New York Rap Institution Turns to the Ivy League

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New York's most revered independent rap label is banking on a pair of Ivy League rappers to resurrect it. Rawkus Records — founded in 1995 by Horace Mann grads Brian Brater and Jarrett Myer with $10,000 from Rupert scion and Harvard dropout James Murdoch — introduced Brooklynites Mos Def and Talib Kweli to a mass audience, made it into the big leagues, and then disappeared, dropped by Geffen Records in 2004. But this week saw its first major release since then, with School Was My Hustle, by the two-man act Kidz in the Hall, coming out on Halloween. The duo's 22-year-old emcee, Penn alum Naledge, admires the label's history. "You bought their records because of the brand," he says. "It wouldn't matter what the artist was; you knew if it was Rawkus, it was top-shelf." And founder Myer thinks Kidz lives up to the tradition. "Right now," he says, "investing the right artists can make Rawkus way bigger than it ever was."

Amos Barshad