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.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN take it back to the essence as the dynamic duo collides with east coast rap luminaries Lords of the Underground, who make their long-awaited appearance on the show to share riveting stories and valuable insights from their journey.
Based out of New Jersey and comprised of rappers DoItAll and Mr. Funke, and DJ Lord Jazz, Lords of the Underground formed during the trio’s time as students at Shaw University in North Carolina after which they landed a record deal with Pendulum Records with the assistance of producer Marley Marl. They unleashed their debut album, Here Come the Lords, in 1993, and it was a massive success, producing multiple hits including ”Chief Rocka,” “Here Come the Lords,” “Funky Child,” “Flow On,” and “Psycho.”
Returning the following year with their sophomore effort, Keepers of the Funk, the group has released several other projects since including last year’s offering So Legendary. The crew is regarded as key players in the east coast’s rap renaissance of the ‘90s.
To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Lords of the Underground “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On Redman Originally Being DoItAll’s DJ
Redman is widely known as a rap legend and one of the greatest lyricists of all-time. However, prior to his star turn, the New Jersey native served as the DJ and hype-man for DoItAll during the latter’s run as a soloist. “So we go in there, man, and they just take care of us and they gave me two more tickets,” DoItAll says of Rush Management. “So I got four tickets to the EPMD party and all of us that was there go, and that day, [my manager] was trying to get Erick Sermon to hear me rhyme to sign me ‘cause Red was my DJ. He wasn’t really the rapper, I’m unsigned at the time. So, they tell us they have a show at Club Sensations coming up, and then we go down to Sensations. Red gets on stage, E-Dub asked him to rhyme and the rest is history.”
2. On Squashing Their Beef With Das EFX
Tension between crews was a common occurrence throughout the ‘90s with Lords of the Underground almost going to war with rap group Das EFX over whispers about the stylistic similarities between the two factions. However, according to DoItAll, the groups were ultimately able to resolve their differences. “One day, Das [EFX] is walking down the steps, we’re walking up,” he says. “They got a bunch of Brooklyn goons wit ‘em, we got Zoo Crew Newark goons with us. Me and Drayz met on the middle of the steps and just basically was like, ‘What up, man?’ And he was like, ‘What’s good?’ and it was quashed from then til now. We was even trying to do a joint project with them called Underground EFX.”
3. On What Inspired DJ Lord Jazz To Form Lords of the Underground
Prior to the formation of Lords of the Underground, DJ Lord Jazz cut his teeth spinning on college radio, where he often worked alongside Derrick “L.A.” Jackson, who facilitated the Lords’ introduction to Marley Marl. Jazz speaks on his relationship with Jackson and the role he played in inspiring him to take his career to the next level. “One of my best friends in college, his name was Derek “L.A.” Jackson and he was from L.A.,” Jazz shares. “He’s Marley Marl’s cousin, he brought Marley here [to Drink Champs]. So, I was DJing all the parties that was on the radio, so I used to bring him with me and I taught him how to just mix and do basic stuff. So when I got tired, I would just let him finish up the parties or whatever. He was a year older than me, so when he graduated, he was like, ‘Yo, Jazz, I’ma look out for you. I don’t know what I’ma do, but I’ma look out for you.’ So that summer, I went back home to Cleveland, Ohio and I got a call. I’m like, ‘Yo,’ he’s like, ‘Yo, Lord Jazz, I’m with my cousin Marley. I’m at the House of Hits, I’m managing him now. I’m like, ‘Word?’ He’s like, ‘Yo, when you go back to school, form a group and send me a demo and I’ll let Marley hear it.’ I’m like, ‘Bet’ [and] that’s what I did.”
4. On Meeting Marley Marl At House of Hits Studio
After forming his group, L.A. Jackson kept his word to Lord Jazz, personally bringing him and his group-mates into the House of Hits to meet Marley Marl, an experience DoItAll recalls vividly. “He opens the door,” DoItAll says, setting the scene. “It’s Studio A, with an SSL in his house. Only Teddy Riley and Marley Marl back then had SSL’s in their house and if the people out there don’t know what an SSL is, that was an $100,000 board back then. That was a million dollars to us. So, we walk in the studio sliding doors. We see this guy with a red bell Kangol on under the board, in between the speakers, with a wife beater on, with his back to us. They’re mixing “Mama Said Knock You Out,” this is our first time in the House of Hits. Heavy D was there, too. He was upstairs, though, we ain’t even know.”
5. On The Controversy Surrounding Their Group Name
One of the topics addressed during Lords of the Underground’s sit down with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN is the origin of their group name, which created a bit of controversy when Tragedy Khadafi contended that he was its true creator. DoItAll backs up Khadafi’s claim while sharing the history behind it. “Trag named Lords of the Underground, indirectly,” he confirms. “It’s not like he came to us and said, ‘This is y’all name,’ but he said a freestyle on the Juice Crew tour, Marley heard it and was like, ‘Y’all heard what he just said?’ We was like, ‘What?’ He’s like, ‘He’s the Lord of the Underground in his freestyle, that’s y’all name. Now, Trag version of the story is that he was going to name a group, I ain’t gonna say who [Lords of the Underground]. The rumor is that he was gonna name CNN Lords of the Underground. But, he was looking for a group, so all we heard was y’all was his group that was coming out [and] we were like, ‘That’s the group.’ And that was his thing, like, ‘I would’ve named CNN Lords of the Underground,’ so Marley kind’ve took it out of his freestyle, but Trag says that he told Marley that he wanted to name his first group Lords of the Underground. So he’s (Lord Jaz) like, ‘Wow, if Marley never found us, would CNN be called Lords of the Underground?’ So shout out to Trag for naming Lords of the Underground.”
6. On Their Business Dealings With Marley Marl
Industry Rule #4080 is spoken about on various “Drink Champs” episodes, as artists spill the tea on their contractual history with record labels, managers, and other players in the music game. When asked to chime in on accusations against Marley Marl regarding his business practices, DoItAll gives the iconic producer the benefit of the doubt, pointing to Marley’s misunderstanding of his own contracts and his extension of an olive branch after the fact. “I’ma keep it a thousand with you, man,” the “Chief Rocka” begins. “You know, too, N.O.R.E...all of the artists that come on here and talk like that, we’ve all had problems when it comes to contracts. I just spoke to Marley literally four days ago and we talked about a contract that Universal had with him for publishing that they never had with him. They were doing things like they had a contract because they had paperwork and gave somebody money on his behalf, but he never signed the contract. So, they were acting like the contract was signed. So, my thing is, if a person who can’t read his own contracts or don’t even know what situation he’s involved in, how is he gonna do a proper deal with us and we’re trying to get out the hood, too? And we had a criminal defense attorney when we first got on as an entertainer lawyer that was our man. That wasn’t gonna make sure the contracts was right. And the contracts wasn’t all the way great, but the reason I still have a respect for Marley is because he allowed us to come back when we figured out it wasn’t right and say, ‘Let’s do this right.’”
7. On Producer K-Deff’s Impact On Their Music
Marley Marl is often credited with molding the sound of Lords of the Underground’s breakthrough debut, Here Come the Lords. However, DoItAll highlights producer K-Def as the true unsung hero and curator of the project while speaking on the immense impact of the album. “Shout out to K-Def,” he begins, “because K-Def was a producer that came in and he really gave Lords of the Underground their [sound]. Don’t get me wrong, Lords of the Underground is a Marley Marl group, but K-Def rounded out the sound. Marley was a beast, don’t get me wrong, but K-Def produced ‘Here Come The Lords,’ ‘Chief Rocka,’ ‘Funky Child,’ all of the hits. He was a Jersey boy, so he understood the Jersey sound, you know what I mean?”
8. On Lords of the Underground’s Gripe With French Montana and Harry Fraud
In 2012, Lords of the Underground made headlines when they voiced their displeasure over producer Harry Fraud sampling their 1993 hit, “Funky Child” for French Montana’s 2011 hit single “Shot Caller,” which DoItAll says was spurred by a perceived lack of just due for inspiring the record. “My cousin was trying to get a beat from Harry Fraud and he told him that he was my cousin. So Harry Fraud was like, ‘Yo, put me in contact with him, I was a big fan.’ So, Fraud calls me and says that, ‘I got some beats or whatever and I’m doing this with French [Montana].’ I hear the French joint, we loved the French joint. Like, we like the French joint, the thing we didn’t like about the French joint is that when artists take a sound or the entire, like, framework of a song from an artist, all I ask for is the love. All I ask for is the props.”
9. On Their Missed Opportunity To Appear On Ready to Die
In addition to their own work, Lords of the Underground’s impact on hip hop was bolstered by other artists sampling their songs, most notably The Notorious B.I.G., who famously borrowed a vocal riff from the group’s signature single “Chief Rocka,” for the Ready to Die cut “Machine Gun Funk.” However, DoItAll reveals that the group actually had an opportunity to appear on the record, but it was missed due to Biggie’s overblown ego, while recalling his exchange with Puff at the time. “Now, Big is not popular yet, but we knew who he was,” he notes. “We knew of Big, we knew that this was Puff’s artist. It may be the Supercat record [that was out], [but] it was one record out that he was a feature on, it wasn’t like nothing else [out]. He came to me and said, ‘Yo, I’m sampling y’all voice tonight, but being that I see you, why don’t y’all come to the studio?’ This is that asshole moment that I was talking about before, in all my asshole moments, I’m the asshole. I’m with two chicks and I’m hot, Lords of the Underground, we [are] hot at this time. So, he’s just Puff the A&R, so I’m hit him with the ‘Beam me your number and when I finish here, I’ma hit you up.’ I never hit him up and I call it an asshole move ‘cause when I seen the Biggie movie, they showed in the studio of them recording the song of the session that I was supposed to be in and call my group [to be] in, [but] we never went. I never went and he just sampled the voice of [Mr.] Funke for the record.”