On this week’s episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN were joined by veteran music journalist Elliott Wilson and rapper Gorilla Nems for a candid discussion on how they both were able to establish themselves in the music industry.
Elliott Wilson, or “YN” to some, was first up in this week’s double feature. Deemed by many as a legend, the Queens native set the bar for music coverage through a number of roles at established brands like The Source, XXL, Tidal and his own media conglomerate Rap Radar. In the past three decades, he’s also curated notable sit-downs with musicians of all generations.
Halfway through the episode, Gorilla Nems joined the cast. He cut his teeth in the music industry by dominating in the battle rap circuit two decades ago. From his success there, he began putting out full-length projects over time, with the most recent being this year’s Rise Of The Silverback in tandem with Scram Jones. On top of his music moving the needle, Nems reached another level this decade by way of his viral slogans and social media content.
Below are nine takeaways from their energetic joint interview that addresses the major moments in both of their careers. You can peep the standout commentary below and watch the full video here.
1. Elliott Wilson on what inspired him to become a music journalist
Elliott Wilson’s successful tenure in the music journalism space is why he’s seen by many as the G.O.A.T. He started writing decades ago, and, in the conversation, he revealed what inspired him to pursue that path in the first place. “Run-DMC was the inspiration,” he said. “I read The Source. And they had the music editor at The Source, Reginald C. Dennis. I wanted to be that guy. He gets all the albums before them s**ts come out, he reviews them, he controls the mics. That’s what I wanted. I wanted to control the mics.”
2. Elliott Wilson on the media climate right now
N.O.R.E. pointed out that in this decade of content creation, everyone has an opportunity to build their own platform. He asked Elliott Wilson if he ever expected for the media game to be so “watered down,” to which Wilson responded, “No I didn’t see that. And I also didn’t think that media would be looked at as a cool thing. It wasn’t cool back then. I was the n**ga trying to lead that it’s cool. People bought into the ‘YN’ persona: ‘This guy is crazy. He’s battling The Source.’ They connected to that thing that made it somewhat cool.”
Wilson went on to praise musicians-turned-culture commentators like N.O.R.E., Joe Budden, Gillie Da King and more for finding success recently. But also expressed that overall, he feels like there’s a lack of passion in the hip hop journalism space right now.
3. Elliott Wilson on his placement on Complex’s Hip Hop Media Power Ranking
In April of this year, Complex released a list of personalities who have the most power in rap media. Wilson was listed at No. 8 in the ranking, which he wasn’t satisfied with. “That s**t bothered me,” he voiced. “I think it’s like, yo, y’all f**ked up, y’all lit the fire. And let me remind y’all, I’m the best.”
4. Elliott Wilson on how he navigated The Source’s microphone ratings
A good review through The Source’s microphone rating system had the ability to make a rapper automatically go gold or platinum, according to N.O.R.E. Breaking down the process of it all, Wilson explained that it was once a team thing that turned into a solo passion project.
“So when I reached out to everybody and they weren’t receptive, I was just like, I’m gonna do whatever I want. F**k ‘em.” He continued, “I cared about it so much, I was like, ‘Yo, you have to trust my opinion.’” Wilson admitted that it wasn’t all smooth sailing though. He said that he got it wrong at times and named Jim Jones as someone he accidentally slept on to some degree. Wilson wound up leaving The Source once an editor went behind his back and changed the mic ratings that were put on projects by Kurupt and Canibus.
5. Elliott Wilson on the power of networking at the Roc Nation Brunch
When asked to plug in his review of JAY-Z’s famed Roc Nation Brunch, Wilson recalled that he was finally able to connect with Tyler, the Creator this year. “I’ve been trying to talk to him for 10 years,” he said. Wilson continued to explain that him and his Rap Radar co-host Brian “B.Dot” Miller spent the entire occasion helping Tyler dodge fans, which was a bonding experience of sorts. Right after, they sat down with Wolf Haley for the conversation that they wanted to have all along.
“The brunch was great for us because it helped us bond with Tyler to get that interview. Babyface too … So I feel like that was a major networking thing that led to a good podcast after that. So, shoutout to the brunch,” he added. Elsewhere, Wilson applauded Tyler’s authenticity: “He’s a great kid, he loves hip hop.”
6. Gorilla Nems on what he learned from aligning himself with Necro
When Nems completed a jail stint years ago, he was greeted with love upon his release by fellow rapper Necro. Necro offered to take Nems on tour and sign him, and those experiences went on to shape Nems’ career as it stands today. “He let me know that you don’t have to have a song on the radio to be commercial or really become a millionaire in this game,” the rapper said. “So once I seen that, I was like, I’m gonna keep doing what the f**k I do, and it’s gonna stick whether it’s major or independent.”
7. Gorilla Nems on signing to Paul Rosenberg’s Goliath Records
Looking back at his days as a battle rapper, Nems discussed how he used to be up at Shady Records every week. But after he went to jail in the 2000s, the company no longer wanted to develop him. He was disappointed, but opted to clean himself up and go back to work. “I stopped all of the bulls**t … I stopped drinking, I stopped doing drugs. I just focused on making this s**t happen,” he said.
Once he started working with Scram Jones at the top of the 2020s, Nems was introduced to Paul Rosenburg who immediately co-signed the seasoned rapper and soon after, signed Nems to a three-album deal. When asked about how it felt to get presented with such an opportunity at that point in his career, Nems responded, “That s**t is validation.”
8. Gorilla Nems on the makings of some of his viral catch phrases
There are a number of catch phrases that Nems is known for. So, of course, inquiring minds such as N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN wanted to know the origin story behind them. Nems started with an explanation of his slogan “don’t ever disrespect me,” which quickly turned into a viral social media series. It was all a marketing ploy to get some promotion behind the album he was working on in 2021 (Congo) that no one was helping him market. “It came out of necessity, it came out of the hustle,” he explained.
The MC also spoke to the phrase “f**k your life,” which started off as something serious but eventually turned into a joke. “When I started it, it was really like f**k everybody’s life. Now, it’s just like a term of endearment … We’re gonna laugh at the s**t. You just change the dynamics of it.”
9. Gorilla Nems on the best three-album run in music history
When asked to choose between Capone-N-Noreaga’s The War Report or Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, Nems and Wilson selected the latter. From there, Nems showed love to Mobb Deep for having the best three-album run in all of music.
“In my opinion, there are no three albums in a row from any artist that could touch Infamous, Hell on Earth and Murda Muzik,” he stamped. “The only one that comes close is [Nas’] Illmatic, It Was Written and I Am…, but to me that’s still not f**king with them.”
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