Recordings By Eminem, Tupac, Rakim & The Roots Were Secretly Destroyed In Fire

Eleven years ago this month, a fiery blaze at Universal Studios Hollywood made national news. The flames started following a blowtorch repair to some homes used in old film and television shows. As the fire grew, a King Kong attraction was damaged. Reports also circulated that an archive of old films, Building 6197, had been destroyed.

In 2019, the world has learned that much more was a casualty in the blaze. The New York Times’ Jody Rosen now calls it, “the biggest disaster in the history of the music business.” Universal Music Group had been using Building 6197 as a storage facility for many of its master recordings. These reels housed the original copies of songs and albums that all digital, CD, vinyl, and other mediums draw from in their pressing.

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Although hundreds of firefighters responded to the burning blaze, almost all recordings in the building were lost. Music by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington was lost permanently.

However, original Rap recordings were also lost in the flames. The Times reports that songs by Eric B. & Rakim, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and The Roots were all destroyed in the incident.

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Questlove shared the article and suggested that this fire is the reason why The Roots have not been able to reissue Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife. The Grammy Award-winning Philadelphia, Pennsylvania band’s second and third LPs were each released on David Geffen’s label, part of UMG. Tupac, Eminem, Snoop, and 50 all released their best-selling and most acclaimed works through Interscope, which is now part of UMG.

Notably, Universal kept the report confidential. However, a 2009 internal report estimates that 500,000 song titles were destroyed. The Times adds that the music losses went un-publicized to minimize embarrassment to the incident.

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On a related note, the Beastie Boys revealed last week on their Beats 1 Echo Chamber radio show that they did not know the whereabouts of the master tapes to diamond-certified debut, Licensed To Ill. Notably, that album released on Def Jam Records, eventually part of the UMG system.

“No, Licensed to Ill, we don’t have. Licensed to Ill, like nobody can find it — I’m not even lying,” Mike D said. Guest Q-Tip suggested that Def Jam co-founder (and album producer) Rick Rubin may have it. The Beastie doubled down that all parties are unclear of the 1986 LP’s whereabouts.