“Shout out to Hoffa, he back home!”
Not many can say they have built, retooled and restructured continuous success for two decades with their friends by their side. Kareem “Biggs” Burke can.
Softspoken, and quick witted, alongside Jay-Z and Dame Dash, Biggs played a dominant hand in the inception of the now infamous Roc-A-Fella. As a co-founder, he was instrumental in Jay’s release of his debut album Reasonable Doubt, he was key in bringing talents like Kanye West, Cam’ron and Freeway to the Roc roster, and before hip-hop stars were cashing out with big tech, Biggs secured some of the most unprecedented distribution deals of the time.
During a 20-year career, Biggs has expanded his enterprise to touch everything from spirits and film to sports and now he has set his sight on expanding the Roc empire deeper into the world of fashion and experiential luxury with Fourth of November, and his newest collaboration with Roc96 and MadeWorn.
Biggs currently runs his new marketing agency Gravity, and while he is a business man, understand that he is also a business, man. Biggs books his own interviews answers his own emails, calls his own shots and manages his business with a firm thumb on the pulse of what is new, what is next and where his niche lays in the land of it all.
Constantly reinventing while staying true to a core theme is a skill Biggs has mastered, doing all things with precision and attention to legacy, detail, and quality.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Biggs for a phone call to talk about everything from Roc96, his thoughts on Jay’s already historical release of 4:44, and how he plans to continue to shake up what is expected from black businesses.
Okayplayer: We’re gonna talk a lot about the Roc96 line, so why don’t you start by giving our readers an overview of what that collection is, and how the idea came to be.
Biggs: Well, it started when we did our first pop-up shops, which was about a year ago, for the 20th anniversary. We were getting so much notoriety, and people kind of clamoring to the idea of finally having Reasonable Doubt merch. When that happened, after the second pop-up shop, which was like hugely successful, after going through some bumps and bruises with the first one, it began to build a little more.
At that point, Tom Bennett, who used to run Bravado, introduced me to Blaine from MadeWorn, and told me that it would be a great partnership if we got together to see what Blaine does on a luxury level. So that’s when Roc96 was born, and we decided to do Roc96 MadeWorn and use some of the aesthetics from 20 years of the legacy, and Reasonable Doubt, and Roc-a-Fella, and everything we created. That launch was in Barney’s, with a 30 day exclusive, and we had every window of Barney’s around the country. Then once that 30 days was up, we launched in Revolve as well.
Okayplayer: What makes the pieces from Roc96, the perception behind them stand apart from what you would do with traditional Jay merch or Rocawear designs?
Biggs: Roc96 is all hand-made here in LA, in the US. The shirts are washed for 72 hours to give it the distressed look and everything is hand-applied as well. They’re hand-sanded, and there were maybe 18,000 patches that a group of about six or seven people put on by hand for the delivery to Barney’s. Everything is done by hand, so it’s a lot of work.
Rachel Hislop is a native New Yorker who also happens to be the Editor-in-Chief of Okayplayer and OkayAfrica.