Nicknamed “Brick City,” Newark is New Jersey’s largest city, just 8 miles from The Big Apple. Besides being home to great skate spots like the peach ledges of Washington Park and famous universities like Rutgers and Seton Hall, Newark is the hometown of Reggie Noble, aka Redman. Here, he offers his guide to Newark, tells how a chance encounter with Erick Sermon at a club in Newark gave him his break, and how his non-profit hopes to promote skateboarding in NJ.
Look for Redman along the sidelines at the Super Crown, airing live Sunday at 7:00 Eastern Time on ESPN2.
Newark, New Jersey
“Jersey is the Garden State. It’s got a lot of history. George Clinton called Newark one of the “Chocolate Cities” because it’s predominately black. [A magazine article said] Newark is the number one unfriendliest city in America. Can you believe that? Being from there you wouldn’t think so, but Newark has some problems. But unfriendliest? I never heard of anything like that. When people get to know us we’re the most grimiest, most love-able people you could meet. I’m proud to be from Newark, New Jersey.”
Positivity Through Skateboarding
“In the last year it’s been crazy seeing how skateboarding has blown up in Newark. When we were kids we used to skate. Back then we did some ghetto stuff with skateboards. Today the skate community has grown and I love it. I’m glad skateboarding grew as a lifestyle as well. I’m glad that it gives urban kids something to do besides basketball. I have a store in Staten Island with my partners Shariq and Mike, called Richmond Hood. We sell tees, trucks, wheels, boards and anything else you need. We’re looking to bring a location to Newark. For the last four years in Staten Island we’ve blocked off the street and brought out ramps and quarterpipes for the kids to skate, with help from a lot of great sponsorships. We’re blessed to be affiliated with the skateboarding community and we’re glad it has branched out into the urban community. Seeing all these different people from black to white to Mexican joining together to do something positive is what it’s all about.”
“We’re blessed to be affiliated with the skateboarding community… Seeing all these different people from black to white to Mexican joining together to do something positive is what it’s all about.”
“Growing up, Sandwiches Unlimited was my spot. Chinese food and sandwich spots is what we lived on as kids. Do It All Du and I used to eat Chinese food every night as teens. And I can’t forget Cooper’s. Cooper’s Deli is known in the hood for giving the most meat on a sandwich. It’s actually too much meat. I used to get the hot pastrami sandwich, which they’re known for.”
“Women in Newark are the most beautiful, grimiest and loveable women you will meet. Just keeping it real, but in Newark we know we have hot chicks, and when I was growing up usually the hot chicks were already taken, so you had to leave the city and go to East Orange or Montclair to go get some talent. Brick City chicks do not play any games.”
“We have the Prudential Arena downtown where the New Jersey Devils play, which is popping off. People don’t know this but Newark is that next city. It’s set to take off. It’s right next door to New York, and it’s right by the water and everywhere else is too cramped to live in. My boy Benedict is doing a lot of things with real estate to help bring Newark up. We want to have a facility where people can skate, ride bikes, climb walls and race cars, just like any other city.”
“We have the Prudential Arena downtown where the New Jersey Devils play, which is popping off. People don’t know this but Newark is that next city. It’s set to take off.”
Growing Up on the West Side of Newark
“I grew up in the West Ward, on 20th St and South Orange Avenue. My neighborhood was like anybody else’s neighborhood. You go through your fights, and you go through bullying either by you getting bullied or you bullying somebody. You just stay alive in our environment. Our environment raised us to be better kids. My mother was always teaching us. She was big on ‘You’re better than that.’ She’d say, ‘You see we left the roaches and the rats behind. I made a way. You can make a way for yourself, too.’ My mother’s cause was Affirmative Action. She worked that program for over 30 years in Newark. To this day real thug dudes that I don’t even know will come up to me and say, ‘Your mother helped me get this job when they were treating me wrong. If there’s anything she needs let me know.’ Affirmative Action is a strategic job in Newark and my mother worked it, and her contribution to the city trickled down to us.”
Taking the 31 Bus Line to Success
“Penn Station and the 31 bus line were very important routes for me and anybody else that was in the West Ward area. That’s the bus I caught to go apply for jobs downtown or to go to Penn Station. I got a story about the day I took that bus to Penn Station to go to New York to make my career. In Penn Station I had what I consider to be a very monumental moment. A while back I had met EPMD at Sensations, a club in Newark and I was on my way to meet Erick Sermon in a McDonald’s in Long Island. But I did it. I left Penn Station and I was on the way to making my career. I didn’t look back. While I was in Penn Station though, I saw Carl Anthony Payne, who you know as Cole from the sitcom ‘Martin’. We talked about where we were headed and wished each other luck. That day he was on his way to the airport to fly out to California to audition for ‘Martin.’ We haven’t looked back since that day at Penn Station.
“After I met fat-ass Erick in McDonald’s and told him I got kicked out that week from both my parents’ homes, he invited me to live with him in a one bedroom apartment, that he was already sharing with his manager. To complete my move I did four trips from Newark to Long Island with all of my stuff. So that means I was riding the 31 to Penn Station and then taking the train to Manhattan’s Penn Station and then the Long Island Railroad train to Erick’s.”
From the Streets to the Stage
“I wasn’t looking for a break at the time my break happened. I always tell people that God is good. If you ask for what you want and you have patience, it will come to you. I was living with my pops because I just got kicked out of my mother’s house. Do It All Du from Lords of the Underground asked me to go to the club to see MC Lyte, and I said I wasn’t going to go, but I ended u going anyway. When we got to the club we found out that MC Lyte cancelled and EPMD was performing in her place. My role that night was being the DJ. We went there trying to get a break for another rapper. We went backstage to talk to EPMD and Erick asked everybody to rap, including myself. The next thing I knew I was on stage with EPMD that night. People from my hood were looking at me confused, like I was crazy, because they were out on the corner with me earlier that day.”
“Change is possible, but it won’t happen if you don’t believe.”
Change Through Literacy
“My friend Do It All Du has a non-profit called 211 Media Group which I’m a part of. It’s all about improving children’s literacy in Newark. Our motto is ‘The Kids Don’t Know What They Don’t Read.’ We actually go to a corner in the hood and have people read right there and invite the kids to come have a story read to them or they can read along. Do It All and I always wanted to do something for our city. Now we’re both able to do that. Change is possible, but it won’t happen if you don’t believe.”
“The schools here and the surrounding areas are great. Rutgers University and NJIT are great schools in Newark, but so are Kean University and Montclair State. I went to Montclair State when it was a college and now it’s a university. My pops graduated from NJIT. He was in the Marine Corps in the Vietnam War and then decided to get his college degree in his late 40s. He got an engineering degree. I went to Westside High. You know the East Side High in “Lean On Me?” I went to the Westside version. It was off the hook. I went to Speedway Avenue School. I went to 13th Avenue School. The schools now are rough. You have to be on your game and not be a punk to get an education. Hopefully we can change all that, so that kids can get an education without worrying about other kids bringing the streets and its antics into the schools.”