Chris Schwartz: Ruffhouse (With Schoolly D. & Mark Weinstein)
Monday June 24: 7:00PM – 8:00PM
Doors open 30 minutes before event start time.
As a struggling musician trying to catch a break in 1980s Philadelphia, Chris Schwartz navigated the crime-infested, morally bankrupt music industry to found and build one of the most successful hip-hop record labels in the world. That label was Ruffhouse, which launched the careers of Nas, The Fugees, Cypress Hill, and others, dominating the charts and generating global revenues of over one billion dollars.
Schwartz and his partner, Joe Nicolo, built Ruffhouse from one desk and a phone to one of hip-hop's most revered record companies while simultaneously struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism. A story of money, greed, envy, betrayal, violence, addiction, loss, and redemption, not to mention a whole lot of music, Ruffhouse reveals the inside story of the record companies, recording studios, tour buses, private jets, mansions, radio stations, and concert halls at the height of hip-hop's 1990s heyday, while also uncovering the darker side of the business, from police stations to rehab clinics, courtrooms to prisons. Narrated in Schwartz's own candid, searing prose, Ruffhouse is a gripping portrayal of hip-hop culture at its tipping point, as it transitioned from urban curiosity to a global commercial platform.
Join us in the Rare Book Room as Ruffhouse Records CEO Chris Schwartz discusses his life and work with his editor Mark Weinstein and rap legend Schoolly D.
Chris Schwartz is the founder and CEO of Ruffhouse Records. At its height, Ruffhouse’s roster included The Fugees, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Cypress Hill, Kriss Kross, and Kool Keith, among others. Ruffhouse Records sold over 120 million records worldwide, generating over a billion dollars in sales and a multitude of Grammy Awards. Chris has been the recipient of many awards celebrating his success, including 250 gold and platinum records and a plaque on the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s Walk of Fame. He lives with his wife and daughter in Gladwyne, PA.
Editor, rapper, and writer Mark Weinstein has straddled the worlds of book publishing and hip hop music for more than two decades. The editor of Ruffhouse by Chris Schwartz, Weinstein joined Diversion Books in late 2018 following successful stints at The Lyons Press, McGraw-Hill Trade, Skyhorse Publishing, and Rodale Books, where he acquired numerous New York Times bestsellers. From 1998 to 2009 Mark wrote, recorded and performed as a founding member of the underground hip-hop outfit Regenerated Headpiece, releasing three full-length albums and performing more than 100 dates. Regenerated Headpiece’s third album, The New Animal, featured two collaborations with the inimitable Chuck D of Public Enemy and was praised by Robert Christgau, the dean of American rock critics, in his 2009 Consumer Guide. More recently, Mark has stayed engaged with hip-hop culture by improvising with the free-form musical collective Eli & The Mannings and by featuring on Headsnack’s critically-acclaimed solo debut, Secret Handshake (Phil's Records). He lives in New York City.
Gangsta rap might be the illegitimate offspring of countless characters, but if you’re searching for one true father then look no further than Jesse Bonds Weaver Jr., a.k.a. Schoolly D. Before Ice T, N.W.A. and 50 Cent sprang to fame on the back of the gangsta label, Schoolly D was rapping about the realities of life in the ghetto. Over the course of his four decade-long career the rapper has been one of the most sampled artists in hip hop—notably on UK dance duo The Chemical Brothers’ 1997 global hit, "Block Rockin’ Beats." He enjoyed a significant collaborative relationship with the provocative filmmaker Abel Ferrara and has reinvented himself as a multi-instrumentalist artist of some repute, writing music for films and cartoons, DJing, and collaborating with R&B singers.