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1993 was one of the greatest years in hip-hop history. And thanks to outlets like Complex and NahRight—I’ve had the honor of interviewing some of the legendary artists who released classics in ’93. So to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this monumental year, I dug deep in my interview archives and put together a collection of stories behind some of 1993’s most memorable rap songs—as told to me by Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Fat Joe, Diamond D, Erick Sermon, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Dres, and DJ Muggs. Check it out.
Brand Nubian “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down” (Produced by Diamond D)
Diamond D: “There are three versions of that. The album version, the video version which became the single, and the remix version. Obviously, the video version is my favorite, which was the last version done. I had about two hours left of studio time, and I just made that real quick. I think Sadat and Lord Jamar said when they went up to Def Jam—because they were on Rush Management—and played it, that’s the one that Lyor Cohen was jumping around all crazy over.
“The video version, even though it was the simplest, was the best one. That version was actually done in the remix session, in Chung King Studios. They laid vocals down at another time. That song definitely helped my production career.
“I’m on the train in the video, but you can’t really see me. I’m like in the fuckin’ background. Every time I watch that video, I’m like, ‘Yo, niggas killin’ me.’ The funny shit is they called me like, ‘Yo D, we want you to be on the train with us.’ The director or Elektra Records or someone was able to shut down two train stations for an hour or so. So I drive down there, and we film, and then when the video came out, I was like, ‘Where the fuck am I at?’”
Cypress Hill “Insane In The Brain” (Produced by DJ Muggs)
DJ Muggs: “That record started off in the house. I think the BPM is like 102, but it started off at 93. I made the beat slow. It sound more like De La Soul’s ‘Plug Tunin’’ than what it is now. And there’s some shit in L.A., where the gangs would be like, ‘Crazy insane, got no brain.’ It’s some L.A. shit. And B-Real came, and I said, ‘Yo, I got this idea for a song called ‘Insane in the Brain.’ So he flipped it, with that, ‘Insane in the membrane.’
“We did it, but it was a little slow. So I sped it up, and he kicked his rhymes on it. And even after he did it, I sped it up maybe one more BPM at the end. It wasn’t the best song on the album, but I knew it was the single.
“At that time, I was deep into industrial rock. I was into Ministry. And that inspired a lot of the stuff with all the skulls hanging in the video, and the skeletons. The guy who did all the stuff for Ministry built all those skulls for us. And we did the video at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco because our shows were nuts. So we did the video there. And we recorded that song in New York, and mixed it in Philly.
“Even the structure of that song, I kind of used the ‘Kill a Man’ format, the way it breaks down in the third verse, you know, when you hear the little carousels. Like when you hear the carousels in ‘Kill a Man,’ when B goes, ‘It’s gonna be a long time…’ Same thing with, ‘Like Louis Armstrong…’ Putting bridges in songs was a big thing. Rock and roll fools put bridges in songs. Putting bridges, and making the songs move. I was always into different song formats. I listen to The Beatles, and you hear four bar verses, and different things. So I always tried to do interesting arrangements.
“That’s probably our biggest single. That or ‘Rock Superstar.’ Probably that, though. It’s like I tell people, man—we never went out of our way to make a radio record. Even with ‘Jump Around,’ we just did what we did. It happened to get on the radio, and happened to blow up. If you hear what was on the radio at those times, we never said, ‘Let’s try to get a single to fit in on the radio.’ We did our shit, and it happened to take off.’
“And fuck, I know we worked hard. And we were in tune. But we worked our fucking asses off. We were playing in front of people at breakfasts at One Stops. We would go on promo tours, and all the Mom and Pop record stores would come to the One Stop, and they would tell them the new shit and sell them on the records they could take back to their stores. And I remember doing a breakfast for twenty people, eating eggs watching us. I was like, ‘Wow. This is it? This is what we signed up for?’ Six of us driving around in a van, sharing one room on tour. Rotating the bed every night. We did all that.”
Cypress Hill “Hits From The Bong” (Produced by DJ Muggs)
DJ Muggs: “We did that in L.A. And we were trying to figure out another way to approach doing a weed song. Like, ‘We’re gonna smoke weed again? Fuck.’ So we were like, ‘Nobody’s done a song called ‘Hits from the Bong.’ Let’s record a bong hit, and we’ll put it throughout the song.’
“We always smoked a bong, being around rock and roll fools. More white boys smoke bongs. The hood didn’t know what a fucking bong was. But I grew up with my uncle, and it was all velvet posters and black-lights and fucking lava lamps. And weed and incense. I didn’t know what the weed was, but I remember the smell of it, and the incense, looking back on it.”
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien “Catch a Bad One” (Produced by Casual)
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: “Casual is one of my better friends. When I used to do shit in high school, I used to buddy up with him quite a bit. And he was a solo artist like I was, so we had like a friendly competition. We kept each other on our toes. I think we just got along real well, and understood each other. And I think that just translated with the beat. I think he was going for something kind of wild too, like, ‘I bet you Del’s gonna like this.’ We used to always listen to each other’s stuff. We listened to each other’s stuff more than we listened to other people’s stuff. We just thought that we were the tightest.
“I think the singles were kind of left up to the crew and to my A&R Dante Ross to choose. I think ultimately I let Dante make the call on that, because I don’t think I was too sure. I think he just felt like that was one of the sicker ones.”
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien “Wrongplace” (Produced by Del)
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: “I won’t say those stories are necessarily true, but those are the type of things that be happening. I took from all types of experiences from where I stay at, and what I’ve been through, and made up a couple of little things for each verse that represented ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ It’s kind of a cautionary tale, but I didn’t really put it out there like that.
“It was only two verses at first. Then, we decided to put it out as a single, and Dante was like, ‘Damn, this is a dope song, I want to do it as a single, but you only got two verses. It needs to be longer.’ Which was a trip, because usually motherfuckers be like, ‘You need to make it shorter.’ But he was like, ‘Nah, this is dope. It needs to be longer. Add another verse.’
“So the third verse was about when I got in trouble coming back from Amsterdam, and how I felt about it. Me and my boy Kwame, who used to manage me at the time, were coming back from Amsterdam. He had dreadlocks, right? So right off the bat, they strip search us in the airport. So they take my wallet and look at my I.D., and a little crumb of hash comes rolling out. I guess I forgot about it. So they’re like, ‘Aha!’
“So I’m like 21, laughing at them like, ‘Come on, dude. I can’t even smoke that if I wanted to smoke it. You know, dude. Just throw it away.’ So he’s like, ‘You think this is a joking matter? Trafficking drugs is a serious matter.’ So they detained me in the airport, and I couldn’t leave until I paid a $500 fine. Then I had to fly back to go to court. And the judge was pissed off, like, ‘Why are you wasting my time for this fucking bullshit?’ So he gave me probation, and said, ‘If you finish probation and this little drug class, we’ll wipe it off your record.’ But leading up to my court appearance, it was a big ass deal in my mind, like, ‘I’m gonna go to jail for this little ass crumb.’”
Erick Sermon “Hittin’ Switches” (Produced by Erick Sermon)
Erick Sermon: “Aww, man. I was in Atlanta, Georgia. I moved down there after the EPMD break-up. I was so happy at that time. EPMD was in shambles, with the break-up. I had a very rough last two years with EPMD.
“It was personal stuff. We had blew so fast, stuff was moving so fast, and the business wasn’t right. But when it was over, and I moved to Georgia, it was like a whole body came off of me.
“I went there to chill. I met some dudes, and a couple of girls, and chilled out for a while. And my boy took me by Dallas Austin’s studio. And Dallas was like, ‘Yo, you’re not leaving here.’ And Darp Studios is one of the most famous studios in Georgia.
“He was like, ‘You can have Studio B.’ He didn’t know me from Adam. He just knew me as Erick. And it was just the fact that Erick Sermon was in his studio. He was elated. But he didn’t say that many words. He was like, ‘Give Erick Studio B.’ And that was it.
“So I was in there having a good time. I was free, the whole nine. Then Puffy called me for the movie. Who’s The Man? was his soundtrack. Because Puffy was a dumb fan of EPMD, even now to this day. Clark Kent told Mase, ‘You gotta be Erick Sermon.’ Mase’s lisp was strong, but he told him to make it stronger. Puff told Mase too, ‘You gotta sound like this.’ There’s no secrets, man.
“The Chronic had came out. That was my East Coast version. And I used the metaphor of ‘Hittin’ Switches.’ Even though it was meant for the cars, I meant it in a metaphor way. Like, ‘Off and on, off and on, it’s on.’ Something that you do. But people thought it was about the cars maybe. But that’s fine.
“Then Russell [Simmons] called me. Again, Def Jam needed some material. He said, ‘Yo, you wanna do an album?’ And maybe that was from ‘Hittin’ Switches,’ because ‘Hittin’ Switches’ was big. It was my first solo record. People were like, ‘Okay, there goes one verse from Erick. There’s another one.’ They didn’t know it wasn’t an EPMD record. And Def Jam needed product flow. They knew, at the time, that I was the one producing.
“I was making songs in Atlanta, but I was real comfortable. So my songs were coming out too comfortable. I wasn’t Erick Sermon of EPMD or E Double, I was somebody else. And Redman came down and said, ‘Yo, your songs are okay, man. But they’re missing something.’ I owe Redman a lot for ‘Hittin’ Switches.’ Because when he said that, I came back and became E Dub. And Puff was like, ‘Single. Let’s go.’ Automatically.
“The video was shot by Puff and Hype Williams, and it was Hype’s second video. And Biggie Smalls was there the whole time watching me. Biggie Smalls was a big Erick Sermon fan. Even in the last interview for Rap Pages, they were like, ‘So, who do you want to be like?’ And he was like, ‘I like Erick Sermon. I like how he move.
“So the greatest rapper of all time is sitting there watching me. Tracey Waples, who used to work at Def Jam, called me one time and was like, Biggie Smalls is trying to get on your album.’ You know, No Pressure. And I’m like, ‘Tracey, I don’t even know the kid.’ So he called Puffy and was like, ‘Yo, can you please get me on that Erick Sermon album?’
“But I had a kid named Joe Sinistr, who was Jam Master Jay’s artist that Redman told me about. He was like, ‘I got this kid, and I’m not saying he’s me, but he’s crazy.’ Reggie didn’t hate.
“I called up Jay like, ‘Who’s this kid Joe?’ Met him the next day, and put him in the studio that night, and we made ‘Payback II.’ I had Redman, Keith Murray. I didn’t need anyone else.
“Oh my God, you know how many times I think about [what it would have been like if I had Biggie on my album?] But you don’t know. You just don’t.”
Erick Sermon ft. Keith Murray “Hostile” (Produced by Erick Sermon)
Erick Sermon: “Murray was brung over to me by K-Solo. He brought him to my house. This is during EPMD, in 1991. And again, I heard one line on Murray. He said, ‘Let’s squash the beef, cook it, and we all can get fat.’ I’m like, ‘Huh?!?!?’ I immediately took him. Same way I took Reggie. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“And he had rhymes after rhymes after rhymes. Him and Reggie just had a whole bunch of rhymes. So if I got beats, it’s a producer’s dream. Whitney Houston being a dope singer is a producer’s dream. Those guys had rhymes. If I had beats, all they had to do was put the rhymes on them. And I had enough beats to go on.
“Murray was a thing where he had other things going on with him. He was supposed to be one of the prolific MCs in the game. If his career had gone straight without all the confusion and [going to jail].
“I’d never seen that type of impact by an MC. From Puffy calling him, from him hanging out with Nas. He had Biggie Smalls in the hood [on Long Island]. He impacted. The Totals, Mary J. Bliges. He was one of those people, like, ‘What the fuck is that?’
“He was singing and rhyming. He was like, ‘Oooh, I might lose my cool, and break fool, and pull out my ‘get busy’ tool.’ You know, ‘I rhyme like a mad journalist…’ What was that? Dangerous.
“Brett Ratner, the big film director, that’s who shot ‘Stay Real’ and ‘Hostile.’ He’s one of my good friends. Russell wanted to sign Keith Murray. We ended up getting in a big argument at the ‘Hostile’ video shoot because I ended up signing Murray to Jive. But I didn’t know he liked Keith Murray. Usually, if I had an MC, they’d be like, ‘Yo, we want that.’ But no one said shit.
“Jeff Fenster and Jeff Sledge and Barry Weiss [at Jive] liked him. I went to where people liked [my artists.] Def Jam didn’t want Das EFX, but Sylvia Rhone got it. And she won. Russell just automatically thought Keith Murray was coming there. That could’ve been my fault too. But since nobody said nothing to me, I didn’t think to go to Def Jam. But Murray ended up going to Def Jam years later.”
Fat Joe “Flow Joe” (Produced by Diamond D)
Fat Joe: “I started out in the Apollo Theater. That’s where I got my start. I won Amateur Night four weeks in a row. I met Red Alert, who was the number one DJ in New York. He worked on 98.7 KISS FM. He asked me to give him a promo, like a jingle.
“So I went to Diamond D’s, and he came up with the beat. He was like, ‘I just bought this vinyl off this dude on the train.’ And the minute he played it, and I heard the sound he used for the sample, I remember Diamond started moving his head and doing the Diamond D.
“I had never seen anyone produce a beat in front of me until that. He went in and just flipped it. He made it right in front of me, in his kitchen. He had his equipment in his kitchen, and he made the beat right there.”
“So I did it, and I gave it to Red Alert, and he played it a couple of weeks later. I’ll never forget this. I had the flu, and I was laying down in the living room, and I had been waiting for like a month for him to play it. He finally played it and I jumped off the couch and started screaming at everyone in the projects, and took my speaker and put it out the window, and was like, ‘Yo, my record is on!’ And the whole projects and everyone in front of the building started going crazy. So that was where ‘Flow Joe’ came from originally.
“Then, Chris Lighty and Relativity [Records] approached me about signing me, and they wanted that to be the single. So we took that, and we turned it into ‘Flow Joe.’
“The other unique thing about ‘Flow Joe’ is that I never took a punch or anything. I didn’t know punching was allowed. I did my verses and hooks, everything, with the crowd of people there [saying the chorus], then I went in to the second verse. I didn’t even know what punching was. I was new to the studio.
“Diamond D and Showbiz were big DJs from my projects. The thing that me and Diamond D had in common was graffiti. He used to write ‘D Rock,’ and I always wrote ‘Crack.’ I would see his name, and he would see my name and we became cool through graffiti.
“One day, I was standing by the light pole by my mother’s house in front of the building, and Diamond stepped to me and was like, ‘Yo, you keep getting in to all this trouble, and every time I see you, you’re in beef, and you’re on some gangster shit. I’m telling you, if you take that, and put it behind music, and talk that gangster shit on music, you could be large.’
“Essentially, he saved my life. He’s the one person I can honestly say saved my life. Because I wasn’t even thinking about rapping. He got me into that. And the rest is history.”
Diamond D: “Fat Joe [and I lived in] Forest Projects in the South Bronx. He was just somebody who lived in the neighborhood. We knew each other since we were kids. He got into rhyming in the early 90’s. He was always into hip-hop [before that], but he wasn’t outside at all the jams on the mic or anything like that. Dudes knew who Joe was. He was running around in the streets, doing his thing on the side or whatever. But I don’t think everybody knew he was rhyming.
“I was involved from the very beginning. Joe stopped me in the street, because he knew I was in the industry from Ultimate Force and from me producing for Lord Finesse. So he came up to me and said he wanted to pay for some studio time, and he had some ideas he wanted to throw down. So we hooked up, and the first couple of demos we did, they all became radio inserts, and Red Alert would play them. That caught the attention of Chris Lighty, who had a production deal at Relativity. It was Violator/Relativity. The Beatnuts were actually over there prior to Joe going over there.
“Me and Joe went around to at least four or five different labels before he got signed. They all passed on him. I don’t know why. But Chris Lighty said he was gonna fuck with it, and he gave us a budget, and I recorded Joe’s whole first album.
“The ‘Flow Joe’ beat was crazy. The drums were bangin’. I moved to the north side of the Bronx over on Paulding Avenue, and I remember that was one of the first beats I made [while I was living up there], on the S-950.
“That was the one that Joe believed in. We all believed in it. That song pretty much set off his career. We shot the video in Long Island City, Queens over there on the docks.”
Fat Joe ft. Grand Puba and Diamond D “Watch The Sound” (Prod. by Diamond D)
Fat Joe: “Grand Puba was the hottest dude in the game. So we were cool. He came to the ‘Flow Joe’ video. That’s my man for years. I knew Grand Puba through the streets. See, before I was rapping, I was always around the rap game, even though I was in the streets.
“I would be at all the parties, and all the events, and I was pretty hard to miss. I was one of the few Spanish cats sitting there with jewelry on, Dapper Dan suits. It was pretty hard to miss me. I also knew Puba from Jazzy Jay, and Strong City Records, before he was on a major label when he used to fuck with all the Zulu Nation cats. So I figured we should do a song together.
“Then Diamond came up with the beat, and it had the little Jamaican sample in it. And it was an honor for me, because Diamond D was probably the hottest real hip-hop producer in the game.
“[Stunts, Blunts, and Hip-Hop] is a classic album. I did every ad-lib on that album. He says something, and I’m like, ‘Yo, what the fuck you talkin’ about?’ And the girl’s like, ‘Yo, chill!’ Or I’m in the background going, ‘Yo, that’s that shit…’ And that shit is crazy to me, because it is such a classic album.
“To this day, when we listen to Backspin or something, and a Diamond D record comes on, I’m like, ‘Yo yo yo yo, that’s me! That’s my ad-lib right there, nigga!’ [Laughs.]
“We actually shot that video in one of the most gangster places in the Bronx. Thinking back, I don’t even know how we pulled that shit off. That’s when niggas were buying crack on line like it was the stock market. We shot that shit in the middle of that.
“It was really exciting for me, for it to be the second single I ever dropped, and to be doing something with these guys at that magnitude. It was my first album, and I think my first record I did with a feature, so to have Grand Puba and Diamond on it was really crazy. When I look back in time, and I look back at early interviews I did, I can’t believe how I was blessed to have these kings around me.”
Diamond D: “I wasn’t really [a big reggae head], but that was one of the joints I did like, the Sister Nancy joint. That was one of the beats that I think I just had, and I was playing him a couple, and it was one that he picked. Everyone was in and out of Jazzy Jay’s studio, so that’s where Puba and Joe go back to.
“I know Joe laid his verse first. I don’t remember if Puba did his then too, or if he came back and dropped it off. All the sessions back then were like that, you know, everybody smoking. Joe doesn’t smoke, but he tolerated it in his sessions. But you can tell that session had a party vibe to it.
“We shot the video in the South Bronx over by Alexander Avenue. I remember Tommy Hilfiger or his brother Andy came over to the video shoot in person in a big body 600—the top of the line Benz back then—and opened up the trunk and said, ‘Back up, this is all for Puba.’ He drove to the South Bronx just to bring him some clothes. It was hilarious.”
Funkdoobiest “The Funkiest” (Produced by DJ Muggs)
DJ Muggs: “Son was Sean from 7A3’s friend. Sean was always younger than us, so they were like in 10th grade, and I had just gotten out of high school and I was 18. They were probably 15, 16. Son was originally 7A3’s DJ, then I came along, and I became the DJ, because he really couldn’t DJ. And he was just the little homie that would rap. And he would come and ditch school and come over to my house, and just rhyme. I’d go, ‘Hey, rap on this beat,’ because I’d be playing acapellas over the beat. To try and get a feel for the beat, you wanted to hear an MC on the beat. Son never made no sense. He just rhymed and shit. He had character, he was a quirky, funny kid.
“After Cypress came out, we had Ralph M, who was our homie that was DJing for Kid Frost, and T Bone who was in our group DBX prior to Cypress Hill, and that whole crew had a lot of MCs. So here was Son, and we were like, ‘Let’s put them all together and make a group.’ B-Real had did a song called ‘The Funkdoobiest,’ that was over the ‘A to the K’ beat. So we were like, ‘Let’s call them ‘The Funkdoobiest.’ So we gave them the name, and it came together.
“‘The Funkiest’ was supposed to be the first single, but the fucking label wanted to put ‘Bow Wow Wow’ out. There you go again. They didn’t listen to the streets. And I think that kind of made the record not do what it was supposed to do. That was the runaway street smash. It would have been interesting if that would have came out big with a video at the time.”
The Flavor Unit MCs “Roll Wit Tha Flava” (Produced by D-Nice)
Dres: “Our first manager was Chris Lighty, God bless him. And he wound up going to work at Def Jam. We had brought Def Jam a demo [before Chris started working there], and my first experience with Lyor Cohen was horrific. I wanted nothing to do with him.
“Red Alert had a guy named Dave ‘Funken’ Klein that worked for him. When he heard our demo, he was stoked, like, ‘Y’all are dope!’ So he made calls to a bunch of labels. Def Jam was where we wanted to be, because when we were coming up, Def Jam was the staple. Every record that had Def Jam on it, we bought it or stole it, just because it represented the culture. And 95% of the time, it was dope. So we wanted to be on Def Jam.
“So we’re meeting with Def Jam, PolyGram, a few other labels, and what have you. And when we get to Def Jam, we’re really excited. Our demo’s sitting on the table for Lyor, and without him even looking up, he’s like, ‘Oh, Black Sheep, oh, this is your demo? I’m not going to be able to listen to this until July.’ And it was May. So we’re standing there like, ‘What?’ We were hoping he was gonna play it right then and there. And he’s telling us not even next month, but the month after, he might be able to play it. Barely looking at us, just really indignant, like we’re wasting his time, and the only reason we’re in there is because he’s entertaining Funk. I immediately picked up the demo and was like, ‘Nah, if you’re not gonna listen to the demo until July, we’re good. Thanks a lot. Appreciate your time.’ I grab the demo, and we leave.
“The next day, I get a call at my house. It’s Lyor. I don’t even know how he got my phone number. He’s like, ‘Is this Dreese? Dreese from Black Sheep? Listen, this is Lyor Cohen. I have a limousine on the way to come get you. We’re going to sign you. Yah.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? We were just in your office yesterday, you were telling us you couldn’t even listen to our music.’ He’s like, ‘That was bullshit. You guys are signing to Def Jam.’ So I was like, ‘Have you heard the music?’ And there was a long pause, and he was like, ‘No, I haven’t heard the music, but I’m hearing phenomenal things, and we can’t wait to have you.’ I was like, ‘You can turn that car around. We’re straight.’ I didn’t want anything to do with this dude.
“Once Chris Lighty gets [to Def Jam], he sets up a show at the Beacon Theater with all Def Jam artists, [and since he was still our manager at the time, he puts us on the bill, too]. And I get a chance to hear how Lyor talks about Slick Rick, who I’m a fan of tremendously. He was so belittling. And Rick wasn’t even there, he was just talking about him. Then he says to me, ‘I don’t even know why you guys are on the fucking bill. You guys are fucking shit.’ And I’m just like, ‘Yo dude, let me explain something to you real quick. Don’t even talk to me anymore. I don’t know where you’re from, but I will choke you until you no longer breathe.’ And I had to catch myself, like, ‘Aw man, I don’t want to have this kind of energy up here.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? Let me just stay away from this dude.’
“My entire career, I’ve just stayed away from Lyor. Granted, he’s made people gazillionaires and all that shit, but he’s just a wack person to me. I see how the culture has failed at times, and having someone like him at the forefront might have been good for business, but it wasn’t good for the culture.
“So now Chris wants to bring us over to Def Jam management, and I’m like, ‘Nah, I can’t.’ He’s like, ‘You know what? Let me call my boy Shakim and Flavor Unit management. I think they’d be a good place for you guys.’ So he makes the introduction between us and Shakim. Our record is already out, so we needed someone to manage our day-to-day, and help push it forward. And that was how I was afforded to get on ‘Roll Wit Tha Flava.’
“I remember I walked in the studio, and it was full with everyone that’s on that record, from Freddie Foxxx to [Queen] Latifah to D-Nice. I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ Everybody basically had their rhymes done, and I wrote mine right in the studio. I was like, ‘Okay, everyone here is a shooter, but what’s gonna differentiate me?’ That was where my heart was at with any features. I have to be the Black Sheep of the situation. I have to stand out somehow.
“I remember one time we performed it live on Arsenio. It was very dope.”
Ice Cube ft. Das EFX “Check Yo Self (Album Version)” (Produced by DJ Muggs)
DJ Muggs: “I had done a couple songs with Cube, ‘We Had to Tear This Mothafucka Up’ and ‘Now I Gotta Wet Ya,’ in L.A. And I was in New York, and he was here, and wanted to record. So I was like, ‘Cool.’ And he was like, ‘I got Das EFX, they’re gonna kick the chorus.’ And I was like, ‘Word?’ Das EFX had just dropped, and they were sick.
“Cube picked that beat, and that was supposed to be an interlude on the Funkdoobiest album. But he called me, and was like, ‘Yo, you got any beats?’ So I just put everything on a cassette and went over there. And you know, when you’re playing someone beats, and you don’t like one, you hear the two first bars and start to fast forward? And he goes, ‘No, what’s that? Go back.’ And I’m like, ‘You sure?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like, ‘Alright.’ But in my head I was like, ‘This beat is wack! He’s trippin’. Fuck!’
“So even when he spit on it and I heard it, I liked the song, but I didn’t like my beat. But it fuckin’ blew up. Then he did the remix with ‘The Message,’ and it went to another level. The song ended up becoming a #1 record, a fuckin’ platinum single.
“Then it was funny, Salt-N-Pepa used [the same sample] a couple years later on ‘Shoop.’ When I heard that, I was like, ‘Oh, it must’ve been a good sample then.’ [Laughs.] But the difference is, I sampled it on the SP-1200, where you only have 2.5 seconds on each pad. So I would have to sample it on 45, and then slow it down. But when you slow it down, that’s what makes it all dirty. My shit is all dirty and dusty. Theirs was all clean and concise.”
Run-DMC ft. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth “Down With The King” (Prod. by Pete Rock)
Pete Rock: “That was a great opportunity. I thought I was dreaming actually, because I used to be a big fan of Run DMC. I remember buying their records when I was only eleven years old. When the opportunity came about, I thought it was a great idea to help get those guys back on the charts. That’s what I did.
“Jam Master Jay, R.I.P. man. He was the realest cat. He would show up at my mother’s house, unannounced, and when I would go to the front door and see it was him, I really, really, literally thought I was dreaming. He’d be like, ‘Come on Pete, let’s go finish working on the song.’ I would hurry up and get dressed, brush my teeth, wash my face, comb my hair, and go across to the basement and start making music.
“I went to [John Jay University] for a little while. I had a friend of mine that went to the school and I used to just go hang out with him on campus and stuff. And I ended up just taking a course or two, but I didn’t really do college too tough. Everything was taking off. I was in the music business, and that was more demanding. Not that it was more important, because nothing is more important than school, but it was demanding of my time. And I was having fun, so I put school on the back burner.
“We never did a live show with Run-DMC, but we should have. We were broken up at the time after ‘Down With The King.’ That next year, after The Main Ingredient dropped, we parted ways.”
A Tribe Called Quest ft. Large Professor “Keep It Rollin'” (Prod. by Large Professor)
Large Professor: “That’s when Tip had his equipment in Phife’s basement. We used to just go through records. We would go record shopping, go to Phife’s basement, throw the needles on the records, whatever. So we would go through our batch of the stuff we got that day.
“So there was this joint, and I looped it up. And my boy Tony Rome, and Yusef, they had looped it up a while ago, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that shit is hot.’ But I never really knew what it was. But when I threw that record up there, I was like, ‘Oh shit, [I remember this joint].’ Then Tip was like, ‘Yo, that’s dope!’ Then I threw the drums to it, and it was cool.
“I didn’t think they were gonna use it. It was crazy. He was like, ‘Yo, I’m in the studio, and I got that joint that you looped up. Come on, let’s rhyme over it.’ And you know, we were going record shopping together while he was working, so it was like, I would hear the work he was doing in his sessions. He’d come through like, ‘Yo, check this out,’ and play me ‘Lyrics To Go,’ and I’d be like, ‘Yo, that shit is crazy.’
“So I rolled through the studio. And I think at that time with Tip, he knew it was right when all the Main Source shit disintegrated, [which is why I’m like, ‘Fuck those two DJs’ on my verse]. He was like, ‘Yo, just get it out. We got your back.’
“At that time I was really going through a whole lot, with the breakup of the group, and just myself growing as a person, and now Nas is doing his thing, and like, ‘Oh shit, now I’m a solo artist.’ So Tip was like, ‘Yo, just come roll with us for a moment.’ That’s why all throughout that album he was kind of biggin’ me up, trying to get me to straighten up.
“I was torn up over that Main Source shit. I hadn’t planned on being a solo artist. I was the one saying the rhymes, but it was still like, ‘Yo, scratch this,’ or, ‘Yo, scratch that.’ So ‘Keep It Rollin’’ was nice, because it was it pretty much like, ‘Yo, keep it rollin’, man.’ For real.
“That brought me to a whole other level. A lot of people were like, ‘Who is this guy?’ And then [they’d go back to my Main Source stuff and connect the dots].
“I like The Low End Theory [over Midnight Marauders]. I just like that time better. The Low End Theory, that’s when I was out in Jersey, and I’d be with the girls or whatever. And the girl, she would be driving me around. And I’d be like, ‘Yo, you ain’t got that A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory?’ Next day, she’d have that shit like, ‘Yo, yeah, this shit is so dope!’ All the girls I would be coolin’ out with, I’d be like, ‘You gotta get that A Tribe Called Quest shit.’ That was a nice time.
“And then musically, it had a lot of them ‘rock you to sleep’ loops. ‘Verses from the Abstract’ with the live bass. It was real ill. And then even ‘Butter.’ They were still tricky in Midnight Marauders, but The Low End Theory [was crazy]. And I was kind of involved in The Low End Theory, because that’s when we really first started clickin’. He would let me hear stuff. I was there when he just had the drum loop for ‘Check The Rhime.’ And he threw the other loop in there [with the bass line], and I was like, ‘Yo, that’s crazy!’”
Wu-Tang Clan “C.R.E.A.M.” (Produced by RZA)
Raekwon: “‘C.R.E.A.M.’ did a lot for my career personally. It gave me an opportunity to revisit the times where that cream meant that much to us. So, yeah, when I think of this record it just automatically puts me back into ‘87/’88 where we were standing in front of the building. It’s cold outside. We didn’t care. We’re out there, all black on trying to make dollars. Just trying to make some money and trying to eat. Survive.
”This song, I remember writing to the beat a long time ago before we actually came out. That beat is old. That was probably like a ‘89 beat. RZA had it that long because he had a bunch of breaks. He had all kind of things and he was making beats back then, but we was just picking and that beat happened to always sit around and I would be like, ‘I want that beat, so don’t give that beat to nobody.’ And he kept his word and let me have it.
“Meth came up with the hook but our dude named Raider Ruckus, this was like Meth’s homeboy back then, like they was real close, he came up with the phrase ‘cash rules everything around me.’ So when he showed Meth what it was and was like, ‘Cash rules everything around me,’ Meth was like, ‘Word, you right!’ And turned it into a movie, and I came in later that day and heard it and co-signed it.”
Wu-Tang Clan “Can It Be All So Simple” (Produced by RZA)
Ghostface Killah: “The ‘Can It Be’ beat was sick! When we first heard that shit, it was just like, one of those beats, B. I don’t even know what you would call it, but it was one of those shits. When I say ‘one of those,’ the real musicians know what I’m talking about.
“Me and Rae really started noticing our element on ‘Can It Be.’ It just milked. We went good with each other. After we did that, we started coming into ourselves as Rae and Ghost, like a duo. And that’s how we got to that Cuban Linx album.”
Raekwon: “Back then I was doing a lot of soul searching and writing about where I was at that time. That was definitely a hot beat. The sample with Gladys Knight in it, it just kinda was talking to me and I just started writing about the streets again. ‘It started off on the island…’
”This is what’s happening, and it became a song that was just describing us and describing where we wanted to go and where we wanted to be. When you’re young and used to not having nothing, you kinda tend to fantasize where you wanna be at. Basically I was telling the struggle side and Ghost was telling the dream side where he was saying, ‘Yo, I wanna have me a phat Yacht.’ It’s just young kids wanting to have something later on in life, but they’re right here for now.
”That was Hype Williams’ first major video. Guess who was in the camera room with him?! Guess who was in the editing room with him?! But I never took credit for it. I know the stuff that I like to see. Cats walking by pouring the beer, ‘Yeah, that look mean, that look like something that we need to put in there.’ The kids wheelie-ing and the slow motion effect. Hype was really paying attention to what cats had to say and how we wanted the video. And for me, all this is a dream come true. So, I’m excited. I’m putting my continuity with it. I’m feeling like I’m a star already before I even got on so you know I would definitely sit there with him for hours and get amped up like, ‘Nah, I don’t like how it look. Nah, we don’t look right. Hold up, show the cars like this. Fix the cars it gotta be like this…’ Hype wasn’t really prepared for all that, but he respected it.”
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien ft. Pep Love and Q-Tip “The Undisputed Champs” (Produced by Del)
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: “We did ‘Undisputed Champs’ around the time they did Midnight Marauders. I think they had just finished it, and were on the cusp of it. They were taking photographs for the [album cover, which I’m on].
“Q-Tip had a big party, and something was going on. I just remember I was drunk as fuck. I drank like two 40s. We would drink half the 40, and pour gin in the 40 with some orange juice. So I had like two of them. So I was like, gone. And that’s when we did that shit. Busta Rhymes was at the studio, and Ricky Powell was at the studio, too. He took pictures of us. And Busta really got to see how hard I went with the production that night. He saw my disc box and was like, ‘Damn son, okay.’ He thought ‘The Undisputed Champs’ beat was nice, too.”
Diamond D ft. Sadat X and Lord Jamar “You Can’t Front” (Produced by Buckwild)
Diamond D: “That was on the B-Side to the ‘What U Heard’ single. It was produced by Buckwild, who was Lord Finesse’s man. I think we were riding around in my car and he played it for me, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I fuck with this, let’s do it.’ That was Buckwild’s first beat that he ever did for somebody that really came out.”
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