Last night was truly a celebration.
For A Waste of Time Live: Celebrating Roc-A-Fella Records, Eric and Jeff of ItsTheReal brought together—going down the show flyer for simplicity’s sake—Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Chaka Pilgrim, Jim Jones, Freeway, Young Chris and Neef Buck of Young Gunz, Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua, Just Blaze, Lenny S and Young Guru for a night of stories, answers and laughs from the people integral to building one of the most iconic record labels in hip-hop history.
There were stories (like Cam’ron taking “Oh Boy” to radio without the song being finished in order to stake ownership on the prized Just Blaze beat), mind-blowing original beat owner surprises (Freeway’s “Flipside” was supposed to be the first Beyoncé and JAY-Z collab, the “Takeover” beat was supposed to be Beanie Sigel’s, and Memphis Bleek passed on the beats to “Oh Boy,” “Whoa” AND “Oochie Wally”), great facts (Diddy and Bad Boy inspired Hov’s transition to a more commercial sound after Reasonable Doubt), odd facts (a Roc-A-Fella amusement park was in the plans at one point) and plenty of gin too expensive for my broke ass.
For fans of hip-hop, the night was a superb commemoration of the Roc, a loosely chronological telling of some of its biggest, funniest and most memorable moments, from the start.
Two people who were there from that start, Kareem “Biggs” Burke—one of the Roc's three co-founders along with Jay and Dame—and legendary A&R Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua, were asked by ItsTheReal which rappers influenced and inspired Roc-A-Fella, a label that would in turn influence and inspire countless others.
Biggs and Hip-Hop responded by saying that it was OutKast, UGK, Scarface, Snoop and Tupac, specifically, that served as the Roc’s artistic influences. All Southern or West Coast artists. Odd, seeing as how the label is synonymous with, you know, East Coast rap history.
Sensing the crowd scratching their heads, ItsTheReal’s Eric was quick to ask whether there were any fellow New Yorkers that were included in that list, and Biggs was quick to point out the importance of Nas, AZ and the Wu-Tang Clan as well. When asked if there were any Uptown-specific New Yorkers, Biggs noted Big L and Children of the Corn, who were more so aligned with them at the time, rather than being their artistic forebearers.
With Biggs taking the time to name-drop 'Kast, 'Face and UGK an additional time before the subject was changed, it was easy to gather the effect the three artists had on a burgeoning rap label and young(er) emcee by the name of Jaÿ-Z.
Even the greats had greats they looked up too, and sometimes those icons come from wildly different geographical regions.