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Remedy Ross

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2004-04-20

Remedy Ross

Remedy Ross

Over the past few years, Remedy (aka Remedy Ross) has established himself as one of the most talented, credible Jewish rappers around. Born Ross Filer in Staten Island, New York, Remedy is best-known for collaborating with the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, who featured his Holocaust-themed track Never Again on their best-selling 1998 album The Swarm. The track has also featured on Remedy’s two albums The Genuine Article and Code Red.

SJ’s Caroline Westbrook talked to Remedy about his music and career to date, his plans to come to the UK, and why he believes that ‘there are no other Jewish rappers’…

 

Tell us about where and when you first got into rapping.

I used to talk to the plants when I was a young boy and the plants would grow real fast, so I realised it must be something I’m saying. And then I couldn’t really sing too well, but I had a good way of formulating my words together, so I just became an MC and started rapping. I grew up at an interracial high school, we played football and rap music was the main thing – rap music and football, so I just became involved with that. I was into all types of music really, rap wasn’t always my thing, but it just developed into that.

 

How did your collaboration with rap group Wu-Tang Clan come about?

We grew up in the same place, Staten Island, I went to high school with a couple of guys from the Wu-Tang, we’ve known each other for years. They say real recognises real, and we all kind of represent something, we don’t rap about nothing, we have issues we like to talk about and bring to the attention of the world. We call it reality rap, we don’t just rap about anything, we rap about reality, and what’s really going on. Unfortunately hip-hop music has been kind of taken over nowadays by commercial rap and the big dollar rules everything, so that real rap is much harder to find and accept. With Wu-Tang, that’s what it’s all about, we try to represent the truth, and try to promote the truth and let people come to it, and not let it stand for nothing. If it stands for nothing you’re already dead.

 

You’ve done a track with Wu-Tang, haven’t you?

Never Again, which was on a Wu-Tang album which sold about a million copies in 1998 I believe. Never Again is my theme song, I put that on every album I do, just so no-one can say ‘I can never find that song’, I put it on every album I do so that it’s spread out and you have to be able to find that song.

 

What’s your feeling about other Jewish rappers who seem to rap for a gimmick?

There are no other Jewish rappers. People tell me that all the time ‘oh, I understand there’s a bunch of Jewish rappers’. To me, rap  is the most real form of expression and form of art when it comes to music, so if you’re not expressing yourself and your Judaism and your people’s struggles through your music then really you’re not representing who you are. So to me you can’t be a Jewish rapper unless you’re speaking of the trials and tribulations that you and your people have gone through. I know a lot of so-called Jewish rappers that don’t even mention their Judaism in their rap. To me they’re not Jewish rappers, they’re whatever. I don’t support Jewish rap that mocks Judaism and being Jewish, because it’s nothing to joke about and it’s nothing to laugh about, it’s reality, this is what we are, this is a people man. To mock our own people…I can’t support any of those rap! pers. You can’t mock Judaism and being Jewish.

 

The difference between you and what some other Jewish rappers do is that you’re much more real about it…

Yeah, because it’s a real thing. Reality is real, the world is real, you can’t just mock Judaism and being Jewish. I’ve made songs that make grown men cry, I’ve made Rabbis cry with Never Again. I just do what’s real and what’s real to me, and what I feel the world needs to know, and what humanity in general needs to know as a whole.

 

So how hard is it for you as a Jewish rapper to get respect from the Jewish community? Do they expect you to be a gimmick act?

No, actually, Jews throughout the world have reached out to me ever since they heard Never Again, and I’ve done concerts in Moscow, Russia, 10-12 cities in Germany from Munich to Berlin and Stuttgart, I’ve done Amsterdam, Paris, just based on Never Again and Jews around the world. Like I said, there’s no mockery about it. When you deal with the Remedy, you’re dealing with a Jewish man who identifies himself as that, and that’s what you’re getting from me. I try to educate the kids, or whoever I’m trying to reach, in Judaism and I try to promote Israel as well.

 

What sort of support have you had from your family with the music?

Funny you should say that! When I started they weren’t too supportive, they thought ‘oh everyone’s trying to be a rapper, you’ll never make it, this and that’, and then they saw these record companies offering me a few hundred thousand dollars trying to sign me, and my dad sat back and said, ‘Wow Ross, you must be a commodity, you’re a real act’, and then they started getting back on my team, and we’ve been making moves together ever since.  The record industry isn’t something to play with either, it’s based on people who don’t know anything or have anything, and then the deals they give out really aren’t deals. I know artists who have gold and platinum records who have no money. I couldn’t sign to one of those major labels, I had to do it independently because they want to own everything. I make songs like Never Again for me and my people and then they want to own it, it’! s not fair.

 

Which of your Jewish peers would you like to collaborate with?

I’ve already recorded a bunch of songs with Subliminal, who is the biggest rapper in Israel, I’ve recorded about seven songs with him. I’m trying to do a song with this Israeli girl called Sarit Hadad, who’s very respected in Israel, great singer as well. Most of the Jews I’m looking at collaborating with are actually residing in Israel. I’m actually working on a Jewish theme album right now, an album based on Jewish themes.

 

Can you tell us what to expect from that?

Sure, I’ll have a remix of Never Again on there, I just did a song about the guy who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, and all types of Jewish themes, everything’s about a concept, Judaism and Israel, and it’s going to be a pro-album, very positive.

 

Do you have plans to be in the UK at all?

I’m planning to come to the UK in September, to play about 30 shows. I’m ready to go abroad around September and show the world what I’m doing.

 

And finally, tell us about Never Again….

Growing up in America, when I was going to high school, everybody knew about the Holocaust but you didn’t really have Jewish education. So when I was searching for my identity, searching for my roots in my mid-twenties, I reached out to my grandmother – she was 95, she just passed a few years ago – and she explained to me who made it over and who didn’t make it over, and that my great uncle was shot and killed and his family was taken to the camps, and I just did as much research as possible to find out what exactly was going on. If you look at history this only happened about 60 years ago and we’ve been tracking history for thousands of years. So to me it was amazing that mankind would let something like this happen – how could they let this happen? So I did research, and I sat and cried several times when I wrote it, and I took my time to make it right, but I didn’t know that Wu-Tang were going to use it, I wrote ! it for me and my people. People tell me it’s a great song all the time and I say ‘listen, it’s only the truth’.