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Kareem “Biggs” Burke Speaks: Talks The Roc & Living Out 'Reasonable Doubt'

Ralph Bristout

 // Mar 30, 2016

Jayohh // REVOLT

As someone who is often referred to as the “silent partner of the Roc,” the excitement behind Kareem “Biggs” Burke’s appearance on Elliott Wilson and B. Dot’s Rap Radar Podcast today (March 30) is no surprise. After all, this is someone who, from his time as co-founder of Roc-A-Fella to more recently, has done more business deals than actual interview sit-downs. So in finally breaking his silence, Hoffa gave the world a rare moment in his sit-down, which ranged from his new clothing line, Fourth of November, to the birth of Roc-A-Fella, Reasonable Doubt, and so much more.

With so many gems to sift through, here are a couple notable standouts that will either have you playing back Reasonable Doubt or gaining a newfound respect for the almighty Roc.

A Trip To The Mike Tyson Vs. Peter McNeely Fight Inspired “Can I Live”

“I started wearing Iceberg, I think in ’94, so Jay and Dame and a couple other guys got on it, probably around in about ’95 and we went to the first Tyson fight when he just came home from jail to fight McNeely and that’s actually where the song “Can I Live” came from."

Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt track #8 Can I Live
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"When he said, “At the Tyson fight, same night same fight” and that’s where Emory got his name Vegas, Vegas Jones, during that same trip. That’s where the line started getting a lot of notoriety at that time and Jay would put it in songs after that.”

Disrespect From Iceberg Clothing Led To Rocawear

"We went there to try to get some product to put in a video and they turned us down. So they were like, “No we’re not giving you anything.” That led to us going to do Rocawear on our own."

Meeting Dame Dash in Harlem

“There was crew called The Best Out, that my brother was a part of and then I became a part of that, so I was actually the youngest one in the crew. So all my friends are probably two, three years older than me and I was probably 14 at the time and I met Dame on 142nd Street on my man block. That all came through my brother."

Believed in Jay Z After Famous DMX Rap Battle

"In the beginning when Dame was managing Jay, Jay rapped fast. The things that he talked about, I couldn’t really relate to [because] it was more technical and skillful rapper at that time. But it was any the battle with DMX that me and my brother Bob really was like, ‘Wow this dude is dope.’ When he talked about money dancing on the ceiling and all that and rat-tat-tat dough. So that battle was legendary."

Big L Had Footage Of The Legendary Jay Z Vs. DMX Rap Battle

"Big L had the footage. [He] was the one taping it. So that little bit of the footage that we had in “Backstage,” that came from Big L. [He] was there taping it."

Experiences On The “In My Lifetime” Video

“We flew down to St. Thomas, still at that time it wasn’t any deal so it wasn’t a single deal until we got back. So I got my family’s house in St. Thomas. Emory bought the whole island out of champagne. He bought every Cristal and Don P on the island, so if you see a few bottles of Moet in the video it’s because that’s all they had left. We just had a great time, it was all about the support.”

“Even when we did the “In My Lifetime (Remix),” same thing. Everybody just coming by, two to three cases of Cristal and just coming to support the video.”

Ma$e Originally Appeared On "Dead Presidents"

"Probably at that time, I believe he had “Coming of Age” done. That was probably the oldest song on the album. “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” I picked the beat for that. Knobody produced that. I remember picking that in front of 1199 at Dame’s. Jay didn’t like it at first. Then we had “Dead Presidents” that Ma$e was rapping on at first and I didn’t like the way his voice sounded on it. He was rhyming over it. Nobody heard it."

Tone Hooker (of Original Flavor) Came Up with Roc-A-Fella Name

"Tone Hooker came up with that name. Tone was a part of Original Flavor so he gave him the name. He gave the name before I actually had something to do with it. It was like 'Rock a fella,' you know like when you battle, and plus 'Rockefeller' obviously being the notoriety for being rich and that lifestyle kind of played on both of that."

20 Years of Reasonable Doubt and The Roc

“It’s crazy, I still can’t believe it. My son is about to be 20-years-old and all these memories are starting to come back. I remember having him and walking him in the office. 20 years, so much has happened since then. I mean Jay has taken things to another level, things that we started and everybody is kind of moving on their own now and doing great."

"Not only that, all the guys that we kind of raised in the music, so everybody that worked for us is either vice president or president at different record labels or music companies. I’m just happy for everybody. Even the street team, I’m looking at now they have real estate companies and things like that. So every time I run into somebody and hear about what’s going on, it’s really good the place that everybody is in right now."

The “Dead Presidents” Roundtable Featured Real Money

“I think we probably brought out about $200,000 and we had real money. I remember Biggie eyes opening like, “These guys ain’t put out an album yet, where they getting this” [Laughs]. And if you notice, all our videos back then, it was always closed bottles of Cristal and then we’d make sure they [were] opened by the end of the video because a lot of people, they had to take those bottles back.”

Roc-A-Fella Was Built On Authenticity

“It was real important because that’s what we were really selling. People were buying into what we were really living. It wasn’t something that we were just talking about. We went through Atlanta right before dropped the album and I mean we made so much noise that by the time we came out, people were like, ‘Oh man, I really remember. They were really doing what they said they were doing.’ So at that time we really had to show that. It was authenticity.” He put in a lot of work and people don’t understand that. Jay put in so much work and it took so many years to get to that point to just Reasonable Doubt, that people think it happened overnight. It wasn’t overnight."

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