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Redman’s debut, Whut? Thee Album, hit stores in 1992, and it sounded like nothing hip-hop-heads had heard before. The album’s sound was rooted in the meat-and-potatoes funk of Redman’s mentor/fellow Def Squad member Erick Sermon in his work with EPMD, but Redman’s brash energy, pop-culture-crazed punchlines, and aggressive-goofball persona were wholly original. In the nearly two decades since, Redman has evolved into a hip-hop institution. He’s popped up on countless albums as a guest rapper, and has released seven solo albums, a Def Squad collaborative album with Sermon and Keith Murray, and a pair of critically acclaimed hit collaborations with Method Man. He’s also branched out into other fields, starring in the 2001 stoner classic How High (with Method Man), 2004’s Seed Of Chucky,and the ill-fated sitcom Method & Red. Redman and Method Man made news recently when Method Man was hit in the head and injured with a beer can while performing alongside Redman at Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering Of The Juggalos. In connection with Redman’s new Def Jam solo album, Reggie, The A.V. Club recently spoke with the rapper about his relationship with Wu-Tang Clan, playing the Gathering Of The Juggalos, and the inspiration he draws from President Obama and Michael Jackson.
The A.V. Club: You said this album is the product of Reggie Noble rather than Redman. What do you mean by that?
Redman: As far as music-wise, just broadening the music, showing growth. I know we dealing with a new generation, I just don’t have the Redman antics on this album. Forget what you expect from this album. “Sooperman Lover,” I don’t have that. So it’s basically a Reggie album, just showing growth.
AVC: Would you say it’s more personal than your previous albums?
R: You know what? I didn’t take it personal. I didn’t do the album personally. I did it like a mix-tape. I did it and put it out.
AVC: Would you say that Redman is a character, or a persona you inhabit?
R: Umm… Redman is like a persona. I really didn’t wanna get into the alter-ego thing, you know, like character and personality. It was just basically alter ego on the music.
AVC: On Reggie, you refer to yourself as the 11th member of Wu-Tang. What was your relationship with Wu-Tang Clan like?
R: When the Wu came out, I was onto their music. I did a Phat Jam [concert] with Russell Simmons back in ’94. That aired live, and I came out to their song. And they was in the audience, and they really appreciated it. And from there, I just been supporting Wu-Tang. Me and Meth, back in ’93, we did the Month Of The Man Tour. We basically been carrying the Def Squad name and the Wu-Tang name on our back ever since then, and we still are. It just came to a point where, maybe in 2001, Erick Sermon said “Method Man is part of our crew.” ’Cuz we did so much work and so much business and conquered the world with Redman and Method Man products, that he was like “Meth is Def Squad.” And you know, I was like, “Yeah, that’s my boy, he is part of our crew.” And it was just like Meth returning the favor, like “You part of Wu-Tang. You been screaming out Wu-Tang since day one. You the 11th member.” So that’s how this came about, just good work, mind to mind.
AVC: Why do you think you and Method Man make such a good team?
R: Because we don’t have egos. We don’t have animosity. We understand the goal that we’re out to do, and we understand our job. We don’t let animosity and egos get in the way.
AVC: Having no ego in terms of your relationship, or in general?
R: In general! Just in general, man. Animosity and egos and unloyalty plays a very big role in everything, whatever you’re trying to do. Whether it’s your business, whether you just making one transaction, you gotta be honest, you gotta be loyal. Even if it was just to do one show, you can’t have egos, or the show’ll be messed up. You mad at this, ’cause this thing happened… Put it this way, the shortest thing between people is communication, and we have that. Not saying we don’t have our issues, ’cause we do, just like anybody else would. But we know how to control the issue where it’s not affecting the money and the brand that we created.
AVC: You played with Method Man at the Gathering Of The Juggalos when Meth was hit in the head with a can of beer. What happened with that?
R: I don’t know. That seemed like it just wasn’t our cup of tea. That night, it was cold, it was raining. People was on edge because we wasn’t the main act. I really can’t call that one. We never have problems anywhere. The rock-band crowd is so different from any other crowd. Because when they are there to see they band, they there to see they band. And they want them to come on, and it just seemed like a mix-up. The lineup wasn’t right. They just threw us up in a lineup with nothing else rap going on. The lineup was funny. The vibe was funny. Everything was funny.
AVC: Were you familiar with Insane Clown Posse before the event?
R: Absolutely, absolutely. They pretty cool with Meth. I didn’t really get to talk to them. I didn’t really understand that show.
AVC: Also, it’s hard to imagine rappers who are more respected than you or Method Man. That can’t be said of Tila Tequila.
R: Yeah, I don’t know. I seen her shit, too. Her face was messed up.
AVC: We’re in year-end mode here. What have been your highlights from 2010?
R: Hmm… [Lil] Wayne gettin’ outta jail. I liked the Other Guys movie. Eminem getting 10 Grammys. [Meaning nominations —ed.] That’s big for hip-hop. I’m also proud and glad of the success of Rick Ross, and how far he came, and how hard he been pushing. He’s finally found his niche in his music game to excel more. I think he shoulda been gettin’ a Grammy as well. I don’t get to watch too many movies, but The A-Team really did it for me.
AVC: You haven’t appeared in as many films as earlier in the last decade. Are you not as interested in acting?
R: No, I’ve been offered plenty, but the scripts just been real lame. Not lame, but… Well, my first movie, How High, I starred in. My second movie, I co-starred in, with Jennifer Tilly in Seed Of Chucky. I kinda want to keep a good record. I would rather have no movies on the list, but two good ones, instead of having a whole lotta C movies. I don’t really like C movies. I’m not really trying to get in the acting field that hard. I’m trying to really be behind the scenes and direct and produce.
AVC: Have you written screenplays?
R: No, not at all. But I’ve got crazy movies in my head! Put it this way: I came up with How High just from ideas I had all this time. The ingredients for How High, a lot of that was from some ingredients I had in my head. Like, “I want to go this route. I think we should go this route for both of us.” And it ended up working out. I got, like, three more of those in my head right now.
AVC: Do you think they’ll become movies eventually?
R: Yeah, I wanna do movies. Yes.
AVC: As one of North Jersey’s foremost representatives, what do you think of Jersey Shore?
R: I didn’t get to watch Jersey Shore too much. But I’ve seen it a little bit, and I don’t know. That’s how they are on the Jersey Shore, I guess. That’s how they live, that’s what it is?
AVC: Is it something you’ve related to as a fellow New Jerseyan?
R: Well if you from New Jersey, you always knew that going to Jersey Shore was way different from where you lived at. I live in Newark, and that is 150 percent opposite of Jersey Shore. So you know what to expect when you go to Jersey Shore, and I wasn’t mad or surprised at how the show would be.
AVC: On Reggie, you have songs devoted to President Obama and Michael Jackson. What do those two mean to you?
R: P-Bama just show change. Everybody got they meaning when President Obama was elected, how it made them feel, how it changed their life. With me, it just gave me the strength to really change. It gave me the strength to just say, “Fuck it. You know, I’m gonna try this, and I’m gonna go for it.” Michael Jackson, a legend. He did a lot for me and everybody musically. Listening to him, going places, vibing. What I mean by what I’m saying: When I’m flying, when I’m on vacation, I pull out a good Michael Jackson hour, wherever I’m at. I pull out a good Michael Jackson hour from “PYT” to “Leave Me Alone” to all the joints, wherever I’m at. And just knowing that’s gone, knowing that there will be no other, ever.
Like, I look at the talent now and I’m like, “Who can replace Michael? Who can even come close to replacing Michael and giving you that music that you appreciated?” Not just at your house. Not just when the party’s going. I’m talking about when you’re flying, when you’re sittin’ in your hotel room in South America somewhere, who can bring you back to that reality of America? That’s what I’m talking about. That will never be again. He’s definitely an icon in my eyes. Musically, stage-performance-wise. He’s the greatest. I’m starting to get a lot of his footage, started collecting a lot of his footage that I haven’t seen. He’s just spectacular. The next guy that’s a legend to me is Prince. He’s the last of the Mohicans.