Gunnin’ For that Number One Spot
Brooklyn MC Red Cafe is ready to put Bad Boy on his back.
Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
When you think of Brooklyn MCs, the following characteristics come to mind: grittiness, confidence and a certain bravado that has historically taken them to the top of the game.
Bad Boy signee and Brooklyn bred rapper Red Cafe embodies all of these traits to a ‘T’.
Compared to his previous release Above the Cloudz, Hell’s Kitchen is another step toward Red’s ultimate goal of creating and perfecting his own unique sound. His growth between projects is undeniable. From his first breakout single, “Paper Touchin’”, to Hell’s Kitchen, Red has done it all himself in an attempt to concoct a variation of that classic New York sound. “I never had an A&R or a producer, I always produced and A&R’d my own records,” reflects Red. “I didn’t want [my sound] to sound like the other gangs in New York—like the G-Unit’s or The L.O.X. or Dipset—I didn’t want it to sound like them, I wanted to have my own sound. [Over time] it was figuring it out, and I think I’ve found it.”
With his latest release, fans will get to a chance to hear his growth and versatility. Tracks like, “Fly Together” and “Let it Go” are classic Red Cafe joints—songs built for radio with flashy lyrics and catchy hooks laced over high quality production. Hell’s Kitchen is full of traditional Red Cafe headbangers but, it’s on “Can You Hear Me” where he steps out of his lane and shows his prowess and ability to make a deeper, more honest song. He touches on subjects ranging from family, the superficiality of the industry and religion—a far cry from his “Paper Touchin’’” days. “I made sure to keep a balance to keep up with what’s current and also give an official hip-hop sound that people fell in love with at the beginning,” says Red. “You’re going to get honesty. My motto is to remain honest with my music.”
Red is the General of the current Bad Boy team; he has been battling for years and knows what it takes to get to the top of the game. He considers himself the underdog and has scratched and clawed his way to his current position. So, it’s no surprise that his favorite player of all time is Isiah Thomas. “Isiah Thomas, he was an underdog to me,” says Red. “He worked hard and he didn’t have much size but he worked hard and carried his team and just made it happen… I’ve been active and have been doing this for over seven years without putting out an album, but I’m out here sparring with the best.”
His favorite player may be Zeke, but his versatility is more reminiscent of Magic Johnson. Need a song for the clubs? Go see Red. Need a hard anthem for the streets? Holler at Red. Need a standout guest verse for your next single? Red’s got it on lock. “I could play any position,” he boasts. “I’m usually the leader.”
And with a talented, but very green Bad Boy team, Diddy will need him to step up and show the younger guys how it’s done. He is the hard-nosed veteran who leads by example and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. “I’m doing a 150-plus shows a year, [fellow Bad Boy artist] Machine Gun Kelly is doing a tour where he’s going 99 shows in 105 days… French Montana, same thing, 150 shows… In between those shows… we gotta be traveling… in the studio… we gotta be in the press… make time for family and yourself… All of that, that says a lot about you—you’re really working hard.”
With his penchant for hard work and gritty background, it doesn’t come as a surprise that some of Red’s favorite teams were the Bad Boy Pistons and the ‘90s Knicks. The hardcore New York fan believes that this current team needs to take a page from their predecessors book and start showing some toughness. “When you’re the bad boy and you beat the team before they even step on the court, that’s what it’s all about. Mentally, the other team has gotta think ‘I don’t even want to play against them dudes!’”, says a riled up Red. “Teams didn’t want to play against Dennis Rodman, no one wanted to play against Lambieer or Oakley or Anthony Mason! It’s gotta get back to that, these dudes are getting easy checks…They’re [current players] out there modeling!”
But, Red does see some promise for the Knicks with the addition of JR Smith and the current play of Jeremy Lin. “JR Smith is going to get the whole team fired up and that’s what you need,” says Red, his passion for the team becoming more and more apparent. “After they figure it out, teams won’t want to see the Knicks in the Playoffs… We have a mob and now they just need to be confident. We got a leader now with Jeremy Lin… That’s what I always said we needed… It didn’t matter that we had Melo and STAT, now we have a leader in Lin.”
Just like the Knicks, Red is trying to propel his own team back to the top. It has been over a decade since Bad Boy was the premier label in hip-hop, but with their current roster, they have a realistic shot at taking their rightful spot at the top. Red is leading by example and doing it the old-fashioned way—with hard work and consistency. “A lot of kids out there, they have never experienced the Bad Boy legacy when it was what it was,” reflects Red. “What you can expect is us to go out and work hard we’re going to bring the trophy home. I promise you that.”