The Chronic, Reasonable Doubt, Supa Dupa Fly, and Invasion of Privacy. Debut albums are the most pivotal moment of any artist’s career. Prominent cultural journalist/on-camera host/recording artist Carl Lamarre explores the making of classic hip hop’s debut albums with the artists who made them on the new digital series, The Debut Live.

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“Nothing is more pivotal than an artist’s journey leading up to their debut project,” says Lamarre in the official press release. “Many of these albums have not only become iconic but have also introduced us to the top rappers, singers, songwriters, and producers in music.”


Presented by the creative hub House of Aces, The Debut Live will take an inside look into your favorite hip-hop debuts with exclusive interviews from the artist themselves, who discuss the impact of their debut album in front of a studio audience. The series, which is available now exclusively on CEEK VR’s Metaverse platform, is a co-creation of executive producer Dria Baum and Lamarre himself. The debut season’s announced guestlist includes The Game, Busta Rhymes, Fabolous, French Montana, Cordae, Jeremih, and more.

In the show’s press release, Dria Baum added: “All major artists have a unique story that inspired their first studio album. We look forward to bringing viewers and fans a compelling show that highlights these never-been-told stories that changed the music landscape with each debut.”

Adding show creator to his resume, Carl Lamarre is Billboard‘s Deputy Director of Hip Hop/R&B, host of Billboard’s radio show Billboard Live on Sirius XM, host of the interview shows Grammy Conversations and Audiomack’s Beyond The Beat. As a renowned journalist, he is best known for pivotal cover stories with several of today’s hip-hop superstars, such as Lil Baby, Gunna, Young Thug, and Future.

The 33-year-old trailblazer spoke with The Source via Zoom in August, right before the taping of The Debut Live’s debut episode with The Game, to tell us all about The Debut Live, working with CEEK, transition to a creator, hip hop entering the metaverse, possibilities for season two, and so much more.

[Bryson “Boom” Paul]: So congratulations on creating a show, man, your first show at that. And it’s ironic that your first show you created is actually called The Debut Live. Now, you said you came up with this in the shower?

[Carl Lamarre]: Yeah, man, I think it was meant to be. It was like a blessing from my dad, man. Because I was staying at my dad’s house in Florida. My father passed away three years ago. And yeah man, I was just randomly in the shower and I just don’t know how it came up. And I was just like, “Yo.” Just thinking about Lauryn, Miseducation, and thinking about 50, Get Rich or Die Trying. I was like, “Yo, these are some fire debut albums.” Hov, Reasonable Doubt, Nas, Illmatic. I was like, “It would be dope just to know the stories behind how certain albums, these debut albums came about.” Especially with us, we’re fans of hip hop, fans of R&B, fans of music. So there’s certain things, especially as we’re encountering a newer generation, that they might not know of. You know what I’m saying? They might know of 50 now, but they didn’t know what it took to get to that level.

They didn’t know mixtape 50, you know what I’m saying? And the road it took to make a Get Rich or Die Trying. They may know Lauren from the Fugees, but they didn’t know what it took to make a Miseducation, to make a “Ex-Factor,” certain records like that. So yeah, man. I came up with the idea. I brought it to my manager and my co-creator, Alexandria Baum, and we started pitching it from there. We cultivated the idea, started pitching it, and CEEK fell in love with it. From day one, they’re like, “What could we do to help?” And they’re going to provide us with the streaming service. So the first episode today kicks off with The Game. We’re going to talk 2000s. And yeah, it’s going to stream Friday on CEEK.

You being a hip hop head since you can remember, man, and then being able to do this now. The moment of a debut album is different in hip hop than any other genre, period.  In your opinion, how important is debut albums to hip hop, just in general?

I mean, bro, I think the word I’ve been saying a lot lately, it’s pivotal. I don’t want to be… I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say it, but it’s kind of a make or break thing. Your debut is your entry point to how people are going to rock with you, establishing your fan base, your core, and if they’re going to run with you from here on out. Like I said, bringing up some of the classic debut albums. You think of Nas, Illmatic. That ended up being the blueprint for a lot of MCs, man, including myself. When you want to make a debut album, you look at a body of work and you see how these cats got it done and it took them just from being a regular MC, to a superstar, to a legend. So I think the debut album in hip hop, it’s like your rookie year. You don’t want to come with no trash-ass rookie year, you want to win Rookie of the Year, become that all-star. So it’s that entry point needed to really have that splashy debut, no pun intended.

While I’m sure you thought of a several different avenues to take The Debut Live, you decided to take your creation to the Metaverse. What made you decide to partner with CEEK and join the Metaverse?

Shout out to CEEK, man. I think what they’re doing on the metaverse side is fucking amazing, flat out. I think just with everything in life, it’s all about evolving and evolution, man. Yeah, we could have went to any streaming platform, but we wanted to go what’s new, what’s current, what’s fresh. And also be able to jump into a whole new generation and tap into that, for them to really understand the value of the debut album, of what it takes to get here. Again, I think you and I, I think we’re very much tapped in, I would like to say, in music and hip hop. You know what I’m saying? But we also got to grow and evolve. And with that comes to metaverse, which, what’s going on right now? The whole VR, virtual reality is taking over right now. You know what I’m saying? So being able to connect the past to the current, and to the future, I think it’s a match made in heaven, and that’s why we decided the team up with CEEK.

The Debut Live is a 10 episode series that debuts as hip hop turns 50. How did you narrow down the 10 debut albums among the span of 50 years to discuss?

Man, hip hop, 50, man. 50 years of hip hop. There’s so many to dive into. I think, and this just is with any project in general, and when you’re starting something new, you want to get people that want to see the vision. That sees a vision, that are willing to take a chance with you. Because I mean, I know my situation. I know I’m calling from Billboard, you know what I’m saying? But my whole thing, and I’ve always preached to people is, A, to make your own thing, right? You know what I’m saying, to have your own legacy. And I think I’m fortunate enough that during this time at Billboard, shout to my Billboard team, super grateful for them for even giving me the opportunity to go and venture out. I was able to establish a rapport and relationships to where I have that trust with artists and they’re willing to take that leap with me.

So somebody like a Game. I mean, I interviewed Game last month for Billboard News and that’s been my dog since I was 23. I’m 33 now. And I’ve had a lot of countless interviews with him. And it was just me telling him the premise. Right after we did our interview, I told him, “Yo, I’m kicking off this show.” And ironically, this was a time Rolling Stone put out their best albums list. Documentary wasn’t on there. And I was like, “Yo, I think it’s time to educate people, give flowers, and remind them of what The Documentary stood for, that moment in time. And why I’ve considered a debut classic.” And he was like, “Yo, you know what? I’ve always respected your pen. I’ve always respected your wiseness as a journalist.” And he decided to jump on.

And the same thing is with Fab. Fab is very much somebody who… He loves the details. You can’t just bring anything to Fab. He’s going to read through it up and down. And I’ve had great relationships with Fab, and somebody like French Montana, along the way and they’ve had greater interviews with me and they saw the vision as well. They’re like, “Yo, this is something we can get behind.” And it’s a thing. Once people start signing on, you know what I’m saying? And they’re like, “Oh, you know what, so-and-so’s doing it? Oh, you’re hosting it? Oh, this is a Black owned thing? We about to run with it, why not?”

So we’re hoping season one is kind of going to be the one that’s going to open it up even more, the floodgates, to have a conversation with a Lauryn Hill, who doesn’t come outside, to talk Miseducation. I’m grateful to have a relationship with Nas, to have Nas come back outside and talk about Illmatic. But we’re very much understanding that we’re building something. So whoever’s willing to join us and have faith, and giving a dope experience and have a fire conversation, let’s explore it.

You’ve interviewed countless recording artist throughout your career. But this is something different for you because it’s comes off more as a television host. How does it feel different from you doing regular interviews with artists to stepping out in front of it and now you having a literal platform, or television series pretty much, where you are sitting in front of them actually talking to them about one of the most precious moments in their career?

I mean, I think that’s a great question, and I think we kind of all been primed for this moment, right? And I feel like the pandemic, I’ve always said, even in the first time you and I spoke, it kind of opened up my eyes to see my potential. I’ve always known I had the personality and the charisma to host something. And doing those Zoom conversations, like what we’re doing right now, allowed me to show my personality. And cutting up those clips, putting it on social media and watching them go viral. And then evolving from that to doing my podcast with Audiomack. And then evolving from that to doing the Grammy conversations. The Grammy conversations was really something where it was like, “Okay, now I’m hosting. I’m mic-controlled with a crowd of 300 people every time out.” Now let’s try to step it up even more. And I think for me, just a few months ago, I was able to do Tribeca Film Festival and we closed it out with Nas. And I think that really put the battery on my back.

Like, “Okay, now we got to step it up even more. Let’s put it on a platform. Let’s have people watch, let’s have people see it.” Because the only difference is now it’s going to be a camera. You know what I’m saying? Essentially I’m still doing what I’m doing, but now it’s just with bigger lights, it’s with more cameras. So the adjustment, I don’t think it’s going to be a huge one. I’m excited. I can’t wait for the people to see it and see me in that light. Because a lot of people still, which I love, see me as Carl Lamarre, the journalist, the writer first. But as I’ve always said, with Shut Up & Write, there’s so many layers and dimensions to me that people just need to tap in.

Creating a show, watching it come to fruition, and then actually about to debut. You stepped into this not realizing its limitless possibilities, I’m sure. How does it feel to you to not just be a journalist but a creator now?

Yeah, no, I love that question too. I think it’s because, man, I realized where I can take it. As journalists, we shouldn’t just be pigeonholed as one thing. And it’s funny because recently I told myself in talking to my boys, my goal isn’t to be the best journalist anymore. It’s to be the best storyteller, the best creator. Being able to have a platform and tell these kind of stories. And I’m grateful to be able to do it in different levels.

Doing the radio show with Sirius XM, the Audiomack podcast for the producers, now The Debut Live, the Grammy conversations. Like now I’m so tapped in into different areas, I’m feeding people content in various ways, that makes my spirit and my soul excited. You know what I’m saying? And I still love what I do with the pen. I still get joy out of writing articles and doing cover stories. But now, like you said, the sky is the limit, you know what I’m saying, as far as what we can do as creators and content. So I’m definitely excited to be able to branch out and be able to show off my talent.

Now when creating The Debut Live, did you have the intention of being the host the whole time? Or was it something that people were like, “Nah man, you do it, you do it, you got this, you got this?”

Man, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that I wanted to be the host, you know what I’m saying? And I think the main thing is because again, all the other platforms that I have, this is something that’s my own. You know what I’m saying? Working for Sirius, working for Audiomack. Great companies who’ve treated me with respect and I appreciate those opportunities, but now this is my own baby, you know what I’m saying? I’m able to call the shots alongside my team, like I said, Alexandria “Dria” Baum, Saint (@ofthesaint_), Anastasia Wright. And we get to do things by our own rules. Like Hov used to say back in the day, you know what I’m saying? No rules. We make our own shit. We call our own plays.

And I’m very selfless in the regard too because while we’ve got this show, we have more content that we’re working on, different podcasts, different shows, where I might not be needed as the host. So I’m perfectly fine as being an executive producer and sitting back because, again, my hope and what we’ve been able to do so far is employ talented Black people in different avenues to help put this thing together. And I think that’s the biggest win out of it all. Being able to bring your people in, being able to put them in opportunities, help them get their resume up, help them get a check or two out of this, you know what I’m saying? And being able to build, internally, as black creatives.

Definitely. Now we’re not going to let you just go and not… Or go and ignore that selfless comment. Anybody that knows you know you’ve always played the point and you’ve always been a team player. So just take a moment to give your team the flowers that helped you create The Debut Live.

Oh yeah, no, wholeheartedly. Shout out to my co-creator, executive producer, Alexandria Baum, who’s also my manager. And I find it so dope that I have a woman manager at the helm, you know what I’m saying? If it wasn’t for her, she’s the one who put the dots and connected them with CEEK, who was able to come through and partner up with us. I mean as far as the countless emails and calls that she deals with. And she’s just a maestro at putting everything together. You know what I’m saying? I don’t think people understand the value of having women on your team because they do so much heavy lifting that us cats don’t even realize, appreciate, or recognize. And I do all three, I appreciate everything that she’s able to do.

Anastasia Wright, she’s the one who’s been really connecting the dots as far as getting us to location. So what people don’t see is, yeah, we’re going to stream it, but it’s also still going to have the live component where we’re doing these interviews live. Like, right now I’m at Soho House, Soho Warehouse, you know what I’m saying? And that’s where we’re going to do our first interview with The Game. That wouldn’t be possible without her, you know what I’m saying? Being able to grab these fire locations to shoot, make the artist feel comfortable, that’s essential right there. Because you want the artist to be at peace.

And then my young boy, my man Saint, Of the Saint, is going to be our lead photographer throughout the series, and especially for this episode. He’s a young kid out of Toronto who I found through one of my best friends who used to manage my boy Stalley. They randomly met at a Toronto tour date and ever since then he connected me with the kid. And Saint has been my photographer, personal photography, videographer since then. And recently he’s been on a crazy run shooting for Drake, shooting for Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj. He did OVO Fest. He’s been shooting Drake crazy to where Drake’s reposting his stuff. So that kid about to blow up and leave me soon. So I’m just appreciating having him while I can.

But yeah man, I got a real short, tight-knit team. And of course CEEK for being the streaming partners and seeing the vision, taking a chance. Because there’s a lot of other dope hosts out here, man. We just have a dope genre of hip hop where it’s like we also have storytelling creators like a Jinx, like a Speedy, obviously you’ve got Rap Radar, yourself. So whenever companies take chances on us, I don’t take that for granted, you know what I’m saying? So them taking that chance with us, definitely appreciated. So yeah, team is great. I wouldn’t be nowhere without the team and it’s not a one man team, you know what I’m saying? If it was, we’ll probably be 10 and 72. So luckily we’re on the right path.

How’s your friends and family been during the whole creation process?

Yeah, I mean shout out to my friends and family, man. I think one of the biggest blessings I have is my support system. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my faith in God. My friends and family, they’ve been super supportive. A lot of them already been like, “Yo, let me know when so-and-so’s coming,” or “If you get so and so.” Names I’ve been getting. Like, yo, we’ve been talking about getting Brandy for The Debut. “Oh, you got Brandy? I need tickets. Can I come?”

Oh, one name, which I know a lot of people, they’re going be like, “Huh?” But he played a pivotal point in my life, Craig David’s debut album. You know what I’m saying? Come on, man. “7 Days,” “Fill Me In.” One of my boys, who’s a publicist in the game, him and I, we always do karaoke to Craig David, you know what I’m saying? “Rendezvous,” come on. That’s another one, man. “Mr. Booty,” man. Like, come on, man. So there’s been a lot of support, the outpour of love has been great, man. And that’s what keeps us going at the end of the day. And it keeps my team happy and loving to do this shit, man. We don’t do it for money. We don’t do this for freaking clout. We do it because we love what we do and we love feeding the culture.

Your show is coming up in a time in hip hop that is really flourishing in podcasting, live streaming, and just moving into the future with the metaverse. Jinx over at Spotify, Wayno doing his thing, and the women over at See, The Thing Is, Pour Minds, and whatnot. How do you feel watching hip hip hop further evolve into the streaming, podcasting, and metaverse?

I love it, man. I love it. And everybody that you named are so talented, are so innovative, and they bring a unique creative voice into that industry, into the genre that we need, man. As a genre… And not even as a genre, as a people, sometimes we get so, not even conflicted, we’re overly competitive. And I think it’s just that dog in us where we’re like, “Yo, you can’t have everybody at the table.” And as a journalist coming up, I used to think the same way. I had that dog mentality. And I realized growing up, maturing, evolving that, nah, there’s space for everybody. I just saw Jinx the other day, literally two days ago, randomly at a restaurant and we were just giving each other flowers and I’m like, “Yo, growing up…” And I don’t even think I told them this, but growing up, again, that dog in me, I would see Jinx at Complex, because I used to freelance at Complex, and I’d be like in my mind, “Oh nah, I’m better than da-da-da, the interviewer.”

And then I realized after watching some of his work, actually physically watching some of his work, I’m like, “Yo, this kid is fire. And he’s humble. And he knows his shit.” You know what I’m saying? So us being able to spread the whole love and knowledge out the way we can, it’s a win for the genre, for the culture. And like you said, with the women as well. Shout out to my homies Bridget Kelly doing her thing on the podcast game as well. The more the merrier because everybody’s bringing unique content man and I love it. It’s a huge win.

The debut album is a very pivotal moment in every artist’s career. Researching an artist’s debut album for The Debut Live, what have you learned about debut albums that you didn’t before?

You know what’s crazy? I was just having breakfast with my manager and I told him, I’m like, “Yo…” I am already a in-depth researcher. I would think I’m a great Game fan, I know my stuff. The amount of work that goes into a debut album. The story leading up to it is so underappreciated, undermined. I’ll give you example. Somebody like Game, you don’t think about his upbringing, you don’t think about that. His mom was a Crip, he grew up in a Crip neighborhood, and his freaking half-brother with a Blood. Him trying to decide what direction he wants to go in, him getting shot five times while playing Madden being the turning point to him wanting to make this album, and then in the process of making this album, he ends up beefing with the man that helped him get to… You see what I’m saying?

You don’t realize that kind of story. And everybody’s story is different, everybody’s story is unique. And being able to put that into the public, to remind people. People like you and me will know, but even then doing that extra digging, I was like, “Oh wow, Game went through some shit.” And then he came out on top with a album that sold near 600,000 week one, two top fives on the Hot One, two Grammy nominations. People see that, but they don’t see the journey leading up to it, which I think is so fucking fire, bro. That needs to be told.

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Speaking of the journey, as you said, you’ve known Game since you were 23, now 33. He’s grown a lot from The Documentary to Drillmatic. Whether it’s controversy, whether it’s just straight bars, or whether debates on why he’s not considered in the top five, people still enjoy his presence in hip-hop. Share your thoughts on The Game’s growth throughout the years.

I mean, I think flat out, I think Game’s a legend. I think anybody that wants to argue that, we can do it. You know what I’m saying? Because if you look at the body of work, right, 10 albums, that’s a feat within itself. But to me personally, and I’ve said it to him, and I’ve said it publicly, I think he has at least three classics under his belt. Easy, easy. And I say it’s The Documentary, I say it’s Doctor’s Advocate, and for me, I love Jesus Piece. So that’s a classic in my eyes. Jesus Piece was a phenomenal album. Even just talking, I was telling my manager this too, even just talking to some other artists, telling him about the show. We were talking about Game. I was with Symba yesterday and Symba was telling me, “Man, people sleep on The Documentary 2.” I’ve had other people, my boss actually, tell me, “Yo, LAX.” And you realize, you go through the man’s catalog, he got some shit in there, man.

And I think he’s been able to grow and evolve outside of… Okay, people are going to say he had help with 50. 50 did X amount of records on the album, cool. But then the brother came back with Doctor’s Advocate, which some people say is even a harder album than The Documentary. And I think he learned…

Now I’m taking The Documentary, I’ll tell you that you have people that say the Doctor’s Advocate, to them, is better than Documentary. He was able to grow and make his own hooks. He was able to get the song structure down pat. People forget when Game put out The Documentary, he was only three years in as a rapper. He got shot, ’01, started rapping in… You know what I’m saying? So to put out that body of work and to ascend to the point that… People forget around the time too, the West Coast didn’t have a presence in ’04, ’05. He legit put the West Coast on his back at that time. So I think for him to be able to maintain this kind of relevancy. Sure controversy, it comes with it. He knows that. But I think to be able to sharpen his blade as a lyricist, he’s gotten only better in time. So for me, I think he’s undoubtedly… He grew from a hungry, rookie, controversial, sure, into a sure-fire legend.

You mentioned before when you asked Game about doing The Debut Live, you mentioned the Rolling Stone’s greatest hip hop albums list. And I want to ask you, man, your opinion because a lot of people missed the fact that it was a collective of people. Not just Rolling Stone, but a collective of people who are knowledgeable in this industry, a lot of them that we know personally, that contributed to this list. Now it might not have been the ideal cast of people we would’ve selected in the first place. But, being at Billboard, you guys could have did the same thing where you made a list and it ends up going the way it went for Rolling Stone. So I want to ask you your thoughts on the list and how it could have been done differently?

I mean, bro, even if I was at the point, any list that anybody makes is going to get some shit. You know what I’m saying? Don’t matter the level of egregiousness, you know what I’m saying? Even if my team, who I think is very equipped, very knowledgeable, we would do a list, somebody would try to dunk on us on social media. That’s just part of the game it is now, man. I think a lot of people… The first thing they want to do is they just want to dunk on somebody for the hell of dunking on somebody. Like you said, the cats at Rolling Stone, they got some knowledgeable cats over there. It’s not like they don’t do their homework, they don’t know their shit. You know what I’m saying? But the cool thing to do now is try to tear somebody down.

Now would I have done things differently on the list? Sure. Cool. But everybody has their own opinions. Would I put Cardi at number 16? I think Cardi’s… Listen, I think Invasion of Privacy is one of the best debut albums we’ve seen in probably the last five years. And I throw that with Victory Lap, I throw that with freaking Roddy Ricch, you know what I’m saying? And those, Roddy specifically, time’s going tell how people look at it as far as from a classic standpoint. But regardless of who was running point, niggas ain’t going to be satisfied, man. That’s just the way of the game, man. Cats ain’t going be satisfied just because. Even if you put Cardi from 16 to 50, somebody would’ve been complaining about that. You know what I’m saying?

 Now, you came up with the idea for The Debut Live in February and announced the series arrival in August. Something of this magnitude, what have you learned throughout the process that you would advises to other creators as far as putting whole projects together?

Absolutely. I would say stay patient. There’s so many times I wanted to kick this off the fucking ground, man. We had start different start dates for this, man, and different offers on the table. I honestly looked at it as if I’m a rapper when you’ve got major labels trying to give you these contracts, these deals, you’re going to… You’re all just fucking geeked off the rip because you’re like, “Oh, shit. They’re fucking with me.” I’m just going to sign off the strength and… Just off the strength.

And I have somebody who is so dope, like Dria on my team, where it’s like she’ll look at the paperwork, she knows the business in and out. She does this to where she’s able to tell me, “Okay, this is cool, we got an offer, but this is not the best offer.” So don’t be so eager to pull the trigger just because you get an offer. Don’t be so eager to pull the trigger because of emotion. Be patient, flesh out your idea. And God will tell you when the time is right. And God told us today is the right time. Today is going to be the day, after eight months of trying to make this thing happen, going through different venues, going through different artists. You know what I’m saying?

Because what people don’t understand too. Yo, we’ve gotten a lot of nos as far as people trying to do it. Because they want to see, which I totally understand too. They want see how the show plays out. They want to see the flow, they want to see the process. Which I’m totally fine with because again, I’m an underdog, bro, you know what I’m saying? So I’m fine with having to prove myself all over again. That’s the joy that I get out of doing shit. Another thing I say, yeah, don’t be deterred by a no. Because eventually it’ll turn into a yes.

Give us your fondest memory that includes a debut album?

The one that comes to mind the most is Victory Lab, recent. That was, I want to say, 2018. 2018 was a great fucking year in hip hop. People don’t even realize that, man. Astroworld, Invasion of Privacy, Daytona.

I was in LA when Victory Lap came out, and I remember I was with my ex at the time, we were in an Airbnb. This was All-Star Weekend, and I remember that Friday when it hit. And I’m like, “Okay.” Nip’s one of my favorite rappers. I hadn’t interviewed Nip yet, but I had been a super fan since freaking Crenshaw. So I throw it on my phone and I just hit… I’m like, “God damn.” Stacy Barthe going off on the… And the beat, so fucking chilling and so cold. And being in LA, that the soundtrack for that. You don’t think… A lot of people, when you hear an album, you don’t realize the magnitude of it until later on. And I sat with freaking Victory lap for so long, man.

And you think of “Blue Laces,” the sequel for that. Man, you think of a “Million While You Young,” you think of “Real Big,” you know what I’m saying? Young were puffed, going crazy. Bro, and when I think about when I spoke to Nip and he tells me like, “Yo, I’ve been recording this since 2014.” That’s when he started recording his debut album, and it’s 2018, and he had already put out music past that. So imagine, again, you think about an artist’s journey to that debut album. He’s putting out mixtapes while still holding onto certain joints knowing that “Okay, this is going to be on my debut.” So I think of something like that, man. And of course I’ve got to say, 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Trying, man. I was rocking the G-Unit headband back in the day.  Especially in New York, Hot 97, they would be playing the fucking whole album. That’s how real it was for Get Rich, man. People blaring it in the freaking flea market and shit. Yeah, man. I was the only dude in my… I was not the only dude in my crew, but we were rocking G Unit sneakers back then. That’s how it was real.

The Debut Live pays homage to the legends in hip hop throughout the 50 years. But even though we have Verzuz, even though we have podcasts like Drink Champs that praise our legends. Do you feel like legends in hip hop get the proper respect?

I mean, I feel like there’s always more that could be done. You know what I’m saying? And I feel like that’s on us being the storytellers and creators that we are. And that’s why I pride myself in having multiple platforms and trying to give flowers out, man. Because at the end of the day, man, strip all of this journalist freaking storyteller shit. Yo, I’m a fucking fan, bro, I love music. You know what I’m saying? People don’t realize what we get to do every day. My nigga, you are writing and interviewing people that you used to hear on the radio, or, you know what I’m saying, that you have on your phone. And to not want to give those flowers out to those people is wild to me, you know what I’m saying?

So that’s why for me specifically, I’m fortunate enough to do it on different platforms and different levels to where I’m able to just feed my people, you know what I’m saying? And make sure they’re getting the flowers that they need and deserve, man. So if more of us do it, if we’re able to do it. And it doesn’t need to be a freaking TV show, you know what I’m saying? It could just be… And that’s real rap, man. It could just be a podcast. It could just be a freaking interview, an interview. You know what I’m saying? Where some gems are dropped that you may have never known what I’m saying. It could be on fucking Pigeons and Planes, you know what I’m saying?

How can people get in to see this on CEEK? How can they get into the metaverse, man?

It’s as easy as just going on CEEK, the website, and signing up. It is free. Literally, you don’t got to pay. It’s free 99. You sign up, you get your subscription, and you’ll be able to watch the first episode, which is Game. Second episode, we working on right now. But it’s looking like French Montana. And then number three, it’s going to be Fab. So that, I feel like, haymaker, haymaker, haymaker, off the rip, you know what I’m saying? And being able to do it with that strong caliber, I’m proud of what we’re doing collectively as a team, and I can’t wait for everybody to see the episode in the whole season.

What was it like stepping into the metaverse for that first time?

Man, I’m still trying to figure the metaverse out, man. I wish I could answer that question, you know what I’m saying, the way I know I could. But I’m still trying to figure it out. I mean, I was just joking around with my colleagues earlier. Now you have artists, you have actual artists from the metaverse getting signed. I think the artist’s name is FK Meka, who just got 10 million on TikTok and Capitol Records just signed. So it’s still a thing where I’m trying to put my finger on it. I think the old head is starting to kick in. But I’m willing to learn and I’m grateful to have a partner like CEEK being able to help me, guide me into the metaverse. I’m not walking in it alone, you know what I’m saying? I’ve got my team with me. So it’s going to be a fun ride into the metaverse. I’m already strapped up, ready to go.

Facts, well you have season one in the can of legendary sit-downs with The Game, Fabolous, French Montana, and the list goes on. Who’s on your dream list for a season 2?

Oh, man. I’ll give you the one that I’m already locked in on and that’s my main priority for season two. It’s 50. Get Rich or Die Trying, it turns 20 in February. You know what I’m saying? And Fif, I had the honor of interview on Fif during the pandemic. Great interview. I think it’s only right, you know what I’m saying?

And I think of somebody like Usher. Usher had a debut album, but his breakthrough was My Way. And a lot of people consider that as debut album, you know what I’m saying? And that turns 25 next month. So Usher, of course, is one that we’re looking at. And I think about Puff, No Way Out, 25, that’s another one. You know what I’m saying? Where Puff became Puff Daddy, you know what I’m saying? And you know the shit Puff was talking, man, you think about “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” “Victory.” You think of all of these gems, you know what I’m saying? “All About the Benjamins.” Those stories need to be told, you know what I’m saying? Not just for us, not just for the hip hop purists, but for the young ones out there that are really trying to learn the genre and the culture to have a greater appreciation for our heroes.

You know, you also forgot about Rick Ross, man. Port of Miami.

Oh, Rozay. Listen, man, Rozay… That’s Uncle Rozay, man. Whenever he want to do shit, he knows what time it’s, man. Port of Miami… And you know what’s funny? I actually did an interview for the anniversary of Port of Miami last year, for Black Music Month, and we had a good breakdown. But I think doing it in a live platform, getting him in his bag, I think that’s a great idea.

Carl, we’ve got the new school coming in, man. A lot of new artists have dropped debut albums in the recent years throughout just from 2020 to now, going through a pandemic, going through everything that we went through as a culture. Who are some acts that just recently dropped debut albums that you would be excited to interview at a 10 year anniversary, 20 year anniversary, whatnot?

I mean, I know I kind of brought him up, and I want to say he dropped 2019? Late 2019, December 2019. Like Roddy Ricch, man. I know he wasn’t able to deliver the way he would’ve wanted to for a second album. But yo, Excuse Me For Being Antisocial was fucking hard, had fucking slaps on it. And I don’t think… People might not see it now, but when you look at it years down the line, I think that’s a classic. And I think people will recognize it as a classic. As far as… I’m going to say this is more of a project, but this was his first project, ended up being Grammy nominated, I think of somebody like Cordae and The Lost Boy. I think what he was able to do from a lyrical standpoint at such a young age, breaking away from the YBN, you know what I’m saying, and really becoming a force of his own lyrically, is something that I would love to look into, have conversations with.

I’m trying to think of somebody else. And that’s the thing too, we’re not even trying to just focus on hip hop, so I want to make that clear too. It’s also R&B and I definitely want to get that point across. I know it’s not 2020, but I did say somebody like a SZA, the Ctrl. I think of somebody like a Summer Walker for Over It, you know what I’m saying, and what she was able to do, which I think is another album that if people don’t recognize it now, five, 10 years, that’s going to be considered a classic. And that’s the thing, classics, they take time. You don’t know off the rip if something’s a classic because it could just be straight off emotion, straight off nostalgia, you know what I’m saying? But within that time, I think something like a Ctrl, an Over It, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial are projects that people will really want to look into and break down.

Like you said, you’re not just doing just R&B and not just rap, but just other debuts as well.  Hip hop itself has evolved into one of the most influential genres in the world. We can’t discredit that the world has caught up with us and created or produced their own stars… Like a Bad Bunny… Like a Daddy Yankee. Other people that were influenced by hip hop and came in and kicked in the door for themselves. But when will we stop not acknowledging their accomplishments on the charts?

I mean, I think the charts have already made great strides in doing so. I mean, you look at… We just started the Afrobeats chart, you know what I’m saying? And that’s been a huge win to where freaking “Essence” reigned top of the Afrobeats chart. I want to say we started it in May, you know what I’m saying? And you look at what WizKid has been able to do. You look at somebody like Tems, what she’s been able to do. And she hasn’t even put out her debut album yet. You know what I’m saying? And she still has a record in freaking “Free Mind” that came out two years ago that just charted on the Hot 100 a few weeks ago. You know what I’m saying? So I think we’re, from the chart side, we’re doing what we have to do as far as being aware, you know what I’m saying? And keeping our eyes and ears out as far as where international artists are taking it.

I mean, we have also a worldwide chart, a worldwide Hot 100, 200. So we definitely don’t try to discriminate on that front and we try to cater to all fields. But you think of somebody like Bad Bunny, what he’s been able to do has been unprecedented. And let’s think outside of the charts, the dude is doing stadiums, he’s doing stadiums, you know what I’m saying? And it’s freaking like $1,200 just to get a ticket to go to Yankee Stadium. You know what I’m saying? He’s doing movies, he’s just in the Brad Pitt joint, Money Train. He’s about to do a superhero movie. You know what I’m saying? So you’ve got to think about the caliber of international artists, them breaking into the mainstream, and these either going to potentially be the torch bearers for their respective countries and genre when the time comes.

I think Tems, she had know debut album, but she had the number one record. You know what I’m saying? With Future and Drake, “Higher,” which a lot of people did not know. People thought, “Oh, okay, Tems was on the hook. Is this a sample?” They didn’t know what it was. They had to go back to one of her mixtapes and realized it was “Higher.” And “Essence,” “Wait For U,” “Free Mind,” you know what I’m saying? She hasn’t even put out a debut albums and she’s just getting started, man. So I think these international acts, man, they’re definitely here to stay.

And lastly, I want to ask you about the feeling. This is a first for you. This is a debut not just for the show, but, also for you. What kind of emotions are you going through right now?

It’s not even… Normally I tell people this, I get nervous leading up to it, probably a few hours ahead. For Game, I have just been super excited. I’m just grateful. I’m just ready to get this going, man. Because I think, one, it’s comfortability, having already interviewed Game, having that relationship. But it’s two, being able to do something that we all love collectively, you know what I’m saying? Having that appreciation, you know what I’m saying? For being able to do something that’s our own and Black owned.

It’s a real thing now. It’s not a talk anymore. It’s not like, “Oh, I’ve been working on something.” Nah, we have something tangible now and we’re going to be able to present it to the world on Friday, present it to the people in Soho House is going to be able to come and check it out. And we already maxed out. We capped a few weeks ago. We announced it like late July, and I think after two weeks we’re already capped out. So there’s a waiting list, you know what I’m saying? So the anticipation is there, the buzz is there. People been talking about it, we just found out earlier this morning. So excitement, that’s the word.

Check out episodes of the new series, The Debut Live, hosted by Carl Lamarre, available now exclusively on CEEK VR’s Metaverse. Don’t forget to follow CEEK on social media.