|Parent company||Universal Music Group|
|Distributor(s)||Capitol Music Group|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location||Los Angeles, California|
Priority Records is an American record label, owned and operated by Universal Music Group, which has made a name for itself dealing primarily in hip hop. Priority has also provided distribution for other labels such as Rap-A-Lot Records, Ruthless Records, Death Row Records, Wu-Tang Records, Posthuman Records, Rawkus Records, No Limit Records, Roc-A-Fella Records, Scarface Records, Black Market Records, Rhythm Safari and Tass Radio Records.
The Los Angeles-based company (with no ties or relations to a previous Priority Records label that was a subsidiary of what was then CBS Records) was formed in 1985 by three former K-tel executives: Bryan Turner, Mark Cerami and Steve Drath. Initial funding was provided by R-tek, a company headed by former K-tel board members: Ray and Harold Kives, and their company took an initial 50% ownership in Priority. Priority bought out the R-tek interest in 1987.
To support early operations, Priority licensed repertoire from others and released compilation albums but soon began to develop its own significant artist roster. Priority was able to achieve unrivaled success as an independent label by developing a precedent-setting "street-based" formula of underground marketing which bypassed mainstream radio. Their unique approach allowed Priority to sell millions of records without entering into the fiercely competitive major label battles over radio airplay. Priority's strategic marketing team was developed by Vice President Alyssa Pisano, who led Priority's Marketing and Creative Services Department between 1987 and 1996. Priority's roster featured numerous gold, platinum and multi-platinum artists, including N.W.A., Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Master P, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Mack 10, Scarface, Geto Boys, Westside Connection, Eazy-E and Ice-T.
In the early 1990s, the label struck up a distribution deal with EMI, while continuing to operate independently. EMI bought a 50% stake in Priority in 1996, and the remainder in 1998. Despite EMI's full ownership, Priority continued to be independently managed company until 2001, when its operations were merged into EMI’s major US subsidiary, Capitol Records. Priority was absorbed into Capitol Records in 2004 and ceased operations.
In late 2006, EMI revived Priority Records, and it was supposed to start releasing new records again but never did except for a couple compilation and greatest hits albums from the likes of N.W.A., Westside Connection, Mack 10, and Ice Cube. In 2009, Snoop Dogg was appointed creative chairman of the label; Priority released his tenth studio album, Malice N Wonderland on December 8, 2009.
- "2002 Music Awards" by Anthony Mariani, Fort Worth Weekly, June 13, 2002, retrieved June 29, 2006