Pushing street product is a matter of "survival of the fittest.” If you can't confirm this with Mobb Deep, ask the infamous Steve Rifkind. The founder of the legendary, now-defunct Loud Records, Rifkind has endured a rollercoaster of a career. "I'm ready to bring the Steve Rifkind name back to greatness,” declares the veteran mogul, whose Loud once represented 'hood favorites like Wu-Tang Clan, Big Punisher, Twista and Mobb. "I've gone through many ups and downs, but I'm stronger than ever.” Indeed, thanks to executive duties in music (Street Records Corporation) and marketing (Steve Rifkind Company), Rifkind's business muscle remains flexed.

His hustle began in the late '80s, when the Queens-born, Long-Island-raised college avoider parlayed paternal guidance (his father owned the modestly successful Spring Records, which specialized in disco and funk music in the '70s and '80s) into freelance marketing for acts like New Edition and Young MC. "My father had me go on the road with him and learn about the industry firsthand,” Rifkind says. "That's how I got my education.”

In 1989, Rifkind launched the Steve Rifkind Company, a consulting firm which handled campaigns for Nike, DreamWorks and others, and promoted seminal rap records, including Brand Nubian's Slow Down. In 1992, the music lover turned his attention away from marketing to establish hardcore haven Loud Records. "The marketing company slowly faded away because the label became my focus,” Rifkind says. "Loud was the perfect situation, breaking artists that truly represented the streets.”