Tag Archives: Lyor Cohen

Old To The New Q&A – A.D.O.R. (Part One)

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Introduced to an unsuspecting Hip-Hop Nation in 1992 via his smash Pete Rock-produced single “Let It All Hang Out” on Atlantic Records, New York’s A.D.O.R. appeared to have the rap world at his feet as he made his presence felt amidst stiff competition that year from the likes of Das EFX, House Of Pain and Redman.

With successful appearances on “Yo! MTV Raps” and “In Living Color” adding to the momentum of his debut single (which cracked the Billboard Top Ten), anticipation steadily built for what A.D.O.R. would deliver next, with his Pete Rock-affiliation and connection to DJ Eddie F’s Untouchables camp leading heads to believe an impressive debut album was imminent.

Unfortunately, bad business, industry politics and strained relationships would all contribute to A.D.O.R.’s album “The Concrete” being significantly delayed and ultimately shelved, with the NY emcee not releasing a follow-up to “Let It All Hang Out” until 1994’s K-Def-produced single “One For The Trouble”.

In the years since his major label deal with Atlantic dissolved in the mid-90s, A.D.O.R. has gone on to build a strong fanbase as an independent artist, releasing five album projects and a number of singles on his Tru Reign imprint which have always stayed faithful to his original soulful boom-bap blueprint.

In this two-part interview, the veteran lyricist discusses his introduction to Hip-Hop, rolling with a young Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, working with the Chocolate Boy Wonder and dealing with the unpredictable nature of the music industry.

You were born and raised in New York City, right?

“Yep, I was born in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Then when I was about six or seven-years-old we moved to Mount Vernon.”

Was it a big change for you moving from the city to the suburbs or did it not really register at that age?

“When I was in Manhattan I was already out in the streets seeing what was happening because there was always something going on and  Mount Vernon was kinda like that to. Mount Vernon is the first suburb right outside of the Bronx. I mean, you can actually walk from Mount Vernon to the North East Bronx. So the South Side of Mount Vernon being right next to the Bronx meant that it was really in tune with what was happening in the streets.”

So when were you first introduced to Hip-Hop?

“My father was a musician. Back in the 70s he was a very talented singer in a crazy New York City rock band. They were moving around in the same circles as Kiss and cats like that. It was real. He used to take me down to the studio sometimes and I remember being in the studio with him at five or six-years-old until maybe three in the morning with them just rockin’ out. I would be hearing crazy sounds and ill s**t, mad s**t would be going on. So I was introduced to music really from when I was a baby. Then when I got a little older, my father left us. Now, it’s hard for a young woman on her own to keep control of a young boy, so I was running around in the streets of Mount Vernon and also New York City because it was still so easy to get to. So I was just all up in it back in the 80s. I started hearing about the Zulu Nation from going to school with cats, we used to pop and break-dance. I could pop crazy back then. We used to go to New York to watch the Floor Masters and the Rock Steady Crew. We were on some crazy New York s**t.”

When did you actually first start rhyming?

“Well, before I got into rhyming I became a deejay. It was crazy because my step-father was a musician as well and he played the bass. He was a talented cat. He had these big-ass speakers, like these giant five-foot cabinet Sunn speakers. They were bass speakers for the studio or when you were playing a concert or something. They had like two thirty-four inch bass woofers with the mid-ranges and the tweeters, y’knowwhatI’msayin’? Then one year they brought me mad deejay equipment for Christmas. My mother knew my passion for the music and she had saved up to get me this equipment. I had the Gemini mixer with a pair of Technics turntables, and then my step-father hooked it all up to those speakers in my room! Now, we were in an apartment building, we weren’t in a house. So I was in an apartment in Mount Vernon on the fourth floor. There was another building about twenty feet across from us and then behind us was this huge parking lot with a post office over there and everything. So we were about seventy feet in the air and I used to pump that s**t, dude. I used to pump that s**t, for real! People on the street would be looking around, like ‘What the f**k is going on?!’ I used to look out from our terrace and see people who were crazy far away just looking (laughs). I’m not even exaggerating. It was crazy, bro (laughs).”

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What records were you playing?

“Man, I was playing s**t like “Salsa Smurf” from Special Request, Fearless Four “Rockin’ It”, Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force “Planet Rock”. I ain’t even gonna front, I was even playing Madonna when her first s**t came out, “Everybody” (laughs). I mean, I’m not saying that I loved Madonna or anything like that, but when she rocked that “Everybody” joint, that s**t was fat, yo. That was when she was still trying to come up on some street s**t and she had some passion in that s**t. “Buffalo Gals” was another one I used to rock and “Jam On It” from Newcleus. So what happened was, I started listening to the instrumentals of those records and would be playing with words just freestyling over them. I realised I had something special and was kinda slick with my s**t, so I kept on doing it.”

Were you running with a crew back then?

“I mean, all my friends were involved in the music and the break-dancing, going to see Rock Steady and the New York City Breakers with cats giving us love. We were kinda dope when it came to the dancing. We’d battle cats at the dances at our school and s**t like that. We were just kids running around with mad energy,  smoking, whylin’ out, messing with the honeys, just being on some real New York s**t. I remember when “Beat Street” came out and everything. But I mean, I had friends who were all into the dancing and the music with the partying and the deejay-ing and all of that, but I was the only one out of my group of friends who really tried to do something on the musical side. I think all of my passion and drive for music that I got from my father really started to encompass me and I started to pursue things. I’d make instrumentals using a tape-recorder and just spit my vocals over that s**t and people would hear what I was doing and be like, ‘Yo, that’s kinda crazy.'”

So when did it get serious for you in terms of actually trying to break into the music industry?

“I got a meeting with Def Jam before I was really connected with anyone in Mount Vernon. One of my boys Scott was running with Hank Shocklee and them from the Bomb Squad. I met Scott just running around on some New York party s**t. So we befriended each other and he ended up starting to do some work at Def Jam. This would have been around the time that 3rd Bass were just coming out, so you’re looking at the late-80s. I’d started going to New York City to work out of some studios in Manhattan to make a demo. So I had a demo package I’d put together which had a couple of good records in it. Scott took that up to Def Jam and then Lyor Cohen actually called my house one day.”

That must have been a surprise…

“Yeah, this is real, man. Lyor called my house and told me that he wanted to meet with me. So I went down to Def Jam. It was one of those things where at the time I wasn’t really thinking about what a big deal that was, but then later you sit back and reflect on it. It’s like Derek Jeter when he said how he’s going on this journey and it is what it is, but one day later he’ll reflect on everything that’s happened in his life and be like, ‘Wow! That was kinda special.’ So anyway, I met with Lyor, I played him a couple of my records and nothing ever came of it. I mean, Lyor obviously felt something from the music he’d already heard from me  for him to call to arrange the meeting, but I didn’t end-up getting signed to Def Jam. Maybe they thought that because they had 3rd Bass already that they didn’t need another non-Black artist. I mean, it was tough back then as a non-Black artist to make some real Hip-Hop that was appreciated for what it was.”

Were you battling other emcees at this time?

“I mean, I could always hold my own when it came to freestyling and spit some clever s**t. But I wasn’t running around like a battle-rap cat wanting to eat muthaf**kers heads wearing a back-pack and all that (laughs). That really wasn’t my thing. I was more about just wanting to make some ill music.”

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Was it a big deal in Mount Vernon in the mid-80s when Uptown Records started blowing-up with Heavy D & The Boyz?

“Hell yeah! I mean, I went to school with some of those cats from when we were little kids and knew them either directly or indirectly. I mean, some of my boys who I was cool with were running with Heavy D and Puffy. Mount Vernon is a small city. Hev was the first cat to really blow from Mount Vernon and he was like the star of the city. We used to see him running around with his jeep and everything when he’d just got signed and “The Overweight Lover’s In The House” had just come out. It was a great time for Mount Vernon. Now, all through that time I was still working on my music and I had a fat demo. From being around my boy Will, he knew Puff, so I used to run into Puff all the time. So I gave Puff my demo. S**t, when Puff first started working at Uptown, I used to go to the office and he’d let me in through the back and we’d just talk and chill. I had this demo I’d made called “I Wonder Why” and Puff loved that record. That was the track that made Puff think that I might have something.”

You mentioned your friend Will – was that the same guy who appeared on “Yo! MTV Raps” with you back in 1992?

“Yeah, exactly (laughs). Will was my friend from childhood. Now, when I made the demos, I put a package together and started shopping that s**t. That was how you did it back then. You put something together and if you knew cats who were involved in music then you gave them something to listen to. There wasn’t no internet or any of this crazy stuff like there is now. But Puff believed in me and actually started really working my s**t and shopping my demo around. But then soon after that he started getting involved with Mary J. Blige and Biggie and all that s**t right, so I didn’t know if he was really looking out for me. I knew he believed in me, but I didn’t really know how hard Puff was pushing my material, plus I was being impatient at the time as well.”

So would this have been around 1990 when Puffy was first making his mark at Uptown?

“Exactly. This was when Puff was at Uptown making artists like Jodeci and first really putting it together. Funny story, I remember when Puff really got to me one day. He was real cool with me and he always believed in me as an artist and I’ll always appreciate him for that. But I was in his office one day and I was still making demos because people were saying they wanted to hear some more s**t. So I’m making more songs and I’d made this particular track which I took to his office so he could hear it. Puff let’s me in the office and we’re in the back chillin’ and he’s got K-Ci, JoJo, Dalvin and Devante in the office with him. So I play him the new record I’d just done and Puff was like, ‘I don’t really like it that much.’ I thought the record was hot! So after it had finished Puffy turned to Dalvin and was like, ‘Would you buy this?’ and Dalvin was like, ‘Nah, I really wouldn’t buy that.’ That made me so mad, bro. That made me so mad and I think that’s what changed my relationship with Puff a little bit. I mean, that was his way, but it kinda affected me at the time. So I was just like, ‘Okay, whatever.’ But this was all around the time when Puff still had demo packages of mine and had sent some s**t out to Tommy Boy and Columbia. Then all of a sudden my man Buttnaked Tim Dawg, Tim Patterson, he was running around in the music industry with all of them as well. Now, Heavy D & The Boyz had already blown-up and at the time DJ Eddie F had signed Pete Rock & CL Smooth to his Untouchables Entertainment and had gotten them a deal with Elektra.”

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Did you already know Pete or CL prior to this?

“Pete and I knew each other just from running around in music. Plus, I knew Pete’s little brother Grap Luva from when we’d be break-dancing back in the day. I battled Grap Luva and we used to pop together. He was nice. So me and Pete knew each other, but we weren’t all directly connected musically. They had their little world with Hev and Al B. Sure! and Pete Rock & CL Smooth and I had my own little A.D.O.R. world. I mean, we had mutual friends and we’d be at parties coming up and they definitely knew me, but I wasn’t all up in there with them as far as the music was concerned. I was really trying to do my own thing. So I wasn’t involved in music because I was from Mount Vernon and was running around with Pete Rock, Heavy D, Eddie F and Puffy. I was a musician anyway and was already doing my own thing. But I mean, we were all at high-school together. We were all at high-school at the same time, me, Hev, Puff, Pete Rock, Al B. Sure!. I mean, one of my best friends Akbar, he was a cousin of Al. B Sure!. But there were like four thousand kids in Mount Vernon High School (laughs).”

So how did you actually get signed to Untouchables Entertainment?

“So what happened was Tim Patterson brought my demo package to Eddie F and he liked it. Now, Tim Dawg had started doing A&R for Eddie’s Untouchables Entertainment. So Eddie was signing all these groups to his production company, producing their material with people like Nevelle Hodge, Dave Hall and Pete Rock, and then Eddie would take the music to the labels and get the deals.”

Considering your connection to Puffy, was there ever any talk of you signing to Uptown?

“It was always possible and was something that maybe could have happened. But at the time, Puff had Jodeci, Heavy D, he started messing with Biggie. So I don’t know if he thought I was going to be a right move for him at that time. I mean, they were on some Uptown new-jack swing s**t…”

So they would have been looking for the next Father MC…

“Exactly. They were on that R&B Hip-Hop s**t and I was more on that organic New York Hip-Hop s**t. I mean, I think there was definitely times when Puff mentioned to Andre Harrell like, ‘What’s up with this white boy?’ and Andre was probably like, ‘Ahhh, I don’t know.’ That s**t was real, man. I mean, even to this day there aren’t that many non-Black artists who have made a real mark on Hip-Hop culture. I mean, I was like the first non-Black solo artist that made real organic New York soul Hip-Hop s**t. I mean, 3rd Bass were doing that ill god-body New York Def Jam s**t, but me, I was on some soulful, jazzy s**t. But as a non-Black artist in Hip-Hop we had to deal with a lot of s**t back then.”

Was there anything in particular that made you decide to sign with Eddie F and Untouchables Entertainment?

“Well, Eddie F was the first person to show me something concrete. He had paperwork. Puffy hadn’t done anything like that at that point. I didn’t really know what was going on with Puff. We were communicating a little bit, but not to the point where I was like, ‘Okay, Puff’s definitely going to get me a record deal.’ So Eddie offered me paperwork and I signed the s**t. That weekend I was at a party, Puff runs up to me at the party and is like, ‘Yo! You signed with Eddie?!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah…’ and Puff’s saying ‘I’m out here working your s**t! I had s**t going!’ I mean, maybe he did have some stuff about to happen with some labels. I don’t know. But we weren’t really communicating like that. All I knew is that, at the time, I wanted to move forward with my music and that’s why I signed with Eddie F and Untouchables.”

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You mentioned Biggie earlier – did you ever meet Big whilst you were still in contact with Puffy?

“Hell yeah! Me and Big had a great connection. I remember I did a show with him one time in New York City with Stretch Armstrong, Outkast, Craig Mack, Smif-N-Wessun and Keith Murray. I was in the studio with Big as well when he was working on his early material and Tim Dawg was still at Uptown. That’s Tim you can hear on “Party & Bulls**t”. But yeah, we smoked herb together in the studio. This was when as A.D.O.R. I was more famous than Big and he was showing me love (laughs). He was cool though, man. Back in those early days you could tell that he was just trying to make something out of his life and that he was definitely blessed with talent.”

So after you signed with Eddie F was it a case of him then putting you straight into the studio to start working on tracks to shop to a label?

“Exactly. But one thing that happened in-between that I almost forgot is that in the midst of all that, while I was making demos and working with other producers, another producer from Mount Vernon who was my boy from school had starting making some noise in the music industry. His name was Tony Dofat. So, me and Tone started working together and before the Untouchables situation I actually signed a production agreement with Tony Dofat to make three records where I wouldn’t have to pay for them. It was a case of us making a demo and then if anything ever happened on the strength of the music we made then he would be part of the project. That was actually the first real contract I ever signed. Tony was working out of this studio in the Bronx with this cat called Greg Rogers and he was one of his producers. So I did that deal with Tony and then did the deal with Eddie F.”

Ryan Proctor

Read Part Two of this interview here.

A.D.O.R. performing his debut single “Let It All Hang Out” on “In Living Color” in 1992.

Old To The New Q&A – Prime Minister Pete Nice (Part Four)

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In the final part of my interview with Prime Minister Pete Nice, the Hip-Hop legend talks about recording his 1993 solo album “Dust To Dust”, the death of KMD’s DJ Subroc and the legacy of 3rd Bass –  make sure you check Part One, Part Two and Part Three before reading further.

When you started working on your 1993 solo album “Dust To Dust” with Daddy Rich were you concerned about how it was going to be received by fans considering you were coming out of a successful group?

“I mean, I’d always done more of the production on the 3rd Bass records. Serch didn’t really do too much on the production end. So me and Rich were already working really well together both with other producers and on the things that we would do on our own. So we liked the challenge of musically doing s**t on our own. Plus, I’d been working a lot at the time with The Beatnuts with Kurious, so it kinda fell in together. I mean, some of the beats that they had that ended-up on the songs we collaborated on were just nuts. Rich and I were always very proud of “Dust To Dust”. Some people just look at commercial sales but we had a lot of critical acclaim with that project. I mean, listen, if that album had had Serch on it as well and was a 3rd Bass album, it probably could have done better. Obviously, we would have had some different songs on there, but “Dust To Dust” was probably going in the direction of what another 3rd Bass album would have been.”

Personally, I thought Serch’s 1992 “Return Of The Product” project was a solid album, but it did have a slightly different musical vibe to it in comparison to 3rd Bass, mainly due to the work he was doing with production duo Wolf & Epic…

“I mean, Serch had more of a kind-of R&B influence on his album. Now, when we were in the studio, we would both have different ideas of what we wanted, and at some point if me and Rich weren’t there to tone Serch down then the music would go to a certain point. So it was almost like, his solo album was the album you would have had if me and Rich hadn’t been there to pull him back on certain things (laughs). But, you could also say that Serch would hold us back on certain ideas we had as well, which is why 3rd Bass worked so well together when we were in the studio.”

Do you feel that any label politics played a part in how well “Dust To Dust” performed?

“I mean, this was all around the time when Russell was looking to the West Coast and signing Warren G and Montell Jordan. Plus, the other thing that was figured into the mix was the fact that I was working with Kurious Jorge at that point and Russell really wanted Jorge. I wanted a good deal for Jorge and at the same time Donnie Ienner at Sony offered me my label deal for Hoppoh with Bobbito. We really couldn’t turn that down. So there was animosity between myself and Lyor because had had beef with Donnie Ienner as Def Jam was going through a break-up with Sony at the time. I guess you could say that “Dust To Dust” kinda got caught up in the middle of all that. I know I used to speak with people and they’d tell me that Def Jam weren’t working my solo record on purpose. I mean, when they saw that Serch only got to a certain level with his first release as a soloist with a lot of push, that might have influenced things. I mean, Rich and I had some success, but we had no push. That was a really strange time. There were all the problems with KMD at Elektra when Ice-T had the whole “Cop Killer” censorship situation which totally f**ked-up KMD with the album artwork for “Black Bastards”. Then Elektra ended-up dropping the group. We had the tragedy with Subroc and it was just a crazy time. It had even got to a point where KMD had beef with Serch when we had beef together. We did a song for KRS-One on the H.E.A.L. album and Serch said a couple of lines on the track that KMD didn’t like. It was just weird, man. So I ended-up managing KMD when originally they were Serch’s group. I mean, he discovered them. I didn’t know them beforehand. So it was all pretty strange.”

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“Dust To Dust” came out following the release of Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” and the East Coast / West Coast split was starting to happen with gangsta rap really beginning to dominate the industry. What was your opinion at the time on the direction Hip-Hop was moving in?

“I always thought there was room for both East Coast and West Coast groups. I mean, when we came out as 3rd Bass there was a lot of West Coast music out there with the whole N.W.A. thing. When we went out on the road we would see all these pockets of local artists who were big regionally, but there was always room for music from people outside of each region. I guess that West Coast sound did kinda take over, but I still think a lot of East Coast groups at that time still had great followings. Then of course Biggie Smalls came out and did what he did. 2Pac was someone who was interesting to me. When we were with him, we were touring with Digital Underground and he was basically just doing crowd warm-ups and being a roadie. I remember buying 2Pac Whoppers in Burger King and he would get his hair cut by Daddy Rich in my hotel room at the Holiday Inn or something (laughs). That’s the 2Pac that I remember. He was a very intelligent, thoughtful kid at the time. It just seemed that when he was in “Juice”, which Daddy Rich was in as well, he just turned into this more gangsta persona which really wasn’t him. We did a show soon after that out in San Francisco and we saw him there thugged-out with the gold chains. We went up to him and it was almost like he was playin’ us like, ‘I’m too big for this now’ (laughs).”

The Beatnuts produced a number of tracks on “Dust To Dust” – what drew you to their sound?

“I had seen them around and knew them, but when Jorge formally hooked-up with them and said he wanted the Beatnuts to do a lot of tracks on his album, that was when I’d be in the studio with them working on the Kurious stuff. So then it was a natural progression and they’d play me certain things they’d been working on and I’d hear certain tracks and just totally fell in love with their sound. To me, they were taking a certain style to a different level than even someone like a Prince Paul, with it being a little darker and a little heavier. They were definitely very creative with the way they would manipulate sounds. All they really had to do was play me a couple of tapes with tracks they’d done and I was sold right there. I mean, I was already sold on them with the stuff they’d done for Jorge.”

The track they gave you for “Verbal Massage” off “Dust To Dust” still stands as some of the best Beatnuts production ever…

“That beat was ridiculous. Something else that was interesting about recording the album was that, after doing a couple of albums and seeing how much money gets wasted by using a big studio like a Chung King, we actually did “Dust To Dust” in our engineer Adam Gazzola’s house. So we saved a lot of money actually recording it there and then we’d mix it in the bigger studios. That was an interesting process, because it was right at the time when you were able to do more on computers.”

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The album had some crazy skits on it. Was that your mother on the answerphone interlude getting upset about her “intelligent son” being at a Public Enemy concert?

“I’m trying to think who’s mother that was (laughs). That wasn’t my mother. It just shows you how long it’s been since I fully listened to the album (laughs). Right at that point, it was around the time that the Jerky Boys were coming out, so that interlude was definitely influenced by that. That was one of my favourite interludes as well. But it definitely wasn’t my mother. It was one of my friend’s mothers. Now you’ve got me thinking and I definitely have to play that back and try to figure out who it was (laughs). The “Pass The Pickle” skit was funny because that was MC Disagree & The Re-Animator. Their stories are funny because those dudes basically hung out with us when we were still trying to make it as 3rd Bass and obviously they had the tie-ins with the Beastie Boys and everything. But at a certain point, John, who was the Re-Animator and lived on the Lower East Side, when we did the first album we had that part where we said you can call up our man Re-Animator and put his number out there. We did all that s**t totally unplanned, just gave out his number and didn’t even tell him. At any point, he would be at home and he would have girls calling him up from Sweden or whatever. But he loved it because he would actually talk to all these people (laughs). That’s actually how he met a guy who would become a good friend to mostly all of us, this kid Beckham. He started to come to a lot of our shows. He called-up John, John got him in touch with us, then next thing you know this kid’s doing the shows with us (laughs). It was nuts.”

So it was the ultimate fan hotline…

“I mean, you think you’re doing something just as a goof, and then John was just getting calls all day long. I remember, he had some calls from people trying to buy Serch’s underwear (laughs). It got to the point where I used to give him stuff to send out to people (laughs). I mean, I had a fan show up who’d tracked me down just recently who collects all kinds of 3rd Bass memorabilia. I have to laugh because I’ve been collecting baseball memorabilia since I was a kid and my interest is in fraud in that particular industry, so I’ve been known to track down old-time baseball guys in the same way that this guy tracked me down. So I definitely had to hit him off with some items.”

I guess your passion for baseball helps you put it into context when you meet old 3rd Bass fans who’re still so enthusiastic about the group, because you are to us what an old baseball player would be to you…

“Exactly (laughs). So I definitely don’t look at people like they’re nuts when they do approach me like that. I definitely appreciate it.”

Unless they’re asking for underwear…

“That’s when it kinda goes wrong (laughs)…”

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What was the deal with the Drednotz who were also featured on “Dust To Dust” and went on to release the brilliant “Causin’ A Menace” single in 94 on Elektra?

“The Drednotz were Rich’s group and Benz was the main emcee. Rich had gotten them a deal and that was totally his thing. But we put Benz on “Dust To Dust” on the “3 Blind Mice” track with Kurious. But Drednotz were another great group at that time who kind of got lost in the mix. Artifacts were another great group who were affiliated with us on the management side through Bobbito, and they still have a great following today. But I guess at that time, that was the point where things started to get saturated, even on the underground.”

Taking it back a little, how did you first actually meet Kurious?

“When I was at Columbia, my room-mate and the guy who ended-up being our 3rd Bass road-manager, SAKE, he was a graffiti artist and was also on my basketball team. We lived on 100th & Columbus and Jorge’s building was over on the otherside of the park on, like, 97th. So I knew Jorge through the neighbourhood and also through Bobbito because he lived in Jorge’s building. So when Jorge came-up, he would just be hanging-out at clubs rhyming. First, we got Bobbito a job at Def Jam starting at the bottom. I remember he showed he had potential over there in terms of knowing what the kids were listening to in the streets. I remember he was up on Special Ed before anyone else was (laughs). So then they had him promoting records over at Def Jam, then one thing led to another and he took it further with his own talents. Then Bobbito got Jorge a little gig working at Def Jam and so then he was around everybody and it went from there.”

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How much of an impact did Subroc’s tragic passing in 1993 have on you?

“I think the point when Subroc passed away was a real turning point. I mean, I had KMD with Serch, we were their managers, they came in as basically like this innocent group of devout Muslim artists who were very young. Then they got a little older, started to get their own identities, then next thing you know they’re drinking forties and poppin’ acid all over the place. I had Subroc come to my office several times with a machete in his coat and I’d be like, ‘You’ve gotta calm down, man.’ I remember he came to the office one time, I hit him off with an advance for one of their records or whatever, and I figured I had to drive him to the Long Island Railroad so that I knew I’m getting him on the train and he’s not going to get into any trouble. So I’m driving him to the station and he’s asking me how much dynamite it would take to blow up the railroad station in his town in Long Beach?! He was definitely experimenting with drugs and s**t and it was very hard to keep tabs and keep control on the artists that I was dealing with. Then when Subroc actually died it was just such a shock, even though in some ways you could see it coming, y’know. It was just very disconcerting all around.”

Zev Love X’s re-emergence some years later as MF Doom has to be one of the greatest artist comebacks in the history of Hip-Hop…

“I’ve gotta give it to Doom, because he went underground for awhile and was just totally out of it. Then he re-emerged doing the poetry slams and everything and just totally re-invented himself with the whole MF Doom persona. I don’t know if you already know this, but Lord Scotch designed that whole mask. Then you had MF Grimm who was also involved with Doom’s re-emergence early on, but then they had beef. But there were just so many talented people involved with what we did when you look at the outreach of the wider crew, with the whole KMD crew, Kurious and all of his people, the whole 3rd Bass army (laughs). I mean, when you look at Serch as well and the whole Nas thing, there was definitely a lot of influence all the way around. It’s interesting to look back so many years after the fact and see where everything fitted together.”

So did you make a conscious decision to step away from the music business after the release of “Dust To Dust” or did it happen gradually?

“It got to a point where personally I got really disillusioned over just the whole music business in general. Subroc died. What happened with KMD. What happened with our project. That was the time when I started doing a lot of things outside of music, then one thing led to another and it was like, ‘Okay, well this is where things are going.’ I think, also personally for me, Kurious’s first album was dope but was a very slept-on album. We had a certain push at Columbia on it, but also at the same time Nas was coming out and he obviously overtook Kurious in terms of being a label priority. But Jorge had enough success and sales, which I think was about 150,000 copies, to do a second album. Columbia were all-set for that to happen. Then Jorge just kinda disappeard for awhile and didn’t want to be involved. That was just such a crazy time. I mean, I had Jorge not wanting to get into the studio, and then I had Cage who we were trying to put a project together for. Me and Bobbito were basically getting him beats from everyone under the sun, like DJ Premier, and Cage was just like, ‘I don’t like these beats.’ Then when we finally did get him to do something, his lyrics are talking about how he wants to take out a Sony exec with a sawed-off shotgun (laughs). I mean, Cage was like Eminem way before there even was an Eminem, but it just wasn’t timely. If there had never been an Eminem and Cage had come later, he probably could have had a lot more success commercially. When I put him on the “Rich Bring ‘Em Back” record off “Dust To Dust”, he was nice, man.”

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The Kurious debut project definitely ranks as one of the greatest albums of the 90s. I remember when Columbia first started pushing both Kurious and Nas thinking how ironic it was that they were doing split-page ads in The Source  featuring them both given the 3rd Bass connection each artist had…

“That was bizarre to me. I mean, it made sense on one side because a label only has so much money to promote new artists and there were some similarities between Kurious and Nas, but at the same time they were also very different. But the thing with Jorge was, Columbia were behind him, and obviously my label Hoppoh would have been operational for a lot longer if he’d decided to do that second album. But he kinda went off into the mountains to meditate (laughs)…”

Did Kurious ever give you a reason why he didn’t do that second album at the time?

“I think it was just a mental thing where he wanted to get away from everything for awhile. I mean, we would get him all sorts of beats but one thing just led to another. Then, of course, I had the artist Count Bass D who was really talented and his album was incredible. I thought Count Bass D could have hit and blow-up more than anything, but it just didn’t happen.”

So how long was it before you actually first spoke to Serch after the 3rd Bass break-up?

“I think it was around 96 / 97 when we first spoke after the group split. The graffiti artist and designer Cey Adams had a company called The Drawing Board  with Steve Carr and they would do all the in-house artwork for Def Jam. Then Steve started doing videos for people like Heavy D and he’s a big Hollywood director now and did the “Daddy Day Care” movie and things like that. So they played a joke to put me and Serch together on the phone without either of us knowing about it. So that was the first time we’d spoken in years. Out of that reconnection there was talk of a reunion album and we got in the studio and cut a couple of records which I think Serch has since put out online. Then we did Woodstock in 1999 and also Tommy Hilfiger’s brother’s birthday party. So we were actually doing some stuff together, but we just never officially took the full-step to do a whole album. Part of that was down to me being involved in so many other things and not being able to devote the time to it. It’s funny, because both Serch and Rich have spoken to me recently about there being a lot of interest for us to do certain shows and I’m like, ‘Listen, let’s see what happens and maybe I’ll come out of the mothballs.’

Do you still ever write any rhymes at all?

“Because I’m writing my book and I’m writing all the time, I sometimes do think about writing rhymes, but I can honestly say I haven’t written too many rhymes lately (laughs). You do have thoughts that come into your head at times that give you flashbacks, but I haven’t had the motivation to actually write anything. But I guess you’d consider it more poetry at this time rather than just rhymes (laughs). I mean, I can definitely see there’s a lot of nostalgia out there for music of the time we were out as 3rd Bass, but I always lose respect for artists who are way past their prime and then try to put a new album out. I actually respect it more when older artists go out on tour and actually focus on the older material that the fans want to see them performing. But I was in the city the other night and was just flipping the stations and I guess there’s a little buzz on that new Edo.G album and I got into it just listening to a couple of songs. I thought it was pretty good.”

Are there any particular golden-era Hip-Hop albums that you still reach for today when you want to listen to some music?

“Personally, I’d have to say the ones I was involved in like the Kurious album and the KMD stuff, which is kinda self-serving for me to say that but I do actually still listen to them. But then I’ll listen to to the Jungle Brothers first album which will always be a classic to me, all the Public Enemy stuff, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest. Even going back to old Just-Ice stuff. The first Brand Nubian album is one of my favourites of all-time and Grand Puba was always a favourite emcee of mine. The Eric B. & Rakim albums. There’s just so much music from that period in Hip-Hop which has stood the test of time. I know people say you sound like an old-timer when you’re there saying that s**t was doper back when we were doing it, but I really think it was (laughs). There’s something missing in the music today and it’s just not as organic and creative as it used to. I’m sure there are artists like that out there, but everything’s just so fragmented now that it must be so hard for anyone like that to breakthrough on a commercial level and get that kind of recognition.”

Finally, looking back, what would you consider to be the legacy of 3rd Bass?

“I would hope on one level that me, Serch and Rich came up as group that looked beyond race, really had no hang-ups about that and put it out there to both Black and white kids that, ‘Hey, you can be a white kid and be into Hip-Hop.’ I would hope that would be the most enduring legacy that we have. Beyond that, if people still like the music and it holds-up years after and people can listen to it and reminisce on it as being part of the golden-age of Hip-Hop, if people put us in the same realms as our own favourite groups of the time, then that’s like the ultimate compliment. We put out quality music and never sold out to any other influences that were out there at the time. A lot of kids today can’t even begin to comprehend what things were like for me and Serch when we came out, let alone just battling people or doing shows, but actually putting out the records, promoting the records and having hits. I look back on it all now and it’s amazing that things even happened.”

Ryan Proctor

It’s always a great experience to speak with artists I grew-up listening to, but in this particular instance I’d like to give huge props to Pete Nice for being so generous with his time to ensure this interview got completed (three hours on the phone in total!) and for being so detailed and honest with his memories, thoughts and opinions.

Word To The Third!

Visit Pete’s site HaulsOfShame.Com to catch up on his activity in the world of baseball.

1990 3rd Bass Appearance On “The Arsenio Hall Show” Performing “The Gas Face”.

Old To The New Q&A – Prime Minister Pete Nice (Part Three)

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In this third part of my in-depth interview with Pete Nice, the former 3rd Bass member discusses recording the group’s two classic albums, beef with MC Hammer and almost starring in one of Spike Lee’s most iconic movies – check Part One and Part Two.

How did it feel to see “The Cactus Album” go gold approximately just six months after it was released in 1989?

“It definitely felt like we’d accomplished everything we wanted to when we went into the studio and even way beyond that. We were just hoping that someone would pay us to let us make music, so to go gold was a massive achievement. I mean, to put it in perspective, when Slick Rick’s first album came out in 1988 there would be promo copies up at Def Jam, and Serch and I used to steal those and sell them on the corner for ten bucks so we could buy pizza from this place that used to be right next to the label offices. So you couldn’t even compare where we were at then to where we ended-up. It was just ridiculous.”

One of my favourite tracks off the album was “Product Of The Environment” but the Marley Marl remix that was released just took that record to a completely different place in terms of its sound and mood…

“Of all the remixes that were done off that album, that was actually my favourite. I remember when we had different producers who were presenting us with ideas and then we heard that one. I mean, we were cool with Marley Marl as it was, so to have grown-up listening to his radio shows and then have him want to remix our music, that was just a no-brainer. I think he dropped us off a tape with the beat first and then once we heard it we were just like, ‘Let’s go with that one.’ I mean, the album version was really just like an album track, but that remix really turned it into a single musically. I mean, that record in a club….”

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The album will always be remembered for the beef between 3rd Bass and MC Hammer which culminated with a hit being put out on the group when you were touring on the West Coast. How seriously did you take that particular situation at the time?

“From everything that we were told it was serious and was apparently real because we had to go through some channels with Russell with some people that he knew like Mike Concepcion who was like a kingpin out on the West Coast. We definitely met with him out there and talked to him at the time. We had security who had worked with N.W.A. following us everywhere. So it was definitely something the record company weren’t taking lightly. Apparently it all got squashed. It really all came from the song “The Cactus” where I had thrown out the line, ‘The Cactus turned Hammer’s mutha out…’ Obviously I wasn’t talking specifically about Hammer’s mother it was just a play on words based on the title of his single. But Hammer’s brother took that and just went nuts with it. I know it was his brother Louis who was the one who called-up Def Jam just flipping out when the record came out. Then to top it off they said that Serch said it, so Serch ended-up taking more of the heat for that when I was actually the one who said it. But our beef with Hammer, aside from when Serch had that little altercation with him at the celebrity basketball game dance contest, was that Hammer had actually come in and totally dissed Run DMC at one point. Now, this was very close to the time when we were recording the “Gas Face” video, so Russell had told us that all of them were going to come to the video, but actually only DMC and Jam Master Jay got out there. We told Lionel Martin to get us a big hammer and that we were going to have Run DMC kick the hammer down (laughs). So that really came out of our respect for Run DMC and was our way of saying that you couldn’t just come out and talk  s**t about your founding fathers and be in the position that Hammer was in. I mean, there weren’t too many people who looked at Hammer as being a legitimate artist at the time anyway.”

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What was 3rd Bass’s connection with KMD at the time you were recording “The Cactus Album”?

“Well, our dancers Ahmed and Otis, who were also known as Thing 1 and Thing 2, they were from Long Beach, New York and were all down together in the Get Yours Posse with KMD. Doom (Zev Love X) and Subroc were very young at the time when we first started out, and then they were doing their own material and writing. Subroc at the time wasn’t even rhyming, he just had his drum machine and was programming beats. Serch actually knew them before I did and then through the affiliation with our dancers we just started hanging out with them. If you look at the photos that are on the inside of “The Cactus Album” that look like we’re all at a house party, those were taken in the basement of Ahmed’s house. We were very close with them at that time. I remember, we were taking the Long Island Railroad out to see Prince Paul to work with him on “The Cactus Album” and Doom was coming out with us. Doom had been using the term ‘Gas Face’ relentlessly at the time and Serch said, ‘Let’s do a record called “The Gas Face”.’ So we literally wrote that record on the train to the studio and while we were actually in the studio. It was all just totally spontaneous. That’s why, even saying the stuff about Hammer on there, it was just all totally off the top of the head.”

“Brooklyn-Queens” was another big single off the album…

“”Brooklyn-Queens” was a song that I’d had as a concept back from the days of being with Lord Scotch. So that was us expanding on an original idea. The same thing with “Product Of The Environment”, which was us expanding on one of Serch’s original demos. He’d done “Product Of The Environment” with Sam Sever before we ever got together and I had “Brooklyn Queens” before Serch was with me.”

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Another favourite track of mine was “Monte Hall” although it sounded totally different to anything else on “The Cactus Album” – where did the idea for that track come from?

“The music that was used on “Monte Hall” with the Grover Washington Jr. loops was something  I’d actually planned to use for the “Soul In The Hole” song. But when we looped it up we just decided it would work better on “Monte Hall”. When you looked at Hip-Hop at the time, everyone had their love jam or whatever, like Whodini or UTFO, there was that tradition of having that type of record. So we wanted to have that type of record on the album but not be corny about it. We didn’t want it to come off as being something that wasn’t real. But “Monte Hall” was another record that just totally came together in the studio. I think I had thrown out the name and Serch was just like, ‘Yeah, we’ll f**kin’ call it “Monte Hall”‘ and then we just wrote s**t right there with Sam Sever hooking up the beats. So that song was totally something that wasn’t planned that just got created in the studio”

So there was definitely a lot of spontaneity involved in the recording of “The Cactus Album”?

“Yeah. I mean, we definitely had a lot of things planned out in terms of how many songs we wanted on the album and what the overall concept of the album was going to be. I mean, I’ve told people before how I had conversations with Chuck D about how your A-side should be the same length as your B-side on a cassette because if someone’s listening to it in their car you don’t want there to be any dead-space on your tape because then they might just put in someone else’s tape. So we definitely put a lot of thought into some things, but there was also a lot of spontaneous creativity involved.”

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Moving forward, what was the concept behind the imagery used on 1991’s “Derelicts Of Dialect” album cover with the group being shown as ageing men?

“I mean, we had the idea for the title of the album and the concept for the cover came from us tying it into the idea that we kinda came into the business as almost like bums off the street and we figured we’d go out the same way. Actually, I think the people who did the make-up for the album cover were the same people who did the make up for the “Saturday Night Live” TV show. It was something that really we just planned for the album cover, but then it turned into a whole concept for the “Portrait Of The Artist As A Hood” video. I guess overall that was more of a darker album, but it was definitely a progression and reflected our personalities at the time.”

1991 was definitely a pivotal year in Hip-Hop in terms of the friction that was happening between the commercial rap that was starting to be embraced by the mainstream and the true-school artists who were still trying to be heard and recognised. It seemed like “Derelicts Of Dialect” really fell right alongside other albums that year like De La’s “De La Soul Is Dead” and Tribe’s “The Low End Theory” as a response to the commercial music that was being championed by the industry…

“That is true and the album was probably a reflection of the time too which is something I didn’t even think about, so you’re right on point there. Back in that time period we would get offered endorsement deals for Sprite, different soft drinks and other stuff and we would regularly turn them down as it was something that was kind of unheard of back then. We were all about our credibility. Nowadays people wouldn’t even think twice about an artist taking a deal like that, but back at that time it was foreign to us and didn’t really fit into the way we had patterned our career. Even to the point where Spike Lee had Serch and I come in and read for his “Malcolm X” movie. We read for it and he liked us. I remember Laurence Fishburne was in there reading for one of the other parts when we were coming into Spike’s office. He wanted us to play two of the prison guards who roughed Malcolm X up and we were just like, ‘Spike, can you picture people going into a movie theatre and seeing 3rd Bass rough up Malcolm X?’ In retrospect I can see what he was trying to do, but we actually turned it down. As much as we might have wanted to do it, we just couldn’t see ourselves in that role. Who knows how it would have been accepted if we’d done it, but the fact we turned it down because of how it could have been accepted just shows what a different time it was back then in the early-90s…”

I’m sure James Bernard would have written a column in The Source at the time if you had taken those roles…

“Yeah, exactly (laughs). We just didn’t think that it was appropriate so we stayed away. I mean, Spike really wanted us to do it and he might have had better judgement on it than we did, but we decided it’d be best to pass on that one.”

In the same way the MC Hammer beef was attached to “The Cactus Album”, 3rd Bass’s beef with Vanilla Ice was linked to “Derelicts Of Dialect” with the infamous “Pop Goes The Weasel” video beatdown. Were you going at Vanilla Ice primarily because he was one of the most successful commercial rap artists of the time or beccause he was a white successful commercial rap artist who you felt was damaging what Serch and yourself had achieved as white emcees?

“It just seemed to be the music in general at that time. You had Hammer. You had Vanilla Ice. I mean, to a lesser degree, you had Delicious Vinyl with Tone Loc and Young MC. There was a whole commercial side of the music that was going out to the whole country. Radio was really playing that stuff and still ignoring real Hip-Hop. So “Pop Goes The Weasel” was really our answer to that. I mean, that record was successful based on the strength of the familiarity of the Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer” loop, which got it into certain places that otherwise probably wouldn’t have been paying attention to our music. It was almost like a joke between us. I mean, we figured we’d do the record but didn’t really think it would be a single. But we kinda duped everyone into playing our little game because the next thing you know you had all these pop radio stations playing the record which was actually mocking the same people who were playing it. We’d even get sent out to be interviewed on some of these radio shows and then have to explain the concept behind the record (laughs)”.

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Did you get any strange reactions once some of those pop deejays realised what the group’s intentions were with “Pop Goes The Weasel”?

“I mean, all the traditional morning jocks and people like that probably still didn’t get it (laughs). I think at that point, we’d turn up at these stations like, ‘Word to your mother’s grandmother’s aunt’s third cousin..’ and all kinds of other stupid s**t (laughs). I mean, I think our core audience at the time understood what we were doing with “Pop Goes The Weasel” and that we were using it as a way to get the message out there but at the same time still keep our own integrity. But that single definitely helped us sell more records. I mean, if we hadn’t broken up at the time I think “Derelicts Of Dialect” would have even sold more than it actually did. We were still out on tour when the group actually split up, so there were definitely more tours and singles planned in connection with that album. So overall, “Dereliects Of Dialect” could have been a much bigger record if we hadn’t split at the time.”

KMD and Chubb Rock were both featured on the album, but “Microphone Techniques” with Nice & Smooth is still one of my favourite collaborations of the 90s to this day…

“That was fun to make. I always loved Nice & Smooth. Greg Nice is just such a character. Being in the studio with those guys was just nuts and something that I’ll always remember. The same thing with being in the studio with Chubb Rock when we did “Kick ‘Em In The Grill”. The verse that Chubb kicked on there just killed me. But with both Greg’s verse on “Microphone Techniques” and Chubb’s on “Kick ‘Em In The Grill”, when they each actually got in the booth to record and dropped their rhymes, everyone just lost it (laughs).”

What memories do you gave of working with Prince Paul on “Derelicts Of Dialect”?

“I mean, when we worked with Prince Paul on “The Cactus Album” it was very spontaneous and just came together. But when it came to the second album, we definitely had more time in the studio with Paul. We recorded most of those songs at this studio called Calliope, which is where KMD did a lot of their stuff to. But we spent a lot of time in there working with Paul and he was working on other stuff at the same time, like a lot of the De La stuff. So it was a cool time creatively to be spending time working with Prince Paul. We were collaborating with him quite a bit, throwing ideas that we had at him, then he’d pick up on something and throw an idea back at us. It was a great process because Paul was never tied to pre-conceived ideas of what he wanted to do as a producer going into the studio. I mean, sometimes we’d go in the studio and he might just have one loop set-up and we’d be like, ‘Man, what is that? We gotta have that one.’ The song “Come In” is something that came together like that. I mean, the actual song “Derelicts Of Dialect” was another big collaboration between us. We already had the concept of what we wanted and then Paul came up with the 9th Creation loop that was used on that record. I think that was actually the first record that we did for the album and really established where we wanted to go with the “Derelicts Of Dialect” project in terms of it being a darker album compared to the first album.”

You mentioned earlier about the group splitting-up – was there a particular moment when you realised that 3rd Bass was over or was it a gradual process?

“I mean, Serch and I had personal problems on the tour we did to support “Derelicts Of Dialect”. We probably didn’t speak to each other for a long stretch of that tour. We’d perform and people probably went to the show and didn’t think there was anything wrong whatsoever. But we had beef together and it probably started a lot earlier than we even thought. I remember there was one point where we did a show for Hot 97 in New York and I think they wanted Marky Mark to open up for us. We told Lyor that we weren’t going to perform and he basically had to beg us to get us to do it. So he basically knew there were some problems in the group and he tried to give us a little talk which probably prolonged things for another couple of weeks, but we just couldn’t move forward together at that point.”

Was it a mutual decision between you and Serch to end the group or were either of you pushing for it to happen more than the other?

“Actually, because we were so succesful at that time I don’t think we really thought that Def Jam was going to let us split-up. We had a lot of things that we were tied into contractually as well. So I think that was a bad move on the label’s part and also with our management. I think a lot of people could have done things differently. But it’s not like we were hammering it home like, ‘We’ve gotta do our solo s**t! We’ve gotta do our solo s**t!’ So things just progressed into that. I mean, at some point I think Serch did some demos and spoke to Russell. I don’t even know if Russell just thought that we could do some solo stuff and then still be 3rd Bass. Who knows what he thought? I mean, if there’s anything that describes where me and Serch were at back then, I guess my “Rat Bastard” video kind of answered any thoughts anyone had about ‘Do these guys have problems together?’ Yes, we did…”

That video definitely didn’t leave much to the imagination…

“Yeah, I guess it kinda said it all right there…”

Ryan Proctor

Check out the final part of this interview here.

Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich – “Rap Prime Minister & Daddy Rich (Rat Bastard)” (Def Jam / 1992)

Old To The New Q&A – Prime Minister Pete Nice (Part Two)

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In the second part of my interview with 3rd Bass’s Pete Nice, the Prime Minister talks about the origins of his and Serch’s beef with the Beastie Boys, signing with Def Jam and touring the UK – check Part One here.

What were your thoughts when the Beastie Boys first came out on Def Jam?

“When they first came out, my room-mate at Columbia who hooked me up with Lord Scotch, SAKE, he actually went to high-school with Mike D and MCA…”

Is this where MC Disagree & The Re-Animator come into the 3rd Bass story?

“Yeah, well MC Disagree & The Re-Animator were all together with SAKE, who was Mark Pearson and who actually ended-up being our 3rd Bass road manager. So I didn’t know the Beastie Boys personally at that time, but I knew all about them from hearing stories. I mean, MC Disagree, Dan Kealy, he was very close with Ad-Rock when they were growing up in the same neighbourhood and everything. I guess the whole thing was, I don’t know if it was animosity or whatever, but Disagree and SAKE would always go to earlier clubs than even I was going to, like the Northmore and other early Hip-Hop spots in the city. I mean, they were into Hip-Hop and were white b-boys before most people were. They were like a year or two older than I was in school. So they always looked at the Beasties like, ‘Yo, those guys were into punk rock and now all of a sudden they’ve got up on Hip-Hop.’ I don’t think they really had any specific beef with the Beastie Boys, but of course throw into that them hanging out with us, the Beasties coming out first, and then the “Sons Of 3rd Bass” song we did on “The Cactus Album” kind of grew out of that. Plus, at the time me and Serch were trying to come out, their record had dropped so there was now already this perception of what a white Hip-Hop group should be about, so all these other record labels wanted us to kinda be like them and we really weren’t like that. Labels wanted us to have more of a rock edge, which is why that group the White Boys got signed around that time. Most people would listen to our records and say that we just sounded like a regular Black rap group. We took that as a compliment, but we just sounded the way we sounded and we weren’t going to change that to try and get a record deal. What’s funny, actually, is around that time Kid Rock was an emcee as well. I remember when Serch was entered into the New Music Seminar and Kid Rock was there rockin’ almost like an Evil Knievel suit with a flat-top (laughs).”

So it wasn’t really a personal beef that you had with the Beastie Boys, it was more about the indirect impact their success was having on 3rd Bass getting signed?

“It was probably as much about frustration as it was anything else. I mean, we would run into them at different clubs here and there. I remember running into MCA at Hotel Amazon once, and one time I ran into Ad-Rock at a barber-shop. But of course, Sam Sever was cool with them and also Dante Ross was boys with them from way back to. So there were just a lot of common denominators involved in the situation. Also, at the time, the Beastie Boys had left Def Jam, so that added to a lot of it as well. Like I said, I didn’t really know them. In fact, the only time I ever really had any contact with them myself was when our then manager Lyor Cohen got marrried in the Dominican Republic in 1988 and he invited all the artists. I remember Serch was dying to go but he couldn’t get out of work. But it was literally everybody; Run DMC, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, LL, me, EPMD, Davy D, Tashan, Original Concept. It was nuts. I mean, if the planes had gone down there would have been no Def Jam (laughs). I have pictures of Flavor Flav in a yarmulke at the wedding (laughs). But that was really the only time I had any contact with the Beasties and they probably didn’t even know who I was at that time, they’d probably just heard about these couple of other white rappers.”

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Serch knew the Beasties previously though, right?

“Well, the other part of the beef was, Serch knew Mike D and apparently one day Serch ran into Mike or one of the other guys, went back to his place to play some beats or whatever, and apparently Mike D was kinda clownin’ Serch and Serch definitely took offense to it.”

I remember Sam Sever telling me that same story some years back when I did a short interview with him about working on “The Cactus Album”…

“Exactly. So then, obviously I’ve already got the stuff that my boys were telling me about the Beasties and then as I got closer to Serch that happened. So the situation was almost like it was destined to be (laughs). I mean, you look back on it now over the years and there was definitely some stupidity involved. I mean, when MCA passed away I was asked to write a piece for Gawker.Com (note: Requiem For A White Emcee)  and I really had to think whether it was MCA or Ad-Rock that I ran into at that barber-shop that time and it actually turned out to be Ad-Rock. So I told them at Gawker that I didn’t really know MCA and had just met him a couple of times. But there was still that common link of what we did as white emcees, so I just wrote that piece based on that.”

You mentioned earlier the chip-on-the-shoulder that a lot of white emcees carried around back then. Did that ever come into play between you and Serch in terms of each of you wanting to be seen as the better emcee in the group?

“I don’t think there was really any of that between me and Serch back then. I mean, we would compete with each other more for ourselves to make better music as a group rather than going against each other. But I think other people would always bring it up more about who was the better emcee between me and Serch. That was definitely something that I felt was brought up more to some level from fans than maybe you’d hear people having similar conversations about a De La Soul or a Tribe. But that was really on a very small scale and when you have a group containing members with different styles it really just comes down to what people’s preferences are. But that’s what makes your group diverse.”

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So did the Def Jam deal actually happen quite quickly once the label were aware that you and Serch were working together?

“Nah, I mean the whole thing was actually quite difficult for us. When the Beastie Boys came out we had demos going around and all these labels wanted something else that was different to what we were doing. So we actually got turned down by a lot of labels that wanted to sign us to big deals but then backed out. That happened with Arista and some other big labels. Then, we started to get more credibility and buzz around us from performing at different clubs and turning up everywhere. Plus, me and Serch both had promos playing on the radio with Red Alert, which for us back then was pretty much the ultimate. Even if you didn’t actually have a record out back then, you could still have a promo playing on the radio. I had a promo on Red Alert for my radio show and Serch had the promos for his early singles. Those were still playing, so we thought we’d made it anyway (laughs). Even if we hadn’t made a record as 3rd Bass, we were still known around New York. But we had a difficult time getting those records deals. Profile Records were looking at us and then when Dante was at Tommy Boy they made a play for us. At the time we really wanted to be on Def Jam and I think Lyor and Russell finally looked at the whole landscape and realised that the Beasties were gone. At that time, Def Jam were kinda down and it was really Public Enemy who were picking them up. I mean, LL’s “Walking With A Panther” was a dud compared to how his other albums did. So 3rd Bass definitely gave the label new blood, along with EPMD when they moved over as well. The first Slick Rick album was doing well, so along with Public Enemy, I think us and EPMD gave the label a new identity for them to build on. But at the same time, Russell was still always trying to find that one R&B act that he could be successful with which he finally got years later with Montell Jordan (laughs).”

I think Russell’s main problem with that in the late-80s was that the R&B artists he was signing like Chuck Stanley and Alyson Williams were largely making traditional soul albums, which compared to the New Jack Swing sound of the time didn’t necessarily connect with the average teenage Def Jam fan…

“Exactly. I mean, Tashan was incredible and Sam Sever was working on his first album when we were doing our first stuff for Def Jam, but it was almost like that record was too good for the time. But he did have Oran “Juice” Jones who kinda blew up with “The Rain” which was a big single. He was a classic, man. I used to love that guy (laughs). He was just such a character. I remember, we’d used Grover Washington Jr.’s horn licks on our song “Monte Hall” and he was also on Columbia. There was an event that the label did for this new record from Grover Washington and they invited us to it and Oran “Juice” Jones. I remember we all took a picture where I’m sitting in this big chair with the cigar, Grover Washington Jr. is above me and Juice is to the side of me (laughs). But Juice was always the guy to come up with the good one-liners and everything he said at the end of his record “The Rain” was definitely not scripted. He could just come up with stuff like that at any time (laughs). But that record totally blew-up in New York at the time.”

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Given the impact Russell Simmons had already had on Hip-Hop by the time 3rd Bass signed to Def Jam, what were your first impressions of him when you joined the label?

“Obviously we were impressed. I mean, Russell was Run’s brother and had already had so much success. “Krush Groove” had already come out and Russell was really on top of the genre at the time. If there was anyone you were going to roll with back then, you’d be rollin’ with Rush (laughs). You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at the time other than with Russell. I remember, we were talking to different managers at the time and they were telling us to make sure we kept our publishing. So we spoke with Russell to try and keep our publishing and he was like, ‘Listen, I’ve got fifty percent of Run DMC’s publishing, I’ve got fifty percent of LL’s publishing, fifty percent of Public Enemy’s publishing, so why the f**k am I going to give you your publishing?’ But back then the business side was a lot different during that period when we were signed to all the big money that came later on with all the label consolidations.”

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What was the working dynamic like between Russell and Lyor Cohen?

“Russell and Lyor would always play the good-cop / bad-cop routine in any given situation. I mean, they were genius together. As different as they where, with Lyor being the hard-nosed business guy and Russell always being the nice guy, Russell was definitely just as shrewd. I could just write books about episodes with those two all day long (laughs).”

The “Russell Rush” interlude on “The Cactus Album” still makes me laugh with Russell discussing the name of the group and then he starts talking about the Dickhead Six…

“That was totally live. What happened was, when I was still at school at Columbia when I first hooked-up with Serch, Russell would tell us some s**t like, ‘We’re going to put you out on some dates with Run’ or ‘We’re going to put you out on some dates with LL.’ There were always these carrots that he would stick out there. It even got to the point where I had to speak to one of the counsellors at my school to tell them I might have to take the semester off to go on tour with Run DMC (laughs). But then these things would aways fall through. We just got so frustrated, so I said to Serch, ‘Look, we’re getting so much smoke blown up our ass, I’m just going to take a little tape recorder in to the meetings and we’ll tape that s**t.’ So we would go into meetings with Bill Stephney, Russell and Lyor, and I would just have the s**t running (laughs). So I just had all these tapes of our meetings and when we were doing the album I remembered the tape of the meeting where we were coming up with the name of the group. Russell was trying to get a date with Paula Abdul for the American Music Awards at the same time we were coming up with the group name so that’s what’s on the rest of that tape which is just classic (laughs).”

Any classic Lyor memories?

“I remember, one time we were in London with Lyor at a big hotel around Piccadilly Circus. We’d come in at the time for those rave shows they used to have out there where kids would call a phone number to get the location of the party. I remember, there were these Nigerian princes who were funding and organising them and they’d promised to pay Lyor £25,000 for Public Enemy and another £5,000 for 3rd Bass. It was just a whole s**tload of money. I remember Lyor saying to them that he was bringing us over and if the authorities came after them or anything that he was getting his money either way. So what happened this time we went was the show never happened. Lyor flew us over with PE and De La Soul. I remember it vividly, because right when we went on that trip our  “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video was released on Video Music Box in New York. So we weren’t actually in New York when it first hit, but that’s when our record sales really started to jump. But I remember Lyor with one of these Nigerian princes in the restaurant of the hotel we were in just going crazy like (adopts angry Israeli accent), ‘Listen you motherf**king prince, get me my f**king money or you’re going to be living in the f**king bush! The king, your father, is going to send you out to the bush by the time I’m done with you.’ Sure enough, he ended up paying Lyor even though there was no show (laughs).”

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Outside of New York that “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video was largely the first visual introduction to 3rd Bass for a lot of people – where did your whole cigar, cane and suit image come from?

“I mean, it kinda came from the days when I was hangin’ out with Blake (Lord Scotch). He gave me the name Prime Minister when we were hanging-out at the Albee Square Mall. We always used to hang-out at this jewellery store K & I Jewelers which I think Biz Mark mentions in “Albee Square Mall” a couple times. Big Daddy Kane would be at the Albee Square Mall as well. So I think Blake kinda looked at me as being a white Kane kind of character, so that persona was pretty much from before I was even with Serch. Then when first did the “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video with Lionel Martin from Video Music Box, he definitely picked up on that and was like, ‘Yo, I’ve got this huge chair, so you can sit in the chair like it’s a throne with your cane’ and it really just took off from there. I mean, I was smoking cigars anyway. And with the whole cane thing, when people would ask me why I needed the cane I’d tell them, ‘Yo, I got shot in the leg when I was a kid’ and all kinds of different s**t which was fun (laughs). Actually, I remember we did one show in Scotland and sometimes Flavor Flav would tell us to ask him to come out during our set. So at this particular show, he wanted to come out after we’d done “The Gas Face”. So we introduce Flav, people go nuts, and he comes out like, ‘Yo Pete! I was at this store today. Now, you’ve got your cane and that’s fly, but check this s**t out, man.’ He takes out this thing that looks like a cane, hits it on the stage and it turns into a little chair (laughs). He sits on it and is like, ‘Look at this Pete!’ and then goes into his whole ‘Yeaaah boy!’ thing and the crowd just loses it (laughs). But I will say, my favourite moment onstage was probably in England when the Poll Tax was around.  I was like, ‘F**k Margaret Thatcher! I’m the Prime Minister!’ and the whole crowd was going nuts (laughs). That’s probably as political as we got at that time (laughs).”

I think 3rd Bass was political to some extent just by your mere presence in Hip-Hop at the time as two white emcees in a Black-dominated artform…

“The other thing that I think people totally overlooked was that we were really the first integrated group as well because it wasn’t like Daddy Rich was just our show deejay or something, he was actually a member of the group. Hurricane was the Beastie Boys deejay for shows and stuff but he wasn’t actually in the group. But that’s actually a funny story too because our first deejay for 3rd Bass was this kid called DJ White Knight. Serch knew this guy DJ Holiday who was well known in New York but ended-up going to Tennessee. Serch went down to visit him and he met White Knight there who was definitely a nice deejay. Serch comes back from Tennessee and is like, ‘Yo Pete, I’ve got our deejay.’ He didn’t talk to me about it or anything and I’m like, ‘Are you f**kin’ kidding me? You’re going to bring this kid back from Tennessee and he’s all of a sudden our deejay?!’ Now Rich at the time, he was was at school in Farmingdale out on Long Island, so he really wasn’t available. But I was trying to get to him to be our deejay and join the group. So Knight shows-up after leaving Tennessee to live with Serch. I’m just beside myself and we were in the studio at the time and I’m like, ‘What the f**k is going on here?’ Sure enough though, I like Knight, he starts growing on us and I’m totally down with him (laughs). He’s doing cuts in the studio, we did a couple of early performances, he’s in the “Steppin’ To The A.M.” video in the back of the car. He did one of our first photo-shoots with us. It was almost like he was the fifth Beatle or something (laughs). But it turns out, him and Serch had some sort of falling out. Knight was living with Serch and his girl, some s**t happened and next thing I know they kinda split-up and Knight’s heading back to Tennessee (laughs). So Serch brought him in and Serch took him out (laughs). I was as baffled when he left as when he came. So that’s a bit of 3rd Bass trivia for you (laughs). But after that happened, that’s when I told Rich that we wanted him. We had already produced the first album but Rich did those early tours with us and then when we got into the second album Rich was involved with the production.”

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I still have tapes of your appearances on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show from 3rd Bass’s visits to the UK – what do you remember of being on-air with Tim in London?

“I remember Tim had the late-night show on Capital Radio at that time and we used to go up there with this guy from Def Jam in the UK called Trenton. I just remember going up there late-night after we’d been running around all day with Serch going nuts and Tim would end almost every line he said by saying ‘Respect!’ So it just became a running joke between me and Serch where we would imitate Tim Westwood all the time (laughs). Then we’d get back to the States and hear is tapes back home and there was somewhere that used to list his charts in New York and we’d see we’d made it onto his charts and be happy about that. But Tim was was always very receptive to what we were doing and gracious enough to have us on his show so we always got along well with him.”

Ryan Proctor

Check Part Three of this interview here.

3rd Bass – “Steppin’ To The A.M.” (Def Jam / 1989)