunities for women, which might seem antithetical because of the association that many people have with misogyny and hip-hop,” says Lynch. “There has been a lot of attention paid to misogynist lyrics in hip-hop over the years, and I’m not going to defend or damn it. I think it exists, but some of the people who helped put those records out were women.”[8]

According to Jeff "Chairman" Mao, a key DJ in 1990s underground hip-hop and online hip-hop radio host, Monica Lynch managed the careers of Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, Stetsasonic, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Naughty by Nature among others.[9]

The label had several joint ventures in the mid 1990s including Penalty Recordings,[10] Stepsun,[11] Beyond,[12] and Ignition.[13] The label also had deals with labels such as Timber Records and distribution deals with Outcaste Records[14] and 75 Ark,[15] while also giving independent distribution to sister imprints that already had label deals with WEA, including American Recordings’ Ill Labels, Mute Records’ NovaMute, and Cold Chillin Records’ Livin’ Large.[16]

In 1997, Tommy Boy launched an imprint label called Upaya to pursue the growing interest in spirituality and spiritual/world music.[17][18] The imprint Tommy Boy Gospel was launched in 1998 under the direction of Max Seigel and Marvie Wright.[19] That same year, the imprints Tommy Boy Black Label,[20] which specialized in underground hip hop music, and Tommy Boy Silver Label,[21] which specialized in dance music, were founded.

In 2001, while still affiliated with Warner Music, Tommy Boy Records founder Tom Silverman formed Tommy Boy Films, a TV and film division with Kung Faux creator and Dubtitled Entertainment founder, Michael "Mic" Neumann.[22][23]

2002–2017: Independent again[edit]

In 2002, Tommy Boy Records became independent again after it ultimately ended its joint venture with Warner Bros. Records, which wanted greater unit sales, and the master tapes released until that time became property of Warner Music, while the Tommy Boy trademark remained with Tom Silverman.[24] The then-current Tommy Boy music artists were shopped to the various WEA labels, the Tommy Boy television and film divisions were merged with the Tommy Boy music division, and the resulting company was rebranded as Tommy Boy Entertainment.[25] Tommy Boy then began licensing its trademark to Warner Music for use on reissues through Rhino/Atlantic Records.

2017–present: Catalogue reacquired[edit]

Because of Warner Music’s divestment requirements as a result of its purchase of Parlophone, Tommy Boy was able to reacquire its pre-2002 catalogue and the catalogues of Brand Nubian, Grand Puba, and Club Nouveau.[26]

De La Soul controversy[edit]

Controversy rose in early 2019, after Tommy Boy announced the catalogue of its formerly signed group De La Soul would be available on streaming services later that week. This announcement prompted the group to begin a "Tommy Boycott" campaign, due to the fact that they would receive only 10% of revenue generated by streams, with the other 90% going to Tommy Boy. The campaign was shared by their fellow artists Nas, Questlove and Pete Rock, amongst others. In response, Tommy Boy postponed the deal and announced their discography would not be available on streaming services as previously scheduled.[27][28]

Brand image[edit]

The Tommy Boy logo was originally designed in 1982 by Steven Miglio and redesigned in 1989 by Eric Haze. The logo was named on Complex's list of the 50 Greatest Rap Logos of all time, coming in at number nine.[29]

In the late 1980s, with the emergence of streetwear fashion, Tommy Boy produced and distributed Carhartt jackets embroidered with its logo on the front and back for its own merchandise line called Tommy Boy Gear.[30][31] Tommy Boy is also credited as the first to use lanyards as promotional items, which became a popular streetwear fashion accessory in the 1990s.[32]

Selected artists[edit]


  1. ^ "Home – Tommy Boy Records – A2IM". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  2. ^ Roberts, Dave (1 June 2017). "Warner sells flurry of copyrights as indie divestment process heads towards finish line - Music Business Worldwide". Music Business Worldwide. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  3. ^ Reid, Shaheem. "'Hip-Hop Is History': Tommy Boy Records Unloads Rap Acts". MTV News. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  4. ^ "2015 Partners - New Music Seminar". New Music Seminar. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  5. ^ "In the City of New York". In the City of New York. 23 July 2007. Archived from the original on 23 July 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Zane, Warren. Revolutions in Sound—Warner Bros. Records: the first 50 Years. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2009.
  7. ^ Tucker, Bruce (1993-10-31). "Tommy Boy Can CD Future". Fast Company. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  8. ^ a b "Hey Get Down! Women Got Down, Too!". Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  9. ^ "Across 135th Street – Monica Lynch". Red Bull Radio. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  10. ^ Reynolds, J.R. (4 November 1995). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  11. ^ Charnas, Dan (1 November 2011). The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. Penguin. ISBN 9781101568118. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  12. ^ "HITS Daily Double : Rumor Mill - A TALE OF THREE LABELS". HITS Daily Double. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  13. ^ Knopper, Steve (20 June 1998). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  14. ^ 2011 Songwriter's Market. Writer's Digest Books. 11 October 2010. ISBN 9781599632575. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  15. ^ "75 Ark". Discogs. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  16. ^ Nathan, David (4 July 1992). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  17. ^ Smith, Shawnee (29 November 1997). "Billboard". Google Books. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  18. ^ Strauss, Neil (27 June 1996). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  19. ^ Collins, Lisa (30 June 2001). "Billboard". Google Books. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  20. ^ "CMJ New Music Report". Google Books. CMJ Network, Inc. 10 April 2000. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  21. ^ Flick, Larry (11 April 1998). "Billboard". Google Books. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  22. ^ Kipnis, Jill (October 19, 2002). Tommy Boy Branches Out With Film/TV Division. Billboard Magazine. Page 6.
  23. ^ Tommy Boy Films Distribution Deal by James Scileppi, Koch/Entertainment One, August 1, 2005.
  24. ^ "Tommy Boy Artists Dance Again". Billboard. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  25. ^ Tommy Boy Entertainment Overview Data by Crunchbase, retrieved December 22, 2019.
  26. ^ "Everything must go: Warner Music's indie divestment 'will end September 30'". Music Week. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  27. ^ "Nas, Questlove, and More Call for Tommy Boy Boycott Following De La Soul Controversy (UPDATE)". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  28. ^ "De La Soul Calls Out Former Record Label Over 'Unfair' Streaming Deal". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  29. ^ Mao, Chairman; Sen, Raka. "The 50 Greatest Rap Logos 9. Tommy Boy Records". Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  30. ^ "Tom Silverman". Midem. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  31. ^ Marriott, Michel (29 November 1992). "THING; The Carhartt Jacket". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  32. ^ Wartofsky, Alona (29 July 1996). "ONLY THE HIPPEST HAVE KEY RINGS AROUND THE COLLAR". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 July 2017.

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