9 gems from Biggs and SAINt JHN's "Drink Champs" interview
In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke makes his second appearance on the show with special guest SAINt JHN.
Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke makes his second appearance on the show to chop to it up with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN about the past, present and future. Bred in the streets of Harlem, New York, Biggs has long been known as the more understated and reserved arm of the Roc-A-Fella brain trust. But in recent years, the silent partner has become more outspoken and visible than ever.
Dipping his hands in various pots, Biggs began to become a hot commodity outside of the Roc-A-Fella umbrella by infiltrating fashion, film, and various other sectors in culture, lifestyle and entertainment. Biggs gives the “Drink Champs” an update on what he’s been cooking up as of late including his two forthcoming films, O.G. and The Hard Truth; and his clothing lines, Fourth of November and Roc96. He also gives details on what led him to jump back into the music business for the first time in over a decade, while introducing his new artist SAINt JHN, who makes his debut appearance as a guest on the show.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Kareem “Biggs” Burke episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. His Involvement In The Film O.G.
During his time with the “Drink Champs,” Biggs shares how he got involved with the H.B.O. film, O.G. starring actor Jeffrey Wright. “Nah, it’s not my story, this script was already done and most of it was already shot before I came on board,” Biggs explains. “So, they wanted me to executive produce it and to come on amplify the message of the movie because I speak to that anyway, about social justice reform and the restorative process. They reached out to me and then once I seen a little bit of the movie, I said, ‘This makes total sense.’”
2. His Thoughts On Prison Reform
A big topic in urban community is prison reform with a number of rap artists, executives, and other figures within the culture leading the charge. When asked about his thoughts of it, Biggs sees it as a positive, applauding artists like JAY-Z and Meek Mill for their contributions to the cause. “Big time,” he says of the impact made thus far. “We know what’s happening, it’s all the people of color that’s suffering from that. It’s the communities that’s suffering from that. So, if you got somebody to amplify that message and someone that looks like us that’s talking to the youth, talking to the people that’s empowered saying that something needs to change, you have a higher chance to get that message across. You got JAY, Robert Kraft, the owner of the 76ers, Meek at the forefront of that, but it’s Meek’s thing. They’re just supporting him.”
3. The Inspiration Behind Roc-A-Fella’s Luxury Marketing Tactics
Part of Roc-A-Fella’s lore can be traced back to their marketing tactics during the label’s genesis, such as gifting DJs with gift baskets filled with champagne and other pricey items. When asked what inspired this approach, Biggs points to the influence street hustlers he grew up with had with planting those seeds. “I think it came from when we were kids, always wanting what the older kids had,” Biggs says. “So in our neighborhood, it was always the older hustlers we looked up to and we wanted to do what they did, but do it better. So, now that we had some legal money, we were able to put it toward something that made sense.”
4. Meeting Diddy For The First Time
Despite being at the head of two of the most legendary record labels in hip hop, during this episode of “Drink Champs,” it was revealed that Biggs and Diddy had never formally met until recently. Biggs gave N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN the backstory of how he and Diddy crossed paths and what led to their newfound friendship. “Yeah, I never spoke to Puff,” Biggs admits. “I spoke to Puff actually last year at [the] Grammys. That was our first time we had [a] conversation. We had a conversation and then, he had came back and was like, ‘You know me and Biggs never spoke?’ And then, we exchanged numbers and he was like, ‘When I come to L.A., make sure you holla at me.’ And I seen him at the Oscar party and I didn’t call him, and he was like, ‘You thought I was drunk, why you ain’t call me?’ So, we ended up hooking up after that. We went to dinner, went to his crib and stuff, in his office and shit. We had a good time, built a good relationship and now we’re friends.”
5. His Legendary Drinking Contests With N.O.R.E.
No episode of “Drink Champs” is complete without an epic tale of alcohol consumption, which N.O.R.E. delivers while reminiscing about past encounters with Biggs. “The most interesting one was in London ’cause these guys had Armadale [Vodka],” N.O.R.E. recalls. “So we’re in this indoor pool in London, it’s a house with an indoor pool, some shit I’d never seen before. But for some reason, they’re like, ‘Yo, let’s go [shot for shot].’ And we go, I’m talking shot for shot ’til the last shot and then, it was one last shot. And then, Timbo took it and he looked at me, and was like, ‘Is it more?’ and he fell asleep with his eyes open (laughs)! And Biggs kept hitting him like, ‘Is he all right?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, he does this all the time,’ but meanwhile, he doesn’t do this all the time (laughs)!”
6. Biggs Gives Context To The Roc-A-Fella Family Tree
Late last year, Forbes ran an interview with Biggs that included a breakdown of the Roc-A-Fella family tree, which created a bit of controversy after DJ Funk Flex aired his grievances with the piece. Biggs addresses these comments during his sit-down. “Forbes was doing an article on me and they wanted to show a diagram of what we’d started and how it was a snowball effect that created all these other different execs, businesses, careers,” he explains. “And it was hard because there was a lot of people before us that could’ve been on that tree. Clark Kent, Kenny Burns, Irv Gotti, they didn’t come from Roc-A-Fella, they were pre-Roc-A-Fella that helped us build these companies that couldn’t really fit on there because I couldn’t fit them under that. So, I kind of [put] out what we did, what we started… it was maybe the last day. It was a deadline and I think I added a couple of things, and I was just like, ‘Go ‘head and put it out.’ So, when Flex talked about it, I didn’t understand what he was saying or maybe he didn’t understand what was going on. So, he kind of spoke out of turn.”
7. His Feelings On “Culture Vultures”
“Culture Vulture” is a label or tag that has created conjecture within hip hop circles regarding what makes one authentic and credible, according to the ethos of the culture. Biggs shares his thoughts on the term and challenges its actual definition. “I never really thought about it,” Biggs says when asked about his feelings on the subject. “I hear the word thrown around a lot, but I never really gave it thought on what it meant or this and that, truthfully. There’s so many people that have different definitions for it. I mean, I don’t really look at it or say this person is a part of stealing the culture or doing this to the culture, or this and that. To me, it’s a mashed culture right now. So, in order for rap or hip hop to grow, it had to grow outside of its immediate base. And for it to get that big, it’s now all-inclusive, right? There’s skating, there’s basketball, there’s soccer, everybody listens to the music, that’s why it grew so big. So if somebody’s taking advantage, I don’t think it’s a color thing.”
8. His Thoughts On Gentrification in Harlem
A sociopolitical issue that has become an elephant in the room is the gentrification of urban communities, particularly in New York City, where neighborhoods like Harlem, Bed Stuy, and Bushwick have become increasingly expensive for natives of those cultural hubs. Biggs details the negatives and positives that come as a byproduct of education and ways that the situation can benefit long-time residents. “I mean, you want your neighborhood to be better. But, at the same time, you want the people from the community to have some ownership, which isn’t happening. So, I think that’s the mishap,” Biggs states. “A lot of times, these communities get gentrified, but no one is saying, ‘Yo, this is what you can do to build a business, to own a businesses, or to do something to be a part of [some]thing long-term.’ Or to try to be buy these units once they start turning [in]to co-ops and condos. So, that education process needs to be there because the gentrification is what’s driving the price up, which can be good if there’s some ownership.”
9. How Emory “Vegas” Jones Earned His Nickname
In addition to its CEOs, Roc-A-Fella Records was built on the backs of numerous players behind the scenes who embodied the essence of the label’s appeal, one of them being Emory Jones, who evolved from a convicted drug trafficker into one of the biggest power-brokers in the industry. Biggs gives insight into how Emory earned the nickname “Vegas,” as well as his roll in the success of the Roc Nation empire. “He got his name Vegas when he was at the craps, the one that starts a ‘G up,” Biggs shares. “It’s a couple of things. I mean, from even ‘In My Lifetime,’ we shot the video. Emory bought the whole island out champagne. And then in Vegas, he went off and was at the gambling table, and then went and bought a bunch of bottles and stuff, and then made this little area all V.I.P. No one knew who he was. We was sitting at the fight, sitting in front of Dr. Dre. This is before we had any music out. We there, then the security started asking, ‘Can we let them in, can we let them in?’ This is all NBA players and shit and we’re like, ‘Yeah, he good, he good. Nobody knew us, but we bought so much champagne, they thought we was somebody. But, that was all Emory. And Emory, on top of that, is the one who created all the lifestyle stuff at Roc Nation. So, you see the paper plane hats, that’s Emory. Anything with Puma, that’s Emory. So, all those collaborations: Rihanna, Big Sean, Meek Mill, all that stuff goes through Emory. He’s the one that’s at the forefront of that and you gotta kind of pass through that bridge.”
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