Tonight, iconic Brooklyn label Fool's Gold celebrates its seven-year anniversary in New York City with Master P, Just Blaze, Rowdy Rebel and more. (Get tickets here.) We asked label co-founder and DJ Nick Catchdubs to take us through the most influential releases in their colorful history—and give us the dish on the stories behind them.
Fool's Gold is a label that grew entirely out of friendships. A-Trak and I got to know each other from getting booked to DJ the same parties. Back then, he was Kanye West's tour DJ, and I was an editor at The FADER magazine. While we were at our day jobs, we would talk and share music. That's how we realized we had a similar outlook from both a creative and marketing standpoint—through chatting over IM like, why did these guys release this wack song as a single when the B-side is so fire? Or, why is this font so shitty?
At the time, our friends all over the country were starting to make really fresh music on their own, and these label-less artists were popping off on MySpace. We quickly realized that there wasn't a North American home for this emerging aesthetic and attitude—the way guys like Ed Banger were representing for mid-aughts Parisians. Or Grand Royal, Mo Wax and Rawkus were doing when we were kids. Thus, Fool's Gold was born.
In the seven years since we started, the musical environment hasn't changed all that much. The major label dudes with Bluetooth earpieces in '07 are still around, still just as corny. Same goes for the cargo pants "real rap" contingent and the techno know-it-alls. Even though the company has since morphed and changed and grown in countless ways, our core approach remains the same: friends making and supporting what they love. Why trip on anything else?
Without further ado, here is an extremely personal timeline of Fool's Gold's seven-year history—including the seminal releases that boosted us to where we are today.
Kid Sister "Pro Nails" wasn't the very first Fool's Gold release (her track "Control" holds that honor), but it was the first to take on a life of its own after Kanye jumped on it for his Can't Tell Me Nothing mixtape that spring. Everything was super DIY. The label office was my kitchen table in a shitty Williamsburg apartment on South 3rd street.
We put together a video on a shoestring budget. I knew the director Reuben Fleischer from doing magazine articles; he would later go on to Zombieland and other features. I remember driving to Target and buying a High School Musical doll for plastic sneakers that we painted with red polish to use in the "finger dance" section of the vid. We had to make beta videotapes and walk them over to MTV ourselves. But we had a "real" video on television!
Kid Cudi "Day N Nite" had a similar trajectory. I remember handing the first vinyl copy to Scott [Mescudi] at Luke And Leroy's in the Village, and him jumping on the couch with excitement. (He recently Instagrammed that same 12".) Then over the course of a year, the song grew and grew. Crookers did a remix, Hot 97 would play it all day long, and to this day you still hear it at basketball games. I remember Cudi and Plain Pat driving down to Philly to open up a Fool's Gold show at a bar that holds 100 people. Now he can headline a stadium on his own.
Jokers Of The Scene "Baggy Bottom Boys" is a good snapshot of '09. Linus [Booth] and Chris [Macintyre] are longtime friends who we knew from playing their parties in Ottawa. They were delving into deeper and rave-ier sounds with their originals, and "BBB" became the fan favorite. Again, the video was very DIY. We took the bus up to Boston to help Julian [Foxworth]—who would become the big-time Beyoncé director and meme master known as Lil Internet—film at his tiny Halloween party in Cambridge. North American dance music wasn't completely consumed by EDM yet, and as we put out records like this one, as well as from Crookers, Laidback Luke, and the lot, there was no way to tell that only a few years later, this time would seem like such an innocent moment.
We put out a lot of big tunes in 2010: Congorock's "festival banger"-anticipating "Babylon," Kingdom's first single "Mind Reader," Donnis' "Gone." But Duck Sauce's "Barbra Streisand" goes waaaaay beyond big tune. It was a viral phenomenon, a jock jam, the Fool's Gold song even your mom knows. Yet, for all its massiveness, it's still a groovy little disco house loop, with a video filmed in a SoHo parking lot at our first DAY OFF concert, put together by two guys in a home studio to make themselves laugh.
Looking back, 2011 was a bit of a transitional time. We put out a lot of cool and quirky records that I'm still proud of. (One day, Cubic Zirconia and The Suzan will find the audience they deserve!) But there wasn't a surprise pop success or a big DJ song that everyone would play out. Rogerseventytwo "You Take Me Higher" probably came the closest. Yet just as an NBA team has their "rebuilding" season, the seeds of future Fool's Gold championships were being sown amongst promising rookies and vets coming into their own. By the end of the year, the Flosstradamus warning signal would begin to rise with the juke-y Jubilation EP (just a few BPMs away from their coming trap revolution), and a sabertoothed Detroit genius would start to make his mark on the world…
Of course, in the year that dance music is EVERYWHERE, Fool's Gold was not defined by EDM smashes or high BPM club rap crossovers, but a thoroughly uncompromising underground hip-hop classic. Danny Brown's XXX was the sound of this new chapter in FG. We gave it away for free and supported it over many, many months—the official release was in the fall of '11, but it didn't really reverberate until later. Through everything, we kept the same hands-on approach as the early days.
My tenure as label-owner-turned-on-set-PA continued as I drove Danny and his crew to an old analog TV studio in upstate New York to film the "Monopoly" video. There was a whole new community in New York hip-hop growing around Fool's Gold. The kids we'd see at our parties were now making records on their own, so we threw them on the Loosies compilation with Flatbush Zombies, World's Fair and Action Bronson, along with events like DAY OFF where A$AP Rocky would rock his biggest crowds yet next to Juicy J and other legends.
I look back on 2013 as a big year of albums: Danny's XXX follow-up Old, Duck Sauce's labor of love Quack, Party Supplies' debut, Run The Jewels' free self-titled record. We also dropped the first full EPs from RL Grime and Oliver, and increasingly big-deal solo records and collabs from A-Trak. It's hard to pick just one defining record from a time where Fool's Gold really came into our own as a fully-functioning indie label with a staff, an office, a retail store (what up Jack White!!!), and several long-running concert and party series. So in that respect, I have to say the tracks that now mean the most to me from this period are actually mine! Nick Catchdubs feat IAMSU & Jay Ant "Bizness" is the first solo song I released on my label (not counting World's Fair tracks I produced on Loosies and their Bastards Of The Party tape) and a full album is on the way.
There's still a few months left, but A-Trak & Cam'ron's "Dipshits" is going to be the Fool's Gold song of the year for me. This was the first Fool's Gold record Funkmaster Flex would spin back-to-back for a half-hour. Is it a calculated, strategic move to drop a record out of nowhere with a fairly elusive rap god? Hell no! Is it a dope one? Of course! A-Trak and Cam have a full album coming of collaborations like this, which is wildly exciting. I'm just as amped for our new batch of producers like High Klassified, Giraffage and Shash'u, who we highlighted on a free Draft Picks BitTorrent bundle this summer and tried to throw on as many DAY OFF shows as possible. And that's not even mentioning the new signings I can't announce yet…
After all of this, somehow it's still fun, and the mission we started with remains the same. I think it's important to highlight how much being a truly artist-owned and operated label means to us and our roster. We understand all the highs and lows of this shit, what it means to really care about how your art is presented, and we try to put that sense of personal investment into every aspect of the company and our releases. Fool's Gold is raising the bar, one friend at a time.
Fool's Gold 7 Year Anniversary Party with Master P, Just Blaze, Rowdy Rebel, Brenmar, Fame School, NickCatchdubs, Shash'U and more goes down at Webster Hall tonight (Thursday, 11/6) starting at 10pm. Get your tickets here.
Follow Nick Catchdubs on Twitter - @catchdini