Steve Rifkind has always been two steps ahead. Whether it was pioneering the street team, playing an instrumental role in the discovery of Wu-Tang Clan and Akon, or creating amicable contracts with his artists, all had a heavy Rifkind hand. Fifteen years after Loud Records started, Steve now creates BattleRap through his old, original website. The platform allows undiscovered talent to access beats from Cool & Dre, Midi Mafia, and others, and compete for a chance at a six-figure deal with SRC Records. Steve reveals the method to his madness. AllHipHop.com: To what extent is the Loud Battle an online version of American Idol? Do you think that after voting, people will care enough to support their SRC release?Steve Rifkind: The talent of it is incredible, and the thing thats going to make it so great is after the 10-week competition, we pick our three or four contestants that make it to the finals in the fourth quarter of next year. [They have] a buzz about themselves and working themselves and [in turn, we give them] radio and TV appearances everything else like that as each round persists. And you know Im not gonna get involved with anything that I cant sell records on.AllHipHop.com: Can a rap record arise from the Internet successfully?Steve Rifkind: [The winner will be] working with the biggest and best producers in the world, besides [Dr.] Dre and Scott Storch, where [we have] Akon and David Banner ans RZA and Alchemist and Zukhan, who did the Jim Jones [We Fly High] record. By purchasing these tracks, you really have the opportunity, for 99 cents, to make an incredible record, and thats really what it is. I sold what 65 million records in the last 12 years I wouldnt even touch this if I didnt think this was real.AllHipHop.com: Did you handpick the producers that are a part of this?Steve Rifkind: I mean, Ive always used my stable of producers. Hopefully, people are submitting beats who this guy can be the next Dr. Dre or the next Scott Storch. I got my name back, you know its Loud.com; thats just something that you know what that meant in the 90s. [With] everything thats going on with Akon this year, were closing on four million records worldwide right now.AllHipHop.com: To what extent did Akon grow from a grassroots level, like these contestants would?Steve Rifkind: Akon [grew] from a grassroots level, now hes just making the best records in the world his last, five [singles] that he made were all number one, you know the three records that he had Smack That, I Wanna Love You, Dont Matter his Gwen Stefani record. And now were coming with his two biggest records off the album by the time you know next year at this time when we talk Akon will be the best selling artist of 2007.AllHipHop.com: Will fans ever be able to respect anybody who made it to the top using Internet as a tool?Steve Rifkind: What the Hip-Hop community doesnt seem to realize is when you take the true, keep it real fan, [and] when they say rap music is down 12% or 8% or whatever that final number is. Weve got to look at ourselves in the mirror as a community and say, You know what, its not because these guys are making bad records, its because the executives who are scared to take chances and developing new producers new talent. Who the f**k was Akon four years ago? Who was David banner four years ago? Who was RZA 18 years ago? If you dont roll the dice and believe instead looking at it like, This record is happening in Cleveland; this records happening in Atlanta, oh and it sounds good. Thats why albums arent selling and singles are selling because people are going for the quick hit.AllHipHop.com: I explored the website, where do the stock beats come from?Steve Rifkind: They just submit beats, and we decide if it is good enough to go in there or not. We might find the next Scott Storch. My whole thing is youre getting $100,000 in cash and youre getting a record deal, but the bottom line is if you want this thing that means youre smart as f**k, and youre gonna have to market yourself in the community; youre gonna have to learn how to promote yourself; and youre gonna have to learn all these things and thats what makes a great executive.AllHipHop.com: Looking at Pharoahe Monchs Desire, do you think it is detrimental when a record gets praise before it is released?Steve Rifkind: No, I think you know, and this is one of the ins and outs people could start hearing different music and whatever and its still great things that are going on offline and the great things that are going on online. How XXL gave it an XL and AllHipHop.com gave it a four out of five, you know what Im saying, you take the best of the online component you take the best of the offline component and its still gonna happen word of mouth and its just another grassroots promotion.AllHipHop.com: What other projects or business ventures do you have planned for the future?Steve Rifkind: You know we got the Wu-Tang Clan album coming we got a lot of pop records coming.AllHipHop.com: What can you tell us about the Wu album?Steve Rifkind: I mean the album; hopefully, if I get this MTV performance, the album will come out a week after the MTV performance, which were tryna close. The album is called 8 Diagrams. Everybodys on the album, and you know I was in the studio last night and was there until 2:30 in the morning even dont you know Im very happy with it so far, very happy. Hopefully we will have a single on the streets within the next few weeks.