What are your earliest memories of rap?
I was around 9 years old, playing football outside in my neighborhood of North Hollywood with about six kids. When we finished, my best friend’s older brother Victor was laughing as he said, “Listen to this.” He popped in a cassette of the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” We all listened to the entire song in disbelief. Victor’s father owned a disco and loved any kind of electronic equipment. After he saw the look in our eyes, he popped in another cassette of Fatback’s “King Tim III (Personality Jock).” Til’ this day, I’m not sure if he played Fatback to show us the rough origins of where Sugarhill Gang and other old-school artists got their inspiration from or what.
What’s a classic hip-hop album that flew under the radar?
Chill Rob G’s Ride The Rhythm LP. Chill Rob doesn’t get mentioned enough in general. It’s always thrown me off, seeing that he had an incredible voice, flow, and this album was backed by strong production from Mark the 45 King, Prince Paul, and Maseo from De La Soul, yet he’s rarely mentioned. I loved “Wild Pitch,” “Court Is Now In Session,” “Let The Words Flow,” “Let Me Show You,” but the entire album is dope!
Fifty years from now, in 2073, who will people still be talking about from hip-hop 2023? Who will have a lasting impact?
Tough one, but it’s between Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole for me. Both of these artists seem to keep elevating with each album. Kendrick has no boundaries and is interested in coloring way outside the lines, which would impact a future audience to hark back to what he created. J. Cole is great at getting right to the point with his lyrics and beats. Out the gate, Cole has served us the main ingredients. He rarely takes the scenic route when driving home a message, which makes him a marathon artist for me.
Looking back over the last 50 years, who is an unsung hero, someone who made a big impact on hip-hop who doesn’t get credit?
Well, I’ll say it like this: If hip-hop was the human body, Biz Markie would be the heart. While Biz does indeed get credit for making classic music, many don’t understand the massive impact he had with getting multiple groups signed or spotlighted. Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shanté, De La Soul, and many other artists benefited from Biz’s fine-tuned ear for hip-hop. I met him once in ’96 briefly, and he never forgot my name. Cut Chemist and I accompanied him to The Arsenio Hall Show, which was a riot. Biz’s spirit exemplifies all the positive, open-minded traits of a child. He managed to keep his youthful spirit up until his passing.
Biz was the most human entertainer I’ve met in this industry to date. I remember being at DJ Jazzy Jeff’s playlist retreat. I sat at a table to eat lunch where Kid Capri, DJ Scratch, Jazzy Jeff, Young Guru, and Biz were in deep conversation about events that took place in hip-hop on the East Coast. Without hesitation, in the middle of Biz’s sentence, he stopped and said, “Hey Nu-Mark, remember when we cleaned out that old warehouse in Bakersfield for all their records?” I couldn’t stop laughing. Biz included people and lifted everyone up around him. He knew I was out of place, listening instead of participating in the conversation. All artists should study him, not just the hip-hop artists.
Interview by Kyle Eustice