- 1,338,677 hits
- REDEYEBLUE - “The Movement” (New Video) oldtothenew.wordpress.com/2023/04/01/new… 4 hours ago
- 👇👇👇 twitter.com/kokaneofficial… 6 hours ago
- 👇👇👇 twitter.com/djkennyparker/… 6 hours ago
- Mountain Brothers - “Self: Volume 1” (1998) twitter.com/xxl/status/164… 6 hours ago
- Seeing this brings back memories. The closest I got to getting anything shown below was a Sleeping Bag Records patc… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… 6 hours ago
Ang13 on New Joint – Ang13 / Shad… frankensense1 on 100 Favourite Albums & EPs… Mr K on Flight School Vol. 4 Mix Strea… don manolo pinchadis… on New Joint – J Littles… Don Cave on Sunshine Philadelphia: The God…
- Album Reviews
- Australian Hip-Hop
- Canadian Hip-Hop
- Detroit Hip-Hop
- Dutch Hip-Hop
- East Coast
- East Coast Hip-Hop
- Films / DVDs
- Flyers / Gig Info
- French Hip-Hop
- German Hip-Hop
- Hip-Hop Radio
- Independent Hip-Hop
- Instrumental Hip-Hop
- Irish Hip-Hop
- Italian Hip-Hop
- Japanese Hip-Hop
- Live Performances
- Live Review
- Live Reviews
- Midwest Hip-Hop
- Mixes / Podcasts
- Music Video
- Music Videos
- Naba Napalm
- North West Hip-Hop
- Old-School Hip-Hop
- Opinion Pieces
- Scottish Hip-Hop
- Single Reviews
- Southern Hip-Hop
- Spanish Hip-Hop
- Swedish Hip-Hop
- Swiss Hip-Hop
- UK Hip-Hop
- Underground Hip-Hop
- West Coast Hip-Hop
- April 2023
- March 2023
- February 2023
- January 2023
- December 2022
- November 2022
- October 2022
- September 2022
- August 2022
- July 2022
- June 2022
- May 2022
- April 2022
- March 2022
- February 2022
- January 2022
- December 2021
- November 2021
- October 2021
- September 2021
- August 2021
- July 2021
- June 2021
- May 2021
- April 2021
- March 2021
- February 2021
- January 2021
- December 2020
- November 2020
- October 2020
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- August 2019
- July 2019
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- November 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- 7th Boro: Hip-Hop City
- Ageing B-Boys Unite!
- Alvin Blanco's SlangRapDemocracy.Com
- B-Girl Document
- Beatvizion Music
- Big Ted – This Stuff Is Really Fresh (Stories From A Life In Hip-Hop)
- Blackout Hip-Hop
- Chairman Mao – Chairman’s Choice
- Chuck D’s Terrordome
- Combat Jack’s Daily Mathematics
- D.I.T.C. Records Inc.
- Dart Adams – Bastard Swordsman
- Disorda’s Suspect Packages
- DJ MK’s Blog
- DJ Soul’s Mic Check Blog
- DJ Step One – Only Built For ZShare Links…
- Doorknockers – A Hip-Hop Blog For The Ladies
- Flight 808 – International Hip-Hop
- From Da Bricks
- Hip-Hop Is Read
- Hip-Hop Lives! – Kamanchi Sly's Blog
- Hip-Hop Official’s Notorious B.L.O.G.
- Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg – Rosenberg’s World
- Ill Doctrine: A Hip-Hop Video Blog
- J-Zone's GoVillianGo.Com
- James DL's Dusty Cassettes
- Jeff Strange – The Strange Experience!
- Joell Ortiz – Life. Music. Brooklyn.
- Just Blaze’s Megatron Don
- Kam Got Beats
- Lord Nez's Neztalgic Tumblr
- Marc Mac's Hipology Blog
- Mark 563’s Run The Line
- Metal Lungies
- Mike Allen – 80s Hip-Hop Radio Tribute Site
- Monie Love's B Girl Stance
- Notes From A Different Kitchen
- Oh Word
- Press Rewind If I Haven’t… – Classic Hip-Hop Magazine Blog
- Pritt Kalsi's KingOfTheBeats.Com
- PrittKalsi.Com – The Official Website Of The Man Behind "King Of The Beats" etc.
- Pushin' Tapes – TapeMasta's Classic Mixtapes
- R.A. The Rugged Man's Official Website
- Random Rap Radio
- Seb Is Hip-Hop – Thoughts About Hip-Hop Culture And Society At Large
- Stretch Armstrong’s Konstant Kontact
- Strictly Cassette
- Tee Max – OH WAIT! You'll Like This One!
- The Hip-Hop Realm
- The Kool Skool
- The Meaning Of Dope
- The Real Eternia – Inspiration, Rants & Music From Your Favourite Rapper In A Skirt
- The Rezidue
- The Suicide Blogger – Donny Goines
- The T.R.O.Y. Blog
- Trading Tapes
- Unkut – A Tribute To Ignorance
Tag Archives: Philly Hip-Hop
Sunshine Philadelphia: The God Hour EP Stream – Charlie K
Old To The New Q&A – DJ Tat Money (Part Two)
In the second part of my interview with golden-age favourite DJ Tat Money, the Philadelphia-bred scratch mechanic talks about how he first met Steady B, his late-80s appearances at New York’s New Music Seminar and the history behind the infamous ‘transformer scratch’ – check Part One here.
When did you first meet Steady B?
“Steady already had records out when I met him. He’d put out stuff like “Take Your Radio” and “Bring The Beat Back” as singles when we first connected. Oddly enough, we connected at Funk-O-Mart, at the record store I was working at. He came to the store to meet me. A mutual friend of ours had told him about me. Like I said earlier, I would make tapes for myself and keep them at my house to listen to. But the crew that I was with, T.F.D., they would come over and be like, ‘You’ve gotta let me hold one of those tapes!’ I’d been quiet about what I was doing on the turntables and I hadn’t really been trying to show people. But they were amazed by it and I was shocked that they liked it. I was like, ‘Really? You think it’s that good?’ Well, they would take the tapes, go back home and practice off them, which was crazy to me as they started out before me (laughs). That was pretty flattering because I always thought they were pretty good and I actually learnt a few tricks from them. So Steady had heard about me through people hearing those tapes.”
Were you surprised when Steady approached you considering he’d already been recording with Grand Dragon K.D. as his deejay?
“See what happened was, Steady and K.D. had some internal issues. Lawrence Goodman, who was Steady’s uncle and manager, he basically used to run the camp. He was kinda like a Suge Knight type (laughs). Not as much brawn, but he definitely had the takeover mentality (laughs). We used to hear it all the time, like, ‘You might think you know, but I know!'” So K.D. and Lawrence bumped heads…
Was K.D. known around Philly as a deejay prior to coming out with Steady?
“Really, I didn’t know much about him. He was picked up by Steady and, like I said, they had some internal issues. Grand Dragon wanted things to go his way and Lawrence wanted them to go his way (laughs). But that was the mentality back then. It was about the deejay and the emcee. Your music didn’t have anything to do with the manager! So Grand Dragon felt like, ‘Okay, well if I’m the deejay then I’ve gotta run the crew.’ But he wasn’t given that chance and him and Lawrence bumped heads, so then it was like, ‘Okay, we’ve gotta get someone else.’ I mean, Steady and Lawrence had put the thing together originally, so I guess they felt nobody was going to tell them how things were gonna be.”
Steady must have been building some nice momentum as well with the attention that his LL Cool J diss “Take Your Radio” had got…
“To be honest, the way things came together with that was kind of on a whim actually. A guy had brought a tape to them originally and then something happened to this guy. His name was Jimmy…”
Was this Jimmy The Jawn?
“That’s him (laughs). From what I understand, he had this great idea to do a song dissin’ LL Cool J who was huge at the time. Lawrence had obviously been doing songs already with artists like Major Harris and Eddie “D” who had the song “Cold Cash $ Money” which was hot around Philly. So Jimmy The Jawn had this little vibe going and everybody was talking about him and Lawrence really wanted to make something pop off in the rap game. So Lawrence heard about this guy and Steady went to the same school as Jimmy, which was Overbrook High School. So Lawrence was looking for him to record this song and they just could not locate him. So beings that they couldn’t find him, Lawrence just decided to bring Steady in and told him to do the record instead. I mean, LL was the man at the time and the crazy thing was that Steady actually loved LL (laughs). I mean, he loved LL. But it was just a business move early on and it was really just a way to try and get into the game even though some people might have thought you were coming in on the wrong foot.”
What impact did “Take Your Radio” have locally?
“It had a nice impact in Philly because when people heard it they were like, ‘Wow! You’re going against LL?!’ Of course people are going to support their own, and that’s what they did. I mean, it wasn’t enough to put Steady on the same level as LL obviously, but it definitely made an impact. There was a little bit of a backlash, so obviously Steady had to come with some back-up records, which is when he dropped “Do The Fila”…”
That was such a great record…
“Steady originally made that record under the name MC Boob because Lawrence was afraid of legalities and whatever. But people definitely took to the record and The Fila was a big dance out here in Philly. But they were definitely worried about the legalities of using the word ‘Fila’ in the title and also the fact that they pretty much took the whole record from Joeski Love who had “Pee Wee’s Dance” out. So they were basically like, ‘Ah, let’s just put it out under a nom de plume and keep it moving.’ But locally, people were definitely feeling Steady.”
So when you came onboard Steady was already in the process of recording his debut 1986 album “Bring The Beat Back”, right?
“That’s right. When Steady came down to find me at Funk-O-Mart he didn’t ask me on the spot to be his deejay, he asked me to audition. He wanted me to audition for his manager, Lawrence Goodman. Steady was like, ‘I’ve already heard what you can do. I want you to show my manager what you can do because I need a deejay.’ So they both came to my house and I cut up Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper” for them and Steady was like, ‘See, I told you he was fresh!’ So I was like, ‘Oh you like that? Watch this…’ and I started doing some tricks and they were like, ‘Okay cool, can you come to the studio and cut up a few records?’ So that was the beginning of it all. I was on four tracks from the “Bring The Beat Back” album, which were “Nothin’ But The Bass”, “Surprise”, “Stupid Fresh” and “Hit Me”.
You entered the New Music Seminar deejay battle in 1987 – what do you remember about that?
“Here’s how it went down. Basically, the first time I entered we were recording the “What’s My Name” album, which was Steady’s second album. I mean, I’d got my feet wet doing those four tracks for the first album, but now with the second project, we were going to construct an entire album together. So we put a lot into the second album and we really felt like we’d made some great songs and I’d learned a lot about the whole recording process. Now, when we got to the end of recording that album, we got told that we were going to New York to the New Music Seminar. I was like, ‘What is that?’ I mean, I’d heard that Jazzy Jeff had won it the previous year but I didn’t really know all about it at that point. I knew that it was about having cut routines and stuff like that, but I was an artist now and all my time was being spent in the studio rather than practicing routines. I mean, I was with Steady almost every day back then, so the days of me practicing for six hours a day were over now that I was spending ten hours a day in the studio. So anyway, we go up to the Seminar and I cut up a couple of records in the deejay battle, still not really knowing what it was about, and I got taken out in the preliminaries by Mr. Mixx from the 2 Live Crew. He was up there cutting up Run-DMC’s “Hard Times” and I was just like, ‘Wow! I’m not prepared for this.’ We’d just finished putting “What’s My Name” together and I had no kind of routines (laughs). But the next year I went back and I was prepared for it because now I knew what it was all about.”
So the second time you actually went with the intention of winning the deejay battle?
“The second time I went in 1988, I had routines now. I understood what the whole Seminar thing was about so I made sure I was prepared the second time. I was a little bit nervous because of getting taken out that first year, but I’d practiced so much that I was also confident. Now, the thing to remember is that the year before I first went to the New Music Seminar, Jazzy Jeff had won the deejay battle. The first year I actually went and got knocked out, Cash Money had won the battle. Now, this second year I went there, you had Jazzy Jeff and Lady B on the judges panel and they were the only two judges from Philly, everyone else was from New York. Red Alert was on there, Mixmaster Ice and a bunch of different people from New York. So I get up there and I thought I did okay during my first two rounds. Even though I won the rounds, I thought I’d just done alright, but it definitely built my confidence up. I mean, I remember they had a huge mixer which obviously I’d never practiced on before and it really tested your talent to be able to perform your routines on equipment you weren’t really familiar with. I remember I beat Vandy C. in one of the early rounds and he was complaining about it. I can hear him now walking around saying to everyone, ‘Man, I can’t believe it!’ I remember Jazzy Jay was there and he was hyping me up after those early rounds, telling me how I was going to win the competition. Now, the third routine I did was my “Rock The Bells” routine. I’d been practicing over Cash Money’s house and he’d done something while we were over there which I borrowed for the routine, which was the ‘record-stop’. So it was like, ‘Rock the burrr…’, ‘Rock the burrr…’ and nobody had ever seen that before. The crowd went wild and I won another round.”
You must have been feeling pretty good at that point?
“Yeah, I’m climbing my way up. So I’m in the semi-finals now. At this point, they told Jazzy Jeff and Lady B that they didn’t need them on the panel anymore. Which I thought was really weird. So they took them both off the panel and you could tell there was some shady stuff going on. So anyway, I went up against this guy from Holland called All Star Fresh. I get up there and did this crazy routine with this wool-cap on my head like you wear in the winter with a ball on the end of it. It was blazing hot, I had on shorts and everything with this winter hat on my head and people were looking at me like, ‘What the hell is he doing?’ So I get up there and start cutting up Public Enemy, ‘Bass! How low can you go?’, Bass! How low can you go?’ and as I’m cutting I pulled the hat down over my eyes, spun around and the crowd just blew-up (laughs). I mean these were early tricks, but people were still excited to see them. So the crowd went crazy for that. Then All Star Fresh gets up there and basically did Cash Money’s routine from the previous year, cutting up Run-DMC, ‘Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good…’ That was really it. Then I went back up and did another trick using “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” and I really did some crazy cuts. Then All Star Fresh comes back and he did a blend, mixing Rob Base’s “It Takes Two” with a Roxanne Shante record or something. Next thing I know, they said he won and I was out of my mind! I was just sat there like, ‘You’ve gotta be f**kin’ kidding me?'”
How did the crowd respond to that?
“Man, let me tell you how it happened. The announcers for the New Music Seminar that year were Daddy-O, Flavor Flav and Biz Markie. What they would do, they would have the deejays go on and then whilst they were tallying up the votes the emcees would go on and then afterwards they’d tell you who won that particular round of the deejay competition. So, Biz was like, ‘Do we have the results for the deejay battle?’ He got the results, turned around, looked at me, then said ‘We have the result…and it’s real f**ked-up.’ He said the second part kinda under his breath (laughs). Then he said, ‘The winner is All Star Fresh…’ and he said it really fast (laughs). The crowd were just silent. There was like a sea of people in there and it was quiet for about five seconds. There wasn’t a sound. Then all you heard after that were just monstrous boos coming from everywhere (laughs). Then this chant started, ‘Tat! Tat! Tat!’ The person who started the chant was Jon Shecter from The Source. He’d done an interview with me years ago, before he even did B.M.O.C. I saw him in the crowd and he was the one who started the chant. But after that day, I got my respect in New York and I was happy. But the final that year was All Star Fresh and DJ Scratch and, of course, Scratch beat him. But I think it came down to the fact that Philly deejays had won for the previous two years and they felt it had to go to a New York deejay that year so they wouldn’t let me get through to the final.”
Philly deejays were really setting the standards back then though…
“Yeah, definitely. I mean, Miz was in that Seminar as well but he got knocked out because of that big mixer I mentioned. He tried to get up on the turntables, put his knee up there, he hit the wrong button and all hell broke loose (laughs). It just didn’t work for him that year. He actually battled DJ Scratch during the rounds. But from what everyone was saying afterwards, the final should have either been me and Miz, or me and Scratch. After the announcement was made, I walked over to the judges and I was so angry. I just waved my hand, like, ‘Whatever! You know who won that round!’ I walked away and Red Alert stopped me and was like, ‘Yo! You won that, man!’ He wasn’t afraid to say what was real. I was about to get real frustrated and start saying some stuff, but then I saw this camera in my face and it was Ice-T’s video camera. He recorded the whole thing. From what I remember, there was only two people with video cameras in that place and that was Ice-T and Hurby Luv Bug. So I saw the camera in my face and I paused because I was thinking I’m an artist on Jive Records now and I’ve got to be careful about my public persona because I was being introduced as ‘Jive Records’ own DJ Tat Money..’ and I didn’t want to do or say anything that might have damaged my career back then (laughs). But that was my experience of the New Music Seminar.”
On the subject of the influence of Philly deejays, let’s talk about the ‘transformer scratch’ for a moment. Many people consider DJ Spinbad to be the person who invented it, Cash Money to be the person who named it and Jazzy Jeff to be the person who first came out with it on record. Agree or disagree?
“Everything you said is true, except for the last part. Jeff was the first person to put it on a record with the name attached to it. The first transforming on record was actually on Steady B’s “Bring The Beat Back” and that was done by Grand Dragon K.D.. He was transforming on that record back then, it’s just that people outside of Philly didn’t know what it was called at that point. But the transformer scratch was already poppin’ in the streets. Now, when Spinbad first did it, he was doing it using the ‘It’s time…’ part from Hashim’s ‘”Al-Naafiysh”. I think he did that scratch for the first time in public at the Wynn Ballroom and everyone was like, ‘Whaaaat?!’ Then the tape of that party went around the streets and people were going crazy when they heard it. This was around 1985. Like I said earlier, there was huge competition in Philly as far as being a deejay was concerned, and if you couldn’t do all the different types of scratches then you really weren’t worth anything to anybody. You had to earn your stripes. Plus, deejays from different areas cut a little differently to one another. Now, when the transformer scratch came out, Spinbad came from the Mount Airy / Germantown area which is North Philly. So he cut a little differently then guys like us from West Philly. So, when he first did his interpretation of what became known as the transformer scratch at the Wynn Ballroom, spinning it back so it made that particular sound, Cash Money heard it and decided to speed it up. Then Cash did his version of it at a party, but he actually named it. His emcee at the time was Kool Breeze Steve and he got up there like, ‘Cash Money watches “Transformers” everyday at four-o-clock and this is what he learned…’ Cash gets on the turntables and does the scratch, but he’d sped it up and really made it into something special. Then the tape of that party got around and now you had all these different deejays in Philly hearing it and trying to do it, which is how Grand Dragon K.D. then ended up doing it on “Bring The Beat Back” and then Jazzy Jeff did it and actually used the name ‘transformer scratch’ on record a little afterwards with “The Magnificent…”.
Check Part Three of this interview here.
Steady B – “Bring The Beat Back” (Pop Art Records / 1986)
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews, Old-School Hip-Hop
Tagged Bring The Beat Back, DJ Cash Money, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Miz, DJ Scratch, DJ Spinbad, DJ Tat Money, East Coast Hip-Hop, Grand Dragon K.D., Independent Hip-Hop, Jimmy The Jawn, Lawrence Goodman, LL Cool J, New Music Seminar, Old-School Hip-Hop, Philly Hip-Hop, Pop Art Records, Steady B, Transformer Scratch, Underground Hip-Hop
Old To The New Q&A – DJ Tat Money (Part One)
A product of Philadelphia’s diverse Hip-Hop scene of the 1980s, turntable maestro Tat Money made his name as a local deejay before going on to achieve worldwide acclaim alongside fellow Illadelph resident Steady B, contributing both cuts and production to classic albums from the Philly emcee, including 1986’s “Bring The Beat Back” and its 1987 follow-up “What’s My Name” (which featured Tat’s timeless solo track “Rockin’ Music”).
An integral part of the infamous Hilltop Hustlers collective, which also counted Cool C and Three Times Dope as members, Tat Money stood alongside the likes of Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money and DJ Miz as yet another highly-skilled example of Philadelphia’s notoriously competitive deejay community.
With his contributions to Hip-Hop’s golden-age still remembered by many today, Tat has never stepped away from the turntables, currently performing alongside Special Ed, Chubb Rock, Kwame, Dana Dane and Monie Love as part of true-school crew The Alumni.
In the first part of this interview, the Philly legend discusses his early determination to master the craft of turntablism, famous family music connections and being introduced to a young Will Smith.
Were you already listening to a lot of music as a kid before you were introduced to Hip-Hop?
“Well, basically, the way my whole situation evolved I would have to say was through my parents, man. My parents used to have these parties at the house, like family gatherings, and they were really into that. Now, my pops is from Jamaica and my mother is from America. So I have a heavy influence as far as reggae goes. I mean, my dad had Bob Marley eight-track tapes (laughs). Back in the 70s I used to play those in the car. Now, at all these parties, I would act as the deejay, putting on all these old-school records like James Brown and Funkadelic. I would put on all these records and then go out and dance to them with my cousin. I’d get all those 45s, stack them up on the turntable, like ten of them, and then they’d play one after the other in the sequence that I wanted them to play in. It was just such a fun time back then. So that’s what actually sparked me to want to deejay…”
Just seeing the reaction that the music was getting from people?
“Yeah, it just really got me. Now, I got re-introduced to it by chance when I was around ten-years-old. A friend of mine lived around my cousin’s area as well and I was dating his sister as a young kid. So I walked in his house looking for her, we go into the basement area and her brother, who was like two years older than me, he was like, ‘Come here for a second.’ He’s playing songs and I’m like ‘What’s he doing?’ Now, this was around 1979 / 1980 and the two records he had on his turntables were Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “Superappin'” and Jimmy Spicer’s “Adventures Of Super Rhyme”. Those were the first two records I touched as far as Hip-Hop goes and that was my first awareness of the music. I’m listening to the guys on the records rapping and it was literally blowing my mind. I was like, ‘This is incredible!’ But this guy had the BSR turntables and I can’t even remember what mixer he had. Everything was brown and really old-school (laughs). But it was still two turntables and a mixer and I got on there and started playing around. I’ll never forget that moment. Then not long after that the trend started picking up and there were little deejay crews around my area. Actually, I should say in the city because originally we lived in the city and then we moved to the suburbs. But I would be in the city mostly every weekend and I’d see the guys I grew-up with and went to school with starting deejay crews….
What were some of those crews called?
“There was one called the Funk Boys who used to be around my old area and then there was one called T.F.D., which stood for Treacherous Funk Disco. They lived one street away from my old house in West Philly in an area called Wynnefield. Now, the Funk Boys were from 58th Street, which was around where Will Smith is from. Will lived about four or five blocks away from where I lived. But T.F.D. were only about a block away from where I lived, so obviously they were closer. I knew them, they knew me, so I basically started practicing with those guys. Seeing all these deejay crews popping up I knew it was what I wanted to do. So I’d go over to the basement that T.F.D. would use and they already had their whole set-up in there already. I didn’t have any turntables or nothing, but I wanted them so badly.”
Were T.F.D. playing a mix of music at that time or straight Hip-Hop-inspired sets with break-beats etc?
“They were playing more Hip-Hop and R&B. You’d hear all the stuff that was influencing the rap songs of the time. So you’d hear “Heartbeat” by Tanya Gardner and then you’d hear the Treacherous Three’s “Feel The Heartbeat” which had obviously used that. You’d hear all the party songs by people like Teena Marie and Earth, Wind & Fire with some Hip-Hop mixed in there. I mean, at that time, there wasn’t a slew of Hip-Hop records that had come out or that were popular. So you only had a few here and there. So the crews had to mix it up and throw in stuff from Parliament, Earth, Wind & Fire and the songs that would get people up. But just being around those T.F.D. guys really helped me a lot. I mean, I was already into the music but I learned a lot more about actually putting records together. Then slowly but surely I brought a turntable, I brought a mixer and then I brought another turntable and started practicing some more. Then I started sneaking into parties (laughs). I was under-age at the time but I learned how to get in…”
Were these local house parties or events at actual venues?
“We were doing house party stuff but then there’d be an event every now and that would be at a local hall or something and I would sneak in. I was like fifteen-years-old at the time and you needed to be a little older to be able to get in. So I would just talk my way in at the door and I learned how to do that (laughs). Those were fun times.”
What was your first actual turntable set-up?
“I had a Technics SL-B101 which was a curve-arm turntable and an SL-B20 which was a straight-arm turntable. Then I had a big ol’ Gemini mixer that was huge and brown (laughs). I didn’t know any better at the time, but I heard that it had a great crossfader. That crossfader slid so easy like you’d poured grease down into it. I mean, you could blow it across (laughs). So what happened was, I really started to excel. I mean, I’m the type of person that when I get into something, I really throw myself into it and want to do everything I can to really master something. It’s just about proving to myself that I can do something.”
How much time would you spend practicing back then?
“At least six hours a day. As soon as I came home from school, I’d walk through the door, drop my books and go straight to my room to practice. I’d deejay from about 2:30pm until say 7pm, then I’d go eat dinner, then I’d go back and deejay some more. So I was definitely practicing for at least six hours a day. I used to have that Malcolm McLaren & World Famous Supreme Team record cover with the Technics 1200s on it up in front of me when I used to practice as inspiration (laughs).”
How much awareness did you have at that time of what else was happening across Philly as far as the city’s Hip-Hop scene was concerned?
“At that time it was very young. A lot of the songs that were coming out were made in New York obviously, but some of them were being made in Philly unbeknownst to us because there were different labels that people were coming out on and different studios that people liked to use. I knew nothing about the music industry at all so all I could do was read the labels that were on these records and try to understand from that what was going on. Not living in New York and being a young kid, I really didn’t know a lot about what was actually happening in the industry itself. But then I’d hear different things because I had an uncle who was in the music industry before me. His name was Frank Alstin and he was a singer and guitar player. Actually the first record I ever made was with him, we did a record called “Super Lover” on the label WMOT and my rapper at the time was on there as well, Meka. We did that song in 1985 and I was scratching on that record, cutting up ‘F-f-f-fresh’ which was popular at the time (laughs). So my uncle was the person who first took me to a studio which really introduced me to how things worked from that standpoint. So I had the love of music already from being a deejay and now I was going to the studio with him and he had already actually made records. He actually co-wrote “Who Can I Run To” by The Jones Girls. I can still remember the day he brought that record home when I was over at my grandmother’s house, which is where he was living at the time. He was so excited but the record didn’t really take off even though we all thought it was going to work. But then years later, Xscape covered it and I remember him calling me to tell me that he’d been asked for clearance to use the record. So I was telling him, ‘They’re a platinum selling group. You’re about to really get it…’ and sure enough the cheques started rolling in. But then sadly not long after that he died. That’s such a crazy story.”
So your uncle really introduced you to the business side of making music back then…
“He really gave me a lot of insight into the music business. I remember him introducing me to people like McFadden & Whitehead, Teddy Pendergrass who used to stay at his place sometimes to write songs. I just missed meeting the Jackson 5 when they were recording in Philly which would have been ridiculous back then. I remember my uncle was taking me to the studio as a surprise and we stopped off at a deli and bumped into McFadden & Whitehead. We were right by Sigma Studios and, although I didn’t know it, the Jackson 5 were in there working with Gamble & Huff. I remember, my uncle was having a conversation with Whitehead and they were talking real low so I couldn’t hear them even though I actually could. So my uncle was saying how we were going to the studio and I heard Whitehead say, ‘You’ve just missed the Jacksons, they’ve just left.’ I was sitting there like, ‘Arrrghhh’ (laughs).”
Where were you hoping your passion for deejay-ing was going to lead to back then?
“I always knew that I could do something with it, but exactly what I didn’t know. I wanted to be in the game real bad and I felt like I was so close to it that I could almost reach out and touch it. So it was frustrating in a sense even though I always felt like I could make it happen. So to make it happen, I got my myself a job in a local record store because I’d read that Mantronik had used to work in a record store when he was trying to get into the game. So I got myself a job at the best record store in town, which was Funk-O-Mart downtown. I went down there two times and brought a ton of records. It must have been about a hundred and fifty dollars worth of records. It was a whole lot of records. I could barely even carry them home (laughs). The second time I went in there the owner saw me and was like, ‘You know a lot about records. Do you want a job?’ and I said ‘Yes!’ It happened just like that which was exactly what I wanted to happen. So I started working there every day.”
That must have been a dream job?
“Yeah. I mean, I was running into a lot of like-minded people and different artists. I saw DMC there one time when the Fresh Fest came through Philly. Run didn’t make it down, which at the time I was disappointed by because I didn’t realise the power of DMC at that point. I mean, the whole group were incredible to me but Run was my man! But then overtime it actually shifted to DMC when I realised how he was just so chill with it (laughs). I bumped into Grandmaster Dee from Whodini who came down to the store and I remember him telling me about Rakim before Rakim was even popular. So I really put myself in the middle of it all working in that store. Before the internet, social networking and everything else you really had to keep your ear to the street to keep up with everything and by working at Funk-O-Mart I was really in the trenches and could see exactly what was selling, what people were asking for and what was happening on the street. I remember people would come in with tapes and play me songs they’d heard on the radio asking if we had it in the store and if we didn’t then I’d order it because overtime I was in put in charge of that side of things because I always knew what was going on. Working in Funk-O-Mart was major because I was able to learn so much more about different genres of music from soul and jazz to salsa and reggae, plus different artists like Bob James. I’d listen to all this different stuff and there were these Spanish cats who worked there who really put me up on all the different merengues etc. I even learnt how to speak Spanish from working there with them (laughs).”
So were you still just practicing your deejay skills in your bedroom at this point or where you performing in public?
“To answer your question, yes I was still a bedroom deejay at that point and I was practicing heavy, heavy, heavy. I would do a tape every now and then at that time, but I really didn’t feel that I wanted to let my talent out at that point because I still didn’t really know that I even had a talent. So I didn’t want to really showcase it in anyway and then have people say, ‘Well, you messed up there’ and things like that (laughs). So I wouldn’t really make a lot of tapes. I would just make a few for myself to listen to. Now, in Philly at that time, the way that people gauged whether you were a good deejay or not was how well you could cut up a few different records. One record was “Dance To The Drummer’s Beat”, another record was Hashim’s “Al-Naafiysh”, another was “Superappin'” and also “Good Times” by Chic. Now, if you could cut those records up and you could do it well, then you were considered a great deejay.”
So those records were some of the early staples of the Philly Hip-Hop deejay scene…
“Oh yeah, oh yeah. If you could chop those records up well, particularly the faster ones like “Dance To The Drummer’s Beat”, if you could really catch those records then people would validate you and start telling everyone else that you were a good deejay. So you always practiced with those records. Then you’d go back to the slower records like Masterdon Committee’s “Funkbox Party (Live)”. But those faster records, they were the true test of your talent. Plus, back then, if you made a mistake, there was no Serato or anything to cover your back. If your needle skipped people were going to hear it, so that was a big part of how people decided how good you were back then as well; how fast you could catch the record without the needle skipping (laughs). I mean, if people thought you could cut those records well, you would get booked for gigs off of that. Now, once people gave you that title of being a good deejay you wanted to keep that title, so that was why I was really careful about letting people hear what I was doing while I was practicing.”
Were you aware of other Hip-Hop deejays in Philly at that time?
“Yes I was. I mean, we had guys like Grandmaster Nell who was one of the big pioneers in Philly. He’s actually where Jazzy Jeff got a lot of his smoothness from as a deejay because Jeff was definitely watching what Nell was doing back then. Jeff was in a crew called the Network Crew and I used to hear about those guys. Now, this was around the time when Cash Money and I first became friends, although he wasn’t called Cash Money back then, he used to be called Lite Brite.”
So this is around the early-80s?
“Yeah, definitely around 83 / 84 because I was still in high-school at that point. I used to hear that Jazzy Jeff was the best deejay in Philly and then I’d hear his tapes and be like, ‘Man, is this all it takes to be the best?!’ I’m not downplaying what he was doing at the time, it was just that back then I felt I could do what he was doing as well. So it was just that spirit of competition. Now, remember, back then I still couldn’t get into a lot of the hotel events that they used to have where you needed to be over twenty-one to get in. Jeff and Cash are both four or five years older than me, so they were ahead of me at that time and had already been out there doing it. So I was just shooting for being great at what I did so I could be recognized. I actually partnered up with Jeff in the beginning and that’s actually how I got on and learnt who the different promoters were because Jeff was doing all these different parties at the time.”
Was he already rolling with the Fresh Prince at that point?
“Jeff was on his own at that time. Actually, I was at Jeff’s place when the Fresh Prince came over to his house for the very first time. I was in Jeff’s basement when he first came there. It’s probably something that neither one of them remember now, but we were all in the basement at Jeff’s mother’s house. Jeff was telling me that this emcee was coming over and he was like, ‘This guy’s so good! He’s dope!’ So Jeff is building it up and I’m hyped to see who this person is and then Will comes walking down the steps and I’m like, ‘You’re talking about this dude right here?’ I knew who he was because Will was from Wynnefield and was just around the corner from my parents’ house. I didn’t know him, but I knew of him. I’d actually seen Will in a battle prior to that and the battle hadn’t really gone in his favour because the dudes he was going up against were pretty hardcore (laughs).”
Who was the battle with?
“Well, the Fresh Prince was rolling with a crew called the Hypnotic Crew and the name of the crew they went up against was the Poison Clan. It was a tough battle, man. It was at this place called the Wynn Ballroom which was on the corner of my grandmother’s block and I remember not many people were there at the time because it was a day-time battle. But I got in there and my man Eric from Poison Clan was killing it. He was going at the Fresh Prince so hard, saying that he got his name from a fa**ot R&B artist and stuff like that. But he said it in a freestyle rhyme and the people there went crazy. Will had these parachute pants on and these boots and Eric started going at him about those as well, saying that he didn’t know if he was going to fly away and things like that (laughs). But that was a tough battle for Will and that’s why I remembered the name Fresh Prince. So when he came down the stairs into the basement, I was on Jeff’s turntables because I used to go over there to practice. I look up and I’m like, ‘Oh my god! This is the guy from the Wynn Ballroom. This is that Fresh Prince guy.’ So Will comes down the stairs, like ‘Oh my god! I’m over Jazzy Jeffrey’s house! My god!’ He’s all jolly and he had a Polo shirt on and I was like, ‘Polo? I can’t afford Polo! What kind of rich kid is this?!’ (Laughs). But we started talking and we’ve been friends ever since that day. We were always really cool. It was Will and Steady B that had the problem.”
Check Part Two of this interview here.
DJ Tat Money cuttin’ up LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells”.
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews, Old-School Hip-Hop
Tagged 80s Hip-Hop, DJ Cash Money, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, DJ Tat Money, East Coast Hip-Hop, Frank Alstin, Fresh Fest, Funk-O-Mart, Grandmaster Nell, Hilltop Hustlers, Hypnotic Crew, Jive Records, Network Crew, Old-School Hip-Hop, Philadelphia Hip-Hop, Philly Hip-Hop, Pop Art Records, Run DMC, Steady B, T.F.D., The Funk Boys, Treacherous Funk Disco, Whodini, Will Smith, Wynn Ballroom, Wynnfield
Old To The New Q&A – DJ Woody Wood / Three Times Dope (Part Three)
In the final part of this interview with Philadelphia’s DJ Woody Wood, the man behind the turntables for golden-era favourites Three Times Dope talks about splitting with the Hilltop Hustlers crew, recording the group’s 1990 sophomore album “Live From Acknickulous Land” and touring across the US – check Part One and Part Two.
Was that a difficult time for you when things started to go wrong with Lawrence Goodman’s label and you had Steady B and Cool C both dissing the group?
“Well, I can only speak for myself. But yeah, it was difficult for me because although I hadn’t grown-up with those dudes we’d definitely come up together in the music thing. So, for like two or three years, we’d all been working together in some type of way. Then all of sudden all of that happened and it felt foreign to me. I was like, ‘What do I do here?’ I felt that my relationship with Lawrence was strong and I trusted him in a lot of ways, so that situation was definitely difficult for me. As a group it was also difficult because we didn’t have a manager for awhile. That first album “Original Stylin'” sold around 420,000 copies on the Arista side with just two videos. That’s why I never understood why Lawrence split it up the way he did with the other label over in the UK. It might have made financial sense to him at the time, but to me, that could have been a gold album.”
How much of a negative impact do you think it had on the Philly Hip-Hop scene when the Hilltop situation fell-apart in terms of the label and crew being a possible outlet for other upcoming artists?
“To be honest with you, I never even looked at it that deep back then. My thing was, we didn’t have no money. Before that first album came out we were doing a lot of shows but not really making any money. But when we got out of that deal with Lawrence we owned our publishing which was important for us. Our royalties and everything came directly to us and we were also able to do a lot of shows. Every weekend we were on the road doing shows after we got out of that deal. We signed to a booking agent and just did a lot of travelling. But to answer your question, in terms of the Philly scene, I think we did a lot to rep Philly on MTV, BET and places like that where we would talk about where we came from. That I think helped other artists coming out of Philly. And it wasn’t just us doing that. Schoolly D, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Cash Money & Marvelous, we were all talking about Philly and showing people that the city had a rich diversity of Hip-Hop so that hopefully they’d give other artists coming up a chance as well.”
How did the group cope without having any official management for that time?
“It was tough for us. From the “Greatest Man Alive” single (released in 1988) through to “Funky Dividends” (released in 1989) we didn’t have a manager. There was a lot of stuff during that time that we had to deal with that a manager would have been able to help us with. That probably hurt our record sales somewhat and also our development as artists because when you have all this different business stuff coming at you it’s difficult to know what you’re doing unless someone explains it to you. So that time was hard for us.”
Did it put pressure on whether the group would stay together?
“Nah, it was never a problem with the group continiung. We all knew that we wanted the group to continue at that time, we just didn’t have a manager. So we were doing a lot of things ourselves at that point and working it out with the label.”
So how did the group approach the second album, 1990’s “Live From Acknickulous Land”?
“I mean, we were trying to work out what we were going to do. Were we going to diss Steady? Were we going to diss Cool C? Or were we going to stay away from that? I mean, we were going on big arena tours with artists like Public Enemy, N.W.A., Heavy D, the MC Hammer tour, and people were screaming at us to diss them (laughs). But we decided we really wanted to steer clear of that. I mean, I never got a chance to really speak to them about what happened so, personally, I don’t think they really knew at the time what was going on with our situation. So at that point we just wanted to work, get out there, make money and continue to show people who we were and prove that we were a good group coming out of Philly. That was really what we were trying to focus on.”
There were definitely some more radio-friendly tracks with the second album like “Mellow But Smooth” and the remix of “Weak At The Knees” which leant towards the New Jack Swing sound of the time – was that down to pressure from Arista?
“I have to say that it was partly down to everybody. It was partly us, partly the label, and partly looking at some of the groups who were out at that time in the late-80s / early 90s. I don’t want to blame it all on the label or anything because we definitely had a say in that. But at the time, I think our mentality was that we had to do things a certain way and we did it. There were things on that album we could have done differently and it would have probably been better, but you live and you learn.”
So where was Acknickulous Land exactly?
“Acknickulous meant something was better than dope. That word was something that EST and Larry Larr came up with and I give them much respect for being creative like that. So when you heard the title “Live From Acknickulous Land”, Acknickulous Land for us was a place to go to that was different and where everything was dope (laughs).”
You also had some involvement in Larry Larr’s 1991 album “Da Wizzard Of Odds”…
“Chuck did a lot of his production and I cut on some of his songs, but Larry had his own deejay. He was a very creative artist though. Larry was from right next to us at Hunting Park in a place called Logan which they used to call Logan’s Alley. Again, everyone outside of Southwest and West Philly probably had the hardest time coming up, and I believe Chuck enabled Larry to come out by being involved with his production and getting him signed. Larry was a few years younger than me but I knew him through his relationship with EST.”
Did you notice a big difference being signed directly to Arista in terms of how the second album was promoted?
“Well, Arista really spent a lot of money on setting that second album up which at the time was unheard of to me. They set a promotional tour up that went through Los Angeles, Texas, Atlanta, D.C. and other places. But they were very smart and they took us to Boys & Girls Clubs in those areas to talk to the kids so that we could open up and they’d really be able to see who we were as people. So they got to see a side of us beyond just being recording artists, they also got to see that we cared about what was going on in the communities. We’d actually just lost a good friend of ours Terence, who was Larry Larr’s deejay at the time. I wasn’t on the corner when this happened, but Chuck was out there with a bunch of people and someone had come and held the corner up and shot Terence at the same time. Tee ran about a block to the top of my block and that’s where he died. So what we did, we were going to these places and talking to these kids about violence and things that were going on in the community, like peer pressure, teenage pregnancy and things like that. But the record label was smart because at the same time they were working with a booking agent who was getting us shows at different venues everywhere we went.”
Did you experience any regional resistance when you were visiting these different places?
“Nah, but I think that had a lot to do with our approach. I mean, we would set the turntables up in the gym, there’d be about two or three hundred kids there, we’d talk to them, I’d deejay a little, we’d perform, we’d play basketball with these kids, so it really gave them the opportunity to see that we were just regular people. We were spending a week at a time in some cities so it really gave us a chance to explore and see what was going on in places like Compton. It really was a learning experience.”
Are there any memories of meeting particular artists while you were travelling that still stand-out to you?
“Yeah, I remember Dr. Dre telling us that he wanted us on the N.W.A. tour because he wanted people to know that there were other artists outside of New York who were good. That really stood-out to me. Meeting Too Short was another moment that stood-out. Now, in Philly, Too Short didn’t really get a lot of respect as an artist, but when I saw him perform I was like, ‘Yo! These people love Too Short.’ I was shocked (laughs). He’d come out onstage like, ‘My name is Too Short…’ and the crowd would go crazy. He was like God to people in the Midwest and down South. That was amazing to me (laughs). I mean, we did shows with MC Lyte, Cash Money & Marvelous, Slick Rick. I liked being on shows with singers because that gave you a chance to be exposed to a different audience, like when we were on the Guy tour with Heavy D. I remember there was one show we did on that tour when we were in Chicago and we got our records off the bus and they’d melted or something and they were warped. Now, back then, we were working off turntables in our shows and we would perform using the instrumental version of the records and I would cut. Now, this record was so warped that it just wouldn’t play, so we were like, ‘Chuck, you’ve got to load up “Greatest Man Alive” on the drum machine.’ So Chuck had to play that live (laughs). We just had so much fun back then.”
So what happened after the second album had run its course?
“We were recording a third album. I thought the third album was good because it was more like the first album. But what happened around that time was the record business started changing and Black music divisions at labels were being phased out. So it was a transitional period for music and we were trying to figure out how we were going to carry on when the people who originally signed us weren’t at the label anymore. So after that album was actually done I remember Arista did a big ad on us in the The Source around 1993, where one page was Chuck, the second page was me and the third page was EST. So I’m thinking, ‘Great, we’re about to come out.’ Then all of a sudden we just got put on hold. I couldn’t understand it. We just sat there waiting and that third album never materialised.”
Was any of the material from that third album on the “Sequel” project which came out some years later?
“Nah, that was something that EST and Chuck did after we split as a group. The third album that never came out was called “Major Flavas” and really was a return to the sound of the first album. We had “Da Giddy Up 2″ on there, Larry Larr was on the album, Kwame, another emcee from Philly called D-Born was on that album. It was a good record.”
Does anyone have that now?
“It’s sitting in a label vault somewhere.”
What prompted you to step away from the group?
“It was the thing where we reached a point where we had a chance to mutually do other things. I think it was around 1994 when Arista finally let us go and at that point I think EST and Chuck connected with other people and were able to do other things. That’s something you’d need to ask them but even to this day I don’t have anything against those guys.”
What were your thoughts on the Steady B / Cool C bank robbery incident in 1996?
“I was shocked when I heard what had happened. I mean, those guys were just regular dudes, man. They weren’t bad dudes. I was sad to see that go down and there was nothing I could really do to help at that point. I mean, once I heard the names being mentioned on the news I knew straight away who it was, although a lot of people didn’t realise straight away because they used their real names and didn’t mention their recording names. I was like, ‘That’s Steady B they’re talking about’ and my friend I was with at the time was like, ‘Naaaah!’ But I knew who it was. Even though we’d been through our stuff in the past I didn’t have any anger for anyone, so it was just a really sad situation to see.”
Looking back who would you say are some of your favourite Philly artists?
“I’ve gotta say Schoolly D because I loved “Saturday Night”. Steady B for “Bring The Beat Back” because I used to cut that song all the time and even to this day if I make a mix of music from that era I have to include a Steady B song. You’ve gotta love Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for what they did with songs like “Summertime” and I’d also have to say MC Breeze because without Breeze I wouldn’t have had a chance because he really helped open the doors for Philly artists. I loved Tuff Crew’s “My Part Of Town”. I mean, those songs are classics and they bring back so many memories for me.”
So, finally, what would you like Three Times Dope to be remembered for as a group?
“I’d like people to remember us for our creativity and what we contributed to Hip-Hop in Philly. Everything we achieved was great to me, getting signed and being able to put our music out. I was a part of history and I’ll always be glad about that.”
Follow DJ Woody Wood on Twitter (@DJWood3XD) and Instagram (DJWoodyWood3XD).
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews, Old-School Hip-Hop
Tagged 3-D, 3XDope, 80s Hip-Hop, 90s Hip-Hop, Arista Records, Chuck Nice, Cool C, Da Wizzard Of Odds, DJ Woody Wood, East Coast Hip-Hop, EST, Hilltop Hustlers, Independent Hip-Hop, Larry Larr, Live From Acknickulous Land, Original Stylin', Philly Hip-Hop, Pop Art Records, Steady B, Three Times Dope, Underground Hip-Hop
Old To The New Q&A – DJ Woody Wood / Three Times Dope (Part One)
Bursting out of the rich Hip-Hop scene of Philadelphia in the late-80s, Three Times Dope (originally known as 3-D) made their name as part of the infamous Hilltop Hustlers collective alongside fellow local artists Steady B and Cool C.
Initially signed by Lawrence Goodman of Pop Art Records fame (and Steady B’s uncle), the trio of EST (emcee), Chuck Nice (producer) and Woody Wood (deejay) quickly gained themselves a dedicated fanbase following the release of early cuts such as “Crushin’ & Bussin'” and “From Da Giddy Up”.
A falling-out with label-head and manager Goodman around the time the group dropped their impressive debut 1988 album “Original Stylin'” found Three Times Dope being dissed by their former musical allies as they began recording 1990’s sophomore effort “Live From Acknickulous Land”.
The threesome finally went their separate ways in the mid-90s, but not without having left an indelible mark on the landscape of East Coast Hip-Hop and beyond.
In this three-part interview, DJ Woody Wood talks about his early recollections of Hip-Hop in Philly, being part of the Hilltop Hustlers and touring with the likes of N.W.A and Too Short.
So how did you first become involved in the Philly Hip-Hop scene?
“When I was coming up in high-school I got involved in music by trying to listen to these tapes that would be passed around. At that time in Philly we had a number of really big deejays who would throw block parties like Cosmic Kev, DJ Thorpe, people like that. There was Parry P who was an emcee. I wanted to be like those dudes. They had cliques and groups like the Black Knights Of Funk and Cosmic Kev was from the Grandmasters Of Funk. So I would get these tapes of these guys, listen to them and want to be them (laughs). So I asked my mom if she could get me some turntables and then I started playing records, listening to what all these other guys were doing, and really just trying to be like them. So that’s really how I first got involved in the Philly music scene.”
What sort of music were you hearing on those tapes at that time?
“Back then everything was breakbeats. So they would play stuff like Brothers Johnson and then when it got to the break part just play that over and over. Then that’s when the emcees would start rapping and I’m listening to this like, ‘Damn! What is this?!’ That’s back when the deejay was still the frontman and the emcee was the hypeman for the deejay. So you’d hear these breakbeats like “Dance To The Drummer’s Beat” and also some of the records that were out at the time from, like, the Treacherous Three. The deejays would play the breaks and then mix it into some of the records that were out at the time.”
Were you actually going to the parties at this point or just listening to the tapes?
“Nah, I was still too young to go to the parties in the beginning. I was about thirteen-years-old at that time so I wasn’t allowed to go to stuff like that. I could hear it on the tapes but I couldn’t see it until some of those deejays would come around my way. Now, I lived in Hunting Park, which is North Philly. So sometimes they used to come around the way, Disco Red, Cosmic Kev, Grandmasters Of Funk, Sex Machine, they would come out with these big giant speakers and it would be loud! You could hear it from up the block and the music would just draw you in. I would go out and just stand there and watch those dudes. I’d be right there in front of the turntables. So that was really how I learnt to deejay, I would just watch those dudes.”
So what were your first turntables like?
“Man, my mom brought me some belt-driven turntables when I was in the eighth grade. She gave me two turntables, a mixer and a stereo set-up with two speakers. I got on those two belt-driven turntables and I just used to play the hell out of the two records that I had (laughs). So I was just watching these other deejays and listening to what they were doing and eventually it got to the stage where I though ‘I can do this.’ Back then people like Cosmic Kev were huge and they had such a big following. This had to be around 1983. Eventually I started doing parties in my neighbourhood and I started to get a reputation as being a deejay in Hunting Park.”
Were these parties you were putting on yourself or as part of a crew?
“Nah, they weren’t my parties. These were house parties that people would have and sometimes they’d charge like a dollar to come in. They’d be jam-packed with people from the neighbourhood. So I wasn’t part of a crew at this point, I would just do parties for people. There were about two or three deejays in the neighbourhood and that’s actually how I met Chuck Nice initially because back in the very beginning he was also a deejay before he got into the production. We used to call him Grandmaster Blend back then (laughs). He used to blend the hell out of two records. So we used to throw parties like that and I was in demand to do a lot of cutting and scratching and Chuck was doing his thing as Grandmaster Blend.”
Was it a Hip-Hop-orientated set you were playing at those early parties?
“It was mainly breakbeats and the Hip-Hop records that were out then back in 83. You’d play records that you knew people would dance to and then you’d also play records like “Planet Rock” and others that were coming out of New York. I mean, they were real long records that you could keep a party going with from like nine at night through to maybe one in the morning.”
That’s back when you’d get ten minute long 12″ versions of tracks…
“Oh yeah (laughs). You could play the hell out of those records back then. Some people would stand in front of the turntables and just watch what you were doing but most people would be dancing and having fun. Then as time went on we started messing with these guys in the neighbourhood, Les and Disco Red’s cousin Vadar. Now Disco Red’s cousin had all these big speakers which meant he could battle against some of the bigger deejays and that’s how we got good with him. He could stack his speakers up and sound way louder than them. He had the concept of using the double-scoops and the horns and all of that and the music would be so loud that it would draw people into the park. So I used to set-up with them when they were doing a party and they’d give me a chance to spin as a part of their crew.”
So were you aware there was an actual Hip-Hop scene in Philly at this point or was it just a neighbourhood thing for you back then?
“That’s a good question. So what happened is, there were a bunch of different promoters who would have parties at different places like Hotel Philadelphia and Fantasia or the different ballrooms that were around. They would bring in deejays from the different areas of Philly. So you had Grandmaster Nell who was from South Philly. Cosmic Kev was from West Oak Lane. Thorpe was from that same area. Then you had Sex Machine who were from North Philly. So these promoters would bring all these different guys together to deejay at different venues and that was the whole thing back then. It would cost you something like ten dollars to get in and there would be like two or three thousand people there. It was crazy. So it was the deejays in Philly who really made everything click in the city when it came down to Hip-Hop. It was all about the deejays, the dancing and the clothes back then. Everyone used to wear what we called a Joe Palmieri in Philly. Joe Palmieri was a tailor and he used to make these custom jeans and things like that which everyone had.”
So you’re seeing people from other parts of Philly who’re involved in Hip-Hop but how much awareness did you have of what had been happening in New York in terms of the origins of the music?
“For me, it was back to listening to those tapes (laughs). I don’t know where people got them from, but there would be these tapes of people like Grand Wizard Theodore. So you’d listen to the parties that they were doing on these tapes. You would hear someone like Theodore cutting a breakbeat and his crew would be rapping and you’d just be like ‘Damn!’ Or you’d hear someone like Grandmaster Flash. Man, if you got a Grandmaster Flash tape! You’d hear rumours at the time that Flash was blind but still mixing and doing all this crazy stuff (laughs). So, back then, the only thing I had to go on was those tapes. So I was listening to Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash, Busy Bee and people like that. So that was really what put me onto what they were doing in New York. I mean, I was so young back then I had no way of actually going there or anything like that. So, for me, it really all came from listening to those tapes.”
In our digital world of social media etc it’s almost incomprehensible for today’s generation to grasp the fact that back then you might not even know what was happening in another neighbourhood musically let alone another city…
“Exactly. Then after the tapes came the records and we had these stores like Sound Of Market and Funk-O-Mart and I would go from store to store looking for records. So what you’d do is build an alliance with these guys who worked in these stores and were selling breakbeats and the other records that were coming out. So they would tell you about stuff when you went in there and you could also see the wax and the pictures of different artists and that’s how I visually started to see Hip-Hop. I mean, I didn’t know any of those cats back then, I just knew of their reputations. So going to the record stores was how I started to visually see what was going on in Hip-Hop at that time.”
Who were some of the earliest emcees from Philly that you heard about?
“In the early days, each deejay had his emcees. So a Cosmic Kev might have had a Parry P who was a legend back then. All those guys were legends to us back then because they were that bit older than me and had these big reputations. Sex Machine had MC Sport, Thorpe had his emcees. Everyone had their emcees (laughs). And they would be rapping over the breakbeats and sometimes they’d do these story raps and just keep everything live so the crowd would stay energized. So my first recollections of hearing emcees was hearing the people that would be with those deejays. Now, as time moved on, you started hearing about other people like DJ Jazz and Robbie B. who had one of the first records I heard that came out of Philly. Then you’d hear other records from other Philly artists like MC Breeze, Schoolly D and that was mega-huge to me back then. I was like, ‘These cats are from Philly and they’re making records?!’ That was around 85 / 86 and these were cats that I’d heard on the tapes and now they’re making actual records. So, me and Chuck started thinking that maybe we could do something. Now, everyone at that time seemed to be coming out of West Philly and me and Chuck were out in North Philly and we didn’t have any connections to what was going on. EST wasn’t a part of the crew at that time and we were still just deejays trying to find emcees and put some stuff together. Around 85 I started doing this carpentry thing. My dad was a carpenter, my brother was a carpenter and when I was in high-school I did carpentry. So I started an apprenticeship programme and that’s when the music thing really got real for me because the money I was getting from the carpentry I used to buy equipment. I still had my belt-driven turntables (laughs). I never owned a pair of 1200s until I could afford them. My mom couldn’t afford to get me anything like that.”
So were the Technics 1200s the first thing you brought when you started looking at equipment?
“See, the other crews out there already had big equipment because they were getting paid a little bit. They did it for the love of the music and all that with the block parties, but they were also making some money to be able to buy equipment. I didn’t have big equipment like that. It’s funny thinking about it now, Cosmic Kev and people like that had other turntables, like the 1800s, and I would look at what they were using like, ‘Yo!’ I didn’t really understand about all the different models of turntable in the beginning (laughs). But their turntables were so much smoother than mine. I mean, when you pushed my belt-drives to start a record you had to push them hard. But with those 1200s you could just let ’em go and they’d pick right up like, bam, bam, bam! I was like, ‘Woohoo! I like that.’ So when me and Chuck started buying our own equipment, the first thing I did was buy some proper turntables, the 1200s, a mixer and a four-track. We used to go to a store called Cintioli Music and that was where we would see all this technology that was out there. Back then all these drum machines were coming out and there were people like Mantronik who were making beats. You might hear someone mention an 808 or something like that, but we didn’t know what that was back then. We’d be like, ‘An 808?! What the f**k is an 808?!’ So me and Chuck learnt the names and then we’d talk to all these guys at the music store who would give us all this information. They’d be telling us, ‘You want to buy this’ or ‘You need to upgrade to that’ and that’s how we first started buying little bits of studio equipment.”
So basically you were studying the records that were being made to point you in the right direction?
“Exactly. In fact, it was the guys from the music stores I was telling you about like Sound Of Market who would talk to us about what other people were doing and then say ‘You could do that.’ Me and Chuck would be like, ‘We could do that? Nah…’ and then they’d pull out a record and show us the address on the back and be like, ‘That address right there shows you who’s in charge of this. Look, there’s the office address and there’s a phone number’ and we were like ‘Ahhhh, okay.’ Then we’d go to the equipment store and tell them that there were artists making music using certain sounds and that they were using drum machines. The guys in the store would be like, ‘Well, look, here’s a drum machine. Let’s plug it up.’ They’d set it up and then play it so we could hear all the different sounds.”
So you’d be listening to them playing the equipment until you heard something that matched the drum sounds you were hearing on people’s records…
“Yeah. Then when they told us you could actually put sounds into it and sample we were like, ‘You can do what?’ When they showed us how to sample we really were like, ‘Are you serious? Show me again! Man, we got to get that!'”
So was that when Chuck Nice started to get into the production side of things?
“As I said, Chuck was known more as a blend deejay, so when he got the chance to do music with the whole sampling thing, he jumped right on that. So I brought all this equipment and we kept a lot of it at Chuck’s house. He only lived about two blocks from where I was. So we had our speakers and everything for the house parties over at Chuck’s and as we got more stuff we put it in his basement. His mom was so nice, God rest her soul, and she let us keep all our equipment down there. So we had everything down in Chuck’s basement, our little drum machine, our four-track, our turntables and all our records were over there. So that basement is basically where we started making music and learning how to use the different equipment we had. As I said, at that point I was an apprentice carpenter, so I would be at work at 7am, home by 3pm, over at Chuck’s house by 4:30pm and then I’d stay over there working on stuff and be back to work the next morning. That’s when we started making songs and sending them to different people who were already making the music we were listening to.”
Were these instrumental tracks you were sending out at that time?
“Nah, they were proper songs. The first emcees we worked with were called the Deuce MCs which was Rick Slick and this other guy we used to call Cosmic C. Me and Chuck thought they were good so we started working with them. Chuck would take some loops and come up with the music, I would cut on it, they would rap on it, we’d mix it down with the four-track, put the songs on cassettes and then give the music to people to see what they thought. We took the tape down to the record store and they were telling us about someone we should get our music to who had a lot of people out already like Super Nature, who were Salt-N-Pepa, Roxanne Shante and others. That person turned out to be Lawrence Goodman and his label Pop Art.”
Read Part Two of this interview here.
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews, Old-School Hip-Hop
Tagged 3-D, 3XDope, 80s Hip-Hop, 90s Hip-Hop, Chuck Nice, Cool C, Cosmic Kev, DJ Woody Wood, East Coast Hip-Hop, EST, Grandmaster Nell, Hilltop Hustlers, Independent Hip-Hop, Lawrence Goodman, Original Stylin', Philly Hip-Hop, Pop Art Records, Steady B, Three Times Dope, Underground Hip-Hop
New Joint – DJ Too Tuff / MC Mechanism
DJ Too Tuff ft. MC Mechanism – “With The Quickness” (@DJTooTuff / 2013)
Tuff Crew member DJ Too Tuff has dusted off this 80s Philly gem featuring the talents of MC Mechanism who also appeared on the group’s “Back To Wreck Shop” album.