Interview – Redman signed with Def Jam Recordings in 1991. Co-founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, the iconic imprint is responsible for launching the careers of Hip Hop pioneers such as LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Beastie Boys, among others.
As the label grew, it would ultimately add JAY-Z, Method Man and DMX to its roster and solidify its reputation as an impenetrable Hip Hop force. In 1998, Jay released the multi-platinum album Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life and recruited his labelmates Redman, X and Method Man for the Hard Knock Life Tour the following year.
Redman has often referred to that tour as the “most historical” tour in Hip Hop. During a recent conversation with HipHopDX, Redman explained it wasn’t only the incredible artists who made it unforgettable.
“I say that not only because of the amazing artists that was on the tour but because of the energy we produced,” he tells DX. “We was all under the same label. We all had albums out that was doing very well. We all respected each other, number one.
“What we created on the road was a family, a family of energy and getting money and competition as well. At the time, we was going out a little bit earlier than a lot of the other groups. Sometimes we would go out there and people were still folding up chairs, putting chairs down and shit.”
Nevertheless, Redman and Meth would hit the stage every night with their unbridled live performances and make sure they gave it 100 percent. In fact, their sets were so explosive, Jay and X felt inspired to step their game up, too.
“We still had an audience in the outer regions of the stadium because we were packing 60,000, 70,000 a night,” he continued. “That middle floor was always half full when we went out there, but the rest of the stadium was a little bit packed. We had to really put on a show when me and my boy came out to really open up for JAY-Z and DMX.
“We came out there and we shut the building down. Even from the top tier, from JAY-Z and them, they would hear about our show. They even watched our show one time, like, ‘Let me see what these guys doing, what people are talking about.’ They’ve seen us flying through the air on our harness and all this shit. They was like, ‘Oh, we got to turn up.’ We actually competed in seeing people shows turned up for the better because of each other. We looked at their show and we’re like, ‘You know what? We’re going to have this in our show too.’ It was a great competition. It was family. Most of all, the fans got an experience that they still talk about to this day.”
The Hard Knock Life Tour spawned the 2000 documentary Backstage. Produced by then Roc-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash and directed by Chris Fiore, the film took a deep dive into what went on behind the scenes and featured several live performances from additional Def Jam artists such as Beanie Sigel, Ja Rule and Memphis Bleek.
Backstage also came with a soundtrack, the appropriately titled Backstage: A Hard Knock Live. Production came courtesy of Alchemist, Earthtone III, Irv Gotti, Ken “Duro” Ifill, Mannie Fresh, Poke & Tone, Redman, Scott Storch, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland and DJ Clue.
The project peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the U.S. R&B/Hip Hop chart. It was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in December 2000.
The tour itself netted over $18 million and brought the artists closer. During a press run in 1999, Dash proclaimed it was “the most successful Hip Hop tour ever.” He added, “We set a precedent not just for rap tours, but for all music tours.”