Do you remember the days before the internet? There was a time when communication between people took much longer. Information took days, weeks, and months to circulate sometimes before ‘everybody’ knew what was going on. The only viral videos of the day were bootleg movies, and not Hollywood blockbuster movies, but underground movies like Master P’s – Bout It Bout It or Shades of Hip Hop video mixtapes.
Back in the late 1990’s, the only place to see emcees in their natural habitat; like the studio, or on the block was on a Shades of Hip Hop VHS tape. Back then, we were the only ones to show the all natural, uncensored, raw side of Hip Hop from behind the scenes. And just like regular life, it was more grimy and less polite or professional. It looked like the normal video you can find anywhere on YouTube today.
It was Noreaga, of CNN fame, who described Shades of Hip Hop, in one of my favorite ways.
“It’s a star-studded joint and it’s that real Hip Hop. It’s just like Shades of Hip Hop… Keep that same shit that you known for. Y’all known for muhfuckas gettin on your shit an be like muhfucka, fuck, shit, bitch, muhfucka suck dick. Y’all known for that shit…When niggas see a Shades of Hip Hop tape, me personally, I wanna hear a a nigga cursin’ on y’all shit. I don’t wanna hear y’all niggas get preppie. I like y’all niggas to be raw. Straight critical, you know what I’m sayin? Straight thuggish, ruggish, that’s what I like.” – Nore
It seems awkward now to have received accolades for bringing raw, uncensored reality to hip-hop music videos in the 1990’s through Shades of Hip Hop documentaries, but it was our personal claim to fame at the time. What I called ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage, actually became the dominant form of hip-hop video today. Today, the biggest viral videos are not professionally shot so much as they are raw, uncensored reality. The reason is that reality is more interesting than fantasy and much more accessible. If you have access to a video camera, like I did back in the 1990’s, and like most people do now, because of phone technology, you start to record all the things around you. And for whatever reason, the raw shit always catches the attention more intensely.
One of the things I will never forget about the Hit Factory shoot was that Nore, Kid Capri, 50 Cent, Consequence, Punchline and Trackmasters smoked up the other 7 Backwoods cigars I bought while we shot the interview. It was funny because before we even got started, Nore asked me if I had a blunt. I was like “yeah” and handed him the pack of Backwoods thinking he was gonna filter through it looking for the lightest color one like me and my people usually did. Instead, he kinda strong armed me for the whole rest of the 8 pack (smoked one on the way to NYC) and didn’t give it back to me. He handed it off and told somebody to roll the rest of them. At first I felt like they were a room full of dudes I never met before, other than Kid Capri, and they were trying to play me because they didn’t feel like making a store run for blunts. On a subliminal level, I was a little pissed because I thought I got beat for a whole pack of blunts, but as it turned out, that was the most worth-it pack of Backwoods I ever bought in my life (no hyperbole). Right away, Nore began to compare his new solo album to what we did on Shades of Hip Hop…
As I watch the master video now, it’s mostly Nore that I see smoking. However, I know other people smoked off-camera, even though we didn’t until after we left and came back to Jersey. Still, in all, me, Shel and GBR were very much satisfied when we were finally able to sit down and smoke, looking back over the night’s footage.