This is part 1 in a series of "Werner Necro'd" posts I'll just be dropping into the mix sporadically, of old interviews I've done in the past. Enjoy!
In 1989, The Redhead Kingpin and the FBI were on top of the game with their debut LP, A Shade of Red, the Spike Lee theme song, "Do the Right Thing," and their hot dance record, "Pump It Hottie," was getting heavy rotation on Yo! Redhead stole the show with his dynamically playful rhymes on Wreck-N-Effects' "Friends to the End." He returned in 1990, with the lead single to his second album, The Album with No Name, entitled, "We Don't Have a Plan B." After several other singles, Redhead seemed to have left the scene, but he and his crew resurfaced under a new moniker, The Private Investigators, with their Re-Act Like Ya Knew LP. Now, it's 1999, and it might seem as though Redhead has left the music scene for good. But if you pay close attention to your album credits, you'll see Redhead's still in the game, behind the scenes.
So, tell us about what you're doing now?
Well, right now, it's like... I would use the analogy, it's like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects. I'm not really sticking my head up until ... It's like, you see so many on the "Where are they now" list, you know? They come up prematurely. They get hungry, like, "I gotta get back out there. I gotta get back out there." It's more important to regroup. And when you come out, it's real, almost like the first time. It's not just a hunger to be doin' something. So, basically, we?re working with a lot of acts; got a studio out in Jersey. We've got two R&B acts and one hip-hop act and we're makin' moves real soon ... very soon.
You worked on that Mona Lisa record last year, right? How'd you hook up with that?
Well, Mona Lisa's project was with Tim Dawg ... My man Tim Dawg was handlin' the project, so basically, they came to our studio and heard a lot of tracks. We had done work before, when he was at Uptown Records, so we ended up hookin' up. Mona was real good to work with. A lot of people don't know that my main thing is producing R&B. Playing keys, playing guitars; not like somebody talkin' about, "Play this. Play that," and the next thing you know, it's produced by Redhead. It's real.
Would you say there's any chance of you coming out & rapping again? Maybe doing an album?
The funniest part about that is: you might be a person that wants to come out and everything, but, by the time you come out with your record and everything, you realize that you're not the kind of person who likes the people to know who you are and you don't know who they are. So, really, I keep rhymes no matter. I kick rhymes, you know, for cats on the street. So, it ain't like it ain't there, lyrically. But as far as a record: I doubt if I ever wanna do records anymore, I just do it for the love. Producin' records is where I'm at. Give me the check, and I'll stay behind the scenes.
And what's up with Wildstyle and the FBI?
Wildstyle and them guys ... Everybody's basically livin' life, as far as families... I mean, we're all family men right now. Wildstyle, he's like one of those cats that... and I can say he's happy doing it, too... he's one of those cats that catches people doin' insurance fraud. Like, when you 're claiming that your back hurts, but you're working on your house, carrying mad hundred, two hundred-pound boxes, out your house. He's the cat with the camera bustin' you. One of my brothers, Poochie, is the road manager for a group, The Black Eyed Peas, which is comin' up right about now. My other dancer, Boroc, owns a barbershop down in DC. So, everybody's basically happy with their lives. There's no ... no one's lying in the gutter kinds of stories.
So, take us back. How'd you get started with Virgin Records?
Me and the crew around the way had some people who invested a few bucks for me to go in the studio and do some songs. And a friend of mine, Teddy... This is before Teddy was like TEDDY RILEY... so, we had a demo and got Ted to listen to it. Ted heard the tape, liked it, and the next thing you know, we're just doin' records. I was originally with Virgin and London, that's the main base company, but you find yourself paying taxes ... If you're signed to a major overseas, you're paying taxes to a country you don't even live in, and you pay taxes here. So, it's like dead. I went to Virgin American and do that ... so, you know, everything is everything.
Then, on the second album, you did a duet with Kwamé ... What's it like working with him?
Yeah. First of all, me and Kwamé went to high school together, and the cat is nuts, straight up. He's crazy. We had little house parties here and there, before either of us came out. We used to get on and do little shows, routines, and stuff together, so that was that. I think, more on the second album, I was finding myself more as far as producin' like some R&B stuff. Kinda wishy-washy, you know. My son, he'd reach for the album, and I'd be like, "Don't listen to that. Listen to the first one. Listen to the Private Investigators. Don't listen to that one. I was finding myself. There was a lot of soul-searchin' there."
I remember, in an interview at the time, you were saying you felt you had to come with a harder style... This is when "Plan B" was about to come out.
Yeah, it was like ... again, going back to saying that, even right now ... I gotta keep lyrics, just for the love of it. Gotta keep lyrics just for walkin' through Washington Square Park. You know, somebody'll be just rhyming, and they'll put you on the spot to rhyme, you just can't be rhymin like '74. You gotta be on some new improved ... ready to flow for the love of it. That's the best way I know as far as keeping a grip on what the people want.
So what's the story with the Private Investigators album in '93?
Well, the Private I album was the one album that I was very, very happy with. But Virgin really didn't really understand. It wasn't like I was trying to flip from this clean-cut cat to this grungy whatever. But, it was more that I was bringin' my crew in, like they would see at any party. 'Cause they wouldn't just see the Redhead Kingpin, they'd see the FBI, too. On the Redhead albums, it wasn't really like a visual part. Like, doing an interview, like now, it'd just be me, as opposed to everybody else, who, creatively, has a big input on it. I really tried to bring that, and mesh that together with the Private Investigators. And Virgin couldn't really... I think it was just different from what they were used to seeing. Like the dancing cat, the clean-cut guy. It wasn't like I was singin' any negative songs, but it was just a realer outlook. I wasn't gonna do too many ... let's say candy-ass songs. It's just a realer outlook. It's not like I was trying to switch, it's just that anybody that lives in this country, you know, with eye-balls, can see reality, and I was trying to bring some reality to the spectrum which Virgin wasn't trying to hear. But they have a major problem, over there, seriously, and I'm not scared to say it. The problem with Virgin is Virgin doesn't know how to use ... Like a lot of other labels will have a big, big star and use that star to help everything else under it happen. So, Virgin, with me, had a falling out over this Skat Cat thing. Here I am with a loop that I'm using, and they're telling me I can't use it ... cause Skat Cat is coming out. They're tellin' me I can't use a song because of a cartoon that can't even go on tour, you know what I'm sayin'? So, now, they play me out for Paula Abdul. They play Paula Abdul out for Janet Jackson. Janet Jackson... Spice Girls. Yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda ... That's just something that's going on, that they do. I don't know if that's their policy, or whatever, but stop me when I'm lyin'.
How'd you hook up with Do the Right Thing and Spike Lee?
Well, originally, it was supposed to be this Spike thing with Teddy doin' some songs on there. And, really, that song was originally supposed to be for Wrecks-N-Effect. But I ended up doing it, and stuff just went the right way. Everything was just timing. I had that single, and it came out at the time of everything that was going on then ... Like, we wouldn't be talking right now. Everything is just timing. And it's so funny, even the video that the world saw for "Do the Right Thing" wasn't the original video. If the original video came out, which was shot on Riverside Drive, for about $7000 with these chicks and these bogus red wigs... it was just ridiculous - nothing would've ever happened. In fact, I'm sure of it. Nothing would've ever happened. So timing is everything.
And, I remember that song came up on the soundtrack to another movie a couple years later, right?
The People Under the Stairs?
Yeah. I didn't understand that, though. I went to the movies and saw that, and I'm like, "Ok. They're chasin' monsters through walls, they're killing monsters, and then they're doing the right thing?" I don't get it. It was a check, though. I just didn't get it, personally. But the real, the kid who starred in that movie, a young brother named Brandon ... Before he starred in that movie, when he was a younger cat, he did the "Moonwalk," the Michael Jackson video. He'd done a lot of acting. He was in our video. We basically taught him some dance steps, and this cat picked it up like that. So, right now, he's in Connecticut, doin' some things...
That record, originally, wasn't supposed to be for commercial use. It was basically a promotional record. Me and Dana Dane hooked up through a friend of mine. It was just basically gonna be a song we did together; it was like a favor type thing. Dana came out to the studio, and the record just started sounding real hot. Dana basically reinvented himself. I mean, if you didn't know... If somebody didn't tell you, chances are, you wouldn't even know it was Dana. He reinvented himself. So, he loved the record. My partner DJ loved the record. And we decided to just press up a few promotional things. This is before Bentley's actually got closed down, and a few other night clubs. But we took it around New York, you know, street clubs, and it worked out pretty good. The next thing you know, we'd just handed a few records out, and Flex is playin' it... So many brothers is just trying to come out with a record, you know, and it's not even necessary for them to get a deal with someone... or even put out records themselves. You'd be better off, sometimes, just puttin' out a record non-commercially, 'cause you're not sellin' it. That way, you can use that loot, 'cause you're not selling it, press it up, hit the DJ pools and everybody else, and, basically, create a buzz on the street for yourself, and get out that way ... and then spend everybody else's money.
Cool. So, what are you working on now?
Well, the next thing you can really look for coming out is a R&B group called Exclusive. These young brothers they go to William Patterson College, and they're killin' it, bottom line. I'm tellin' you. It's Keyser Soze. I'm not stickin' my head out until it's right, ok? Keep it real.