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Since emerging as the standout rapper in the Def Squad camp of his mentor Erick Sermon, Redman has reigned as one of hip-hop's most popular and ubiquitous guest rappers, in addition to releasing a slew of classic solo albums (1992's Whut? Thee Album, 1994's Dare Iz A Darkside, and 1996's Muddy Waters chief among them) and a well-received collaboration (1999's Blackout!) with smoking buddy/partner-in-rhyme Method Man.
Over the past decade, Redman has branched out into many other media: He appeared in deodorant ads, co-starred with Method Man in the hit stoner comedy How High, and was featured in the little-loved sitcom Method & Red, the goofy meta-horror movie comedy Seed Of Chucky, and Def Jam's video games. He's maintained a high public profile, but his recently released comeback album Red Gone Wild: Thee Album marks his first new studio album in six years. The A.V. Club recently engaged Redman in a manic conversation about the state of hip-hop, his pit bull's testicular cancer, How High, Def Jam's commercial slump, and of course, the deplorable practice of smoking marijuana.
The A.V. Club: You put out albums almost every year in the '90s. Why such a long wait between this and Malpractice?
Redman: Well, you gotta look at it this way, man. From '92 to 2000, I put out, like, four to five albums of my own, in addition to the Def Squad album and Blackout. It was just that these last five years… You look at Malpractice. What was I doing around Malpractice? I was doing the How High movie. I ventured out, did the movie, then I did the TV show, then Seed Of Chucky. I had a couple of beautiful kids since then. And the evolution of hip-hop has evolved since then. I mean, it's changed dramatically since 2001.
AVC: What do you see as the major changes?
RM: It evolved into more of a business. The business end has taken over from the cultural side. But now—I can't be mad, because, you know, motherfuckers need to be on their business. But the business aspect is more controlled than the culture, which allowed MCs to come in and talk about things like cars and jewels.
I wouldn't say that hip-hop is necessarily dead, but the culture of building albums has been lost. Motherfuckers complain about the lyrics and stuff. Everything is single-driven now. Everything is, like, more beat-party-driven now.
There's only a handful of us left that care about lyrics. The young generation just wanna move. And you know what? I love it. I love that hip-hop can still provide jobs for niggas to get money and to put their crew on. I would never say that hip-hop is going down. It's cool, but it needs an adjustment. I think that hip-hop just needs a little fine-tuning. An adjustment. That's it! Just a little bit to bring the culture of it back. To ensure… Let me give you a perfect example: Even producers are stars now. When you go to a producer, getting a beat, what are they trying to give you? They're trying to give you a single. When you go to 10 producers, it ain't giving you a single. You come back with an album, what? Full of singles, instead of those album cuts that let you know what kind of person I am. Instead of the kind of album cuts that show versatility and showcase flows. Back in the '90s, or even in the beginning of the 2000s, [people who bought albums] were privileged to have something different that wasn't on the radio. You be like, "Yeah, you gotta hear this shit, dawg." Fuck that shit.
But now it's more radio-driven. Everything is more single- and radio-driven. And it's about being on the radio. Which is cool. But within that time, from 2001 to now, and from me to you, I wasn't really ready to sacrifice all that shit I had built up all these years, from Muddy Waters on. I wasn't going to sacrifice my next album to hip-hop's evolution. You smell what I'm saying? I wasn't gonna put my balls up on the table just to sacrifice for change. So now, what, everybody screaming now? Hardcore just like M.O.P. Everybody wanna scream hardcore now. Because why? You even got white people. When you have white people, the white young generation, asking "Well, what's going on with hip-hop? It don't even sound the same," then you have a situation going on.
AVC: A lot of people on Def Jam have complained that their albums weren't properly promoted. Are you worried about that?
RM: I'm not worried at all. 'Cuz you know why? I'm hands-on with it. I'm hands-on with everything that I do. Matter of fact, within that time, from 2001 to now, that I didn't come out—like I said, I did the movies and all that—but another thing I did that was important was being hands-on. I went back to doing shows without Def Jam, 'cause I was doing my album. Doing hands-on shit.
You know, when I come with my shit, I'm-a be calling you for them. I learned all the techniques I need to know to keep my shit running. Now it's up to Def Jam to do their part. So the pressure's on everybody. Everybody's like, "Def Jam didn't do this or that," and I'm the last nigga coming right now. So they like, "Is Redman gonna complain? Let's see what he's gonna complain about." You think I'm gonna give everybody that privilege to know I'm gonna complain about Def Jam? Please. I don't even give a shit if Def Jam didn't do they job. I'm still not gonna complain. 'Cuz you know why? I don't have no right to. I could sit around, or I could go up to them and talk to them personally. But I'm not gonna let them know.
I love all the people. I don't even gotta say names. Them are my brothas. Fuck it. Whoever said it, from Meth on down to LL, whoever complained about Def Jam. I'm here to speak to them too. I don't think they really understand. You know I don't think the people who complained understand what was really going down. I think they was still under the old Def Jam. Like the old Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles Def Jam feel. I could complain to you 'cuz my shit ain't poppin' off, or y'all ain't doing y'all job, or whatever. I don't think they really got into changing what the business was about. See, I got into that shit a long time ago. When you broke—when you out on the block, or you still live in your hood, you recognize and you appreciate that little shit. So I'm like aight, goddammit, once I get it again, I'm gonna keep it. How do I keep it? I keep it by learning to make my own connections. By making my own deals via handshakes. How do you do that? You gotta be visual. You gotta be out here. You cannot let these motherfuckers know you sweat. That goes for everybody. You too. You cannot let them see you coming. And you cannot let them see you sweating. Not once.
If they don't do they job, then you go over and knock on the same door and say, "I know that Def Jam was supposed to be doing something here, but they didn't, so I'm calling you right now." And they'll say, "Well, you know, Redman, now that you call, let's see what we can do." That's what I'm talking 'bout. So you see, everything works in patterns. Don't nobody want somebody in their business going, "Okay, you have to do this, how you doing this?" I think that all the artists, if they were to make their own connections without the third-party shit, with, you know, "We wanna get so and so a hotel, and blah blah blah," the artists would say, "Listen. I wanna come down and party with y'all. I'm-a put my man on to handle the business part, but I'm gonna talk to y'all directly like I'm feeling y'all. My album is out, and I'm ready to promote. What can we do?" You try to tell me they gonna turn me down? Talking to you like that? Face to face? Phone to phone?
The only thing I'm saying is, you might have a better reception handling business that way. I've felt the weight. I felt the weight wherever they could put paint at, I'm-a put paint where it ain't. And then it's like—I don't mean to talk your head off, man—but what is promotion? You gotta ask yourself, what the fuck is promotion? Is promotion having your shit on BET 20 times, or saying your album coming out? You think a motherfucker would give a fuck? Or is promotion when you're doing your shows, you also go out on the town?
Go out to a bar or the club where it's happening. Show your face. With a couple of your people. People will say, "What you doing here?" and I'll go, "Nothing! I'm hanging here partying just like you! Listen, I'm buying everybody a Heineken in here! This is Redman. My album is coming out. I love everybody, I'm just happy to be here, I'm-a buy everybody here a drink. Heineken on me." You think they ain't gonna fucking remember that? You remember Redman, you know, he bought everybody a drink?" That's going to do you more good than your shit just flashing on MTV. That's what I've learned. And see how it all circles back around to hands-on? Hands-on. Motherfuckers wanna see you doing it yourself. Hands-on. So I'm not gonna worry 'bout what Def Jam gonna do. I'm not gonna worry 'bout if they gonna put no paint where it's ain't. Wherever they putting paint at, I'm-a make sure I take my black ass right there. And if they tell me no to my goddamn face, then I shut the fuck up. But I'm not gonna let another man stop me from getting my guap. Not Jay-Z, not Hay-Z, not LAV, not my manager, not no one. Understand what I'm saying? That's why I got my niggas. We do film. We got our own film crew. We got our own film. We got our own cameras. Any videos that ain't being shot on my shit, I will be shooting them myself.
AVC: In your installment of Cribs, you showed MTV a pretty run-down home. Why live in an unassuming house when you can probably afford a gaudy hundred-room mansion?
RM: First of all, I do not have no money for a hundred rooms. Second of all, there's nowhere in my hood, or where I stay at, that you can have a hundred-room mansion without motherfuckers being piled up in your shit. And plus, I'm the kind of guy that—fuck "keep it real" and all that bullshit. I keep it me. I don't feel as though I'm ready. Matter of fact, I don't feel as though I'm ready to move out into a house or whatever and just call it a day. Because I'm still in the game. I'm still fresh. And in order for me to be a boss, and be what I gotta do on the level I wanna take it to, I still have to beat these streets. I still gotta grind the streets to get to where I wanna go. And having a car and having a mansion, all that shit is played out. Especially in my hood now. It's cool to have it when you deserve it. It's cool to have it when your money is working for you.
But what happens when you put all your money into your home? Everybody's going to want to move in, whereas rich people set money off for their great-great grandkids. They got money that's circling for itself. Where you ain't gotta put nothing in it. It's working off interest and it's turning around. Whatever business they got in, it's turning around for life. And that's where everybody need to go. Until then, I'm-a be right where these streets are. Until I can say, "You know what? My business is turning around, Gilla House is the label, I got artists poppin' off, I got this coming, I got that clothing line, it's turning around." Then you all might see me in something stupid. When it's deserved.
AVC: But you could also say, "I've been a rap star for 15 years. I have this track record. I have a fan base." Isn't that reason enough to treat yourself?
RM: I tell you what, man, you gotta ask your goddamn self something. What were the deals like when I started out, compared to now? Now, you're able to go do that, because you get joint ventures, you get half of your album sales or whatever. Those deals weren't available when I was coming out. So I have regular MC deals still sticking, right now. But I'm learning to avoid that with my artists. Being in the game all these years taught me a lesson to get your own shit. I don't care how long I been in the game, you let all my fans know, I keep it myself. I don't keep it real. I didn't have the deals that have me go get the $5 million crib or whatever. All my money comes from show money. From the '90s until 2001, all I've had has been from show money. Believe me. All of it. You might get your deals, your advancements to do your album, but it wasn't in great abundance. Everybody's money in the '90s came from doing shows. That's a whole lot of show money, and that's it.
AVC: Could you talk a little about your pit bull Daddy, who lives with Dog Whisperer star Cesar Millan?
RM: Pit bull Daddy is a bigger star than me. He's been on Oprah. I knew Cesar before he was big. Cesar was right in East L.A. I was referred to him from my homeboy Tone in LA, and I brought Daddy down there when he was a puppy. Cesar used to talk to me all the time about him getting on and stuff like that, and I was just dropping Muddy Waters, I think. I finished doing Muddy Waters around then, so I was getting back fresh myself. And it was cool in there, I see him on TV, doing his thing. It's a great thing, this guy, I wish him a whole lot. But Daddy helped make his career. Everybody says that. To this day, as much as Daddy did, I haven't received one dime from Cesar, for Daddy's appearance or nothing. Which is cool, and I'm not looking for it. It's just the fact that I know when I chose that dog, even the way he was acting with me. See, he stayed out there, Daddy stayed out there. He don't live with me. Daddy lives with Cesar. He's been living with Cesar for like, six to seven years. If he stayed with me, he wouldn't have been the Daddy he's supposed to be.
That nigga wouldn't have been smoking. That nigga wouldn't have been on no TV. He would have been jogging, not running. So I sacrificed letting my baby live with me, and paid for him, like a child, for six years with Cesar, and he blew up! Now he's a star, man. Now, he had cancer of the balls, and the cancer left his balls. That's another blessing. And I'm bringing him to New York fucking next week, in two weeks. So I love him, and big ups. That's good for now.
AVC: Will there be another Redman/Method Man album?
RM: Yeah, of course. Probably in September we'll start working, or midsummer we'll start putting it together. But right now, it's about Gilla House. The Gilla House album is coming. Icadon's album is coming, Saukrates is coming, Runt Dawg, Melanie, E3, those are the artists on the new Red Gone Wild.
AVC: What's with the title? Didn't you go wild a long time ago?
RM: Red Gone Wild is not just basically saying Redman is wilding, it's more to a fact that yeah, Red is wilding, but I'm also breaking out of all of my boxes. On previous albums, I only had Rockwilder and Erick Sermon on production. Now I got other producers on there, so that's wilding. My crew, Gilla House, I never had a crew to introduce, but I'm introducing the crew now, so that's something new.
AVC: You're known for being a funny guy. What makes you laugh these days?
RM: You know what make me laugh? Good, clean, honest humor. Not-trying-to-be-funny humor. Like Will Ferrell. Will Ferrell got that kind of humor. I think Will Ferrell is the new Chevy Chase. Chevy Chase had that kind of humor. Like, not trying to be funny, but he just do shit, unexpectedly, that's funny. I like that not-supposed-to-be-playing humor. That being-yourself humor and shit.
AVC: Does it ever bother you that you're so strongly associated with marijuana?
RM: Oh, no. I love it. What the fuck. I gotta be who I gotta be. I think motherfuckers would be more disappointed if I tried to front and not be around it.
AVC: Rappers are always making a big deal out of quitting pot, and you always wonder whether they're actually quitting, and what kind of statement they're making.
RM: Real smokers don't really give a fuck about that shit. It's only a couple of certain motherfuckers among smokers and artists, the fans really respect. Like a regular motherfucker doing this, just saying "Yeah, I smoke weed," they ain't gonna respect it. "Oh, well, everyone smokes weed, motherfucker. But how long have you been a stoner? Have you been representing it in everything you do, not just to be looking cool, motherfucker, not just to be looking cool for your hood?" "Yeah, I smoke weed." "Nah, nigga. Were you willing to do a movie about it, motherfucker? Were you willing to talk about it on every album you do and represent it? Were you ready to be looked at as a marijuana representative?" And I think that's a big fucking difference.
AVC: It's a culture and a lifestyle, not just something you do with your spare time.
RM: Yeah, fuck all these motherfuckers just picking up a blunt, saying "I smoke weed." Fuck you.
AVC: Are people always trying to give you weed, like on the street?
RM: Yeah. I look at it as a gift.
AVC: Do they consider it an honor to get high with you?
RM: Always. They look forward to it, like, "I just wanna smoke with you." It's an honor. If I didn't do that, if I didn't have smoking, then what would there be of me? Yo, I just wanna sit down and talk.
AVC: You just opened a new shoe store?
RM: I wanna get that correct. It's not a shoe store. It's an action footwear store, for all kind of action. It's really dedicated to the skateboarders. I'm working on women's shoes. I'm-a get a boutique, but I guess somebody got it misconstrued down the line, that I'm opening a boutique for women's shoes. I'm opening up a footwear store like a sneaker store, but an action and sneaker store, for like boarders and mountain climbers, shit like that. Action shoes. Real shit that be going on. We wanted to take that to another level. And on the side of that, besides, when that gets going, on my own time, I wanna open up this shoe boutique. But the action footwear store is just action footwear: sneakers that you need for the action sports. Skateboarders, Vans, stuff like that. Real shit that's going on right now, for our coaching. These motherfucking rappers is dressing like skateboarders. I've seen skateboarders rock them tight pants and the chain hanging around them. That's been the culture of boarding. And it's just going to show that all that shit is just tying in right now. I've been a fan of all the X Games, I've been a fan of all that shit, you know. So it's just a privilege.
AVC: Will there be a sequel to How High, or another comedy with Method Man any time soon?
RM: Yeah, of course. I gotta do another comedy with my brotha. How High 2 is in the making. We're writing for it right now.
AVC: How did the filming of the first one go?
RM: Filming the first one was great. I wanna shout out to everyone on the whole entire How High movie, I'm too high to give names. I wanna shout out everyone from makeup to fucking directing to food staff to cosmetics to art department. Everyone was fucking great. I wanna let ya'll know out there, the only way you can have a successful movie is for people to have the right attitude on the set. And everybody woke up with the right attitude, everybody said "Good morning" real loud when they came to work, whether they had a bad day or a good day. And that only rubs off on having a good movie.
AVC: Is there anybody you haven't collaborated with that you would like to collaborate with?
RM: Jamiroquai. If you find him, tell him I'm looking for him.
AVC: What was the best and worst part of having your own sitcom?
RM: The best part? Just the experience of it. The worst part? Definitely the writing part. First of all, it started off too big. I think you gotta start off small and get big. When you start off real big, it don't leave you no headroom to do anything else. What we should have done was started off smaller. That part of it wasn't right. The business part of it, like meeting and getting things together beforehand to give the writers something to talk about, wasn't really handled too much, so they just really fed off of what they wanted to do. I would have started smaller. I would have started in an apartment, and fuck it. It would have given us room to move into something big. You always gotta give yourself headroom.
AVC: Which have you found to be trickier to navigate: the film world, or the music business?
RM: The movie world.
AVC: How so?
RM: Because you can just come out with a hot song in the business and be a boss now. You can be a nobody and have a hot song, and you're on. The movies are more strategic. You can come out with a DVD, but there's certain levels of movie shit that you won't even be allowed to do. In order to get to that Oscar-winning—'cuz if you're gonna do it, you might as well do it big—in order for you to get to that Oscar-winning role or whatever, you're gonna have to really ball hard. You have to go hard, you have to live it, breathe it, sacrifice a whole lot of shit, continue the process like that. It might take 10 years. You see who got Oscars now, how long it took to get Oscars and all that shit. You ask yourself. Like Denzel, you see how long it took them to get Oscars and stuff like that. The movie business is serious. Very serious. I look at it as though, whatever you do in life, you might as well do it big. Why would you be in the game, not ready to get an Oscar? Fuck it. You know if you gonna get an Oscar, you gonna have to work. Fucking work.
AVC: Can you ever see yourself retiring from hip-hop?
RM: You know what? Yea and nay. It depends. I can see myself retiring from rapping, but I don't think from music. After that, I think I'd just go into some other kind of music, 'cuz I'm a worldwide fan of music, all types of music, all cultures, so I'll always be involved. Maybe I'll have my label running by then. Shit, I'll still be in the game, doing what I do best. I could be coaching. I love to coach.