By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
From Hempsted to the Boardroom and Back
As CEO of Avenue B Marketing Group, Barry Bookhand helps companies like Heineken and Sprite reach out to the urban customers many companies couldn't otherwise recognize. Bookhand made music his business when he did some work for Parrish Smith's Babylon-based record company and later held the role of general manager of PMD Records for a short time. But it was growing up in Hempstead and being the nephew of Julius Erving (Dr. J is Barry's mother's brother) that got him into his chosen profession. "When I went off to college," he says, "it was the growing popularity of rappers like Public Enemy and Rakim, cats from where I was from, actually reshaping hip hop and earning a living doing what they loved, that made me feel I too could accomplish anything I wanted."
Another Hempstead-raised cat on the rise is producer Al West, who produced "K-I-S-S-I-N-G," "Money is My Bitch," "Big Things" and "Talk to the Mayor" on Nas' I Am album and "Project Window" featuring Ron Isley on Nas' upcoming Nastradamous album. His discography also includes Salt N Pepa's "Are You Ready" and "Get Up"; "Dollar Bill" by R. Kelly, featuring Foxy Brown, from his double CD, Don't Say Goodbye; "Kiss Test" for Kelly Price's debut disc Soul Of A Woman; and Sisqo's debut solo single "Got to Get It," which is burning up the charts right now.
When I asked Sisqo about West, he said, "Most producers I've worked with you have to tell exactly what you want. Al's the first producer I ever I worked with I could tell him to start the track without me and when I come in later it's done, exactly like I want it. He's a self-starter, a musical genius, to say the least." The 20-something producer is currently in the studio working on a new track from Kelly Price's sophomore set. He just finished two joints on Mary J. Blige's upcoming album and three songs for Kirk Franklin. He has just recently relocated to Far Rockaway, but he says it was the quietness of Long Island that helped him create his style and gave him his inspiration for the projects he's produced.
Homeboy, Part II
Both Reggie Noble and Clifford Smith, better known as Redman and Method Man, both spent part of their pre-rap career days on Long Island. Originally from Westbury, Method Man lived in Hempstead until he was 13 and recalls playing football for the Hempstead Tigers when he was younger. He also admits that the school system was much better than Staten Island's, which he later attended. "They didn't really try to teach us anything," he says of Staten Island.
Redman had a more practical reason for coming to Long Island. He moved in with Erick Sermon sometime between the second and third EPMD albums to escape the streets of Jersey City. Trying to turn his life around and get into the rap game, he had to leave or his past would have kept catching up to him. So when Erick put him down with the Hit Squad he told Reggie to move to L.I., where he could concentrate more on his career. Red hung out with Central Islip's K-Solo so much back then that many headz thought that they were brothersthey actually said they were in a Source magazine piece on EPMD and the Hit Squad. Both emcees give mad props to Long Island. Now the Blunt Brothers, after making classic solo contributions to hip hop, they've combined to become one of the hottest and most animated rap duo in a while. In fact, their debut duo album, Blackout, is doing so well that Def Jam has pushed back both emcees' solo albums to next year.