By Brian Walker
The Philadelphia Globe is continuing it’s history of Philadelphia Hip Hop series with an interview with Chris Schwartz. Schwartz is the cofounder of Ruffhouse Records. Scwhartz has been involved in hip hop for 38 years ( started in 1982) and still continues to be a prominent figure in the hip hop industry as one of the founders of RuffNation Records (started in 2012). Schwartz has worked with many acts including Lauryn Hill, Nas, Schooly D, and countless others). In today’s interview contributing writer, Brian Walker interviews Chris about his start with Hip Hop in Philadelphia and the origins of Ruffhouse Records.
Brian: How did Hip Hop in Philadelphia start for you?
Chris Schwartz: Around early 1982, I was working on electronic dance music and was one of the first local acts to play with a TR 808. While I was playing I ran into a group of kids who wanted to collaborate and write some music. Then after working together we got together and cut a deal with Frank on Broad and Colombia at Virtue Recordings to cut records. This eventually led me to meeting Schooly D, the first gangster rapper to ever record music.
When did hip hop become more popular in Philadelphia?
I would say that would also be around 1982 when Lady B (who is also the first female hip hop artist) ran a hip hop radio show called WHAT. She would play various hip hop acts and later on moved over to Power 99 later on.
How did you start Ruffhouse Records with Joe Nicolo?
I was working for Nicetown Records at the time and then met Joe Nicolo at Studio 4. Joe and I wanted to start a label while I was working with Schooly D and the rest became history.
What was it like to start a record label while Hip Hop was growing?
It was very exciting to be a part of hip hop at the beginning. Hip hop was considered to be controversial and I enjoyed that excitement. I was a producer at first and then became a manager and promoter for acts such as EZE, NWA and others. Then over time when I started to work with Joe Nicolo I worked on over 20 records as hip hop became more mainstream to the public.
Looking at Philadelphia today, how do you feel like Hip Hop has changed? Who are some people you have been looking at lately?
There are quite a few people that I think are worthy of accolades and recognition in this city. I think the work of WHO MAG magazine has been really helpful in highlighting the hip hop community of Philadelphia and they have been doing a lot of big things in helping hip hop culture stay alive.
Do you have any upcoming releases with Ruffhouse Nation?
We have a couple of releases in the works, including a release with B Real and Cypress Hill. The release will be the first music project to be disributed and released at dispensaries. We also are working on a release with Schooly D and Ms Lauryn HIll. We are also working on creating a vinyl facility,for pressing records.
Any projects you are working on for yourself?
I am working on two books at the moment. One novel is a non fictional book called Rebels and Poets, Kingpins and Moguls. The book is an additional follow up from my past book, Ruffhouse. I am also working on a fictional project with a pending title about the 80s and 90s hip hop community.