Redman Discusses His Battle Rap Days Spent Rolling With Biz Markie (Video)
To the Hip-Hop record-buying community, Redman’s career would largely take shape in 1990, care of EPMD’s Business As Usual album. On a Top 40 LP (Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s first with Def Jam Records), Reggie Noble appeared twice, including single “Hardcore.” However, that is not where the Newark, New Jersey MC/producer’s professional rap tenure began. Speaking with Vlad TV, the multi-platinum star touched upon some lesser known history of his days rolling with another 1980s New York City Hip-Hop legend.
“Biz Markie, that’s my dude too. I been knowing Biz for the longest. Actually, I went to Biz Markie first!” revealed Redman. Like EPMD, Biz Markie had strong ties to Long Island. Akin to Redman, Biz is originally a New Jersey product as well. Red encountered the Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros. Records artist at Club Zanzibar. “I said, ‘Yo Biz. I be rhyming and shit.’ But Biz was so tied up with the Juice Crew that—you know, Biz was in the zone then.” Redman alluded to Biz Markie’s instrumental role in Marley Marl’s Juice Crew. As an MC, producer, and DJ, Biz was among the outfit’s biggest and most commercially successful stars, with two albums out by 1989. Further, Biz mentored and produced younger artists affiliated with Cold Chillin’ and the Juice Crew, including Masta Ace, Grand Daddy I.U., and others.
“Biz was gettin’ money! He’s still gettin’ money too; that’s my unc’!,” continued Redman. “But long story short, before [Whut? Thee Album] came out, I was on tour with [EPMD], just running around gettin’ money from hustling here and there, and I was runnin’ with Biz for a while, gettin’ money. That’s when I kind of really got poppin’ [during] runnin’ with Biz as well right before I dropped [‘Hardcore’].”
Just as Biz Markie had been instrumental to Big Daddy Kane and Rakim’s pre-record-deal rhymes, he helped Redman. “Biz was taking me around battling. I was goin’ from city-to-city with him, in the car [around Greater New York City]. It wasn’t Jersey; it was mainly New York—airin’ mothafuckas out left and right! It got so bad… ’cause, Jersey dudes, we was about punchlines and shit. A lot of New York cats was about positivity—like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane was on that kind of movement.” Redman recalled one booking ending in him and Biz being chased from a Long Island venue. “I went up in that bitch rockin’. They was like, ‘[No way], get this mothafucka outta here! Who he think he is comin’ in here with that shit like that? Nah, nigga. Get the fuck outta here. We ain’t payin’ y’all; the fuck outta here!’ In other words, they was thinkin’ I was too advanced for this shit; we was playin’ ’em out.”
In 1998’s #2 album, El Niño by Def Squad (Redman, Erick Sermon, and Keith Murray), Biz Markie was recruited for “Rhymin’ Wit’ Biz.” On 2007’s Red Gone Wild: Thee Album, that chemistry was recaptured for “Walk In Gutta.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Redman expounded on the close living conditions that led him to his solo debut album. “[Erick Sermon] was living in a one-bedroom apartment with [EPMD’s road manager] Bernard (a/k/a Cool B).” Redman would closely work with Sermon on six of his eighth solo albums that followed, addition to Red & Meth and Def Squad work. “We did that shit for like three years, yo; I slept on the couch for three or four years.” Redman expounded on rotating from bed to couch to love-seat regularly between the three in the confined space. He says Sermon, a top producer and MC at the time, preferred the couch—often giving his protege the bed. “That whole time in that apartment, we’re strictly [about] music: waking up, breakfast right there in that one-bedroom apartment, and then we’d bang out and go to the studio.” Whut? Thee Album would release in late 1992 on Def Jam Records, eventually certified as gold. Aside from one track by Pete Rock and Parrish Smith (as “EPMD” each), the entire album was produced by Red’ and Erick.
Of his time with Erick and PMD, Redman expounded, “I’m a tour baby,” said Redman. He would join the Def Squad and Hit Squad fold late during EPMD’s 1989 Unfinished Business campaign. In the interview, Red’ discusses his naive ways of the world running with the group—learning about women and morality. Further, he discusses how he was artistically-influenced by another EPMD offshoot and close friend K-Solo. He said that Hit Squad member K inspired the verse heard on “Hardcore.” “He set the bar with the spelling [style].”
The interview also touches upon Redman and Cypress Hill popularizing weed rap, Red’s days with DoItAll (of Lords Of The Underground), and more.