Exclusive: Redman Talks ‘Black Man In America,’ Nipsey Hussle, Black Men and Therapy and More
Reginald Noble aka Redman is arguably one of the coldest emcees of all time. From albums such as Whut? Thee Album and Muddy Waters Redman has definitely proven himself as a force to be reckoned with in the rap game. Showcasing not only the ability to rap but to also produce and write music. Redman rose to fame while signed to Def Jam. It was during a challenging time for the record label that Redman and label mate Method Man joined forces. Since then Redman has prospered into an independent artist and is continuing to create bangers. The Source recently got a chance to talk to Redman about his latest single and visual “Black Man In America” which he directed, his friendship with Nipsey Hussle, Black men and therapy, and more.
The Source: I want to begin with The New Jersey performance at the MTV Awards, what was it like having that major hip-hop moment on a platform that is geared toward pop culture?
Redman: It was a great thing to happen to in the city I grew up and do a lot of non-profit work in. It was just a privilege to have the MTV VMA’s in our city. I am apart of a non-profit group with my boy DoItAllDupre from Lords Of The Underground called 211 Media and ever since we were kids, we have always talked about doing big things for our city through giving back. For the VMA’s to be in Newark, and for them to allow us to shut it down at the end of the show was remarkable. I say remarkable because MTV took a chance, bottom line. Brick City built New Jersey. It has its rough edges like any other city but we are on the come up. When you think about the VMA’s and that type platform, even being in Newark, New Jersey, you would ask why? Why isn’t it in New York or Cali? So for them to take a chance and allow us to blow it down and kill it at the end was great. I’ve been in the game since 92 and I’ve watched all of the VMA’s and this was one of their most exciting shows. The vibe was good. There were a lot of fans in the audience and not bougie people coming out to look good and show off their outfits. So not just the show itself but the energy in the air was great. I thank MTV still to this day for allowing that to happen because our city needed that. We needed to bring more awareness to our city as well as show other companies and platforms not be scared to take a chance because Newark New Jersey is on the rise.
Now let’s talk about “Black Man In America,” the song and visual were both very powerful. The video was centered around different scenarios that Black men deal with on a daily basis, such as police chases. How did you come up with that concept? Was it art-imitating life?
“Black Man In America” was produced by Rick Rock, he is a legend. We’ve worked on a lot of records in the early 2000s. When I make songs, I make sure they are timeless. For example, I have songs that have been sitting for over 15 years that could come out today and still slam. “Black Man In America was created three or four years ago. I want to be behind the camera. I want to write scripts and direct. I’m just getting my feet wet. So when it came to the visual and the content of the song, it was me giving my perspective. Everyone knows what Red and Method Man talk about. We rarely get political with subjects. We help people by talking to them directly. We have never been this political on a record like how I am on Black Man In America. However, as I get older, I’m realizing that I have a responsibility as an artist to tap into some of the unjust that is going on today. I feel as though this record and visual were my responsibility. Honestly, I didn’t know that it would get this much attention. When I shot and directed the video I said to myself, this is dope, I did a great job. It was like wow, I made a cinematic video. These are ideas that I have been sitting on and wanting to get out there and it happened. I never thought that when it hit social media I would get this type of feedback. I’m getting calls from everywhere about this record. Even Eminem hit me up and said, “the sh!t is banging. Even the vocals sound like the new you but the old you as well.” I didn’t know that it would have this much impact; I’m not even going to lie.
Black men deal with a lot of stress every day. I know it can take a toll on one’s mental health. What are your thoughts about Black men and therapy?
It is a lot to deal with. It’s not just for thugs, hustlers, and gamblers; it’s for standard Black men too. By standard I mean regular solid black men who are working jobs to provide for their families and doing right by people, they still go through it. Even for myself, as a star, as an asset in my community, as a public figure. I still go through situations. We all go through situations as black men, no matter what level you are. It is really scary. I know if I go through certain adversities as an artist and I have a little money, I can only imagine what the average Black man that is just trying to make it is going through. People may think Black men go through this because they do this, no! It’s not that. Most of the time you can be doing the right thing. It’s just because of the temperature out here, racism. The temperature out here with social media and all of the looks it’s giving black men, it’s very serious. I’m not political; I’m just here to let you know what I see from my perspective. It is a lot of stress for Black men to go through these things. If you are feeling depressed, you should call a hotline or talk to someone. You should get together with your friends and talk about it. Sometimes I talk to my friends about certain stuff and it is alleviating to talk to others. No matter if it’s a friend or someone who can give you professional help. This life can cause depression and stress. For Black men or anyone who is Black and you have kids, your kids will grow up knowing the intensity between Black people and the police.
You have four sons and one daughter so at what age were your kids when you gave them “the talk” about being pulled over by the cops?
You know what’s crazy? I never really had to tell them. They feed off of my energy. I never sat them down and told them police were bad. I never sat my kids down and told them don’t trust the police or when you see police do this. I let them know now because one of my sons is 16 about to turn 17 so he will be driving soon. It’s embedded in our kids from our actions and from what they see. I would say it’s a pro and a con because they automatically know. A conversation wasn’t needed because they felt it. I’ve been telling my kids since they were five years old, if you are driving down the highway and you see a state trooper pull a car over, someone got pulled over. But, if you see two or three state troopers behind one car, someone is going to jail.
In one of the lines in “Black Man In America,” you say, “I’m a black man who made it in America.” My question is what does winning in America as a Black man look like to you?
My perspective on Black men making it in America isn’t measured by wealth or material things because I feel like that is outward which is heavily influenced by social media. When I say I made it as a Black man in America, I’m saying I made it to my age healthy. I haven’t been shot. I haven’t had to go to the parole board. Yes, I have been locked up when I was younger for a gun charge and robbery and other dumb stuff but that is when I was young. I’ve made it to my age without snitching. I made it to my age without doing any prison time. I made it to my age and I took care of my kids and they are healthy. I’ve always made it by helping my community and the youth. That’s how I made it. I also have awareness about myself, my people, my family and where I come from. I’m very woke and fully aware of what’s going on. That’s what I mean when I say I’ve made it.
You were friends with Nipsey Hussle, what was one of the biggest lessons you learned from him?
First, his work ethic. I’m a workaholic. I own my studio. I engineer myself, I do everything myself as the label would do. When I’m in the studio I like to be around people who work as hard or harder than me. That is one of the qualities I appreciated in Nipsey. His work ethic was impeccable. He would like having songs done maybe a year before they dropped. His videos would be done months before they dropped just so he could have them in the can. One lesson I learned from him was that you cannot save everyone. My mother would tell me, you want more for people then they want for themselves. At the end of the day, everyone doesn’t want the same energy as you and you have to watch that. Nipsey put a battery in my back on watching my surroundings. Sometimes we can put all of our eggs in one basket about one person. We all want to give back to our community, which I appreciate Nipsey for doing but sometimes it can bite you in the butt. So I would say the biggest lesson Nipsey taught me was to stay aware. Have a keen eye on your surrounding and your circle.
What is the deal with you and social media? You are never on there. Are you busy working on a new album?
Before April I was on social media. I took a social media cleanse in April after my birthday. I was going through a lot of family issues. Things were weighing down on me. It got to a point where I couldn’t even open my eyes without the crust sticking down and me getting on my phone to see what’s happening on social media. I wouldn’t even use the bathroom without my phone. That became a problem for me with my mental thinking. I thought that I always had to have my phone. I had to wake up to social media to see if I was on point or to see how many likes I got. So, the day after my birthday I immediately got off of social media. I deleted my Instagram app so I wouldn’t sneak on it. I just got back on social media last week, just to promote my new record.
Are you going to stay on social media?
I’m going to gradually come back to social media. I’m just on it to promote the song. I could not just let this song not be promoted. A lot of people welcomed me back but I’m taking it slow. I’m going to use my social media to promote business, promote my art, and I will go about it differently than I have before. I’m going to have fun with it but I’m not going to let social media be my life. A good friend of mine, Chanel West Coast hit me. I told her I took a social media break she said something to the effect of “I don’t know if I could go without social media. I don’t want anyone to forget me. When she said that, I thought to myself, maybe this is the exact reason you should get off of social media. People should not want to remember you because you are on social media. They should want to remember you for who you are. Your art. What you gave to the game. A lot of people are caught up mentally about needing social media. People should use social media for business and not make it become their life.
Whut?Thee Album turns 27 years old on September 22, do you remember the mindset you had while recording the album?
When I was recording Wutt? Thee Album I was free. I didn’t have any girlfriends. I didn’t have anything weighing me down. I was just all about the music. I had just moved in with Erick Sermon before the album because I didn’t have anywhere to go or live. Erick took me in and I lived with him for three years. Within those three years, I created Whut? Thee Album and Dare Iz A Darkside. When you are young and free, and you love to do something, you don’t care about the money. You just care about that inside feeling you get when you wake up and do what you love. You can bring anything to existence. I was going through a chapter in my life where I had to make things happen. EPMD was busy at the time. Erick Sermon was busy at the time so the majority of the time he wasn’t able to be in the studio to coach me as a new artist. I was thrown in the lion’s den and I had to learn. There were plenty of times I had studio sessions and he wasn’t there but I didn’t cancel the sessions. If I did, I wouldn’t be here today. I stayed in the studio. I didn’t know what I was doing but I learned. I did not stop until I learned how to make music myself. Whut? Thee Album wasn’t just a great album for me as a new artist; it was also a great learning process. I got the beats from E and I put the whole album together. Even the skits. Everything from top to bottom, I put that album together myself. E produced the songs. I wrote and produced one of the songs. Not only is rapping and producing the beats one of the most important parts of putting the album together, but you also have to mix and master it. The other important part of putting an album together is sequencing.
What are your favorite songs on the album?
My favorite songs from the album are “Tonight’s Da Night,” “Time 4 Sum Aksion,” “I’m a Bad,” “Watch Your Nuggets” with Erick Sermon, So Ruff. I had a lot of songs I loved on that album.
What is the biggest difference between Redman then and Redman now?
Redman then, hmm, there is a pro and a con to it. The con to Redman then is back then I manifested more because I didn’t have kids. I didn’t have a girlfriend or love problems. I didn’t have money problems either because I didn’t care about money. I was still in the streets hustling. Not to say I don’t have confidence now because I do but I had more confidence bringing things to my existence back then. I manifested more. I knew everything that would happen if I executed my plans a certain way, things would happen the way I envisioned them. Anything that I wanted then, I pictured it and it happened. Now, my manifestation isn’t as strong as back then. As I said, I have kids now. I have bills to pay and college funds to start. That can kind of damper the way you think about manifestation. The pro is that I am more business savvy. I have opened more doors than just music. I’ve learned how to work more instruments and programs. Anything dealing with music I’ve learned 100% more. I’m more equipped now then I was when I was younger. I’m also more aware of the studio and what I should do while I’m in there.