Would you say that Profile developed a distinct sound over time, or was it too eclectic to have a defining identity?
I would say that they developed a Profile set. I think there were certain producers that reoccurred on Profile and thus lent their sound. So Hurby Azor, he produced a bunch of stuff like Dana Dane. Some of those records kind of sounded similar. But no, there wasn’t an overall Profile sound, nor was there a Profile aesthetic, although Cory, who was really very persnickety about how his album covers looked. I mean, if you look at the Profile album covers, the logo was always in the same place and had the same kind of block lettering. So the type styles, the promotional T-shirts were the same. I have to say, working with Profile, it was a real business. It wasn’t like Def Jam, where they didn’t have air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter and the two owners of the company, one of them was either in the club sniffing blow or in the Russian bath and the other owner is in the studio or sleeping. That was Def Jam, and Bill Stephney, who founded the CMJ Beatbox column, initially became the de facto president of Def Jam, and he was the guy who had to pull it together into a professional label.
Are there any modern trends in hip-hop that interest you?
I think that hip-hop continues to come from people who come from the outside of something. So hip-hop artists will always be a little entrepreneurial minded. They were a lot more entrepreneurial-minded back in the 1980s and 1990s when they were really shut out, but Nicki Minaj and Kanye West did not have to cross over and prove themselves on some rap chart to be successful pop artists. The world has changed so much, and it’s changed because of hip-hop. But because of that change, Nicki and Kanye can do whatever the fuck they want and still get played on pop radio. Lil Wayne! You know, they hand him a guitar, and he can’t even play! And in the music video, he’s still a rockstar.
What I worry about sometimes is that the entrepreneurial ethos has been lost. That because you’re so accepted now by mainstream labels, you’ll just go directly to these companies that in fact are public companies, and they will be the first companies to drop you based on executive whim, pseudoscience, racism. So I always want an independent base for my people—my people being hip-hop, but especially the black entrepreneurs—you have to maintain some degree of “I own this shit.” That’s the way you’re going to thrive. And that in essence is the lesson of Profile. You know, they owned it. And what came from a bunch of white Jewish guys was very, very hip-hop in its spirit, meaning “We’re going to have hit records, and the major labels are going to come calling to buy that record from us. They’ll try to buy Run-D.M.C. from us. We’re not going to sell them for any price. I’m not going to lop off my arm to make money. If I lop off my arm, then I have to grow a whole new one. No, I’m going to keep my assets, I’m going to grow my company, and then maybe you can buy my whole company, but you’re not going to break off my assets one by one. Forget it.” That’s very hip-hop.