by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2004-04-20
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 Remedyâs two albums The Genuine Article and Code Red.
SJâs Caroline Westbrook talked to Remedy about his music and career to date, his plans to come to the UK, and why he believes that âthere are no other Jewish rappersââ¦
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 Iâm saying. And then I couldnât 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 â rap music and football, so I just became involved with that. I was into all types of music really, rap wasnât 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, weâve known each other for years. They say real recognises real, and we all kind of represent something, we donât 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 donât just rap about anything, we rap about reality, and whatâs 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, thatâs what itâs 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 youâre already dead.
Youâve done a track with Wu-Tang, havenât 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 âI can never find that songâ, I put it on every album I do so that itâs spread out and you have to be able to find that song.
Whatâs 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 âoh, I understand thereâs a bunch of Jewish rappersâ. To me, rap is the most real form of expression and form of art when it comes to music, so if youâre not expressing yourself and your Judaism and your peopleâs struggles through your music then really youâre not representing who you are. So to me you canât be a Jewish rapper unless youâre speaking of the trials and tribulations that you and your people have gone through. I know a lot of so-called Jewish rappers that donât even mention their Judaism in their rap. To me theyâre not Jewish rappers, theyâre whatever. I donât support Jewish rap that mocks Judaism and being Jewish, because itâs nothing to joke about and itâs nothing to laugh about, itâs reality, this is what we are, this is a people man. To mock our own peopleâ¦I canât support any of those rap! pers. You canât mock Judaism and being Jewish.
The difference between you and what some other Jewish rappers do is that youâre much more real about itâ¦
Yeah, because itâs a real thing. Reality is real, the world is real, you canât just mock Judaism and being Jewish. Iâve made songs that make grown men cry, Iâve made Rabbis cry with Never Again. I just do whatâs real and whatâs 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 Iâve done concerts in Moscow, Russia, 10-12 cities in Germany from Munich to Berlin and Stuttgart, Iâve done Amsterdam, Paris, just based on Never Again and Jews around the world. Like I said, thereâs no mockery about it. When you deal with the Remedy, youâre dealing with a Jewish man who identifies himself as that, and thatâs what youâre getting from me. I try to educate the kids, or whoever Iâm 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 werenât too supportive, they thought âoh everyoneâs trying to be a rapper, youâll never make it, this and thatâ, 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, âWow Ross, you must be a commodity, youâre a real actâ, and then they started getting back on my team, and weâve been making moves together ever since. The record industry isnât something to play with either, itâs based on people who donât know anything or have anything, and then the deals they give out really arenât deals. I know artists who have gold and platinum records who have no money. I couldnât 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, itâ! s not fair.
Which of your Jewish peers would you like to collaborate with?
Iâve already recorded a bunch of songs with Subliminal, who is the biggest rapper in Israel, Iâve recorded about seven songs with him. Iâm trying to do a song with this Israeli girl called Sarit Hadad, whoâs very respected in Israel, great singer as well. Most of the Jews Iâm looking at collaborating with are actually residing in Israel. Iâm 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, Iâll 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, everythingâs about a concept, Judaism and Israel, and itâs going to be a pro-album, very positive.
Do you have plans to be in the UK at all?
Iâm planning to come to the UK in September, to play about 30 shows. Iâm ready to go abroad around September and show the world what Iâm doing.
And finally, tell us about Never Againâ¦.
Growing up in America, when I was going to high school, everybody knew about the Holocaust but you didnât 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 â she was 95, she just passed a few years ago â and she explained to me who made it over and who didnât 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 weâve been tracking history for thousands of years. So to me it was amazing that mankind would let something like this happen â 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 didnât know that Wu-Tang were going to use it, I wrote ! it for me and my people. People tell me itâs a great song all the time and I say âlisten, itâs only the truthâ.