The UK label's owner talks about the background of the label, what its name means, signing Arabesque and how to make your promo stand out.
First up, can ya start by introducing yourself?
Ben Pedroche. Owner of Sin Nombre Records.
How long have you been a fan of hip-hop and involved on a professional level?
I've been a hip-hop fan for about 14 years now. I became involved on a professesional level when I bagged a work experience placement in 2003 at EMI Virgin's head office. I started Sin Nombre a few months later.
When did you set up Sin Nombre and where did the inspiration come from?
I usually quote November 2003 as the official jump off but the idea and groundwork had been brewing in my mind since I finished University in 2002. The inspiration comes from wanting a career in the music business for as long as I care to remember.
What does the label's name mean exactly?
I'm half Spanish and Sin Nombre basically means "no name". The exact translation is "without name". It's something that's not run of the mill and so people remember it. They do have trouble pronouncing it though.
What are the key artists you've put out over the years?
Arabesque, Hard Livin, Dead Residents (Junior Disprol), Vee Kay, Optimas Prime and Dap-C.
Have you ever worked at an artist level or would you consider it?
I've never been an artist and have no intention to become one. I did want to produce at one point but I don't have the patience to learn the craft. If I ever did become a musician, it would probably be in a genre that isn't hip-hop.
What's been the most successful release you've worked so far?
Although it's only coming out as we speak, the Arabesque album should prove to be the most successful as it's a worldwide release with distribution in the UK, Canada and America.
How did the Arabesque signing come about?
Arabesque had been screwed over a few times by the usual label bullshit, had become sceptical and was looking for a new deal. He came to our attention when he and his management were scouting out possible labels. He instantly hit a chord with us and so talks began.
What made you enter the bidding war for him as opposed to the many other unsigned rappers out there?
I felt that there was something there that had the potential to be big and so we decided to make the effort to seal the deal. Another key factor was that we knew we wanted to move into the North American market and be more than just a UK based label. So to have an artist from Toronto with a strong fan base across the US was an interesting opportunity.
How did you manage to win the competition to get him?
I was honest with him from day one. I made it clear that we were not a major operation, that the label is basically just run by me, myself and I and that I will not bullshit him around. He respected the honesty. He quite rightly also felt that to go with an Indy will mean his album would actually come out and not just sit on a shelf for years. Arabesque is a very clever man as well and he understands that being signed by a label on the other side of the globe puts him in an ideal position to be heard all over the world.
Is Sin Nombre now split into a UK and US operation? what with the two different websites now?
Right now it's still all one operation, ran from the UK. The two websites angle is basically about branding. I wanted to make it clear that Arabesque is the first act of a new roster of artists that we will build who are from North America. The new site only covers the artists from across the pond, which at this point in time is just Arabesque. Having said that, within a year we hope to have officially launched Sin Nombre US which will essentially be a new leg of the company, run and operated from America.
What's happening with Universal's interest in Hard Livin'? Is that still in the works?
Very much so. With the Arabesque album taking up all our time and resources, we have inevitably had to put this on the backburner but the process is very much underway. 'Oh Girl' should prove to be a big UK hit and will be a great boost for us as a label. Universal are very keen to get this out and it's looking like February right now. The good thing is, the Hard Livin boys (Mike S and S Kalibre) are willing for us to wait if it means we can give this the push it deserves.
What's been the hardest and easiest part of running your own independent label?
There are no easy parts as far as I am concerned. The hardest parts are making the industry connections, dealing with the stress and of course finding the money to fund things. Working shitty jobs at care homes, selling my body for medical research (seriously), I've done it all to fund the label. Hopefully it will all prove to have been worth it.
How does writing for HipHop Connection benefit your knowledge to keep the label going?
Writing for HHC (and Undercover too) has been a godsend as it's meant I've had a very valuable bunch of connections to draw from. I cannot thank the guys at HHC enough for the amount of support they have given Sin Nombre. We had a run of being written about in every issue for over a year. This would have been hard to secure if I hadnt been one of the writers.
What forthcoming projects are in the works and when are they likely to drop?
The Arabesque album 'The Frenzy of Renown' which is out now. See www.sin-nom.com for how to buy. Hard Livin's "Oh Girl" will be coming early next year and there are various American releases on the pipeline too.
Are you still on the lookout for new artists and what should people do to try getting signed by you?
No doubt. I love hearing new stuff when I have my A&R hat on but also as a fan of hip-hop. I am still a fan first and foremost and this is how I judge if something is good. See the contact section of www.sin-nombre.co.uk for the PO Box details.
What are the key things you look for in a demo or new artist? What's the criteria that's gonna make you interested?
Raw talent. Something new and fresh. I also have a pet hate about badly put together packages that people send us. It's not hard these days to make a nice looking press release and a clearly labelled, nice looking demo cd. If it looks good then I'll be more enthusiastic about hearing it.
What other Indy labels do you admire and most aim to match the success and output of?
In terms of the UK, I admire Relentless Records, despite the fact that they are not a hip-hop label as such. I like how they have big money-makers like Joss Stone, KT Tunstall etc but also do very well with UK urban artists like So Solid Crew and Roll Deep. I have used them as a model to aspire to. In the US, everyone from Def Jux all the way up to The Roc. Any label that can have commercial success but also industry respect and clout.
Have you got any shout out's you'd like to make?
Shout out to Arabesque and everyone in Canada. Go buy 'The Frenzy of Renown' now by clicking www.sin-nom.com. Props to the whole UK scene and all the artists that I have met, worked with and released records by. Look out for Hard Livin in 2006 and also go support the new Dead Residents album 'Keep Britain Tidy'.