Words by Jerry L. Barrow
Hip-Hop and super heroes go together like summertime and fresh kicks. Billionaires and vigilantes. Tequila and bad decisions. After early DJs, Graff artists and B-boys forged their alter egos inspired by comic book characters and Saturday morning favs, the caped crusaders (and villains) eventually ended up in the rhymes of the MC. In 1984 Newcleus’s “Jam On It” culminated in a DJ battle with Superman’s crew where the son of Jor-El was defeated by a sliver of Disco Kryptonite. Not to mention the future forward style of funk masters like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Captain Sky bled into the beats and the culture. In an art form built on bragging and boasting it made all the sense in the world to take on a superhuman aesthetic in your performance.
Fast forward less than a decade and a twenty-something year old MC from Newark New Jersey named Reggie Noble was working on his debut project, Whut? Thee Album released in 1992 on Def Jam Records. Performing under the name Redman, Reggie had been discovered by Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith of EPMD while he was DJing for DooItAll of Lords Of The Underground at local hotspot Club Sensations. Only a few years into the game themselves, the duo from Long Island was so impressed by Redman’s rhyme skills that they featured him on two songs (“Hardcore” and “Brothers On My Jock”) from their 1990 album, Business As Usual.
Stringing together murderous alliteration with ease, “Hardcore” is where we first hear Red mention his horny not so alter ego.
“Superman Lover, cool from the new school, hold your breath, while I walk holdin’ my jewels.”
But by the time he was recording “Whut?” Red learned to offset this aggression with off-the-wall humor and storytelling ability, which he put on full display for the album cut, “A Day Of Sooperman Lover.” Inspired by the Johnny Guitar Watson record of the same name, Redman chronicled the mishaps of a libidinous metahuman on a mission to save some pussy—literally and figuratively. As heroes go Sooperman Lover was a living non sequitur, having to take the project steps despite being able to fly and though having x-ray vision being consistently caught off guard by various surprises. But logic took a back seat to fun and added to the anti-heroes charm. If Deadpool had a half-brother from Newark it’d be this guy.
Originally expected to be a one-off inspired by Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” the saga of Sooperman Lover continued (with various spellings) across Redman’s next five albums, becoming a companion series to EPMD’s “Jane.” To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Redman’s debut and the birth of Sooperman Lover, we reached out to Redman and Erick Sermon to give us the oral history of his sometimes oral history.
Recording Whut? Thee Album.
I was living with Erick Sermon at the time. It was a like a dream come true living with one of my favorite artists I looked up to. We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment with our manager Cool B, Bernard Alexander. I slept on the couch. We shared the apartment between three dudes but it was all music. Every day, wake up, music. Go to sleep, music. Trying to sleep, there’s beats going all through the night. We did that for like four years. That’s where the album started to be created. We were going through samples, playing old records, writing to the records, not even looping it yet. We was in the studio so much that when E had to leave I was forced to learn how to use the studio. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing in there at that age, 19/20. But I was building my album. The cuts, skits and all the shit you hear is me learning how to work the studio and give y’all a finished product. That’s one of those albums I can say I’m proud of and put it together with Erick’s beats. I was such a big fan of the West Coast artists like NWA and Ice Cube, that’s why my album was built like that. It was monumental to me. I could say as a new artist I helped put that shit together.
I was in my condo first before moving into my house. I had a regular record player that had like 33 and 45 speed. I don’t think people will even remember that. Turntables had 33, 45 and 78 and I remember doing some of the album there. I had some records that I wouldn’t have been able to play, like Isaac Hayes’ “A Few More Kisses To Go.” If I didn’t have that record player I wouldn’t have been able to speed that record up from 33 to 45 for me to know at that speed to make “Tonight’s Da Night.” During that time I took Reggie with me into my new home and whatever I made inside the room Reggie was just taking. There was a vibe then that was the EPMD format. Whatever me and Parrish made went on the album because we didn’t have money to be wasting in the studio. So it was the same with Reggie, he trusted me with the music so whatever I made he used. I didn’t know him but I knew he was talented. So I did move a stranger into my house with me. I met him at a club, I said I’m gonna sign him, he came out [to my house] and never went back home.
“A Day of Sooperman Lover,” from “Whut? Thee Album” (1992)
Produced by Erick Sermon
I was a fan of Johnny Guitar Watson and I think me and E came across the record or I had it. Maybe it was my pop’s record, because I took a couple of his records when I moved. I just thought doing a new Superman Lover would be a great idea. Big up to the Watson family for supporting me since day one. They never gave me static or problems and I plan on using him more on my new album. His music is very funky and he’s very talented and that record in particular caught my eye. As you know I’m a Slick Rick fan. He was like a mentor to me. So I had to have my own “Children’s Story,” but in my own way.
I came across the “Tonights The Night” record around the same time. The Isaac Hayes record. We were just like “Wow, look at this shit.” Erick looped that up and threw some drums on it. It was in the same time frame. I ain’t think nobody was funkier than George Clinton or the P Funk All Stars but Johnny Guitar Watson? He’s a funky motherfucker. He had so many joints people ain’t up on.
I kind of knew from “Tonights Da Night” the kind of mode—the “Ba Bump”—that I wanted. The Ba Bump is a kind of Jazz/hip-hop rhythm. That’s what Isaac Hayes was and what Johnny Guitar Watson was. Once I got that beat that’s what came to his head, but it came from “Jane.” That beat is what formed Superman Lover. I have no idea where I got that record from. I used to grab them from my dad and people. I wasn’t a digging in the crates kind of dude. I just got vinyl from whoever gave it to me. No one was thinking about sequels, at least I wasn’t, until Reggie said he was gonna do a part 2. I thought it was a good story and the beat was funky, not knowing he was gonna take it and make [his own] “Jane.”
In addition to “Children’s Story” I’m a big fan of EPMD’s “Jane” stories. I wanted to continue that. The first one was kinda EPMD related because she ended up having a Bozack. That story is relevant to this day. I should have used my X-ray vision and saw that coming.
“Sooperman Luva II,” from “Dare Iz A Darkside” (1994)
Produced by: Reggie Noble
I just sit down and start writin’ and how the story ends is how it ends. I never say Sooperman is going to Africa or Sooperman is gonna be smacking the shit out the president. I was only like 23 or 24 when I wrote that so I just zoned out. And it’s on the album I least liked. Fuck the Dare Iz A Darkside fans. Y’all some weird [people]. I was so spaced out that I don’t recall the story of how I wrote it. During that time I was smoking that goddamn dust with Keith Murray. We was fucked up yo. I had just bought a new truck and I was staying in the projects in Queens. I had the Toyota Land Cruiser and I used to park it in this little spot in the projects. And there was this little gate you had to back out of. One day I backed out and tore the whole side off on my way to a Dare Iz A Darkside session. It happened again after I fixed the truck. I back out the same spot, the same way, tore the whole side off twice. That’s when I finally left dust alone.
I wasn’t really connected with Reggie on that CD. That’s when he met with Rockwilder and bought himself an MPC and started producing. Sometimes as a star you get to a certain place and he got new friends. I had moved to Atlanta and wasn’t in New York no more. I wasn’t around as much. I came back at the end and was able to make sure [it was finished]. The masses didn’t like that album but the underground thought that was Reggie’s dopest LP. To me it’s funky too, but it wasn’t moving. Method Man had gotten signed to Def Jam and it was all “Method Man” but then I did the “Rocafeller” Remix and that’s what put it back into the forefront and then they released the single I did “Can’t Wait.”
“Soopaman Luva 3,” from “Muddy Waters” (1996)
Produced by: Reggie Noble and Erick Sermon
Muddy Waters was my guiding light out the darkness. I was crazy as hell on Dare Iz. so “Sooperman Lover” got a little smoother. Even though he was still kicking ass he had more form to it. I had more story form on SML 3 and I think that’s one of my favorites. The beat was nuts. That was E Sermon. Alfonzo Hunter is my nigga. He used that on his album first [“Quiet Time” from Blacka Da Berry. It was so magical because that’s when me and E said the Sooperman Lover beat should be groovy and we listened to the album and said let’s just do a Sooperman Lover to it. So we just took it from there and that’s one of Funkmaster Flex’s favorite joints.
When I heard the sample for Nas’s “One Love” (The Heath Brothers “Smiling Bully Suite Pt. II” ) I was like this is crazy so I used it as an R&B record. But when Reggie heard me add the strings and chorus he wanted it. He liked how I looped it for Alfonzo. That one and the first one are my favorite. It’s so melodic and crazy.
The story behind that was just me getting grown. I was on my third album and it was time to leave all the shit alone. I actually run into Jane and her man is Parrish Smith. [Makes regretful face] You know what, Parrish is my homey. They my big brothers and at the time I think they were beefing and honestly I did not write that because they were beefing. I had that story already in pocket and they ended up beefing. And when I dropped the record people took it as shots fired at Parrish Smith. Nah. (“I dropped him with a two-piece and a biscuit/oh shit, it was that n*gga Parrish Smith.” I just left it as it was. I didn’t try to defend it, I was writin the story anyway. But it wasn’t a shots fired. It was just why not?
Yeah, we [EPMD] had just broke up. I didn’t tell him to change nothin. It ain’t got nothing to do with me.
“Soopaman Lova 4, f/ DAve Hollister from “Docs Da Name 2000” (1998)
Produced by: Reggie Noble
I’mma be fuckin honest with y’all, I was running out of time. The label was like give me the fucking album and stop dickin around. So I was like fuck you Kevin (Liles) and Lyor (Cohen) because they was my bosses at the time. I loved Doc’s Da Name because that was my platinum selling album and I did one of the singles off of there. I was real proud of that album. I had “I’ll Be Dat” and “Da Goodness,” I had songs on that bitch and all I had to do was a complete “Sooperman Lover.” I put so much work in on other things I forgot that I had to come up with a great “Sooperman Lover” story. And the time frame I had didn’t allow me to get into a good story like I usually do. They were “breaking my bawls,” like the Italians say. About giving them the album. So I sat down and got a quick story in and said why don’t I just say it’s my day off? So I cut it. I’m Redman, I can do that.
“Soopaman Luva 5 (part 1 and 2)” from “Malpractice” (2001)
Produced by: Erick Sermon and Da Mascot
Somebody stole my mojo! I’m a big fan of the Austin Powers movies and thought it would be cool. For some reason Soopaman Luva don’t want to admit it, but he has a thing for Jane. Jane be playing hard to get. I dunno how I tied Jane and SML together but they fit. SML had the hots for Jane but she was fuckin a white guy and he was pissed about that. “I’m Sooperman lover, I got the super dick. But it’s not all about the super dick with the bitches these days. They want you to do the little things.” He just didn’t get it. So she ended up fuckin a white guy that got it. SML shitted a chicken and in the midst of him acting crazy he got wacked over the head with a frying pan. We never find out who did it. I don’t even know who did it and I wrote the story. Coulda been Eminem crazy fuckin ass. Moral of the story is I don’t know who it was. I’mma leave it to the fans to decide. Some people thought it was Parrish Smith, but it wasn’t.
Do you know where the beat came from? You will if you’re familiar with I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, one of my favorite fuckin movies. Remember when Fly Guy stepped off the steps with the fish in his shoes? I love that part so bad [edit note: the song playing during the scene is “He’s A Fly Guy” by Curtis Mayfield from the soundtrack] that I had to recreate it and do it for “Sooperman Lover.” E and his boys played it over and I produced the second half. Da Mascot was me. I was just being an asshole.
Reggie always does the part 2. When the part 2 beat come on it’s usually Reggie. He made me get that movie and play it over. That was FONKY. I just find the sound that’s as close as possible to the sample. Then you EQ it so it sounds real. I only play the organ and piano. I was making beats on the Roland W30. It only had 15 seconds of sample time.
“Soopaman Luva 6,” f/ Hurricane G from “Red Gone Wild: Thee Album” (2007)
Produced: by Eric Sermon and Omen
That was magic. That one reminds me of SML 3. Melanie Rutherford was killin that on the singing. It was very musical and magical. E did the beat. The story behind that is that I wanted to incorporate my sister Hurricane G. I wanted to see SML break IN to save someone. This nigga so ghetto that he still gotta break IN the jail. His powers are limited.
I wanted to see a visual to this one. I wrote it to be visualized as a cartoon. Really all of them are like that but I wrote this one like I wanted to get a cartoon made to it. It’s also a quick bite of the Mickey and Mallory story from “Natural Born Killers” with the inmates wilin and they broke out the front door? That’s NBK. That’s how I wanted to see SML walk Hurricane G out the front door like them.
That was a very exciting story. I think it would have been dope as a video, like Biggie Small’s “Warning.” When you watch that it’s kind of a mini movie. I think Sooperman Luva could have been a cartoon or a real video. It’s dope to see stories in music videos. I had sampled Curtis Mayfield’s “Gimme Your Love” that Mary J. Blige had used before.
Redman: This is not the last of Sooperman Lover. If you have ideas of what he should be, send them in. Holler at me on my website www.redmansworld.com or Instagram or Twitter with ideas because I already started the story and this version isn’t gonna be magical. It’s gonna be on a Johnny Guitar Waston beat but it’s gonna be different. I actually got a record from RZA. He’s cool with the Watson family too. He got the instrumentals to one of the albums and that is rare. You won’t see that anywhere. So I’m gonna use one on my new album. So tune into that on Muddy Waters 2.
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