There have been countless blogs and bloggers who played a role in planting the seeds that have led to hip-hop’s dominance over the internet. There are truly too many to name. Some of the same sites that were active in the early days are still with us, others have gone on to the big blog in the sky, while the bloggers are still pushing the culture, just in different ways.
While doing research on Jay Electronica, I came across Andres Reyes, better known as Sweeney Kovar, who had a website known as Classic Drug References. The archives on his WordPress, titled after his alas, date back to 2007, an interesting time in the blogosphere. One look at his collection of interviews will tell you that he definitely had a website that was needed in your blogroll. There’s an interview with Blu just a month after the release of Below The Heavens that immediately jumped out at me. Another interview was with the very mysterious Electronica right when Jay was starting to get acclaim; Sweeney had one of the first blogs to really support his early records. It’s an insightful read, but even better are Sweeney’s interviews with members of Jay’s team and the people close to him.
2007 was slowly coming to an end, Jay’s Myspace plays were slowly but surely reaching gold on the internet, and it was looking like his future would be a bright one. It only made sense that Sweeney would want to encapsulate the time before the big moment by speaking with his closest collaborators. There are excellent excerpts from Erykah Badu, Just Blaze, and 9th Wonder to name a few. There are many others, from A&R’s to producers, who help readers obtain a glimpse of Jay from outside eyes. Similar to the beginning of Act 1, the way Badu and Just introduce the man before he spits a single rap.
Out of everyone that’s included, Ringo “Tumbling Dice” Smith dropped the biggest bomb and it wasn’t about Jay. Just a little background information, his name is Rashad Smith and he’s one-half of the production group Tumbling Dice. He has an interesting story, one that begins in music stores in Time Square playing with drum machines he couldn’t afford. The allure that continued to draw him to these stores, to the machines, would eventually introduce him to a girl that liked his style and bought him an SP 1200. From there, the same style that impressed the girl would later impress Rakim, and then P. Diddy during his days as the A&R of Uptown Records. This is before Bad Boy, Rashad was there when Diddy left to build his own empire. Through Puffy he hooked up with Aron Marshall and the two did R&B records for Total, Mary J. Blige, and others. It was Rashad’s behemoth remix of Biggie’s "One More Chance” that led him to work with LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes.
Rashad produced “Doin’ It,” the raunchy but popular third single from LL’s Mr. Smith album. It hit number 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1996, and a remix was featured on The Nutty Professor soundtrack. What Rashad reveals in his interview with Sweeney is that “Doin’ It” was originally meant for Biggie. That’s why in the beginning there’s a sample from “Top Ballin” that goes “Go Brooklyn.” LL sure wasn’t from Brooklyn.
Not only was the beat for Biggie but it was meant to be the first and comeback single for Life After Death. My knowledge of 90’s hip-hop is always growing, but this news was completely new to me. Rashad went into further details, citing money issues as the reason. Puffy was moving slowly about cutting the 10K for the beats while LL was ready and willing to give 25K to obtain what was meant for Biggie. Of course, when Puffy and Big heard about the deal they were furious. If Puff was ready to sock Drake in the eye for “0-100” imagine what he was ready to do to Rashad for Big’s comeback season. Biggie would later return and conquer the charts with “Hypnotize,” still, it’s fun to imagine if he could’ve achieved the same success with “Doin’ It.”
Rashad’s story is an interesting one. His name might not be the most known but he surely has had an impact. Rashad Smith went on to make some classics and continues to produce (check his discography, it’s pretty incredible) and Sweeney continues to write (his interview and writing are just as good as they were in 2007, follow his Twitter to keep updated), both talents creating and reporting on a level that will surely inspire those unknown to them before.
What I love most about digging back into the past is that you’re bound to uncover little bits of history, gems in an ancient but jewel encrusted treasure chest. Knowledge can be worth more than gold and any information that we can uncover about the legendary B.I.G and his time on this Earth is probably worth more than that.
By Yoh, aka @Yoh31.