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 sat down with rappers Mickey Factz, Asher Roth, and Blu to discuss appearing on XXL magazine’s 2009 Freshman cover, their experiences in the game, and being early pioneers of the Internet.
On the Freshman cover, all three rappers appeared alongside Wale, Kid Cudi, and Ace Hood, among others. Their class was significant because they were among the first generation of rappers who utilized music blogs to capitalize on their success. Thus, “blog rap” set the tone for later generations of rappers to commonly use the Internet as a tool to make it big.
Factz, a Bronx native, rose to fame following the release of his Heavens Fallout mixtape in 2007. From there, he went to release a string of projects and collaborated with artists such as Drake, B.O.B., and Afrika Bambaataa.
Roth, who hails from the Philly suburbs, attained success after the release of his 2009 single “I Love College.” His debut album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, dropped that same year and featured appearances from Cee-Lo Green, Busta Rhymes, and Jazzy Pha. The project went on to reach No. 5 on the Billboard charts and was certified gold in 2019.
Blu, a Los Angeles emcee, is famously known for being one half of the group Blu and Exile. In 2007, the pair released their critically acclaimed album, Below the Heavens, which has since earned a string of accolades including being named by HipHopDX as one of the 30 Best Underground Hip Hop albums since 2000.
The trio of former freshmen recently released a song together called “Reign,” which is slated to appear on Factz and Blu’s upcoming joint album called The Narrative.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Mickey Factz, Asher Roth, and Blu interview. Take a look at them below.
1. Mickey Factz on Appearing on the 2009 XXL Freshman Cover
The very first XXL Freshman class cover debuted in 2007 and featured Lupe Fiasco, Saigon, Rich Boy, Joell Ortiz, and more. After taking a year off, the magazine returned with the 2009 class. Factz discussed what it was like to be featured and said that his class represented the new wave of hip hop at the time.
“It was fun,” he said. “It was something new because the internet had just changed. The first one that they did with the other guys, that felt like it was the old guard of hip hop. All of us had big fanbases at the time from just putting our music online.”
2. Asher Roth on Eminem Comparisons
Since Roth’s arrival in the game, he’s received comparisons to Eminem. When N.O.R.E. asked him about them, he deemed them as trivial. “Its banter, its’ media,” Roth said. “People have to talk about something. There’s kind of like a white rapper quota. There’s only allowed to be so many in the mainstream.”
He added that he believes white emcees have unique dispositions because while they are contributors to hip hop culture, they are dually guests. “As a white rapper, you’re part of the culture but also a visitor at the same time,” Roth said. “Especially a kid coming from the ‘burbs. I am a product of hip hop and rap music, and what it’s been able to accomplish.”
In 2013, Eminem took a jab at Roth on the track “Asshole,” but the “I Love College” rapper told N.O.R.E. and EFN that he wasn’t bothered by the diss. “It’s like a benchmark, but for me, my focus is so much on education and even where I am in Philadelphia,” Roth said. “It wasn’t ever about like, let me get in a beef with somebody and sell more records. That was never really my goal.”
3. Blu on Making Music with Substance
In the early 2000s, West Coast hip hop had a resurgence, as a new generation of emcees emerged after rappers like Tupac, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg dominated the game a decade before. However, Blu’s conscious subject matter proved to be distinct from many of his peers from his hometown at the time. On “Drink Champs” N.O.R.E. asked Blu about his take on the matter and the rapper revealed that he was encouraged by Exile to add more substance to his music. “I actually wanted to be a spitter, but [Exile] wanted me to have more substance in my lyrics,” he said. “So, I started changing it up a little bit.”
4. Blu on Almost Signing with Death Row
Before Blu linked up with Exile, he told N.O.R.E. and EFN that he once considered signing with Suge Knight’s Death Row at just 19 years old. “Suge was cool,” Blu said. “He put me in front of 10 bloods. I just started barring off. But then, I started talking to one of the homies from Long Beach and he said [I] shouldn’t roll with Suge.”
5. Asher Roth on Feeling Bad for Today’s Artists
During hip hop’s blog era, rappers relied on music sites to promote their music. Today, it’s no secret that streaming and social media are today’s bread and butter for artists. But some have questioned whether today’s music is too fleeting. Moreover, it seems like rappers are pressured to constantly put out new music to stay in the spotlight. On “Drink Champs,” Roth said he sympathizes with today’s rappers because of how challenging it can be to stay on top.
“How do you expect to energetically, spiritually, physically reinvigorate yourself to put out something of value and substance every six months?” Roth said. “I feel bad for everybody in the game right now.”
6. Mickey Factz on Hip Hop Taking Over the World
In nearly half a century, hip hop has evolved from a regional genre to now being the sound of mainstream. On “Drink Champs,” Factz talked about hip hop’s growth and explained that he recognized that it was evolving when he was tapped by Honda to be the spokesperson for one of their campaigns in 2009.
“From that, I knew hip hop was going to go further because it rules the world,” he said. “It dictates everything. Everything is revolving our language, they way we dress, the way we speak. When you go [overseas], they love us and they embrace it. We take it for granted.”
7. Mickey Factz on his Beef with Wale
Before they were both named XXL freshmen, Factz and Wale had plans to collaborate on a song together. But, Factz explained that Wale never followed through to make it happen. From there, Factz released a song called “Sublime” where he took a jab at the D.C. rapper. “Wale took offense to that,” Factz said. “He hears the record, calls me and starts barking on me. [And] bangs on me.”
Factz said he tried to make amends with Wale at the photoshoot for the XXL cover, but his advances were shot down. “He was being ultra-friendly with everyone [else],” he said. “Cudi, Wale and Charles formed an alliance…and it was awkward. So, Wale refused to be in any shots with me.”
But according to Factz, the pair ultimately reconciled a couple years later after Wale called and apologized. “He spun the block and apologized to me,” he said. “We don’t have any beef anymore. We talk here and there. Shout out to him.”
8. Mickey Factz on Joe Budden and Raekwon’s Infamous Altercation
In 2009, after criticizing Method Man’s placement on Vibe magazine’s best rappers list, Joe Budden found himself in an altercation with Meth’s fellow Wu-Tang cohort, Raekwon. Shortly thereafter, during the L.A. stop of the Rock the Bells hip hop festival, Rae pressed Joe about his comments and one of his associates purportedly punched Budden in the face. From there, Budden went on a livestream and detailed what happened. Factz, who was present during the altercation, received flack from hip hop fans for not helping Budden at the time. But on “Drink Champs,” he got the chance to explain his side of the story.
“[Budden] gets hit. I’m thinking something just fell in the room,” he said. “And I don’t be fighting like that in real life. And [Joe] wasn’t my man like that. And he didn’t swing back. People be saying I should have fought, but [Raekwon] is someone that I grew up listening to. I’m enamored being in his presence.”
9. Mickey Factz on Receiving Criticism for Embracing the Internet
Later in the interview, Factz explained the criticism that he and his peers received in the industry for embracing the Internet during their rise to fame. At the time, “blog rap” was a pejorative term used by older generations of hip hop listeners. “Nobody was on the Internet,” Factz said. “When we was doing it, they was calling us nerds. We lived that shit. We birthed everything that everybody is doing now. At the end of the day, everybody owes us and who was on the cover because we started the shit. We were the sacrificial lambs.”