“‘Self Destruction’ was out at the same time as Ghetto Music. When we talk about defining hip-hop this was very important to rap in the early days. The hip-hop community would have meetings and summits regularly. This is how the record ‘Self Destruction’ was made. It was another time in hip-hop when rappers actually called each other up and conversed with each other because there weren’t many of us. Most of the rappers were still in New York. This was before the West Coast really blew up. You had Ice T, you had Too $hort, NWA and a few other groups. And the South was just getting started with Luke and the Geto Boys. And that was about it. So that ‘Self Destruction’ record brought meaning and purpose to hip-hop. And hip-hop fans loved it! Because by the time ’89 comes around, the Teacher is victorious…everyone is with it. Everybody is wearing the African medallions. Everybody is listening to Public Enemy. Everybody is black…we got the flattop fades. Everybody knows their culture.
But it wasn’t [all unity]. No one should be looked at any less or any more, but having said that, it seemed that in the world of hip-hop even when you did conscious music you still had to be highly competitive. It started with ‘South Bronx.’ We were trying to get that record pressed up at the same time that Kurtis Blow was getting a record called ‘The Bronx’ pressed up. The pressing plant that we were using called us up and said Russell Simmons (Def Jam founder) halted the pressing of our record to press Kurtis’ record. So right away at the beginning of my career I’m starting to feel the sting of a more powerful corporation manipulating and trying to hold its space in the music industry by pushing us little guys around.
So having said all of that, we started working on the ‘Self Destruction’ record. Doug E. Fresh came up with the chorus…long live Doug E. Fresh. D-Nice did the music…long live D-Nice. But then D-Nice and Doug E gets into an argument while we were recording the song. It was over something stupid like D-Nice not being large enough to be on the record. There was an argument about Just-Ice because somebody had a problem with him being on the record because he was prone to violence. He was the original hip-hop gangsta…no bullshit. This was after he was arrested for allegedly shooting someone in Washington D.C. People had issues with him being on the song and in the video because we were talking stop the violence and they’re thinking I’m putting Just-Ice in the video only because they thought he was my man. But my argument was it’s not that he’s my man; it’s just the ones that should be saying stop the violence are the ones that have been the cause of it. Ann Carly, who was the A&R for Jive Records at the time and who helped put the whole project together, agreed with me.
Heavy, much respect the [late great] Heavy D, showed up to the ‘Self Destruction’ session. LL Cool J showed up, too, but he got a phone call from Def Jam in which somebody told him not to perform on the record or else he was going to be kicked off the label. This was a big threat, but he still came to the studio and I will always respect LL for that. He sat down with MC Lyte and co-wrote her part. There was a lot of love there. And Run-DMC wanted to be on the record, too! But they couldn’t be on it because of Rush. And Jam Master Jay was angry about this. Not just on some homeboy shit. Jay was really angry at the fact that he thought we wouldn’t consider Run-DMC for this record, like, ‘That’s some bullshit!’ But it wasn’t us. It was the record companies that were denying our record, one of which was Def Jam. And this was all supposedly coming out of Russell Simmons’ office. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince also wanted to be on ‘Self Destruction.’ But Ann Carly stopped them because she felt that Will [Smith’s] and Jeff’s image was too commercial for the record. I didn’t even know that at the time. I learned this over the years. I respected Will Smith so much for even wanting to be a part of that record.