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The 25 Best A&Rs in Hip-Hop History

10. Cory Robbins

Title(s): Co-founder of Profile Records 
Artists They Worked With: Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, Run-D.M.C., Dana Dane, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, DJ Quik

In 1981, Cory Robbins’s struggling little dance label Profile Records was down to the remaining $2,000 in its bank account. As a last ditch effort, Robbins decided to produce his very first rap record.

The result, “Genius of Rap” by Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde, not only saved his fledgling company and launched the music business career of Andre “Dr. Jeckyl” Harrell (who a few years later would become an top A&R man on his own), it also changed Robbins’ perspective on rap. Until that point, rap on record had largely been the domain of one label, Sugar Hill. But Robbins realized that there might be more than enough room for another label that took rap seriously.

Robbins’ sentiments were confirmed for all time in 1983 when a young artist manager named Russell Simmons brought Robbins a demo tape of his kid brother Joey’s group, Run-D.M.C. Robbins bet on the odd, sparse first single “It’s Like That/Sucker M.C.s”; and then funded a first album. Robbins reaped the rewards when “Run-D.M.C.” became the first Gold (and then Platinum) rap album in history.

Run-DMC, the first bona-fide rap supergroup (first video on MTV, first headline arena tour, etc.) secured Profile Records’ fortunes and Cory Robbins’ place in the pantheon of rap talent scouts.

Robbins and the staff he hired were collectively responsible for signing the following artists: Cold Crush Brothers, Dana Dane, Rob Base, Special Ed, Poor Righteous Teachers. Profile was the first of the New York rap labels to open a Los Angeles office, and Robbins signed rap acts from across the country: DJ Quik and 2nd II None from L.A. Nemesis and Ron C from Dallas. N2Deep from the Bay Area.

Robbins sometimes altered the rap landscape unintentionally, like his signing of a record by Queens, New York’s The Showboyz called “Drag Rap,” which became a huge hit in the south and heavily influenced the formation of New Orleans hip-hop. And he sometimes dropped artists before they reached their potential (like Onyx). He also hired some of the best ears in the business: Brian Chin, Dave Moss, and Murray Elias, who played a huge role in bringing dancehall reggae into the mainstream and would later sign Sean Paul.

Robbins cashed out of Profile in 1994 and founded Robbins Entertainment, where he returned to his dance music roots and still finds and produces hits.

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