The Rapper: Snoop Dogg
The Record Label: No Limit Records
WTF? After dropping his first and second albums—Doggystyle and Tha Doggfather, respectively—on Death Row Records, Snoop had established himself as one of the biggest gangsta rap acts on the planet. So it was pretty surprising when, after a contract dispute with Suge Knight at Death Row Records, he decided to join Master P's No Limit Records. The result was his third album, Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, complete with an over-the-top Pen & Pixel album cover and a different sound.
The Rapper: Left Eye
The Record Label: Tha Row Records
WTF? Left Eye was always—no disrespect intended—the quirkiest member of TLC. From the eye patches to the baggy clothes, she definitely had a larger-than-life personality. But even when you consider that, it's still hard to believe that she wanted to put out her second solo album through Suge Knight's Tha Row Records under the name N.I.N.A. (which stood for "New Identity Not Applicable). Aside from the fact that Tha Row wasn't exactly poppin' at the time when she signed, she was also still signed to Arista with TLC, which made the move even more confusing.
The Rapper: Nas
The Record Label: Def Jam Records
WTF? Nas signing to Def Jam wasn't the big WTF? moment. Instead, it was Nas signing to Def Jam—shortly after his archnemesis at the time Jay-Z had agreed to take over as President at Def Jam. Nas sold it to us as a situation where both rappers were deading their beef for the good of hip-hop. But then, he released his first album on Def Jam called Hip-Hop Is Dead and confused us all over again. Oh, Nas. You and your contradictions!
The Rapper: Freeway
The Record Label: Cash Money Records/Rhymesayers Entertainment
WTF? Since Freeway left Def Jam after the release of his appropriately-titled 2008 Def Jam album, Free At Last, the underappreciated rapper has had trouble finding a permanent home. Oddly enough, he's straddled the line between independent label (Rhymesayers released his album, The Stimulus Package earlier this year) and major label (Free signed a deal with Cash Money in 2009) rather well. But to be honest: Both of the labels that he signed with threw us for a loop.
The Rapper: Mase
The Record Label: G-Unit Records
WTF? In 1999, the artist formerly known as "Murda Mase" checked out of the rap game and went to become a pastor in Atlanta. So, imagine our surprise when he: 1) Came back in 2004 to release another album called Welcome Back, and 2) Announced that he was signing to 50 Cent's G-Unit Records shortly after. No offense to anyone, but does G-Unit really seem like the type of label a man of the cloth should be signed to?
The Rapper: 8Ball & MJG
The Record Label: Bad Boy Records
WTF? Diddy was certainly trying to cash in on the success of Southern hip-hop music in the mid-2000s when he created Bad Boy South, the label that acts like Boyz N Da Hood, Yung Joc and—the biggest surprise of all—8Ball & MJG called home. BNDH and Joc both released their debut albums on Bad Boy, but the 8Ball & MJG signing seemingly came out of nowhere. And it disappeared just as quickly with Ball & G dropping one album before leaving the label.
The Rapper: Cassidy
The Record Label: Kross Over Entertainment
WTF? No offense to Carmelo Anthony or any other NBA baller trying to do something positive off the court, but record labels run by athletes typically don't do well. So it was a bit of a surprise to hear that Cassidy—once one of the most anticipated and respected rappers in the game—signed to 'Melo in order to become the flagship artist for his Kross Over label. Then again, it looks like he's actually releasing an album, C.A.S.H. (Cass A Straight Hustla), this fall, so we can't really say he made the wrong decision.
The Rapper: Cam'Ron
The Record Label: Roc-A-Fella Records
WTF? We all know why Cam decided to sign with the Roc (what up, Dame?!) and we're certainly not complaining (Cam's best album, Purple Haze, came out during his time on the label). But in hindsight, how did Cam ever agree to be put onto a label run by Jay-Z? At the time, Dipset had a nice little following and plenty of hype surrounding their movement, so it was slightly surprising to see them agree to hitch their wagon to the back of someone else's movement. Just sayin'.
The Rapper: Jin
The Record Label: Ruff Ryders Entertainment
WTF? Jin is dope when it comes to freestyling. He even created a couple of songs that got some looks on MTV and BET (though, for the record, he ethered himself by coming out with that "Learn Chinese" record first). But, come on: The Ruff Ryders?! Jin didn't fit in with the clique from the start and it's one of the things that ultimately derailed his major label career for good.
The Rapper: Daz Dillinger
The Record Label: So So Def Recordings
WTF? Like the first artist on this list Snoop Dogg, Dat Nigga Daz has been looking for a place to call home ever since Death Row shut its doors. One of the strangest stops on his tour was So So Def where he teamed up with Jermaine Dupri to create So So Gangsta. Um, WTF? Let's just say this move left us scratching our heads and wondering what Daz and JD were thinking at the time.
Can you think of another rapper who has signed to a rap label that you wouldn't normally associate him or her with? Or, do you think any of the rappers we pointed out here actually made the right decision by signing with any of these labels? Leave us a comment and let us know!