For decades, Irving Domingo Lorenzo Sr. drove a taxi on the graveyard shift to support his wife and 9 children. One of those children was named Irving Domingo Lorenzo Jr.
As you can imagine for a family with nine children, money was tight. Money was especially tight after Irving Sr. was suddenly fired from the taxi company. As Irving Jr. would later say, his father was fired because he was getting close to 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 a job.
To earn extra money for himself and his family, Irving Jr. began to get involved in street life, selling drugs around the neighborhood. The bad news is that he was eventually caught. The good news is that the arrest put him on the right track. Irving Jr. quit his job to focus on music. Hip-hop specifically.
In the early 1990s, Irving Jr. used his connections in the neighborhood to discover new hip-hop talent. He developed a solid reputation in the industry and by the mid-1990s was producing songs and bringing his best singers to Russell Simmons’ Def Jam record label. One of those up-and-comers was Jay-Z.
In 1996 Irv helped produce Jay’z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt. During one of these recording sessions, Jay-Z suggested that Irving Lorenzo choose a new last name. Something heavier. Something that signified power and wealth. The last name that Jay-Z suggested was:
A tribute to gangster John Gotti. And so, Irving Domingo Lorenzo Jr. It `s done…
The other artist Irv Gotti brought to Def Jam was named Earl Simmons. Earl was signed and soon was 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. The artist is better known by his stage name, DMX.
After the success of DMX, Irv finally got what he wanted for so long. A label of his own. In 1999 Irv and his brother Chris co-founded Murder Inc. Records. In exchange for $3 million in seed capital, Def Jam also received 50% ownership in the company.
One of Murder Inc.’s first signings. it 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 hit “Holla Holla”. The success put Murder Inc. on the map. Thanks to other blockbuster hits from Ashanti and Christina Milian, Murder Inc. it went on to sell 30 million units and generate more than $500 million in revenue.
In a move that would surely have made his father extremely proud, Irv Gotti recently struck a deal to sell the masters of Murder Inc. music management firm Iconoclast.
According to a social media post by Irv himself:
“I’m signing a deal worth $300 million. $100 million of the deal is for me to sell my masters…My masters – and I only own half, I own 50-50 with Universal Music Group – half of my masters is worth $100 million. This is filthy madness.“
Extrapolating this a bit, from what I can gather Irv sold the masters of Murder Inc. for a total of 100 million dollars. But as you may recall from a moment ago, Def Jam… which is now owned by Universal Music Group… owns half of Murder Inc. So I understand that Irv personally just got $50 million from the deal.
There is a caveat though – I’m not sure if Irv’s brother Chris would get a portion of that amount as his co-founder??
Or Irv’s deal with a really nice sweetener. In his 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 only produce and create, but now own my own television. [projects].“
So in total it’s really a total deal of $300 million. Not bad for the son of a taxi driver who works graveyard shifts!