Filed under: Crates,Great Moments In Rap,Interviews,Not Your Average,Print Work,Steady Bootleggin',Strong Island,Tough Guys
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
There’s not much that Freddie Foxxx hasn’t done in his long career. Whether it’s working with all your favorite producers, stealing the show from big name MC’s with his legendary cameo spots or just plain knocking rappers out for charity, Bumpy Knuckles has got you covered. Fresh off the release of his shelved Crazy Like A Foxxx album through Fat Beats last year, Foxxx was ready to talk about his ups and downs in the rap game, as we discussed everything from the early days of Long Island to his battle with Kane.
How did Supreme Force come together?
We were just trying to emulate the Cold Crush 4. We were puttin’ together a crew of young, talented guys who ended-up sounding really good together. We used to do backyard parties, we had battles with other crews and were buildin’ up our stamina. When we heard Run-DMC it was a whole ‘nother level right there. I wanted to make records professionally at that point, and we all felt the same. We started off with two DJ’s and five rappers, then it ended up bein’ the two best crews who always battle in our town – we ended up merging those crews together – the best of each of each one. One of my DJ’s actually started rapping, so it was him – which was Cool C – Easy E and myself were rappers, and we kept two DJs. Then I ended up gettin’ rid of the two DJs and goin’ to Queens and finding another DJ, and that’s when we made the first record.
What kind of a response did you have when that record came out on NIA? Did you get good feedback?
Not really, because we didn’t really have no promotion behind the record. Local cats knew it, everybody was happy we had a record out. We knew we existed at that point, and that’s what utilized it for.
Had you already known Eric B. before your solo album?
Nah. Eric wanted to sign me initially and I didn’t think that Eric was serious at first, but he kept sending the message to me that, even though he ended up working with Rakim, did I still wanna sign? So we finally ended up getting in the studio together. I actually produced Freddie Foxxx Is Here. Eric gave me a platform to produce it – it was his studio time. He used to tell me, ‘Just work until Rakim show up’. There were a few times that Rakim didn’t show up at all, for whatever reason. I just kept working and I ended up doin’ the album in a month.
You had a real mix between straight-up brag and boast type tracks and you also had a few ballads. Was that more a reflection of that era?
When I first started making songs I wanted those records to reflect the kinda activities…when you’re young. Before I went in the studio to record professionally, we were harmonizing and emulating the Cold Crush 4. They were doing stuff like that – singing choruses and using live bands – and we were actually rehearsing in that format. But when I got in the studio I wanted to record records that really meant something in reference to what was going on around us. Young cats, you know, we do songs about our girlfriends and the girls that we wanted to be our girlfriends and things of that nature. Then you had songs about partying and having a good time, and then you had the battle stuff. ‘The Master’ is more like a battle record. I actually spit that on the first take, non-stop, straight through. It was kinda tough to do it but I made it happen. So it was a mixture of me experimenting and trying to find a lane.
I gather you didn’t get much promotion from MCA…
I actually had a problem with MCA, because I had bigger expectations than they really planned for me. They only really signed me because they wanted to keep Eric happy. That wasn’t a project that they wanted to even do. Those are my learning experiences about how the business operates. I walked up into MCA Records, I was like, ‘Wow! This is huge!’ I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’mma be able to pick whoever I want to make a record with.’ Like anybody they have on they label is gonna make a song with me…and it just wasn’t that way. I ended-up getting caught in the matrix, and I didn’t like it. That was my first experience of going underground.
You were involved in the 1st Annual Rapper’s Boxing Championships in 1992. How did that go?
It was a boxing match put together by a man named Gary Braverman, whose father was also in the boxing entertainment world – he was a friend of Don King’s. I remember when Eric B. brought the guy to see me I was actually in the back yard, working out on the bag. He walked back and this guy said, ‘Yo man, you really know how to box!’ So he said he was putting together this boxing match with all rappers, and I said, ‘OK’. I was like I didn’t think no rappers was actually gonna show-up. But back then, there was a few cats that showed-up, they wanted to get down. I actually had to train with professional fighters to prepare myself for what it was – Iran Barkley was one of my trainers. The sad thing was, I was already more capable of the boxing ability than these rap guys was, so I over-trained and I hurt a few cats in that. But it is what it is – I wasn’t in there to play no games anyway.
Who did you fight?
I fought a cat named Spook Blunt [from the group True Culture], and then the other cat was Dope E from The Terrorists or something like that.
Wasn’t Tim Dog meant to fight him originally? And you didn’t appreciate having to step in for him?
My thing was, when you rep where you live or where you from, you supposed to step-up. At the time I believe he was big enough to seal that deal for New York – he was beefing with the West Coast, the NWA thing was poppin’ – it was like, ‘You know what? This guy talked all this trash on the phone to me about he was gonna show up and do this and do that, but for some reason he’s not here’. And I felt it made New York look bad, so I stepped to it and I fought the fight. I won both belts [the ‘Heavyweight Hardcore Title’ and the ‘East Meets West Hardcore Super Heavyweight Title’] and gave Dope E the belt for fighting me, cos he didn’t have to fight me. He coulda said, ‘Nah, I should win by default’, cos there were other people who had default wins, and now this guy is coming back out…and I happened to have a sprained right shoulder when I beat him, too. Poet had gave me a high five and I reached to give him a high five with my right hand. He hit it kinda hard and sprained my shoulder, but I still went in and fought anyway. I dropped him with a left hand in the fight – and I’m right handed! He don’t like when I tell people that! [laughs]
Had you done a lot of boxing training as a teenager?
You know what? It was just the neighborhood I grew-up in, where you just had to know how to fight. My pops was a big fan of boxing, and he bought gloves for us, me and my brother used to box in the yard and then me and my friends used to make these fake boxing rings. That was one of our pastimes – when we got into it with each other, we just put the gloves on and we boxed it out! You gonna be either a winner or a loser, so the better you got at it was based on how much you practiced at it. You could guarantee eventually you was gonna be up there and have your fight. The first fight I ever had, I lost it, and I refused to lose again after that. I was like, ‘I don’t like the way this feels – I’m not losing no more fights!’ I was in third or forth grade. I promised myself I would never lose another fight again.
Was that Tim Dog situation the reason behind you making that track about Ultramagnetic?
Nah. They said something slick about me and when I got wind of it that’s how I handled it. I did the second version of ‘Crazy Like A Foxxx’ for them. It was just a rap battle – what was good about that was it never a physical problem between Ultramagnetic and myself.
Was Industry Shakedown the most successful record of your career?
It depends on which respects you say ‘successful’. A lotta times when I make records I’m always gonna have some kind of monetary dispute with the kind of people that I put the records out through. These independent distributors are real shit-bags. They have no idea what they’re doin’ to sell records on a worldwide scale – and if they do, they steal! That’s what they do – they steal money. If you’re not on top of them every five minutes? You don’t really know what they’re doin’. They emulate record labels – they wanna be record labels. Record labels have these clauses that a lot of artists don’t know about. They gotta pay you in this amount of time, but on top of that time they’ve six months – and all these little tricks and money stealing quirks that they have to keep you from feeding your family – they gonna continue to bestow that upon you in the independent game. The only problem was that they weren’t as good at it at the time. That’s what I put Industry Shakedown out for – so that people could see that. It was successful in respect that it got out there! Everybody seen it and everybody heard it, and everybody that heard it was like, ‘Yo, I got what he was tryin’ to do’. I’m a conceptual MC, I put together products that have concepts behind them, so that people can see the big picture. And that’s the fight that I fought, and nobody was really with me when I fought that fight. Now everybody and they momma wanna do a Industry Shakedown type of record – they’ve been stolen from or taken advantage of in some way, shape or form.
The way that record contracts always seem to make the artist payback all the money that they’ve spent on the advertising and the videos – that seems crazy to me.
What’s funny is how is that fair if they’re eatin’ off the record just like you eatin’ off the record? Shouldn’t those costs be split? Why would an artist have to pay for all the publicity, all the marketing and everything else and pay the label to do, and the labels splitting the money? That doesn’t make sense. If you’re doing a 50/50 deal with a label, the cost should be 50/50 as well! Not just what’s made!
Where did you grow up?
I grew-up in Long Island. Me and Rakim grew-up one town apart, he lived in a town right next to my town. In summertime I’d spend time with different family members…I had family in Brooklyn, I had family in The Bronx, I had family in the South. So wherever we would get our little two week vacation, that’s where I’d stay at – at a relatives house – and got a chance to experience different places. That’s why my relationships were always tight in any of the boroughs, because I was always exposed to goin’ there.
What sets Long Island apart?
I don’t think much does. It’s just really about the individual and the talent. I remember when a cat – a very good friend of mine who’s actually the guy who introduced me to Eric B. – he brought two rappers to my house. I was in my yard, I’d just bought a brand new Mercedes Benz and I was washing my car, and this kid walks up into my yard with these two rappers. He made them battle in my yard, and he says to me, ‘You tell me who you think is gonna be the star, Foxxx, and that’s the one that I’m gonna work with’. When they battled, I picked the one that I liked – it was Redman and K-Solo. I picked Redman. It was a lotta guys who came through his hands – the cats name is Alvin Tony. He had a lot to do with just Long Island finding it’s way to Manhattan to these certain people who were singing all these credible acts. He introduced me to Eric, then he introduced Eric to Rakim (by tousson). He was with EPMD for a while, and Redman and K-Solo and all these different guys that he worked with. He was a great talent search.
One thing I can say, is that a lot of cats from The Bronx, the Cold Crush 4 and all ‘em, they did a lotta shows in Long Island, because they wanted to get outta the boroughs. They were comin’ out to Long Island to colleges where all these cats had a couple of dollars to pay them to do their performances. That’s when I got a chance to really experience Mike & Dave shows, and I seen Doug E. Fresh for the first time out there. Biz Markie‘s from Long Island…a lotta these guys are from out there. One of the major influences on my style in the beginning years was Grandmaster Caz – his clarity, his ability to project his voice across the stage and show that he was a leader amongst other MCs around him.
Did you battle anyone noteworthy in the early days?
You know what? I battled Kane. Me and Big Daddy Kane battled at Latin Quarters. Kane always tells me I won. I say, ‘I don’t remember all that.’ Kane always say, ‘Yo, Foxxx, you actually won that battle! I didn’t win!’ And I try not to say that I won because Kane is my man and I don’t want people to think that I’m tryin’ to be arrogant, but if you ask Kane, ‘Who won that battle?’ He’ll say, ‘I think Foxxx won that night’.
Was it just a few verses or did it get heated?
At Latin Quarters they used to have these Tuesday Night Rap Battles. It was when I was in Supreme Force. It was my group up against Kane…I always remember them saying Kane won, and Kane says I won, so this is a debate that he and I go back and forth with. I always say, ‘But nah, because they had all these Brooklyn guys on the panel, so they picked you’ Kane was actually nice – he was far from trash – he was always dope to me. To this day, he’s one of my best friends. We got a hot record together that we did, called ‘The Fire Is Gettin’ Hot’. I haven’t released it yet, but I’m definitely gonna put it out.
Did you ever hear a Rakim track about Kane called ‘Break The Wrath In Half’?
[chuckles] Yeah, he made it. It wasn’t a record, it was a verse, I think. He said it in a verse, I don’t think it was a record if I’m not mistaken.
What else do you have in the works?
I did a whole album with KRS-One. We did it in three days – it’s called Royalty Check. I had a whole lot of beats in the studio that I produced, and I was pullin’ them up and he was like, ‘Yo, I got somethin’ for that!’ It’s like one of those back in the days sessions where he just showed up with all his books of lyrics, and I had all my stuff in there and we just stayed in there. I video taped the whole entire session. There’s a picture on the cover of me and Kris facing each other like two boxers – in front of a microphone – emceeing back-and-forth on the track.
Do you remember making a record with B-1, MF Grimm, Kool G Rap and yourself, with Lord Finesse on the beat? It was reviewed in the RapPages demo section.
Damn, you got me. I ain’t never been stumped on my work before, but you got me on this one! I don’t remember that at all. Wow.
There seems to be a strong jail theme on the album [Crazy Like A Foxxx].
After I didn’t do well with Freddie Foxxx Is Here, I ended up doin’ a lot of underground clubs and shows and one of the ideas I had was to do shows in prison, so I started doing prison shows. I felt like that’s an audience that don’t really get a chance to see what it is that I do, and as an MC I was getting’ judged in the street by people who I didn’t think were credible to be judging me. I know a lot of dudes in jail – they’re very honest, hard audience to conquer. I wanted to rock in front of the hardest audience! A couple of guys I knew were doing some time and they were settin’ up shows through the administrators there, for me to come in and perform on festivals and things of that nature. The more I talked to them, it was evident that there was a lot that needed to be said that wasn’t being said in music. So I was like, ‘You know what? There’s a lotta dudes in prison that’s got so much goin on, and no one’s speakin’ for them’. So I kinda dedicated that album to the prison inmates around the world. That record tells a lot of everyone’s stories…and some of my own.
Jon Cena, Tha Trademarc & Bumpy Knuckles ‘Bad, Bad Man’ video:
Supreme Force - ‘You Gotta Come Out Fresh’
Freddie Foxxx - ‘I’m Ready’
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo feat. Large Professor, Freddie Foxxx and Ant Live - ‘Money In The Bank’
BDP feat. Freddie Foxxx - ‘The Original Way’
Freddie Foxxx - ‘Crazy Like A Foxxx’ (The Beef Is On)
Freddie Foxxx - ‘Man Destroys Man’
O.C. feat. Bumpy Knuckles - ‘M.U.G.’
Bumpy Knuckles - ‘R.N.S.’
DJ Revolution feat. Blaq Poet & Bumpy Knuckles - ‘Damage’
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