For decades, Irving Domingo Lorenzo Sr. drove a taxi cab in the graveyard shift to support his wife and NINE children. One of those children was his namesake, Irving Domingo Lorenzo Jr.
As you might imagine for a family with nine children, money was tight. Money was especially tight after Irving Sr. was unexpectedly laid off by the cab company. As Irving Jr. would later tell it, his father got laid off because he was approaching the point where he would have earned a pension. So, after working for the company for just under 20 years, he suddenly found himself out of work.
To make extra money for himself and the family, Irving Jr. began getting mixed up in the street life, selling drugs around the neighborhood. The bad news is he got caught eventually. The good news is the arrest set him on a straight path. Irving Jr. gave up dealing to focus on music. Hip-hop specifically.
In the early 1990s, Irving Jr. used his neighborhood connections to scout for up-and-coming hip-hop talent. He developed a solid reputation in the industry and by the mid-1990s was producing tracks and bringing his best up-and-comers to Russell Simmons’ record label Def Jam. One of those up-and-comers was Jay-Z.
In 1996 Irv helped produce Jay’z debut album “Reasonable Doubt.” During one of these recording sessions, Jay-Z suggested Irving Lorenzo choose a new last name. Something grittier. Something that connoted power and wealth. The last name Jay-Z suggested was:
An homage to the gangster John Gotti. And thus, Irving Domingo Lorenzo Jr. became…
The next artist Irv Gotti brought to Def Jam was named Earl Simmons. Earl was signed and was soon working side-by-side with Irv to produce a debut album. That debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” was released in May 1998. That artist is better known by his stage name, DMX.
Off the success of DMX, Irv finally got what he long-wanted. A label of his own. In 1999 Irv and his brother Chris co-founded Murder Inc. Records. In exchange for $3 million in startup capital, they Def Jam also received 50% ownership in the company.
One of Murder Inc.’s first signings was a rapper named Jeffrey Atkins, better known as Ja Rule. Rule’s debut album “Venni Vetti Vecci” was released on June 1, 1999. That album featured the breakout hit “Holla Holla.” The success put Murder Inc. On the map. Thanks to additional smash hits from Ashanti and Christina Milian, Murder Inc. went on to sell 30 million units and generated more than $500 million in revenue.
In a move that definitely would have made his father extremely proud, Irv Gotti recently struck a deal to sell the Murder Inc. masters to music management firm Iconoclast.
According to a social media post from Irv himself:
“I’m signing a deal worth $300 million. $100 million of the deal is me selling my masters…My masters — and I only own half, I own 50-50 with Universal Music Group — half my masters is worth $100 million. That’s fucking insane.“
Extrapolating that a bit, from what I can gather Irv sold the Murder Inc. masters for a total of $100 million. But, as you recall from a moment ago, Def Jam… which is now owned by Universal Music Group… owns half of Murder Inc. So my understanding is that Irv personally just received $50 million from the deal.
There’s one caveat though – I’m not sure if Irv’s brother Chris would get a portion of that amount as his co-founder??
Either Irv’s deal with a really nice sweetener. In his own words:
“Not only is the company buying my masters, but they’re giving me like a $200 million line of credit for me to not just produce and create, but now own my television [projects].“
So in total it is indeed a $300 million deal all-in. Not bad for the son of a graveyard-shift working cab driver!