In New York City every rapper wants to be king. The borough of Brooklyn in particular has bred more than one MC considered to be the GOAT. But like every position of power in life, time moves forward and new conquerors come for the crown. If not for the top spot, BK’s Red Café has had his eye on a position among rap royalty since a prison bid left him with the hunger for more. After paying his dues, going through major label deal failures and several high profile alliances with the likes of Diddy and Akon, Red Café is finally up to bat. VIBE opened up a bottle of Ciroc with the Brooklynite to discuss his journey through hustling, bullet wounds, jail time and disappointments.
VIBE: Honestly, we’re starting simple. How did you get the name Red Café?
Red Café: Red is a name that I grew up with. My pops name was Red—my hair is red. When my hair used to be long; I had long braids. I was more like Little Red. That was a name I grew up with. Even my moms doesn’t call me by my government name, ever. Nobody really knows me as my real name, except in school, but even in school. You know how that goes. Café was a name that I acquired in the streets. That was my stamp. I was in the streets doing a lot of different things as far as supplying different…
The stamp on your baggies (containing drugs)?
Yeah. So when I made the transition to music I was like a one-stop shop. I had whatever, whatever you wanted. I was just a hustler. So I figured making the transition to music, I can get you whatever you need.I figured that it would work with the name and have the brand and the café.
Where you ever concerned about being connected to that?
I wasn’t Red Café then. Café was just the stamp. I did a bid and everything already.
What were you in for?
Guns, assault with weapons, drugs…
Was it all one charge?
It was a couple of charges, but it was just one bid. It was a couple of different charges and they give you deals and stuff like that. I think it saved my life because I was really crazy in the streets.
How old were you around that time?
I was crazy since I was 12, 13. At that time my father wasn’t a fixture in my life. He was locked up.
I’m not from here. I’m from South America. I was born in Guyana and raised in Venezuela so it’s like a mix of a few different things, some of my family is Brazilian; it’s all in that South American cluster. We came to this country when I was 5 or 6. We tried to make it work. My dad was a hustler. He was in the streets. He got locked up. He ended up dying in jail. It was different things like that that affected me in ways. His brothers and my mom’s brothers were in the streets, hustling. They’d buy me shit and big jewelry and I’m like 11, 12.
So your mom and your uncles were the only ones there for you?
In South America we were raised different. I wasn’t raised with love like how in America you are raised with love. There are a lot of other countries where there is a lot of love and a family environment and I never had that. It was more like “Yo,” waking up, “What up.” My siblings and I never said I love you, ever.
With your mom, too?
My mom, too, the same thing. I don’t even remember calling my mother “mom” (my mom is my hero now); I called her by her first name. I didn’t know anything different.
You thought that was normal?
Yeah. That’s what it was. We didn’t say I love you to each other. It was just we-were-out-here-hustling-you-know-what-it-is type of shit and then we come to a foreign place and it’s like whatever.
They were hustling in South America?
I don’t know exactly what they had going on there because I was young, but when they came here and they mixed with the people that were here before them. My dad was here first and my mom and I was still there. His family came here first and he ended up coming back to get us and making it work so we could get here.
So you moved here when you were really young but how old exactly
Yeah, just 12, 13. Remember I told you my father got locked up and my uncles were buying me shit and this dude, I didn’t really know him like that, but my block, at this particular time, I don’t know how it is in other neighborhoods, but when I was growing up there were certain blocks that were popping certain years, like, say, out of a 6 or 7 years, this block is popping this year. This is where it’s at; everybody hangs out there and it just moves around, so my block was hot at this time. My block was 19 street. Shyne is from my block.
Flatbush. Q Da Kid is from my block. So my block is hot at this particular time and this dude tries to take this diamond ring that I had and I wasn’t having it so I was fighting them for it. There were two of them. There were girls out there so I’m like “Man fuck that y’all ain’t going to be taking my shit,” and at the time I had this little knife, so I was stabbing this dude up and shit because they were restraining me and they were bigger than me and he had a pistol and holding it to my head and he’s trying to let it off and it’s not going off and I’m fighting them and stabbing them, then I back up and he shot me in my neck.
He shot me and ended up knocking me out. And everybody’s around–more than 30 people, right there. I get up and [blood] is coming out like a water fountain. I was still conscious, but I was losing a lot of blood and I was tired so I went home and was like “I’m tired I just want to go to sleep.” The police and ambulance didn’t come until I was in the house lying on the floor.
What happened to everybody?