Redman: Till I Collapse
Red talks about respecting family, introducing Reggie Noble the emcee, Eminem living in Newark, and what he'd do if Lil Mama bum-rushed his performance.
Redman is, quite simply, one of Hip Hop’s finest performers. Every erratic move on stage is a calculated one, honed through nearly two decades of non-stop touring. But tonight is an especially personal performance. The artist some know as Reggie Noble is performing for his beloved Brick City. And, oh yes, he’s got Method Man with him (to say nothing of the fact that they’re opening for Snoop Dogg – so you know it’s a smoked-out affair). On-stage antics include crowd-surfing/walking, accepting – and smoking – blunts from the crowd, and a high-octane emceeing performance that shows why the two partners-in-rhyme are considered two of the best to ever do it – both on stage and in the booth. Suffice it to say, the five-hour drive through the harrowing traffic I-95 has to offer was more than worth it.
But tonight, I’m not simply a spectator in New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom. I’ve been honored with the opportunity to interview Redman himself. After a night of ridiculous setbacks including, but certainly not limited to, struggling to locate a press pass, then waiting outside of a tour bus for 45 minutes, I finally reach the man of the hour. Redman sits alone in the the back of his tour bus, housed in a small, but comfortable private room. Creature comforts include a Playstation 3 and a new copy of DJ Hero. Since it’s 1:30AM, easily two hours since the end of his set, I can only hope that my trip hasn’t been in vain. The road manager indicates Red, ever the hustler, is willing to sit down for a spell.
As I sit down, I see what many would expect: Redman with weed broken up on the table. But here’s what threw me for a loop: “Can I smoke on this?” asks Red, referring to the interview. It’s clear that even Redman’s favorite habit plays second fiddle to his career. As the interview proceeds, Redman is, at times, extraordinarily deliberate and precise with his responses, though not insincere. I suspect it’s these qualities that have allowed the greatest emcee to ever come out of Brick City to have such a long and storied career – in a game where veterans are all-too-often cast aside.
HipHopDX: First of all, congratulations on the success of Blackout! 2 and on an outstanding show.
Redman: Yes, thank you. Redman in the building!
DX: So how’s it going? How’s life?
Redman: Everything good. Blessed, I’m still living. We still got our arms and legs, we’re breathing. That’s enough for me.
DX: Now, before we get into the album, let’s talk Def Jam. Recently, Def Jam had its 25 year anniversary. As you were and are a big part of the label’s history, what can you say about its legacy?
Redman: [Pauses] Their legacy is…monumental. Their legacy painted a picture in Hip Hop. Definitely. I’m glad to be a part of that legacy. Their legacy is what all businesses, I would say, would want to take action in looking how they rose from the bottom to the top. This is like any business: whether you selling toupees, whether you selling records – whatever you’re doing, you want your business to grow. And their progress is definitely an outlook on what all business should take a look at – how they grow as a family. Now, just like any other business, you know, you always got an outcome at the end. But as far as their legacy, how they grew as a business and as a family, is monumental. I don’t think…I have never seen nothin’ like that before. To grow as a business…and have fun in doing it.
DX: You kind of smiled a little when you brought up how the business ends up. Does that say something about your opinion on the business right now?
Redman: Well, first of all, everyone starts with doing the business with their heart in it. They got the heart to do business, and grow as a family. But you know, as most businesses and most groups, something always ends up fuckin’ it up. With Def Jam, we grew as a family, and we all had the heart to do the music, and making artists, and blowing artists up. And when that left, that’s when Def Jam left.
DX: Do you single out any particular artists that, when they left, that’s where Def Jam…
Redman: No. Because it wasn’t the artists, really. Mostly the staff, the people who started it. Once that’s gone, and the new wave come in, then hey – it’s just like any other business.
DX: Are you talking about Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons?
Redman: Yeah, but even with Kevin Liles, when he left. Just crazy, man. But I’m still here, and that’s what it’s about. I’m still reppin’ Def Jam, fuck that.
DX: Where does your relationship with Def Jam stand today?
Redman: It’s like, they know I helped Def Jam grow to where it is, and I’m a vet artist. I’m not making records to sell two million, three million or whatever. They just appreciate me, that I held the label on my back all these years, and it was certain times in Def Jam life that I saved Def Jam – I can actually say that. Lyor will tell you that story if you ever bump into Lyor Cohen.
I actually can say I helped save Def Jam, and that I helped raise that family. My relationship now is, “Hey, Redman wants to come out with a record. Great! Let’s get him some money and let him do his thing.” And I appreciate that – fuck it. Because I’ll always have a job.
DX: You’ve spoken about signing to Shady Records on more than one occasion. Why did that never materialize, and is that still possibly in the cards?
Redman: Well, I never preached about it. Somebody just asked me, and I said, "I heard Shady Records was gonna fuck with me," and I will fuck with Shady Records. Because they’re new, I love Eminem as an artist – me and Eminem connected a long time ago, and he doing his thing. And for him to even make a statement, or even have Redman on his mind, like "Yo, he ain’t fuckin’ with Def Jam, bring him on over," I appreciate it. So my hat’s off always to Eminem. If Shady Records woulda picked me up, I would went over there.
It wasn’t nothin’. At the time when that was goin’ on, Def Jam was goin’ into they little funk, they didn’t know what was going on with that company. And as it is, it’s kinda pickin’ back up, but the love is not there like it used to be – it never will be there.
DX: Speaking of Eminem, he has repeatedly mentioned you as a major influence, and even called you his favorite emcee on his song “Till I Collapse.” What do you make of that?
Redman: First of all, I heard of Eminem when he used to be in Brick City.
DX: With The Outsidaz, right?
Redman: Yeah. Hard to believe, Eminem used to be in Brick City. And from him hangin’ with my dudes and showing Outsidaz love, I immediately connected. Like, I ain’t even really hear him. But just by my boy sayin’, "Yo, he’s dope man, show that nigga love," I was like, fuck it, hell yeah! White boy rappin’? And then I hear him and he’s extremely dope? I was just like, "Wow. He’s talented." And he came to the hood. So he’ll always get my hat off. Eminem…that’s my dude. Besides me going to his house, and we connected in the studio, I’ve run into him on many occasions. My hat’s off to the dude.
And as he said – me as his favorite artist – I appreciate that. I appreciate that I can influence some of these artists, and that I can actually say that the artists I influenced, they actually blew up. They actually did something with themselves. Like Ludacris. Ludacris said the same shit. My hat’s off to Ludacris, too. And for them to even mention me, and I know they new cats…to say I had influence on them, and that they blew up, that’s a big thing. I’m cool. I’m blessed, that’s good for me. I don’t need no money, I don’t need no recognition.
DX: Is there a possibility of collaborations with Eminem in the future? “Off the Wall” was nine years ago!
Redman: It’s like whatever, man. I guess when the time is right. Eminem know I’m around, I ain’t hard to find. Me and his peoples are always in touch. [Paul] Rosenberg and my manager…if I need Em, or really need to get in touch with him, I could do it. Whenever he reach out, "Yeah. Let’s do a song." So it’s nothin’. Paul, what’s good, baby?
DX: I’d like to play a game real quick – it’s called "What Would Redman Do?" What would Redman do if, while accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Grammy’s, Kanye West got up on stage and interrupted you?
Redman: Kanye [West] wouldn’t have gone up on stage and interrupted me. I’m not sayin’ it like in a negative way. I’m saying it, as for me, a nigga like me, I been in the game – it ain’t like I’m a new person in the game. I’m a vet. So to get a Grammy, you know, is something big. So you know I’ma be in that bitch deep. And my attitude is gonna be, "Yes, I finally did somethin’ for my mama." So my heart and my passion on walkin’ on stage, and accepting that award, and telling people how I feel, will let a nigga know – any nigga – don’t come in that nigga realm fuckin’ with that nigga shit. Because I will let loose on that stage.
I see what Kanye was tryin’ to do. I don’t talk about political things like that. He knew he was maybe a little bit out of order with that. It was just…it’s a right place and a right time to do things. When he did things before, it was cool – it was just the wrong place at that time. He know it now. He probably looks back at it like, "Damn! I was an asshole that night!" He’s a fuckin’ talented artist, so fuck everybody. He’s on my label, so fuck that. I’m ridin’ whitcha Kanye! I forgive ya!
DX: What would Redman do if, while performing Da Rockwilder, Lil Mama got up on stage in the middle of your verse?
Redman: I’da been like… "Who the fuck is this bitch?" until I know who she was. 'Cause I’m blind, I can’t see. Like I can’t see no further than that door right there. So them I woulda been like "Who the fuck is this bitch?" then I woulda been like, "Oh, that’s Lil Mama! What she doin’ over here?" Then I’d be like, "Fuck it. If we partying, then we partying." That’s the way I woulda looked at it. The more, the merrier.
DX: What would Redman do if someone tried to steal his Smart Car?
Redman: Well if I could catch ‘em…
DX: It goes zero to 60 in a day, right?
Redman: [Laughing] shiiiit…yeah, I’d definitely run and catch ‘em. You know, I’d just get my shit back, that’s all. [Mumbling] Asshole with a fuckin’ problem…
DX: What would Redman do if Christina Aguilera called you up and said she’s been dreaming of you ever since you guys recorded “Dirrty?”
Redman: That’s an interesting question. Uh, I’d call her back and be like, “Word? Am I on motherfucking [Punk’d]? Nigga, am I getting motherfucking pranked right now?” Yeah, that’s what I’d ask. I think I’d be on [Punk’d]. I’d think I’d be gettin’ pranked.
DX: But if you weren’t?
Redman: If I weren’t…I’d be like, “Oh, word?” I’d still say “Oh, word,” and be like, “Nah, I’m chillin’.” Yeah, I’d tell her I’m chillin’. I’d just tell her I’m chillin’. That’s unless, if she was really was like “Yo, I’ma fly you out here,” then I might have to go.
DX: Hey, free trip, right?
Redman: Yeah, free trip. I might have to go. See what she talkin’ about. Free trip.
DX: What would Redman do if How High 2 won the Oscar for best movie?
Redman: I would thank my people, and I would really take advantage of that Oscar and go do other films, and use that privilege that they give me to really tear Hollywood up, and bring some real movies out. ‘Cause I’m trying to direct. I’m trying to learn how to direct. So I would definitely do that. And I’d thank everybody, because I wouldn’t believe How High would get an Oscar. But if it did, I’d get high that night, celebrate, and use that Oscar to do more shit.
DX: What can you tell us about the new album…is pronounced “Reggie Noble OH Nine-and-a-half?”
Redman: [Exasperated] Yeah it was “Oh Nine-and-a-half,” but we had to change it to “Reggie Noble Nine-and-a-half.” Really, the basis of this album is to let Reggie Noble come across with some lyrics. Matter-of-fact, just put it all plain and simple, Redman is not on this album. It’s Reggie Noble. “Redman presents Reggie Noble.” Reggie Noble – the difference between that [and Redman] is you know what to expect from a Redman album: hard beats, hard lyrics, Funk. But Reggie Noble’s stepping out the box. Reggie Noble going into different sounds, Reggie Noble going into Pop sounds, Reggie Noble doing this, hard, all over the place.
I’m just releasing this as a free album to Def Jam. I was supposed to be coming out with Muddy Waters 2, but I’m coming out with that album next year. I ended up putting this album together while I was doing the Red and Meth album [Blackout! 2], so this is an album that I was like, “Hey, I put it together like a mixtape, so here.” Reggie Noble 9 ½ , December [8th, 2009]. I think you’ll enjoy it. I got a song that’s Poppish on there as a motherfucker, ‘cause I don’t give a fuck, I love music. It’s called “Stalker.” It’s crazy. I got a record for all the stalkers out there! All the guys that be stalkin’ chicks, and peeking through the window – I got a song for you, baby! I got a song! Y'all check it out!
DX: Between Malpractice and Red Gone Wild, you had a six year break. Now, you’re coming out with this album and Muddy Waters 2 right away. What’s changed for you that you’re turning up the rate?
Redman: Turning up the rate…financial-wise, that’s why. Second, Def Jam, within those years, was…scattered. It was violated. It wasn’t being ran right. After I dropped Red Gone Wild, and even before that, just seeing how it was ran and seeing how my connection with Def Jam – when I called or just…it just wasn’t right. I was just ignoring ‘em. I was just doing shows and getting money otherwise. Hustlin’ my ass off. So when they finally came around and got they shit together, I was like, “Okay, I’ll try something.” I see how it is now, though. We in a digital world, so it don’t even matter what they fuckin’ think no more.
DX: When I was at Rock The Bells in New York last year, I noticed that while other emcees were chopping it up, you seemed to be content chillin’ with who I assume was your family. Are you a very private family man? How do you keep that world separate from the Rap world?
Redman: I’m not a private family man. Like, everyone know I got kids. Um, I keep it separate by…I love kids. I love my babies. They keep me young, they keep me fresh-lookin’. It’s like, they know what I do. My girl, she know what I do. You gotta have an understanding woman, too. Like, you know, “I know what you do out there, but you just have to respect home.” And as long as I respect home, everything is cool. It’s just like any man. Like my mother always say: “A woman gonna be a woman, and a man gonna be a man – regardless.” It’s just about the respect level. Some men just fuck up and disrespect the home. I always keep my home tight, fresh. Then I go out and have fun. I go be an emcee, I go be Redman.
As far as the home life and separating, it get hard sometimes. First of all, I’m a road baby. A lot of emcees can’t say that. Me, I’ve been on the road since 19 with EPMD. And I’d been living with EPMD until I was 25, 24 or whatever. Those years, and I ain’t have a kid until I was 27, so within those years, and being on the road, never getting a real job, never having a real girlfriend, or learning morals of relationship and honesty and all that – I ain’t have that. I’ve been fuckin’ on tour since 19! So when did I have time to learn that? I’ve seen women in and out of my life all day, every day. So now, trying to make that happen and be a family man years ago, it was hard – but now I got it down pat. You just have to not disrespect home, and it’s cool. And I think your kids make you work harder and strive harder for more shit. So I love it.
DX: Method Man called you out jokingly a few years ago in an interview, saying you’re the reason Rockwilder is so short, saying “Blame Redman for that one!” What do you have to say about that?
Redman: Yeah, they always say that. But they don’t remember that we did two verses to “Da Rockwilder.” We did do two verses, but it didn’t sound right. So I said, “Let’s cut it short.”
DX: So Meth’s just putting you on blast, huh?
Redman: Nah, nah, he got his point. 'Cause Rockwilder kinda said the same thing. But it wouldn’t have been like it was if it wasn’t so short. Makes you wanna fiend for moe.
DX: More important than anything…how come we don’t see you picking your nose anymore?!
Redman: Ah, man. I do pick my nose, but not as much. ‘Cause my allergies was off the hook when I was younger. I grew older, they kinda calmed down. I got bad allergies, so they kinda calmed down a little bit as I got older.
DX: Tell me some super, mega ultra exclusive shit that no one else knows.
Redman: Oh man, I don’t really get into all that shit, man. Do y'all hear me in trouble, man? Y'all don’t hear me in trouble or none of that shit because when I get in trouble, I’m in the hood. It’s some real shit! If I go to jail, it ain’t no motherfucker takin’ pictures…I’m in some hood shit, where it’s goin’ down and ain’t no camera people around. It’s some real hood shit. Believe me, if I have some exclusive shit, it’s shit I can’t tell ya’ll motherfuckers! ‘Cause it’s some real hood shit. I don’t get caught in this political…this shit they got out here with these Hip Hop Cops. I don’t fuck around with none of that shit. I don’t fuck around with these bitches with these books, and none of that shit. I just keep to self, and keep to this music, man. Yeah, with everybody with a camera, you can’t fuck around…all my exclusive shit was back in the day when they ain’t have the camera and the Internet! Them shits is old right now, ya’ll want some new shit, I ain’t got it! But when I come across it, I’ll let y'all fuckers know!