Pulling Strings Part 5 – Red1 [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – It was a pleasant – but not unexpected – chain of events when Roger Swan recommended Red1 to be next in the Pulling Strings series. In many ways, Red has been the epicenter of Vancouver’s hip-hop scene, or at least the most public facet of it, from the beginning. Between the many successful Rascalz albums and numerous awards, not to mention and the paradigm-shifting refusal of a Juno, Red1 has made his presence known nationally and globally. Plus, he’s a pretty charming fellow and it’s hard not to notice him. So here we go: Red1 talks about times past and present, including his early days with MadChild, Sol Guy’s mis-start as an MC, and how Shyne’s “Bad Boyz” may just be a rip-off of the Rascalz.
“I’m going to do it and going to do it well and I’m going to be happy with it, even if it fails…That’s believing in yourself. Know you can do something.” – Red1
HipHopCanada: I think I told you how this series works, one person recommends the next, and Roger Swan recommended you. Why do you think that is?
Red1: I’ve worked with Rog since I was like 15. You know, before there was even a Rascalz record. Once we started making music with Roger Swan, when Roger was engineering, that’s when we really started. Even when we actually first went in the studio, you know Roger was engineering he just knew how to run the boards, and the SL boards and all that stuff. We were just doing stuff in Kemo’s basement, and Roger was the guy that really took us into the studio, and kind of showed us the ropes about how the studio works.
HipHopCanada: What kinds of things do you remember about the very beginnings of the Vancouver hip-hop scene?
Red1: We weren’t the first dudes, so I can’t give you the very very beginning.
HipHopCanada: Who were the first dudes?
Red1: When I came into it I knew of Ease, and Quiz and then a group called EQ, and I know DJ Kilo Cee. There was Craig Crush, you know what I’m sayin. There was a girl rapper named Tara T. There were a few people doing their thing, it wasn’t just us.
HipHopCanada: What did make you decide that this was the path you were going to take?
Red1: Hip-hop! When I first heard certain rap songs, they just smashed me, they just made me feel like, yea, this is how I feel. It just engulfed me, basically. We started off as dancers, I just first liked the music and the DJ *makes scratching noises*, the first records were just like break beat records with scratching on them, I remember that stuff. Everyone was doing the worm, and the robot, and it was my first introduction to hip-hop. And seeing Crazy Legs and those guys perform and watching them, my urge to perform, to be on the mic, grew out of that. But you know, we were in a dance group back in the day called FBI Posse. And Flipout and Rob Rizk and all those guys, like back back in the day, were in a dance group called Six of Clubs so I know them as dancers from dance groups.
“ We battled everybody, my crew would murder any and everything who said that they could dance. Then they all got together and was tryna battle the FBI posse, which was my crew. We all kind of came out of dancing.”
HipHopCanada: Now I heard when you first started rapping, you were actually in a group with MadChild.
Red1: Ha ha, wow, you’re the first person who actually asked me that. Yeah, me and MadChild were homies. We had a mutual friend, a guy named Gersh who passed away, and MadChild was homies with Kush and came down to the party and he was rapping. Kemo was DJing the party and the instrumentals came out and that’s what I was saying back in the day, the crowd just gathered round the DJ booth and you know everybody was just waiting for their turn, Sol G was rapping even back then.
HipHopCanada: We’re gonna come back to Sol G, for sure. Meanwhile, how did you and MadChild mesh?
Red1: Ha ha. You know, I never knew him, and he comes in, this white guy from North Van comes in, and spits in this flow, it’s just different and his rhymes are different, you know it was dope. And so from there we started just hanging out and working together and we weren’t really in a group but we worked together back in the day. When I first went to Roger’s house MadChild was driving the car, driving us out there and stuff like that.
HipHopCanada: Did things fall apart there? What happened that you guys went different ways?
Red1: People get into it and just go different ways. There’s nothing that really happened, things just went the way it went. Like nothing really happened with Sol G, like I was saying Sol G used to rap with us, it just ended up that he ended up being the manager, you know what I’m sayin?
HipHopCanada: Yeah see but what I’ve heard about Sol G is that you guys took him aside and were like “dude you can’t really rap”.
Red1: Pffh, who told you this?
Red1: Ha ha, well, that’s not what happened.
HipHopCanada: Sol says that Kemo first took him aside and told him that he was a shit rapper.
Red1: No no no no no, Sol G is a good rapper. What happened was, at the time, I was a dope rapper like, in my mind I was the dopest kid in the city rappin’ at the time. I’m sure in everybody’s mind they were the dopest. But Kemo wanted me to rap solo, just to rap. But I never wanted to, I just wanted a group. I wanted to go on tour, with all of the homies. Like Misfit used to be a dancer, he ended up being the guy, but I would never have guessed it cause I wouldn’t have picked him to be a dancer, I would have picked him to be a rapper. Things just unfolded and became what it was. Everything happens for a reason. Everybody’s still doin their thing, and everybody has that genuine love for music to this day, guys are still involved in music and still going hard at it. Everybody just has the love. Its always changing, if you talk to me five years from now, it’s going to change and be something different again.
HipHopCanada: Well lets talk about where you are today. You own a record label, Killawatt Records, and I’m curious about the process you went through in picking your artists. There’s a million guys who think they can rap in this country, why did you choose the people that you did?
Red1: When I first met Lamar Ashe, I was on tour with Shawn Desman. When we were on the east coast, the far east coast like Halifax, Lamar and this other group were opening. Going to the next city, I ended up riding with them instead of in our van, because I still didn’t have no weed. We ended up talking, and I said “I’m going to check you guys out tonight”. So I came down early and saw his show. He was just so energetic and you could tell he’s a good singer off that bat. But just his performance, he came out in an all white suit, and about five girl dancers dressed like they were Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, with the full on outfit with the masks. And he had this one girl that was probably like – I don’t dis nobody short or fat – but she was probably at least 300 pounds. There was this one part where she sits Lamar on a chair, and just goes off. She’s like a really good, crazy dancer, and it was just an entertaining show. I just appreciated his attempt to entertain the crowd and I appreciated his voice. So I was like “yo, you gotta come out to Van, we gotta work on some shit”. He was like going down in the crowd, and doing the Bobby Brown and all on his knees, and he was so young at the time, and I was impressed cause we were on tour all over the world and we would see a lot of artists, and he had that energy and showmanship, so I liked that.
HipHopCanada: What about Heatwave?
Red1: Heatwave’s been around since he was a kid, so I seen him around a couple times. But when I really noticed him I was out judging a battle at Atlantis I think, and Heatwave and all his boys were down there and they were in the battle. He’s goin and goin, he had so much support from his crew and his boys, and not only that but I thought he was pretty dope, and I thought he should have won that battle. He didn’t win, he came in third but he was my favorite dude there. And I think that’s where we started kinda talking, kinda more clicking. Not just that, I had a cousin who passed away, who would always be tellin’ me about these guys. His name was Christian, and he’d be tellin me about Tre Nyce, about Heatwave, about all these guys. So I went out of my way and said “yo look, you were my favorite dude blah blah blah”, and it just went from there.
HipHopCanada: So, in that transition then, from being an artist to being someone who’s in charge of other artists, what changes have you had to make in the way that you handle your shit?
Red1: Well, they’re my homies too, but I try to keep a line in between the homie stuff and the business stuff. When it’s business, when we have to rehearse or we gotta go, I’m on it like “yo where you at?”, “why this?”, “how come this?”, “why that?”.
“When it comes to certain things, its kind of touchy. But when it comes to the homies after the business is done or after the studio, I’m probably the funnest guy.”
I’m drinking the most drinks and smoking the most spliffs. But I definitely try to keep that line between the business and friendship there.
HipHopCanada: So business in the front, party in the back.
Red1: Definitely business in the front, I’m spendin money! Ha ha.
HipHopCanada: But as far as your own personal self as an artist, what have you had to push to the background? If you have to take the business first, what’s really the difference?
Red1: I don’t think I would have taken so long to start working on the new album, but I have so many albums out and I’ve traveled so many places and these guys are just young and fresh and they got that energy and so I want to try and take them everywhere and build it for them and let them be able to experience that and be able to do what they want to do for themselves and their families and their careers or whatever.
HipHopCanada: If you had to choose between being CEO of a record label and handling these guys, or being an artist, you can’t do both, what would you pick?
Red1: I’m an artist first at heart, the business came later. Like when I first got into the record business I didn’t even care about a contract. I don’t even think I looked at my first contract. I was just like “whatever, let’s go”. I really don’t care about the business bullshit, industry people are shady. Tribe Called Quest…isn’t that industry rule 4080? Industry people are shady. People who are putting their time and effort into you are doing it because they think, ‘I can get something out of this’. Knowing that and knowing the things we’ve been through I try to do everything transparent with these guys. Along the way I’m trying to teach. Everybody who works with us, they can use Pro Tools. All of them. They can record themselves, they can do whatever. It’s a process that I learned, and I just kind of showed them.
“Every man is fully capable without me, they all know how to put it down, they all know how to record, they all know how to make good music, they all know how to market, how to push their stuff on facebook, mixtapes, and get out there and rock shows.”
They’re all very capable men. We like each other and we mesh well and we make good music together. It’s kind of like a collective kind of vibe.
HipHopCanada: With all your years of experience as an artist and a businessman, what is the one most valuable thing that you’ve learned?
Red1: Believe in yourself. If you don’t, who will? If not you, then who?
HipHopCanada: How do you believe in yourself if no one else does?
Red1: That’s the thing, just believing in yourself transcends all that. Even when nobody does, you know, just even being able to prove them wrong, or even just be happy. Like I’m going to do it and going to do it well and I’m going to be happy with it, and even if it fails I’m going to be happy of what I’ve done. That’s believing in yourself. Know you can do something.
HipHopCanada: So you’re not that young anymore, you know, you’re in your mid-thirties…
HipHopCanada: Yeah right ha ha.
Red1: Hey! Jigga said twenty’s the new thirty, so I’m in my mid-twenties…
HipHopCanada: Okay so being in your mid-twenties, where do you see yourself going? Where would you like to progress to?
Red1: Honestly, I still do what I do, I try to help those around me trying to do what they’re trying to do because you know, I still and always believe that, sky’s the limit. In five years I want to be doing the exact same thing, making music. You know what I’m saying? That’s what I do. That’s what I like. Living life. Learning everyday. Helping those that I love. Being with my family and my friends. You know?
HipHopCanada: I want to close off by talking a little bit about the upcoming album. I know you got some tracks that are ready on that. I actually heard one last night, and Method Man’s rapping about “bitches dropping their drawers”.
Red1: Ha ha, but yeah that’s Meth. That’s not what I rapped about. But yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that, it happens. Girls drop their drawers every night. Many times a day girls drop their drawers! It’s a regular occurrence, so there’s nothing wrong with that.
HipHopCanada: No but I mean the new album, what else you got coming up for us? Tell us some exciting tidbits.
Red1: I got a joint with Method Man. I got a joint with Elephant Man. I got a new joint with Barrington. I got joints with my crew, Heatwave, Lamar, Joose. I got stuff that I’m working on. Kardi’s sending over some stuff. Going to Jamaica to work on some stuff. I really don’t want to put it all out there but I got a lot of music. I’m going to just start putting it out there cause I’ve just been piling it up and piling it up.
HipHopCanada: So who am I interviewing next?
Red1: Sol Guy because he was there from the start. Besides the fact that he’s in my crew and he’s one of my best friends and he’s been down for me for a long time, he actually was around not only when it went down first in Vancouver. He was around when it was going down first in Toronto, he was even around when he was the dude that was bringing Puffy and Usher to Europe for the first time like when Usher’s first album dropped. He went from being our manager to working at Sony BMG at the A&R position, and one year he pulled off this crazy party where he brought Puffy and Lil’ Kim for this crazy concert for Caribana and without no problems and that impressed Puff who at the time was on Arista at Bad Boy. So then Arista then flew him into New York and offered him a job as their ‘International Director’ and so that meant anything outside of the USA he had to deal with. That’s how, if you ever knew there was a little Barrington controversy with Bad Boy, Shyne and when Barrington came out. Sol G kind of played a part in that , he kind of gave those guys our music before it came out…anyways that’s a whole other story. Take this as some second hand, third hand information but that’s how like the Bad Boy anthem kind of came about, like “yo, this Barrington guy is kind of dope, we gotta get him on a record”, the Bad Boy anthem was the result of that. Which happened to drop like around the same time our shit dropped. But it’s all good. Sol G would definitely be a good guy, cause not only does he know the history and was there for it when it was going down in Vancouver and Toronto and the rest of Canada but, he actually played a good part in what was going on in America for a lot of singers and artists. When nobody could find Lauryn Hill and she disappeared when she was just MIA living in Miami, they couldn’t even find nobody from the label that she would work with. So they asked Sol if he would go down there and you know to liaison. He ended up working for Lauryn, for like a year and a half, two years. But Sol, he definitely would have a good scope on the music industry as a whole. But! Red1 definitely put him on, ask him about that.
Interview conducted by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Photography by Scott Alexander for HipHopCanada
The Rascalz – Really Livin’ (Early Cut)
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