Talib Kweli, DJ Premier, Kool G Rap & More Share Behind The Scenes Stories About Rawkus Records


(AllHipHop News) The record label that brought the world projects by Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Big L, and Company Flow is the latest subject of Myspace’s Throwback Thursday feature.

The Oral History of Rawkus Records tapped over 25 rappers, producers, and label personnel to share back stories about the New York City based company founded by Brian Brater and Jarret Myer.

Among the Rawkus alum and associates that contributed to the article include Brater, Kweli, Monch, DJ Premier, John Forte, El-P, Kool G Rap, Q-Tip, and R.A. The Rugged Man.

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Read excerpts from The Oral History of Rawkus Records below.

Brian Brater: I think I came up with the name Rawkus. I just liked the word and I was really into Wu-Tang and what Loud Records was starting to do around then. This was around ’95 and then the razor blade [logo] was straight. I don’t recall who came up with the razor blade, but we wanted to be different and also be obvious about it. There’s quite a few revisions [of the logo] along the way, but once it bent it really stood out on turntables.

John Forte: It was pretty clear in the beginning they wanted to be underground. They wanted to be edgy and the focus was on hip-hop, although one of the first groups I ended up signing was Plastique which, at least in my opinion, was pretty ground-breaking at the time ’cause they were mixing downtown rock with hip-hop. This preceded the days of Limp Bizkit and similar groups. Plastique’s rapper ended up killing himself and I have a great sadness about it. Plastique had their fingers on the pulse but we didn’t necessarily know how to get the proper sound out of them. It was a tough sell ’cause people say you’re confused, like are you rappers or skate-rock guys or punk? They were all of those things. So while the push was hip-hop, we were willing to play around with the downtown sub-culture and expand our horizon.

R.A. The Rugged Man: A lot of the broke rappers would go [to Rawkus] and chill there. We’d go on the computer and play. We had situations where we’d go up to Rawkus and hang out: There’d be a little Asian girl who worked there and you’d try and f**k her, a couple of cute girls would be there or like a little fat chick might be there doing some artwork, girls you’d try and bang. It was a good atmosphere, a lot of good people up there.

EL-P: [In ‘96] my manager, Amaechi, mentioned Rawkus to me. They had reached out about bringing Company Flow over to Rawkus. I hadn’t heard of them before. They weren’t really doing a lot of rap music. They had a group called The Rose Family and a lot of random rock and electronic stuff. So I wasn’t really aware of them. But they reached out as fans of Company Flow. At the time we only had about eight songs out—all of them were on the Funcrusher EP we had pressed up. Stretch and Bob was a big part of how people were listening to music at the time.

Q-Tip: I remember recording “Body Rock” [in 1998] with Mos and Tash. It was just fun, you know? It was a real great vibe. Everything that you hear on the record—the spontaneity, the ad-libs between me, Mos and Tash—they were real. We really encapsulated how we were feeling on that record.

DJ Premier: I remember Busta Rhymes happened to be with us while recording “Mathematics.” I sold drugs for a short period in my earlier years—not that it came to anything—but I knew my mathematics and I remember Mos Def was breaking down the ounces turning into a kilo and he was a little off with one of the numbers. Busta was like, “Hey, did you hear what he just said?” We rewound the tape and he was right. It was just one number but Busta caught it. And with that beat for “Mathematics,” I remember Scarface saying, “Man, if he don’t do a song to that I want that. I have never heard a beat like that in my life.” I love that beat.

Pharoahe Monch: Making “Simon Says” was one of the most interesting experiences ever. Everybody went bananas, it was surreal. I remember Headqcourterz was there in Premier’s studio, D&D, which is now named after him, and he was the first one to really bug out to the song. Don’t get me wrong, I was pleased with the reaction but I know how to make beats and I knew it made me feel powerful and I hadn’t heard hip-hop like that in a long time. Lyrically, I was just being so direct and having a lot of moxie and flavor. So when I played it the reaction was what I expected it to be.

Kool G Rap: Right before Big L’s death, Big Pun was hot and was performing at The Apollo and wanted me to come out during his show and do “Ill Street Blues.” When I went there that night Big L was there so there was a rap session in the dressing room with me, Big Pun, Big L and my man Sunkiss from Terror Squad at the time. We had a little rap session with all four of us poppin’ off. That’s my last memory of Big L alive and being there in front of me.

Talib Kweli: I didn’t bring Kanye’s demo to Rawkus, but I was very involved. I was friends with Kanye so I was around for the beginning of that—Kanye wanted to be signed to Rawkus. He wanted to be there because of me and Mos Def. I helped but I wasn’t up there championing him like, “Oh, you have to sign Kanye.” But I did take him on the road while he was trying to get signed… Kanye wanted to be on Rawkus. He didn’t want to be on Capitol—there was a kid over at Capitol who was really trying to get Kanye [Ed: Joe “3H” Weinberger]. Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam wasn’t Kanye’s choice at all—it was just like a default because no one else would give him a deal so he might as well go with who he was making music with.

To read the full article visit myspace.com.

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