5 Great Defunct Record Labels | Features | MN2S

We work with some of the best and most innovative record labels here at MN2S, but there are some defunct record labels of the past that had to close their doors far too soon. Here are a few of the best.


1. Cold Chillin’ Records


One of the most influential record labels during the Golden Age of hip hop, Cold Chillin’ Records counted Biz Markie, Kool G Rap, Marley Marl and Big Daddy Kane amongst its roster. The label was active for just over a decade, between 1986 and 1998, and it was responsible for releasing some of the defining records of the era, and shaping hip hop’s direction.

With most Cold Chillin’ releases being produced by the Marley Marl-led Juice Crew, the label influenced the sound of hip hop for years to come. Cold Chillin’ was also the first label to release music by The Genius, soon to be known as Wu-Tang founding member GZA.

Notable releases on Cold Chillin’ include: Long Live the Kane by Big Daddy Kane, I Need A Haircut by Biz Markie and 4, 5, 6 by Kool G Rap.

2. Play House Records


Play House Records was one of the most short-lived enterprises on this list. Operational from 1986 to 1989, Play House was one of the house labels that sprung up when the scene first emerged in Chicago. Though they did not sell well at the time, many of the label’s releases are now considered forgotten classics and overlooked gems of the genre.

Music from production team The Fascination, Deep In House, Jungle Crew and Denise Motto graces the Play House portfolio, not to mention the early acid experiments of Wanted For Fun. Any fan of early Chicago house who has not yet dug into the Play House crates will be pleasantly surprised.

Notable releases on Play House Records include: ‘Funk Me, Jack Me’ by Hollywood, ‘The Flight of Jacking Your Body’ by Andre Wade and ‘Dope House Is In Command’ by MC Kid.

3. Loud Records


Loud Records ran from 1991 to 2002. It reopened in June 2007, and closed its doors again five years later in 2012. In some ways Loud picked up where Cold Chillin’ left off, signing GZA, and his newly-formed group The Wu-Tang Clan. Through releasing many of Wu-Tang’s group and solo efforts, Loud Records was responsible for bringing the music of Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, RZA, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Cappadonna and of course The Genius aka GZA to the mainstream.

Aside from Wu-Tang, Loud Records put out music from Mobb Deep, Big Pun, Three 6 Mafia, and underground legends Dead Prez. Notable releases on the label include: Soul Survivor by Pete Rock, Let’s Get Free by dead prez and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang Clan.

4. Rising High Records


Founded by rave pioneer Caspar Pound in 1991, Rising High Records was a British label that responsible for some of the best music from the burgeoning rave, techno and ambient scene at the time. Pound founded the label after the success of ‘Total Confusion’ as A Homeboy, A Hippie and A Funki Dredd, and he immediately formed The Hypnotist with with producer Pete Smith.

Other musicians on Rising High Records included Pearl, Frank Heiss, Mixmaster Morris and Pete Namlook. The label is not completely defunct, as some of the others on this list are. Instead, it continues to reissue the music that made Rising High great in the 1990s.

Notable releases from Rising High Records include: Flying High by The Irresistible Force, ‘The House is Mine’ by The Hypnotist and Don Cargon Comin’ by Project One.

5. Sleeping Bag Records


Sleeping Bag Records was founded by avant garde cellist Arthur Russell in 1981. The label did not focus on avant garde or traditional cello music; it signed some great old school hip hop and dance acts.

One of the label’s greatest exports was hip hop/electronic duo Mantronix, whose producer Kurtis Mantronik also handled Sleeping Bag’s A&R. Also on the label was hip hop group EPMD, who introduced the world to the great DJ Scratch. The label closed down in 1991.

Notable releases on Sleeping Bag Records include Unfinished Business by EPMD, Come Into My Life by Joyce Sims and Music Madness Plus by Mantronix.

Header image is Carnaby Records by Marc Wathieu via Flickr. Licensed for use under Creative Commons 2.0, some rights reserved.

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