Complex | Magnum Opus

"I Got It Made" - Special Ed | Magnum Opus

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Special Ed:

I used to make the beat myself on a door or a wall or a car and be rapping at the same time. Burning them too. Growing up where I grew up is the reason I am, who I am today and the way I am today. That's what it was. I did so well that my people said, "Yo, you ought to pursue it, you ought to do something with it." and that's what led me to want to make a record. I grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn. That's, pretty much, the middle of Brooklyn by Church Avenue and a small block called Fairview Place.

Pete Rock:

Special Ed is cool, a cool breeze type of cat.

The Twilite Tone:

I remember, hearing that song and seeing him, being like, "I can relate." He looks like people I go to high school with. He looks normal, which made him extraordinary.

Rashad Smith:

Ed is funny, man. Ed is a laid-back cat. Every time I've ever seen Ed, he's always well reserved and he's just cool. Special

Ed:

I had a Fisher-Price Phonograph that I got one Christmas. One of my brothers and I shared, I had four older brother. We played every record we could get our hands on from the Sugar Hill Gang, Supa Rhymes, Jimmy Spicer. We had some Curtis Blow. We played those records a thousand times over. It's brag-a-docious, they often talked about a life that we knew and even lived because Hip-hop originates from disenfranchise, from the hood.

Dres:

We were kids, so, the street aspect of it was a given but a lot of us also had some book sense and it was apparent. That's Hip-hop. He grew, probably, how we all grew up but his mentality was, I'm a giant and I will not fall.

Special Ed:

Out on the street, you may some guys rapping, a little cypher, and then you walk up on them and take command of the situation. Challenge the leader and that's it. Once you destroy them, they have to disperse.

Rashad Smith:

Howie, Howie Tee. Hitman Howie Tee. He's... one of my heroes.

Special Ed:

I knew Howie Tee all my life. He grew up across the street from my cousins, from my family. I went over there, in the basement, and auditioned kind of. They had some equipment and Howie had a studio in his basement. I said," Well, alright. We'll go and impeach the president." He looked at me like, "You know who Impeach the President is?". I'm like, "Yeah, I do this. This is what I do." He looked at me like a little kid, I'm 15. About 130 pounds. I started spitting like I wouldn't stop.

Howie Tee:

I was in Hip-hop heaven listening to the way he rapped. In rap music, if you're a producer, you want to hear a rapper that can ride the beat. Meaning, staying on top of the rhythm and locking in. Every song that I've heard he's ever done, he's always done that. I'm attracted to that.

Jarobi:

His wordplay and his imagination was really sharp.

Rashad:

His lyrics game was always amazing. He had so many metaphors and was so clever in how he put his stuff together. I started hearing other MC's starting to sound like him.

Special Ed:

It turned into what it is today. Howie ended producing tons of records for me. The whole first album, that's where it all came from.

Rashad:

Those guys were just innovative. I was taking a small piece from a record and just manipulating the record, doing whatever he wants.

Special Ed:

It wasn't all just finished music that I walked into. A lot of times, we dug in the crates. We played records. If I heard a sample, I'd be like, "Loop that up." or "I like that." or "That's hot."

Pete Rock:

It was funny because it was like they were being regular and it seemed like they playing by the rules but them being regular actually broke the rules.

Special Ed:

When 'I Got It Made' played it was like, "Yeah, that's hot, right there."

Pete Rock:

They actually had an 808 snare and we weren't mad at it.

Rashad:

Just placing it and tuning it. Back then, you were like a Rocket Scientist to me.

Dres:

I'm walking and I get two blocks from the park, that song comes on and I hear. I'm like, "What the...?" It stopped me.

Special Ed:

Unless you really know what you're doing, you can't get that to sound like that. The way he did it. That's why everybody samples my records.

Jeru The Damaja:

'I Got It Made'? Come on, he's from Brooklyn.

Howie Tee:

'...Got It Made' was so funky and it was one of those things. Like hearing a James Brown record. You're like, "Wow. Listen to that beat, man."

Dres:

I'm kind of grooving and I walked for the bus, I'm waiting for the bus... and the song went off and I pressed rewind.

Rashad:

The tape, when you took it out of the Walkman, it would be hot. Literally, hot, like melting in your hand. From playing it so much, we'd burned it up. Special Ed: 'I Got It Made', I think, I saw a lifestyle that we could achieve. I think I put myself into another place. At the time, obviously, I was a teenager. There's, really, not much I could have had... even with a job. It's, kind of, where I wanted to be or the ideal image of having it made in luxury.

Rashad:

Man, you don't understand what that did for Brooklyn too. Especially in my era, it was like, "Yeah, we've got another Flatbush hero."

Pete Rock:

It's powerful, especially for people coming from, inner cities that don't have nothing. Nothing.

Special Ed:

I, kind of, thought of what I considered having it made. For some people it's different. For some people it may be a gold chain or two girls or a car or something. "Oh, I got it made." Like, you can't put something to make me fall. That's the mentality. That's what he's telling life, he's not telling that to a person. He's telling life that. So, I just try to differentiate what would be my standard of having it made but maybe try to open up some minds and have them reach for some bigger goals. So, 'I Got It Made' was a group of raps that I'd made about that subject matter.

Jarobi:

I remember a funny story about Special Ed. In a video I'd made, he has his arm in his pocket. There was a rumor that he'd only had one arm or something like that. I've watched the video about 100 times. I'm like, "Son has an arm. Look, he just took it out."

D Prosper:

I saw that video and I saw them dancing. It felt like you could do what he's doing. It felt so personable, that song. I felt like, "Okay, this kid's '...Got It Made', maybe, I can have it made too."

Howie Tee:

His legacies was great. I will always think back on that. The memories, thinking of that. I wish they invented time machines.

Special Ed:

I don't believe that there is a ghetto. The ghetto is in your mind because you can take the same neighborhood and fix it up. Then, it's no longer called the ghetto. It just depends on who lives there, how they see themselves, and how they see their lives.

Jarobi:

It's a mentality, I wish, a lot of the kids had today. There's an intellect that came with our walk that was a learned one. Not necessarily one that was... street smart but one that was book smart. To have both makes you a beast.

Special Ed:

So, I guess it was just a stab at having us see a better life... and think about what it would be like, living a better life. I think, it worked.


For the first edition of the new series Magnum Opus, Complex TV digs deep into the story behind the making of the hip-hop classic, "I Got It Made". CTV speaks with fellow rappers like Dres from Black Sheep, Jarobi from A Tribe Called Quest, and Jeru The Damaja, as well as producers Pete Rock, The Twilite Tone, Rashad Smith, music exec D. Prosper, and of course Special Ed himself speaking about a rap record that became his Magnum Opus.

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