Saturday, August 01, 2009
"By 1996, '97, some hip-hop gatekeepers were like, 'Okay, we'll let you play some of our reindeer games.' And at that point, an underground hip-hop scene had formed, inspired by the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito [radio] show at Columbia University. That's sort of when Rick Nichols said the only way that our music was really going to make sense was if it was contextualized and compared to something else -- we basically got to do some Moses/Noah-type shit. So we made this list of everybody in hip-hop we needed to associate ourselves with. We went to our A&R and said, 'Look, in order for us to work, we have to have a movement. This is more than just a single and the right song.' So we spent all of 1997 and all of 1998 building. That meant us going to Common saying, 'Yo, don't you wanna be on a real major, where they spend money on you?' And he's like, 'Oh yeah.' So our first priority was getting Common off [indie label] Relativity, bringing him over by any means -- that was number one. Then, [Geffen] signed Black Star, plus Mos Def and Talib Kweli separately. And D'Angelo and I had cemented our relationship, so it was starting to look like a movement. Then, the second wave of the alternative hip-hop thing arrived in 1999. A lot of it was the commercial backlash to Puffy, a lot of it was the promise of something new. Erykah Badu comes through, Jill Scott. Suddenly, we make sense."