“State of the Culture” is the show you turn on to hear unfiltered, unapologetic, gritty opinions in regards to topics within hip hop culture — whether you agree with what’s being said or not. Joe Budden, Remy Ma, Jinx, and Eboni K. Williams aren’t here to hold your hand in their debates and sugarcoat their words. They’re here to say what everyone else is afraid of saying, and do so with no hesitation. From talking about music, politics, sports and everything in between; the hosts never hold back. Welcome to “State of the Culture.”
This week, “State Of The Culture” is paying tribute to the late great Andre Harrell. The mogul, who passed away unexpectedly last week, was transformational not only in giving Diddy his big break, but also in elevating black culture across music, film, fashion and more. He discovered some of the biggest hip hop and R&B artists including Mary J. Blige, Jodeci and Heavy D. He was also a producer on “State Of The Culture” and vice chairman of REVOLT Media & TV. So, the show’s panel reflects on the moments they shared with Harrell, the gems he dropped, and the legacy he left that will live on forever. We also chopped it up about a few more topics from this week, as well, including the epic Verzuz battle between Nelly and Ludacris.
In celebration of Harrell’s life and legacy, we welcomed former SOTC executive producer Lyric Perez to the show. She says his vision for the show was to make it the hip hop version of “The View” and that he was constantly working toward elevating the brand.
Jinx remembers the late exec “smiling all the time,” and that he was constantly trying to bring out the best in him. “He had that ability to give you medicine disguised as sugar,” Jinx shares. “He elicits respect, but doesn’t demand it. He does it by giving.”
Remy met Harrell numerous times throughout her career, but remembers first forming a relationship with him during the casting of SOTC. She remembers his humble energy. “He never walked around like this big shot,” says Remy. “Nothing flashy, ever. He really cared about what he was doing.” She also appreciated his dedication to the show and the fact that he would fly in every week from Los Angeles for the filming of the show. “I try to be more like him by walking in the room with a smile and giving people information that may help them in life,” she says.
Eboni is the newest on SOTC, but her memories of Harrell are ones she says she’ll have forever. After initially meeting him at REVOLT Summit in Atlanta, he congratulated her and the cast on the episode where they discussed the Teddy Riley vs. Babyface battle. “That was the first episode that commanded that level of feedback,” Eboni says. “It was a reminder that you’re only as good as the last s**t you did...As we continue to do this show, that will be my goal. I want to feel like I’m eliciting that level of love and feedback from Andre every episode.”
Joe admits he was dreading the tribute episode because of how hard the loss of Harrell hit him, but thanks his co-hosts for lightening the heaviness. Joe met Harrell numerous times in his career, but grew a closer bond and appreciation for the mogul once they began to work together on SOTC. “I learned quickly some of the things that helped him get far in life,” he says. “Dre within minutes was able to tell someone their strong and not so strong points. I say not so strong points because Dre never addressed them as weak points. He always addressed these things as areas that need work.” Joe also speaks to the bond Harrell had with his son Gianni, and why he felt their relationship is a model for fatherhood. “As someone who is a father, I imagine that’s what fulfillment is like if I’m in my final hours. To be proud not only of what I’ve done on earth, but proud of the legacy I leave behind for my children and where my son is going.” Gratefully, Joe finds solace in the fact that he utilized every opportunity to bend Harrell’s ear for his opinion. He also says he gave Harrell his roses while he was here, revealing, “There’s not a time where me and Dre spoke where I didn’t communicate just how high on the pedestal I had him.”
One of the greatest aspects of the mogul’s legacy was that it spanned in multiple art forms — some many didn’t even know about until recently. For one, Joe was surprised that the Uptown Records founder produced the ‘90s cop drama “New York Undercover.” Remy was delighted to learn Harrell was also an artist as one half of the hip hop duo Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. “He would be a rapper that wears a suit and tie,” she joked. “It makes perfect sense. I couldn’t picture him with the whole B-boy thing.”
Eboni researched and discovered that Harrell actually went to school to be a newscaster. “I thought it made sense because he did spend his whole career messaging,” she says. “It’s the same thing.” She also brings up the great point that Diddy became the industry force that he is because Harrell proactively terminated him, so that he could go on and found his own company: Bad Boy Records.
Overall, the SOTC tribe honors Harrell for his guts to forge ahead with unorthodox choices and succeed in breaking through the clutter. “If you look at his [Uptown] roster, he’s a man of many firsts,” says Remy. “[He gave] Jessica Alba her first starring role and Halle Berry her first co-starring role...a lot of people are scared to step out on a limb.”
After chopping it up about Harrell, the SOTC fam had a little time to dig into some other topics from this past week like the Nelly vs. Ludacris battle. Joe informs us that there was rumored beef between Nelly and Ludacris during their come ups, which makes this battle all the more interesting. “They both made anthems, albeit differently,” he says. Eboni points out the differences between Ludacris and Nelly by saying Luda did his thing through a “comedic lens” while Nelly was more of a sex symbol. Rehashing the Verzuz battle between Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott, Remy was a little perturbed by the length of time it went on saying “ain’t that much incense and sage in the world.”