Tag Archives: Mikey D & The L.A. Posse

Old To The New Q&A – Mikey D (LL Cool J Update)

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Regular OldToTheNew visitors will recall a recent interview I did with Queens, New York legend Mikey D which included a number of questions relating to his well-known rivalry with a young LL Cool J back in the 80s.

A couple of weeks ago Mikey contacted me to say he was planning to make a public online apology to LL for comments he’d made over the years and wanted to do a follow-up interview to clarify his position on the matter.

As Mikey’s statement of apology to LL started to appear on numerous Hip-Hop websites and blogs, I sat down with the veteran emcee to find out what had prompted his decision and also what happened when Mr. Smith unexpectedly phoned Mikey recently.

So the interview we did seemed to get a good response from those who read it…

“Yeah that was dope. I felt a little guilty afterwards though but we’ll get to that (laughs).”

That leads nicely onto the LL Cool J situation that you wanted to address – you mentioned to me previously that you spoke to LL recently – is that conversation what led to you wanting to apologise for comments you’ve made about him in the past?

“Well, basically it wasn’t a case of me thinking about the situation because I spoke to him recently. I already had the thought on my mind prior to speaking with him. It was just a coincidence that we happened to speak although we didn’t speak specifically on the interview that you and I did or anything like that. I mean, I started having a change of heart about that whole Cool J situation awhile ago. But for some reason everytime I get interviewed I always snap back into defensive mode when that topic comes up. It’s like I automatically respond with the same amount of anger that I had before and just end-up saying the same s**t that I’ve been saying for years and years. I’ve never had a chance to really sit back and look from the outside at the situation. I mean, back in the day when I was drinking a lot of forties I was with people who were drinking to, so anytime the LL situation would come up we’d all be drinking and of course that can bring anger out when people are saying certain things, plus with me being the type of person I was, as far as being this battle rapper, I fell into all the negativity.”

So do you feel that you’ve been painting an inaccurate picture of what happened between yourself and LL back in the 80s?

“I mean, a lot of the stuff that happened in the past was my fault, so how could I blame Cool J for my failures?! I didn’t take the time to really think about what was going on. So now, as a different person and a sober person, as a person who has changed and matured, I can look back at all of that and I kick myself in the butt for everything that happened. I mean, me and Cool J did take jabs at each other, but at the end of the day I threw the first punch. LL was already doing his thing and I was the one that was left behind, but not because Cool J left me as when he got his contract he told me we could be the next Run DMC. It was me that didn’t believe him and wanted to just stay in the streets running around drinking, satisfying these cats that I was running with instead of taking care of business.”

Your biggest problem with LL always seemed to be that you felt he was emulating your style and image on his early records…

“When his records started coming out I started taking jabs at him because people were telling me, ‘He took your style and ran with it.’ Looking back at it, how could I say he took my style when he was already hot when I met him. I’ve always said in my interviews that when we originally met we were supposed to be battling first as he was the best in Jackson High School and I was the best in Springfield High School. He was already that good. So if he bit my style why would I then say let’s get together and rock out after we’d met and compared notes? That was contradiction number one. Contradiction number two was when I kept on saying, and started believing, that LL stole my style with the Kangols and all of that. People were wearing Kangols and sweatsuits before Mikey D! I got that image from people before me. Cool J got that image from people before him. It wasn’t like Mikey D told LL to start wearing Kangols or anything like that. But I fed into all of that bulls**t when people would say those things to me. So I just felt that it was time for me to be a man and publicly apologise to that brother for all those years that I dragged LL’s name through the dirt because I was wrong. As a man I can admit that I was wrong and I do feel bad about it. ”

You mentioned that you had a change of heart about the situation some time ago – when would you say that actually happened?

“My change of heart really happened when I decided to stop drinking. Well, saying that, even when I initally stopped drinking I was sober but I was still in the same surroundings in the ‘hood hearing people saying that same stuff. So what really brought the change of heart was when I moved away from everything. Me and my lady moved and I got my life together. By me getting away from everything and not having anybody in my ear all of the time talking about the same situation, it gave me a chance to reflect and think back on mistakes that I made and to be thankful for where I am now. A lot of people talk about keeping it real and never leaving the ‘hood, but leaving the ‘hood was the best thing that could have ever happened to because since I did that I don’t drink anymore, I’m much healthier, I’m more focused and basically I’ve got one of my best friends back. So after making that move I had the opportunity to look back and reflect on a lot of things. Even the situation with Melle Mel at the 1988 New Music Seminar. I don’t owe him an apology publically because what he did was still wrong, but all these years later I didn’t have to keep feeding into it talking about, ‘I had to do what I had to do.’ I could have went about that differently as well.”

With regards to the LL situation though I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard interviews with you where you’ve been disrespectful or flippant about him. I mean, you were very clear in our interview about the fact that Cool J did come to you after he got signed to Def Jam and talked about doing something together but it was your decision not to pursue that…

“Right, right. But I just started to feel weird about it. I felt like I was adding more fuel to the fire, particularly when I’d do an interview over the phone years back and I’d have my people around me drinking, saying stuff about the situation when I’d get asked questions and it was really just putting a battery in my back to say stuff that really didn’t need to be said. It was just that battle instinct in me that would come back and I was saying stuff that was so embedded in my mind that I’d said so many times before that it would just come out without me even really thinking about what I was saying.  I guess it was just young stuff, but here we are thirty years later and I just wanted to clear the air about all of that and move on. I can’t blame anyone for how things turned out because I had the opportunity to be side by side with LL but I f**ked that up myself.”

Regarding the Melle Mel situation, that New Music Seminar incident was such a historic moment during Hip-Hop’s Golden Age that I don’t think people will ever stop talking about that battle in the same way that people still talk about classic boxing matches…

“Right. But I definitely wanted to publicly apologise to my boy LL. I think it takes a man to do that and it’s a big step because I guess it could hurt my image or reputation but who cares? It’s a whole new day, it’s a whole new me and I just want to focus on moving forward with the new music I’ve been working on. Artistically I feel better than ever and I’m planning to make old-school feel new again (laughs). I want people to judge me on my craft now and not because of things I’ve already done. I want people to respect what I’m doing now.”

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So when you spoke with LL recently did you discuss how you felt about the situation with him?

“Well actually I did the public apology first and then I spoke to him. He called me and I was buggin’ out like ‘Wow it’s really him!’ because I didn’t know the number and usually I don’t answer numbers I’m not familiar with. But I happened to answer the call and we spoke for a few and before the end of the conversation I told him straight up that it’s been thirty years that this s**t has been getting between us and that I wanted to apologise to him for all the times I’d dragged his name through the dirt.”

What was his response?

“Basically he was like ‘It’s nothing, it ain’t even a thing’ but he respected me as a man for even making the statement. He respected the fact that I swallowed my pride and got that chip off my shoulder. I just told him that we’re grown men now and there’s no reason for us to be going through any of this and that I wasn’t going to have anybody in my ear anymore trying to make it into something that it ain’t.”

When would you have spoken to him last?

“It was probably when he would have done the filming for my documentary “The Making Of A Legend” which would have have been about 2005. We never really stayed in touch or nothing like that, partly because I didn’t want him to think I was trying to ride his coattails for nothing and that’s still the case. I’m not asking for nothing or expecting me making this statement to boost my career because that’s not what I’m about.”

What’s the likelihood of you and LL actually collaborating on something now you’ve opened those lines of communication again?

“That’s an option that’s in the air right now but like I said I don’t want anyone thinking I’m doing this to re-launch my career because that’s not what it’s about. But I definitely put a bug in his ear that hopefully one day we’ll get a chance to do a project together and that option is open for both of us. So hopefully before everything is said and done Cool J and I will rock together on something. Nothing was made concrete, but it was a suggestion that was made and it’s definitely an option.”

So moving forward is the LL situation something that you now no longer want to discuss in interviews etc?

“I know it will always be mentioned and all of that but I just wanted to clarify my position. I know it’s something that will still be talked about for years to come and I don’t have a problem with that. The only thing I had a problem with was some of the things I said about the situation that I think could have been clarified a little more and said a little more directly. So that situation is always going to be discussed and I can’t change history, but I can clarify history.”

Now you’ve made this apology to LL what do you think the reaction will be from longstanding Mikey D fans?

“I mean, people grow and I really wanted to clear this out of my system and in order for me to be in a good place to make music that makes the fans happy I need to be happy myself. I had this feeling in my gut and my instinct was telling me that certain things I said were wrong. So my real fans should really respect me and the growth and maturity that I’m showing. Doing this doesn’t take anything away from my battle capabilities or my lyrical prowess. It was a decision I made to put my mind at rest by clearing out all of the drama and if anyone does have a problem with it then they weren’t really a fan to begin with. It’s not about publicity, it’s not about money, it’s coming from my heart.”

So now all of this is out in the open do you feel better prepared to focus on the new music you’re working on?

“Absolutely. I’m really looking forward to this Elements Of Hip-Hop project coming out and getting back out there. I want people to see that’s there’s no age limit on making good Hip-Hop. For me to be able to still have the impact today that I had back when I first came out is a beautiful feeling. It feels like I’m a brand-new artist.”

Ryan Proctor

Elements Of Hip-Hop’s album “Calm Before The Storm” will be released on April 2nd.

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

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In this third and final part of my interview with New York microphone veteran Mikey D, the Queens resident recalls replacing Large Professor in Main Source back in the 90s and also talks about his two forthcoming projects scheduled for release in 2013 – make sure you check Part One and Part Two before reading further.

When you joined Main Source in the 90s was that a tough decision to make knowing you were filling the shoes of Large Professor or was it a case of you using that as an opportunity to get back in the game?

“Yeah, it was a matter of me just wanting to get back into the music and them being the stepping stone for that return. I didn’t know what had happened with the group as far as why Large Professor broke out. At that point I still didn’t know him like that. I thought Large Pro was nice but I didn’t know him and still didn’t recognise him from when he used to be in our studio sessions with everyone else at 1212. At that time, I didn’t know he produced, I didn’t know his history with Paul C., I didn’t know the reasons he left Main Source, I didn’t know none of that when I got together with Sir Scratch and K-Cut. I met them through Jeff Redd who told me to go to this particular address and spit a rhyme for these guys who were looking for a rapper. I remember going to the address and I had crazy toothache on that day (laughs). I spit a rhyme for them and they were saying they wanted to sign me and also wanted me to go to Canada with them to do this, that and the other. So they had me all the way down in Canada and we started working. But I didn’t like Sir Scratch for some reason. I thought he was too much of a momma’s boy and he didn’t want me to go out and explore Canada. He just wanted me to stay in the crib writing rhymes and I didn’t like that. You really can’t pressure me to write rhymes because you can’t rush perfection (laughs). So that was pi**ing me off and I really couldn’t get my vibe right to be able to write. But we did a whole album, presented it to Wild Pitch and they didn’t like it because it wasn’t really me.”

So was it just your contribution to the album Wild Pitch didn’t like or was it the production as well?

“It was a combination of both. I mean, listening to that album was like trying on a shoe that’s too small for you. It just didn’t fit. They’d had me like a hostage out there in Canada trying to write rhymes and the album just didn’t fit together. So then the label told us to come back to New York and record there and that’s when all the old feelings started coming back to me. I’m back in New York, I’m home, I’m feeling right, I can tell my peoples to come up to the studio, I’ve got my vibe back and that’s when I started writing songs that were big and bangin’ them out the same day. Wild Pitch liked that album we did but they just didn’t push it enough. They put us with damn MC Serch as our road manager who was also supposed to be the Vice-President of the label and was also Nas’s manager at the same time. We got all the way to California and the guy’s taking care of Nas’s business on our time. So it was just another disaster. You know God always has plans for you so maybe back then I just wasn’t ready because there was always something going wrong for me (laughs).”

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That must have been an extremely frustrating time for you considering the album was so close to being released with the single and video to “What You Need” out, full page ads in The Source etc…

“That was basically it. I wound up leaving Main Source for the same reasons Large Professor did. There were publishing issues, they wanted to tap in on my writers royalties when they didn’t write anything. The group’s manager was K-Cut and Sir Scratch’s mother and she was crooked. Me and K-Cut got along but then I couldn’t really trust him because that’s his brother and mother who were involved as well and family always comes first if you’re loyal. I couldn’t trust any of them so I just had to leave.”

Which was a real shame because “F**k What You Think” was a quality album that would have sat nicely alongside many of the other great albums that dropped in 1994…

“Exactly. They just didn’t push it right. There was just too much going on between Main Source and the label. After Large Professor left I don’t think Stu Fine and the staff at Wild Pitch really liked dealing with Main Source and their management. I walked into the situation blind and walked into a bad position at the wrong time. That’s basically what it was. And see, their mother Ms. McKenzie, I believe her intentions were to get that album recorded, have Wild Pitch pay for the studio time, and then once the album was completed to shop it to another label. I honestly believe that’s what happened, but all of that backfired in her face. But I really didn’t do my research first before getting involved in that situation and I should have known something was wrong when they asked me to make a diss record about Large Professor and I wouldn’t do it. That man did nothing to me, so why would I disrespect him?”

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There was a story about a final meeting at the label involving yourself, Ms. McKenzie and a knife…

“Yeah, yeah (laughs). We were at a press conference with all the different magazines like The Source, Right On!, Word Up!, all sat at one table. Ms. McKenzie came in wielding a knife talking about ‘Where’s Stu Fine?!’ So all of that’s going down and then steam starts coming out of my ears and I’m like, ‘Yeah we should get Serch!’ Serch locked himself in the office and I had my two boys with me called the Twin Towers, two three-hundred pound young boys, and they’re trying to get into his office with Serch out on the window ledge. I don’t think we would have hurt Serch, but I’d always had a problem with him since day one and I didn’t really trust him. When I first got with Main Source and went up to the label by myself for a meeting, Serch gave me a lawyer’s card and said, ‘This is the same lawyer that I gave Large Professor. If you tell anybody I gave you this I’m gonna say you’re lying and remember Mike, I know people.’ I didn’t like the threat. It rubbed me the wrong way. The only time I’d met this gentleman before was back at the New Music Seminar in 1988 because he was one of the first people I battled there. But you’re sitting in an office throwing street threats at me? I didn’t like that. Evidently he didn’t know my background (laughs). So when that whole situation at the press conference happened all of that came back to me, the trip to California, everything.”

Have you spoken to Serch since then?

“I spoke to him maybe about two years after that but he still looked a little nervous. That was the last time I spoke to him.”

So after the Main Source situation you stepped away from the industry again…

“Yeah, I chilled out for a minute but I didn’t stop writing or none of that. But I was spending time raising my daughter. I did some features here and there but I really just wanted to let my name die down a little bit and then time myself and get it right. I worked a regular job at the airport for almost eleven years and at times it was frustrating when sometimes people would recognise me. But as time went on and I got out of that space I was in it became like a whole new start for me. I stopped drinking and really got my focus back. Lyrically, I think I’m more dangerous now than I was before. So now when I come out, these young artists just look at me as another artist. They don’t look at me as being an old-school artist because when I spit I don’t sound like that. But the whole time I’ve always stayed in my own lane and nobody will ever push me out of that lane. That’s the whole reason I’m still relevant today because I still do me and haven’t let anything change my lane.”

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So bringing things up-to-date explain how the forthcoming Elements Of Hip-Hop project with DJ Mercury came about?

“Well, I met DJ Mercury a couple of weeks before my birthday last year. I’d heard of Mercury through Professor X and I knew he had a radio show but I’d never met him. Johnny Quest still lives down the block in Laurelton and he was selling records, so Mercury came to the block. I said I was having a birthday party about a month later and he said he’d do the party for me. So he brought his equipment out, did the party, I had Ralph McDaniels there from Video Music Box, Tito from the Fearless Four was there, Large Professor showed up, and Mercury was nice on those turntables. I really liked the way he carried himself. I called him afterwards to thank him for doing the party, went to sleep that night, and for some reason I woke up the next day and this Elements Of Hip-Hop thing came to mind and I thought it would be a great name for a group. Now, there are various elements of Hip-Hop, but me and Mercury represent two of them, the emcee and the deejay. Mercury rocks as a deejay the same way I rock as an emcee, none of this digital stuff, just bringing it back to the essence. So I really felt we should do something together. Now, the project is mature Hip-Hop and I feel there’s a market for that right now. The young cats that are out will be able to appreciate what I’m coming with and their parents will be able to appreciate it even more. I’m not killing nobody on this project, I’m not driving three cars at the same time, I’m not doing none of that (laughs). I’m just trying to take it back and show people what Hip-Hop meant to us. I have Grand Daddy I.U. on the project and also my younger brother MC Lotto who was on the “Set It Off” track on the Main Source album. So, the project that’s coming out in a few weeks is called “Calm Before The Storm” and then in the summertime I have another album coming called “Day Of Destruction”. Everybody knows my name is Mikey Destruction and that album is going to be so crazy and I’m just decapitating all emcees on there. I’m bringing back the young Mikey D on that album who used to go around picking and choosing battles (laughs).”

So “Calm Before The Storm” is about you bridging the gap between the different generations of Hip-Hop and “Day Of Destruction” is more about you going back to your original blueprint as an emcee?

“Absolutely. Legalize from Russia is doing the production on “Day Of Destruction” except for one song that I left open for my boy Large Professor. But aside from that, the whole album is produced by Legalize. I’m also looking to do something with Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap on “Day Of Destruction” as well so lookout for that one.”

Are you also still planning to officially release your documentary “The Making Of A Legend”?

“We’re adding some new footage to what we already have and then once it’s done it’ll be out. Aside from everyone who’s in the current footage like Daddy-O and LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane is in it, Melle Mel is gonna be in it and also some new-school artists who’re relevant to what’s going on in Hip-Hop today. It’s going to be very interesting.”

So it definitely sounds like you’re planning to have a busy 2013?

“Definitely. My mission right now is to save Hip-Hop”.

Ryan Proctor

The Elements Of Hip-Hop album “Calm Before The Storm” will be released on April 2nd.

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

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In Part One of this interview with legendary lyricist Mikey D, the Queens, NY emcee discussed his earliest Hip-Hop memories, meeting LL Cool J and battling Kool G. Rap. In this next instalment, the Rotten Apple representative talks about working with the late, great producer Paul C., signing to Sleeping Bag Records in the late-80s and his historic New Music Seminar battle with Grandmaster Melle Mel.

How did you actually meet Paul C.?

“I met Paul C. through Will Seville and Eddie O’Jay of the Clientele Brothers. We lived in Laurelton and Paul C. lived in Rosedale which were within walking distance. So Will and Eddie picked me and Johnny Quest up one day and told us we’re going to this producer’s house. They’re telling us how this dude is kinda nice and how he’s got his studio set-up. Now, at that time, it was unheard of to have a studio in your crib and stuff like that. But Paul had his equipment hooked-up in his garage. I’d never heard of Paul before, but they took us there, and I remember Paul asking me to rhyme. I did my thing and me and Paul really hit it off from that point on. I mean, Paul really wasn’t dealing with Hip-Hop on a big scale at that time. He was still down with his band and all of that. Then he got offered a job to be an engineer at 1212 Studio. Now, prior to that, me and Quest were always going to Paul’s house making tapes for the street. Then once Paul got that job at 1212, after the sessions were finished late at night he would call us and be like ‘Come to the studio, let’s work!’ So we used to jump on the bus, head over to 1212 and that’s when it really started to happen.”

What were your first impressions of Paul when you met him?

“He wasn’t what I was expecting to see at all. I wouldn’t say he looked like a nerd, he looked a little bit cooler than a nerd (laughs). But Paul was really quiet and really humble. I don’t know really what I expected to see when we went over there. Maybe like a punk rocker dude with an attitude and a chip on his shoulder (laughs). But Paul was just really humble, super cool and so friendly. Paul’s personality definitely didn’t match the beats he was making (laughs). So at that time we were branching away from Reality, the Symbolic Three and all that because I was getting tired of writing for other people and knew I had something to offer myself. So me and Johnny Quest put Paul C. down with the L.A. Posse. Now, Johnny Quest and Paul, that was all I needed. I had a hot deejay that nobody could touch, I was a hot rapper that nobody could touch, and now, I’ve got this producer that nobody can touch in Paul C.. A white guy at that?! Oh my god! (laughs).”

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From what you can remember was Paul C. aware that what he was doing in terms of chopping samples etc. was so revolutionary at that time and would have such an impact on Hip-Hop?

“Doing those beats was just natural for Paul. I mean, none of us ever really used to listen to the radio to hear what else was going on, we just stayed original to what we wanted to do. With Paul, I don’t think he thought it was going to become as big as it did in terms of his production. He just did what he did. It was effortless to him. He didn’t even really have to try that hard, it just came so naturally to him. Paul C. was a genius. Like, you remember my record “Bust A Rhyme Mike”, right, the flipside of “My Telephone”? Now, who would have ever thought of me doing the human beatbox? Paul told me to go ‘Boom’, ‘Kick’, that was all he told me do. That’s all I did. Then Paul hooked the beat up from that, which was crazy to me back then. Same thing with “I Get Rough”. The bassline on that track was Rahzel’s voice. What Paul C. was doing back then was incredible to me.”

So what was a typical studio session with Paul like back then?

“We would just go in and that was it. There was a store downstairs and we would go and buy some sandwiches and beer to take up to the studio. At that time, Paul was smoking his little joints of weed. We would just get creative and be in that studio until like seven the next morning. And at any given time you would have all sorts of different people in there with us as well. Large Professor was up in some of those early studio sessions we had, but he was real young then and I didn’t know who he was or that he’d go on to become Large Professor (laughs). Everybody was coming through 1212 at that time. That’s how I met Ced-Gee, Kool Keith and them from Ultramagnetic, Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud were up there all the time, Sweet Tee, Jazzy Jay would come through, even Jeru The Damaja used to be up there before he got on.”

Do you recall any memorable studio cyphers taking place?

“Everybody was just mingling really. There were six floors of studios in that place. There’d also be a lot of rock bands practising in there as well. Metallica used to work in that building. 1212 was like a college dorm with everyone hanging out in each other’s sessions and partying.”

What were your thoughts when you heard the creative direction that Ultramagnetic MC’s were taking with their whole scientific, spaced-out style?

“I remember just thinking it was so different. It wasn’t something I would have done back then personally, but it was different and I was definitely feelin’ it. There were so many different flavours being heard in that studio with all the artists working in there, but my thing was always just to stay in my lane and do me, rather than hearing what someone else was doing and trying to follow them.”

Out of interest, what were your thoughts on the Bridge Wars which would still have been simmering around that time? Were you offended when KRS-One dissed Queens?

“Absolutely, because Shan didn’t say Hip-Hop started in Queens, he said that was where it started at for him. But then everyone started jumping on the bandwagon. I remember one time, we had a roller rink in Queens and KRS-One was supposed to battle MC Shan there. Now, I don’t know what happened to Shan but he didn’t show up. So who was the first person to jump up onstage ready to battle and represent Queens? Me! I wanted to battle KRS-One but he  didn’t want to battle me at that time. I remember T La Rock was there as well and he had some funny stuff to say, so I was looking to battle him as well. Now, T La Rock had obviously made “It’s Yours”, but going back to what I said about being the king of parody, I’d written a song called “Your Drawers”. So that’s how T La Rock met me, when I crushed him with his own song (laughs).”

So being from Queens could definitely cause problems when you would travel to other parts of New York even if you weren’t directly affiliated with any of the artists feuding on wax?

“Definitely, definitely. Now, at that time Queens had all the stars in Hip-Hop, partly because Russell Simmons took Hip-Hop to a whole ‘nother level. We had Run DMC. We had LL Cool J. We had Salt-N-Pepa. We had Sweet Tee. We had Kid-N-Play. A lot of the major money-making artists at that time were coming out of Queens. So the rest of New York City was looking at us in Queens like the way New York looks at Southern artists now (laughs). People from other boroughs would try and diss Queens by saying that we had green grass and both our parents (laughs). So because I didn’t have a pissy staircase and roaches I couldn’t be nice as an artist? Get out of my face with that (laughs). But Queens still proved itself at the end of the day.”

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When you signed to Sleeping Bag Records was that on the strength of the buzz surrounding your 1987 single “I Get Rough” or was the label also familiar with your history prior to that?

“They were aware of me already through Ivan ‘Doc’ Rodriguez and Mantronik. The original plan was for me to get signed and be the new emcee for Mantronix. That’s what was supposed to happen. But I believe in loyalty so I wasn’t about to leave Quest and Paul. We’d already built something and I didn’t want to see that start to be taken apart. So if Sleeping Bag wanted to sign me, they had to sign Paul C. and Johnny Quest. It had to be Mikey D & The L.A. Posse. I’m not getting down with Mantronix. I liked the sound Mantronix had, even though it was very different to ours, but I wasn’t going to leave Paul and Quest behind.”

Sleeping Bag was a big label at the time with a lot of popular Hip-Hop and Dance acts on the roster – were you looking at that deal as a potentially life-changing situation considering the success other acts were experiencing on the label?

“You know what? It didn’t even hit us like that. We already believed in ourselves, so we were approaching it like we were meant to be there. We were of the opinion that a label like Sleeping Bag should have come to us a long time ago. But we just remained humble and stayed in our lane. It was cool, though. I mean, by the time we signed to Sleeping Bag I knew a lot of the artists affiliated with the label already like Just-Ice, EPMD, Mantronix of course. I remember everyone thinking DJ Cash Money of Cash Money & Marvelous and I were brothers (laughs). But yeah, we were really in a good space at that time and I enjoyed Sleeping Bag. Being signed to them, of course, was how I got entered into the New Music Seminar emcee battle in 1988 and the situation with Melle Mel happened.”

The story of you winning the emcee battle at the 1988 New Music Seminar and ending-up battling Melle Mel is very well known – but what was going through your mind at that time as a young, upcoming artist standing onstage knowing that you’re about to battle a legendary emcee and Hip-Hop pioneer? 

“See, technically it wasn’t supposed to be a battle. It was supposed to be a demonstration with that year’s champion, me, rapping with the previous year’s champion, which was Melle Mel. But no. Melle Mel turned it into a battle. Now you’ve got to remember that at that time the Queens / Bronx thing was still going on and at the same time the Old-School / New-School thing was heating up. So I already had two strikes against me (laughs). First of all I’m from Queens and second of all I was considered new-school. Now, I was going to give Mel his respect. I said my rhymes and didn’t saying nothin’ about him. He gets on the microphone and disrespects me. Then he starts talking about how, if I’m a real champion I’d battle him for my belt. I said I didn’t want to battle for my belt. I’d just won it and I wanted to take it back to the ‘hood to represent. Melle Mel slams his belt on the ground, starts talking about how I’m no champion and now the crowd starts going crazy shouting ‘Go Mikey! Go Mikey!’ I look at Mel, I look at the crowd, I look at my belt, I look at his belt on the floor, I slammed my belt on top of his belt and was like ‘Let’s go!’. So now Melle Mel is doing push-ups onstage and I started rhyming off the beat of his push-ups dissing him and the crowd is going crazy. He couldn’t come back after that but at the same time that he was trying to, Grandmaster Caz picks up both of the belts while I have my back turned. So by the time Melle Mel finally lost the battle, Caz hands Mel the damn belts! Now Melle Mel was too big for me to be running up on him (laughs). But he’s rushing through the crowd with both belts, pushing Big Daddy Kane out the way and Jackie Paul, a lady who was a part of the New Music Seminar. It was a mess. But I proved myself. Then a few weeks later Tom Silverman from Tommy Boy Records who was involved with the Seminar presented me with a bigger and better belt (laughs).”

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In hindsight do you have a different opinion now on Melle Mel’s actions that night?

“I forgive him for that but I still don’t agree with what he did. It was a coward move and I can’t respect that. I can respect Melle Mel as an artist, for his achievements and everything he’s done for Hip-Hop, but at that event he just made a complete idiot out of himself and I lost all respect for him. I mean, I respect him now as a man, but I don’t respect the move he made on that night.”

From hearing what Daddy-O said in the footage for your documentary “The Making Of A Legend” the situation could have turned very ugly…

“It could of but I defused a whole lot of that tension. I mean, I had people like King Sun and Just-Ice ready to move on Melle Mel and I was like ‘No!’ Johnny Quest and I were the only two out of our crew who went to the Seminar that night. Luckily, we went without my crew otherwise Mel could have got moved on that way. People in the audience who I’d just met were ready to make moves on him, but I didn’t want any of that because if someone had moved on Mel it would have reflected badly on me and my future. If anything had happened to Melle Mel people would have automatically said that I had a part in that so I just wanted everyone to let it go.”

After the Seminar what happened with the Sleeping Bag deal?

“Well, after the Seminar we were busy working on an album which was coming out pretty nice. We presented the album to Sleeping Bag and unfortunately God took Paul C. from us before it could be released. Once that happened everything started spiralling downhill because I didn’t want to put the album out after Paul passed away. It didn’t feel right to do that. I was like, ‘Nah, this ain’t cool.’ I left the label and all of that.”

So would you largely attribute you stepping away from the industry at that point to Paul C.’s 1989 murder?

“Well, at that time it felt like everything was spiralling out of my control. My daughter had just been born. The music money wasn’t enough to pay my bills, buy a crib or pay for my daughter’s baby food, y’know. I was giving more to the music than I was receiving. I was giving my life to this music and I just wasn’t really getting nothing in return. Then after Paul was taken from us it was really crazy because now I’m thinking ‘Damn, man. They did that in his house! Who does that?!’ So now we’re paranoid like, ‘Could they be coming after us next?’ I started drinking even more around that time like, ‘F**k this! I can’t handle it!’ It was like that beer made me feel like nothing could mess with me or something like that. So I really just fell back for a little while and helped raise my daughter. I still had Hip-Hop in my heart  but all of the gangsta rap was starting to come out and I just wasn’t really feeling it like that, y’know.”

With one of your close friends having just been murdered it’s easy to see why you didn’t want to be around the more violent aspects of Hip-Hop that were starting to become popular at that time…

“Exactly. You just took the words right out my heart. That’s exactly how I felt at that time.”

Ryan Proctor

Lookout for Part Three of this interview coming soon with Mikey D covering his time as a member of Main Source in the 90s and his new Elements Of Hip-Hop project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How old were you when you had that first battle?

“I was around twelve or thirteen.”

Do you still remember the rhyme that you dropped?

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

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

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

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

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

How did you become part of the Clientele Brothers?

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

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

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

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

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

So was the plan for you to continue performing together?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was LL aware that meeting had taken place?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Proctor

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