Tag Archives: Clientele Brothers

Old To The New Q&A – Satchel Page (Part One)

satchel page pic 1

A true veteran of the Queens, NY Hip-Hop scene, Rotten Apple resident Satchel Page spent his youth surrounded by pioneers of the game, from those who made their name turning-out the park jams of the early-80s, to others who went on to become internationally known once rap began to make its journey from the streets to the mainstream.

But unlike many of his peers, Page didn’t spend the 80s or 90s in the Hip-Hop spotlight, even though he was associated with some of the most well-known figures of the culture’s golden-era. Having sharpened his lyrical skills onstage in front of first-generation Queens b-boys and b-girls, fate and circumstance would prevent the New York native from sharing his passion for the microphone with the masses, with Page instead deciding to step back from pursuing a career in music in favour of a more secure and stable lifestyle.

Having returned to the studio in recent years, working with producer Ayatollah and appearing on childhood friend Neek The Exotic’s 2011 Large Professor-assisted album “Still On The Hustle”, Page recently released his own new solo project “Fine Wine”.

In this two-part interview an animated Satchel Page takes a walk down memory lane, as he remembers rolling with a young LL Cool J, battling Biz Markie and seeing his Queens neighbourhood ravaged by the crack epidemic of the Reagan-era.

How and when were you first introduced to Hip-Hop?

“Well, I’m from Southside Jamaica, Queens, which I would say is one of the meccas of the Hip-Hop culture. I really started rhyming after making the transition from break-dancing, which shows you how long ago I started (laughs). When I started grabbing the mic most of the people my age were still break-dancing and it was the older cats who were rhyming. But I was one of those young cats who was grabbing the mic early in Jamaica, Queens back in the park jam era.”

So before you started rhyming, when did you first start breakin’?

“Breakin’ came to Queens, I would say, in the late-70s. We’d have the block parties, people would bring out their music equipment and we would just dance to the music all night long. That was when we first really started to see this new music taking form and the break-dancers would come out and everything. We used to call it the electric boogie back then (laughs). People would be poppin’ and stuff and it really just took off from there in Queens. Everybody was doing it in the late-70s and early-80s.”

Were acts coming from the Bronx to perform at those early park jams or was it strictly deejays and emcees from Queens?

“I always tell people that if Hip-Hop started in the Bronx on a Monday, then the rest of New York was doing it on Tuesday and Wednesday (laughs). It really spread that fast. The first memory I have of those park jams in Queens was when I was playing Little League baseball. I was about ten-years-old and I can remember everybody on the baseball field dancing and not being able to concentrate on the game because there were people in the next field over playing music! That was like a phenomenon to us. We could hear the music and they were playing these disco break-beats and everybody was dancing and trying to play baseball at the same time (laughs). I mean, that had to be around 1977 or 1978. So this was early and it wasn’t anybody who was coming from the Bronx doing that, this was Queens cats just bringing their equipment out and doing their thing. Hip-Hop started in the Bronx but we were doing it very early in Queens with the jams and stuff. We’ve been jammin’ in Queens for a long time (laughs).”

satchel page 3

Who were some of the best known deejays in the parks during the early days of Hip-Hop in Queens?

“Ah man, at the height of the park jams in Queens the biggest name was Grandmaster Vic. He was the ultimate. Vic was like Grandmaster Flash to people in Queens. So there was Grandmaster Vic, the Amazing Dewitt from Baisley and Kid Quick from Rochdale. Those are some of the names that I remember. But a lot of the time it wasn’t about the single deejay, it was about the crews. So there was the Boss Crew, you had Cipher Sounds who were coming out of 40 projects, you had the Clientele Brothers which had people like Mikey D, LL Cool J and Johnny Quest down with them….”

Eddie O’Jay, Everlovin’ Kid Ice and those dudes…

“Yeah, yeah (laughs). So we’re talking the early-80s at this point. This was still really before making records was your claim to fame. Your claim to fame was being able to rock at a park jam and having tapes of that circulating around New York. That was how you made your name back then.”

Going back to Grandmaster Vic, he was known for his blends, right?

“He invented that. He invented that whole idea of blending Hip-Hop with R&B. Puffy and all these people like Jodeci and Mary J. Blige really owe Grandmaster Vic. When he did it, it was unheard of to take the accapella of an R&B record and blend it with straight Hip-Hop breaks. When he started doing that it was a previously unheard phenomenon that really took people by storm. I mean, in the early-80s people were buying Grandmaster Vic tapes for like fifty dollars. Those were real mixtapes.”

How early on was Vic actually mixing Hip-Hop with R&B?

“Early on, early on. That’s what he was known for. He was good with the scratches and everything and was a real pure deejay, but when it came to the blending, he had such an ear for putting two records together that you would never think would blend but he would make it work. That was in the early-80s he was doing that. I remember he could pretty much blend Keni Burke’s “Risin’ To The Top” with anything (laughs). I think Keni Burke might owe Grandmaster Vic some royalties because he really helped make that song famous. You don’t even understand, when Vic would put that record on at the jams people would go crazy. To this day, “Risin’ To The Top” is the Queens anthem. That’s the Queens anthem because of Grandmaster Vic and his crew, the Boss Crew which consisted of cats like Divine and Chilly Dee who were legends back then. They had the Boss Crew, which stood for Brothers Of South Side. They would tear parties up so bad that it was the equivalent of going to something like Summer Jam now. But when it comes to Grandmaster Vic, all those dudes like Funkmaster Flex, DJ Clue, Kid Capri, Ron G, all the deejays that went on to become big and famous from making mixtapes, they all took a little piece of Grandmaster Vic.”

So at what point did you make the transition from dancing to rhyming?

“I’ll tell you when it happened. It was when I met LL Cool J. My cousin was also a big deejay at that time and I’d say he was on the same level as Grandmaster Vic. His name was DJ Jesse James. Now, his emcees were astronomically huge in Queens at the time. They were called the Albino Twins. They were these two albino dudes and they used to just destroy the parties. I mean, they were really more party emcees and not so much on the lyrical tip, but this was when we were still in that party and park jam era. So they were big in Queens and I used to roll with them and be the one carrying the equipment and stuff. I mean, I’m only about ten or eleven-years-old at this point. So my cousin came to me and said, ‘Yo, I’ve got this new young cat and he’s just ferocious on the mic.’ He introduced me to him and it was Cool J. Now, when Cool J came he just brought a whole new style to the streets of Queens that was unheard of because at that time everybody was just doing the party style of rhyming. That’s really what emcee-ing was to us back then. But when LL came out, and he was only about fourteen-years-0ld, he came with that very lyrical style that, when I first heard it, it just blew me away. So after the first time I heard LL rhyme, I went home and started writing my own rhymes because there was more of an intelligence aspect to it that I felt I could do rather than just the crowd participation stuff which you really needed a huge amount of personality for.”

satchel page pic 4

So when you first heard LL, was it at a park jam or on a tape?

“It was in my cousin DJ Jesse James’ basement. They were practicing for a jam we were about to go to that night and LL was rhyming freestyle off the instrumental to T La Rock’s “It’s Yours”.”

Which is ironic considering the comparisons that were made between LL Cool J and T La Rock when “I Need A Beat” came out…

“”It’s Yours” definitely inspired him. When he was rolling with my cousin I would be with LL and he would recite that record all the time. I mean, we all knew the record but LL was the only person I knew who could recite that record word-for-word. He knew every single word to that song backwards and forwards. So yeah, LL could never deny T La Rock’s influence on him.”

So was LL performing regularly with your cousin and his crew?

“Ah man, when LL got down with the Albino Twins it was crazy because then you had the illest party rockers with the illest lyricist. I used to roll with them and see them just turn jams upside down (laughs). Their style used to be that they’d turn up to the party, tear the place up and then just leave (laughs). I mean, after they left people didn’t even want to stay no more. There was no reason for them to stay around. It was like they’d just been hit by a tornado (laughs). Now, LL and the Albino Twins were actually from the Northside of Queens and back then Queens was very localised. But I remember walking up into the hardest neighbourhoods in the middle of 40 projects with them. Now, dudes from the Northside, which is Hollis and places like that, they didn’t really come to Southside Queens. The Twins and LL were some of the few who would come from the Northside to the Southside, in the middle of 40 projects, and be able to actually get the microphone, much less then tear the place up. I saw them do that on more than one occasion (laughs). So LL was definitely a big influence on me when I first started picking up that pen.”

satchel page pic 2

Are there any battles from that period that still standout to you?

“Yeah, actually one of the illest moments I ever had in Hip-Hop was when LL had a battle with this guy called Cap who was from Laurelton, Queens, which had the L.A. Posse. Cap also had a crew called the El-Producto Brothers. Now, this particular battle was at a block party, and they always used to start around three in the afternoon. LL was on early doing his thing, and Cap got on him just out of nowhere. Cap had this disrespectful rhyme that just killed LL. Now, LL was about to get back on him, but it was still real early and I remember my cousin Jesse James coming up to LL and saying, ‘Yo, chill, chill. Don’t do it now. Let’s wait until night time when the crowd’s here and then you can go at him.’ My cousin had this van at the time and LL went straight into the van. We didn’t see LL for the rest of the day. Now, around the time the party was really rockin’, my cousin came up to me and told me to go get LL. I remember opening up the van and LL was in there with the music going and he was just putting the pen to the pad (laughs). I told him that my cousin had said it was time. I remember LL asking me, ‘Yo! Is it crowded?’ and I was like, ‘Man, it’s packed!’ I remember LL getting out that van, going up onstage and he said a rhyme to this dude Cap that was tailor-made for him (laughs). The crowd just went bananas. I mean, the rhyme was just so skillful and advanced that people were looking at LL like he was a martian (laughs). Cap tried to come back at LL and right in the middle of his rhyme LL just turned around and mooned him (laughs). The crowd fell-out laughing and that was the battle over. But I remember there were people there that day who went on to become legends. I mean, DJ Irv, Irv Gotti, he was there, Mr. Cheeks from the Lost Boyz, Ed Lover was there. Ed was actually someone else who used to roll with my cousin and the Albino Twins. He always used to do songs over to perform at the parties and make them funny. I remember when Run DMC had “My Adidas”, Ed did “My Skeezers” and things like that (laughs).”

Do you recall the first time you performed in public?

“The very first time I performed was at a block party. Now back then, when crews used to battle it was more like a battle of sound systems which was taking something from the Jamaican thing. At the time my cousin had the illest sound system and there was also this other crew from Southside called Cipher Sounds. I remember, both of them wanted to jam at this particular park on the same day. Everybody knew that they were going to jam at this park. So my cousin showed up on one side of the park, Cipher Sounds showed up on the other side of the park, and it was about whoever was rockin’ the most and who the crowd was swaying to. That was the first time I ever got on the mic and I just tore it up. People were just astonished because they were only used to seeing me carrying the equipment and dancing. I was real short as well. I mean, I’m still short now, but I was even shorter back then (laughs). So that was my first time rockin’ a jam and I just loved the feeling I got from doing that. Afterwards, I’d be walking around the neighbourhood and people would be pointing me out like, ‘That’s that dude who rhymes with the Albino Twins…’ and stuff like that…

What name were you rhyming under back then?

“My name back then was G.L.T. which stood for Genuine Lyrical Technique. To be honest, it stood for pretty much whatever I felt at the time (laughs). It also used to stand for Good Lookin’ Troy, with Troy being my first name.”

So were you battling other emcees on the street at that point as well as performing at the jams?

“I had a battle with Biz Markie before he even came out on record which was funny. Biz was actually walking through my neighbourhood with Rahzel who went on to be the beatbox for The Roots. This was before Biz had come out with the Juice Crew and all that. Biz was just walking down the street doing that ‘Boom-ha-ha..’ thing he used to do (laughs). Now, Biz is a funny-looking cat and we actually thought something was wrong with him (laughs). We were just young and crazy back then, so we started clowning on him and Biz started telling us how he’s into music and is doing this and that. So we’re laughing at him, thinking that he’s lying. Then before you know it, Biz started rhyming, I started rhyming, and we were going back and forth. I pretty much think I got him though (laughs). But we laughed Biz Markie off our block. We told him, ‘Yo,you sound corny. You sound crazy.’ Then maybe about a year later we heard that same laugh of his all over the radio and we all just looked at each other like, ‘Oh no!’ Me and my crew swear to this day that Biz made “Vapors” about us (laughs).”

satchel page pic 6

On the subject of the Juice Crew, with their early members coming from Queensbridge, how much of a connection did QB have with everything else that was going on in Queens at the time?

“Queensbridge was always just off on their own doing their own thing. Like I said, Queens was very localised so you didn’t always know what was happening outside of your own neighbourhood. I mean at the age we were back then, none of us were driving or anything like that. So you pretty much stayed in your neighbourhood. We thought we were all of Queens (laughs) I mean, for us, our introduction to Queensbridge pretty much was the Juice Crew when MC Shan and Marley Marl came out with “The Bridge”. So when they came out, that was something brand new to us. But when MC Shan came out that was big. I mean, most of the guys I was rolling with didn’t go on to make records, so when Shan started coming to other parts of Queens to perform, that was big because he was already out with his records.”

What impact did it have in Queens when Run-DMC first came out?

“That was huge. I remember, you’d see them driving down the block. I mean, back then, if you were a rap star you were still living in your old neighbourhood really. It’s not like now where rap stars are living in Hollywood (laughs). Back then you’d go to the shopping mall in Queens and you might bump into Run-DMC. Matter of fact, I knew where Run lived so I used to always drop off my demos to him. I used to go right to his house, ring his bell and give him any new demos I’d been working on. Run actually tried to get me a deal with Profile Records but right before it happened things happened at the label and it all went crazy. But anytime I had new music, Run would listen to it. He was definitely cool. But it was crazy to see an act as big as Run-DMC on an everyday basis just up in Hollis chillin’ or in the barber-shop.”

satchel page pic 5

Did people in Queens expect Run-DMC to blow-up like they did?

“It was a surprise to tell you the truth. Based on the reputation they had in the streets, people would have probably bet that the Albino Twins would have been bigger stars than Run-DMC at the time. The Albino Twins had a bigger name and were known more all over Queens than Run and them. To be honest, the first time a lot of us heard Run-DMC was actually when they came out on record (laughs). I don’t remember Run and them doing jams locally like Grandmaster Vic and them were. But Run-DMC did come out very early, so they were doing the record thing early on and were doing that rather than doing the jams like everyone else. But once “Sucker MCs” came out, it was a wrap. They were all over the place. But when they were big, they would still come to the jams. I remember they had a battle with the Albino Twins at a Hollis Day event. This would have been around 1983 or 1984 and the Albino Twins took ’em out (laughs).”

What was your reaction when LL got signed to Def Jam?

“I knew it was coming because it was the summer right before he got signed when I was with him everyday almost. I was listening to “I Need A Beat” months before it even came out and I was telling everybody about him. I think I was LL’s first fan (laughs). I used to tell everybody that he was my cousin because he was down with my cousin and I thought I’d ride that a little bit, so I used to tell people, ‘Yo, my cousin’s got this joint coming out called ‘I Need A Beat.’ I mean, when LL’s first album came out, I was singing those joints word for word  because those were rhymes that I’d heard LL writing in my cousin’s basement. Some of those rhymes LL had written when he was twelve-years-0ld.”

So what was your plan at that point considering you were seeing local acts from Queens signing major record deals?

“At that point, it really became less about rockin’ jams and more about getting a record deal because everybody was getting a deal (laughs). You started seeing people that you grew-up with on TV and things like that. I mean, that’s what happened with Neek The Exotic. He was one of the dudes that I grew-up with. Then I looked up one day and he’s doing “Fakin’ The Funk” with Main Source and I was like, ‘Wow! This is really getting close.’ Neek was like my brother but I hadn’t seen him for about six months at the time and next thing I know he’s got a record out (laughs).”

You mentioned earlier that you would give your demo tapes to Run – when would that have been exactly?

“That would have been around 88 / 89. That was when the golden-era was really starting. All over Queens and New York as a whole, Hip-Hop was just going out of control. I remember, I was actually graduating high-school and had the chance to go away to college, but I turned that down because New York was so hot with the Hip-Hop and that’s what I was doing, so I wanted to stay.”

Was that a hard transition for some people to deal with when the music started to leave the parks and become more about the actual record industry?

“Nah, I think at that time everybody was pretty much thinking that they had a chance to be the next big star. So everybody was welcoming the chance to take it from the streets and actually make real money from the music. You still had people doing the jams and everything, but everybody was in the studio. That was like the catchphrase of the day, ‘I’m in the studio’ (laughs). Everybody was making demos and beings as so much of the Hip-Hop of that time was coming from New York, everybody knew somebody who was a connection to the industry. Like, I knew Run, so I’d drop my demos off to him. People always had their connections. I remember, I went to high-school with Fredro Starr from Onyx and Mr. Cheeks from the Lost Boyz, and we would tell each other about the different contacts and connections we knew about.”

From what I understand the Lost Boyz already had a reputation on the streets of Queens long before they ever put a record out…

“Yeah, well, Mr. Cheeks is my man. The Lost Boyz were always a little crew that used to roam around and do their thing in the streets. This was the time when crack was really dominating the era and everybody was doing their little things with the drugs and running around making their little bit of money. I mean, if you were young, the main two things you did in Queens in the 80s was either rap or sell drugs and some did both (laughs). So the Lost Boyz used to do their thing in other ways, but Cheeks always represented the Hip-Hop part of it and was always doing his music thing.”

Did you know B-1 who was also down with the Lost Boyz?

“I mean, I didn’t come up with him but I knew of him. But I didn’t know him personally like I knew Cheeks. To this day, Cheeks is my brother. But I didn’t know B-1 like that. I mean, I grew-up with Cheeks, Freaky Tah, Fredro Starr and Big DS, rest in peace. Those were my brothers that I really grew-up with.”

So you were there when Fredro and them were in their house music stage before they hit with Onyx?

“It’s funny, because when Onyx first came out I didn’t recognise them (laughs). These were people that I grew-up with my whole life and I’d watched the video and heard the song and I didn’t realise it was Fredro and them. It was Large Professor and Neek who told me it was them. I’d linked up with Neek again after he’d done “Fakin’ The Funk” and I was up at Large Pro’s house with him and Large was like, ‘Yo, your boys are blowing’ and I was like, ‘Who?’ Large and Neek were telling me it was Fredro and them. I was saying, ‘Well, I ain’t heard their song’ and they were telling me it was “Throw Ya Gunz” and I’m there saying, ‘Nah, I’ve seen that video. That ain’t Fredro and them. That’s these bald-head cats with mean faces.’ I had to go back and look at the video and really look at the faces and I was like, ‘Wow! It is them!’ Before that they were doing house music and had big purple hair like some punk rock stuff. I’ve gotta give it to Jam Master Jay because that transformation was genius and it definitely came off, but it took those of us in the ‘hood who grew-up with them by surprise (laughs).”

Ryan Proctor

Part Two of this interview coming soon.

Satchel Page – “Keep Calling Me” (@SatchelPage / 2013)

Old To The New Q&A – Mikey D (Part One)

mikey d 1

In the world of Hip-Hop there are those who boastfully make misguided claims of legendary status and those who have legendary status bestowed upon them by fans and peers due to their talent and contributions to the artform. Queens, NY icon Mikey D definitely falls into the latter category.

Making his name on the streets of early-80s New York as a ferocious battle emcee, the skilled wordsmith quickly built a reputation that would see him continue to be respected as an artist throughout the years, from his L.A. Posse releases with innovative producer Paul C. and childhood friend DJ Johnny Quest, to his time as a member of Main Source in the 90s and up to the present day.

Despite enduring numerous career setbacks during decades of destroying microphones, Mikey’s passion for the music and culture which grabbed his attention as a young kid from Laurelton’s Merrick Boulevard has never left him.

Currently putting the finishing touches to a project with NY vinyl veteran DJ Mercury under the name Elements Of Hip-Hop, Mikey D kindly took some time out to discuss his long personal history for this three-part interview, including his relationship with a young LL Cool J, winning the 1988 New Music Seminar emcee battle, the tragic murder of Paul C. and his future music plans.

Can you remember when you were first introduced to Hip-Hop?

“It was around the late-70s, like 78, 79. I was in Laurelton, Queens, but my boy Derek, we called him Dee Money, he was from Harlem but his grandmother lived next door to my grandmother and in the summertime he would always come to Queens. Now, his brother was a little older than him, so he would be going to Harlem World and have all the cassettes of the live shows. So Dee Money used to steal his brother’s tapes and bring them with him to Queens for the summer (laughs). So, we’re just little kids at the time, sitting on the steps listening to this new music, which was Hip-Hop. After awhile I started emulating what I was hearing coming out of that big radio on the tapes and I had it y’know. I was saying the rhymes I was hearing on the tapes but I was doing it my way. Then eventually I started writing my own rhymes. I remember Grandmaster Caz had this rhyme about a girl named Yvette and the rhyme that I wrote was about a girl named Kim (laughs). So I was emulating Grandmaster Caz when I wrote my first rhyme and that was really my introduction right there because after I wrote that rhyme everybody started feeling it and I wanted more.”

So it was the lyrical aspect of Hip-Hop that grabbed you immediately rather than any of the other elements?

“It was definitely the rapping and the way the crowd took to the rapper that drew me in. The way the crowd would respond to a rapper’s punchlines and things like that just drove me crazy when I heard it. I was always a class clown and stuff like that and I liked the attention so that was my niche right there (laughs).”

At what point did you make the move from writing rhymes to actually performing in public?

“Johnny Quest used to live right down the block from me at the time I started writing rhymes. Johnny’s brother gave him some equipment for Christmas, around like 1980 / 81, but we were still young so we were really just rapping in the house and making tapes. Then the tapes started getting known publicly. Now, at this time, they used to always throw these park jams around the way, but I was always scared to get on because it was the older guys that were running the set and doing their thing. I was getting known underground from the tapes, so I was being recognised for that, but I was still just rapping in people’s houses. But one day I went to this park, 231, where they had this jam and I’m sitting there vibin’ and enjoying what’s going on. There was this guy there called TLC, I’ll never forget it. For some reason he had the balls to call me out. Now, at this point I’d never had a battle or rocked in front of a crowd and now we’re in the park, there’s a big crowd, I’m already hot from the tapes but I don’t have the experience of rockin’ in front of a large crowd. So TLC calls me out and starts disrespecting me in his rhyme and I was like, ‘Holy s**t!’ But what he didn’t know was that I’d come prepared. I’d already written battle rhymes just incase something like this ever happened, because when we were rockin’ in the houses there could be seventeen other emcees there getting on the tapes with you, so you never knew who had what, so you always had to be prepared for a battle. So I went out there and tore TLC apart (laughs). That was the first time I ever performed in front of an audience and it was the first time I got a taste of blood and like a pitbull I wanted more (laughs).”

Did TLC already know you from the tapes or did he call you out because he thought you were an easy target?

“TLC definitely knew who I was at that time but he had the crown in the park jams already. I was only known from the tapes, not for the park jams. So he took it upon himself to try and play me. But that was a bad decision for him and that was it for me. After I won that first battle it was off to the races, man.”

So that was the moment you decided you wanted to be known as a battle rapper?

“Yeah. I think a lot of these emcees and rappers that come out now, they learn how to do it. I feel like I was born to do this. From hearing those first tapes that Dee Money had, I knew from that point on that rhyming was what I wanted to do and it just came so naturally to me. I knew rhyming was something that was meant for me to do.”

How old were you when you had that first battle?

“I was around twelve or thirteen.”

Do you still remember the rhyme that you dropped?

“Oh my god, I don’t even remember what I said to TLC (laughs). But it definitely shut him down. I don’t even think he was rapping after that (laughs).”

And this is back when losing a public battle and having your reputation damaged by another emcee could easily end someone’s reign as a popular rapper in the neighbourhood…

“Exactly. And it wasn’t only the emcee as an individual who suffered when they lost a battle, it was the whole neighbourhood as well. See, TLC was from Farmers Boulevard and Farmers was in the house that day in the park. So he’s seen as being the best emcee from Farmers, and now here I come, a new jack from Laurelton, Merrick Boulevard to be exact, and those two places were already rivals. So here TLC is putting me on the spot, which meant putting the reputation of the area he was reppin’ on the line as well. So once I took him out, that’s what put Laurelton on the map and that was really the moment the L.A. Posse was born.”

mikey d 5

What other artists were there at that time on the street who had reps in Queens?

“Well at that time there weren’t too many people out. I mean, this was before Run DMC, this was more around the Sugarhill Gang / Funky Four Plus One More era and a lot of those guys were coming from the Bronx. In Queens at that time we were still finding our way. We had a group called the Rappermatical 5 from Laurelton. They were the only group I knew from Queens at that time who had a record out. They were from my neighbourhood. I never had the opportunity to battle them though because I looked up to them at that time. There was another group around called the Professional 5 as well, but Queens was really still trying to find its way. We didn’t get on the map until Run DMC really.”

How did you become part of the Clientele Brothers?

“The Clientele Brothers lived in my neighbourhood. They were the baddest. They were to Queens what Cold Crush was to the Bronx. There was four of ’em. They were all hot emcees. They had the dance steps. They were that crew that I really looked up to. There was one particular guy in the crew called Eddie O’Jay and he was like the Black Fonz. He was the coolest dude on earth to me (laughs). He had all the girls. So I followed his path in terms of the way he carried himself. I was like a young him. He didn’t even know who I was back then because they were already doing their thing, but eventually we got an opportunity to meet and talk and that’s when I actually became a part of the Clientele Brothers.”

Is that when you started using the name Playboy Mikey D?

“Well Playboy Mikey D was a little before the Clientele Brothers. At the time we had a group called the Sensational 5 and we all had our little nicknames like Everlovin’ Kid Ice, Loveable Little B, Loverboy TC, Romantic Lover Snow and I was Playboy Mikey D. That’s actually when Cool J got down with us and we gave him the name Ladies Love.”

So at what point did you meet LL and what stage was he at in terms of his aspirations to be a rapper?

“Well me and L, we were about fifteen when we met. I went to Springfield High School and he went to Jackson High School. We didn’t know each other. Now, in the same way the neighbourhoods would have one person to rep a particular place, so did the schools. Springfield and Jackson were rival schools. I was the baddest dude in Springfield and word of mouth had it that Cool J, or Jay-Ski as he was known then, was the best in Jackson. So we had mutual friends who wanted to see us battle. They hooked up a place for us to meet, which was Roller Castle in Elmont, Long Island. Flavor Flav was down with his crew called Spectrum and they used to deejay and host all these different events there. Now, me and Cool J weren’t scheduled to battle on the flyer or anything, that was just the place where everybody would go on the weekend. But we arranged to meet there, get on the mic and battle. So Cool J and I both got there and met each other for the very first time. Now, back in those days, before you’d even battle or get onstage, you might be off in a corner somewhere comparing notes, you say a rhyme, I’ll say a rhyme, just feeling each other out. So that’s what we did and both of us were buggin’ out because his voice texture and how he would spit certain rhymes reminded me of myself and vice versa. We didn’t have the exact same style, but we did have similar styles. We were feeling each other, we slapped five, we became friends and we got up on that stage and we rocked together. We didn’t battle. We thought we sounded too much alike, so we decided we should get up and rock together. We got cool from that day on and he started coming around the way all the time.  So that’s how me and Cool J met in the beginning. Jay-Ski!”

So was the plan for you to continue performing together?

“Well, I was down with both Sensational and the Clientele Brothers, doing shows with both of them. Cool J was from Hollis, borderline St. Albans. He would come around my way all the time to check me out because I was already doing things. I was a street legend already from the tapes and Cool J was on the come-up. So he used to walk from his ‘hood to my ‘hood. He wasn’t wearing Kangols at this time though, he was just wearing regular clothes, head-bands, whatever. I introduced him to the whole crew and the guys from Sensational wanted to put him in the group. Now, his name being Jay-Ski just didn’t sound right with the rest of the names we had in the group. So he went home, slept on what I’d said, then came back around the way the next day and was like, ‘I’ve changed my name! I’ve changed my name to Cool J!’ I was like, ‘I like that! That sounds dope! But you need a nickname! You’re always talking about how you want the ladies to love you, so you should be called Ladies Love Cool J. That would be dope!’ He went home, thought about it, then came back the next day and said he was keeping that name. So that was the birth of Ladies Love Cool J. That’s where the name came from. The LL part got broken down when he started messing with Def Jam because they thought the name was too long. He didn’t want to get rid of the Ladies Love part of his name so he broke it down to LL Cool J.”

Were you aware of LL’s deal with Def Jam before it happened?

“Yeah, he brought it to my attention. But you see with Cool J, in the early days, he had a reputation for stretching the truth and exaggerating about certain things. So I didn’t believe him (laughs). I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ First of all, I’d never heard of Def Jam at that particular time. LL showed me the contract, he told me we could be the next Run DMC and I thought he was day-dreaming again and running off with his mouth (laughs). At that time as well, that was when I started to become more street-orientated and was really finding my own way. I was hangin’ with the Clientele Brothers who were much older than me, drinking forties, and starting to be around the wrong elements. Whereas Cool J on the other hand, he was really taking his dream seriously and was following those proper channels. What I did wrong was that I doubted him. I didn’t believe him. First of all he’d tried to steal my spot in the Clientele Brothers, he started getting this ego thinking he was better than me. So there was a little jealousy and animosity boiling between us back then. So when he showed me the Def Jam contract  I just didn’t believe him. I thought it was another one of his stunts to try and impress people and make me look bad, that’s how I was looking at it. But I was wrong. Then LL got signed to Def Jam and the rest is history (laughs).”

ll cool j pic

Do you remember hearing LL’s debut single “I Need A Beat” for the first time?

“Yes I do, yes I do. The first time I heard it I was in Rochdale Village, Queens. It came on the radio and I was like ‘Damn! This s**t sounds like me. Holy cow! Cool J did it!’ I swear to God when that record first started getting played my phone was ringing off the hook with people congratulating me about my record because that’s how much we sounded alike. Everybody thought that record was me (laughs). Cool J came by the house a couple of times after that record came out and we talked, kicked it and stuff like that. But see, he wasn’t trying to put me on then because I’d have been a threat.”

So there wasn’t ever any talk at that point of you working together on any of his Def Jam material?

“No. He really tried to stay as far away from that as possible because I would have been the only person out at the time who could have given him any type of competition or been able to take any attention away from him. There would have been two of us out there then who were equally as nice and LL wouldn’t have been getting all of the attention. Plus, after a little time the streets started rejecting him because of the similarities. The way he changed his style to sound even more like me. My image became his image and people on the streets noticed that. If you were to ask anyone who came up around here during that time they would all vouch for me because the streets could see what was happening and that’s when the real animosity came in because he really wanted to prove to everyone that he was better than me. But what’s so funny about that is that a little after that Russell Simmons called my phone and asked me to sit down for a meeting with him and Rick Rubin. So I went to the meeting and these guys told me that they wanted to put me on, this, that and the third.”

How early in LL’s career did this meeting happen?

“Well, it was kinda early. It was before the “Radio” album came out so it would have been between 1984 and 1985. I remember it was a little before I got the contract with Reality Records to do “No Show” with the Symbolic Three. But the reason I never signed with Def Jam was because their intention was to have me there as that back-up in case Cool J’s fire started to go out. So they would have had a similar artist ready to come straight out. But I would have just been there sitting on the shelf. Now, LL Cool J has been going for thirty years and is still going strong so if I’d have signed that contract I’d have still been sitting on that shelf (laughs).”

Was LL aware that meeting had taken place?

“No, we never discussed that and even to this day I’m not sure he’s aware that actually happened (laughs). I think the reason they wanted to sign me was because they knew that if I got with another label then I would have been a real threat to what they had going with Cool J. Eventually we would have bumped heads and that could have meant a big problem for Def Jam back then.”

How did you end-up writing and featuring on the Symbolic Three’s 1985 Doug E. Fresh answer record “No Show”?

“Well, I already knew the group who were known as the Symbolic Four at the time. But one of them was so bad she had to go to reform school or something like that, so it just became three of them. I started dating one of the group, Sha-Love, that’s my daughter’s mom. Now what happened was, I went to the “Krush Groove” film set to be an extra. I met DJ Dr. Shock that day. Me and my human beatbox Prince Cie went down there and although we were only supposed to be extras in the movie we were all over the set freestyling. We were getting a lot of attention that day. So I met Dr. Shock who took my number and he said he knew someone who was a manager, which was Arthur Armstrong. I met with Arthur Armstrong and he wanted to sign me and then I brought in the Symbolic Three because they said they needed a girl group. Now Arthur was close friends with Jerry Bloodrock who ran Reality Records back then. Now at this time Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick had just come out with “The Show” and Jerry said he knew a lot of people were going to try and answer that record so he wanted to put out an answerback record immediately on the same label. Now back then, I was the master of parody and used to always flip people’s records, so I wrote “No Show” for the girls and obviously wrote myself into the track and threw a couple of jabs here and there (laughs). So that’s really how that record came about because Jerry Bloodrock wanted to try and keep all of the answer records to “The Show” in-house. “No Show” came out before Super Nature’s “The Show Stoppa” with Salt-N-Pepa and them.”

mikey d 4

Considering how big of a record “The Show” was were you comfortable making “No Show” knowing that it could be seen as a diss record?

“I really didn’t care because I was just trying to get out there. My whole M.O. back then was battling so it was second nature to me to do that song. I just made it a funny song. I didn’t know Doug or Slick personally at that time but I really wasn’t caring what the response might have been if they’d wanted to battle after that because I knew Slick Rick couldn’t have touched me lyrically and Doug wasn’t really a rapper. Plus, I didn’t go too hard at them and get personal on the record or anything like that, I just wrote a fun song. I wasn’t trying to start beef or anything like that, I was just doing what the company wanted and was hoping to be able to put some hit records out.”

Did you ever get any feedback on that record from Doug or Rick?

“I never heard from Slick Rick but I did hear from Doug E. Fresh. I remember him telling me, ‘Yo! You are nice on the mic but you’ve gotta stop dissing people’ (laughs). Doug and I are friends to this day but I’ve never actually met Slick Rick personally.”

Considering you’d largely made your name as a battle emcee up to that point, how did you find the transition from rhyming in the street to working in the studio?

“It was easy because, like I said, rhyming came natural to me. When I first started writing rhymes I was already writing material based around concepts anyway. The first rhyme I ever wrote was a story. So I was used to writing stuff other than just battle rhymes. All I had to do was format the song, which wasn’t nothing. I just had to write one looooong rhyme and then just break it up. So it wasn’t hard. The only thing I did wrong back then was that I kept the streets with me. I didn’t separate the streets from the studio. I was busy, as they say now, trying to keep it real and all that crap. I didn’t separate the business from the street and that was the biggest mistake I made back then.”

Looking back now are there any street battles that you think of as moments when you really earnt your stripes as an emcee?

“Wow, there were so many of them (laughs). I remember going to Kool G. Rap’s house before he even had any records out and his name was just Kool G at the time. I remember telling him, ‘Your name sounds like you’re trying to bite off my man Cool J’ (laughs). I’d just put “No Show” out, so they took me to his house and we battled. That was a pretty nice battle. That was cool. He said I won but I actually thought we were kinda even. I think he was just being humble (laughs).”

Did G. Rap say that at the time or was that something said in hindsight?

“Nah, we slapped five and G. Rap was like ‘You got it! You got it!’ That’s just what I did back in those days. See, I just got so fed up with going from corner to corner in my neighbourhood and battling and being the best in my area, that me and Johnny Quest used to buy a quart of beer, we would jump on the bus and the train, get off at a random stop and if we saw any people in a cypher we’d assume they were rapping and I’d step into the cypher and be like, ‘Who’s the emcee over here? Who’s the baddest emcee around here? I’ll battle aaaanybody!’ We used to walk through ‘hoods doing that. We walked through Queensbridge doing that. Nobody wanted it. A few tried but they lost. There were so many of those battles (laughs). I actually remember one particular time, I used to go with this girl called Shantel who was Run’s cousin and she had this birthday party. DMC was there and Jam Master Jay was there. They were walking around the party like they were all that and I was like, ‘I’ll battle y’all! Y’all ain’t saying nothin’! I’ll battle both of y’all’ (laughs). Jam Master Jay was saying ‘Wait until Run come and then we can do it.’ I was saying that we didn’t even have to do it at the party, we could do it outside in the park, because at the same park where I beat TLC in that first battle, they were jammin’ outside that night as well. They accepted my challenge, I went to that park and those guys never showed up. So I battled them without them even being there (laughs). There’s still tapes of that going around. But when it comes to battles, the New Music Seminar in 1988 when me and Melle Mel went at it, that was the one. That battle was when I really had to earn my respect on another level.”

Ryan Proctor

Lookout for Part Two of this interview coming soon with Mikey D discussing working with legendary producer Paul C. and his infamous New Music Seminar battle with Grandmaster Melle Mel.