Mixtape Memories: 5 Classic Redman Freestyles
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
In the ‘90s, street mixtapes played an integral role in how new music was released to hip-hop fans. Nowadays, we have the luxury of logging on to the Internet, and coming to sites like NahRight to hear what just dropped. But back then, you had to hit your neighborhood tape spot to get a hold of the new shit. Well, that’s if you were lucky enough to live in or close enough to an area that had one. And depending on the DJ, you might not only hear an unreleased song, but also an exclusive freestyle performed by your favorite rapper.
Enter Redman, Newark, New Jersey’s most blunted rapper, who dropped a series of classic albums in the early to mid-’90s, and also crushed the mixtape scene with ridiculously dope freestyle cuts for the biggest DJs in NYC. And when that Redman track was labeled a “freestyle,” he was actually freestyling. Though on occasion he may have mixed in a rehearsed verse, for the most part, Funk Doc was really going off the top of the dome. And the flows were fresh as fuck.
To set off our new Mixtape Memories feature series, we dug into the NahRight stash box to pull out five classic Redman freestyles, off joints by the most legendary mixtape DJs of all-time. Let’s get it on.
DJ Ron G featuring Redman “Off Da Hook Freestyle”
Ron G killed the mixtape scene with his innovative brand of hip-hop and R&B blends, but he did his thing with the exclusives, too. Old heads from the era may remember a crazy cut he had with The Notorious B.I.G., KRS-One, Raekwon, O.C., and Killa Sin titled “Stop The Breaks,” where B.I.G. kicked his now infamous verse proclaiming that he had “a shotty by the shower if you wanna shoot me while I’m shittin’.”
In 1995, Ron G dropped Off Da Hook, a hip-hop mix that started extended freestyle by Redman himself. Off the chocolate thai and chronic combo, Reggie Noble blacked out with a vicious verse over an original Ron G production, flexing his ability to freestyle flow on hardcore tracks like none other.
DJ Doo Wop featuring Redman, Keith Murray, and Kel Vicious “‘95 Live Pt. 2 Freestyle”
Doo Wop is one of the first DJs to release tapes jam-packed with multiple exclusive freestyle recordings. And on ‘95 Live Part Two, Wop rounded up everyone from Mobb Deep to Smif-N-Wessun to contribute with never-before heard freestyle joints. One of the highlights of the tape undoubtedly was Def Squad representatives Redman and Keith Murray exchanging bars over their big homies EPMD’s classic “You’re a Customer” instrumental, with Keith’s boy Kel Vicious in the cipher too. This is as raw as it gets.
DJ Tony Touch featuring Redman “Power Cypha 2 Freestyle”
Tony Toca followed up his first Power Cypha, which featured 50 MCs spitting exclusive verses and freestyles, with an even more potent installment in ‘97, giving a new crop of 50 bar-barians the chance to do their thing over the hottest beats from the time period. On the second side of the mixtape, Redman stepped up to the plate, and instead of recording a rehearse verse, he spazzed off the dome over Jeru The Damaja’s DJ Premier-produced “Ya’ Playin Yaself” instrumental, rapping, “I roll down in the Land and I get, ecstasy, mess with me, ya testin’ the, original Joe Pesci, get wetter than jet skis, flex steez.” Now that’s how you rock the mic, youngins.
DJ Stretch Armstrong and Puff Daddy featuring Redman “Bad Boy Mixtape Volume 3 Freestyle”
Ahhhhh, a Redman freestyle on a Stretch Armstrong and Bad Boy mixtape over a classic Fugees beat featuring Puff Daddy ad-libs. Does it get more ‘90s than this? Find out “How Many Mics” Redman rips on the daily below. And also how many blunts he smokes. This is that spaaaaced ouuuut shit. Yup.
Mister Cee featuring Redman “Freestyle Live at Russell Simmons’ Phat Jam”
Mister Cee was the first mixtape DJ to start doing “Best of” projects with East Coast artists, starting off with the infamous Best of Biggie tape. He continued the series with The Best of Redman, which featured classic Reggie Noble solo songs and collaborations, and some unreleased gems, like “I’m Getting Blunted,” and “Milky” with Hurricane G and Erick Sermon. And to start the tape off, he blessed us with a live freestyle recording from Russell Simmons’ Phat Jam, where Reggie Noble bodied the break-beat at hand with ferocious bars, proving that whether onstage or in the booth, he was not to be fucked with. Word is bond.
Check out a video clip of the Phat Jam performance below.