The Beatnuts Confirm Onetime “Secret Group” Including Q-Tip, Posdnuos & Juju (Audio)
For 25-plus years, The Beatnuts have been Hip-Hop multi-threats. The Queens, New York duo of Juju and Psycho Les (that also at times included Fashion and V.I.C.) have stories to go with their hits. Beyond their own prominent recording career, the pair has made beloved songs for Ghostface Killah, Fat Joe, Mos Def, and Vinnie Paz, among countless others.
Speaking with Juan Epstein (Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds), the Colombian-American and Dominican-American Hip-Hop pioneers of Les and Junkyard Juju open up about ghost productions, hits that were passed on, and confirm one Native Tongues secret group.
In the more than an hour interview, the pair—who party during the interview—explain how a chance late 1980s meeting with Afrika Baby Bam of the Jungle Brothers would eventually lead them into the Native Tongues. Around 8:00, it is revealed Juju met the JBeez MC at a New York City record store (Downstairs Records), while playing vinyl on the in-store tester turntable. The Warner Bros. Records artist took interest in the 14 year-old Head’s taste. “The whole store was hearin’ what you were playin’,” Juju recalls. “I was looking for samples to cut.”
Afrika would invite Juju to the studio, and eventually to radio. Les and Ju’ would reconnect—having a mutual friend, after Psycho Les heard his man on the radio. The two—with Fashion and the crew, began recording demos. Those demos resulted in works such as Chi Ali’s The Fabulous Chi Ali, which the Fash’ would help Chi write.
“We were giving them samples, loops, stuff like that,” says Juju of the Jungle Brothers. Agreeing with a comparison the hosts allegedly made, comparing The Beatnuts and Jungle Brothers to J Dilla’s relationship with A Tribe Called Quest, Juju adds, “[We were] the young inspiration, and kinda the secret weapon. [Afrika Baby Bam] was my man; I was giving them beats not wanting [anything in return]—just happy to be around.”
Near the 14:00 mark, the duo explains how through working with the Native Tongues (and later joining), manager/DJ Chris Lighty took interest in the act. They credit the late executive (along with Baby Bam) for their careers today. Lighty would help the ‘Nuts sign with Relativity Records, where they fast became collaborating label-mates with the likes of Chi, Common, Fat Joe, and No I.D. Later in the interview (near the 43:00 mark), the group explains how they would appreciate some love for No I.D., who is now a top exec at Def Jam Records.
Between 18:00 and 22:00, the group explains their understated role with Native Tongues, both in racial makeup as Latin Americans, as well as for being drug-using, beer-swilling, self-proclaimed perverts opposite Queen Latifah and Q-Tip. Juju recalls confronting Brother J from X-Clan. “He was trying to get me on that [Afrocentric] shit, and I’m like, ‘Get the fuck outta here,’ laughs Juju today. Later, he and Les recall being present for the recording of Main Source’s Breaking Atoms. “I don’t mean this as an insult [to Dres and Mista Lawnge], but we were the real black sheep of the Native Tongues,” deduces Juju.
Near the 28:00 mark, they explain why 1993’s Intoxicated Demons was forced to be an EP, due to Fashion’s incarceration. Psycho Les reports the release sold 150,000 units in its first week. The 25-minute project did crack the Top 50 of the Rap/R&B charts. By 32:00, the group maintains their place as being the last act on MTV to show un-blurred firearms in videos. They discuss some of the cameos in their videos as well, including a young Fat Joe and more.
Perhaps where the interview reaches its nostalgic pinnacle is near the 35:00 mark. There, Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg recall De La Soul telling Juan Epstein about one of the secret Native Tongues side-groups. Juju confirms the act known as The Fabulous Fleas. “That’s [Posdnuos’] idea! It was me, Pos, Q-Tip, and Afrika.” “We’re The Fabulous Fleas, yo!” recalls Junkyard Juju with a chuckle. “It’s funny, ’cause we all have like one song…I have like two joints,” he says, later revealing that they are on cassette. Juju explains that the “fabulous” part of the group’s name would be re-purposed to Chi’s debut LP. “I have my shit.” He said this happened during other groups’ sessions, and be held on the reel. “When everyone goes home, we’re the ones left. It was like a meeting of the minds.” Les confirms that all the side projects had funny names. Juju then jokes that he will make the Fabulous Fleas cassette tapes available for sale.
Elsewhere in the interview (47:00), the pair explains hiding their faces from album covers and marketing materials in the mid-1990s. They discuss the racial pressures from the mainstream that they never experienced from peers and Queens homies.
At the 1:16:00 mark, the guys stated how 1999’s “Watch Out Now” was a response to criticism that the ‘Nuts only had a hit in 1997’s “Off The Books” due to Big Pun’s appearance on the Relativity single. Les adds that the more recent of the two Beatnuts hits was shopped to a litany of artists (including Pun and Joe), all of whom passed on it. The record would be a Top 100 hit on the mainstream charts, later sampled (without credit to the Beatnuts) by the Trackmasters for Jennifer Lopez. The group discusses the song, and their opinion of Poke & Tone for that move.
As The Beatnuts actively work today, teaming recently with The Alkaholiks for LikNuts, this interview shows the pair’s humor, antics, and tremendous story of teenage prodigies-turned-Rap-mainstays.