In this concluding part of my interview with New York’s A.D.O.R., the veteran wordsmith talks about working with Pete Rock on his classic 1992 debut single “Let It All Hang Out”, major label drama with Atlantic Records and getting drunk with Mount Vernon’s infamous YG’z – check Part One here.
So was your debut single “Let It All Hang Out” recorded as part of your original demo package after you’d signed with Untouchables Entertainment?
“So this is what happened. I signed with Eddie F and he was talking about putting me in the studio with Pete Rock. I’m like, ‘Okay, this is cool.’ Pete was doing his thing at the time and really had some special s**t going on. So they gave me a tape with about eleven or twelve Pete Rock tracks on it and I started sifting through those beats and what became “Let It All Hang Out” was on there as an instrumental. So I started writing to it. I actually had some lyrics already that I wanted to use for the track. The thing with me was, I wouldn’t always write to tracks. I’d write lyrics and then I’d find tracks that they felt good with. So anyway, we recorded “Let It All Hang Out” and Eddie F put it in a package together with some other artists he was working with, like the R&B group Intro, to start shopping to labels. I really liked the record but I was thinking to myself, ‘Is this the one?’ But I started playing it to people and everyone really liked it. I started getting such great feedback from everybody and all of a sudden there were people at labels saying they wanted to sign me. RCA wanted to sign me, Atlantic and I think possibly Columbia as well.”
So there was definitely a lot of interest in you?
“Yeah, man. I remember Eddie F had a showcase at his house one day and he had all the A&Rs there from Atlantic, RCA and Columbia. They were all there at the house and Eddie had me, Intro, Donell Jones and some of his other artists do a showcase for all these A&Rs and then afterwards they listened to some of the other music I’d been making. The Young Gunz, the YG’z, were there as well….”
I was going to ask you about the YG’z but I don’t want to interrupt the story so we can get into that afterwards…
“(Laughs) Yeah, yeah. So basically what happened was, we were all at the party and everything went really well. Now the reason I mentioned the YG’z is because they were like, ‘C’mon A.D.O.R., take a shot of this alcohol to celebrate, baby!’ We were right in the middle of Eddie F’s kitchen and they were like, ‘Take some of this, man!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, f**k it, we’re doing it, baby!’ (laughs). So I drank half a glass of this green alcohol stuff and that was it for me, bro. I was f**ked up! I threw up all over Eddie F’s kitchen. I was just uncontrollably vomiting all over my s**t. I had to leave the party. My boy had to drive me home and I had to take all my clothes off in the car and just put a towel over myself (laughs). But anyway, after the showcase went so well Eddie started feeling like Atlantic Records was the right move and then Sylvia Rhone wanted to have a meeting with me. So I met with Sylvia and then after that I remember getting the call telling me Atlantic Records wanted to sign me.”
How did you feel when you got that call?
“I was happy as s**t when it first happened because I’d achieved my dream of getting a record deal. Plus, I was signed to a major label which was a really big deal for me. I felt like I’d really achieved something as a credible non-Black Hip-Hop artist to be signed to a major label. It made me feel like I’d done something right with the music I’d been making and I was ready to make some history.”
Digressing for a second, what do you remember about the YG’z?
“They were like my brothers, man. We were cool. They were really involved in the streets, man. I had some funny times with those dudes but then some crazy s**t happened as well. I remember one time there was a concert we were all doing together, I think Method Man was there, and I remember the YG’z had gotten into some beef with some cats from Black Moon’s camp. Some of those kids from the YG’z were just real street kids, but now we were in the music business and you really needed to be able to separate the two. But those cats were just really deep in the street and that’s what they were about. I don’t know exactly what happened at the concert but I know it definitely wasn’t anything positive. But the YG’z were good dudes, though. They were just products of their environment and were trying to figure out what to do with their lives, y’know. I mean, I would run into them over on the Southside of Mount Vernon before the music thing, but then we became more involved with each other once we were all signed to Untouchables. But I had some cool times with them.”
“Let It All Hang Out” was definitely one of the defining singles of 1992. Why was it credited as being a ‘Pete Rock Remix’ on the label?
“”Let It All Hang Out” was not a Pete Rock remix. It’s an original A.D.O.R. / Pete Rock record. There is no Pete Rock remix of “Let It All Hang Out”. That was some politics with Atlantic wanting to say it was a Pete Rock remix on the record label because that’s what Pete was really becoming known for. So the Pete Rock ‘remix’ of “Let It All Hang Out” is just thirty seconds longer than the original version that we recorded together. That’s the only difference. It’s the same record. I mean, at that time, Pete Rock really wasn’t doing that much outside production with other artists, it was all about his remixes. But we made that record together in the studio. I mean, I was there in the background when he was doing all that other s**t as well though. I remember when Pete and CL played “They Reminisce Over You” for the first time in the offices with Eddie F after they’d just come back from the studio. I remember everyone was just so excited when they first heard that song and everyone knew straight away that it was a great record. But me and Pete have a weird relationship, man. We really do. He shows me love sometimes and then there were times when he didn’t…”
So after Atlantic released “Let It All Hang Out” was the plan for you and Pete to do more work together in the studio?
“I mean, we made “Let It All Hang Out” together and then Pete was supposed to make more records with me for my debut album, which was part of the deal with Atlantic. Me and Pete had a great chemistry together and people definitely wanted to hear more A.D.O.R. / Pete Rock records. But what happened was, Pete started having some issues with Eddie F and Untouchables when “Mecca And The Soul Brother” was coming out on Elektra, which was some behind-the-scenes stuff that really wasn’t any of my business. But that started leading to Pete not coming to sessions. There were times when we were supposed to be working on my album and he didn’t do it. Pete wouldn’t show up or didn’t know if he really wanted to do it. So that really made my project hard. I mean, “Let It All Hang Out” came out literally two months after I got all messed-up at Eddie F’s house at the showcase. Atlantic signed me, we did the paperwork and they scheduled a video shoot. “Let It All Hang Out” was coming out as my first single and I had no other records done yet. I mean, usually back then, you’d put out a single and then the album would be available about two or three months later. Now, if that had been the case with my album on Atlantic, my s**t would have blown-up. If “The Concrete” had been ready to follow-up the single, it would have blown-up! But what happened was, my project was getting f**ked-up because I couldn’t get in the studio with Pete. I couldn’t get any more records made with him for my album. Atlantic Records are saying they want to hear an album. Eddie F starts putting me in the studio with other producers and we’re making some records here and there but Atlantic want to hear more records with Pete Rock…”
So were Atlantic saying they didn’t want to release an album from you unless it contained a certain amount of tracks produced by Pete Rock?
“I wouldn’t go that far but it was definitely something that they expected to happen when they did the deal. So I’m thinking, ‘Oh s**t! I wanna make my album!’ because Pete Rock is out of the loop now. But this wasn’t Pete saying, ‘F**k A.D.O.R.!’, it was more Pete saying ‘F**k Eddie F!’ because of the problems they had together. Plus, he had his own thing going on with Pete Rock & CL Smooth. But I don’t really know if he loved me like that either, because some of the cats he was around were on some real righteous Nubian s**t, so they could have been like, ‘Yo Pete, what’s up with this white boy?’ That was just stuff I had to deal with back then. So my album project is getting stymied at exactly the same time “Let It All Hang Out” is out there blowing-up. It took me two years to deliver “The Concrete” album to Atlantic Records after I’d gone out and found other producers to work with, like with me and Diamond connecting and making some good records.”
So did it almost feel like you were starting over again when you dropped the K-Def-produced single “One For The Trouble” in 1994?
“See, I busted my ass to get the album done and was working directly with my A&R at Atlantic. I wasn’t really getting that much support from Untouchables. I was getting some support, but Eddie F was on some other s**t. I was on some different s**t musically to Eddie F by that time. But it took me two years to put my debut album together. Most labels would have dropped an artist by that time, but “Let It All Hang Out” was so powerful as a single that people still wanted to hear more music from me, so Atlantic stuck by me and kept giving me more money to go in the studio and make records. They kept paying the producers and I was putting the record together myself. I got with K-Def, Ski, Diamond D, Sam Sever, Trackmasterz and we were making good music together. I mean, I really went through an apprenticeship of the music business putting that album together and working so closely with Atlantic.”
Were some of the producers you approached for beats surprised that you weren’t working with Pete Rock considering the success of your debut single?
“No, no. I mean, the producers I was working with were happy because they were getting paid major label money and we were making some good music. They respected me and I respected them. I remember being in the studio with cats like Ron Lawrence, Clark Kent and Diamond with people like Big Pun coming through…”
Pun was in the studio with you?
“I remember my most classic cipher ever was when it was me, Pun and Cuban Link. I was working on one of my records with Diamond in Chung King and Diamond had told Pun and Cuban Link to come down to the studio. Like, at this time when I was in the studio working on my stuff I was the famous cat who’d dropped “Let It All Hang Out” and there would be these young dudes who were coming up who’d be in the studio. When I did “From The Concrete” with Ski, which is one of my favourite records I’ve ever made, Jay-Z was in the studio with me and Ski just chillin’ in there for a couple of days while we were recording. When I was working at Battery Studios when Wu-Tang had just come out with “Protect Ya Neck”, I remember being up there with RZA, Ol’ DB and Method Man. They had just got signed to Loud and had started working on their first album. I remember when I came into the session and they were like, ‘Oh s**t, it’s A.D.O.R.!’ I remember building with RZA for hours just chillin’ and eating chinese food. So when Pun and Cuban Link came into this particular session they started freestyling and building a cipher with me. Pun didn’t even know who I was when he first came in and then once he realised, he was like ‘Oh s**t! A.D.O.R.? “Let It All Hang Out”! I loved that joint!’ We started having this crazy ill freestyle session and that was a magical moment with Pun that I’ll always remember.”
How did you first meet Diamond D?
“Well, I was running around with some of my boys who were friends of mine from the Bronx. They were emcees, K. Terrorbull and this other white boy Frank who was known as Big Red…”
This was Big Red who released “Created A Monster” with Diamond in 1995, right?
“Yes. I was with him when he made that record. We were boys for years. I mean, my man K. Terrorbull, he was my boy Will’s sister’s baby’s father. So K was always running with me and then him and Red started messing with Diamond. I went to Diamond’s crib with them, we were chillin’ playing chess and I asked to hear some tracks and we started to talk about doing some work together. Diamond gave me some tracks and we made some fat records, bro. I love the records we did together for “The Concrete”, like “Heart And Soul” and the “Day 2 Day” remix.”
So what actually happened with the album?
“We got the album done, it had been mastered and we had the promo copies ready. But then Atlantic didn’t know what single they wanted to go with. I had all these great records on there like “Day 2 Day”, “Here Comes Da Wreck”, “One For The Trouble”, but Atlantic didn’t really know how to deal with the project. So when it came down to it, they decided that “One For The Trouble” was going to be the next single but they said they weren’t going to give me much of a video budget. So Eddie F was saying to me, ‘Yo man, they’re trying to play me on the budget for the video’ because everything was still going through Untouchables at the time. He kinda took the fact that Atlantic weren’t giving us much of a video budget personally. So he told me he didn’t want me to make a video for “One For The Trouble” because Atlantic weren’t coming correct with the budget. He was saying that after the success of “Let It All Hang Out” it might hurt me to come out with a low-budget video for “One For The Trouble”. I was kinda like, ‘Maybe he’s right…’ but Atlantic were still offering about $35,000 for the video, so I was thinking we could still do something with that. But Eddie was like, ‘Well, if you do it and it f**ks up then you’re on your own…’ Little did I know that I should have done the video, because when the single came out Atlantic supported it a little bit and it went to radio, but nobody really knew it was out so then Atlantic were saying they didn’t want to market my album anymore. That’s when they cut my album and I got dropped. At the time, WEA were going through some crazy firestorm and they had about twelve artists on their roster who had albums done, but for business reasons the company didn’t want to put money behind them to market them and I fell into that clique of artists. They had artists like Brandy coming out and that’s where all their focus was, so they dropped a whole bunch of artists which included me.”
It’s crazy to think what impact “The Concrete” could have had if it had come out in 1994 with a production line-up that included Diamond, K-Def, Clark Kent etc…
“Exactly. It was magical, man. It was incredible how we all came together as a brotherhood to work on music together and I still have a lot of love for those cats today. But also, something else happened around that same time before I got dropped from Atlantic with Eddie F which really didn’t help my project. Eddie started getting burdened with all of these artists that he had signed. All these artists like Intro, Donell Jones, the YG’z, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, me, Untouchables was our management company and our production company. So everybody wanted all the s**t that a management company is supposed to do and Eddie just got overwhelmed with it all. So he started dropping all the artists from the management side. He asked me to find new management just when my album was supposed to drop. This was all happening in 1994 behind-the-scenes. So I was still signed to Atlantic when Eddie dropped me from his management company, and the label are telling me that I had to have management for them to be able to release the album. So my lawyer started reaching out to other management cats and I had a real interesting meeting with Wayne Barrow who was Biggie’s manager at the time and he was interested in managing me. But also I had my boy who I grew-up with, Ward Corbett, who was running around with Puff at the time. He worked at Bad Boy and had some clout so I decided to go with him. So what happened was, I got a phone call one morning from Ward telling me that Atlantic had decided to drop the album. He’d been trying to have meetings with them to talk about putting the timeline for the project together and Atlantic told him they were dropping the album and also me as an artist. So now I’m back to just being signed to Untouchables Entertainment. When that happened, I was done with Untouchables as well.”
So that would explain why you weren’t included on the 1994 Untouchables compilation album “Let’s Get It On”…
“I was on that record originally. I’d actually made a record called “Let’s Get It On” and Eddie F told me that he wanted to use the title for the album and that song on there with Biggie, 2Pac and Heavy D. I was in the Hit Factory when they were making that record and I had a verse on there and Eddie F cut me off of it. I think the YG’z got cut from that record as well because with everyone on there it was over six minutes long. Everyone had laid their verses separately. I remember going to Quad Studios in New York for a session and Willy Gunz who produced the record let me hear the piece he’d done with 2Pac the night before. So I was supposed to be on that Untouchables album but everything was going to s**t with them at the time. So after all that happened, I saw Eddie out in the street one day and just told him that I wanted a release and that I wanted to get on with my life.”
So what was your mind state at this point considering you’d just lost a major label record deal?
“I’ll be honest with you, I was crushed when I was told that “The Concrete” wasn’t coming out. I worked so hard on that album for two years! I put so much into that album, bro. I did everything I could to make sure that album got done. I wasn’t just being an artist, I was having to be a salesman when I was talking to Atlantic to make sure I could get the budget to actually get into the studio and make the records. I had to do all of that myself. So when the situation happened with Atlantic, I ain’t gonna lie, I was f**ked-up for a couple of months. I was exhausted. I really didn’t know what was going to happen from that point. Everything had changed so fast and I’d had so many plans, that when I got dropped I really just had to take some time to figure everything out. But I mean, with the success of “Let It All Hang Out” and being signed to Atlantic Records, it wasn’t like I was starting from scratch. I definitely had something to build on.”
What was your next move?
“Well, there was this one cat who loved me as an artist. Do you remember when Noo Trybe / Virgin were trying to do some s**t? Well Mel-Ice, who used to be King Sun’s deejay back in the day, he became involved in A&R on the New York side for Noo Trybe. The label was actually out of California, but they brought Mel on to do some projects on the East Coast and sign some artists from New York. So Mel was going to sign me and I was beginning to work with him. He was doing some stuff at the time with Doo-Wop, Snaggapuss and the Bounce Squad through Noo Trybe / Virgin as well. Then in the middle of us doing all of this, Mel-Ice died, yo. Something happened to him and he got a bloodclot and died. God rest his soul, man.”
So you were back to square one?
“My life is weird man because I seem to come into contact with certain people at the strangest times. Through a friend of mine in New York I got connected with a guy called Danny Sims who was Bob Marley’s original manager. Danny Sims was starting to work with an independent record distribution company called Navarre. He was this older guy and he had such a great spirit. He made me feel like when you’re in your sixties you can still be cool (laughs). But he had all these unreleased Bob Marley demos that he’d had remastered which is how he’d got his label deal with Navarre. So under that label deal he’d decided that he was going to create some sub-labels. We connected and he asked me if I wanted to do a label with him. That’s when the independent scene was happening in the South, but the independent scene as a whole wasn’t really being embraced completely at that point. But we went ahead and that’s how I set-up Tru Reign Records.”
How did you end-up reconnecting with Pete Rock for your debut 1997 Tru Reign single, “Enter The Center”?
“It was weird because I reached out to Pete and he came and made a new record with me. If you ask me now exactly how that all happened, I can’t remember. But Pete was down to do it. I didn’t even give him a lot of money to do it. I think I only gave him a thousand dollars or something. I don’t know if maybe Pete felt he owed me a little bit because of what happened with my project on Atlantic? But it was really magical that Pete came and did my first single for my own independent label. Plus, Danny Sims gave me some budget money to do a video and we made a cool video that we filmed in the Bronx. I put the single out and it started doing pretty good. I was getting some radio play and MTV were playing the video which was a big deal for me coming out again as an independent artist. But I definitely learnt a lot about how to run my label from the experience I had with Atlantic Records.”
When you were struggling in the mid-90s to get your career back on track did you find it ironic that your voice was being heard on one of the most successful dance tracks of the decade via the “Back once again with the ill behaviour…” sample on Wildchild’s “Renegade Master”?
“(Laughs) Let me tell you something man, that record is magical to me. The success of “Renegade Master” is definitely a blessing. It’s crazy to me to think that if I hadn’t put in all that hard work on my debut album, then Robert McKenzie wouldn’t have had the acappella to my “One For The Trouble” single to sample on what would become such an iconic track. That vocal sample of me has become like a catchphrase, bro. I mean, I haven’t received what I should have received from that record, but there are definitely positive things that have happened for me because of that record.”
You’ve also built up an impressive catalogue of work over the years…
“I’ve made some great albums on Tru Reign, like “Shock Frequency” and “Animal 2000”. My thing is now, I have a great catalogue of music and I think I’m going to concentrate on making sure people are aware of what else I’ve done after my time on Atlantic, rather than always trying to chase people by making new music. I’ve made so many good records and those records need to be heard more. I want people to know that I’m not just A.D.O.R. who did “Let It All Hang Out”, but that I also have a lot of good music that I’ve made since then that deserves to be heard.”
Are you still in touch with anyone from your Untouchables days?
“No, not really. Everybody’s older now, everybody’s gone their own separate ways, there’s too much bad business, so that would just be like opening up a can of worms.”
What about Pete Rock?
“When I first came on Twitter he sent me a message asking if it was really me on there, but that was it. It’s weird, man. Sometimes I feel like reaching out because I think it would be special if we did another record together. I think a lot of people would be moved by that.”
So what’s your attitude towards the music industry today?
“I never loved the music industry. I loved making music. But my life changed a lot when I had my children. Instead of going out on the road and being out all the time networking, I’d rather be at home watching my kids grow-up. That’s what’s important to me as a person. I could be more aggressive with how I work my music, but I would be sacrificing a lot of other things which are very important to me. But Hip-Hop and my success in music has always been the backbone of me staying in control of my life. I get glory from my music in different ways all the time, like when my kids are showing their friends my music on YouTube. That’s magical. So how can I be mad about anything in my world, bro?”
Follow A.D.O.R. on Twitter – @trureign1
A.D.O.R. – “Enter The Center” (Tru Reign / 1997)