Tag Archives: DJ Tat Money

The Goin Way Back Show – Money-B / DJ Tat Money

Money-B of Digital Underground fame interviews legendary Illadelph deejay Tat Money for the latest installment of his Goin Way Back Show.

Old To The New Q&A – DJ Tat Money (Part Four)

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In the final installment of my interview with DJ Tat Money, the Philly Hip-Hop legend discusses his reasons for leaving the Hilltop Hustlers crew, being involved in the 90s Kwame / Biggie beef and visiting Steady B in prison – check Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

What were your thoughts on the beef that developed between Steady B and Three Times Dope after they left the Hilltop crew?

“I just thought it was pretty misguided. I mean, Lawrence Goodman was a business guy and he pretty much puppeteered everybody. So when Three Times Dope broke away, he was saying, ‘Okay, they’re not with us anymore. They’ve abandoned the crew. You’re not supposed to be friends with those guys anymore.’ It was that whole thing now. So Steady was just like, ‘Okay, f**k ’em.’ He was basically following orders. In reality, he liked those guys. Cool C was the same way but he was also being told what to do. But to turn another page on that, the same thing happened with me once I got with Kwame in 1990. We were doing a show in Philly and they all turned up on the floor of the hotel we were staying in. There must have been about twenty guys…”

Was this actually Steady and Cool C or just Hilltop Hustlers affiliates?

“They were all there. All of them. We came off the elevator and walked straight into a bunch of these people. Now, I’m talking about people that I used to roll with all the time. They looked, nobody said a word, we all looked at each other and I just kept walking and walked straight into my room. They knocked on the door a couple of times and I think there was some stupid stuff said like, ‘You’d better not come out’ or something. But it wasn’t really that deep. It didn’t go that far.”

So what actually led to you making the decision to leave the Hilltop camp?

“Stuff started happening around 1988. What happened was, with the “Let The Hustlers Play” album, Chuck Nice from Three Times Dope produced three records on that project. See, Steady and I were kinda tired and exhausted at this point because we’d put a lot into our second album and nothing really happened. We were disappointed. We felt like the “What’s My Name” hadn’t really got off the ground and we were looking at all these other artists blowing up and doing tours and everything. Now, we’ve gotta start thinking about where we were going to go with our third album and Lawrence could see that we were a little bit relaxed about it and obviously he had a schedule that he needed to get the record out by. So he decided that to keep things going he was going to bring some other producers on-board, which is when Jive approached him about working with KRS-One and he also decided to get Chuck Nice involved because he was a great producer.  So I went up to Chuck’s house one time and we spent the whole night in the studio just working on music. But what started with us working on music led to us talking about certain things which developed into a conversation that went on until the sun came up. We must have talked for about three hours and I was telling him that I thought we weren’t being treated properly and that nobody was making any money. Chuck was looking at me like he couldn’t believe it (laughs). He was like, ‘Yo, I just came into this situation and this is the dream I’ve been looking for and now the person who helped get me here is telling me it’s not what I thought it was.’ He was flabbergasted. So he called Woody Wood up and he came over. This must have been about six-thirty in the morning. So Chuck is like, ‘Yo, Tat, tell Woody everything you just told me.’ So I told him. I was just frustrated, man. But I could see in Woody’s face that what I was telling him was hitting him hard because he had really befriended Lawrence…”

I know when I interviewed Woody earlier this year he told me how he would regularly travel to New York with Lawrence on business etc…

“Absolutely. I mean, Woody really couldn’t believe that Lawrence would betray us like that. He was hearing what I was saying but he couldn’t believe it. But then he heard the same thing from Lady B as well, and once he heard it from her, that was it. When Lady B validated everything I’d told him, that was when Three Times Dope got ready to leave and stepped away from the crew. Once that happened, that was when Lawrence was telling everyone, ‘Man, f**k those guys. We showed them everything and they’ve left. You should hate those guys now and not be cool with them anymore.’ Now, I’m my own man. I was still going over to see the Three Times Dope guys. I didn’t give a s**t. I mean, we made records together, we came up together, and now I’m supposed to cut them off because of some business s**t and because someone else wasn’t paying them properly? That wasn’t happening. I was just being real. Lawrence was kind of leery about me because he knew that I was an independent thinker. Now, once Three Times Dope left, suddenly all these contracts came up that Lawrence wanted us to sign locking us in for, like, twelve years. That was the point when I decided it was time to go.”

So the last Steady B project you were involved in was 1989’s “Going Steady” and then you started working with Kwame, right?

“Yeah, absolutely. That album came out in 1989 and I’d left by 1990. It was actually EST from Three Times Dope who hooked me up with Kwame. When I first got down with him it was almost the same situation as when I first got involved with Steady because Kwame had pretty much wrapped up the “A Day In The Life” album that he was working on, so I was featured on four tracks from that album doing cuts.”

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Were you rolling with Kwame when Biggie dropped the infamous line ‘Your life is played out like Kwame and them f**kin’ polka dots’ on 1994’s “Unbelievable”?

“I was actually (laughs). Kwame was pissed. He couldn’t believe it and was like, ‘Where did that come from? I don’t even know this guy.’ I remember Kwame called me one day saying, ‘Did you hear about this guy Biggie Smalls dissing me on a record?’ I had all these records at my house and he told me the name of the song and I pulled the record out. So I put the record on and I didn’t hear it the first time. Then I played it again and was like, ‘Oh my god!’ Now we’ve got a problem, because that record was hot (laughs).”

Was there ever any interaction between Kwame and Biggie in response to that?

“We did a show in Philly that had been put on by this guy named Joe. He told us that he’d had Biggie Smalls performing there some time before us and that Biggie had told him he’d just said Kwame’s name on “Unbelievable” as something to say on the record and that it wasn’t a real serious thing. Apparently, Biggie told him he just said it and that it wasn’t really anything that Kwame should take to heart. But this is Hip-Hop and it’s very competitive. You don’t say someone’s name in a rhyme and just say it frivolously. You say it and you mean it or you don’t say it all. So, now, with Kwame being a competitor, he’s pissed. I mean, you can’t take something like that sitting down. So Kwame made “? It Like” and put a dude who looked like Biggie in the video. The record wasn’t that big because we were on a jacked-up label at the time, Ichiban, which was a bulls**t label. They really were full of s**t. Kwame had signed to them in 1994 for one album, “Incognito”, but it really didn’t get any light.”

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Did Biggie ever respond to that record or was it under-the-radar?

“So this is what happened. This is stuff that nobody really knows (laughs). This was around the time when cell phones started to become more popular. They used to be about a dollar a minute to use and I had one, Kwame had one, and there used to be this hook-up guy that we used who would hook the phones up so that you didn’t have to pay as much (laughs). So, Biggie actually used to go to the same guy and somehow he got my number from this hook-up guy. He called my phone and it sounded to me like he had the phone in his lap or something because his voice sounded like it was on speaker but this was before people had speaker phones (laughs). This was after Kwame had put the diss song out and we were supposed to be on a show together. So Biggie was like, ‘Look man, we’ll come through that show and blow that s**t up!’  I was like, ‘Oh s**t, this is that Biggie Smalls dude. How the f**k did he get my number?’ My number changed a lot so I was really surprised when he called so I knew he must have got the number from our cell phone guy. So I told Kwame about the call but then Biggie never did come through the show, although we did actually end-up having a run-in with him on another occasion around the same time…”

What happened?

“This was a crazy situation (laughs). We had this show with Kwame in mid-town Manhattan. We got booked to do this show by this lady promoter and we ripped that s**t down. I mean, we really ripped it down. I did my routine and was cutting-it up and the promoter was like, ‘Oh my god! We need an encore from the deejay!’ So I went on again and did my thing. It was a great night. There was about six of us there including myself and Kwame. So at the end of the night, we’re signing autographs and relaxing. It was quite a small club but there was definitely a good amount of people in there, plus, at that time, we were performing everywhere else but we weren’t getting booked for a lot of shows in New York, so it was a great feeling for us to be performing in NYC. So at the end of the night, we’re hanging out with the promoter and our dancers and everybody else left because it was late. So it was just me, Kwame and this promoter left in the club. Then, you see one dude pop in through the door. Then another dude. Another dude. Another dude. There was like thirty dudes who popped through the door at the end of the show (laughs). I mean, it’s late and everybody had left. So I’m sitting there like, ‘What the f**k? This don’t look too hot.’ It just looked really weird (laughs). As they were coming in each dude was literally sitting in the first seat they could find, almost like they were trying to be slick and not really be noticed or something. But I could see the whole thing happening like it was in slow motion. Then, here comes Biggie walking in. I can see him walking in now, wearing one of those Kangol caps he used to have on, he had on the Timberlands, and he looked big as ever (laughs). I’d never seen him before in person, so I was like, ‘Oh s**t, it’s Biggie Smalls.’ Now by this point, Kwame had dissed him on record, he’d dissed him in the video and he’d also dissed him on Video Music Box with Ralph McDaniels. So now, Biggie is angry and he’s turned up at our show. So he walked directly over to Kwame and immediately starts to go at him like, ‘What the f**k is up with you?!’ and started coming at him like that, throwing his hands up and everything. He was angry. Kwame was going back at him. So the promoter came over and dove in-between them both and she was like, ‘Hell no! This ain’t going down at my gig!’ She pushed me and Kwame into the kitchen area and the next thing we knew we were out of the club and on the street (laughs). So she basically got us out of the club.”

It sounds like Brooklyn was definitely in the house that night…

“Man, that would not have been pretty. There was like thirty dudes in there with Biggie and just me and Kwame on our own. We’d have been stomped up in there and in a hospital somewhere if something had happened. Or maybe even worse. But this exit we went out of put us right on the other side of the building, so we just went straight to my car, jumped in and took off.”

Taking it back to Steady B, what was your initial reaction when you heard about him and Cool C getting arrested in 1996 for bank robbery and killing a police officer? 

“Crazy as it was, I was actually on my way to New York that day. It was January and I remember I was excited about starting off the new year because I was doing mix-tapes at the time. So I’d taken the bus up to New York to go and meet with some of my contacts at various labels who would give me new music for my tapes. I fell asleep on the bus and when I woke up my pager said ‘Overflow’ because I’d had so many pages. I saw multiple pages from the same number and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ So I got up to Arista Records and asked if I could use the phone real quick. So I called the number of this girl I knew who had paged me who kinda always new everything that was going on (laughs). So I called her up and was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Straight away she said to me, ‘What do you know about Steady B and Cool C robbing a bank and shooting a cop?’ My mouth hit the floor. I said, ‘I’m gonna have to call you back.’  I put the phone down straight away because she had just told me everything I needed to know in one sentence. I was just like, ‘Really?!‘”

You’ve visited Steady in prison since he was given his life sentence, right?

“I did. I’ve been up there to see Steady three times. The last time I went up to see him was about three years ago now. I actually want to go back up again. I mean, we weren’t tight when he went into prison but we still had a lot of history together. Actually, one part that I missed out, Steady B and Kwame did a show together in North Carolina. I guess the promoter thought he was being smart and told us that he was booking them both together because there was the connection there with me being the link (laughs). So Steady went on first and it was a really rowdy crowd. I remember he’d only done a couple of songs and people were throwing bottles and there was glass smashing all over. It was not safe. Then a fight broke out in the crowd. So we left. We got paid but we didn’t do the show because it just wasn’t safe. Now Steady and Cool C were arrested in 1996 and this show would have been the year before in 1995. What happened was, I actually had a conversation with Steady that night, which would have been the first conversation I’d had with him since I left the crew in 1989. We hadn’t talked in a long while and Steady was like, ‘Look man, I don’t care anything about records no more. I don’t care if I never make another record.’ I was looking at him like, ‘What is he saying?’ I just didn’t understand. Then when they were arrested and I found out what they’d been doing, what Steady had said to me that night made sense to me.”

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Was it a difficult visit the first time you went to see Steady in prison?

“Yeah, it was pretty bad, man. I mean, I was so used to seeing him in a different light. Steady was the type of dude who used to change his clothes three times a day, so to go up there and see him as an inmate was not a good situation. It was pretty bad. I mean, he’d lost a lot of weight, so he looked healthy, but to see him in there as a lifer was a crushing blow.”

Bringing things up-to-date, you’ve been performing recently with Chubb Rock, Special Ed, Kwame, Dana Dane and Monie Love as part of The Alumni – what’s that experience been like?

“It’s so much fun doing those shows and spinning for a bunch of different golden-era artists at one time. After deejay-ing for just a couple of artists for so long, it’s great to be working with such classic artists. I mean, the songs that people like Chubb Rock and Special Ed made are just timeless. I’m throwing on tracks like “I’m The Magnificent” and Special Ed comes out and even now, I’m like, ‘Wow!’ (laughs).”

Finally, does it surprise you that years later your contributions to Hip-Hop are still remembered by so many fans?

“It’s just such a great thing. In the mid-90s I started travelling to places across Europe on my own as a deejay and it just amazed me that people over there knew who I was and remembered my contributions. Really, when we were all part of the Hilltop situation, we were sheltered from all of that. It was like we weren’t really allowed to see how popular we were outside of our own area because then people might start asking for more money (laughs). But to me, it’s amazing that people are still talking about what we did back then to this day. It’s beyond belief, y’know. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Ryan Proctor

Follow Tat Money on Twitter – @DJTatMoney. 

80s footage of Steady B & DJ Tat Money performing “Believe Me Das Bad”.

Old To The New Q&A – DJ Tat Money (Part Three)

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In this third part of my interview with Hip-Hop legend Tat Money, the Philly deejay continues his trip down memory lane and remembers working with Three Times Dope, on-air 80s radio battles between Steady B and Will Smith, plus being in the studio with KRS-One recording Steady’s 1988 album “Let The Hustlers Play” – check Part One and Part Two before reading on.

What was your connection with Three Times Dope?

“Woody Wood and Chuck Nice used to come down to see me when I was working at Funk-O-Mart. They would ask me what I could do to help them out with their music. I used to tell them to pass me their demo and whatever they had, because I’d actually told them to go up to the Pop Art offices and gave them the address and Woody used to tell me that Lawrence Goodman was never there. So I took the demo from them and we played it when we were driving up to New York one day, me, Steady and Lawrence in the Benz. We all liked it and Lawrence was talking about putting a crew together, the Hilltop Hustlers, so he was like, ‘Should I sign them?’ and me and Steady both gave him the say-so, like, ‘Yeah!’ Plus, Three Times Dope were from a different part of town and we figured we could shape them and really teach them how to make records. So that’s how they got down with the crew. Then obviously you had Cool C who was already tight with Steady.”

I asked Woody Wood this same question when I interviewed him earlier this year, but was there ever any friction from anyone involved with the original Hilltop Hustlers street crew when you all started putting records out under the name?

“Nah, not really. Quite honestly, it was a bit of a contradiction for me because I’m from Wynnefied and back in the day Wynnefield and Hilltop actually used to be rivals. There’s a bridge that separates the two areas and back in the 60s when Philly had its gang wars there used to be a big rivalry between Wynnefield and Hilltop that started. I mean, there used to be drive-bys and all of that in Philly back then. There’s actually a book out called “Black Mafia” which I’m reading right now which contains a lot of stories from back then that some of my older guys have told me about over the years that I knew nothing about. There was a lot of different gangs who used to do a lot of bad stuff in Philly. But to answer your question, no, there was no real friction as far as us using the Hilltop name was concerned.”

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You’re credited as doing cuts on Three Times Dope’s classic 1988 single “From Da Giddy-Up” but weren’t you also involved in the production as well?

“I came in to the studio one day and was like, ‘We should use this loop. I’ve found this great loop.’ Steady was working on something and I put it on and kept playing it over and over on the turntable. Now at that time, Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw” was huge so we were trying to get something that was kinda uptempo that could play alongside that. So Steady had heard me, but he kinda ignored me. Now, the way that we worked, I would find loops and play them on the turntable and Steady would be on the drum machine and he would sample them to use. I’d be like, ‘Get this kick right here’ or ‘Get this snare’ and stuff like that. Then we’d start formulating a track from there. We’d get everything together like that. That was how we worked back then, as a team. So Steady was on the drum machine this particular day when I was playing this loop, but he just kinda ignored me, so I was like ‘Whatever.’ Now, a lot of my stuff, my turntables and records, stayed at Lawrence’s place because we would be there every day in the studio. So, I come to the studio the next day, I’m walking up the drive-way to the back of Lawrence’s house and I hear this beat playing. I’m like, ‘What is this beat?!’ Then it hit me right before I opened the door and I was like, ‘You’ve gotta be f**kin’ kidding me? He sampled that s**t from yesterday!’ So when I walked in I had the crazy look on my face like ‘Are you serious?!’ and Steady and Lawrence were looking at me like they’d stole something but they didn’t want to admit it (laughs). Their faces said everything. But I was heated. Lawrence could see my anger and he tried to take control of the situation and was like, ‘Let’s find some cuts for this, man. Let’s make this a great track. We’re going to give this to Cool C, man.’ I’m looking at him thinking, ‘Find some cuts? You find some cuts!’ I already know what’s going to happen, that I’m not going to get any credit for the production even though it was my idea and I’m just going to be credited for doing the cuts. So anyway, I went and found some cuts because, ultimately, I’m competitive and I wanted to see the track take off and not just get left to the side. So I found a James Brown cut that I thought would really go with it and it was a perfect marriage. So I kind of got away from the anger of the situation because I was just so into the music. But instead of Cool C the record ended-up being used by Three Times Dope and EST really came with it on there…”

EST had such a distinctive voice and unique style that instantly made 3-D standout when they first started dropping music…

“I really worked hard alongside EST when they were putting that track together. Because the original loop was my idea I really felt like it was my record, so when EST got given that track to work with, he and I used to be on the phone for hours and he would just be rhyming to me. I’d be like, ‘Give me another one. Okay, I like that. Make sure that one gets used on the record…’ So I really helped him put those rhymes together for that track. I mean, I was already working with EST lyrically because I really thought he was a dope young emcee. We used to jump in my car and drive around the city and he would be like, ‘Oh s**t! I’m with Tat Money! This is crazy…’ because I was already out on record and popular and he was just starting out. I mean, we’d been working together on Three Times Dope’s other records like “Crushin’ & Bussin'” but once EST got to “From Da Giddy-Up” that was when he felt he’d really arrived.”

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You mentioned earlier in the interview about problems between Steady B and the Fresh Prince. Do you remember a couple of on-air situations that happened between them on Philly radio?

“I sure do (laughs).  I was there for every one of those situations. There’s actually still recordings of those incidents floating around thirty years later (laughs). In a nutshell, Steady just had this thing and he just kept going at the Fresh Prince. I don’t know if you could call it jealousy, but Steady just had this vibe about him that he did not like Will Smith. Steady would make little jabs and say things like, ‘I’m from Philly and I represent Philly one hundred percent.’ I mean, we would always have our Philly gear on and we had personalised Phillies jerseys made when we went to London for the first time in 1987. We had those made for the photo shoot for the “What’s My Name” album cover but they ended up using the pictures of us in sweatsuits. Anyway, we used to have the Philly gear on all the time. So what Steady was referring to was that Will would be wearing New York Yankees gear with the caps and everything. So Steady used to make light of that and would be like, ‘These guys are going around and they act like they’re from New York when they’re really from Philly but they don’t represent Philly.’ So Steady was saying things indirectly which Will caught wind of.”

Where did that rivalry originally come from in your opinion?

“Well, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince were originally managed by Dana Goodman. Steady and I were managed by Lawrence Goodman along with Cool C and Three Times Dope. So obviously they’re brothers and let’s just say there was competition between them. Dana would say things like, ‘Well, Will is better than Steady’ and ‘Jeff is better than Tat.’ It was really fierce competition and that’s kinda where the problem between Will and Steady started from. Steady was always like, ‘Well, I was the first one here, so where are you guys coming from?!’ and there was always that friction. Dana was always kinda smug (laughs). Me? I didn’t feel that way. I’m cordial to everyone and I was kinda like, ‘Whatever’ (laughs).”

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So what happened between Steady and the Fresh Prince on the radio?

“Both times it happened was on Mimi’s Rap Digest show.  The first time it happened, we’d gone up to the radio station and Will showed up. Steady had already been on air saying all this stuff about Will and probably a couple of his people had told him what Steady had been saying. So now Will’s got a beef. “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble” was just taking off so I guess Will was feeling pretty strong and confident at the time. So we’re up at the show and Will just pops in and it caught Steady by surprise like ‘What?!’ Will was like, ‘Steady, I hear you’ve been fat-mouthing and saying this and that about me. You wanna battle me? Let’s get to it right now.’ It really caught Steady off guard. We’d literally just finished recording the “What’s My Name” album and had gone up to the station to promote it. So Steady had all these songs written but wasn’t really prepared for a battle (laughs). So Steady started saying rhymes from songs that weren’t actually out yet, but the Fresh Prince had come prepared and his plan was to say some rhymes, crack a few jokes on Steady, make the people laugh and leave. Which is exactly what he did. But from listening back to the tape, I’d have to say that first time was really a stalemate and I couldn’t really say that anyone actually won. But the second time it happened…”

Was it a different story?

“The second time it happened when we were up at the station, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince had sold double platinum so Will was really on top of the world at that point. So he showed up at the station again with a rhyme ready and everything. Do you remember the song Jeff and Will had called “Numero Uno”? Will had an ill rhyme on there and he actually said the rhyme that ended up on that track in the battle against Steady that second time. Then at the end of it he started saying some things like, ‘Well, I’m about to be going on tour in Japan. Where are you going to be? You’re going to be at the Hilltop.’ I remember he said some other stuff like, ‘Well, basically Steady, I sold over two million records. What did you sell? Let’s say, two hundred thousand.’ People were laughing and basically it almost ended in a fight because Will said something about Steady’s girl or something and it had to be broken up and everyone got escorted out of the building (laughs).”

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Speaking of battles, do you remember the battle Steady had with Mikey D?

“I was there (laughs). Mikey D was known at the time as a battle rapper and as you can see on the flyer it says Steady B Vs. Mikey D, so we were looking at it like, ‘Okay, I guess this is for publicity.’ I mean, Mikey came out with his freestyle stuff and we just went out there and did our show (laughs). We entertained the crowd. I mean, the freestyle stuff is cool, but it isn’t always going to go down well with a crowd. We went out there with our dancers, I had a solo set as a deejay, Steady had some popular records, so the crowd really dug what we were doing. It was at a skating rink out in New Jersey. Mikey’s a good friend of mine and I recently saw him and he reminded me of that battle and was like, ‘Man, the only reason you guys won was because you had a tight show.’ Lyrically, Mikey didn’t feel that Steady was better than him, and I get that part, but we didn’t go there to beat him verbally. We were paid to do a show, so we decided we would go there and do a proper show for everyone who’d paid to see that, get the crowd on our side and then everybody would be like ‘Who the hell is Mikey D?’ (laughs).

Steady’s 1988 album “Let The Hustlers Play” contained outside production from your then label-mate KRS-One. Was that something that happened organically or did Jive make the suggestion for you to work with the Blastmaster?

“It was suggested by Jive directly because KRS was just starting his production thing. I mean, we loved KRS-One back then as well and thought he was a really innovative artist and a great mind. I think Jive just wanted to try some different things with us, partly because Lawrence Goodman and the label really weren’t getting along. Lawrence was so used to running his own show with Pop Art, but it wasn’t that way anymore and he was signed to Jive as a label imprint, so when you’re in that situation you really have to listen to what the label are saying, particularly when they’re putting the money behind what you’re doing. So Lawrence had rubbed Jive the wrong way numerous times over the years, which Steady and I felt led to them not really backing us on certain things. I mean, we felt the “What’s My Name” album should have been gold, but we didn’t have any videos for the album. We did some creative things on that album and we felt it got overlooked. It didn’t get a lot of radio-play. We felt like we’d made some great records which could rock on the radio and that we’d be able to tour off of. But it didn’t happen. Instead Jive put their money into Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince,  Kool Moe Dee, Schoolly D and other artists like that. Jive didn’t put their money into us as far as we saw. We felt like we were just along for the ride really and with good reason because when your label is beefin’ with your management, what do you think is going to happen?”

So there was a constant struggle between Jive and Lawrence Goodman?

“Let me give you one example. We were supposed to go to London to record the second album. Lawrence gave Jive hell over that. He was like, ‘Why would I go to London and have to pay all this money to do something I can do right here?’ I mean, from what I heard we were going to be over there for thirty days to get the album done. I think from the information I was given, including the studio time and everything else, it was going to cost about a thousand dollars a day for us to be there. So Lawrence didn’t want to go. But the way Jive worked was that they used to send all their artists to London to work in their studios there with Bryan ‘Chuck’ New and their engineers. Lawrence is telling the label that we’re an in-house operation and that we do everything ourselves but that he still wanted Jive to invest money in our project the same way. Anyway, Jive said we were going to London and he was arguing with them about it every step of the way, which really created a bad atmosphere and Steady and I were caught in the middle. I mean, Jive loved us, they just couldn’t stand Lawrence. It was like, ‘Well, you’re two good guys but too bad you’ve got that manager.'”

So what happened when you got to London?

“Well, we get to Heathrow, get to customs, Steady and I cleared customs, but Lawrence couldn’t make it through. I can see this picture in my head right now of all these lines at customs (laughs). I’d put all my stuff on the conveyor belt, it had all been checked through and they asked us all the questions about why we were coming to UK. I think we told them we were there on vacation or some bulls**t because we didn’t have work permits or anything. I mean, the Zomba / Jive people were downstairs waiting for us with signs and everything (laughs). So what happened was, they must have scanned Lawrence’s passport, and it came up that he had a police record or whatever. Now, I’m seventeen-years-old at this point, so I don’t really fully understand everything that’s going on but I’m trying to make sense of it all. I’d told my parents I was going to be in the UK for a month and they’d been telling everybody that I was going to be in London recording and working on music. I’m thinking this is going to be a great experience. Now, Steady and I have cleared customs, the agent dealing with Lawrence had asked who he was travelling with, he pointed us out and this agent comes over to us, tells us we can’t go through and we all end up in this interview room.”

At that point you must have been thinking that something was seriously wrong?

“So we’re all in this room and Lawrence is trying to not alarm us but also not make light of the situation at the same time as well. I do remember he made a joke though saying that we were under arrest but they just didn’t put handcuffs on you in the UK (laughs). I was like, ‘What?!‘ But then this customs guy came in and I remember he took Lawrence’s wallet, his phone book and then starts calling everybody in Lawrence’s phone book! He was calling Lawrence’s credit card company and really going through it. Lawrence was trying to make out it wasn’t his fault, but I’m thinking ‘Well, me and Steady got cleared so it must be a problem with you.’ Anyway, they had us sitting there for a long time and we were starving. So they ended up putting us on a bus to take us somewhere else to get some lunch. We got on this big ass bus and they took us to this detention centre place and I remember everybody in there had on these white outfits (laughs). We just had on our regular clothes and I remember everyone else in there was just looking at us. We were all in the kitchen and they pulled out these ice blocks of food, threw them in the oven and within minutes they were piping hot. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. I remember just how hot the food was because I went to take a bite of this little dinner that I had and burnt the s**t out of my mouth (laughs). So we ate our food, they put us back on the bus and took us back to the airport. By this time Lawrence is getting kinda uppity like, ‘I’m a grown man. This is some bulls**t.’ So the customs guy comes back and is like, ‘I don’t believe one thing you’ve said to me. I think you’re a liar.’ I couldn’t believe how this guy was talking to Lawrence because nobody talked to Lawrence like that (laughs). So this guy was like, ‘I can give you two options. You can either wait until tomorrow for me to try and verify everything you’ve told me or you can get on the first thing smokin’ back to Philadelphia.’ So Lawrence being Lawrence, he was like ‘I’m out of here.’ So we jumped on the next plane back to Philly after being stuck at the airport in London for about twelve hours. That was the worst, man. So we got back home, brushed ourselves off, and went straight into the studio to record “What’s My Name”. But Jive records were pissed! At that point, I was like ‘Yo, we’re really the step-kids of the label now.'”

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So was their friction between Lawrence and Jive about you and Steady working with KRS?

“Nah, Lawrence was wide open to that situation. He actually brought it to us after being told about it by the label. When me and Steady heard about it we literally jumped at the opportunity. We we’re like, ‘KRS is the hottest thing going right now. Yes! Yes! Yes!'”

What do you remember from being in the studio with KRS?

“Basically, KRS ran everything through me, which was incredible. We just had that whole emcee / deejay relationship. I remember he just had so much energy and was like a kid in a candy store when we were in the studio. KRS was just so excited and brought so much energy to everything he was doing. We worked on three records together with KRS for the “Let The Hustlers Play” album, which were “Serious”, “Turn It Loose” and “The Undertaker”. The way those records were made, it wasn’t about having to concentrate on finding loops and things like that. KRS already had a whole bunch of loops ready and he basically just asked, ‘Which ones do you like?’ I remember KRS pulled me into the studio room and was like, ‘Do you want this one or that one?’ I told him which ones I wanted him to use and then he basically just made the beats right there on the spot. It was instant. I mean, that wasn’t how Steady and I were used to working because we were used to making all of our beats at home and then taking them to the studio to record. But the way those tracks with KRS were put together was definitely very spontaneous. I mean, KRS made the track for “Serious” right on the spot. I remember he had this other track which sounded like Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw” which I didn’t like, so I told him to go with the Turtles loop and the “Serious” beat was born.”

Plus KRS did the “Ceereeus BDP Remix” for the “Serious” single release which took the track to another level… 

“The other thing about that as well was that “Serious” was our first video. With the presence of KRS-One, he really pumped life into that “Let The Hustlers Play” project and also pumped life back into us, because at that point, our records really weren’t getting played in Philly. We weren’t getting played in our hometown. Lawrence rubbed a lot of people the wrong way so people started taking the position that they weren’t going to play anything that had anything to do with him. I got tired of being blackballed and being guilty by affiliation, so I started going up to radio stations myself to get our records played. I went up to Power in Philly and the first day I went up there we got “Serious” played that day and every day after that based on the relationships I was making. We ended up in the countdown because everyone was calling the station saying they wanted to hear the Steady B and KRS-One song (laughs). I mean, that really was a big deal back then to have done a song with KRS. It’s the equivalent today of someone doing a song with Jay-Z. People were going nuts for that record. So “Serious” definitely boosted our stock a lot at the time.”

Ryan Proctor

Read Part Four of this interview here.

Steady B – “Serious – Ceereeus BDP Remix” (Jive / 1988)

Old To The New Q&A – DJ Tat Money (Part Two)

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In the second part of my interview with golden-age favourite DJ Tat Money, the Philadelphia-bred scratch mechanic talks about how he first met Steady B, his late-80s appearances at New York’s New Music Seminar and the history behind the infamous ‘transformer scratch’ – check Part One here.

When did you first meet Steady B?

“Steady already had records out when I met him. He’d put out stuff like “Take Your Radio” and “Bring The Beat Back” as singles when we first connected. Oddly enough, we connected at Funk-O-Mart, at the record store I was working at. He came to the store to meet me. A mutual friend of ours had told him about me. Like I said earlier, I would make tapes for myself and keep them at my house to listen to. But the crew that I was with, T.F.D., they would come over and be like, ‘You’ve gotta let me hold one of those tapes!’ I’d been quiet about what I was doing on the turntables and I hadn’t really been trying to show people. But they were amazed by it and I was shocked that they liked it. I was like, ‘Really? You think it’s that good?’ Well, they would take the tapes, go back home and practice off them, which was crazy to me as they started out before me (laughs). That was pretty flattering because I always thought they were pretty good and I actually learnt a few tricks from them. So Steady had heard about me through people hearing those tapes.”

Were you surprised when Steady approached you considering he’d already been recording with Grand Dragon K.D. as his deejay?

“See what happened was, Steady and K.D. had some internal issues. Lawrence Goodman, who was Steady’s uncle and manager, he basically used to run the camp. He was kinda like a Suge Knight type (laughs). Not as much brawn, but he definitely had the takeover mentality (laughs). We used to hear it all the time, like, ‘You might think you know, but I know!'” So K.D. and Lawrence bumped heads…

Was K.D. known around Philly as a deejay prior to coming out with Steady?

“Really, I didn’t know much about him. He was picked up by Steady and, like I said, they had some internal issues. Grand Dragon wanted things to go his way and Lawrence wanted them to go his way (laughs). But that was the mentality back then. It was about the deejay and the emcee. Your music didn’t have anything to do with the manager! So Grand Dragon felt like, ‘Okay, well if I’m the deejay then I’ve gotta run the crew.’ But he wasn’t given that chance and him and Lawrence bumped heads, so then it was like, ‘Okay, we’ve gotta get someone else.’ I mean, Steady and Lawrence had put the thing together originally, so I guess they felt nobody was going to tell them how things were gonna be.”

Steady must have been building some nice momentum as well with the attention that his LL Cool J diss “Take Your Radio” had got…

“To be honest, the way things came together with that was kind of on a whim actually. A guy had brought a tape to them originally and then something happened to this guy. His name was Jimmy…”

Was this Jimmy The Jawn?

“That’s him (laughs). From what I understand, he had this great idea to do a song dissin’ LL Cool J who was huge at the time. Lawrence had obviously been doing songs  already with artists like Major Harris and Eddie “D” who had the song “Cold Cash $ Money” which was hot around Philly. So Jimmy The Jawn had this little vibe going and everybody was talking about him and Lawrence really wanted to make something pop off in the rap game. So Lawrence heard about this guy and Steady went to the same school as Jimmy, which was Overbrook High School. So Lawrence was looking for him to record this song and they just could not locate him. So beings that they couldn’t find him, Lawrence just decided to bring Steady in and told him to do the record instead. I mean, LL was the man at the time and the crazy thing was that Steady actually loved LL (laughs). I mean, he loved LL. But it was just a business move early on and it was really just a way to try and get into the game even though some people might have thought you were coming in on the wrong foot.”

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What impact did “Take Your Radio” have locally?

“It had a nice impact in Philly because when people heard it they were like, ‘Wow! You’re going against LL?!’ Of course people are going to support their own, and that’s what they did. I mean, it wasn’t enough to put Steady on the same level as LL obviously, but it definitely made an impact. There was a little bit of a backlash, so obviously Steady had to come with some back-up records, which is when he dropped “Do The Fila”…”

That was such a great record…

“Steady originally made that record under the name MC Boob because Lawrence was afraid of legalities and whatever. But people definitely took to the record and The Fila was a big dance out here in Philly. But they were definitely worried about the legalities of using the word ‘Fila’ in the title and also the fact that they pretty much took the whole record from Joeski Love who had “Pee Wee’s Dance” out. So they were basically like, ‘Ah, let’s just put it out under a nom de plume and keep it moving.’ But locally, people were definitely feeling Steady.”

So when you came onboard Steady was already in the process of recording his debut 1986 album “Bring The Beat Back”, right?

“That’s right. When Steady came down to find me at Funk-O-Mart he didn’t ask me on the spot to be his deejay, he asked me to audition. He wanted me to audition for his manager,  Lawrence Goodman. Steady was like, ‘I’ve already heard what you can do. I want you to show my manager what you can do because I need a deejay.’ So they both came to my house and I cut up Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper” for them and Steady was like, ‘See, I told you he was fresh!’ So I was like, ‘Oh you like that? Watch this…’ and I started doing some tricks and they were like, ‘Okay cool, can you come to the studio and cut up a few records?’ So that was the beginning of it all. I was on four tracks from the “Bring The Beat Back” album, which were “Nothin’ But The Bass”, “Surprise”, “Stupid Fresh” and “Hit Me”.

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You entered the New Music Seminar deejay battle in 1987 – what do you remember about that?

“Here’s how it went down. Basically, the first time I entered we were recording the “What’s My Name” album, which was Steady’s second album. I mean, I’d got my feet wet doing those four tracks for the first album, but now with the second project, we were going to construct an entire album together. So we put a lot into the second album and we really felt like we’d made some great songs and I’d learned a lot about the whole recording process. Now, when we got to the end of recording that album, we got told that we were going to New York to the New Music Seminar. I was like, ‘What is that?’ I mean, I’d heard that Jazzy Jeff had won it the previous year but I didn’t really know all about it at that point. I knew that it was about having cut routines and stuff like that, but I was an artist now and all my time was being spent in the studio rather than practicing routines. I mean, I was with Steady almost every day back then, so the days of me practicing for six hours a day were over now that I was spending ten hours a day in the studio. So anyway, we go up to the Seminar and I cut up a couple of records in the deejay battle, still not really knowing what it was about, and I got taken out in the preliminaries by Mr. Mixx from the 2 Live Crew. He was up there cutting up Run-DMC’s “Hard Times” and I was just like, ‘Wow! I’m not prepared for this.’ We’d just finished putting “What’s My Name” together and I had no kind of routines (laughs). But the next year I went back and I was prepared for it because now I knew what it was all about.”

So the second time you actually went with the intention of winning the deejay battle?

“The second time I went in 1988, I had routines now. I understood what the whole Seminar thing was about so I made sure I was prepared the second time. I was a little bit nervous because of getting taken out that first year, but I’d practiced so much that I was also confident. Now, the thing to remember is that the year before I first went to the New Music Seminar, Jazzy Jeff had won the deejay battle. The first year I actually went and got knocked out, Cash Money had won the battle. Now, this second year I went there, you had Jazzy Jeff and Lady B on the judges panel and they were the only two judges from Philly, everyone else was from New York. Red Alert was on there, Mixmaster Ice and a bunch of different people from New York. So I get up there and I thought I did okay during my first two rounds. Even though I won the rounds, I thought I’d just done alright, but it definitely built my confidence up. I mean, I remember they had a huge mixer which obviously I’d never practiced on before and it really tested your talent to be able to perform your routines on equipment you weren’t really familiar with. I remember I beat Vandy C. in one of the early rounds and he was complaining about it. I can hear him now walking around saying to everyone, ‘Man, I can’t believe it!’ I remember Jazzy Jay was there and he was hyping me up after those early rounds, telling me how I was going to win the competition. Now, the third routine I did was my “Rock The Bells” routine. I’d been practicing over Cash Money’s house and he’d done something while we were over there which I borrowed for the routine, which was the ‘record-stop’. So it was like, ‘Rock the burrr…’, ‘Rock the burrr…’ and nobody had ever seen that before. The crowd went wild and I won another round.”

You must have been feeling pretty good at that point?

“Yeah, I’m climbing my way up. So I’m in the semi-finals now. At this point, they told Jazzy Jeff and Lady B that they didn’t need them on the panel anymore. Which I thought was really weird. So they took them both off the panel and you could tell there was some shady stuff going on. So anyway, I went up against this guy from Holland called All Star Fresh. I get up there and did this crazy routine with this wool-cap on my head like you wear in the winter with a ball on the end of it. It was blazing hot, I had on shorts and everything with this winter hat on my head and people were looking at me like, ‘What the hell is he doing?’ So I get up there and start cutting up Public Enemy, ‘Bass! How low can you go?’, Bass! How low can you go?’ and as I’m cutting I pulled the hat down over my eyes, spun around and the crowd just blew-up (laughs). I mean these were early tricks, but people were still excited to see them. So the crowd went crazy for that. Then All Star Fresh gets up there and basically did Cash Money’s routine from the previous year, cutting up Run-DMC, ‘Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good…’ That was really it. Then I went back up and did another trick using “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” and I really did some crazy cuts. Then All Star Fresh comes back and he did a blend, mixing Rob Base’s “It Takes Two” with a Roxanne Shante record or something. Next thing I know, they said he won and I was out of my mind! I was just sat there like, ‘You’ve gotta be f**kin’ kidding me?'”

How did the crowd respond to that?

“Man, let me tell you how it happened. The announcers for the New Music Seminar that year were Daddy-O, Flavor Flav and Biz Markie. What they would do, they would have the deejays go on and then whilst they were tallying up the votes the emcees would go on and then afterwards they’d tell you who won that particular round of the deejay competition. So, Biz was like, ‘Do we have the results for the deejay battle?’ He got the results, turned around, looked at me, then said ‘We have the result…and it’s real f**ked-up.’ He said the second part kinda under his breath (laughs). Then he said, ‘The winner is All Star Fresh…’ and he said it really fast (laughs). The crowd were just silent. There was like a sea of people in there and it was quiet for about five seconds. There wasn’t a sound. Then all you heard after that were just monstrous boos coming from everywhere (laughs). Then this chant started, ‘Tat! Tat! Tat!’ The person who started the chant was Jon Shecter from The Source. He’d done an interview with me years ago, before he even did B.M.O.C. I saw him in the crowd and he was the one who started the chant. But after that day, I got my respect in New York and I was happy. But the final that year was All Star Fresh and DJ Scratch and, of course, Scratch beat him. But I think it came down to the fact that Philly deejays had won for the previous two years and they felt it had to go to a New York deejay that year so they wouldn’t let me get through to the final.”

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Philly deejays were really setting the standards back then though…

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, Miz was in that Seminar as well but he got knocked out because of that big mixer I mentioned. He tried to get up on the turntables, put his knee up there, he hit the wrong button and all hell broke loose (laughs). It just didn’t work for him that year. He actually battled DJ Scratch during the rounds. But from what everyone was saying afterwards, the final should have either been me and Miz, or me and Scratch. After the announcement was made, I walked over to the judges and I was so angry. I just waved my hand, like, ‘Whatever! You know who won that round!’ I walked away and Red Alert stopped me and was like, ‘Yo! You won that, man!’ He wasn’t afraid to say what was real. I was about to get real frustrated and start saying some stuff, but then I saw this camera in my face and it was Ice-T’s video camera. He recorded the whole thing. From what I remember, there was only two people with video cameras in that place and that was Ice-T and Hurby Luv Bug. So I saw the camera in my face and I paused because I was thinking I’m an artist on Jive Records now and I’ve got to be careful about my public persona because I was being introduced as ‘Jive Records’ own DJ Tat Money..’ and I didn’t want to do or say anything that might have damaged my career back then (laughs). But that was my experience of the New Music Seminar.”

On the subject of the influence of Philly deejays, let’s talk about the ‘transformer scratch’ for a moment. Many people consider DJ Spinbad to be the person who invented it, Cash Money to be the person who named it and Jazzy Jeff to be the person who first came out with it on record. Agree or disagree?

“Everything you said is true, except for the last part. Jeff was the first person to put it on a record with the name attached to it. The first transforming on record was actually on Steady B’s “Bring The Beat Back” and that was done by Grand Dragon K.D.. He was transforming on that record back then, it’s just that people outside of Philly didn’t know what it was called at that point. But the transformer scratch was already poppin’ in the streets. Now, when Spinbad first did it, he was doing it using the ‘It’s time…’ part from Hashim’s ‘”Al-Naafiysh”. I think he did that scratch for the first time in public at the Wynn Ballroom and everyone was like, ‘Whaaaat?!’ Then the tape of that party went around the streets and people were going crazy when they heard it. This was around 1985. Like I said earlier, there was huge competition in Philly as far as being a deejay was concerned, and if you couldn’t do all the different types of scratches then you really weren’t worth anything to anybody. You had to earn your stripes. Plus, deejays from different areas cut a little differently to one another. Now, when the transformer scratch came out, Spinbad came from the Mount Airy / Germantown  area which is North Philly. So he cut a little differently then guys like us from West Philly. So, when he first did his interpretation of what became known as the transformer scratch at the Wynn Ballroom, spinning it back so it made that particular sound, Cash Money heard it and decided to speed it up. Then Cash did his version of it at a party, but he actually named it. His emcee at the time was Kool Breeze Steve and he got up there like, ‘Cash Money watches “Transformers” everyday at four-o-clock and this is what he learned…’ Cash gets on the turntables and does the scratch, but he’d sped it up and really made it into something special. Then the tape of that party got around and now you had all these different deejays in Philly hearing it and trying to do it, which is how Grand Dragon K.D. then ended up doing it on “Bring The Beat Back” and then Jazzy Jeff did it and actually used the name ‘transformer scratch’ on record a little afterwards with “The Magnificent…”.

Ryan Proctor

Check Part Three of this interview here.

Steady B – “Bring The Beat Back” (Pop Art Records / 1986)

Old To The New Q&A – DJ Tat Money (Part One)

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A product of Philadelphia’s diverse Hip-Hop scene of the 1980s, turntable maestro Tat Money made his name as a local deejay before going on to achieve worldwide acclaim alongside fellow Illadelph resident Steady B, contributing both cuts and production to classic albums from the Philly emcee, including 1986’s “Bring The Beat Back” and its 1987 follow-up “What’s My Name” (which featured Tat’s timeless solo track “Rockin’ Music”).

An integral part of the infamous Hilltop Hustlers collective, which also counted Cool C and Three Times Dope as members, Tat Money stood alongside the likes of Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money and DJ Miz as yet another highly-skilled example of Philadelphia’s notoriously competitive deejay community.

With his contributions to Hip-Hop’s golden-age still remembered by many today, Tat has never stepped away from the turntables, currently performing alongside Special Ed, Chubb Rock, Kwame, Dana Dane and Monie Love as part of true-school crew The Alumni.

In the first part of this interview, the Philly legend discusses his early determination to master the craft of turntablism, famous family music connections and being introduced to a young Will Smith.

Were you already listening to a lot of music as a kid before you were introduced to Hip-Hop?

“Well, basically, the way my whole situation evolved I would have to say was through my parents, man. My parents used to have these parties at the house, like family gatherings, and they were really into that. Now, my pops is from Jamaica and my mother is from America. So I have a heavy influence as far as reggae goes. I mean, my dad had Bob Marley eight-track tapes (laughs). Back in the 70s I used to play those in the car. Now, at all these parties, I would act as the deejay, putting on all these old-school records like James Brown and Funkadelic. I would put on all these records and then go out and dance to them with my cousin. I’d get all those 45s, stack  them up on the turntable, like ten of them, and then they’d play one after the other in the sequence that I wanted them to play in. It was just such a fun time back then. So that’s what actually sparked me to want to deejay…”

Just seeing the reaction that the music was getting from people?

“Yeah, it just really got me. Now, I got re-introduced to it by chance when I was around ten-years-old. A friend of mine lived around my cousin’s area as well and I was dating his sister as a young kid. So I walked in his house looking for her, we go into the basement area and her brother, who was like two years older than me, he was like, ‘Come here for a second.’ He’s playing songs and I’m like ‘What’s he doing?’ Now, this was around 1979 / 1980 and the two records he had on his turntables were Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “Superappin'” and Jimmy Spicer’s “Adventures Of Super Rhyme”. Those were the first two records I touched as far as Hip-Hop goes and that was my first awareness of the music. I’m listening to the guys on the records rapping and it was literally blowing my mind. I was like, ‘This is incredible!’ But this guy had the BSR turntables and I can’t even remember what mixer he had. Everything was brown and really old-school (laughs). But it was still two turntables and a mixer and I got on there and started playing around. I’ll never forget that moment. Then not long after that the trend started picking up and there were little deejay crews around my area. Actually, I should say in the city because originally we lived in the city and then we moved to the suburbs. But I would be in the city mostly every weekend and I’d see the guys I grew-up with and went to school with starting deejay crews….

What were some of those crews called?

“There was one called the Funk Boys who used to be around my old area and then there was one called T.F.D., which stood for Treacherous Funk Disco. They lived one street away from my old house in West Philly in an area called Wynnefield. Now, the Funk Boys were from 58th Street, which was around where Will Smith is from. Will lived about four or five blocks away from where I lived. But T.F.D. were only about a block away from where I lived, so obviously they were closer. I knew them, they knew me, so I basically started practicing with those guys. Seeing all these deejay crews popping up I knew it was what I wanted to do. So I’d go over to the basement that T.F.D. would use and they already had their whole set-up in there already. I didn’t have any turntables or nothing, but I wanted them so badly.”

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Were T.F.D. playing a mix of music at that time or straight Hip-Hop-inspired sets with break-beats etc?

“They were playing more Hip-Hop and R&B. You’d hear all the stuff that was influencing the rap songs of the time. So you’d hear “Heartbeat” by Tanya Gardner and then you’d hear the Treacherous Three’s “Feel The Heartbeat” which had obviously used that. You’d hear all the party songs by people like Teena Marie and Earth, Wind & Fire with some Hip-Hop mixed in there. I mean, at that time, there wasn’t a slew of Hip-Hop records that had come out or that were popular. So you only had a few here and there. So the crews had to mix it up and throw in stuff from Parliament, Earth, Wind & Fire and the songs that would get people up. But just being around those T.F.D. guys really helped me a lot. I mean, I was already into the music but I learned a lot more about actually putting records together. Then slowly but surely I brought a turntable, I brought a mixer and then I brought another turntable and started practicing some more. Then I started sneaking into parties (laughs). I was under-age at the time but I learned how to get in…”

Were these local house parties or events at actual venues?

“We were doing house party stuff but then there’d be an event every now and that  would be at a local hall or something and I would sneak in. I was like fifteen-years-old at the time and you needed to be a little older to be able to get in. So I would just talk my way in at the door and I learned how to do that (laughs). Those were fun times.”

What was your first actual turntable set-up?

“I had a Technics SL-B101 which was a curve-arm turntable and an SL-B20 which was a straight-arm turntable. Then I had a big ol’ Gemini mixer that was huge and brown (laughs). I didn’t know any better at the time, but I heard that it had a great crossfader. That crossfader slid so easy like you’d poured grease down into it. I mean, you could blow it across (laughs). So what happened was, I really started to excel. I mean, I’m the type of person that when I get into something, I really throw myself into it and want to do everything I can to really master something. It’s just about proving to myself that I can do something.”

How much time would you spend practicing back then?

“At least six hours a day. As soon as I came home from school, I’d walk through the door, drop my books and go straight to my room to practice. I’d deejay from about 2:30pm  until say 7pm, then I’d go eat dinner, then I’d go back and deejay some more. So I was definitely practicing for at least six hours a day. I used to have that Malcolm McLaren & World Famous Supreme Team record cover with the Technics 1200s on it up in front of me when I used to practice as inspiration (laughs).”

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How much awareness did you have at that time of what else was happening across Philly as far as the city’s Hip-Hop scene was concerned?

“At that time it was very young. A lot of the songs that were coming out were made in New York obviously, but some of them were being made in Philly unbeknownst to us because there were different labels that people were coming out on and different studios that people liked to use. I knew nothing about the music industry at all so all I could do was read the labels that were on these records and try to understand from that what was going on. Not living in New York and being a young kid, I really didn’t know a lot about what was actually happening in the industry itself. But then I’d hear different things because I had an uncle who was in the music industry before me. His name was Frank Alstin and he was a singer and guitar player. Actually the first record I ever made was with him, we did a record called “Super Lover” on the label WMOT and my rapper at the time was on there as well, Meka. We did that song in 1985 and I was scratching on that record, cutting up ‘F-f-f-fresh’ which was popular at the time (laughs). So my uncle was the person who first took me to a studio which really introduced me to how things worked from that standpoint. So I had the love of music already from being a deejay and now I was going to the studio with him and he had already actually made records. He actually co-wrote “Who Can I Run To” by The Jones Girls. I can still remember the day he brought that record home when I was over at my grandmother’s house, which is where he was living at the time. He was so excited but the record didn’t really take off even though we all thought it was going to work. But then years later, Xscape covered it and I remember him calling me to tell me that he’d been asked for clearance to use the record. So I was telling him, ‘They’re a platinum selling group. You’re about to really get it…’ and sure enough the cheques started rolling in. But then sadly not long after that he died. That’s such a crazy story.”

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So your uncle really introduced you to the business side of making music back then…

“He really gave me a lot of insight into the music business. I remember him introducing me to people like McFadden & Whitehead, Teddy Pendergrass who used to stay at his place sometimes to write songs. I just missed meeting the Jackson 5 when they were recording in Philly which would have been ridiculous back then. I remember my uncle was taking me to the studio as a surprise and we stopped off at a deli and bumped into McFadden & Whitehead. We were right by Sigma Studios and, although I didn’t know it, the Jackson 5 were in there working with Gamble & Huff. I remember, my uncle was having a conversation with Whitehead and they were talking real low so I couldn’t hear them even though I actually could. So my uncle was saying how we were going to the studio and I heard Whitehead say, ‘You’ve just missed the Jacksons, they’ve just left.’ I was sitting there like, ‘Arrrghhh’ (laughs).”

Where were you hoping your passion for deejay-ing was going to lead to back then?

“I always knew that I could do something with it, but exactly what I didn’t know. I wanted to be in the game real bad and I felt like I was so close to it that I could almost reach out and touch it. So it was frustrating in a sense even though I always felt like I could make it happen. So to make it happen, I got my myself a job in a local record store because I’d read that Mantronik had used to work in a record store when he was trying to get into the game. So I got myself a job at the best record store in town, which was Funk-O-Mart downtown. I went down there two times and brought a ton of records. It must have been about a hundred and fifty dollars worth of records. It was a whole lot of records. I could barely even carry them home (laughs). The second time I went in there the owner saw me and was like, ‘You know a lot about records. Do you want a job?’ and I said ‘Yes!’ It happened just like that which was exactly what I wanted to happen. So I started working there every day.”

That must have been a dream job?

“Yeah. I mean, I was running into a lot of like-minded people and different artists. I saw DMC there one time when the Fresh Fest came through Philly. Run didn’t make it down, which at the time I was disappointed by because I didn’t realise the power of DMC at that point. I mean, the whole group were incredible to me but Run was my man! But then overtime it actually shifted to DMC when I realised how he was just so chill with it (laughs). I bumped into Grandmaster Dee from Whodini who came down to the store and I remember him telling me about Rakim before Rakim was even popular. So I really put myself in the middle of it all working in that store. Before the internet, social networking and everything else you really had to keep your ear to the street to keep up with everything and by working at Funk-O-Mart I was really in the trenches and could see exactly what was selling, what people were asking for and what was happening on the street. I remember people would come in with tapes and play me songs they’d heard on the radio asking if we had it in the store and if we didn’t then I’d order it because overtime I was in put in charge of that side of things because I always knew what was going on. Working in Funk-O-Mart was major because I was able to learn so much more about different genres of music from soul and jazz to salsa and reggae, plus different artists like Bob James. I’d listen to all this different stuff and there were these Spanish cats who worked there who really put me up on all the different merengues etc. I even learnt how to speak Spanish from working there with them (laughs).”

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So were you still just practicing your deejay skills in your bedroom at this point or where you performing in public?

“To answer your question, yes I was still a bedroom deejay at that point and I was practicing heavy, heavy, heavy. I would do a tape every now and then at that time, but I really didn’t feel that I wanted to let my talent out at that point because I still didn’t really know that I even had a talent. So I didn’t want to really showcase it in anyway and then have people say, ‘Well, you messed up there’ and things like that (laughs). So I wouldn’t really make a lot of tapes. I would just make a few for myself to listen to. Now, in Philly at that time, the way that people gauged whether you were a good deejay or not was how well you could cut up a few different records. One record was “Dance To The Drummer’s Beat”, another record was Hashim’s “Al-Naafiysh”, another was “Superappin'” and also “Good Times” by Chic. Now, if you could cut those records up and you could do it well, then you were considered a great deejay.”

So those records were some of the early staples of the Philly Hip-Hop deejay scene…

“Oh yeah, oh yeah. If you could chop those records up well, particularly the faster ones like “Dance To The Drummer’s Beat”, if you could really catch those records then people would validate you and start telling everyone else that you were a good deejay. So you always practiced with those records. Then you’d go back to the slower records like Masterdon Committee’s “Funkbox Party (Live)”. But those faster records, they were the true test of your talent. Plus, back then, if you made a mistake, there was no Serato or anything to cover your back. If your needle skipped people were going to hear it, so that was a big part of how people decided how good you were back then as well; how fast you could catch the record without the needle skipping (laughs). I mean, if people thought you could cut those records well, you would get booked for gigs off of that. Now, once people gave you that title of being a good deejay you wanted to keep that title, so that was why I was really careful about letting people hear what I was doing while I was practicing.”

Were you aware of other Hip-Hop deejays in Philly at that time?

“Yes I was. I mean, we had guys like Grandmaster Nell who was one of the big pioneers in Philly. He’s actually where Jazzy Jeff got a lot of his smoothness from as a deejay because Jeff was definitely watching what Nell was doing back then. Jeff was in a crew called the Network Crew and I used to hear about those guys. Now, this was around the time when Cash Money and I first became friends, although he wasn’t called Cash Money back then, he used to be called Lite Brite.”

So this is around the early-80s?

“Yeah, definitely around 83 / 84 because I was still in high-school at that point. I  used to hear that Jazzy Jeff was the best deejay in Philly and then I’d hear his tapes and be like, ‘Man, is this all it takes to be the best?!’ I’m not downplaying what he was doing at the time, it was just that back then I felt I could do what he was doing as well. So it was just that spirit of competition. Now, remember, back then I still couldn’t get into a lot of the hotel events that they used to have where you needed to be over twenty-one to get in. Jeff and Cash are both four or five years older than me, so they were ahead of me at that time and had already been out there doing it. So I was just shooting for being great at what I did so I could be recognized. I actually partnered up with Jeff in the beginning and that’s actually how I got on and learnt who the different promoters were because Jeff was doing all these different parties at the time.”

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Was he already rolling with the Fresh Prince at that point?

“Jeff was on his own at that time. Actually, I was at Jeff’s place when the Fresh Prince came over to his house for the very first time. I was in Jeff’s basement when he first came there. It’s probably something that neither one of them remember now, but we were all in the basement at Jeff’s mother’s house. Jeff was  telling me that this emcee was coming over and he was like, ‘This guy’s so good! He’s dope!’ So Jeff is building it up and I’m hyped to see who this person is and then Will comes walking down the steps and I’m like, ‘You’re talking about this dude right here?’ I knew who he was because Will was from Wynnefield and was just around the corner from my parents’ house. I didn’t know him, but I knew of him. I’d actually seen Will in a battle prior to that and the battle hadn’t really gone in his favour because the dudes he was going up against were pretty hardcore (laughs).”

Who was the battle with?

“Well, the Fresh Prince was rolling with a crew called the Hypnotic Crew and the name of the crew they went up against was the Poison Clan. It was a tough battle, man. It was at this place called the Wynn Ballroom which was on the corner of my grandmother’s block and I remember not many people were there at the time because it was a day-time battle. But I got in there and my man Eric from Poison Clan was killing it. He was going at the Fresh Prince so hard, saying that he got his name from a fa**ot R&B artist and stuff like that. But he said it in a freestyle rhyme and the people there went crazy. Will had these parachute pants on and these boots and Eric started going at him about those as well, saying that he didn’t know if he was going to fly away and things like that (laughs). But that was a tough battle for Will and that’s why I remembered the name Fresh Prince. So when he came down the stairs into the basement, I was on Jeff’s turntables because I used to go over there to practice. I look up and I’m like, ‘Oh my god! This is the guy from the Wynn Ballroom. This is that Fresh Prince guy.’ So Will comes down the stairs, like ‘Oh my god! I’m over Jazzy Jeffrey’s house! My god!’ He’s all jolly and he had a Polo shirt on and I was like, ‘Polo? I can’t afford Polo! What kind of rich kid is this?!’ (Laughs). But we started talking and we’ve been friends ever since that day. We were always really cool. It was Will and Steady B that had the problem.”

Ryan Proctor

Check Part Two of this interview here.

DJ Tat Money cuttin’ up LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells”.

Club Bangers Podcast – DJ Tat Money

Legendary Philadelphia deejay Tat Money hit me up to put me on to his new club-orientated podcast featuring top-notch turntable skills and big cuts from the likes of Kanye West, Timbaland and Snoop – peep it here.  

Philadelphia International – Schoolly D / DJ Tat Money

URBNN catches up with Philly legend Schoolly D in the Netherlands to discuss gangsta rap, stolen cars, and new music.