Redman Gets Real About How EPMD Saved Him From the Streets (Video)
Newark, New Jersey and Redman are synonymous in the minds of most Heads. The Grammy-winning rapper and Brick City native born Reginald Noble has made a career for himself as one of the most distinctive, creative spitters to ever pick up a mic, but his set of circumstances could just have easily led him astray. In a new interview with VladTV, the Funk Doc shares some little-known details about his childhood and teenage years, those formative times when peer pressure and one’s surroundings are supremely influential. And it almost went horribly wrong, but as Red also shares, two men from nearby Long Island, New York helped lift him out of danger and into success.
The interview begins with Reggie Noble describing the neighborhood in which he spent his childhood. At the 1:27 mark he says “Brick City in the ’80s was pretty wild…my block had a lot of families and the families back then was like ‘Good Times’ families. They were big, it was a house full of people and the block was just full of fuckin’ dudes. Like, my block was so many dudes and gangsta mothafuckas. Every time you came out your door you just had to be fightin’.” Shortly thereafter, Redman gets even more retrospective and reflects on his parent’s generation who helped cultivate the Newark he would know as a young boy.
Near the 2:38 mark he explains “At the end of the day, Brick City in the ’80s kept you on your toes. It was still healing from the ’60s riots. A lot of people from Newark went to Vietnam. My pops was one of them. A lot of people don’t know but as far as Brick City, my dad served in the Marines right out of Newark from the riots and went to Vietnam and did two tours. My mother, she did affirmative action for Newark for over 30, 40 years.”
After being asked to expound upon what it was like hanging out in Jersey into the ’90s (3:53), Red is very up front about his reality. “Oh it got bad. It got real bad. Everybody think that New Jersey is known for carjacking, and nah. That was just easy work that we got known for. But it’s way worse than that, as far as the murders and the dumb shit like that that would happen.” In fact, Noble had a front-seat view of the high homicide rate in Newark and he reflects on how close to him the danger really was. “It got so bad to where it was like a fad, and my crew who I hung around were a part of that, so I know what it was like. It was nuts.”
Vlad, near the 5:17 mark, asks Red “Growing up, how involved into the street shit did you get yourself?” The question leads to what may be some of the most personal details the MC has ever shared in an interview. “My brother and them, my crew, they were heavily active. My brother did 10, 11 years. All my crew members that I hung with, they did 10, 12 years and better. All of them. I was like one of the only ones that just beared off and did music. I tell them all the time that they have a responsibility in my career because while I hung with ’em, I just knew that wasn’t my life. Because, I didn’t want to run. I didn’t want to be lookin’ over my shoulder. And, you know, a couple of robberies we went on taught me that lesson, you know. After one robbery, I got stomped out and shit under a car ’cause I ain’t wanna run. So after that last robbery, I was just like ‘fuck that. This not for me.'”
When asked about the time his mother kicked him out of the house for selling drugs, Redman offers up a story hard to forget. “I sold coke and weed at an early age. When I sold coke, I did it big though,” he says. “[My mom] kicked me out of the house ’cause [I was selling] coke. I was at sitting at the dinner table like an asshole with a hat on, knowing she gonna tell me to take it off. She said ‘take that goddamn hat off at the dinner table,'” and that’s when the cocaine he had stored under his hat went everywhere. “She immediately packed my shit and put my ass right out” (8:31).
But despite all of the near-misses he experienced, Redman managed to leave the street-life mentality with the help of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith. After sharing that he began seriously rapping at the age of 16, Red divulges that it was one particular LP that inspired him to pursue the art form of Hip-Hop himself. At the 10:09 mark he shares “once I heard the EPMD album Strictly Business, that’s when the mothafuckin’ light bulb went off over the head. I immediately – you can ask my sister – soon as I heard that record, I pulled back the curtain’ cause that was the only thing that separated our rooms and shit. I pulled back the curtain and I told her ‘yo, you better start rappin’ now. Let me DJ for you ’cause I’m gonna do this shit.’ I told her at 17 or 18, it was around that age.” Redman and EPMD would famously go on to forge a career-making relationship shortly thereafter.
Other topics include Redman’s thoughts on the film 1995 film “New Jersey Drive,” Red’s early days as a DJ, getting threatened by older drug dealers, the origin story of his stage name, and more.