Priority folded into Capitol

Hip-hop imprint to become urban division

NEW YORK — Confirming rumors that had been mounting in the music biz for weeks, EMI said it has folded hip-hop imprint Priority Records into its flagship label Capitol as part of the U.K. music conglom’s ongoing restructuring and cost-savings scheme.

Priority, which has played host to such seminal hard-core rap acts as Ice Cube, Ice-T and N.W.A., will become the urban division of Capitol; the back-office functions of the two labels will be combined to trim overhead. Move will involve substantial layoffs from the Priority staff.

The label has weathered a few substantial setbacks in recent weeks, including the departure of founder Bryan Turner, who recently sold his remaining share in the label to EMI for $100 million, as well as the end of its six-year joint venture with No Limit Records, the wildly successful hip-hop imprint headed up by rapper-entrepreneur Master P.

Capitol will retain some of No Limit’s record catalog, and it will still put out the forthcoming release from Master P’s brother, rapper C-Murder, who was signed to Priority.

In September EMI warned that results for the current financial period would come in well below expectations, causing the stock to tumble by 35% on the London exchange. Company said it would set aside more than $140 million for “far-reaching” restructuring efforts and that it had already cut 100 jobs.

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