Roc-A-Fella Co-Founder Kareem 'Biggs' Burke Talks Recognizing Genius of Kanye West
Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem 'Biggs' Burke reflects on realizing “early on” that Kanye West was a genius in a chat with Speedy Morman.
Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke says he knew early into Ye’s trajectory that he would have a unique impact, and not just within the realm of music.
In a new Netflix chat with Speedy Morman—host of Complex’s 360 With Speedy Morman—that arrives on the release day of the third and final act of Coodie & Chike’s jeen-yuhs documentary, Biggs was asked to look back on his first time meeting the artist formerly known as Kanye West.
“Hungry, talented, comedic. … His thirst to get on was, like, unmatched, even for the people that we had down with us,” Biggs recalled of his early interactions with Ye. “You know, we had a lot of talent with us but not the hunger that he had. Put it this way, he would play a beat for Jay[-Z], and then start rapping his own verses. He was like, ‘Look, you’re gonna take this beat with me, without me, whatever it is.’ And nobody else would do anything like that or even have the balls to do something like that.”
Later, around two minutes into the video above, Biggs spoke on how Roc-A-Fella viewed Ye early into his career, with Speedy noting that Coodie mentions this in the narration for one of the three-part doc’s most inspiring sequences.
“I did,” Biggs said when asked about people not taking him seriously as an artist at the time. “Hell yeah. The talent was something. And the sound, sonically, he had brought something that we hadn’t heard, even to the point that Dame didn’t believe in it. So Dame was like, ‘Look, let’s make this first project a mixtape and then put everybody on it.’ And I was like, this project is too special, the talent is too special. I fought for that, you know, so he could have that solo album [and] so it could be a full Kanye project.”
From there, Biggs noted his own ability to recognize strengths in other people that they themselves may not be able to see. He also stressed the importance of investing one’s own time, money, and energy into something when they truly believe in the work, and in themselves. Asked to break down what “genius” means to him, Biggs pointed to Ye having multiple projects planned out very early along his journey to megastardom.
“You see the results from Kanye and I thought he as a genius early on. … The comedian comes out, the lyricist comes out, and the song-making ability comes out,” Biggs said. “And you really didn’t have a lot of people with that trifecta at that time. I knew he was gonna be one of the biggest artists of all time. And not only that, as we got to know him, we knew he was gonna be the biggest brand of all time.”
Toward the end of the clip, Speedy asked Biggs to share his personal favorite memory of Ye’s journey to becoming the multi-medium creative force he is today, prompting the reveal of a certain international trip and how it affected the College Dropout artist’s work moving forward.
“Introducing him to Europe because he didn’t wanna go,” Biggs said. “He did not wanna go to Europe. Like, literally, we had to go get him and force him in the car to put him on the plane.” Continuing, Biggs then mentioned the late Virgil Abloh, noting that he later thanked him for pushing Ye to get on that plane.
“He was like, ‘Yo, thank you for bringing Ye to Europe because that opened it up for all of us,’” Biggs said, adding that Ye “fell in love with Europe,” which ultimately had an impact on his creative process.
“He fell in love with Europe and that actually opened up everything for him fashion-wise, which actually built him more of a brand and made the music, you know, more expansive,” Biggs added. “So that right there is one of the great memories, because he fought tooth-and-nail against that.”
See more from Biggs and Speedy up top. The Netflix doc jeen-yuhs is streaming now.