Jive Records is a record label based in New York City, owned by Sony Music Entertainment, and operating under the Zomba Label Group. Jive is primarily known for a string of successes with hip hop artists in the 1980s, and in teen pop and boy bands in the late 1990s. The word "jive" was inspired by Township Jive, a form of South African music and dance. Jive operated as an independently managed label until 2002 when Bertelsmann Music Group acquired the remainder of Zomba for US $2.74 billion, which was at the time the largest-ever acquisition of an independent label with major-label distribution.
Zomba, Jive's parent company, was formed in the mid seventies as a publishing and management company on Willesden Street in London and their first client was a young Mutt Lange. Initially, co-founders Ralph Simon and Clive Calder wanted to stay away from record labels, choosing to focus on their songwriters and producers while allowing other established labels to release the material. Later in the seventies, Zomba opened offices in the United States where Calder began a business relationship with Clive Davis, whose Arista Records began releasing material by Zomba artists.
When Calder and Simon started Jive Records in 1977, Davis was having trouble pushing rock acts in North America, and thought that this could be a role for Jive to fill with its Mutt Lange connection. The label's early roster included Tight Fit, A Flock of Seagulls, Billy Ocean, and Samantha Fox. However, Calder had other ideas for what Jive would become. He found a young local college graduate named Barry Weiss who was familiar with the hip hop scene in the city, and together they began grooming musicians to form Whodini. In 1987, Jive cut distribution ties with Arista, freeing them from the authority of Davis, who was known to be opposed to hip hop at the time. As the 1980s drew to a close, Jive went on to sign a plethora of hip-hop acts, including Too $hort and Schoolly D. By the early nineties, Jive had become a premiere label in the genre of hip-hop, thanks to the success of acts such as Whodini, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, E-40, A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One/Boogie Down Productions, and R&B acts R. Kelly and Aaliyah.