Interview with Redman

Reggie Noble names his Top 5

There are rappers, and there are emcees. Redman is neither. He's more like your favorite emcee's favorite emcee. After a six-year hiatus and twice that amount of false starts on his comeback album, Red Gone Wild, the Jersey veteran is back and ready to propel hip-hop to cloud 9.

Redman (a/k/a Reggie Noble) spoke to me candidly and openly about Red Gone Wild, the evolution of hip-hop, his favorite rappers, and his unsuccessful attempt to flee Def Jam.

Henry Adaso: We've been waiting for this album for six years. What exactly delayed the process?

Redman: Well, on my end, there's business reasons. Def Jam was going through a "de-rooting" of the whole company. So that meant everybody that I saw on my last album is gone. We've got a whole new staff between 2001 and 200-now. Since 2001, I was venturing out doing other sh*t, with the How High movie jump-off. We had the TV show ("Method & Red"). I had two beautiful kids since then.

Congratulations!

Thanks. You know, it was just like a hiatus. And the evolution of hip-hop has changed dramatically since then.

With those changes in the game, what type of adjustments did you have to make to keep the album (Red Gone Wild) fresh?

Um, it was basically just keeping the songs fresh. You gotta ask yourself, "What is a good album?" Is it for the moment or something that you can throw on later and it'll still be the sh*t.

That's what I was going for. Like, 'OK, I can throw this on and no matter what year I did it, and a year later it'll still be bumping."

The new wave of sound in hip-hop with the beats more through the keyboard, more samples--you know I got mad samples on my album, too--so that was another issue. Making sure everything was correct with that.

Another thing is, I could've had the album done if I was doing a regular Redman album. This time, I'm introducing Gilla House. That's why I call it Red Gone Wild, because this time I really broke the mold from what I did on previous albums. I went out and got other producers besides Rocwilder and Erick Sermon.

One other thing about not dropping around 2001 or 2005, the evolution of hip-hop was heavy, man. You had to get down or lay down.

And, I don't think I was ready to sacrifice my integrity, my life of work of being this kind of straightforward artist, just to step backwards and join in. I waited until people started screaming hardcore hip-hop again like M.O.P. Do You Want Some Hardcore? Now y'all want some hardcore, because now y'all motherf---ers got even white people noticing, like "Damn, what's going on with hip-hop? It don't sound the same."

When people start noticing, now we want some hard sh*t. See you gotta be careful right now. And you know what, and it's f--ked up to say this but the streets got lost too. The streets don't even know what they want no more.

Why do you say that?

Because the streets know that they want some hard sh*t, then again it's the streets that allow the bullsh-t to come in.

First of all, I'm not complaining about hip-hop, because anything that gives a brother a job to put other people on, I love it.

I don't think hip-hop is dead. I just think that the culture and the attention that give your album a hip-hop feel has been lost.

You've got these young cats out here that think they're doing hip-hop, you know. Who's to say they're not? So it's like, there's not enough guys like me and you to pinpoint and say, "You know, this is what's going on. Y'all need to do this." Hip-hop is not dead, it just needs some adjustments.

You know that's an interesting topic. There's been a lot of talk lately about hip-hop being art or poison. Where do you stand in that argument?

I'm standing in the...of course, hip-hop is art. Hip-hop is only poison to people that don't understand it.

What is poisonous about it? It's not like we're spoon-feeding it to them like this is the only thing you have to listen to. There's like a billion other cultures of music out there. Why pick with this one?

There's been a lot of talk about the images being portrayed. Some say hip-hop is homophobic and violent. Who has the greater responsibility in what's being presented as hip-hop today? The industry and label execs or the artists?

I can't say it's the artist, because we've got freedom of speech. We have a responsibility, yes, we know that. We know that we're supposed to be teaching our youths and guiding them the right way through our music. But everybody can't be no damn saviors.

You have emcees that want to do that if you wanna learn about that sh*t. Me, I'm not gonna lie. Even though I'm a good guy but, hey, I smoke weed. I basically grew up on the road. I've been carrying EPMD bags since I was 20 before I got on or whatever.

Only thing that I know is talking about women and smoking but, what I can let you know is, in order for you to be everywhere, in order for you to find me and get my music and see me in movies, it's because my business is tight. That's the point I get across to kids.

Listen, I'm not going to tell you not to smoke, I'm not going to tell you not to do this. You have to learn on your own. What I can teach you is that you should only act a fool if your business is right.

Ever since you said, "Def Jam lost their soul. They forgot how to build an artist, so I'll remind them," have you noticed any major improvement over there?

(Hesitates for about 10 seconds...) You know what, I'm not even gonna lie. I can't say. Ask anyone at Def Jam, I only show my face three times a year. I'll be a fool to tell you, "Well, it don't look like they're treating me right." Only thing I know is, I'm coming into this game...not as an artist.

I'm coming as an asset. That's why I show my face three times a year. To let them know, I'm self-generated. I don't need to come up here (Def Jam offices) to look for a check, when I come up here it's like a breath of fresh air. "Oh, Redman's in the building? Sh*t, we better get around him, we might not see him again." What I see going on is another issue with Def Jam and the artists that don't even have to be, because you know everybody's a grown man here. Jay-Z is a grown-a** man and he was an artist, and I'm sure he understands what an artist needs. Now, if that artist wasn't getting what they're supposed to, then of course something needs to be done. But I don't think that's the kind of thing you bring out to the public. I don't give a f**k what Def Jam do, I'll let them know that when I'm out on these damn roads I'm shaking these motherf***n hands on my own. I don't need no third party.

Like if I had to meet you and you say you need an interview, you don't have to go through all these things to get me on the phone. I'll be like "Yo, listen, just call me right quick and we'll be direct with it. And I think people respect that a little more than a third party.

That's real.

When you go out there with that kind of attitude, you're letting them know "this n****a is gonna do his thing regardless if we do our job." I know the pressure that's on right now.

I got to succeed in what I do. I know what's going with Method Man and LL Cool J. I know what's going on, man.

You see yourself going to a different label in the future?

No. Maybe. I ain't gon' lie, I tried to get over there with Slim Shady. Big up to Eminem. He was down to come get me. Def Jam was like "Nah, you're staying right here." So, I'm cool. I'm happy here.

Em has a lot of respect for you, it seems. Being one of the best emcees ever, what 5 emcees would be on your team in a contest?

It would be me, Erick Sermon, Supernatural, Eminem, KRS-One. [Ed's note: It took Red approximately three minutes to finally decide on his fave five.]

How soon should we expect another Red & Meth or Def Squad album?

I'm glad you asked. It's in the mix right now. Matter of fact, EPMD is in the studios working on an album. Then after that, Erick Sermon is doing the Def Squad album.

Anything else you'd like to say to the fans?

March 27, Red Gone Wild. After that I'm on the road. Y'all look on the website funkdoc.com or gillahouse.net for mixtapes. I'm opening up an all Action sneaker store in Staten Island. Everybody thinks I'm opening up a shoe store, it's not a shoe store. I am starting a women's shoe line but I'm not opening it up at a store yet.

it's gonna be an Action footwear store. To all my women, the shoe store is coming.

Thanks for your time, Red.

Thank you, man.