Andres Tardio/Rap-Up

Exclusive: Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke Talks Roc-A-Fella Documentary, JAY-Z, & ‘Hard Knock Life’

Kareem “Biggs” Burke has big plans.

The Roc-A-Fella co-founder made history with JAY-Z and Damon Dash. Now, he reflects on the epic journey in an upcoming documentary about their rise from hard knocks to glory. Sitting down at Rap-Up HQ, Biggs reveals that the flick will be about much more than music.

“It’s really about the plight of three young black men, who because of their family dynamic, went into the unbeaten path, and got caught up in the streets,” he says. “It’s showing why that happened and us becoming the individuals we’ve become through that family dynamic and gravitating to the streets, and thinking about things the wrong way.”

While the doc will examine Roc-A-Fella’s genesis, it will also dive into other topics. Biggs claims it will even depict their transition from one form of business into “something legal” with Jigga’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, in 1996.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of another JAY-Z milestone. In 1998, Roc-A-Fella released Hard Knock Life, one of Hov’s most celebrated albums to date. “Hard Knock Life was that moment where we all felt like we made it and JAY got his just due,” says Biggs. “Hard Knock Life, other than being a classic, was something that propelled us. [It] helped bring pop culture where we were without crossing over to it.”

However, the album was bittersweet for Biggs, who lost his mother before it dropped. “It was hard for me,” he explains. “I’m on stage with JAY. We’re accepting this Grammy, and I’m like, ‘Damn. I don’t even have my mom here to see this.’ That would have been one of my greatest rewards for her to see.”

Twenty years later, Biggs is still making moves. This year, he’s re-launching his 4th of November brand while “paying homage to denim.” Plus, he’s turning Reasonable Doubt into a streetwear line and he’s still working on the high-end label, ReDo96.

Biggs and Hov aren’t Roc-A-Fella partners anymore, but he’s still excited to hear new music from his longtime friend. The mogul even has high hopes for the rumored Carters joint project, even if he won’t reveal any insider secrets.

“I’m hopeful [JAY-Z and Beyoncé] make an album together, but I got Jay on Google Alerts,” he states. “I find out the same way as everybody else. I don’t have [any] inside information…When they get together, it’s always magic…[‘Top Off’] is already having an impact. Those are two husband-and-wife, best friends, and major artists. So, I wouldn’t expect nothing less than a classic, if they did make a project together.”

–Andres Tardio