From The Vault: Redman

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Photo courtesy of Def Jam

Redman is one of the greatest emcees of all-time, period. When you factor in his lyrics, longevity, and live show his status is undeniable. From his solo work to his collaborations with Method Man and Def Squad, Red has kept a very “high” standard when it comes to his rhymes.

At the 18-year mark of his career Reggie Noble wanted to give fans a little more Reggie and less Redman. In the winter of 2010 Red was promoting his seventh solo album, Reggie, and I was granted an interview with the How High star. The album was a slight departure from his previous projects, thus the title.

I was nervous that I’d get more Reggie than Redman during the interview but what ensued was one of the best interviews I’ve ever conducted. You don’t get any more real than Redman. Enjoy.

TRHH: Tell me about the new album Reggie.

Redman: The new album Reggie is just not a Redman album. No Redman album, no Supaman Luva, and no skits. There are no tracks done by Erick Sermon. Reggie is out of the box a little bit. It’s more musical and more conceptual. I want y’all to get good music and growth from this album. I ain’t trying to show an alter ego as far as personality, just on the music. When you get a Redman album you know what to expect, this is unexpected.

TRHH: I listened to the album and I was extremely surprised by the sound of it. What made you go a different route with the beats on Reggie?

Redman: When I first did it, it was a mixtape and ended up as an album. I wanted to try something different — that was it. I was coming up with Muddy Waters 2 and I was going to take it back on that one. I was actually going to have 90s sounding beats on that one. I had a half of an album done while I was doing the Red and Meth Blackout 2 album. I said let met finish up 6-7 more songs and call it an album. If you look I only have 13 joints on there and it’s like the shortest album I’ve ever made.

TRHH: When you were making the album were you afraid that you might alienate your fans?

Redman: Not at all because it’s a movement. I want them to understand that I want to do this music as well. Don’t keep me in the box supplying one kind of music to y’all. I’m not saying that I’m trying to win or anything like that, I’m just feeling the music and I want to let loose. I just want to show my fans growth more than anything. I’m trying to prove a point on growth. I’m nice this way with a more “now” sound and with my old ways.

TRHH: The first single is Def Jammable and on the chorus you say, “I don’t know what you people gonna do without him,” is that directed toward the Def Jam label?

Redman: No, it’s not directed at anyone. It’s directed at the whole game. I’m a big influence. I’m proud of my essence in this game and how it branched off and helped other people. If I still got it in me to do it, then why not do it? I keep that fun personality in the game. We got a lot of thuggin’ and muggin’ in the game right now — which is cool. But who’s going to let people know that it’s still good to have fun and still be a thug when you want to? I still have a job to do. Yeah, I said, What you gonna do without me, I’m still on my job.

TRHH: Tiger Style seemed different than anything else on the album to me. How did the Tiger Style joint come together?

Redman: I worked with my boy Chris upstate. That’s like my brother, man and we just toss around beats. I do a lot of work that’s not affiliated with albums. I might just go in the studio and do a song. I’ve got plenty of songs that no one has ever heard, and that was one of them. Actually, I was going to mixtape that one. That was part of the mixtape I was doing while I was doing the Blackout 2 album. I gave that record to Flex and he went to town on that joint! You know why he went to town and why it sounds different, because it’s so much of the usual that you hear on the radio. That ain’t nothing but a freestyle and a hook. I don’t even have a concept on that record, it’s just spitting. You like it because it’s that food for the soul that y’all been missing. That substance, that don’t give a fuck, and that rocking without having a pretty ass hook. That’s where I come in, that’s where the fuck I come in.

TRHH: [Laughs] Was it hard doing an album without Erick Sermon for the first time?

Redman: You know what, kind of and sort of not. When I go in with E I’m concentrating on making the song on how he’s building the beat and then me and him come together on the hook. On this one I just kind of let loose with whatever I was feeling. My and my crew Gilla House did whatever we felt on the album, Saukrates, Ready Roc, Runt Dawg, Melanie, and E3. Whatever we felt on this album, we did and that’s where I left it off at.

TRHH: The Michael Jackson video, Lookin’ Fly?

Redman: Yeah.

TRHH: Why didn’t that make the album? That was crazy man!

Redman: OK, well if I could have I would have. You know Mike passed. I’m a great fan of his by the way. He passed and there’s so much litigation as far his paper work and who gets what right now that I know it would be impossible to work that out. When I wrote that record it was for a mixtape too. I knew the sample was impossible to get, well not impossible but it was going to be a pain in the ass to get, put it that way. When I wrote the record I didn’t write it without the curses. When you get a sample like that you can not curse and be talking about bitches on there like I did — and I did. I just knew I wasn’t getting that at all.

TRHH: I want to go back, I’m from Chicago and I remember seeing you on the Hard Knock Life tour when you were suspended in the air, the ropes got stuck and you had to be cut down….

Redman: Yeah!

TRHH: You referenced this in the song Maaad Crew. What do you remember about being stuck up there like that, also didn’t you land on top of a guy and seriously injure him?

Redman: Ah, you did your homework, yeaaaaaaaahhhhhh ha ha!!!!!

TRHH: [Laughs] What do you remember about being stuck up there because I remember you landed on the guy and he got hurt right?

Redman: Absolutely, absolutely, I’m over the fuckin’ audience and one of the ropes popped and I was hanging out of it halfway. I was literally about to come out the harness on that motherfucker man. The harness started flipping upside down. I had to hold on to one rope and hold one side of my body up. They started wheeling me back and my man came up there with the 13 foot ladder and shit, climbed up there and tried to unhook me but that shit wasn’t working. He gave it one more good push and he unhooked me, but he unhooked the fuckin’ harness. I don’t know if he thought I was gon’ hold on to the rope. I was gon’ hold on to that rope and burn my hands and shit. When he unhooked I ain’t know he unhooked the bitch and when he unhooked it we went right to the ground, ladder, everything. Fell on his ass – he went right to the hospital. That was some TV shit to see.

TRHH: I want to go back and ask about your episode of MTV Cribs. You easily had the best episode of MTV Cribs of all-time, do you still live in that same house?

Redman: Yeah, I still got that crib. I didn’t really look at it as a big thing when I fuckin’ did it. They offered to rent me a crib and I turned that down. I didn’t wanna rent no fuckin’ crib and show off a crib I don’t know, that ain’t G. Plus I still live in the hood, too. They would have been like, “Nigga, that ain’t your fuckin’ crib!” I just had my shit. The motherfuckers told me noon they was coming through. I had just got finished coming from a studio session that morning, that’s why my fat ass cousin was sleeping on the floor ‘cause I ain’t have no other bed and shit.

TRHH: Sugar Bear, right?

Redman: Yeah. He got his ass up. I told him we had to get up about 11 so I could clean and shit and these motherfuckers pop over about 8:30-9:00 and shit expecting me to be on point. I was like, “Man, fuck it. Let’s go,” and that’s how it ended.

TRHH: It’s one of the best, man.

Redman: Good lookin’, man.

TRHH: On Rockin Wit Da Best you said, “Let the streets decide who’s nice.” Do you feel like you get the respect you deserve from the industry?

Redman: You know what, I do. I think I don’t but I do. I ain’t gon’ lie when I’m mention amongst the top 10 or top 15 I’m in that bracket. That’s good from the years I came out. I see so many nice niggas and it’s like how do we decide the nice bracket? On how many records you keep dropping, being relevant, or is it the respect? You could have all the records and fame but you might not get respect in every borough like the next rapper would. You might not give off that kind of feeling or appearance that this rapper would. Your fans might not listen to this rapper and them fans might not listen to them.

How do you really decide? Biggie passed and he’s definitely the top 3 of all-time. It’s more niggas coming out. I’m still holding the belt up in this bitch on my end. Meth still holding the belt, Busta still holding the belt, we still relevant and shit. When is that list going to change? That’s the only thing I was saying. When is it going to give some rooms for other emcees? I think Eminem is one of the top 3 now. When are we going to switch those names around? I think Eminem should be one of the top 1 or 2 now. I vote for Eminem in the top 3.

TRHH: You mentioned Eminem and Biggie, who are your top 5 of all-time?

Redman: KRS-One and Slick Rick is my first. Biggie, Jay, and Em.

TRHH: Eminem gave you a shout out on a song. How does it feel to hear your contemporaries like Eminem give you props as one of their inspirations?

Redman: It feels great. I gotta also add Ludacris. Ludacris been holding it down, too. I love Ludacris’ flow and I love the quality that he puts in his music. His quality is great. I have to add him on the list as well. Both of those guys gave me props when they came out. I hear a little influence in their music as well. I look at it as great because that’s my job, man. I’m here to influence and also educate. If I can influence somebody else in their career to this kind of work and for them to go off on their own thing and do it, hey man, it’s great. I’m doing my job. You know what, I feed back off of them. I learn shit from them. I learned a lot of shit from Em and Luda just listening to the music.

We kind of circle that love back around and they might not know it and we don’t all talk. We all influence each other and we influence newcomers. That’s our job, man. I just want to put it out there that I influence those guys and those guys are still bumpin’. You got guys that came out sounding like other people or tried to do other peoples styles, but not with me. I just influenced their personality. They had their own style. I just influenced their personality to go and do whatever and they’re still winning. Eminem is nominated for 10 Grammys and he says I helped influence him. That’s great, my job is done. I don’t want anything. Im’ma be blessed for that.

TRHH: You’ve been around for a minute. What was the point where you said, “I made it,”?

Redman: I ain’t say I made it yet because I got a lot of things I wanna do. I wanna direct. I wanna make a women’s open toe sandal shoe line. This job only opened doors for me to do more work. I got a lot of things I wanna do before I say I made it.

TRHH: You’re one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen – solo or with Meth. What makes a good live performer?

Redman: Having a voice. Most important is sounding like your record without the lip syncing. People really appreciate when you sound like your record. They don’t give a fuck if you go up there and do a half an hour, but if you go up there and sounding like your record and you’re giving it your all – moving around, showing movement, showing you’re not scared to touch the fans, that’s what they want. Some emcees gotta go up there with a lot of jewelry and a lot of shit because they don’t move. That’s their excitement, their look, and it works for ‘em. I don’t wear no jewels. I ain’t gotta do all that shit. Energy is what I’m built on. That’s what overseas is built on as well. I learned more about doing my shows from overseas than here.

TRHH: Really?

Redman: Mhmm.

TRHH: How so?

Redman: Overseas is great, man. Overseas still appreciates 90s music. You can almost go to a party overseas and deejay, and I still deejay, too. I went over there and fucked around and started playing new shit. No one was dancing. Soon as I threw on LeFlaur Leflah by Heltah Skeltah the party starts. Throw on some Black Moon, the party starts. Throw on some old Biggie, the party starts. Throw on some Fu-Gee-La, the party fuckin’ starts. Throw on some Busta Rhymes Break Ya Neck, the party is off the fuckin’ hook! Serious.

TRHH: Why do you think overseas is on a different level than we are here? What do we need to do to catch up?

Redman: We don’t need anything to catch up because overseas listen to us. I just want to state this, overseas is such a big market but they don’t know how to control their market as far as emcees. They have such a different language barrier and a religion barrier. It’s hard for an emcee from Germany to pop off in Switzerland. Whereas a New York rapper can appeal to West Coast or down south, anywhere in America. Once they get that down pat they’re going to be unstoppable. We learn a lot of shit from them as far as TV and fashion, a lot of shit people don’t know about. But they learn the music from us. That’s from talking English and trying to be like us. Which they should be trying to be like their self. Once they get that it’s going to be over. It’s going to be over. They got a lot more people. It’s crazy.

What we could learn from them right now is respecting the culture of Hip-Hop. Respecting the essence. We done turned the Hip-Hop game more into a business, which is good, but it got more into a flossy, fashion kind of thing. I know we’re in the new generation but that wasn’t really how the basis of Hip-Hop was built. It was built on grind, it was built on skills, and it was built on earning your position as being the man. Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas earned that position as being the top 3. They didn’t just have a hot record, no they was burning shit down to be the top 3! Just like in my category, KRS-One and Slick Rick, those two guys was puttin’ foot in ass to be the top emcee on my list and to be different. That’s what we need to respect, man. Just get that essence back of respect for Hip-Hop. We can learn and it’s coming back around.

Prime fucking example, Red and Meth did a show in Atlanta maybe a year ago, that’s when down south was on fire, fire. You couldn’t even do nothing there without playing some down south music. The show was just alright. We came back around this year and it was like they never seen us before. The show was off the hook. You know what I got from that? They getting tired. Even their own people and own sound is getting tired of crunk, crunk, crunk, crunk. We brought some of the fans out in Atlanta. I been in Atlanta and the only thing they do is play crunk. When the fans came out that night in Atlanta they came out to hear some Hip-Hop. Big up to fuckin’ ATL, man.

TRHH: You live out there now?

Redman: No, not at all. I got a house out there. My kid’s lives out there, but I don’t. I been affiliated with Atlanta for a long time, since ’93.

TRHH: A lot of people debate over what the best Redman album is, what’s your favorite Redman album?

Redman: Muddy Waters, Doc’s Da Name.

TRHH: It’s a tie?

Redman: Muddy Waters and Doc’s Da Name.

TRHH: Why those two?

Redman: Muddy Waters branched me from that dark ass album I had before that one, Dare Iz A Darkside. I don’t even remember doing that one.

TRHH: Really?

Redman: Really.

TRHH: That’s ’94 right?

Redman: Yep.

TRHH: That one was rough, man. I liked that one.

Redman: I know. You know what, chicks come up to me and tell me that’s their favorite album. That’s weird. Them some weird chicks. I ain’t gon’ lie, them some weird chicks. Muddy Waters brought me to the light a little bit. I was exercising, I laid off all the drugs I was doing on Dare Iz A Darkside and I was back.

TRHH: Why should fans go out and cop that Reggie album?

Redman: It’s like, why not? We got so much music out here and all of it’s sounding the same really. I love it. Some of the records stand out, but that’s radio’s fault. A lot of people say all the shit sounds the same. You want something different in the CD deck, buy something different. Buy something with some soul in it, buy something with some substance. That’s what we need, we need some substance to this music. I don’t have a whole album full of singles and “brand new music, brand new music” on every fuckin’ record. No, I got some regular sounding shit, more conceptual, and that’s what it is.

Purchase Redman’s discography:

Whut? Thee Album

Dare Iz A Darkside

Muddy Waters

Doc’s Da Name 2000

Malpractice

Red Gone Wild: Thee Album

Reggie

Mudface

About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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