In a recent conversation with HipHopDX at Def Jam’s New York City offices, Newark, New Jersey legendary emcee/producer/actor Redman spoke in depth about his 18-plus year-career. Having just released Redman Presents…Reggie, he spoke about the career path that’s delivered him to the new album, just released on Def Jam.
In early 1997, Redman with his Def Squad partners Erick Sermon and Keith Murray released a popular cover of The Sugarhill Gang‘s 1979 Hip Hop classic, “Rapper’s Delight.” The song, featured on the Priority Records compilation In Tha Beggining…There Was Rap, was an education to younger generation’s on Rap’s first hit record. With plans of moving into a music executive role, Redman was asked which song of his own he would be comfortable with a next generation emcee covering. Red pointed to 1999’s “Da Rockwilder,” a collaborative effort with rhyme partner, Method Man. However, Red asserted that as he waited close to 20 years to touch Sugarhill’s jewel, so must whoever wishes to recreate his. “In maybe 10 more years. At least 10, ’cause we still in the game,” said Redman. “[Method Man and I] do a show, that shit [still] shuts it down.”
As exemplified in “Da Rockwilder,” Redman has long been a producer-friendly emcee. The two-minute ’99 hit took its name from a longtime Red collaborator, as the New Jersey icon frequently gives newer beat-makers prime opportunities on his works, or in the case of Reggie, established underground Hip Hop producer M-Phazes, who made “Cheerz.”
Asked where his open ear for new production and more specifically, new producers comes from, Redman pointed to his own entrance to Hip Hop. “Shit, that comes from the masters that started me, the masters that started EPMD and Hit Squad – the first super-group,” said an excited Red. “[The first outfit that was] gettin’ different rappers together to make a group was EPMD, man, they was doin’ that with K-Solo, with Das EFX – Das EFX was doin’ a million copies [sold] in [1992 with Dead Serious]. Then [Erick Sermon] put me on [Business As Usual], and I did 500,000-600,000 on [Whut? Thee Album]. So it was just a domino effect.”
Redman never forgot Erick and Parrish making stars, and says that he’s stayed open to good musical chemistry since. “For example, Rockwilder, I met him through Shazzy. She was a rapper from Queens, and she had a record back [Attitude: A Hip-Hop Rapsody] in the day. I met him through her. Rockwilder did a record on Dare Iz A Darkside to Muddy Waters on out… till he got [famous].” In the years since, Rockwilder produced hits for Red, as well as the Grammy Award-winning posse cover of “Lady Marmalade,” Jay-Z‘s “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)” and De La Soul (and Red’s) “Oooh.”
On the subject of EPMD, Redman also explained how his own style was born. With a delivery and subject matter unlike anyone else at his time, Redman was asked about his emcee influences as a teenager. “At 15, I think it was either Rakim or Big Daddy Kane. I like Juice Crew, period. I liked Rakim, he [spent a lot of time in] Staten Island, and Big Daddy Kane,” said Red enthusiastically as he signed Reggie inserts. “They was on that power tip. The vision was bigger.” One of the emcee pioneers featured on Reggie is The Treacherous Three’s Kool Moe Dee, who appears on “Rockin’ Wit da Best.”
For Redman, Hip Hop was an outlet that hit him at a time when he was already musically inclined. “I was playin’ drums in the church with my moms at 15. She made me play drums with a church choir.” Coming into the game behind the turntables with Lord of the Underground’s DoItAll, Redman already was very familiar with Hip Hop records. “I was still deejay. When I started poppin’ off with EPMD… yo, my sisters will tell you, when I first heard [EPMD], I was like, ‘Yo, I’ma do this shit!’ They stood out. They had the slow-flow, [the music was based in] Funk; I love Funk. It wasn’t nobody really doin’ they sound when they first came out. [Erick Sermon and Parish Smith] was my favorite emcees doin’ it, back in the day, besides KRS-One, Slick Rick – them are my fathers. No one fucks with KRS, still to this day. No one.” Adding Ice Cube and N.W.A. to his list, Redman looked up candidly and said. “Those guys played a major role in who Redman became.”