I expected big things from Brooklyn emcee this year and the Bad Boy camp, so I held onto this for a while, hoping it would coincide with a cover story. Didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped, but I still wanted to share the content. Red Café is an industry journeyman, having been signed or co-signed by DJ Envy/Koch Records, Akon, Mack 10, Fabolous, and most recently Diddy—all in the last 7, 8 years. His upside, at least from the outside looking in seems high, but having so many big names in the industry support you, only to still have no album released is not a good look. This was supposed to be the year all that changed, thanks to Bad Boy. And it’s still not impossible, just saying the signs don’t really point to it right this minute. Still Café did release a well received mixtape this year and after cooling down from several hit songs earlier in the year, he recently released another hit single, “Champagne for the Pain,” which features Young Jeezy. With big things hopefully on the horizon, check out the full Red Café interview on Bad Boy, his various label situations and life outside Hip-Hop.
Parlé Magazine: You’ve been in music for a long time now, so you have to love it. Tell me, how’d you develop this love for Hip-Hop?
Red Café: I’m just a fan of the culture. I’m a fan of music, period. Hip-Hop was just something I could relate to moreso than any other genre of music. But I listen to everything. Depending on where I’m at in the day, depending on how I need to be soothed musically determines what I’ll listen to. Just being a fan of the culture and what it represented. I needed to be a part of it.
Parlé: You rep a lot of different cultures it seems in the music, I know that comes with growing up in Brooklyn, but where are you from?
Café: I grew up in Brooklyn, Flatbush. I’m from Guyana, my parents are Venezuelan, Guyanese and Brazilian, but I was born in Guyana.
Parlé: Okay, so at what point did you make it to Brooklyn?
Café: Like 4, I came here at like 4, but we came back every year. You know you in Brooklyn, it’s everybody there, Panamanians, Puerto Ricans, White folks, Haitians, there’s all kinds of different seasonings in the pot.
Parlé: How did those different cultures and having all that around you affect the type of artist you wanted to be?
Café: I think that was a great thing cause it makes my selection more diverse. I listen to everything. One of my closest friends is Panamanian and my whole crew is Haitian, so it does a lot for you. I think it’s a good thing.
Parlé: Now, the elephant in the room, you been an artist in the industry for almost a decade. Still no album though. How do you maintain in this game?
Café: I maintained by just being inspired. Other artists, maybe even fan or a supporter who might say, “you helped me get through my week, I listened to your music and you helped me get through my week. Or “Faded,” that’s the soundtrack to my Friday night. Or “Heart and Soul of New York City,” it makes me proud to be from New York cause of that record. So things like that, they keep me inspired to keep going, even though I probably wasn’t even getting paid to do it. I feel like my mission is accomplished when someone says, ‘you help me get through my day’.
I actually had a kid that hit me up saying, ‘you gave me a CD four years ago and it helped me graduate college, that was my motivation.’ So, things like that help me keep pushing and also, I love to be a part of it. So without me making money, that was kind of my payment.
Parlé: Having been in the magazine business for about as long as you been grinding in music, I know there’s been plenty of times I’ve wanted to give it up. What about you? Have you thought of calling it quits?
Café: Yeah… Definitely. I probably gave up like 50 times. As a person, you go through that shit where it’s like, ‘I’ma try something different,’ but your love and your passion for what this thing is, this particular thing, it always brings you back. I done been through situations where I wasn’t feeling it, but it always brings me back, just the love. I mean, today, I’m not frustrated at all. It’s a journey, you go through different types of things, I’m cool with that. It’s a learning experience for me, I learned a lot. I’m comfortable where I’m at and I feel like my moment, when it happens, it happens. The plan is already set forth, it’s just when it’s going to happen.
Parlé: I know you had a lot of labels reaching out but how’d you end up with Bad Boy & Interscope?
Café: Puff is just a New York staple, he’s an inspiration in New York, period. I been knowing Puff for probably over 10 years. He been doing his thing and I definitely wanted to be a part of Bad Boy for a long time. Bad Boy was the shit in New York City, and you wanted to be part of Bad Boy. They made great artists, they made great records, classics! Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it? So, I went through all these different companies and they didn’t really know who I was, they didn’t really know who Red Café was, and they really didn’t know what to do with me. A lot of those companies ended up folding, so it was just a bad situation for me. So what I did, I hit the streets hard, on an independent level and I controlled it and did my own thing. We hit it on an independent level, put out records like, “Paper Touching,” “Hottest In The Hood,” “So Easy,” “I’m Ill,” “Money, Money, Money,” and those records made the streets respond. I’m talking about globally, I been on tour in Japan, Europe, Africa, the people responded to the music. So did Puff and Bad Boy and Interscope. They heard the music and wanted to be a part of it. They were like ‘this kid is putting out good records, I want to help him be where he wants to be, I want to be that support system.” Puff and Jimmy and their staff, they reached out, at this time I had a lot of labels reaching out, but what they wanted to do for me was just be that support system. They wanted to give me all the tools that I need, give me the great staff that they had and get me where I needed to be. Like I said, I knew Puff over 10 years, but maybe I wasn’t ready to be part of his Bad Boy legacy at that point. Once he felt like I was ready, he reached out.
Parlé: A lot of people look at Bad Boy and Puff’s recent track record with Hip-Hop and it doesn’t look good. What made you decide that Bad Boy/Diddy was the right choice for Red Café?
Café: From what Puff told me, it was like ‘yo, I just wasn’t happy with what I was hearing from New York streets.’ And I can co-sign that. I haven’t been excited about New York Hip-Hop in a few years. Right now, I’m excited about New York Hip-Hop, I like what they’re doing now, I like the kids thats coming up now. You could look back to the last artists that were big out of New York, that was G-Unit. That was eight years ago. So, we’re not the only ones that weren’t excited about what was going on in the New York streets. It’s obvious. He said, ‘listen, I just wasn’t excited no more.’ When he came to me, he said, ‘listen if I can’t sign you, I’m not doing no more Hip-Hop. I’ma just keep doing R & B cause it’s not exciting no more. That has nothing to do with what he was doing for them off years. I don’t think that interferes with what I have going on. I learned already from my journey with the record companies. But my plan is to come in here and do me, and get the support from Interscope and the support from Bad Boy. I’m not leaning on them to do anything, I get it done myself. I’m focused, I’m driven to get my goals done. Those are the things that will turn a person like Puff on, and will turn a person like Jimmy Iovine on. He’s focused, he wants to get his thing done, he’s not waiting on nobody. I think that’s what all the new, young talent needs to be cause at this point, the record labels might know how to do business but they may not know how to make you, the best YOU. You have to show them who you are, they may not know you. Yeah you can rap, you can sing, but who are you? You playing pool with people, the people want to get into who they want to get into. Why do I like him? Because of his story, his story is similar to mine. So, these are the things that drive record sales, and a movement. So you have to come with those ideas already laid out, then you tell it to the staff at the label. And they’ll say, ‘cool, this is what we can do to make that story better, or more exciting.’
I feel like, whatever Puff was doing with his other artists, that really don’t have nothing to do with me because I am my own entity. By the time he signed me and Interscope signed me, I was already making money and doing tours.
Parlé: I know you’re working on the album, its yet to be titled, but tell me what can fans expect from that, that’s different from the music we’ve been getting from Red in the past?
Café: With this album you’re going to get a body of work that represents me and who I am and honestly. I think that’s going to be different from projects you heard before, the honesty. It’s like a docu-drama of who I am and where I been. I been through a lot of things that a lot of people can relate to. It might inspire a lot of people. It’s a nice mixture of being creative and making it clever and fun and just being real. You going to get a lot of honesty and a lot of great music. I’ma continue to do what I do, I don’t change much.
Parlé: How’s your relationship with some of those other artists that have signed you or co-signed you in the past, like a Mack 10 and a Fabolous?
Café: I’m pretty sure that I’ll continue to work with Mack and Fab and guys like that, those guys are great. They challenge me all the time. So I’ll continue to work with them, as well as a few new guys. Anything is possible.
Parlé: Sitting here with you, you’re quite calm compared to the artist on the stage or on a record. What’s Red like when he’s not making music?
Café: I’m an entrepreneur, I have a lot of things going on. I own a salon in Brooklyn, a bar and lounge in Connecticut, another one in Pennsylvania. I own about 13 properties. There’s different things I do on a day to day. I’m a hustler from the streets that went from selling narcotics to selling buildings. There’s a time and place for everything. It might not be the time and place for the bottle of Henny in the office. So you gotta just separate certain things. My car is not parked right here, there’s not a topless woman right here on the table, these are different things that are a part of Red Café ‘s life and a part of my movement but there is a time and place for everything.
Parlé: Enough said. What advice do you have for artists out here trying to get to where you are or just trying to get into the industry?
Café: Any artist that’s out there hustling and getting their music out there, continue to be honest with your music and who you are. I’m the type of person that really doesn’t compromise so I would give that advice to people, don’t compromise. Stay persistent if it’s something that you want. And you gotta stay consistent if it’s something that you want. These are things that I live by and are my personal way of life.