Jay Z Covers New York Magazine’s “Annual Yesteryear Issue”
Young Jay Z graces the cover of New York Magazine's “Annual Yesteryear Issue,” one of eight covers featured for NY Mag's music issue with other artists, Notorious B.I.G., Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra used tohighlight "100 Years of Pop Music in New York."
The photo taken of Jay is from 1997, who was around 29 years old at that time. He’s wearing a Cincinnati Reds hat to match his red t-shirt, with a leather jacket pulled over it.
In-depth essay with Jody Rosen on the topic [CLICK HERE]
Rick Rubin on Meeting Russell Simmons, Licensed to Ill, and ‘99 Problems’
As told to Jennifer Vineyard
It started with my own punk-rock band. I recorded a single and an EP. I was friends with Ed Bahlman, who ran 99 Records, and he put out like ESG, Bush Tetras, Glenn Branca, Liquid Liquid—just kind of cool, more underground records. He walked me through the process of putting out my own records independently. As my love of hip-hop grew, I felt like it would be fun to make a hip-hop record. At that time, there were no hip-hop albums, only 12-inch singles, and the 12-inch singles that were coming out weren’t really reflecting what the hip-hop scene was like. The hip-hop records that were coming out were slick, and were basically like R&B records, just with people rapping on them. The club I was going to in those days, Negril on Second Avenue, one night a week they had a hip-hop night put on by Ruza Blue of Kool Lady Blue Productions, then she moved to the Roxy. I went religiously every week. The music there was more rooted in breakbeats, and scratching, and it just had a different energy. The idea of the DJ as a musician, that wasn’t something we had really seen before. The one-man band who manipulated records to make new music, either combining sounds or making new sounds, or using a tiny little part of a song over and over and over again, to create a whole new song—it was a very exciting thing to hear. I just remember really liking it and thinking it was really important. Even the name Def Jam—the reason the D and the J are so big in the logo was that I felt that the DJ was a very important aspect of this music. The inception of Def Jam was really more to me about bringing the DJ to the forefront and the fact that it’s the DJ and the MC together that makes hip-hop. It’s not just a guy rapping over an R&B track. That’s not hip-hop culture.
“It’s Yours,” by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay, was my first hip-hop record. First I met Kool Moe Dee from the Treacherous Three, who were my favorite group. And I said, “Let’s make a record together. Let’s make a Treacherous Three record.” And he said, “We can’t really do that. We’re signed to Sugar Hill, but talk to Special K, another guy in the group, because he has a brother who can rap, and maybe he’d be good for you to do this with.” I didn’t know that there were contracts, I didn’t know anything. I had no experience whatsoever. I was just a fan. So I met with Special K, and Special K introduced me to his brother T La Rock, and he wrote the words. T La Rock was going to do the record, and Jazzy Jay was my favorite DJ. They didn’t know each other, but I introduced them with the idea that the DJ was as important as the MC. I wanted it to not just be a T La Rock record like a Kurtis Blow record. I wanted it to be Jazzy Jay and T La Rock, like it was a group, a DJ and an MC working together, to create this new thing, and that to me is what the hip-hop revolution was about.
I met Russell Simmons about nine months after “It’s Yours” came out. I met Russell at a party, and it was his favorite record! I was excited to meet him, because his name was on all these records that I bought, and he couldn’t believe I had made “It’s Yours.” He couldn’t believe I was white. There were no white people involved in hip-hop at this time at all. We became friends. He had an office on Broadway, and I would just go to his office every day and hang out, just to try to learn things and be around the culture.
I met the Beastie Boys through another kid named Dave Scilken, a punk-rock kid who was close with Adam Horovitz. They were in a band together called the Young and the Useless. I was DJ’ing, but I wasn’t that good. I could play the break of a record over and over for a while, and the Beasties could rap over it. It was very rudimentary in those days! We went out and hung out all night every night. That’s when we wrote the majority of the lyrics for the Licensed to Ill album, just hanging out at Danceteria, writing rhymes, just writing things to make each other laugh.
Because of “It’s Yours,” we started getting demo tapes sent to our dorm at NYU, and LL Cool J sent in a cassette that said, “Ladies Love Cool J.” Adam Horovitz from the Beastie Boys would listen to all the tapes that came in, and if he heard anything he liked, he would play it for me. I remember we listened and we both laughed about it and called LL to come meet with us. He came with pages full of lyrics, like just notebooks full of lyrics. His debut, “I Need a Beat,” really did well, and that was the first proper Def Jam record in that it was the first one where we felt like we really were in the record business. That was the first one where we did everything ourselves.
Licensed to Ill changed everything. In those days, this was really before samples clearances. Nobody even knew how to do that stuff. During the making of Licensed to Ill, the sampler got developed. In the earlier songs for the album, there was no sampler, and everything where it seems like a sample is either DJ’ed in with records, or a tape loop around the studio, which was kind of cumbersome and complicated. Sampling didn’t really exist yet. So the idea that you could clear a sample, or a sample was something you could use on a record, that all came later. So they’re very renegade records.
I think the one-two punch of Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith allowed people who liked rock a view into hip-hop to see, “Oh, this isn’t so foreign.” And then the Beastie Boys came along, and they were white, and could get played on radio stations that Run-DMC couldn’t, because of how racist our country is. I think that combination of the familiarity of “Walk This Way,” and the accessibility of the Beastie Boys being white, really allowed hip-hop to spread in a way that wasn’t possible before then.
D.M.C. from Run-D.M.C. played me a tape of Chuck D’s radio show. I heard that and I felt like that sounds like something that belongs on Def Jam. We need to get this guy. But he didn’t want to be got. He had already made records with Spectrum City, and nothing much happened. And he felt older. LL, who was probably the most popular MC at the time, was 16. Chuck was probably 21 or 22 and felt like he was over the hill. He thought his artist days were behind him. I called him every day for six months and just badgered him. We hired our first employee, Bill Stephney, who was friends with Chuck. Eventually I got so frustrated I told Bill, “You either got to convince Chuck to make records for us or you’re fired.” In our minds, there was no one good enough to be on Def Jam. Except Chuck D. He was the guy. Public Enemy was a very self-contained group, and between them and the Bomb Squad, they had their own thing going, and I just supported their trip. I can remember when Spike Lee decided to enlist Chuck to do “Fight the Power.” Spike shot the video, and that was a breakthrough for Public Enemy. That took them to a whole new level.
The whole thing, back then, was about self-expression and creativity. There was no one thinking, “I’m going to get rich doing this.” And once people started getting rich doing this, the intentions that people brought to hip-hop were more calculated. It felt like less this creative community. I felt like I was part of a movement, and it got more lonely and less fun as it got successful. Hearing N.W.A got me excited again, and when I heard the Wu-Tang Clan, that got me excited again. Then Jay-Z asked me to work on a song with him. He was making his last album, at the time, and he wanted one song from each of his favorite producers. I met him, and I really liked him, so that was the inspiration to go back and make a hip-hop song. That was my first one since the early days, and that was “99 Problems.” He was incredibly inspiring as a lyricist. Actually Chris Rock had the idea for the chorus. He said, “Ice-T has this song, ‘99 Problems,’ and maybe there’s a way to flip it around, and do a new version of that.” The Ice-T song is about him talking about his girls and what a great pimp he is. And our idea was to use that same hook concept, and instead of it being a bragging song, it’s more about the problems. Like, this is about the other side of that story.
*This article appeared in the March 24, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.
A$AP Ferg - Trap’d Arti$t
PAINTING EPHEMERAL VIEWS OF AN UPBRINGING GLISTENED WITH THE STARS OF HARLEM, NEW YORK WHO FILTERED IN AND OUT OF HIS FATHER’S STORE, FOR DAROLD FERGUSON, JR. A.K.A. A$AP FERG, WHO USES ABSTRACT CREATIVITY TO BOTH PAINT AND DESIGN, RAPPING IS AN AGGRESSIVE FORM OF MUCH THE SAME EXPRESSION.
One part of the hip-hop creative, Always Strive And Prosper (A$AP) Mob, which features the notable A$AP Rocky and a slew of rappers, producers, creators and designers, Ferguson slots in nicely to his high school group as they conquer their slice of hip-hop’s history. Before their coming together Ferguson was known as a hustler, a so-called trap lord establishing a fashion label bequeathed to him by his late father, a shirt designer for many of hip-hop’s illustrious, P. Diddy and Bad Boy, Heavy D and Bell Biv Devoe. Ferguson declares, that if not for being a recording artist he would have been known as A$AP Ferg, a part of hip-hop one way or another.
Highlighting how hard he goes in the paint, Ferguson is about expressing himself through various art and finds himself following the style wars of fashion luminaries Alexander Wang, Jeremy Scott to most recently clothes shopping in the company of Ralph Lauren, to even painting the walls of his home with Ralph Lauren suede effect. But the art for which he is most admired is in his debut LP, Trap Lord released last August featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Onyx and B-Real of Cypress Hill. Trap Lord paints his Harlem, New York roots, as illustrated on the closer, ‘Cocaine Castle’ where Ferguson draws from the darker surroundings to his childhood, imagery reminiscent of New Jack City’s The Carter building set in Harlem’s Graham Court. Then just as Trap Lord climbs to an ascension it is pinched off, teasing listeners for more.
Rip Nicholson goes in on the artist that is, A$AP Ferg.
To read full interview + Q & A [READ HERE]
Crenshaw’s Hu$$le Rocks the Highline Ballroom in N.Y.
Nipsey Hussle performed in New York’s Highline Ballroom on his Crenshaw tour. Here, he flipped over several of his new joints from his recent mixtape as well as a handful of classics.
Tupac, Fist Fights & the Making of ‘Juice’
Oral History: Tupac, Fist Fights and the Making of ‘Juice’
HERE]• January 16, 2014 // Taken from [
Q. Bishop. Steel. Raheem. These iconic characters are forever part of hip-hop lore. Their quest to get a rep drove Ernest Dickerson’s directorial debut, which was a morality tale on the dangers of peer pressure. With a magnetic cast, including a young Tupac, an amazing soundtrack, on-set beatdowns and a minor gun controversy, the only logical result was an urban classic.
Ernest Dickerson was having none of it. It was 1990 when the veteran film director—who first gained notoriety as Spike Lee’s groundbreaking cinematographer on such landmark films as She’s Gotta Have It (1986), Do The Right Thing (1989) and Malcolm X (1992)—was set to finally direct his own big screen vehicle entitled Juice. With the backing of Hollywood heavyweight Richard Donner, the gritty drama about four teenage Harlem friends who get caught up in the vicious cycle of street politics, was given the green light. But Hollywood had plans for something entirely different.
“They told us, ‘Maybe you should make this more of a comedy,’” recounts Dickerson 20 years later. The 62-year-old auteur has since taken his talents to the small screen as the director of the new FOX supernatural hit Sleepy Hollow. “‘It’s too dark…make it funny full of one-liners about these kids in Harlem who get in trouble.’” Dickerson and longtime friend and Juice co-writer Gerard Brown weren’t biting. “[We] looked at each other and knew what they were suggesting was not something we wanted to have our names on.”
However, a year later, Juice would indeed be made on the duo’s own terms. Featuring a virtually unknown cast of actors, the two-fisted film was driven by the brazen attitude and chest-beating spirit of hip-hop under the musical supervision of groundbreaking Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee. Barely out of high school, Omar Epps, Jermaine Hopkins, Khalil Kain and future rap icon Tupac Shakur—whose riveting star turn as loose canon Bishop led the way—added unfiltered authenticity to Juice’s already fast-paced morality tale of peer pressure gone tragically awry.
Cobbled together for a miniscule $3 million, the film would go on to gross more than six times that. For the fans that witnessed this unlikely triumph and snatched up Juice’s star-studded soundtrack, featuring the game-changing likes of Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Naughty By Nature and Cypress Hill, they had no idea of the boiling drama behind the scenes. Violent brawls, a shooting death, competitive brinksmanship ignited by Shakur and creative battles with studio heads that nearly derailed the film were just some of the issues that Dickerson and crew faced. This is the story of how the whole damn thing prevailed under unforgiving circumstances. This is the oral history of Juice.
Suge Knight Reflects on ‘Doggystyle’
A recent interview by ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE awakened a slumbering beast in Suge Knight. The ex-mogul is asked to revisit the making of one of a generation’s finest albums, Doggystyle, by Snoop Doggy Dogg, the teenager who helped Suge build his empire out West in Death Row Records. This interview includes parts excluded from what went to print where Suge goes in on K.Dot and reminds us of his part in shaping B.I.G.’s Ready To Die LP.
(Photo above taken from February 1996 at Monty’s in L.A. Tupac with David Kenner, Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg)
This past weekend, Snoop Dogg's debut album Doggystyle turned 20. Back in 1993, the lanky 21-year-old from Long Beach, Calif. was riding high on his breakout performances from Dr. Dre's The Chronic, but he’d been implicated in the murder of Philip Woldemariam and had a murder trial looming. The Doggfather unquestionably had all eyes on him.
Doggystyle went on to sell millions of copies and spawned successful single like “What’s My Name,” “Gin & Juice” and “Murder Was the Case.” It was the second project released by Death Row Records, a label that Dr. Dre co-founded with Marion “Suge” Knight. It was Knight’s executive muscle that helped Snoop avoid jail a few years after its release, but following the 1996 murder of his label mate Tupac Shakur and Knight’s subsequent incarceration, their relationship soured. And it remained that way for years — until last February, when Snoop instagrammed a photo of the pair at an L.A. club. They’d finally made amends.
In a rare interview with Rolling Stone, Suge Knight looks back on the Doggystyle legacy. [READ HERE]
Kendrick Lamar: Rapper of the Year
Every member of rap’s Mount Rushmore dropped new albums in 2013—Kanye, Jay Z, Drake, Eminem—but it was another MC altogether who stole the crown, and he did it with just a handful of verses: Kendrick Lamar, the latest—and possibly greatest—rapper to come straight outta Compton.
We are 10,000 feet above Compton in a private jet, and Kendrick Lamar is explaining to me what happened to him yesterday, when he vanished. We had a plan: Kendrick was going to give me a guided, cue-the-G-funk-synth Star Maps tour of his neighborhood, the one he still more or less lives in, starting at his parents’ house a couple of blocks from his old high school, Centennial High, near the corner of Piru and South Central. Instead, he went AWOL. The whole day, no one from his label, Interscope, or Top Dawg Entertainment, the baby Death Row Records that originally signed him, could track him down. Kendrick was gone.
It turned out he was sitting shivah for a murdered friend he calls his “little bro”—a kid from a neighborhood where friendship is defined primarily by neighborhood. A few weeks earlier, Chad Keaton, 23, had been wounded in a drive-by shooting very close to Kendrick’s parents’ house. He held on for a month but ultimately died of complications from the gunshot wounds.
So today, here on board this Challenger 300 seven-seater, en route to New York City’s fall Fashion Week, a destination filled with people Kendrick isn’t sure whether he wants to impress or fuck with, he’s telling me about Chad. “It all happened when I was overseas,” he says. “I had to talk to him over Skype on the hospital bed before he passed.”
Yeezus Meets Zane Lowe for BBC Interview
For one of music’s most controversial and most creative inspirators for hiphop culture, Kanye West goes to the famous Abbey Road studio and sits down with Zane Lowe who recently chopped up MCHG with big brother Jay and blows off steam on everything circumventing the artist’s life from fashion, architecture, paparazzi to finally… the Yeezus LP. He gets raw, choked up, real and combative on issues affecting the now self-proclaimed King of rock music.
Peep all 4 parts of this interview, below.
K-Dot’s Spazz on ‘Control’
They hype is hammering down on the MC, his throw down could become legendary like an angry Tim Dog release. Big Sean invites Kendrick Lamar to add a verse alongside he and Jay Electronica to his new joint, ‘Control’ which missed the new album due to label clearance issues, and the West coast MC proclaims the throne of New York and goes H.A.M. on every new school rapper and peers alike (see 2nd verse). Sean Don loved it, admits Lamar went harder than him. Everybody else, the discussion is on - even legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson retorted. But as Big Sean mentioned in the aftermath of dropping the new single at least they can battle MCs across the coast and no-one gets hurts.
BIG SEAN - CONTROL (Click below for lyrics)
JAKK FROST – BEARD GANG ALUMNI
Jakk Frost & Tana Da Beast connect to shoot a video for their new freestyle “Beard Gang Alumni.”
C.R.E.A.M. - The First Drop
CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME!
When did it get so F.U.B.A.R.? When 50 Cent sold water to Coca Cola? When Vodka and Tequila began double-teaming hip hop, re-branding bottles? When Champagne makers had to watch what they say in fear of losing such global iconic rappers as Jay-Z from blurbing their brands through lyrics and popping their corks on videos? Big business has been catching the vapours from hip hop since Russell bum-rushed the show, and for the most part they’ve held hands and laughed all the way to the stock exchange. The reality of rap has ventured from the streets to representing a global business model – jackin’ C.R.E.A.M. For beats.
Decoded: Pusha T on ‘Keys Open Doors’