Kareem “Biggs” Burke is a mythical legend of sorts. While he was at the helm of one of the most iconic rap labels to date, Biggs’ was as much of a mystery as the origin of Roc-a-Fella’s namesake. His influence, however, was omnipresent not only through Jay Z’s clever wordplay but also the lavish lifestyle the hitmaker often referenced in his lyrics. From the 4.6 Range and blinding VVS stones to Jay’s penchant for platinum, Biggs was the man behind the notion; embodying the true essence of an “Imaginary Player.”
For the past decade, Biggs has avoided the press and much of the fanfare that comes with being an icon in the hip-hop landscape. But, in recent years Roc-A-Fella’s co-founder is relinquishing his mystique to be in the spotlight as he steps into a new venture – clothing. The Harlem native’s newly launched streetwear line, Fourth Of November, is a hub for distressed denim enthusiats and ROC fans alike.
This past June, Reasonable Doubt turned 20 and to continue the celebration Biggs along with his chief marketing strategist, Anel Pla, curated a pop-up shop to pay homage to Jay Z’s seminal debut. On Wednesday night (Oct. 19), Biggs shared an exclusive Fourth of November capsule collection honoring the milestone, fittingly at an exhibtion inspired by D&D studios. The hip hop landmark is where Jay’s magnum opus Reasonable Doubt was brought to life and countless others including Gangstarr, Mos Def, Common and most notably DJ Premier created game changing projects.
Replicating the iconic studio from the graffiti to the vinyls and even the original soundboard used during Reasonable Doubt‘s production, a SoHo gallery was turned into a hip-hop head’s utopia. Powered by Fancy.com, an elite group of media folk and celebs were invited to take in the relics of D&D studios and shop the Roc96 merchandise on display. Throughout the course of the night, DJ Scram Jones had hip-hop classics in rotation as attendees nibbled on Mamasushi’s Spanish-infused hors d’oeuvres and sipped D’USSE, of course.
The pop-up shop exhibition unveiled five exclusive collaborations with high-end designers, commemorating the songs off Reasonable Doubt. Among the merchandise were an Akita Kodate military jacket collaboration, a luxury duffel bag with the signature Hov phrase “Can’t Knock The Hustle” from Moreca Atelier, and specially designed t-shirts for men and women including an exclusive Reasonable Doubt “family tree.”
Ahead of the pop-up shop’s grand opening to the public, Biggs spoke exclusively with Vashite.com about the significance of D&D studios, Reasonable Doubt‘s rich history, and how it has influenced the artists of today in a full interview below.
Why do you feel D&D Studios was the ideal place to create Reasonable Doubt?
The producer, DJ Premier, for one. So, that kind of made it a historical place because even today he’s arguably one of the best producers of all time. But, back then he was someone who was very highly sought after. Everybody got their start there. So, being in the studio for the first time it just felt natural.
What inspired you to revive D&D Studios in New York City?
This is where it all started. So, we talk about the beginning and to have a movement you have to have the history there. So, ROC 96 is where the history started. We wanted to bring people back to that. All of the things that are starting now always kind of gravitate to something that was old. From the merch, the old tees and everything like that. So, we wanted to bring [fans] that experience. But, honestly I can’t take all the credit for it. Anel Pla who works with me, my chief stragetist, actually had this idea to recreate this studio and bring together this experience. It was just by chance that we got with D&D that they had the original board that we actually recorded on. This is actually the board that Primo used. So, Biggie recorded on this. Nas recorded on this. Guru recorded on this.
You have the original soundboard used while recording Reasonable Doubt on display. Any memorable moments while creating the album?
The laughing and the skits that we did. There’s a lot of skits that didn’t make the album. Jay, Dame, myself and a couple of other friends from Harlem would go in the booth and snap on each other all day. Then, see what’s the funniest things and keep them for the album. So, those memories really stick out. Just laughing and enjoying each other’s friendship.
When it comes to Reasonable Doubt, what does that album mean to you?
It was the platform that we launched everything. Reasonable Doubt was something that changed the world, as I look back on it. It changed the world in clothing. It changed the world in spirits from vodka to champagne to cognac. It changed the world in tech to Sony to social networks and now TIDAL. It also changed the world in sports. Now, we have ROC Sports and the 40/40 Club. What we did was reach out to the world all over. Now [artists] are saying, ‘I want a 50/50 venture. I want to do this on my own.’ And, not knowing that the beginning of that was Reasonable Doubt. That spirit of independence and entrepreneurial way of thinking is what changed the world.
Although Roc-A-Fella is no longer. Jay Z has been busy at work dropping music. Anything you can confirm about the rumored forthcoming album?
I’m always a fan, too. Even when Jay is recording we have this thing we call ‘free play.’ So, I’ll be like ‘Yo, Jay. What about free play?’ And, even though he’s recording a song to that track he’ll go in and spit a verse that we’ve never heard before. So, I’m looking forward to him getting in the studio again so I can just hear some free play.
The ROC96 pop-up exhibition is open to the public from Oct. 20 – Oct. 23. Check out images from the event below: