LOUD Records’ Founder Details Getting Arrested For Bringing The Ruckus For Raekwon
Steve Rifkind, the founder of LOUD Records, is known for creating the record company that introduced much of the world to Wu-Tang Clan, Xzibit, Tha Alkaholiks, Funkmaster Flex, and dead prez, among others. The Long Island, New York native is the son of Spring Records executive (Jimmy Spicer, James Brown, The Fatback Band), Jules Rifkind. Apart from his own legendary imprint, Steve is credited with innovating the street teams of the 1990s, marketing and promoting Hip-Hop releases through posters, stickers, and grassroots awareness. He was hired by Delicious Vinyl, Big Beat, and Interscope Records for projects while launching his own imprint.
Compared to contemporaries such as Puff Daddy, Suge Knight, or Master P, Rifkind is lower profile. However, as LOUD recently celebrated its legacy with a Radio City Music Hall reunion concert, Rifkind is collecting props. As a guest on the latest episode of Drink Champs, the exec who now manages DMX and consults for Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music speaks up about how far he was willing to go for his roster—old and new.
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At 39:00 on the Drink Champs episode, Rifkind (who is joined by brother John and veteran music lawyer/executive Randy Acker) recalls getting arrested on behalf of his artists. Specifically, Steve recalls a tense renegotiation meeting with LOUD’s onetime distributor, RCA Records. The mid-1990s negotiations were surrounding the budgets of Raekwon’s 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… as well as Wu-Tang Clan’s sophomore double-disc, Wu-Tang Forever.
“We really fought for our artists,” Rifkind explains. “I got arrested for throwing a chair through a glass door. [I was] fighting for Wu-Tang [to get] the money that I thought they deserved,” says the exec who recently survived his latest heart attack. N.O.R.E. asks if it was for a music video budget. Rifkind corrects that it was renegotiation for the group and Rae’s solo contract. Raekwon and Inspectah Deck’s solo contracts were also housed through LOUD.
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“With RCA, [my negotiations] were $25,000 apart, and I just said, ‘Give me the f*cking money.’ The [ Business Affairs Department executive I was negotiating with] said, ‘Steven Rifkind, I’m tired of your sh*t.’ And I’ve never hit a woman in my life. So I took this chair. And we were 36 floors up, facing Broadway.” He demonstrates with his body. “I turned it around, and I threw it through the glass door.”
Drink Champs Co-host N.O.R.E. jokes that Rifkind deliberately did on the 36th floor as a gesture of solidarity to Wu-Tang. With a chuckle, Rifkind confirms, “We were. The cops came. Security came. They cuffed me.”
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Elsewhere in the two-hour interview, Rifkind remembers cooperating extensively with RZA on all ideas. At 24:00, he explains why LOUD was unable to match Def Jam Records’ $1.75 million offer to sign Method Man to a contract—especially in getting RCA’s blessing to front the money and distribute Tical. Notably, the New Yorker says that Wu’s dynamic arrangement was inspired by his brief time managing New Edition. He wanted a contract that gave precedence to the group, without blocking solo endeavors.
Later in the episode, at 1:55:00, Rifkind also explains his dream team of A&Rs, including The Source journalist Matty C., as well as producer Schott Free. He describes how that department convinced him to sign Mobb Deep, despite the duo’s poor showing with debut Juvenile Hell. Rifkind also recalls how Master P and No Limit led him to partner with Relativity Records to release several notable albums for Three 6 Mafia.