Brooklyn-bred rapper Red Café lived a life as intense and raw as his music, going to jail for drug charges and diving headfirst into a life of hip-hop after he got out. He worked first as part of group Da Franchise in the late '90s, later breaking off to release music solo as well as working as a ghostwriter for other rappers. Multiple false starts and setbacks with major labels plagued Red Café, but he managed to maintain a strong presence with his mixtapes throughout the 2010s, releasing multiple volumes on the Shakedown Entertainment imprint. The guest list of legendary rappers who made cameos on his mixtapes spoke to his reputation among hip-hop's innermost circles, with 2018 releases Natural Born Hustler and Less Talk, More Hustle both featuring verses from big names like Busta Rhymes, 2 Chainz, Fetty Wap, Cardi B, and many more.
Born in Guyana, Jermaine Denny immigrated to New York with his family when he was young, settling in the Caribbean-populated Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Hip-hop music suddenly became an obsession for him after he first heard the Slick Rick/Doug E. Fresh classic "The Show." However, his real interest was the streets, where his life of crime eventually landed him in prison in 1992. Upon his release four years later, he formed a rap group named Da Franchise with neighborhood friends. The group signed with Violator Records and even appeared on several mixtapes and label compilations, but because the crew never really took off, they each went their separate ways. Red Café stayed with Violator and also began to rack up credits as a ghostwriter, including for Diddy's verse on the Busta Rhymes Top 20 single "Pass the Courvoisier" in 2002. After he left Violator, a series of failed major-label deals and, consequently, shelved albums followed. During his stint with Capitol, to which he was signed via Mack 10's Hoo-Bangin' imprint, Red Café even recorded a number of well-received singles, including "All Night Long" (appearing on the Coach Carter soundtrack in 2005), "Yellow Bottle," and "Bling Blaow." Despite the label ups and downs, he was able to maintain a consistent presence in New York through its mixtape circuit, collaborating with DJ Whoo Kid, DJ Envy, Craig G, and Clinton Sparks. In 2007, the Brooklyn rapper joined rising star Akon's boutique label Konvict Muzik. He first dropped the DJ Envy-hosted mixtape The Co-Op in 2007. while 2009 saw him land a role in the Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious. Mixtapes like 2010's No Witnesses and 2012's American Psycho followed, and in 2014 he released "The Pretty Gang" single, which featured a guest appearance from rapper Fabolous. In 2015 he contributed vocals to Rick Ross' Black Market album, but the performance was uncredited. The next several years found Red Café releasing a string of star-studded singles and mixtapes, including the 2017 single "God Wanted Us to Be Lit" featuring Wiz Khalifa and French Montana, as well as the 2018 mixtape Less Talk, More Hustle, which featured spots from Cardi B, Yo Gotti, Mack 10, Fetty Wap, and many others. ~ Cyril Cordor