Trackmasters Tell All: The Stories Behind Their Classic Records (Part 2)

The Firm f/ Dawn Robinson of En Vogue "Firm Biz" (1997)

Album: The Album
Label: Aftermath/Interscope/MCA

Tone: “I never looked at that album as a failure. I always looked at that project as innovative. It was the first of its kind. No ones ever put a rapper from this label, this label, and this label and said lets make a record. I'm not pointing blame but I'm gonna be honest with you, The Firm flopping had a lot to do with the players.

“You had Nas, AZ, Foxy, and Nature. There was something between Nas and Foxy because Foxy was rolling with Jay-Z so it was a tug of war. Then you had Nature who was the new artist we were trying to break. He wanted to be bigger, faster. He wanted to be hot overnight.

 

There was something between Nas and Foxy because Foxy was rolling with Jay-Z so it was a tug of war. Then you had Nature who was the new artist we were trying to break, he wanted to be hot overnight. - Tone

 

“Then you had AZ who was looked at as Nas’s right hand man but didn’t have the success that Nas had. And you had Nas, and ultimately it was a Nas album. So it was just a lot of little things going on.

“The reason it failed was because they tried to apply music business equations to a street album. We made the album and the hottest records were the street records, so we should have lead with a street record. But at the time radio was the thing so you had to get a record on radio and ‘Firm Biz’ was our attempt at radio.

“We never should have made that record. We should have just let it be a street record and it would have been ridiculous, it would have been hot on the streets to this day. If you take that one record off the album, it’s a street album. It was just our attempt to get out there. And what happened was it was everything wrong with the music biz.”

Poke: “We should have lead with ‘Phone Tap,’ that’s still hot. If we would have lead with that the perception would have been very different.”

 

If you take out ‘Firm Biz,’ that album is joint after joint. The presentation was just wrong. - Poke

 

Tone:“We went with everything wrong with the music business. We went with a radio record, we went with the most expensive video director there is, and the most expensive video ever made. After that it was like, ‘Fuck that we ain’t spending no more money on this project.’ That’s kinda what did it for that album.

"And the label you’re on dictated how the streets felt about you back then. So the group shouldn’t have been on Aftermath because it was all New York rappers. So we did everything wrong.

“I don’t care what Jay-Z says, I don’t consider the album a flop. I don’t even know who did an album like that afterwards. The album has made its mark in the industry, you can always reference The Firm album in terms of what to do and what not to do. That’s a good album to me.

Poke: “If you take out ‘Firm Biz,’ that album is joint after joint. The presentation was just wrong.”

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