Chris Schwartz, who developed hip-hop artists Lauryn Hill, Cypress Hill, Kris Kross and others through his Ruffhouse Records, has launched Ruffworld Entertainment Group and RuffNation Records in conjunction with Warner Bros. Records.
The joint-venture agreement provides for exclusive worldwide distribution through Warner Bros. Ruffworld will be based in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and offices will be established in New York, Los Angeles and London. The deal also includes an indie label and a music publishing company.
Schwartz’s Ruffhouse label was based at Sony’s Columbia Records from 1989 until May when Schwartz and his partner, Joe Nicolo, decided to shutter the imprint. Releases on Ruffhouse, which include the multi-Grammy-winner “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” have sold more than 20 million units.
“We’re offering partnerships with artists,” Scwartz told Daily Variety. “This is exactly what we did with Ruffhouse but Warners is offering us a much broader selection of tools. We have our own international operations … that will allow us to work with local repertoire in places such as France, the second largest hip-hop market. The intention is for Ruffworld to launch records globally rather than just in the U.S. because hip-hop culture has permeated the world.”
Schwartz will be RuffNation’s chairman and CEO. Other execs are: Kevon Glickman, president; Luc Vergier, intl. operations president; Robert S. Dippold, exec VP and general manger; Kurt Woodley, VP of A&R; and Richard Murray, VP of video productions/special projects. Todd Wolfe is head of national radio promotions and Jeff Coulter is the Internet technology manager.
“Chris’ track record in developing and breaking some of the most successful and relevant artists in contemporary music truly speaks for itself,” said Russ Thyret, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Records.
The first releases from RuffNation are expected later this summer and will include discs by Doc Holiday and Liz Leite, a former member of Major Coinz. Schwartz, who noted “selling records is a byproduct of establishing artists,” said Ruffworld could release between four and eight albums per year but “we are not in any rush.”
The company is also involved in pre-production talks with the Shooting Gallery on the film “Snipes,” a murder-mystery thriller. The script is finished and Schwartz hopes to shoot in the fall.
While no Ruffhouse artists are expected to join the new label, Schwartz predicts they will participate in the soundtrack to “Snipes.” “We hope to do soundtracks for films that are meaningful,” Schwartz said while acknowledging the company will generally shy away from film music.
Adjunct to the agreement is the establishing of an indie label, RuffLife, that will be distributed through ADA. RuffLife will offer vinyl releases and grassroots campaigns for artists “who can create their own market and want to do one or two indie records” before getting involved with the major label, Schwartz said.
RuffSongs, a new music publishing company that will be administered by Warner/Chappell, is also part of the deal.
Schwartz has had a varied musical background that includes stints in Philadelphia rock bands. He also managed rapper Schooly D and was the industry’s first independent street promoter whose clients included Priority, Island, Ruthless and Delicious Vinyl.
After Ruffhouse was closed, Schwartz set up Chris Schwartz Entertainment and Nicolo set up Nicolo Entertainment to start his own label.