Busta Rhymes ft. Big Daddy Kane & Conway The Machine – “Slap” (@BustaRhymes / 2022)
2022 update of a golden-era Kane / Biz Mark classic featuring a heavyweight line-up of lyrical talent.
Busta Rhymes ft. Big Daddy Kane & Conway The Machine – “Slap” (@BustaRhymes / 2022)
2022 update of a golden-era Kane / Biz Mark classic featuring a heavyweight line-up of lyrical talent.
Wildchild ft. Posdnuos, Big Daddy Kane & Stacy Epps – “Fatherhood” (@JDaWildchild / 2022)
Loot Pack member Wildchild delivers a powerful message alongside two genuine Hip-Hop legends on this Georgia Ann Muldrow-produced track from his recent album “Omowale”.
Arrested Development ft. Big Daddy Kane, Cleveland P Jones & Tasha LaRae – “Vibe“ (ADtheBand.Com / 2021)
Produced by the UK’s Configa, Atlanta’s Arrested Development team-up with golden-era icon Big Daddy Kane for this lively, uplifting slice of soulful Hip-Hop from the collective’s forthcoming album “For The FKN Love”.
Big Daddy Kane ft. Chuck D & Loren Oden – “Enough!” (@BigDaddyKane / 2020)
The Juice Crew legend tackles police brutality, racism and social injustice on this soulful cut.
Extensive MysDiggi / Sarah Love interview with Big Daddy Kane, Craig G, Kool G Rap, MC Shan, Masta Ace and Roxanne Shante prior to last week’s Juice Crew show in London.
Domingo ft. Joell Ortiz, Token, Chris Rivers, Big Daddy Kane & Snow Tha Product – “Kill At Will: The Final Chapter” (@BeatsByDomingo / 2016)
Fast-paced lyrics of fury from veteran producer Domingo’s forthcoming album “That’s Hip-Hop: Generation Next”.
Agallah ft. Big Daddy Kane – “Get Your S**t Together” (@AgallahTheDon / 2015)
The NY-raised producer-on-the-mic links-up with a Golden Era legend for this track from the forthcoming “Agalito’s Way”.
The legendary Juice Crew emcee delivers typically slick wordplay over quality production from the UK’s Dr. G.
If you miss the days of high-top fades, James Brown loops, fat gold chains and matching sweatsuit / sneaker outfits, then Chicago’s JW Hype might just be the artist for you.
Mesmerised as a youngster in the 80s by the seemingly endless flow of new styles and sounds pouring out of the then equally young culture of Hip-Hop, JW spent just as much time studying beats and rhymes as he did studying his school-books, immersing himself, like so many others of his generation, in music from the likes of Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim and EPMD.
Fast-forward some twenty-five years later and Hype has gained himself something of a cult online following with his own brand of back-to-the-future throwback rap. Drawing heavily on his golden-era influences, the Chi-town producer-on-the-mic’s two recent EPs, 2012’s “Return Of The Hype Era” and 2013’s “Back 2 Work”, found JW flawlessly recreating the funky, uptempo feel of the classic records so many of us were doing the Running-Man or the Kick-Step to in 1989.
Also available as a limited edition vinyl release on the Chopped Herring imprint, Hype’s two free downloadable EPs instantly take the listener back in time, with the rapper’s slick flow, quick wit and dope beats sounding authentic enough to make the uninitiated wonder if they’ve stumbled across a demo-tape from the First Priority vaults upon first listen.
Here, JW Hype discusses his reasons for wanting to pay homage to late-80s Hip-Hop, favourite rap videos and his thoughts on the music of today.
Get busy, y’all!
What are your earliest recollections of Hip-Hop?
“Man, I can take it way back (laughs). I’m in my mid-thirties so I remember hearing the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” on the radio when I was a kid. I used to break-dance when I was in second, third grade, plus my uncles were all deejays, so I was familiar with groups like Newcleus and music like that. But I would say the time when I started actually developing my own tastes was around 86 / 87. I would say that’s when I really fell in love with Hip-Hop through hearing people like Rakim. I had an uncle who was in high-school when I was still in elementary school, so I remember him bringing albums over like “Paid In Full” when that first came out, the first Public Enemy album, and other stuff like MC Lyte, Sweet Tee, Three Times Dope. So I would always be going through his tapes and taking them outside to listen to and that’s when I really started developing my own tastes in terms of what appealed to me musically.”
Was there a local scene to speak of at that time when you were growing-up in Chicago?
“I mean, I grew-up in the suburbs but we were frequently back and forth to the city. My uncle, he was from the city, so he was bringing this music to me. I mean, I was already familiar with it and new what it was, but he was bringing it to me en masse. I had a few friends around me at the time, all elementary kids, and we were all listening to rap. We were all deep into Hip-Hop (laughs). We would figure out different ways to get tapes and go to the record store together. So I wouldn’t say there was really a Hip-Hop scene around us at that time. I mean, growing-up in the 80s, it was really an eclectic time for music and you had pop, rock, whatever, and we were familiar with everything but we just really gravitated towards Hip-Hop.”
What was interesting in the early-t0-mid 80s was that a lot of the same musical technology of the time, such as synthesizers and drum machines, was being used across a variety of genres, from pop and soul to funk and Hip-Hop…
“Oh yeah, definitely. Especially when you get to the more electronic sounding records, like the Eurythmics and groups like that, there was definitely a lot of the same sounds and technology being used in different genres that really crossed barriers in a way.”
So given that you were listening to music from different genres as a kid in the 80s, what was it about Hip-Hop that really drew you towards it over anything else?
“I think I always liked it on a sub-conscious level, but the record that really made me consciously say ‘This is for me’, I would have to say that was EPMD’s “You Gots To Chill”. The reason why was because I had that Zapp “More Bounce To The Ounce” record that they sampled on there. I loved that Zapp record. Then when I heard what they’d done with it on “You Gots To Chill”, I was like, ‘Okay, this is something I could do.’ I mean, I didn’t even really understand what they were doing in terms of sampling, but it made me realise that I didn’t need a band or anything like that to make music. But when I then realised I didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of sampling, I decided to start rapping (laughs). But yeah, EPMD’s “You Gots To Chill” was the record that really did it for me. I wanted to be a kid rapper back then (laughs).”
Did you ever pursue the idea of actually making records back then?
“Not at all. Like I said, I was living in the suburbs at that time, so making records or anything like that really wasn’t a reality for me. Rhyming was just something that I really loved to do. It was just a serious, intense passion.”
So moving a little more up-to-date, when did you first get the idea to start putting together whole projects based around that late-80s throwback-rap sound?
“I was already making music and doing production for people on a local level. I was also doing little remix projects here and there. Plus, I did my own album in 2008, “Where Da’ Sidewalk Ends”, which was a local release. There were a couple of songs on that album which were like throwback songs, and they were the songs that everyone seemed to love. So I started thinking that, at some point, I wanted to put a whole project together in that same style. Time went on, but the thought never went away. So I finally did it and that was 2012’s “Return Of The Hype Era” EP. It was just something that I’d always wanted to do because I felt that era had never really been revisited like that. I think people have more tried to revisit the mid-80s, but hadn’t really done the same thing with that 1987 – 1990 period. I mean, for me, those years really laid the foundation for everything that came afterwards in the 90s. In my opinion, there were a lot of artists that released classic music back then that don’t necessarily get mentioned as often as they should when people look back at that time. I mean, you look at a Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud for example, they put out a classic album. Paul C. was ahead of his time with the production and lyrically and flow-wise they were doing things on there that a lot of rappers didn’t really pick up on until later. It’s important that records and artists like that are remembered which I think sometimes get forgotten.”
That period was definitely a great time to be a fan of Hip-Hop because the music was making huge creative leaps and you were literally hearing things being done for the first time, whether that was musically in terms of sampling or lyrically with the subject matter emcees were bringing to the table and the different rhyme styles they were using to deliver it…
“It was just a really experimental time where it seemed like all the artists were just trying to top each other creatively. Everyone was doing their own thing but it was all building towards something. The artists of that time seemed to have a sense that they were building something, even if they weren’t exactly sure of what it was at that point. But that just added on to the greatness of it all, because it just felt like there was a greater cause behind the music other than it just being about making money and fame. People were doing it for the love of the art and to add-on to the culture. I mean, as cliched as that sounds today, that’s really what it was. Plus, something else that contributed to the overall creativity of that time was the fact that this was right before the sampling laws started to come in. I mean, you’ll never hear another album like “It Takes A Nation Of Millions…” with so many different samples all crashing together in just one song because financially now it would be impossible to make an album like that with all of the clearances you’d need.”
On the subject of sampling, how did you go about choosing the samples you used on “Return Of The Hype Era” and its follow-up “Back 2 Work”? You used some very well-known samples on each release, so was it a case of you picking samples that were used on some of your favourite records from back-in-the-day and seeing if you could flip it a little differently or make a track that could stand next to those same golden-era records?
“That’s almost exactly how I did it. I mean, when you listen back to the music of that golden-era time period, a lot of the same samples were used over and over for different records. It seemed liked people really didn’t care about how many times a particular sample had been used, it was more just about, ‘Okay, I want to rap over this.’ So I worked on “Return Of The Hype Era” with that same mindset, as if I was actually making that release during that time period. So I didn’t go into it worrying about if the samples had been used before. I just used the music that I wanted to use. But moving forward, I think I will be using different samples that haven’t necessarily been heard before because I think I’ve made the point that I set out to make with “Return Of The Hype Era” and “Back To Work”.”
Have there been people who’ve been confused by your music when they’ve heard it?
“Yeah, a few people have definitely thought it was something that was old, and then they’ve gotten confused when they’ve heard some more up-to-date lyrical references and then they’ve realised it’s actually something new (laughs). But to me, that’s a massive compliment if someone does hear the music and thinks it did actually come from that late-80s era because that means that I did my job.”
Playing devils advocate for a moment, what would your response be to people who might criticise your music and say you’re holding on to an era in Hip-Hop that’s never coming back?
“I would point to someone like a Mayer Hawthorne. I mean, he’s pretty much doing the same thing that I’m doing with Hip-Hop but in an R&B format. When you listen to his music you can’t really tell whether it was recorded in the 60s or now. I think that artists like myself or a Mayer Hawthorne are needed in our respective genres because there are people out there who do want to hear that sound that I’m making. There are people out there who still love that sound and someone has to do it. But also, I’m not trying to bring that era back as such. I mean, I know that era has gone (laughs). But I also think a style of music can never really die. You can’t kill a particular style or sound. I mean, artists might stop making a particular style on a massive level, but that doesn’t mean that it no longer exists. When you look at rock, it’s changed on a huge level over the years, but that doesn’t mean that someone can’t go into an old studio like the Beatles would have used, pick up all of their old instruments and make an album today like they would have made back then.”
Given the number of different golden-era influences that can be heard in your music, what prompted you to focus so heavily on the Juice Crew in particular for last year’s “My Dedication” single?
“I was obsessed with the Juice Crew when I was younger. They were really the first crew where everyone involved was just dope. I don’t think that had really happened in Hip-Hop before the Juice Crew where individually everyone was just great on their own. Not only that, but they were hugely influential at the time. I just felt that if I was going to do something to show respect to the Juice Crew, I really needed to accentuate it. I mean, me and my buddies, we were just obsessed with the Juice Crew. They really were like a phenomenon to us.”
The recent clip you dropped for “Get Hype” features footage from a long-list of classic Hip-Hop videos. Are there any videos in particular that stand out to you from that late-80s era?
“Let me see. I loved that Big Daddy Kane video for “Lean On Me”. I remember when that came out, everyone was just so hyped about that video and I really think they took the dancing to the next level with some of the moves they were doing. I loved MC Lyte’s “Paper Thin”, which was always just a classic video to me. Also, Gang Starr’s “Words I Manifest”, EPMD’s “You Gots To Chill” and I can’t forget Kane’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'”. I could really just watch those videos all day long (laughs).”
During that time-period there were so many different styles co-existing, from the gangsta rap of N.W.A. to the politics of a KRS-One and the humour of a Biz Markie, but it all fell under the banner of Hip-Hop and was given equal attention and exposure by the Hip-Hop media at the time. Do you think we’ll ever get back to a place where there’s such a balance in terms of the music that’s being presented to the public?
“I don’t think so. I think the music and the industry around it has just grown way too much for that to happen again. I mean, back then, Hip-Hop was a counter-culture artform and I think that was something that helped it because it was something that was out of the ordinary. I mean, you had your mainstream, but then you had your counter-cultures. Today, rap isn’t the counter-culture anymore, it is the mainstream culture now. There isn’t really that sense of community that you had back in the day. I mean, because Hip-Hop was on a much smaller scale back then and there was only a relatively small amount of people involved in it, it made it feel that much more special. But now? I’m really the wrong person to talk to about rap right now because it can get real dark (laughs). I mean, the last person I was really paying attention to was Joey Bada$$ and that whole movement, but they’ve even become very disappointing in terms of where I thought they were going to go when they first came out.”
With that in mind, do you think we’ll ever again see another universally acclaimed classic album that really captures the attention of everyone within the culture in the same way that a Run-DMC or a Public Enemy did back in the 80s?
“I mean, every generation has their classics but I don’t think the albums that are called classics today will still be considered classics in years to come or celebrated in the same way as the classics from our generation. I mean, in terms of what’s coming out now, I don’t see there being an album that’s considered a classic by everyone.”
So the fourteen-year-0ld kid listening to Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same” or a Rick Ross release today isn’t going to be celebrating those albums in twenty-five years time in the same way that thirty-something fans from our generation still cherish albums like De La Soul’s “3 Feet High And Rising” or Big Daddy Kane’s “Long Live The Kane”?
“It’s actually a very good question and, thinking about it now, one of the reasons why I don’t think that will happen is because I don’t think the respect level is there from the fans. I don’t think today’s fans have the respect for the music that people are making today, regardless of whether they actually like it or not. I mean, you look at someone like a Drake, people have labelled his albums as being classics, but in ten or twenty years time, are his albums going to be mentioned or cherished like the classics from back in the day are by us? I really don’t think so. Which is partly down to the mentality of today’s so-called fan and also because the music that a lot of these artists are making doesn’t stand on anything. It doesn’t really have any substance to it. But when you look at the albums that we consider classics today from the 80s and 90s, even at the time, there was a respect level for the artists, the music and the culture around it that made us really consider what people like Rakim and Kane were doing as something that was special and ground-breaking. So some twenty years later, we can have these anniversaries and still celebrate those albums because they’ve stayed with us for all this time. But twenty years from now, I don’t think a fourteen-year-old kid today is necessarily going to be celebrating a Drake album in the same way, because I don’t think the music has that type of staying power.”
If, as you say, the level of respect that today’s younger fans have for current artists has declined compared to the past, do you think that also has something to do with the fact that, aside from the quality of the actual music being made, so many fans today are also aspiring artists themselves?
“I think that’s definitely a part of it, but I also think that the audience that listens to the music today isn’t the same type of audience say, from our generation, who have the same level of expectation from artists today as we did back then. I think the audience that today’s mainstream rap attracts is the lowest common denominator of individual. Back in the day, the people who were attracted to Hip-Hop weren’t your typical crowd of kids. It was a smarter kid, a more eclectic kid, a kid who willing to step outside of the box. Whereas today, nothing about the music is really outside of the box. So there’s no respect level towards what these kids are a part of, because they’re actually not a part of anything in the same way that we felt that we were part of a culture. We felt like we were a part of Hip-Hop back then and it gave us a sense of identity, but the music today doesn’t give kids that same sense of identity like it did for us because a teenage kid today listening to Rick Ross, their mom is probably listening to the same thing when she turns the radio on in the car (laughs).”
Would you say the music today is almost just an accessory to an image-driven fantasy lifestyle that’s being pushed by many popular current artists?
“No-one’s really truly invested in these artists. There’s no bigger picture culturally around what they’re doing. The music that’s considered popular now, so much of it isn’t even really attached to the culture of Hip-Hop. I mean, when I hear some of the music today, I don’t think deejay, I don’t think break-dancers, I don’t think the Bronx. It just doesn’t embody that spirit of Hip-Hop, and if I can’t feel that spirit of the culture in the music then to me it’s just rap music. I mean, I wonder sometimes today if the people listening to this stuff are actually music fans. I think there’s a small number of people out there who’re genuinely into the music and everyone else is just here for the show. They want to know who’s beefin’ with who and all of that kinda stuff. I don’t think they’re even really listening to the music they’re saying they’re fans of.”
So what’s next for JW Hype?
“My goal is really just to continue putting out projects. I mean, I’m not looking to make any money off the music I’ve been putting out because I couldn’t possibly clear all of the samples. So I’m just putting it out for free and hopefully it’ll grow to a point where I’m able to do shows. What I’d also like to do is involve some of the older artists from that golden-era period and get them on-board as well. I just really want to keep making music and having fun. I haven’t decided if the music I make moving forward is still going to be under the same name, or if I’m just going to keep the JW Hype brand for that old-school flavoured material and figure out a way to perhaps put out some other material. But to be honest, I think I’ve only really just scratched the surface with the music I’ve put out recently and I think there’s still a lot more people out there who would appreciate what I’m doing if they heard it. It’s just a case of getting more blogs and websites on-board with what I’m doing to really be able to penetrate the audience that I’m trying to reach. So I definitely think there’s still a lot more work to be done.”
Follow JW Hype on Twitter – @JW_Hype
JW Hype – “Get Busy” (JWHype.BandCamp.Com / 2014)
Edinburgh-based Hip-Hop junkie Tizwarz pays homage to the legendary Juice Crew and Cold Chillin’ Records cramming almost one hundred tracks from the likes of Big Daddy Kane, MC Shan and Biz Markie into this dope mix – check it here.
Combat Jack, Dallas Penn and the rest of the crew deliver a classic interview with the legendary Big Daddy Kane covering everything from the King Asiatic’s first meeting with Biz Markie and rolling with the Juice Crew trivia to attempting to push a young Jay-Z’s demo – listen here.
JW Hype – “My Dedication (The Juice Crew)” (JWHype.BandCamp.Com / 2013)
The Chicago producer-on-the-mic pays homage to Marley Marl’s legendary crew of lyricists on this lead single from his forthcoming album “Prince Of The Hype Era” – fresh like it was still 88, you suckers!!!
With today marking the 40th anniversary of Clive ‘Kool Herc’ Campbell kick-starting the culture of Hip-Hop by throwing his first party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx, here’s some footage of yesterday’s huge event in NYC’s Central Park which featured Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shante and more all paying tribute to Herc – respect the pioneers!
Rakim – “Eric B. Is President”
Rakim – “I Ain’t No Joke”
Rakim – “My Melody”
Rakim – “Paid In Full”
Big Daddy Kane, Rakim & Lil’ Rodney C
Big Daddy Kane – “Raw” / “Set It Off” / “Smooth Operator”
Craig G & Marley Marl – “Droppin’ Science” / “The Symphony”
The Soulsonic Force – “Planet Rock”
Roxanne Shante & Kangol Kid – “Roxanne, Roxanne” / “Roxanne’s Revenge” / “Have A Nice Day”
Fonda Rae & Marley Marl – “Over Like A Fat Rat”
BlackoutHipHop.Com footage of the Juice Crew legend’s recent visit to Croatia featuring an interview with DJ Phat Phillie.
Venue: Jazz Cafe, London Date: 24 April 2013
As one of my top five emcees of all-time, any opportunity to see Juice Crew legend Big Daddy Kane rip the stage is definitely something not to be missed. Having witnessed the Prince Of Darkness live on numerous occassions over the years, it’s safe to say the Brooklyn-bred emcee easily ranks alongside the likes of KRS-One and The Roots as one of Hip-Hop greatest live acts. With a catalogue of classics to choose from combined with a commanding stage presence, Kane never fails to come across as a seasoned, polished performer, with that old-school BK bravado shining through just enough to remind audiences that he was once one of the most feared lyricists in the rap world.
Even if, like myself, you’ve seen Kane live before, his appearance at London’s Jazz Cafe put a new spin on things, with the venue’s intimate setting providing an interesting alternative to the much larger locations BDK has previously been booked at in the UK’s capital city.
Following a quality opening set from Crown City Rockers emcee Raashan Ahmad, King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal calmly descended the Jazz Cafe stairs to the sound of thunderous cheers, his simple outfit of shirt, waistcoat and jeans a million miles away from the custom sweat-suits and gold-chains Kane would have been picking up from Brooklyn’s famous Albee Square Mall back in the 80s.
Opening the show with a back-to-back medley of upbeat classics, the Big Daddy tore through the “Juice” soundtrack favourite “Nuff Respect”, the 1988 party-starter “Set It Off” and the Prince Paul-produced single “It’s Hard Being The Kane”, delivering his fast-paced rhymes with a level of force and aggression that easily matched his verses on the original recordings.
Pausing briefly to catch his breath, the golden-era great then proceeded to run through a near non-stop barrage of timeless tracks, including “Young, Gifted And Black”, “Just Rhymin’ With Biz”, his verse from the mighty posse cut “The Symphony” and the mellow anthem “Smooth Operator”.
Injecting some humour into the performance, when a female audience member called out inbetween songs “Where’s Scoob & Scrap?!” Kane responded without missing a beat, shooting back “I’m 44-years-old! I don’t how much dancing you’re expecting to see…”
Breaking momentarily from his back catalogue, Kane showcased a track from his new album as part of live band Las Supper, making the wise choice not to force too much unfamiliar material on the audience, but ensuring he did just enough to raise awareness of the new project without detracting from the night’s lively throwback atmosphere.
Leading the crowd in an enthusiastic call-and-response routine, Biz Markie’s former running partner also took time out to pay homage to a number of Hip-Hop’s fallen soldiers, including Heavy D, Guru and Biggie, ending the segment with a shout to Big L which then led into Kane performing the track he recorded with the Harlem icon, “Platinum Plus”.
With “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” and “Warm It Up, Kane” filling in the blanks for anyone who was counting the inclusion of staple Kane cuts, all that was left for BDK to do was drop the track some ageing heads had been calling for all night, closing the show with the Marley Marl-produced “Raw”, which still stands-up as a near perfect display of whirlwind lyricism twenty-five years after its release.
Big Daddy Kane’s stageshow has barely changed in the last ten years, but it really doesn’t need to. Like the R&B greats he once openly admired such as Barry White and Marvin Gaye, Kane has reached a point where the music heard on early albums such as “Long Live The Kane” and “It’s A Big Daddy Thing” has not only aged well, but now represents a period of time for an entire generation of Hip-Hop heads eager to be taken back to our youth, when our main concerns involved keeping our sneakers clean and copping the new Public Enemy album, rather than paying bills and day-job drama.
All Kane has to do to keep fans happy is keep coming back and running through his long-list of crowd favourites with the same level of enjoyment he displayed throughout this particular show, demonstrating that the man behind the mic cherishes those some classics and their place in Hip-Hop history just as much as those who’ve paid for a ticket.
Kane might now be approaching his mid-forties, but when it comes to putting on a quality show, he’s sure to continue to get the job done for a few years yet.
Footage of Big Daddy Kane performing “Nuff Respect”, “Set It Off” and “It’s Hard Being The Kane” at London’s Jazz Cafe.
In preparation for the upcoming Masta Ace / Big Daddy Kane show in Glasgow, Scotland, the event’s supporting deejay Bunty Beats has put together a tight hour-long collection of favourites from the two former Juice Crew emcees – download here.
Part One of this interview with turntable pioneer DJ Cheese found the New Jersey native discussing his introduction to Hip-Hop, hooking-up with Word Of Mouth and signing with Profile Records. In this concluding instalment Cheese remembers winning the 1986 DMC World Championships, hanging-out with Biz Markie and paying for his time spent hustling in the streets.
So how did you get involved with 1986’s DMC competition?
“Well, I didn’t really choose to enter the DMC, the DMC chose me. How it happened was through me being in the New Music Seminar battles in New York. I won the New Music Seminar battle in ’84 and then came back in 1985. I really won that battle as well but I was cheated out of it. Tony Prince from DMC was there at the time and everyone knew I won that battle which is how I ended-up going to England for the DMC. At the time New York was always about New York, so you couldn’t really go there then and get a fair battle. I was lucky enough to get one in ’84 but they weren’t about to let me win two times in a row. Now the winner of that 1985 battle was going to go to the UK to represent the United States in the DMC World Championships, that was announced at the beginning of the battle. Now, even though I didn’t win that NMS title that year (note: NYC’s DJ Easy G Rockwell won) in the books they know who really won that battle because I was told right there that night that I was going to the DMC event. I remember Kurtis Blow coming over to me and telling me it wasn’t right what had happened and that it was clear who’d really won the battle.”
You won the DMC event with a ground-breaking routine made-up of various turntable tricks – were you aware that what you were bringing to the competition was so different to what the other deejays would be doing?
“Nah, not at all. I thought the other deejays there were going to be doing the same thing that I came to do, which was battle. I didn’t think the competition was going to be that laidback. I thought everyone knew why every other person was there, but obviously not. I didn’t go there to mix. I went there to battle.”
At the beginning of the routine there was that slight glitch when you started cutting the Hashim record – what went through your mind at that point when the needle skipped?
“I was always used to things like that happening. I never panicked in a situation like that because that was just Hip-Hop back then. If you were good at what you did then you already knew that the crowd were going to love it. So I didn’t panic at that point. That’s why I got right back to it so fast because I knew where the routine was going to go from there and what I was going to do.”
Dutch deejay Orlando Voorn famously shouted “What is this, a mixing competition or a scratching competition?” after your win was announced and he placed third – what was your response to the reactions you were getting?
“I didn’t really get any negative feedback about my routine other than from the other deejays who were involved in the competition. I remember I could see the fire coming out of Orlando Voorn’s face (laughs). Chad Jackson (note: 1987’s DMC Champion) was definitely cool about it. I got a lot of positive feedback from people saying that they’d never seen anything like that before up close and personal. Back then we did two sets over two days and I remember the attention I got from other deejays being upset after the first day just made me want to go even harder, because they hated what I’d done but the crowd loved it. The first day they weren’t ready with what I came with so I took everybody off guard with the handcuffs, the blindfold, spinning around, using my elbows. But then the next day when we came back there were guys there with pool sticks, bike tyres, one dude even had the kitchen sink! It was crazy (laughs). Suddenly it was like a magic show and everybody had to come up with some new tricks.”
How did it feel to win that DMC event?
“That was definitely another highlight for me to take the title of world champion deejay at the time. I didn’t think I was going to go over there and win that. I mean, it was a world championship, so I figured I was going to go over there and be up against all these deejays from all around the world and have more competition than I really had at that event.”
So with 1986 being such a huge year for you with the success of “Coast To Coast”, the DMC win and headlining UK Fresh, what was the plan moving forward?
“The plan moving forward was to do the album with Word Of Mouth on Profile, but as I said we started to understand what was happening with our management so we let Duke Bootee know that we didn’t want to be a part of his label anymore. We didn’t want anything else to do with him. When he picked us up from the airport after we came back from Europe he was basically telling us that we didn’t have no other choice. I remember him saying that he had contracts and that even if we were reincarnated we’d come back and he’d still own us. He basically told Word Of Mouth that he didn’t give a f**k about them. He told them, ‘You two can leave today and I wouldn’t give a f**k but this guy here ain’t going nowhere.’ Duke was like, ‘Finding a deejay like Cheese is like finding a needle in a haystack but you rappers are a dime a dozen.’ I think Word Of Mouth were shocked when he said that because he was real aggressive with it. Duke pulled over on the highway and was like, ‘You two can get the f**k out now or we can go back to my house and we can split this money out and we done.’ Like I said, we didn’t really have access to the business side of things and that was then the group really fell apart because I still wanted to do music but the other guys were hesitant on how we were going to do it on our own. I felt there were ways we could’ve gotten it done but they weren’t as motivated about it as I was. So I actually walked away from them afterwards. I mean, looking back, we really should have made a group decision and fought it out more than we did. Even though we were being robbed we should have stuck it out a little longer and used the situation to make other connections in the industry so that we could move on. I mean, I remember hearing bad talk about Duke Bootee from Tom Silverman at Tommy Boy and then I went to the DMC and Tony Prince was in my ear telling me to watch the dude. So I’m hearing the same story from two major industry dudes, which let me know that Duke was already known as a slimeball in the business. But being young at the time, I didn’t know any of that before we got involved with him. I mean, I looked up to Duke because he was the one who put me on and got me to do my first record. But on the other side of the coin, he was a bad businessman and it seemed that the industry knew it already, it was just me who didn’t know that.”
What was your involvement with Tom Silverman?
“Tom Silverman was trying to sign me to Tommy Boy and he told me like, ‘Duke’s not a good dude. He’s going to get you for your money.’ I was working from Tom’s studio at the time when Keith LeBlanc was doing the “Lipservice” record (note: released on Tommy Boy in 1984 under the name Beatmaster). Back then in Hip-Hop if you f**ked with a crew then you were loyal to that one crew. So I made Duke aware of what Tom had said to me and he was like, ‘Well, that’s the last time you’re working there.’ So when Tony Prince told me the same thing that was when I kept it to myself because I wanted to see where it was going to go. So when Word Of Mouth started to see what was going on, that was when I told them what had been said to me and that was when we decided to walk away from the label.”
So was Tom Silverman trying to sign just you to Tommy Boy or Word Of Mouth as well?
“We really didn’t get too much into the conversation but I believe he just wanted to sign me as a deejay because he really didn’t speak on the group. He was impressed with me as he was involved in setting-up the New Music Seminar and had seen what I was capable of doing.”
I understand that Biz Markie also approached you about being his deejay when he first started putting records out in the mid-80s?
“Yeah. At that time it was me, Biz, Big Daddy Kane and TJ Swan who were all running together at one point. They used to spend the night at my house and go to parties with me. At the time, I was doing two or three parties a week so they used to travel with me. It was towards the end of our run with “Coast To Coast” when Biz first asked me to be his deejay. I still didn’t know where things were going to go with Word Of Mouth, so I was like, ‘I’m down with these dudes already’ and I didn’t want to just walk away from them at that point. Then Big Daddy Kane came along and he was the second one to ask me to be his deejay. Biz and Kane would freestyle at all the parties I was doing in Jersey and the way I was rockin’ with them it was as if we’d practiced routines together, but we never had practiced. They’d just be hanging out with me coming to the parties. Kane would be like, ‘Let me get the mic’ and I already knew he was hot even though people didn’t really know who he was at that time, but he would turn the party out. He’d be rockin’ and I’d drop the beat out on his punchline or throw a cut in there and he’d look back over his shoulder like, ‘How the f**k did you know I was about to drop that punchline?’ So after that he wanted me to be his deejay as well.”
So did you turn Kane down as well because you were still with Word Of Mouth?
“Yeah, right. I was also approached by Queen Latifah and Shakim of the Flavor Unit to be her deejay as well. At that time, I wasn’t even with Word Of Mouth no more, I was in the streets hustling. But I was so caught up in the streets at that time that I turned them down, which became the third biggest disappointment of my career. First I let Biz go by, then Big Daddy Kane, and then here comes Queen Latifah. I let all three of those opportunities go by.”
What was your connection with Biz Markie?
“Biz at the time basically lived in Jersey. You used to see Biz walking around Jersey on a Tuesday (laughs). I mean, Biz was already hot even before his records came out and hit radio because he was known for doing his human beatbox. So he’d already established himself and Kane was running with Biz at that time. As far as Kane, anyone who came from New York to Jersey, the crowd was already looking forward to seeing them rock because they were expecting them to be dope. I mean, that wasn’t always the case, but Kane obviously was a real dope emcee so he definitely left a big impression on people. From time to time people will remind me, ‘You remember that time you brought Kane out at such and such a party? You remember when you brought Biz?’ People still remember that.”
Did anyone ever try and battle Kane at any of those Jersey parties?
“Nah, not at all (laughs). I mean, after Kane got on the mic didn’t nobody else wanna get on it. If he was the first one on, then Kane was the last one on. A person would be a fool to try and go in behind that (laughs).”
Were you involved with any of the other Flavor Unit members aside from Latifah?
“Nah, but I knew all of them. I knew Mark The 45 King. I mean, when Shakim approached me about working with Latifah it was because Mark was busy with other projects so he couldn’t be her deejay as well. This was around the time that “Wrath Of My Madness” was being played on the radio which was a hot single to me. But part of the reason I turned them down was because I really didn’t want to relive the experience I’d had with Word Of Mouth and the music business.”
So at that point you were burnt out with the business side of the music game?
“Yeah, I was definitely burnt out with the business side of the game and that was when I got caught up in the lifestyle as far as being in the streets was concerned. Basically my addiction in the streets was the lifestyle and the money. I never had a drug habit which is what some people think. I’ve never used drugs, had a drink or smoked a cigarette in my life. So it wasn’t what a lot of people thought it was in terms of them thinking I had a drug addiction because everytime I came home from jail I went right back. No, I had an addiction to money. I mean, when I was touring the UK and making records my addiction was Hip-Hop and it was always about the love of the culture for me and at that point it wasn’t about the money. But that addiction to money came later once I got into the streets.”
How long were you in the streets for?
“I would say from about 1987 through to 2002. I was in and out prison and my mindset during that time was all about getting out to go straight back to the streets. I knew exactly what I was going to do. Today, that’s not my mindset. I’ve prepared myself for it this time. Today my mind is back to the music and I’m back to where I was in ’83, ’84. I know there are people out there who think it’s just a matter of time before I go back to jail but I’m looking to prove them wrong. I’m not upset with anyone for thinking that, because I know I let people down, but now I have to work hard to get that respect back.”
What did you serve time for?
“Distribution of cocaine. There’s nothing else on my jacket other than that.”
Were you still dabbling with Hip-Hop while you were in the streets or did you completely disconnect yourself from the music business?
“I was still doing parties inbetween all that and I did a couple of shows. I did a couple of shows with Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick when I was in the streets. I opened up for 50 Cent while I was in the streets. But for the most part I just walked away from the music even though I would still practice on the turntables at home. I remember I did a show with Kane at The Apollo one time around ’88 / ’89 and he gave me a cold shoulder and treated me like I was a stranger. I don’t know if he was disappointed because I turned him down when he asked me about being his deejay or whether he was disappointed because he knew what I was doing in the streets. I remember we were in the green room and he was standing in the doorway. He was looking at me and I was looking at him, but he didn’t give me a head-nod or nothing. So I approached him like, ‘Remember me?’ and he was just like, ‘Yeah’ and that was it. In my mind I was like, ‘Wow! You used to sleep on my floor and this is how it is now?’ I went and sat back down and I was kinda upset but now when I look back at it I know I disappointed a lot of people with what I was doing. I mean, I’ve talked to Kane since I last came home and we didn’t speak about that particular incident but he was just happy that I’m home and doing what I’m doing.”
How long were you locked-up for before the last time you came home?
“I was released in 2011 and I’d been away for almost nine years.”
So are you still in touch with Word Of Mouth today?
“Yeah, we did a single called “Life Without Hip-Hop” a little while ago. Like I said, I’m not going going back to the streets again whether this music thing goes my way or it fails. I’m so motivated right now and I keep telling Word Of Mouth that all the old-school crews are still touring and we’re one of the few groups that aren’t out there touring. I understand I was away, but I’m home now so let’s drop the single and let the people know we’re back. But this has been going on for about fifteen months now and I told them flat-out either we’re going to do it or it’s over for good. I’ve got the studio right here at home so we don’t need to pay for studio time or anything like that, we can do it all right here. But it’s just not getting done, so regardless I’m going to keep moving how I’ve been moving. I’ve had quite a few deejay sponsors come along who’re backing me right now because they see what I’m doing and I’m moving right now.”
What’s your opinion on the current state of turntablism?
“I mean, to me everyone is doing the same thing. Everyone’s using their laptops now with Serato. I mean, there’s nothing really wrong with that but it’s just sounds like you’re using one turntable and just doing a lot of scratching. Where are the skills at? Where’s the technical part of being able to do something with that turntable? To me, it always used to be about how you used those turntables and that mixer. It’s moved away from that now and it’s need to get back to what that word turntablism really means. It used to be about the funk. It used to be exciting to watch someone on the turntables and see how nice they were. There are some people out there who’re slowly bringing it back.”
Has it surprised you being on social media and seeing how much people still remember the impact you made the first time around?
“Oh yeah, definitely. Coming home and seeing all the activity on Facebook with people sending me stuff from events that I didn’t even remember doing or pictures that I didn’t even remember taking, to me all that stuff is big.”
How would you sum-up the contributions you made to the golden-era of Hip-Hop as both a deejay and with Word Of Mouth?
“Back then we never even looked it at in terms of what contribution we were making. We were just in the scene doing what we did. Looking back on it now, it’s a decision the people have to make when it comes to how much of a contribution we made. Me personally, I can’t make that decision. That’s something the people have to decide.”
F0llow DJ Cheese on Twitter @KingKutDJCheese.
Footage of DJ Cheese’s 1986 DMC routine.