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’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 sat down with legendary rapper Beanie Sigel to talk about his career, past battles with the law, and his and N.O.R.E’s potential forthcoming Verzuz battle.
Born Dwight Grant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the self-proclaimed Broad Street Bully’s entrance into the rap game happened in the ‘90s, when a friendship with Boo-Bonic of the group Philly’s Most Wanted eventually led to getting signed with JAY-Z and Damon Dash’s Roc-A-Fella Records. Upon his arrival at the label, Sigel became known for his clever rhymes, brash delivery, and powerful narratives, and quickly became a major player on the squad and JAY-Z’s no-holds-barred protégé.
He released his debut album, The Truth in 2000 and then followed it up with 2001’s The Reason. Subsequently, he released The B. Coming in 2005, which many consider his magnum opus with the memorable tracks “Feel it in the Air” and “It’s On.” Also during his tenure on Roc-A-Fella, he founded State Property, a collective of talented spitters from his hometown.
But over the course of his career, his double life of being heavily involved in the streets kept getting in his way. He was locked up numerous times and throughout the early 2000s, he had racked up charges for weapon possession and attempted murder. While the latter was thrown out, he was sentenced to a year in prison in 2004.
But his run-ins with the law weren’t the only issues that the rapper had to overcome. In 2014, the rapper was in critical condition after being shot in his stomach outside of his home in New Jersey. After undergoing surgery and making a full recovery, his signature voice evolved into a loud whisper. Now, it appears as though the rapper has put his troubles behind him as he settles into middle age.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Beanie Sigel interview. Take a look at them below.
1. On Modern-Day Hip Hop Lacking Substance
Ever since his early days in the game, Sigel has always given fans a front row seat to the trials and tribulations of his life through his music. During the sit down, N.O.R.E. asked Sigel about regularly incorporating personal themes into his rhymes and the rapper explained that he believes that it’s a rule of thumb in rap. He also added that he believes today’s hip hop is lacking substance.
“Everything is a façade now,” Sigel said. “It’s no substance in it. I believe music is supposed to resonate with people, no matter what kind of music it is. It’s supposed to be some sort of message that you can hold onto. I come from where people were dropping jewels. I think [now] you can go in and say anything.”
2. On Performing at the “Hard Knock Life Tour”
The Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam “Hard Knock Life Tour” in 1999 not only brought together a strong lineup of rap’s power players at the time, but it also made history. At the time of the tour’s completion, it brought in a record-setting $18 million and was the first multi-group hip hop tour in nearly a decade. Sigel was just a rookie when the tour commenced, and his album didn’t come out until the following year. On “Drink Champs,” the rapper reflected on the experience and recalled receiving support on the tour from many of his peers who were already established.
“So, the first three nights it was crazy,” Sigel said. “I’m like, ‘If I get booed, it’s over.’ After the first three nights, [seeing] the reception I got, I knew that it was a good thing because I remember seeing Redman and [Method Man], and one time DMX [watching my performance]. They weren’t watching JAY show. One date, Busta [Rhymes] stopped me and just shook my hand.”
3. On Helping to Discover Just Blaze
During its heyday, Roc-A-Fella not only had a hefty roster of talented emcees, but it also had an in-house production squad that birthed the label’s signature sound. Before they went on to become legends, Kanye West and Just Blaze got their start by making beats for JAY, Sigel and a host of other Roc-A-Fella artists. Sigel recalled discovering Blaze’s beats after Dash thrown away a bunch of CDs during an A&R meeting.
“He was throwing shit...CDs in the trash,” Sigel said. “I actually picked up a CD that was supposed to be discarded and it just happened to be by Just Blaze. We was listening to joints and one of them was the beat to ‘Who Want What’ and I was like, ‘I need that.’”
4. On JAY-Z and Damon Dash Falling Out
The Roc-A-Fella breakup in the early 2000s was a tough blow for hip hop fans and it’s apparent that the feud between JAY-Z and Dash is still ongoing. Last month, it was reported that Roc-A-Fella was suing Dash because the latter was allegedly trying to illegally sell JAY-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, as an NFT. Dash told TMZ shortly thereafter that the claims made in the suit weren’t true and he explained that he was only selling his share of Roc-A-Fella.
N.O.R.E. asked Sigel if he could tell that there was a growing divide between his former bosses prior to the label’s split back in the day, and the rapper revealed that the tension was obvious. “You just knew,” Sigel said. “People [were] less frequent in the office…In the studio. It just was weird. I think sometimes you outgrow people, and when you locked on your mission, you got to stay on your mission. Everybody can’t go.”
N.O.R.E. also questioned Sigel about his thoughts on Cam’ron’s proposed appointment to vice president of Roc-A-Fella prior to the label’s split. The move was controversial during the time because JAY-Z was purportedly left out of the loop. “I wasn’t in control of none of that so that wasn’t my place,” Sigel said. “If something was being passed down, I think [Memphis] Bleek should have had that before anybody. Bleek was there before me. He was next in line. I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s about to get goofy.’”
5. On Cam’ron Giving Him Advice
While Sigel was making moves with State Property during his Roc-A-Fella days, Cam’s Harlem collective, the Diplomats were also cranking out hits on the label at the time. Sigel explained that he remembered receiving a lot of advice from Cam at the time about being the leader of a rap group. “Cam used to give me a lot of fucking game, as far as how I should be moving with my squad, State Property,” Sigel said. “I used to watch Cam make a lot of moves. I fucks with Cam.”
6. On JAY-Z Not Vouching for Him in Court
The interview turned somber when Sigel discussed his 2003 court hearing where he was facing an attempted murder and a federal weapons charge. He revealed that while JAY-Z spoke highly of him in court, a judge later asked the emcee if he was willing to be responsible for Sigel’s whereabouts. JAY-Z ultimately rebuffed.
“I never been crushed like that ever in my life,” Sigel said. “That fucked me up. That took away a lot of shit that I thought we had. Like, that’s big bro.” The Philly rapper added that years later, he had a change of heart regarding the incident and didn’t blame JAY-Z for responding the way he did. “I believe at that time, JAY was thinking that I was unpredictable,” he said. “I was bugging. I know I was out of pocket. I was uncontrollable.”
But despite his change of heart, he explained that he still regrets not hashing it out with his former boss. “We ain’t never had that conversation,” Sigel said. “I wanted to hear it from him. Like where was you at? There was a lot that weighed on me. That was fucked up to me. You got to have some kind of communication.”
7. On Getting into an Altercation with Lyor Cohen
These days, it’s obvious that Sigel has mellowed out. But back in the day, he had an extremely low tolerance for disrespect. During the interview, he recalled the time when he unveiled his debut album during a meeting with Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam execs. He explained that Lyor Cohen, who was Def Jam’s president at the time, got angry because Sigel didn’t have any radio hits on the album. From there, things went left.
“Lyor was like, ‘I’m not asking you to go [MC] Hammer. I don’t know if you can even spell Hammer,’” Sigel said. While the rapper never explicitly said that he drew a weapon on Cohen, he said that he “pulled out” on him following the disrespectful comments. “I pulled out,” Sigel said. “I’m thinking he’s disrespecting me. I didn’t know no better. I apologize, Lyor. I was young.”
8. On JAY-Z’s “Momma Loves Me” Track
The Blueprint is one of JAY-Z’s most beloved projects on his extensive discography and on the album’s final track, “Momma Loves Me,” the former Roc-A-Fella head honcho got candid about some of the members on his squad.
When it came to Sigel, JAY-Z rapped: “Beans, I ain’t trying to change you, just give you some game. To make the transition from the street to the fame.” Sigel explained that he didn’t appreciate the comments because the two never had that type of conversation. “When he said that, I was totally offended,” he said. “Because we didn’t have that conversation. When did you try to give me the game? But it took me a minute to realize that was the game on that record.”
9. N.O.R.E. on Calling Beanie Sigel Out for a VERZUZ Battle
Late last month, N.O.R.E. did an interview with Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club” and explained that he wanted to take on Sigel for a VERZUZ battle. Since then, the two have traded jabs on social media in anticipation for the match up, which has yet to be officially announced.
On “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. revealed that the challenge was secretly a ploy to bring the rapper back into the spotlight so he can get the recognition he deserves. “I don’t want to battle somebody that’s a sucker, I want to battle somebody that’s real,” N.O.R.E. said. “You’re really a pioneer in the game and that’s why I called you out because I wanted the people to buy into it, and they did. It’s all in the spirit of hip hop.”