Cipha Sounds & Peter Rosenberg Break Down 10 Classic Juan Epstein Moments

Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

Hot 97 morning show hosts/DJs Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg aren’t new to the podcast game. Juan Epstein, named after the Puerto Rican and Jewish character from the popular ‘70s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (Cipha Sounds is Puerto Rican, Peter Rosenberg is Jewish, get it?), started out in late 2007 as a public way for the odd couple to document their new on-air relationship and friendship. As Rosenberg described it in his first Juan Epstein post on his website, “It’s simply Cipha and I bullshitting on a variety of topics.” They’d bond over their love of hip-hop and comedy, discuss their personal lives, and of course, bicker about working together at Hot 97.

Over the years, Ciph and Rosenberg began to invite guests on to the Juan Epstein podcast, ranging from hip-hop stars to comedians to co-workers to at times even interns at the station. And slowly but surely, it became one of the premiere podcasts for hip-hop heads, featuring in-depth, off the cuff interviews with everyone from Jay Z to MCA of the Beastie Boys (RIP) to their latest guest Danny Brown. And don’t sleep on their comedy guests, too. Dudes like Bill Burr, Jim Gaffigan, Paul Mooney, and Keenan Ivory Wayans have all done the show.

Me, well, I’ve been a fan of the podcast since the jump. See, Peter Rosenberg and I went to college together at the University of Maryland in the late ‘90s, and used to cross paths at the campus radio station, WMUC. He was a DJ who had his own late night hip-hop show, and I was an aspiring rapper who would come up to the station to spit. There was always a mutual respect, and over the years, we became friends, stayed in touch, and supported each other’s endeavors. And I can proudly say that I’ve been listening to Juan Epstein since the first episode.

I’m very thankful for the looks both Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg have given me over the years. In fact, it was Ciph who was the first person to play one of my Stan Ipcus songs, “My Ferris Buellers,” on Hot 97. And my friend Matisyahu and I even did the intro for their morning show, which aired regularly during the first few months they were on from 5-7am. And Rosenberg has always repped for me, playing numerous Stan Ipcus cuts on his Real Late show, and he has also supported my work here at NahRight.

Being that I am now five months deep into my position as the NahRight features editor, and Ciph and Rosenberg are in the midst of an unprecedented Juan Epstein run, dropping multiple awesome episodes a week (they just cracked the Top 50 podcasts list on iTunes), I felt it was the right time to reach out and ask them to break down some of the most classic Juan Epstein moments from their extremely deep archives. And they kindly obliged, running through highlights from their podcast’s history in typical loose, random, unorganized Juan Ep fashion. Some they came up with on their own, and others came from fans on Twitter, and I threw a couple in the mix too, being the Stan that I am. And they even turned our discussion into an official Juan Epstein episode!!

Check out 10 Classic Juan Epstein Moments that were extracted from our hour and a half retrospective session below, as remembered by Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg themselves, and then indulge in the full, raw, uncut audio at the bottom for even more memories.

1. Jay Z Responds to Text about E.T. During Aziz Ansari Interview

Cipha Sounds: That’s maybe one of the top ones. Top three.

Peter Rosenberg: Because of the randomness of it.

CS: The randomness of it, the cultural impact of it.

PR: Thousands of people now don’t fuck with E.T.

CS: We fact checked it. Live.

PR: Jay Z’s very active on email, apparently. He responds instantly. He said, “Fuck E.T.?”

CS: “That shit’s wack.”

PR: We started talking [to Aziz] about hanging out with Jay Z [since he’s in the “Otis” video with him and Kanye], and we talked about some hangout where they talked about watching movies somehow. And E.T. came up, and how Jay Z was like, “Yo, fuck E.T.

CS: I have Jay Z’s text. It’s either I get a response instantly, or days later. So I gave it a twirl, gave it a shot. He responded right away, and said, “That shit is wack.” Something like, “Watch it, and get back to me.”

PR: And didn’t he say he liked Short Circuit better?

CS: Yeah, he said, “Now Johnny Number 5, that’s my shit.” [Laughs.]

2. Busta Rhymes Makes a Guest Appearance with Redman and Method Man

PR: That was pretty tight, because we did a full interview with Red and Meth, and then Busta showed up. This pre-dates the time Busta came in [for his own Juan Epstein interview], and when Busta came in, it was a little weird, because it was post-Nicki Minaj [Summer Jam drama].

CS: No it wasn’t.

PR: Yes it was. Remember him and Ebro went out in the hallway and had a whole conversation?

CS: Oh, wow.

PR: The second time when he came in, it was post-Nicki. So the Red and Meth and Busta was pre- all that shit.

CS: But wasn’t there something awkward, because wasn’t there something with him and Red?

PR: I don’t think so.

CS: Remember that? There’s this unspoken hip-hop rumor, like him and Red kind of have this ill, energetic, stage-murdering competition.

PR: I didn’t even think about it in that context.

CS: And how they say Redman slightly dissed him on that, “I invented that raow raow shit.” That’s supposed to be a jab to Busta.

PR: Yo, every once in a while this guy just busts out some shit that I didn’t even think about.

CS: They say there’s little jabs in that track [that they did together after the supposed “Pick it Up” diss.]

PR: “Da Goodness?”

CS: They say there’s little jabs towards each other. Like some Pacino, De Niro shit. Someone told us after [the interview] that there was that little drama. It was kind of weird when he came in.

PR: There was a weird energy.

CS: But think about a time that you’ve ever seen Red and Busta together.

PR: “Steppin’ It Up” by A Tribe Called Quest. [And] “Flipmode Squad [Meets] Def Squad” [on Busta’s first album].

CS: I don’t even know that song. [Laughs.]

3. Fight over Gift for Latarian Milton

CS: I don’t like that.

PR: It was real for Ciph. You’re like the wrestling guy in that video that’s like, “It’s still real to me, damnit.” Me and Ciph had probably our realest fight we’ve ever had, and it played out on Juan Epstein, about Latarian Milton, who was a fixture on the show. And Ciph volunteered to buy him a present.

CS: A [Nintendo] Wii.

PR: That’s the problem. At first, you didn’t say that. You said, “I’m buying you a present.” And this is a classic example of us not knowing each other very well [when we first started the show]. And I go, “I’m in. I’ll also buy [the gift].” He’s like, “Awesome.” Ciph comes back a day later, he’s like, “Yo, I bought this kid a Wii, give me half the money now.” And I’m like, “You bought him a Wii? I’m not pitching in that much for a fucking Wii.” And in Ciph’s mind, he’s like, “You fucking two-faced piece of shit. You just said you were going to give half.”

Now here’s the extra part that I probably couldn’t express at the time. I legitimately, at that point in time, probably had $3,000 in my life, total! In my bank account. I was so new to making a salary, so when Ciph’s like, “Just hand me $150,” [I’m like], “I’ve never handed anyone $150. You’re wildin’ out.”

CS: This is where the N-word should’ve came in. “Yo my nigga, I’m kinda broke right now.”

PR: [Laughs.] I couldn’t use it!

CS: That’s where the N-word comes in [handy]. “Yo my nigga, I’m kinda broke right now.” Then I would’ve been like, “Aiight, cool.” But you went back on your word to me.

PR: That’s the thing. I didn’t know how to communicate with him. So my way of communicating was like, “What?!?!” And by the way, Ciph at that point was so dramatic about anything. I forget what the line was, but it was basically like, “I know everything I need to know about you.” [Laughs.]

CS: [Laughs.]

PR: I’m like, “That’s it?! That’s our whole relationship?!”

CS: I still base a lot of it on that. [Laughs.]

PR: He still says things all the time, like, “You can’t trust him.” And in my mind, I’m like, “He’s thinking about the Wii.”

CS: [Laughs.]

PR: But the best part about him being sensitive is that I came in the next day, because I felt bad that it had gotten that serious, that I went and got the money, showed up, and handed it over. And he went, “I don’t want your fucking money.” And he wouldn’t take it. So then we just had to sit there and wait it out. It probably took about a month or two of just like feeling weird until it went away. We were still working, doing the podcast.

CS: It was principle, I guess. It went too far. [But at the time, I didn’t take his money] because it was fake.

PR: But I meant it. At that point, I really listened to him a lot. I don’t know why, but he’s older than me, he knew better, and I really sincerely was like, “No, you’re probably right. Take the money. I’m probably being wrong.” I really did mean it, but I get why it didn’t seem like it was being real.

CS: No, no. It did seem like it was real. You seemed remorseful, and genuine after. But I was too stubborn back then.

PR: You were in your feelings, man!

CS: Still, to this day, those drops, though. “I wanna do hoodrat stuff with my friends.”

PR: People still love those.

4. Snoop’s Story About Nas and 2Pac Meeting

PR: Snoop stories on Juan Epstein have always been amazing. The one with Nas in the park [with 2Pac]? There was some award show in town. What had happened?

CS: I don’t remember. [Laughs.]

PR: The story was that while their beef was starting to escalate, Snoop set up a meeting between Nas and 2Pac in [Central] Park in New York.

CS: To squash it?

PR: Yeah, to make it cool.

CS: Was Makaveli already out?

PR: No, Makaveli came out after he died.

CS: But he dissed Nas on there.

PR: Makaveli might’ve been recorded earlier.

Dominican Drew: They went to the park, and Nas and 2pac squashed it before they died. Like, right before he died.

CS: So he didn’t get a chance to change the record. It was already recorded. But then they squashed the beef, and then Pac turns to Snoop and says, “We got these Queens niggas shook.”

PR: Snoop was probably like, “Aiight, chill.” We always get great stuff from Snoop.

CS: We had Snoop right after Nate [Dogg] passed away. And they told us, “Don’t talk about Nate.” And the whole shit is about Nate.

PR: I think Snoop’s a three-timer.

CS: Maybe. It’s a menage a Snoop. A Snoop a tois.

PR: We had Snoop with Daz.

CS: That was that day. It was like therapy for him. Everybody was nervous to talk to him about it. He was obviously upset about it. And we didn’t go, “So, what’s up with Nate Dogg’s death!?” You know, we did it like fans, and like, how sad we were.

PR: We did it as a family! It’s family when Snoop’s here! I think of all the rap relationships I have, and I’m not saying Snoop and I are close by any means, because we’re not. But just the fact that he knows us the way he does, and gives us what he gives, is arguable the most, like, best things we have.

CS: He’s never called me. You spoke to him on the phone.

PR: He’s called me once. “Heelloo!”

CS: He’s never called me or arranged anything with me, but when he sees me, you can see genuine love. Like excitement, like, “Oh, that’s my nephew.”

PR: He’s always like, “Nephews.” And obviously, he calls everyone nephew, but we actually treat him in a way that’s like that. It’s kinda gay now that I think about it. Everyone falls into that relationship. I love it. I wonder if I call him now if it would go straight to voicemail. Do you think the number I have for him still works?

CS: It’s not that hard to get him [for an interview], it’s just hard to get through the handlers.

PR: That’s the best thing about our gig, and what makes Juan Epstein the best hip-hop podcast of all time, is that Hot 97, for the most part—there are some people that still we don’t get—but for the most part, Hot 97 has a way of chopping through all the bullshit, because the relationship’s been here for so long.

5. Large Professor Discussing How He Introduced Nas to Rakim

PR: People really loved the Large Professor Juan Epstein.

CS: Yeah, that one’s sick.

PR: People [on Twitter when I asked for their favorite Juan Ep moments] pointed out that Large Professor introduced Nas to Rakim [on our show].

CS: We didn’t know Carmen was his cousin. Nas’ baby mom. And what’s the guy that died? Paul C? The producer?

PR: Yeah, we got all the Paul C info that day. I do this very geeky thing on Juan Epstein occasionally, where when the moment’s getting unearthed [like when Large Pro said he introduced Nas to Rakim], now Ciph does this too, we stop and we’re like, ‘There it is! A moment!’ We just had one with G Rap. G Rap gave us a few.

CS: But G Rap filled in a piece of the Nas story.

PR: You’re gonna have to wait for it, but G Rap plays a major [part] there. There’s two things to listen to in the G Rap one. One [is] that, the piece of the Nas puzzle. And two, the fact that we got G Rap, who is in everyone’s Top 5 favorite MCs, Top 10 for sure, I mean everyone who’s an MC, ever, he gave us, in no order, his Top 10 MCs. Rappers never know them, and he actually like counted it off relatively quickly. At the end, he was like, “How many am I at?” And there are a couple omissions that are going to lead to some conversation.

6. Ghostface Discussing How He Wears Many Layers of Clothing

CS: I still, to this day, if I put on a t-shirt, a shirt, a hoodie, and a jacket, I go, “This is from the scrambin’ days.” [Laughs.]

PR: The scrambling days! [Laughs.] I’m pretty sure I asked [him about] that, and I take a lot of pride [in asking him about that], because I’ve always made fun of Ghostface wearing [many layers of clothes], because the first time I ever interviewed him, he was wearing at least two sweatshirts and two jackets.

CS: [Laughs.] And then, his Champion sweatshirts are mad baggy. It’s just material, just covered in leather, fuckin’ smushed in there.

PR: And then someone told me, they were like, “Ghostface wears sweatpants under his pants every day.”

CS: That’s definitely some hood, drug dealer shit. ‘Cause you have the shit in your sweatpants pocket underneath.

PR: But if they’re searching you, they’re like, “Why are you wearing a second pair of pants?”

CS: The cold part of it is [more obvious]. But he’s saying in the summertime he’s wearing…

PR: Pants under his pants. Which is fucking amazing.

CS: But standing outside on the corner is where the layers come from. That’s what he means, “The scrambling days.” You’ve got extra pockets to hide shit, you’re staying warm.

PR: Listen, if there was a gun to your head, and someone goes, “They’re killing all the rappers! You have to save one!” There’s a chance Ghostface pops in my heads, and I’m just like, “I’ll just take Ghostface!” He’ll cover everything if I need one.

7. Patrice O’Neal Episode Recorded Right Before his Untimely Death

PR: Without a shadow of the doubt, one of the most epic and most tragic moments in Juan Epstein [history] is the Patrice O’Neal final hurrah.

CS: Ughhh.

PR: [It was] within a week or two [of when he died].

CS: He passed later, but he had the stroke, and then he was pretty much gone. He came in to a promote a show [for] that weekend, we recorded on maybe like a Thursday or Wednesday. He had his shows that weekend, and I believe that Sunday, he [had a stroke].

PR: I believe it was his second to last interview. I think he did one other thing, but it might’ve just been [The Opie & Anthony Show], which he did all the time.

CS: I think he did O & A.

PR: I hadn’t even put it out when he [went into a] the coma. Then, I didn’t know what to do. At first, I thought he would come out. And then Ciph comes in one day and is like, “It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better.”

CS: Yeah. And [the episode] was all over the place. And he was arguing with [Kay] Foxx. So it was like, “Ehh, it’s not that good.” It was great, because we know how he talks. But we’ve had that before with him. It’s not, like, better than any of the other ones.

PR: He only did one other [podcast with us] appearance I think. But that one was cool because, yeah he focused on Kay Foxx a lot, but he ended up using a lot of his women theories, which is a big part of his schtick.

CS: Oh, of course. But you can go see him live, [he does] that all the time.

PR: True.

CS: So at the time, it was like, it’s not part of his act, but it’s similar. Sometimes he’ll go on stage and freestyle, and talk just like that. Having it the week before he past was like, “Oh shit.”

PR: But you assumed while we were doing it like I did that it was implicit that he would be here again.

CS: Yeah.

PR: This was just like [us] getting to know him better and better, and we’re gonna have him forever. I know he liked hanging out and doing our show, and knew he would be back. You knew him, you’ve known him for a minute.

CS: Like when that whole Haitian incident happened with me on the radio, he was the first one to call me, and talk to me for a long time. And I knew him pretty well, not [like a best friend though].

PR: It’s not like he was obligated to call, by any means.

CS: He was like, “Yo man, in this game, you run into difficulties. This is what I think is gonna happen. You let me know what happens. Don’t let that shit get you down, it’s not gonna stop you.” Just like, an hour of talking and having my back. And then, like on some comedian shit, “That’s what we do as comedians. We talk about shit. They can’t scold you for that.”

PR: That’s super cool that he called you. He was cool, man.

CS: Cool as shit.

8. Interviewing Legendary Producer Quincy Jones

PR: We had Quincy Jones for 36 minutes.

CS: Quincy Jones was dope.

PR: I didn’t know he produced for Paul Simon until then, which was a total brainfuck. I was like, “Whoooaaahl.” Music that I love from, in my brain, two different sides.

CS: Producing is different though, the way he does it.

PR: What do you mean?

CS: It’s not as prominent. Like we know a Pete Rock or Premier producer. Like, those type of producers [like Quincy Jones], they just get shit done.

PR: It could’ve just been that the music was already there, and he’s just there making it, pulling it together. But still the work happens.

CS: No, no, no, I’m not saying [he doesn’t deserve credit for what he did]. The reason we don’t know that he did a lot of stuff is because it’s not shouted like in hip-hop. “Yo, so and so produced this beat!”

PR: What’s Quincy Jones’ sound effect?

CS: [Laughs.] “Quincy on the beat, ho.”

PR: Quincy on the beat, ho!!! [Laughs.] “Braagggadooooo!!! Quincy!!!”

CS: [Laughs.] “Quincyyyy!!!”

PR:  [Laughs.] “Quincy Joooones!!!” That’s hilarious.

9. Traveling to Detroit to Interview Eminem

CS: That was our first traveling Juan Ep.

PR: And last.

CS: Our only traveling Juan Ep.

PR: It was cool. I wish we could do another one with him, because out of studio, you think it’s gonna be better, because, well A, it’s the only way we could do it. And I’m thrilled that we did it. And we got great shit out of it, too. But there’s something about this room.

CS: Nah, but Eminem, it’s like, before you even talk to him, you get the speech from three, four different people.

PR: And we had to keep saying, “Just trust us. Don’t worry about it. Just trust us.”

CS: “Don’t bring up this. Don’t bring up that.” We wanna fuckin’ talk about hip-hop, man. We don’t care about the drama with his wife, or drugs, or fuckin’, anything.

PR: But me and him argued about something, that was hilarious, on one of his songs. Remember? Him and I disagreed about something.

CS: I remember an argument.

PR: And afterwards, he made us go pull it up when we stopped. We took a break. He was like, “Can we take a break real quick?” So we took a break. And he was like, “You’re fucking wrong. I’m pulling this up right now.” I don’t remember what it was about. I think it was a lyric. I think it was specific wording that I remembered. And he was like, “No.” But that’s not the first time that’s happened with me. The first time I ever met Questlove, he would never remember this, but we got into an argument about something. He was like, “It’s my song.” And I was like, “I know. It’s crazy. It’s your song, and you’re wrong about it. I know better!”


PR: We traveled back the same day. We didn’t miss the show the next day.

CS: [If we did stay over], I wouldn’t share a room with him.

PR: No way he would ever share a room with me. Even to this day. Too much. Who’s on your list [of people you’ve shared a room with]? You’ve shared a room with Dominican Drew.

CS: I would share a room with a lot of people, just not you.

PR: Why? What would happen? Something weird and gay?

CS: Nah, I feel like you’re dirty.

PR: That’s nice. And racist.

CS: Just judging by like, your clothes sometimes.

PR: So you think I would just get in the room and just start filthing around.

CS: [Laughs.] Start taking his socks off…

PR: No care for [anyone], throw the shit on your bed.

CS: [Laughs.]

10. The Lost De La Soul Episode

CS: My top one. The main one we ever did. Dave Chappelle.

PR: Didn’t happen.

CS: De La Soul. [Laughs.] Posdnuos explained his name, which he never, ever, ever does. He was like, “Fuck it, you know what? I’m gonna tell y’all,” and explained Posdnuos. Um, just the fucking ill history. Nah, you know what, it’s gonna live in infamy.

PR: It’s gonna not live in infamy.

CS: The shit with meeting [A] Tribe [Called Quest], and going to the studio with Leaders [of the New School].

PR: Great fight stories.

CS: I still have a CD that says “De La Soul/Juan Ep.” And it has like five minutes on it or something.

PR: Is it possible to put it in another computer or something?

CS: No, I think it was so long that they switched the CDs, and we lost the first one. So we have the second one [with just the last five minutes on it].

PR: Yo, I want to give a big shout out to my man T-Storm, my man fifty grand. Always did a great job for us, EXCEPT FOR THAT! And the thing was, it was for the VH1 Hip Hop Honors, so they were all together.

CS: Yeah.

PR: That’s the hard part. They’re here. Mase is always here, pretty much.

CS: DJing, or whatever.

PR: Dave is rarely here. Posdnuos makes trips here. But having them all, just the three of them walk in here together [was special]. And we had an hour with them. But, if we put in the effort and reached out to them, [we could do it again].

CS: But it’s not gonna be the same.

PR: Why? I don’t remember what happened.

CS: But it was also new to us during Juan Ep.

PR: Maybe we’d do better this time.

CS: Maybe. You know what, I’m never gonna have them on [again].

PR: On principle, it’s dead.

CS: So the top one ever is that De La Soul.

PR: Sorry!

Listen: Juan Epstein Retrospective

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