This is Part 2 of a 2-part story.
As told to David Ma. With his Far East release Funky Man: The Prequel (Slice-of-Spice) out now, Lord Finesse is featured in the forthcoming issue of Wax Poetics Japan in a crazy thorough career retrospective penned by egotripland contributor David Ma. Last week, we presented Part 1 of excerpts from David’s story – in which Finesse shared memories and photos of his days hanging out with Gang Starr, and the inception of D.I.T.C. Here, in Part 2, the Funky Man returns, recalling the influence Ice-T had on his career, his work with Biggie Smalls and Dr. Dre, and the night Finesse unexpectedly found himself chilling with the legendary Ms. Grace Jones.
Lord Finesse: “I had done a seminar in ’89 and that’s where I met Ice-T. He always told me that if I ever needed anything I could come to him. My record was getting mad play at Wild Pitch and everyone loved the album and everyone was talking about how great it was. But financially, I was just barely getting by. So I reached out to Ice to see what he could put together for me and my career. I was still signed to Wild Pitch, but from one summer to the next, a lot of things didn’t go how I thought [they'd] go, especially with everyone supposedly loving and listening to the album. In the summer of 1990, I was released from Wild Pitch; it was only about six months after Funky Technician. Luckily, though, through Ice-T, I signed to Warner Bros. at the end of 1990.
“It’s fun, of course, looking back on everything. But Gary Harris, one of the cats that brought me to Warner Bros., had left right after [I signed]. So the person who was telling WB about me, how great I was and who set everything up for me, wasn’t even there to shape me and take it to the next level. Due to his absence, I learned I had to do everything all by myself. It could’ve been better in a lot of ways, but as a whole, I think it [was a] good [experience] given what I had to go through to make it work. I had to learn how to produce and executive produce. I had to do all my own administrative work. At one point, I wrote all my own credits. For example, some dude from Warner Bros. came in and told me they wanted a complete lyric sheet. So then I’d have to type down all my lyrics and shit.”
Lord Finesse: “Biggie always wanted first dibs on anything I produced. There’s a moment when I’m laying down ‘Come On’ and ‘Suicidal Thoughts’ and my boy Jessie [West] is talking about a beat I made that I was shopping to Red Hot Lover Tone. So Jess tells Biggie about the beat. It actually never even made it to Lover Tone and ended up being for Ground Floor ‘Dig On That.’ But he told Biggie and Big started cracking jokes, putting the pressure on me. ‘Oh that’s your man now?’ and ‘We ain’t cool no more?’ He just went on and on about how he’s gonna steal the beat and make it fresher and all that, you know, just giving me a hard time about it. He snapped all over Lover Tone too! The funny thing is, that same year he does a record with Red Hot Lover Tone ["For My N*ggas"]! He was real territorial with my beats; and just beats he liked in general. Those times are just crazy but fun. It’s really all love.
“Besides doing the ‘Party & Bullshit (Remix)’ for the Uptown/MCA Records soundtrack Who’s The Man?, [I produced] the original version of the track ‘Come On’ featuring Sadat X around the same time. I played Biggie a lot of stuff early on and he wanted this one other track in particular. It was dark, real grimy, murder shit and he wanted it for the album. I was trying to push all these other beats, but Biggie really wanted this one track. I also didn’t think it’d fit the rest of the tracks. So I just gave him the beat, but never heard it until it was on the album as a completed track. Needless to say, I was blown away with the finished track being ‘Suicidal Thoughts.’”
Lord Finesse: “I met a dude named Mel-Man, a friend of Dre’s at a record store and we kicked it. So I invited him to come to the Bronx. I had already worked on [“The Message”] track and was using it for my own album. But when the dude heard it, he was blown away. On the strength of that alone, he had Dre fly me out to California. I was damn near out there for like a month at The Mondrian Hotel, hanging out next to the House of Blues and chillin’ up in Skybar and shit. Me and Mel-Man met and hung out with Grace Jones one night in the Mondrian. That was insane, how cool and funny she was.
“That same night, Mel-Man told me Dre heard all these joints, but he really wanted that ‘Chinese joint,’ but knew it was for my album. I told him it’s available! It’s a great joint and would do a few numbers on my project, but imagine the numbers it’d do on Dre’s project? Hell yeah! So we made some of the arrangements and it got done right away. It was actually on a reel in New York and I had my boy fly that shit out to L.A.! That was one of my highest points of my career. To be on a Dre album was such an honor.”
Lord Finesse’s Funky Man: The Prequel album is now available via Slice-of-Spice.