You know when you hear there’s a Rakim album release party, it’s a must-attend event. On Nov. 16 Universal Records and a new clothing company called Urban Expedition (UBX) threw Wyandanch’s favorite son one hell of a party at NYC’s Metronome Restaurant & Lounge, and it was off the hook. It was for the Nov. 30 release of his sixth album (the second solo), titled The Master. DJ Clark Kent, who did some of the production on the new release, entertained everyone on the one and two’s until Rakim Allah took the stage. The party was virtually a who’s who of the hip-hop world. Being the showman he is, Rakim performed for 30 minutes or so on a small stage that you would expect to see for an open mic. Many heavyweights would never be seen on such a makeshift stage, much less perform, but then again we are talking about one of the greatest emcees that ever lived. He performed everything from his classics like “My Melody” and “You Know I Got Soul” to new joints like the Premier-produced “When I B On the Mic,” the first single of The Master. Everyone from Razhel, Rampage, Master Ace to the father of hip hop himself, Kool Herc, came to pay their respects. Long Island was in such full e-f-f-e-c-t, even Mrs. Griffin, Ra’s mom, was in attendance. The refreshing thing is even though everyone’s favorite emcee is spending most of his time in Brooklyn these days, he hasn’t forgotten where he made a name for himself. The new album has several Long Island references, including a tribute joint called “Strong Island,” on which he recalls his days in Wyandanch. “Strong Island” is definitely one of the most blazing joints on the new set. In a time when many forget where they’re from, it’s great to hear one of our greatest emcees call himself “Long Island’s Own.”
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 brothers—they 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.