A Jewish soccer mom (her words, not ours) bought Death Row Records last week. The crazy thing is, that's probably not even the most interesting part of the story -- she's got 30 years in the business and puts Death Row on parallel with Motown in the music history books.
Her name is Lara Lavi, and she fronts Toronto-based company WIDEawake Entertainment Group, who won control of Death Row for a mere $18 million. The three-year old company is looking to revitalize the label, and they believe Lavi is the woman for the job.
Lavi told Toronto's Eye Weekly, “It’s going to take us at least eight months to assess and coordinate what we’ve bought — making sure that the tracks are stored properly, and digitized, with all rights negotiated. And tons of new content was discovered that had been stolen and hidden in Michigan. Plus, we want to develop the kind of media relations program that puts people at ease. This music is personal to people who are going to be apprehensive about me. Just who is this Jewish soccer mom? What kind of plan does she have?”
One of her plans is a Canadian kid named Sean Jones, a former member of the R&B group In Essence, who has a more soulful (less gangsta) sound than the label's usual fare. But Lavi is clear on her feelings about gangsta rap:
Death Row artists have a legacy just like the Motown artists did. The lifeblood of the company is their body of work — and I want to get down to the task of honouring it.”
I never had Oprah’s issues with the messaging. I understood the Ebonics, the vernacular, and the culture. Of course there were a few bad apples in the bunch. I’m not in support of beatings, or even drugs, let alone misogyny.
But if you strip those elements away this is the oral history of an important part in the history of black music, hip-hop and pop culture. The semantics were brought on by anger and fear. I’ve never been fazed by the surrounding realities.
But this makeover is just getting started, and as Lavi said (horrible pun alert), "The label is no longer destined for death. We have given it a full pardon."