XXLMag.com Presents: Top 10 SMACK DVD Moments
When SMACK DVD debuted in 2003 at the height of hip-hop’s street magazine craze, the name SMACK (Streets Music Art Culture and Knowledge) rang in hoods across the country and worldwide.
With a permanent ear to the streets, SMACK co-founders Tony “Smack” Mitchell and Eric Beasley documented hip-hop culture with a rawness that captivated fans from the bricks to the ‘burbs. Preceding the explosion of YouTube, Twitter and rap blogs, SMACK was the streets’ go-to source for battles, beef and exclusive interviews throughout the last decade. SMACK’s unprecedented access to the game’s hottest artists and edgy shooting style provided countless unforgettable moments and gave fans a glimpse into the lives of their favorite rappers long before they were only a tweet away.
In celebration of a unique era in hip-hop journalism, XXLMag.com got Smack and E to reflect on their 10 Greatest Moments in the DVD series’ history. From an impromptu push-up contest on DMX’s block to a freestyle rap battle-turned-melee, SMACK’s trademark shaky camera was there to catch it all. No host, no fancy editing and no rules.
Well, as Smack and E will tell you, there was one rule: “Always keep the cameras rollin’!” --Calvin Stovall
Murda Mook vs. Jae Millz battle in Harlem (July 2003)
The one that started it all. Two Harlem legends go bar-for-bar for five rounds in an instant classic. To this day, the streets still can’t call a winner. And yes, that’s the VADO that Mook is referring to at the 2:00 mark. Say it ain’t so, SLIME!
Smack: That’s history right there, man. That particular battle is so historic because these dudes were like two of the dopest battle MCs. The two top battle MCs that was known in Harlem, and they finally got a chance—they’d been goin’ back and forth with each other for a long time—they finally got a chance to battle in front of the SMACK camera. It was a big opportunity.
Eric: Why that battle was important was because traditionally, MC battles were done over records, beats, stuff like that. People have always been battling face-to-face acapella, but it was on the street. We were like the first people to actually document two of the biggest guys battling face-to-face in a street type of setting where there’s really no time clocks, no rules. And just the streets just decide who wins. People were like, Wow, I feel like I’m right on the corner with these guys, as opposed to [there] being a time clock, a host, a beat, a DJ and a judge. None of that was really there. And I think that dynamic made it special because it makes people continuously watch it over and over again. Like, I think he won; I think he won. And it was debated in the barbershops, in the streets; it was just raw… So it was the first time that a raw street battle was documented on that level and brought to the masses.
Smack: I think that battle reached over three million views on YouTube. We had to actually pull it down because somebody else had uploaded [it] but when we pulled it down, it was up to like three to four million views. We re-uploaded it and it’s already got like 200,000-300,000 [views] again. So, I think that battle was definitely historic and it got the attention of everybody and all the rappers in the hip-hop game.
Eric: And that kind of set the tone for where the battle culture is right now. You watch any of the major leagues that are out there or battles, they don’t rhyme over music, they rhyme over this format and this style that we were luckily able to document first and bring to the masses.
Smack: I think it was actually a tie. I think it was a tie. I think that it was a classic because with a classic—my definition of a classic—it’s hard to pick a winner. Both of them came out aggressive, both of them came out with lyricism and bars. And I couldn’t basically pick a winner. So it was a tie to me, and that’s what I consider a classic to me. You know? I don’t know how Eric feel or how he envisions it.
Eric: I’ve watched it sometimes and I’ve thought that Millz has won. And I’ve watched it sometimes and I’ve thought that Mook just won. I’m in agreeance [with Smack]. I know you may think I’m playin’ it safe, but in this instance, I just feel like they both showed up. It was just something to see, man.
Reader Poll: Who won Murda Mook or Jae Millz?
DMX Back On The Block (February 2006)
Who else but X could go from a photo shoot for his label to sipping brews, shooting dice and having push-up contests on the block? Peep the interview at 4:45 as a drunk X manages to be crazy, insightful, hilarious, and enlightened all at once. Only the dog.
Eric: It was just a crazy day, man. We went up there and he heard about what we were doin’. We basically shot him for the day and it was an ill scene. This dude who was like a mega platinum star to be able to go back in his neighborhood. And he’s doin push-up contests…
Smack: —Nah, and get so much respect, too. They respect X in his hood, too. Like, I think that he’s just a person that’s just kickin’ it with the people in his neighborhood. A lot of the artists that make it to the level of DMX—you gotta keep in mind that DMX actually been on feature films in the movie theaters—for him to still be able to go back to his block and his hood and everybody love him, I thought [it] was incredible.
Eric: It was crazy, too, just to see how raw and forward he was. To be able to mention Jay-Z, L.A. Reid and Ja Rule and just talk about them on an honest level and express how he felt. So, it was definitely ill for him to just say those things directly into our camera, you know what I mean? It was dope to see that we was able to move around with him like that and he felt comfortable enough to have us behind the scenes, you know, doing artwork for his album. Runnin’ around; and to see him one minute be around his industry people up in the studios taking photo shoots for the cover of his album, and then the next moment to be with him on his block in the middle of a dice game having a push-up contest was just crazy.
Living Large With Big Meech and BMF (June 2005)
Long before Rick Ross’s smash single “B.M.F (Blowing Money Fast),” SMACK’s cameras caught up with Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory Meech and his Black Mafia Family crew in Miami to show how real kingpins live.
Smack: The whole BMF movement, it was like a movie, man. Dealing with them boys—I’m talking about the finer things in life. The best cars, the best women, the best jewelry, the best clothes, the best everything. I ain’t never seen nobody do it of the magnitude that they did it in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever, ever, see that type of movemnt again. I’m talkin’ Ferraris, Phantoms, Lamborghinis, BMWs, Mercedes—back-to-back. Seventeen to 20 different luxury cars. We’re talkin’ mansions and all types of stuff.
Eric: Renting out whole top floors of hotels. Every room. It was crazy.
Smack: It was a movie with them. It was a movie with Meech. They real good dudes, man. They live by honor. Free Big Meech, man.
Maino and Red Café compete for Nicki Minaj’s attention (June 2008)
Before Nicki Minaj was a platinum-selling icon, she was the cute around the way girl that no hood dude could resist. Maino and Red Café’s playful competition on the set of a DJ Kahled video shoot proved her undeniable appeal and introduced hip-hop heads to the next queen of rap.
Eric: We was at a Khaled video shoot. I believe it was Khaled in Brooklyn.
Smack: You got a beautiful female, you know what I’m sayin’. Two street dudes basically trying to see who’s the bigger man.
Eric: Vying for her attention.
Smack: They started snappin’ on each other, cuffin’ and pullin’. I think Maino actually won and pulled her away. But it was just good for the camera. That was a crazy moment right there. That was one of my favorite moments.
Eric: Yeah, I thought it was cool. Like Smack said, it was all in fun.
Smack: They were tryna see who got the best game. Who’s the bigger player?
Math Hoffa Punches Dose In The Face (April 2006)
Damn Dose. After this video became inspiration for countless YouTube spoofs, fans went into every battle knowing that they were just one hat brim away from possibly witnessing a full-on riot. The lost tragedy in all of this: we only got to hear a few bars from Math, who was clearly in a zone that day. And who wouldn’t have wanted to see Dose pop and lock across the stage for a couple more rounds?
Smack: Wow [laughs]. That was a wild day, man. That day was crazy. That’s the actual day we shot the Serius Jones vs. Murda Mook battle, as well. That was the opening battle for the Murda Mook one.
Eric: We had a couple of battles that day. And to me, what that battle shows, even before Math’s punch, it showed the power of what we were doing and how popular it was. We secured that location the day of the event. It was in like the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. We went there about two o’clock, told everybody to come back at six. The gym was packed. It wasn’t a small gym, either. You know what I’m sayin’. The whole gym was packed with people. It was amazing.
Smack: In a matter of hours.
Eric: This was before Twitter, this was before multiple blasts. People just showed up in droves to see the battle. So, that was important to us because it kind of let us know that like, Man, this thing we’re working out here [is] the new underground. And then the actual punch—man, that was crazy.
Smack: I’ma say, though. Before the battle, though—I ain’t put this in the actual cut—Math told him, “It’s all good. We can rap, nah mean? Just respect my space.” This was off camera; that was basically his stress to Dose. And I don’t know, man. I guess he got caught up in the heat of the moment. He was rappin’, and rappin’ and rappin’ and he’s getting closer. Math was rappin’, and Dose was getting [in his face]—nah mean? In a battle, if somebody’s rapping, there’s no reason you should be in their face. It’s usually the other way around. If somebody’s rapping, they get in their opponent’s face. That’s what’s odd about that if you really watch it.
Eric: I think what set it off was Dose’s hat brim was under Math Hoffa’s hat brim, and it touched his nose. [Laughs] It was so crazy because I saw this happening. And it was quick when you watch it in film, but I’m lookin’ at Smack and Smack is lookin’ at me, and we’re lookin’ at each other like, OK, this is about to go. But it seemed like it was like two minutes long, but it was actually a split second. We were like, Should we step in and stop this before it happens? And before we could: BOOM! It explodes. Everything is mayhem. Everybody’s goin’ crazy. There’s wrestling, fighting. People start running out of the gym. Everybody’s nervous, scared. We had to keep the cameras rollin’. It was really just the two of us in there.
Smack: Always keep the cameras rollin’! That was one of my rules.
Eric: It was wild, man. We didn’t know what we was gonna do with that footage, ‘cause we were thinkin’, Shit this is a battle man, we wanted the battle. We wasn’t really lookin’ for that. But it ended up really, really getting’ people excited.
Smack: It ended up on TruTV.
Kanye West Addresses Beanie Sigel Gay Allegations (June 2007)
Prior to Taylor Swiftgate, cameras had never caught Kanye so candid and raw. After former fellow Roc Boy Beanie Sigel called him gay, and with an impending sales showdown with 50 Cent on the horizon, a visibly emotional Yeezy went straight to SMACK to air out his innermost feelings.
Smack: Aw man, that was like one of the biggest interviews we did because we were able to get so much out of him that I was surprised. But I’ma let E break that down.
Eric: We were out in Atlanta at the time…We were doin’ an interview with Toomp. So Toomp was working on the Graduation album, this is when [Kanye] and 50 Cent were dropping on the same day. So we were able to get up with them and we went in the studio. And Toomp told us to come through and Don C told us to come through. And we were in there with Toomp for a while in the studio. And we didn’t think we were gonna get an interview. So we were just chillin', he was playin' us tracks from the album, and we were walking out going to another room and Kanye came in. It was just me, Smack, Kanye and I think my man, D, and we were sittin’ in the room. And he just really opened up on a level that we didn’t even think was gonna—it just went beyond the music. It just went to how he felt about himself and things he experienced growing up.
It’s an interview that I don’t think anyone got that kind of content out of him at that time. And this was a time when he was on fire, too. And he’s still on fire, but, you know. This was the “Good Life,” album. This is big. And he just talked about so many different stories. And we asked him, being SMACK DVD, we gon’ ask the questions that people wanna know. And at that time Beanie Sigel was saying that Kanye was gay, so we asked him about it and he definitely expressed how he felt and made it clear that he wasn’t gay. But, what was weird was he spoke up for himself in a way that he had never talked before. Being aggressive, but he was also real about it in saying, “Beanie’s a real guy and I’m not really lookin’ for that trouble. But I’m still gonna defend myself as a man and respect me as a man." And then he showed another side where he was actually hurt by the things that Beanie had to say about him. You know what I mean? So he really showed us this emotional side of him on camera. So we were like, Wow, this is crazy.
Then he told a story about how Beanie Sigel once—you know, he was in New York when he was first poppin’. He was out at the clubs, he said he had his jewelry on, he met some girls and he took them to the Chelsea Diner. He had the Roc chain on, he was flossing, he was doin’ beats, and he was tryna get it crackin’. And he sat down to eat. And there was some gang members in there, according to him there was some dudes that was schemin’ on him. So he said he called up Dame, Biggs, Yo get over here, I think these dudes are gonna move on me. So he said like ten minutes later, Dame, Biggs, Beanie, like the whole team came through there. And Beanie sat down right next to Ye, and he started grillin’ the dudes that was scheming on him. And I think [Beanie] opened his jacket and showed ‘em that he had something on him. Kanye said them dudes ate they food so fast and zoomed out of there. [Laughs]
Launching the careers of Saigon, Maino and Cory Gunz (2005)
Because the SMACK team always had their ear to the streets, they regularly featured freestyles and street videos to introduce up-and-coming artists. The series got a number of underground artists buzzing over the years, but three names stand out.
Eric: We kind of always had our ears to the streets, as Smack said. Smack knew a lot of people, I knew a lot of people. And sometimes we would get references from certain people. I had actually known Cory Gunz for a long time and I knew he was talented. I’d known him since he was a kid; I knew his father. So one day, we was shootin’ something with Lord Tariq in the Bronx, and Cory came through. [He] might have been like 15-years-old, 16. He started rapping. Smack was like, Hold on! And that’s when he kind of put the whole picture together with the car and stuff.
Smack: Yeah, I thought he was very, very, very lyrical and talented. The kid just can spit bars. And once I heard him I just had to stop and give him a look. So when I was out there with Lord Tariq—he had the 745 [BMW] out there. So I was just like, Yo, let him jump in the 745. Turn on the instrumental inside the car. You and your little man get in the car together and just act like y’all in the projects chillin’. And we shot the freestyle and it came out dope. I think that’s like one of the hottest freestyles I’ve shot for Smack ever. That got like so many comments and everybody was like, Yo, who’s this kid? And I think that really solidified—he already had a little buzz, but he had a real label situation after that DVD dropped. So, I was just glad to be a part of his career being successful.
Eric: Saigon, that was one of the things he did with Just Blaze. Smack kind of orchestrated the Saigon thing so he can speak on that.
Smack: With the Just Blaze freestyle, Saigon had the opportunity to be in the presence of Just Blaze. I think Just Blaze is one of the dopest producers in the game. I don’t know what kind of situation they had together; I don’t know if he was signed to Just Blaze [at that time] or not, but they definitely were doing a lot of music together. And I basically wanted to pair Saigon with a major level producer like Just Blaze and just give him a look.
Eric: So we just was like, yo. Let’s just shoot something real quick. That’s kind of the rawness of what SMACK was. It wasn’t like the big lights and the cameras and all that. It was just about hip-hop. That’s what hip-hop is. You take something and you turn it into something. Smack had a good eye for making anything a set. And the people really, really liked that.
Smack: Maino was hungry. He was destined to reach where he’s at right now. I ain’t never seen somebody more passionate and hungry and is not gonna stop calling you. I think Maino had like 30 different people that knew me call me. Talkin’ about, Maino, Maino, Maino. Literally 30 people. Like, I’m getting phone calls from people like, Yo you know Maino? Maino wanna holler at you. Maino this, Maino that. Maino’s home. Maino, Maino, Maino. So I had to actually sit down and see what he was doin’. And he played his music, I thought that he was dope, so we all linked up, gave him a couple of looks, and I think he was one of the artists that was on SMACK DVD that took advantage of the platform and did what he was supposed to do to break through to the mainstream level. We dealt with a lot of underground artists, but he’s one of the few that actually really did what he was supposed to do and took it to the next level. So, shout out to Maino, the whole Hustle Hard, the whole Brooklyn.
Dipset Goes Into Crowd To Fight At Philly Concert (March 2003)
When you’re moving with the Dips, things can get real at any moment. SMACK cameras were there when the Diplomats got into an altercation with their own fans at a radio concert in Philadelphia. What's really good?
Smack: Aw man. That actually happened at, I believe it was Powerhouse in Philly. They on stage, they rhymin’. I don’t know what happened, but somebody threw something on stage while they was actually performing they records. And one thing led to another, they jumped off stage, and all of a sudden they started a big mêlée in the crowd. I mean this is like an arena. This is not no club, like so it was just crazy. Everybody fighting in the crowd. But they broke it up, luckily nobody got hurt. That was just a crazy moment.
Eric: At the time—not tryin’ to be tough—but we been around that kind of stuff before SMACK DVD came out, you know what I’m sayin’? I won’t say we’re desensitized by it, but a fight is, you know, it’s normal. So we’ve been exposed to that kind of stuff in the past so when we were tapin’, it was almost like people respected our camera like they didn’t care that that was happening. They was just like, Oh, OK. We never felt any real danger. I don’t know, did you feel any danger anytime that we were out there?
Smack: I mean, I been through a lot with the camera. Police and stuff. Police, guns, shootings; a lot of different things. But, you’re always concerned with your safety. You just gotta just have a consciousness and awareness of what’s goin’ on and just kind of position yourself where you’re out of harm’s way but you’re still able to actually capture the footage. In those particular situations that’s what I was able to do. Like that Math Hoffa fight, I wanted to capture it, but when it’s bottles flying and punches being thrown, you just wanna make sure you’re not in the line of fire of any flying objects or anything like that. But you know the footage is priceless. So, the objective is keep the camera rolling, but, at the same time, be on point.
Gucci Mane “My Kitchen” video (July 2006)
A young Gucci invites cameras into his crib for one of SMACK’s patented street videos. The video introduced the ATL underdog to the rest of the nation and to this day it is one of his most viewed videos on YouTube. And peep a skinny Waka Flocka Flame with dreads that barely hang past his ears.
Smack: That was the birth of Gucci. Gucci was basically an underground artist that was the underdog for so long. Once we gave him that look and showed him and his energy and what he’s bringing to the game of hip-hop, I think that people respected it because it was so real and raw. I think that was the first time they’d seen Gucci in that type of setting. We were in Gucci’s house. We did that in his back yard, in his driveway. So I think the level of access was crazy and I think people just gravitate towards that. And that song is hot.
Eric: What made it crazy was—there’s also remixes of that video that people are actually dressing up like Gucci Mane and recreating that actual video over and over again. And I think, to this day, that’s the biggest video that he’s ever had in terms of views online. The last time I checked it was like 15 million views.
Jadakiss freestyle in Yonkers (June 2005)
In a clip that embodies the rawness of the SMACK brand, Kiss welcomes cameras into his hood to capture a night-in-the-life of a D-Block capo. From a quick freestyle in front of the laundry mat to a hilarious cameo from somebody’s mama at the 8:00-mark, this is SMACK at its essence.
Smack: I think it was a good thing because they in their natural environment and people accept it and is attracted to it because you catch your favorite artist in their purest form. It’s comfortable at home. A lot of these dudes don’t get to see the rappers when they not on TV. If they not on BET, they don’t get to see them just chillin’, eating a sandwich on a milk crate on they block. And that’s the things I think that fans really be looking for so they can have a better connection with the artist that they feel. And that’s what that basically showcased. Jada was in his hood, around his people, in front of the laundry mat; at home just chillin’. Being inside his house, being inside his studio, we outside on the block; this is what I do everyday when I’m not rappin’. This is where I came from, this is how I came up and this is what we do. We got the opportunity to showcase that with Jada and I think that that was hot. I think that was one of the dopest freestyle on a SMACK DVD.