Archive for October, 2010

Breakdown FM: Hip Hop Needs this Man (Questlove)

Listen to the interviews by clicking the links below.. (part one) (part two)

This is an incredible interview we did a few years back with Questlove of the Roots. He opened up and talked to us about the state of Black music, Life at Def Jam, Payola and a host of other things. Very insightful. If you are in the industry this is amust hear interview.. Special shout out to Liberator Magazine who transcribed some of Quest’s words check them out at the link below..


Davey D: Is Jay-Z pimpin over there? [as president of Def Jam]

“At the end of the day, it’s like Universal pimps them all. From L.A. [Reid] to Jay-Z, even the other presidents, I think it’s sort of like the illusion of power thing. I think everyone is just tryna hang onto their position to not upset the head honcho of Universal. Like, he really controls it and everyone just wants to keep their job. I don’t think Jay-Z necessarily sweats it, because if he lost his job, he still has like a few hundred million in his back pocket… he can go back to his day job. So I think that’s why he’s a little more adventurous in flaunting the fact that he signed us. Cause he really has nothing to loose. Like if he gets fired it’s like, oh well. L.A. Reid, he looses his job, I don’t know. He already left BMG, there’s only Warner and Lyor [Cohen] ain’t having that.

“The idea of really being cool, is that if this stopped tomorrow, I could at least maintain this particular lifestyle for 10 years. In other words, I got 10 years to find a job. I don’t wanna be in the position in which… you know, well Ja Rule right now is sorta thinking about, ‘ok maybe I should invest in online poker playing’. So I hear he’s dabbling in how to license his image to do online poker playing… no I actually think they’re trying to turn Spades into the new Texas Holdem’ thing for black people. I mean it’s cool, if that’s his passion, you know what I mean, but it’s like I don’t know. I don’t want to set a particular standard for myself that I won’t be able to maintain…

“Even a person like Michael Jackson, just on a minimum, he has to generate $12 million a month just for upkeep. Like, someone has to cut the grass at Neverland, someone has to paint the walls, there might be spider webs growing, someone has to pay the staff. You need new milk every week, someone has to buy good. The electric bills must be crazy $15,000 a month. Someone has to oil the farris wheels. Like, just for maintenance, $12 million a month. And it’s like if you’re not generating that money, you’re gonna be in trouble. I guess Mike thought ‘well ok, my supplies are gonna last forever’… so the way I choose to represent myself in public is just in a very modest way… we are people.

The Roots

“A well known manager recently had to be escorted out of his clients major label home for trashing the place because of the disappointment of the first single of his client’s new album. And the measure that they went through to make sure to make sure that that song gets played… like the song was tested on the radio and at very best, lukewarm results. But because this artist is such a ubiquitous presence… I found out from a friend of mine who works at radio that they have to play this record… even though the audience has totally passed over it… [and this record is super] recent… the reason why the office was torn up was because the label was promised that ‘we will make sure that this particular artist gets at minimum of at least 12 plays a day on all the major market.’ And when they didnt get it he came in a tore up the office… and [now] this will look like one of the highest selling records this year… I seen the soundscan results of this record coming up, I know what it’s projected to do… but that’s the thing, it’s forced and it’s forced and it’s forced… Kids on my block… they don’t have [Apple] Macs, they don’t know about Limewire [downloading software], they don’t know to google ‘new hip hop acts’… when you’re forced into a situation, you’re just doing what you’re told. Unfortunately there’s really no tastemakers to direct people… now the gatekeepers are the new tastemakers.

“But that’s what I’m trying to tell the ‘Little Brothers’ [another upcoming Hip Hop group] of the world right now… there’s a way out of this maze.

“Once you know the nature of your audience you just deal with it. Most black folks are just blinded by celebrity. And celebrity is when your lifestyle sort of supersedes or is more famous than your art. In other words people more concerned with the dress Jennifer Lopez had on last night as oppose to how good she hit that note on this particular concert… this whole winner take all mentality that the black audience, the disenfranchised people have, he [who has celebrity] is seen as a winner. And so that sort of separates your palate for what is good.

“I’ll tell you exactly how it works. You gotta take a significant amount of money… you find an agent… who does not work for the label… he takes the money and he goes to one of the 5 or 6 major radio station owners… [whose] whole goal is to maintain your attention by any means… what he does is he goes to the owner of said company and says… ‘I got a artist here, The Roots. I think you’ll really feel them. What’s the deal?’ He plays it and instantly in 4 seconds they can tell if it’s a hit or not. Now in this case we got denied. Now this is where they have to barter. They say ‘well look, here’s the deal, Jay-Z, a fellow Universal artist is gonna do a few Power 106 Jamz like summer concerts for you…’

“Whenever you hear those Summer Jamz… those are bartered deals… so what happens is the person says ‘I know that you want Jay-Z to headline the Power Jam in Denver next summer… how about this, what if we throw in Lil Jon And The Eastside Boyz and also T.I. We’ll throw them in. We’ll have them appear at your store. This is all I want you to do. I just want you to give me good look on The Roots’ signal. Play this 20 times a week and see what your audience feels…’

“And usually a song like that will get the little litmus test… and if it catches on it automatically gets added. Or you can go a little further and say, well look, here’s some money, how are your kids doing in college…

“At the end of the day my expectation level is so grounded that I’m cool with just stayin relevant…meaning like as long as we makin a living… as in the people still admiring The Roots, and can’t wait for that new record and what the hell they gon do next… as long as that’s still there and we have a home to do it, I’m cool with it.

“There’s still artists in the pop world… Sonic Youth… [Bob] Dylan… those are prestige artists. They’re allowed to make records no matter what. The record will never pressure them… they’ll just let them do them, and it’s all fine because they have respect. There is no artist in black music that has reached that level. Most black artists, their primary goal is generate us money, or else. I kinda wanna be the first artist in the pop realm to do that. I know Wynton Marsalis has that in the Jazz world. Like, Jazz records don’t sell, but it’s prestige and he’s royalty.

On Def Jam Left:
“Def Jam Left was incorporating the idea of… junk bonds, where we’d have a jam session… so you have 18 artists coming to a jam session in San Francisco and a Jill Scott happens to come outta that pack, then we take that Jill Scott and let her do a single. If there’s buzz generated, treat her like an Indie then she gets to make an album… and if it doesn’t work, keep on developin her. And that’s what we wanted to do…

On Scott Storch:
“Scott Storch was with us… once you’re a Root your always a Root… I’ll quote Kanye… ‘the kid that did that, deserves that Maybach’… Scott used to sleep on rat infested floors… I’ve never seen anyone spew out music as quick as he does. He will work on 20 song a day… he has no emotional connection to the rejection. Like me, I’ll get pissed. I’ll work on a beat and if you front on it…. we gon be fightin. With Scott, he’ll work on a beat, you don’t like it: ‘how bout this? how bout this?’ and it’s ‘Cry Me A River’ for Justin Timberlake… then it’s like ‘Baby Boy’ for Beyonce. Like he’s just a machine like that.

Last Thoughts: “I want to really stress to people. Please, please, please, please, please invest in quality music. And put somebody else on to it. That’s the joy in music making. I enjoy sharing music with other people.

Below is our interview w/ Questlove on HardKnock TV

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner


Still Ruthless An Interview w/ Former NWA Manager Jerry Heller pt1

by Davey D

Click HERE to peep pt1 of the Breakdown FM Intv w/ Jerry Heller

In this interview segment we sat down and chop it up with late Eazy E’s business partner and former NWA manager Jerry Heller who just released a book of his memoirs called ‘Ruthless’.

Not only does Heller meticulously detail the inner workings and all the behind the scenes dirt that went on with NWA, he also goes into great detail about the seedy music world of Rock-N-Roll’s hey day in the 60s and 70s where he played a key role. Make no mistake the music biz is definitely grimy.

In this segment we talk to Heller about the music biz in the hey days of Rock-N-Roll. Heller talks about all the key players that he came up with and rolled with including people like the late Bill Graham, David Geffen, Clive Davis and many more. He talks about how he actually was responsible for bringing Elton John to the US and giving him his first break.

Heller breaks down the rough and tumble tactics of old-time music guys and explains that while much of it was mob controlled and sometimes seedy ‘it was fair and that there were fast and hard rules that everyone played by’. He noted that all that changed and went out the window when Death Row CEO Suge Knight came in the game.

Heller talked to us about the importance of negotiating and striking good deals. It’s a key highlight in his book and during the interview he explained how and why Ruthless stayed successful while other small labels which actually sold more records like Delicious Vinyl wound up folding because of bad deals.

Jerry Heller w/ the late Eazy E, his best friend

He explains the type of relationship he and Eazy E had and how each of them brought a certain style, flare and business insight to the table that allowed Ruthless to be one of the music industry’s most successful record labels. He explained the decision behind rejecting Eazy E’s initial offer to go into business 50/50. He felt that Ruthless should 100% Black owned and that he would work for Eazy. He described Eazy as his best friend and one of the smartest men he had ever met.

He also recounted how the pair first met. Heller said that Eazy offered Alonzo Williams of the World Class Wrecking Crew 750 dollars to introduce him. It was at this meeting that Eazy played a rough cut of the now classic record ‘Boyz in the Hood’. He described the song as Gill Scott Heron, the Last Poets, The Black Panthers and the Rollingstones all rolled into one.

Click link below to peep pt1 of our interview w/ Jerry Heller

Still Ruthless An Interview w/ Former NWA Manager Jerry Heller pt2

Click HERE to peep pt2 of our interview w/ Jerry Heller

In this segment Heller talks at length about the early rap scene in LA and how he got involved via Macola Records which housed West Coast pioneering acts like Egyptian Lover, LA Dream Team, World Class Wrecking Crew, Rodney O & Joe Cooley, Ice T and JJ Fad to name a few.

In this segment Heller talks about why he called NWA the Black Beatles which each player MC Ren, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, Dr Dre and Eazy E all holding down key roles. Cube was the chief lyricists, Dr was the beat maker, Eazy was the conceptualizer while Heller was the financier.

Lastly we talked at length about the crack game and the type of impact it had in the community and how it was reflected in NWA’s music.

In part 2 Heller opens up and airs it out about Ice Cube and refutes Cube’s claims about him not getting paid.  Heller breaks out some solid numbers and contractual breakdowns to illustrate his point. He also touches upon the situation he had with Dr Dre and Suge Knight when they formed Death Row Records.

Heller also detailed the situations that lead up to the group doing the song F—Tha Police and the reaction to it including the infamous letter from the FBI. Heller noted that they recently discovered that Al Gore’s wife Tipper Gore may have been a key reason that ominous letter was sent out.

We also talked about Eazy E’s visit to the White House where he sat down and met George Bush Sr in the aftermath of the FBI/ Police backlash. For Eazy it was brilliant marketing ploy.

Heller also laid out the circumstances behind the death threats Eazy E received and how it was discovered that he was on hit list by some Neo-Nazi-Skinheads. The FBI never bothered to inform Eazy that his life was in danger.  Heller speculates that it may have been because of the F– Tha Police song.

Heller talked about the relationship Eazy E had with the now defunct Jewish Defense League (JDL) and how he admired the group for their slogan ‘Never Again’.  In fact Eazy had plans to do a movie about the group.

Jerry Heller details the inner workings of NWA

We talked about the recent revelations of JDL members supposedly extorting money from rap artists including the late 2Pac. Heller claims he had no knowledge of that, but it was no secret that in the aftermath of the Suge Knight shake down incident where Eazy was forced to sign over Dr Dre, Michele and DOC, that Ruthless was protected by Israeli trained/ connected security forces.

Our conversation later turned to a brief discussion of Black-Jewish relationships in the music industry. Heller felt that the partnership him and Eazy formed was model one and that it helped build lots of bridges.

We concluded our interview with Heller talking about some of his upcoming projects including starting a new record label that focuses on Latino Rap and Music with a message

Click the link below to peep pt2 of our Interview with Jerry Heller

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