On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN sat down with hip hop duo Smif-N-Wessun — composed of Tek and Steele — to discuss hip hop’s 50th birthday, the East Coast-West Coast beef, working with Mary J. Blige, and more.
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Smif-N-Wessun first gained recognition in 1995 with their debut album, Dah Shinin’. The project was marked by classic tracks such as “Bucktown” and “Sound Bwoy Bureill,” both of which became revered pieces in the East Coast. Following their first studio LP, they were embroiled in legal battles over their name but returned stronger in 1998 with The Rude Awakening under the alias Cocoa Brovaz.
In 2007, Smif-N-Wessun released The Album, which boasted features from Chuckii Star, Joell Ortiz, and several more. Further, the duo showcased their lyrical prowess in their 2011 album Monumental, which was produced in collaboration with Pete Rock. The New York natives also put out their sixth studio album, The All, in 2019.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the Smif-N-Wessun interview. Check them out below. Peep the episode here.
1. On wearing army fatigues
As evident in album covers like The Last Stand and Casualties of War, Boot Camp Clik’s — comprised of Buckshot of Black Moon, Smif-N-Wessun, and Heltah Skeltah — style was often characterized by army fatigues and Timberlands. In 2019’s “Dreamland,” Tek also alluded to their outfit choices in the late 90s and mid-2000s. He rapped, “My brother David was a drill sergeant. So those fatigues was part of my life, for real, private.”
“Being with D’s set, we was on. Plus, the bag wasn’t there. We ain’t have no bread [to] go get dumb fresh. I mean, n**gas had GUESS with the pencil holder on the side of it,” Tek shared regarding the inspiration behind their style. “The fatigues was the joints you could blend in, or you could stand out.”
2. On Diddy getting them on Mary J. Blige’s “I Love You (Remix)”
Produced by Diddy and Chucky Thompson, Mary J. Blige’s “I Love You” was a standout cut on the singer’s 1994 project My Life. Smif-N-Wessun was featured on the track’s remix, which subsequently appeared on the deluxe LP. According to the duo, the collaboration came about after running into Diddy at a club.
“I appreciate him for hollering at us that day because that’s one of the biggest records [we made]. Everywhere we go in the world, we perform it,” Steele said.
“Puff is in the cut just walking. It was time for us to go on, and he’s like, ‘Yo, man. I’m in the studio. I want y’all to come through.’ It was mad surreal, too,” he added. “He was like a crazy genius just watching the play.”
3. On hip hop 50’s birthday
Widely recognized as being ushered in 1973 by DJ Kool Herc, hip hop is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. While many legendary acts like “Drink Champs” alumni Special Ed believed that brands used the opportunity to make more money, Tek noted that he was happy to see his once-forgotten contemporaries being praised for their achievements.
He explained, “It’s beautiful, man. It’s something to celebrate, first of all, because none of us in this room thought we would even see 50. A lot of us didn’t even think we would see 16 [or] 21. Now, for the s**t that keeps us moving around the world, our families fed and ate, to be 50 and celebrated with your peers and accepted by your peers is incredible.”
4. On the idea of Boot Camp Clik and Wu-Tang Clan doing a Verzuz
In 2017, various members of Boot Camp Clik and Wu-Tang Clan came together for Sean Price’s “Clans & Cliks.” It served as one of the few times that the two groups faced off against one another over a track. Although each member could stand on their own, Tek said he would be open to doing a Verzuz if the opportunity arose.
“That’s excitement right there. It’s like DC and Marvel fighting. Every superhero and supervillain, it’s like your counterpart for that n**ga. That’ll be insane,” Tek said. “Let’s get it. I’m kinda tight [Swizz Beatz] ain’t called us for a Verzuz.”
Steele countered, “I’m not really with that s**t. I don’t really like that, but it’s all for the entertainment. That’s the name of the game.”
5. On Buckshot recording completely new verses for radio
According to Tek, frequent collaborator and fellow Boot Camp Clik member Buckshot would record completely new verses when radio stations would request the clean version of their songs. Naturally, Smif-N-Wessun picked up the habit, which eventually led to popular radio edits without profanity for tracks like “Wontime” and “Super Brooklyn.”
“Our big brother Buckshot was the king of editing himself. At one time, instead of all the [censors] for the curse words, Buck would just go in there and write a new verse,” Tek revealed. “That’s how ‘I Got Cha Open’ remixes came because those [records] was heavy curse records. Once the radio was calling for it, but it was no clean version, we’d go in [the studio].”
6. On “Sound Bwoy Bureill”
Smif-N-Wessun’s debut album, Dah Shinin’, contained a number of hits, including “Sound Bwoy Bureill.” Produced by Da Beatminerz, the instrumental was initially meant for one of Heltah Skeltah’s projects. However, it quickly became one of the pair’s most popular records to date due to its controversial lyrics.
According to Tek, “Heltah Skeltah turned that beat down. They didn’t want that. We heard that s**t, it was [Da] Beatminerz. It’s a couple of… Maybe about one or two more joints on Dah Shinin’ that was like that. We got thrown to the lions after Buck, and they work [out].”
7. On Tupac Shakur’s legacy
Tupac Shakur collaborated with Smif-N-Wessun on several cuts like “Military Minds” and “Brothaz at Armz.” Although they only got to work with the late rapper after he got out of prison in 1995, he evidently left a well-received impression on the duo.
Steele said, “This guy went to acting school. He was a dedicated… That’s some Black Jesus Christ s**t… A lot of people were very critical of Pac because he tends to bounce around. They go, ‘Are you a [Black] Panther? Are you a gangsta?’ He’s an artist.”
8. On being dubbed a “traitor” amid East Coast-West Coast beef
During hip hop’s coastal wars, Boot Camp Clik were seen as traitors due to their affiliation and collaborations with Pac. The two parties were working together on One Nation, which was reportedly Pac’s way of showing the world both sides could work together. Although it was ultimately scrapped, Smif-N-Wessun’s contributions to the demo album ultimately put them in a tricky position in the public eye.
“It wasn’t a backlash until the media started driving points home and making s**t, but other than that, nah,” Tek said. Steele shared, “We don’t do beef, really, like that. We know we gon’ cross some lines, we gon’ come across some dudes, we gon’ be in dudes’ towns and city, they ain’t gon’ like it.”
9. On getting sued by Smith & Wesson
After releasing their debut LP, Smif-N-Wessun was hit with a cease and desist by the firearm company Smith & Wesson. Afterward, they were forced to go by the name Cocoa Brovaz. However, the pair reverted to their original moniker in 2005 with the release of Reloaded.
“They sent us a book of a contract of a cease and desist. [They] itemized everything they made from beer cans to the hunker to the liquor of Smith & Wesson. [It was] saying [what] they made and how we was confusing the consumer selling music compared to guns,” Tek explained.
Steele chimed in, “We just came in the game. We just came through the door [when it happened].”
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