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,” journalists Elliott Wilson and B.Dot of Rap Radar take a break from their own podcast and make their debut appearance to discuss all things media. Rising through the ranks of rap journalism during the ‘90s, Wilson held high positions at seminal publications such as Ego Trip and The Source before becoming editor-in-chief at XXL magazine during the latter half of the decade. During his tenure, the publication experienced the peak of its popularity, unseating The Source as the leading voice of the culture. From there, Wilson co-founded Rap Radar, bringing along then rising journalist B.Dot as his second-in-command, who has become one of the more respected critics and is currently leading the regime at MTV News, where he plans to bring the platform back to prominence.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Rap Radar episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. On Elliott Wilson Becoming A Rap Journalist
Prior to becoming a music journalist, Wilson’s initial aspirations were to make it to the major leagues. “It started with sports with me,” he shares. “My father wanted me to be a baseball player ’cause his dream was to play baseball. So, he actually wanted to name me Roberto Clemente, I should’ve been Roberto Clemente Wilson. My father is black, and my mom is Ecuadorian and Greek. So then, he settled on Elliott Wilson Jr. like on some Frank Sinatra Jr. shit. So, I grew up playing sports, a lot of baseball growing up and then by the time I got 15-16, I was like, ‘I’m not good enough to like go pro.’ Like, I’m good, but I ain’t outstanding and shit. So, I looked at sports writing. And people like Warner Wolf...and Howard Cosell and all those guys, I got attracted to that. I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I can do that. I can be a sports reporter. I can be a sports writer.’ And then, when I started losing more interest in sports, the music and seeing that the music could be documented just excited me, and that was my only career goal.”
2. The Backstory Behind Elliott Wilson’s The War Report Review
During Wilson’s time as music editor at The Source, he was responsible for reviewing a number of landmark albums, one of them being Capone-N-Noreaga’s The War Report. He shares the story of how his review of the album drew backlash from fans and critics, alike. “I’m going off the advance cassette and all that shit,” Wilson recalls. “The rawest, dustiest ‘Parole Violators’ version. The whole thing all prepared. And at the time, KRS-One is god, he had [the] I Got Next album, which is not one of his best albums. So, he got the lead review, he got 3 1/2 [mics] and then you see the second review, it’s like, ‘C-N-N, 4 mics...’ It’s like, ‘’Who the fuck is C-N-N?’ ‘cause back then, people that didn’t know thought they were like a fake Mobb Deep. They didn’t know the people behind it and they hadn’t heard enough music, us in the inside of the industry, we knew about it. We knew this shit is about to change the game. We knew at least that these niggas was about to shake it up in New York ‘cause Busta’s on ‘Driver Seat’ talking crazy, it has all New York’s energy. So’ we do it, it comes out, everybody’s like, ‘How the fuck you gonna disrespect the god, The Teacha KRS-One with 3 1/2 [mics] and [give] C-N-N 4 [mics],’ and then y’all niggas push the album back, so no album. So I’m out here, holding the bag, no album, I’m dangling 4 mics. And then y’all came back and then y’all added that R&B shit, and then y’all used the 4 mics as the ad campaign, and then came out later.”
3. On Busta Rhymes’ Appearance On ‘Driver’s Seat’
The journalist that he is, B.Dot turns the tables on N.O.R.E. during the interview and asks about Busta Rhymes’ memorable, yet brief appearance on The War Report song “Driver’s Seat.” “Well, to tell you the truth, Busta and Fat Joe, I do not wanna say that this was a clearance thing with them,” N.O.R.E. admits. “I wanna say that they weren’t prepared and we had to turn in the album. Fat Joe was actually on ‘Channel 10,’ he didn’t lay his verse. He wrote his verse and I forget what happened and for some reason, he never laid it. Nas was on ‘Music Makes These Thugs Calm Down’ and it didn’t clear. That’s the reason why he made it up to me and did The Firm album. And ‘Driver’s Seat,’ he (Busta) was supposed to be on there. He had knew who Iman Thug was, Iman Thug was this real underground [rapper]. The two people that was big Iman Thug fans was Ma$e, [I don’t know] how the fuck M-A-Dollar Sign became a fan of the most grimiest nigga from Vernon BLVD in Queensbridge. So, it was Ma$e and Busta. So, Busta came in, he heard ‘Driver’s Seat’ and he just spoke on it. He was supposed to lay a verse, but we was so underground that we took that. We was just like, ‘Fuck it,’ and that was that.’”
4. What Spurred Elliott Wilson’s Decision To Leave The Source
One pivotal moment in Wilson’s career was his decision to leave his post at The Source to take on editor-in-chief duties at competing rap zine XXL. When asked about what spurred the move, Wilson points to a lack of creative control and a perceived lack of respect. “Kurrupt was cool with [Dave] Mays and he came to the office,” he explains. “He was playing this record, ‘5 Mics.’ So, I’m like, ‘Ah, this gonna be some shit ‘cause this nigga really thinks he’s gonna get 5 mics.’ So, when his album came out, I didn’t like the album as much. I’m a Kurrupt fan. Kurrupt’s dope, but that album wasn’t it. And I think that review and another review... they went back and changed the mics and didn’t tell me. Usually they would argue it out, [but] Dave Mays stepped in, it was his decision. To be fair, it could be that they thought the album was better, but I had never had them go over my head and change the content ‘cause I’m real meticulous. I wanna sign off on every page and what I think it should be. So, I got the issue back, and they changed everything, and I just called a meeting, and was like, ‘Y’all don’t respect me.’”
5. On N.O.R.E. Getting Snubbed By Stephen A. Smith
With nearly 25 years in the spotlight under his belt, N.O.R.E. is one of the more beloved, affable and recognizable rap artists in the game. However, the Drink Champ didn’t receive what he felt was a proper show of homage on the part of sports analyst and fellow Queens native Stephen A. Smith during a chance encounter. “I definitely worded that wrong,” N.O.R.E. said when asked about Smith “dissing” him. “He fanned me out. I didn’t realize when I was walking up to him [that] I was in front of a whole line of people that was waiting to talk to him. This is at Kenny Smith’s party. So, as we’re walking through, he just gave me one of these [quick handshakes] and then moved around. I said, ‘Yo, my nigga, say hi to me, I’m a legend out here, too! I might’ve been out before you, Steven A....I held Queens down!’ He just gave me one of these and went to the next person.”
6. Elliott Wilson Redacting The Story Behind JAY-Z Allegedly Losing 92 Bricks From Their Interview
One of the greatest unsolved mysteries in rap is the story behind the 92 bricks of cocaine JAY-Z rapped about losing on The Blueprint cut “Never Change.” Being the die-hard fan that he is, B.Dot asked the million-dollar question and shockingly, Hov was happy to oblige him. However, when the final edit of the interview came out, the portion with those quotes were missing, much to B.Dot’s surprisingly. “I asked JAY-Z [about] the infamous ‘92 bricks, had to fall back’ [line] he said on ‘Never Change,’” B.Dot shares. “I asked what’s the story behind that and he really gave the story and I was like, ‘This is great, this is internet gold... we made it.’ So, when the interview came out and that part wasn’t there, I said, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ I hit JAY, I was like, ‘Yo, the 92 Bricks, you wanted to fall back.’ He said, ‘Nah, that’s all Elliott.’ When asked about his reasoning for editing out that portion of the clip, Wilson says that the decision was made for cohesion’s sake. ‘It didn’t fit the whole 4:44 shit. It wasn’t like track 7, he’s talking about 92 bricks. The funny thing is that after we did that, the niggas talking about the bricks all over again.””
7. N.O.R.E.’s Connection To Ron Artest and Royal Flush
One question Wilson tosses in N.O.R.E.’s direction is the backstory behind his appearances alongside Queens rapper Royal Flush on his 1997 debut, Ghetto Millionaire. During N.O.R.E.’s recollection, he also uncovers the familial connection between three Q.U. giants. “Truth be told, Royal Flush, Capone and Ron Artest are all fucking related,” he reveals. “So, Capone was supposed to be on the Royal Flush album, I did the ‘Iced Down Medallions,’ ...That was my hook. You gotta remember, that was an EZ Elpee beat. EZ Elpee did most of our album, he did ‘Bloody Money’ ...I forgot how much shit he did. It was actually supposed to be Capone and I was the next best person to go to for Royal Flush and what a lot of people didn’t know about Royal Flush at the time, he was a real street dude. He was the dude backing Mic Geronimo. A lot of people overlook Geronimo, but it was Nas and it was Mic right here, bro.’”
8. Why Nas Is N.O.R.E.’s Favorite Rapper of All Time
When the conversation turns to who is the greatest rapper of all-time, N.O.R.E. picks Nas as his personal G.O.A.T., pointing to the personal impact his Illmatic album had on him and the borough of Queens, as a whole. “Illmatic meant more to me... I swear to God, I think it meant more to me than it meant to him,” N.O.R.E. explains. “‘Cause at the time, I was living the gangster life. I can’t describe anybody else or what anybody else was doing, I can only say what I was doing and I got caught in the system. When I got caught up in the system, it hurt me to walk through and people would be like, ‘Queens.’ I really had to fight for that shit, KRS-One really put us in a bad position. [‘The Bridge Is Over’], I love it and hate it, too. Listen, me and Nas talk about it, we’re like, ‘We listen to that shit in The Bridge, it’s true... But, when Illmatic dropped, it was something that it did to me. I saw Steinway Street, I saw Astoria. I saw Woodside, I saw Baisley Projects. I saw South Side, I saw 107 & Guy Brewer... when Illmatic came, it was the first time I visually saw an album, ever.’”
9. On N.O.R.E. Not Being A Fan of Reasonable Doubt At First
No debate involving Nas or JAY-Z is complete without a mention of the other, which is usually the case on “Drink Champs,” where both artists’ careers and place in rap history are recurring topics. During their discussion about the greatest rapper of all-time, N.O.R.E. makes a shocking revelation about his initially reaction to one of rap’s universally acclaimed albums. “To tell you the truth, I’m probably gonna get so much slack for this... I didn’t like Reasonable Doubt at first because I was broke,” he explains. “I just was broke, I could not relate to it. It’s for real, it’s like to this day, like when he came out with ‘Niggas In Paris.’ I went to a club and one of my homies borrowed fifty bucks from me, and then he go in the club and he say, ‘What’s fifty grand to a nigga like me, could you please remind me,’ and I’m looking at him like, ‘Nigga, you just borrowed $50. What the fuck is you doing singing that line?!’ But, at that point, I was an ounce nigga. I was a quarter ounce nigga, I was a quarter key, I was an 1/8 of a key dude. The most I ever had was a ki and when you’re talking about these bricks and all that, I’m like, ‘Jesus.’ I’m thinking he’s lying, I’m not thinking this is real.”