Tag Archives: Prince Paul

Old To The New Q&A (Part Four) – Daddy-O

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In the final part of my interview with founding Stetsasonic member Daddy-O, the veteran artist discusses hearing Prince Paul’s work with De La Soul for the first time in the late-80s, recording Stet’s 1991 album “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” and seeing the music business from the inside out as an executive throughout the 90s – check Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Alongside DBC you produced the majority of UK rap act the Cookie Crew’s 1989 debut album “Born This Way!”. How did you approach that particular project?

“Let me say one thing, the Cookie Crew album was one of the most fun projects I ever did. Those two girls delivered everything I expected. Plus, we got to do some stuff musically that I’d wanted to do for a long, long time. I mean, “Shaft In Africa”, I’d been wanting to sample that on a record (laughs). It just never worked out with anybody. I mean, can you imagine me trying to use that sample on an Audio Two record? Really, man, working with the Cookie Crew I was having flashbacks to those old Grandmaster Flash tapes that I used to listen to before I started making records. I was thinking of all those breaks that Flash and them were cutting up on those tapes and a lot of those same breaks I was able to use on the Cookie Crew album. I was able to be more uptempo with my production on that project. But I just had such an incredible amount of fun doing that album. Plus, the mixes on that project just came out sounding so good, man. But a lot of that was London too, man. I don’t even remember the studio I was in, but that s**t was incredible, yo. To this day, yo, those mixes hold up against whatever.”

The overall sound of “Born This Way!” has definitely stood the test of time when you go back and listen to it now…

“One memory I have of that album was that working with the Cookie Crew I actually got to feel like a real producer. But I also had a weird experience with that record, and I don’t mind talking about it as I’ll talk about anything (laughs). So the Cookie Crew was done with me and DBC. The way that whole record came about was through Lisa Cortes, who’s now in film, but she was working at Rush and started this thing called Rush Producer Management, RPM. Basically, the whole idea was that they could have this whole other stream of income because they had groups like Stetsasonic with producers like Daddy-O and Prince Paul, Public Enemy who had the Bomb Squad, Grandmaster Dee out of Whodini and a few other people they were grabbing who were either the deejay or the production arm of groups that Rush was already managing. But when the Cookie Crew album first dropped we got a really good first review here in the States, but that first review was mentioning me and not DBC and he thought I did that. Now, even though we still talk, that was a real glitch in our relationship at the time. It was a really weird kinda situation, because I would never try to take any shine from him or nothing.”

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There were a few US / UK collaborations happening at that time in the late-80s with Ice-T signing Hijack, Professor Griff producing for the She-Rockers, you and DBC working with the Cookie Crew. It was a big deal to UK Hip-Hop heads because it really felt like the talent we had in our scene was being acknowledged and taken seriously…

“Exactly. But that was definitely a great experience for me working with the Cookie Crew on that first album. Then I also went on to produce the title track on their second project “Fade To Black”.”

Stepping back a little, can you remember the first time you heard any of the material Prince Paul had been working on for De La Soul’s “3 Feet High And Rising” album?

“So Prince Paul came to me with the “Plug Tunin'” record before it came out and I really don’t know how to explain what I felt the first time I heard it. It was like the first time you heard Ultramagnetic MC’s “Ego Trippin'” or Audio Two’s “Top Billin'”. It just had a totally unique sound to it. I was like, ‘Yo, I don’t even know what to say (laughs). I can get a deal with this for your tomorrow’ and Paul was like, ‘Cool!’ So I go see Ice-T and Jorge Hinojosa who I had a great relationship with and they were ready to set me up with Seymour Stein at Sire to talk about a great deal. I went to see Joel Webber who was over at Island, God bless the dead. He also liked the record. Then for safe-keeping I let Monica Lynch at Tommy Boy hear “Plug Tunin'” as well. I mean, really, I wasn’t even thinking about De La signing to Tommy Boy because we were signed to them as Stetsasonic and I wasn’t really in love with our deal to be honest with you. But I did it so that at least if a bidding war started then we had another label there. So within a week those three labels had all heard “Plug Tunin'”. By the following Monday, De La Soul were in the office at Tommy Boy and Monica was already offering them a deal. I was telling Paul that I had these other people over at these other labels who were interested but he was like, ‘The guys just want to go…'”

So De La’s Tommy Boy deal literally happened that fast?

“Yeah, that De La deal with Tommy Boy happened really, really fast. But musically, here’s what I thought. I thought that Paul had a bunch of silly things that he wanted to do. I mean, I think that you can hear that to a degree on some of the Stet records with tracks like “Music For The Stetfully Insane” and particularly on the “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” album with tracks like “Your Mother Has Green Teeth” and “Paul’s A Sucker”. I mean, some of those tracks could have easily been De La records. So, I thought that De La was the perfect outlet for Paul to be able to do that kind of stuff. But going back to “Music For The Stetfully Insane”, I think that track has one of the best Hip-Hop stories ever because Paul actually went on to make an album with Bernie Worrell of Parliament-Funkadelic and all that track actually is was Bernie playing on the keyboard being sampled by Paul with a little bit of George Clinton thrown in there saying, ‘Good eeeevening.’ So that track was so prophetic almost because Paul then went on to do that album with Bernie and I think that’s so dope.”

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During that late-80s period you were producing and remixing for a variety of artists from different musical genres such as Levert, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Third World etc. Had you made a conscious decision to start working with people outside of Hip-Hop or did that happen purely through opportunities presenting themselves?

“I think it was both. I think it really started off with people just giving me different opportunities, but then once I actually took those opportunities  I started to see what it could become. It opened me up to the possibility that I could do certain things with other artists outside of Hip-Hop. But at the same time, as much as my skill set as a producer was increasing thanks to some of those outside opportunities, the fun level also increased for me as well. I mean, when you’re in there doing remixes for a group like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you’re able to mess around with all these different sounds that maybe I wasn’t able to before. Then it just becomes really fun and that’s exactly what happened and I just started working with more artists.”

So with both yourself and Prince Paul having been involved in different creative ventures during the years immediately following the “In Full Gear” album, what was the overall mindset of Stetsasonic when you started to work on 1991’s “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” project?

“It was very scattered. I mean, there are a couple of things about that album. Around fall of last year, I put the record on repeat for about three weeks and I remember calling Bobby Simmons almost every day like, ‘This album is a lot better than I thought.’ I hadn’t listened to that album for a long, long time. But after picking it up and listening to it over and over I definitely felt it was better than I thought it was. There are some really good moments on that record. But the mindset of the group at the time we were recording it was very, very scattered. Frukwan had left the group, which happened pretty shortly after we’d finished “In Full Gear”. We went back and forth on a couple of things but finally he just walked. Now, we knew we weren’t going to stop making music as Stetsasonic, but when we started making “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” almost everyone came to the project from their own perspective. Bobby came with his records, I came with tracks that I thought we should have been using, Paul came with his records and DBC came with his material as well. So we weren’t really working on tracks together like we had done on previous albums. It was just all very scattered.”

Is that why each format of “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” contained a number of different tracks because you’d amassed so much material with everyone bringing their different ideas to the table?

“No, that was just something that we decided to do to make things interesting. But that whole period was a very interesting time for us as a group. There wasn’t a whole bunch of clarity in terms of what we were doing. I mean, at that time, I was more of a producer then I was an artist to be honest and so was Paul. We’d both established strong identities in the music business that went beyond him being the deejay for Stetsasonic and me being an emcee in the group. In some ways, you could say the identities we’d built at that time were even greater than what we were known for within Stetsasonic. I mean, looking back on that period now, my opinion is obviously worth just one-sixth of what actually happened and everyone else would have their own opinion. But looking back on it, I would probably say that created some kind of thoughts from the rest of the guys who, when they came to the table for that album, Stet was all they had. So there wasn’t a whole bunch of other things going on for them. I mean, I’m saying I gave “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” my best, but who knows? I’m sure that from the point of view of the other guys, they might have looked at it like Paul and I didn’t put in as much as we could have done because of everything else we had going on. But like I said, when I listen back to the record now, there’s definitely some good material on there.”

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After “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” the group seemed to drift apart into different things. You continued producing and remixing for the likes Mary J. Blige and then dropped your 1993 solo album, Paul had set-up Dewdooman Records and then reunited with Frukwan for 1994’s Gravediggaz album. Did that separation happen organically or was there a moment where different members perhaps felt the group had run its course?

“It really just happened organically. I mean, there’s never going to be a time when as a group Stetsasonic is over because of the chemistry there is between us. Which is kind of what amazes us with Frukwan, but he’s a stubborn guy (laughs). But I mean, when you formulated what we did, and you have that kind of bond as a group, when it’s gone you really do miss it. I mean, we may not be the best act in the world or whatever, but we’re very good at what we do. The last show we did together was back in 2009 at the Knitting Factory in New York and we killed it. So there’s never been a time when we’ve said that the group is over. So after “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” I guess to say things moved on organically is probably the best way to describe it. I mean, we did what we did, and then life kinda continued on. I mean, at that time I always had the idea in my head about some kinda solo piece. Delite did too, I just don’t know why he’s never done it, although he said he’s actually working on it now. But at that time I really didn’t know what that solo project would sound like or what it was going to be. I actually cut a whole solo record before I did the “You Can Be A Daddy, But Never Daddy-O” album in 1993.”

Was there a major difference between that unreleased album and the music that ended-up on the “You Can Be A Daddy…” release?

“I’m sitting on it right now. It was called “The Odad, The Gun & The Children” and it was a beast. “You Can Be A Daddy…” was more towards bouncy, kinda fun production. My main concept on that whole record was what the reggae guys call ‘voicing’. So if you listen to tracks like “Intro Joint” or the “Swung It, Blunted, Brung It” record I was staunch on how I was voicing the tracks on that album and I achieved what I was trying to do. I mean, I like the record a lot but that’s mainly because of the voicing. But there isn’t really anything particularly deep on that record. In comparison, “The Odad, The Gun & The Children” was a very deep record. That project was all about politics, society and things like that. I mean, that whole album could have been the soundtrack to the Trayvon Martin case. It’s that intense.”

So why did “The Odad…” never come out?

“What happened was, I actually recorded “The Odad…” when I was on Tommy Boy and I turned the album in. Monica Lynch looked me in my face and told me we had two choices. She said that Tommy Boy really didn’t know what the album was, so they could put it out, but it would be with no promotion because they didn’t understand the project or know how to promote it. Or, she said they could just sign me a release and I could leave the label and take the record with me. So I left and took the record.”

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So was there a reason why you then decided to release a different album and recorded “You Can Be A Daddy, But Never Daddy-O” rather than put “The Odad…” out through Island?

“I actually attempted another album even before “You Can Be A Daddy…” came out. I attempted to do the type of thing that Uptown were doing with Father MC and Teddy Riley was doing with Heavy D. It sounded like crap, so I erased the tracks (laughs). But I attempted to do it.”

So was that your attempt to mesh what you were known for in Stet with the New Jack Swing / Hip-Hop Soul sound you’d been dabbling in through your production work for other artists?

“I think it was really just me trying to figure out what I should sound like in that particular year. So I came up with the idea of trying the Hip-Hop / R&B thing. I mean, I had enough production staff and singers around me at the time to really be able to try it out. I think I tried two or three tracks and once I listened back to them I just thought, ‘I can’t really do this.’ It was just too soft for my liking. But I think ‘You Can Be A Daddy…” was just a better fit all-round at the time in terms of me being able to do some of the things I wanted to do as an emcee on there. I didn’t have to get too deep politically on that album and it really allowed me to play around with some different production styles on there as well. I have no complaints about that record. PolyGram was so-so as a label but I had a good run with that album. I went number one on radio in a couple of regions with “Brooklyn Bounce”, I got out to tour and it was cool.”

Following the release of “You Can Be A Daddy…” you then made the switch from artist to music exec spending much of the mid-to-late 90s working for MCA and Motown. How have the experiences you had during that period influenced what you’re doing now with some of the digital business ventures you’re currently involved in?

“The reason I went to work for labels was to prove my friends wrong. My friends used to always tell me that labels would shelve artists and do this or that to them and I used to always say, ‘Nah. Artists are doing that to themselves. Why would a label shelve an artist? They’ve got a vested interest in these people…’ So I was always a naysayer back in the day when it came to that stuff. So my decision to start working for a label was based on me wanting to prove my friends wrong, get behind the veil so to speak and really figure some of that stuff out. So lo and behold, my friends were right (laughs). There were artists being put on the shelf and labels were doing all kinds of shifty things behind the scenes. So I learnt a lot about corporate lifestyle which was invaluable and I really was able to experience the business from the inside out. But ultimately, I was out of there, because I didn’t fit. I was yelling at the boss (laughs). I mean, if I thought a record was wack then I’d say so. I just didn’t believe that we were going to be able to convince people that a record was good if it was wack.”

So you were still looking at label projects primarily from a creative viewpoint rather than purely from a business angle?

“As an artist, I’ve always believed that if you do the right thing creatively then you’re going to stop traffic. If you hit the right note or say the right rhyme, everybody is going to be still and listen. It’s like that Eric B. & Rakim “My Melody” moment at the Latin Quarter that I was talking about earlier. I mean, I remember the Aleems who worked with Jimi Hendrix telling me that Jimi had once told them that artists go through life thinking that we control music, but really music controls us and it moves through us at particular times. I mean, that’s pretty profound and I kinda think the same way. But when I was at the labels, there were a lot of artists who just really weren’t putting that work in and I was saying so. But during that time I was really able to learn the inner-workings of a record label and the music industry which has been very relevant to what I’ve been doing now with some of the digital solutions stuff that I’ve been working on. Structurally the record business never had it wrong as it was always smart to have the marketing department, the radio department, the publicity department etc. What we didn’t like was the fat cats getting all the money while everyone else was running around like worker ants or something. So the economic structure of the music business was wrong. Now, for five or six years, they’ve been telling these kids that you don’t need a label, but it wasn’t the structure of the labels that was wrong, it was the economics behind it. So my challenge now with this company I’m heading-up, Cogo Fusion, is to digitize that experience. The easiest way for me to describe it is to say that it’s a record company in a box, even though that doesn’t totally sum-up what I’m trying to do with this. But I’m putting all of the experience I’ve had in the music business into this.”

Final question, do you think we’ll ever see another Stetsasonic album?

“I think so. I’ve been working on my own album for about three years now and I’ve almost finished that. So I think once they hear my record, we’ll be able to do something. Now, when I say hear my record, I don’t mean when I actually put it out, I mean when I have the opportunity to play it to the rest of the group because I haven’t been able to let anybody hear it yet. I want the group to hear where I’ve gone with it and I think that could help with the evolution of where we can go with what we’re doing as Stetsasonic. I think I’ve found a way to make grown Hip-Hop that isn’t based on being an older artist who feels like they have to keep reminding people all the time of what they’ve already done, if that makes sense. But what I’d want to see more than anything else when it came down to Stet, was us being able to make a new album with Frukwan. That’s the one thing I would really like to see happen because I don’t think I want to make another record without him. I just miss that voice, man. So that’s my dream, to make another Stetsasonic album with everyone involved.”

Ryan Proctor

Follow Daddy-O on Twitter – @ProfessorDaddyO

Stetsasonic – “No B.S. Allowed” (Tommy Boy Records / 1991)

Old To The New Q&A (Part Three) – Daddy-O

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In the third part of my interview with Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O, the talented producer-on-the-mic talks about working with the Audio Two, recording the timeless classic “Talkin’ All That Jazz”  and why Stet were always welcome in Miami – check Part One and Part Two.

1987 was a busy year for Daddy-O outside of Stetsasonic with you being involved in producing MC Watchout & DJ OZ’s “Blind Man’s Bluff” plus Positive K’s “Quarter Gram Pam” and Audio Two’s “Make It Funky” / “Top Billin'” singles which were both on First Priority. How did you come to work so closely with the First Priority label?

“Okay, so Delite was really the catalyst for that. Back then, Red Alert had this night at the Latin Quarter which used to be on a Tuesday, like an after-work night. It wasn’t all Hip-Hop, but it was still a Red Alert night. Now first of all, and I’ve said this before, without Delite there would have been no Stetsasonic. Just like Delite could probably say that without Daddy-O there would have been no Stet. But my reasons for saying that and his reasons would be totally different (laughs). Now, the reason I can say that without Delite there’d be no Stet, is because I hated everything. I hated everything, yo. I was such a hater back then (laughs). One time, Delite went to see Flash and them at the Peppermint Lounge and he came back saying how great it was. I was like, ‘F**k them, man. Are they better than us?’ I hated everything (laughs). Delite always used to tell me, ‘Just do it better. And if you’re not going to do it better than don’t talk to me about it, D.’ So Delite was the quintessential taste-maker in my opinion. He was the guy who knew everything that was going on just to try and figure out what was going to happen next. So Delite was hanging out at the Latin Quarter on a Tuesday night when everybody else was doing Friday and Saturday nights. I’m like, ‘What the f**k are you going down there on a Tuesday for?’ Delite would be like, ‘Red Alert’s playing and your man Lumumba be down there sometimes..’ and I was just like, ‘Whatever, man.’ So Delite was staying with me at the time and he always used to come back from those Tuesday nights singing ‘I like cherries ‘cos cherries taste better….’ and I’d be like, ‘What the hell are you singing?’ Delite would keep telling me that I had to hear this Audio Two song. Now, Delite ain’t got no singing voice either, so he was making it sound even worse, right (laughs). But Delite was like, ‘Yo, you’ve got to hear this record.’ But it was only Red Alert who was playing it and he was only playing it on a Tuesday night at the Latin Quarter. I don’t know if he couldn’t or wouldn’t play it on the radio, but he was only playing it on these Tuesday nights. So I went with Delite one night and I heard the record. Now, Delite had been trying to describe the record to me and had told me it was this bugged out song that sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before. But when I actually heard the record, I liked it.”

So how did that lead to you actually connecting with the Audio Two?

“What happened was, Stetsasonic had got a nice little name in the city. We started getting around. Now, we were doing a release party that was going to be at the Palladium. Not the main part of the Palladium, but the Michael Todd Room which was still a nice venue. We invited all these people and Tommy Boy invited a lot of people as well. So Nat Robinson from First Priority came along with MC Lyte and the Audio Two. I looked Milk in his face and was like, ‘Yo! If you ever need anyone to produce for you, then I’m here.’ Milk was like, ‘Word?!’ So I told him that I really liked their stuff a lot and next thing Milk was calling to Nat, ‘Dad! Dad! Daddy-O said he’ll produce us! Daddy-O said he’ll produce us!’ So Nat was just like, ‘Okay, we’ll talk about it.’ So that’s how I ended up working with the Audio Two and MC Lyte. Now, I’m trying to think how I got hooked-up with Positive K. I almost want to say that I got with Pos K through Lumumba Carson…

Because Lumumba was managing Positive K during the same period he was managing Stetsasonic, right?

“Yeah, that’s right. So I got hooked up with Positive K through Lumumba. But now that you’re saying it, I guess my mind just wasn’t on it that “Quarter Gram Pam” was on First Priority as well (laughs). I remember making “Quarter Gram Pam” before we did “Top Billin'”….”

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After Stet’s “Go Stetsa I”, Audio Two’s “Top Billin'” was the second official Brooklyn anthem you had a hand in producing and it had such a unique sound to it. What inspired that beat?

“It’s so funny that you’re saying what you’re saying because both of those records were just great mistakes (laughs). Like I explained earlier, “Go Stetsa” was a great mistake with us bringing in the live drummer to do the fills and rolls etc. Now, before I did “Top Billin'” for the Audio Two I was working on their single “Make It Funky”. Now, I’m in Staten Island at Nat Robinson’s crib which was Milk and Giz’s crib as well. I’d programmed the SP-12 to do some things for “Make It Funky”. I go upstairs to talk to Nat or whatever and Milk calls up from the studio and is like, ‘Yo! You’ve got to hear something I just did.’ We’re like, ‘Okay, what’s he done now.’ I mean, if anyone was going to be the producer in Audio Two it was going to be Giz anyway, right. Now, I’d been trying to sample “Impeach The President” but the SP-12 only gave you x-amount of time, so Milk couldn’t get the full loop in there. So all he got was the ‘boom-boom-kick’ and that was it. So now Milk has that boom and kick up in the SP bouncing against my “Make It Funky” drum pattern. So we heard it and thought it was dope and then Milk is like, ‘I wrote something…’ and he did the whole thing right there. Milk looked at me and was like, ‘Daddy-O, should I make it longer?’ and I said ‘F**k no!’ I knew exactly what we were going to do with that record and I told Milk right there, ‘This is a Red Alert classic. We’re going to go ahead and do this “Make It Funky” track but we’re not going to tell anyone about this “Top Billin'” record.’ The plan was to make the deejays feel like they found it themselves on the b-side of the single and it worked.”

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1987 also saw Stetsasonic drop the “A.F.R.I.C.A.” single which made a huge political statement against apartheid. Was that track something that the group wanted to do initially or was it something that Tommy Boy instigated?

“It was actually initiated by Tommy Boy but in a weird kind of way. Now, that track did end up on “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” but that was just because the Norman Cook remix was so hot and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve got to put this on something.’ “A.F.R.I.C.A” would never have made it onto any album if Norman Cook never did that remix. His remix made me feel like it was something that I could put on an album. The original version, which I love, I just loved it being what it was as a single. So the original version of “A.F.R.I.C.A.” was a stand-alone piece that was what I always call Stetsasonic’s longest running record, meaning that long after that record was off radio, the Africa Fund had worked with us to put teaching guides in schools and all of that, so that record was constantly being used and referred to long after it came out. Now, what happened was, through Monica Lynch at Tommy Boy we met a guy from ABC 20/20 called Danny Schechter. He used to call himself Danny Schechter The News Dissector and he became a good friend of mine. Danny was just one of those erratic white guys, scruffy beard, almost looked like Captain Kangaroo, who was probably one of the earliest versions of a WikiLeaks or something like that. He was always challenging everything like, ‘This is what’s really going on.’ So he had an idea that he had taken to Monica with no particular group in mind. He said to her that apartheid in South Africa was a big issue and that he didn’t understand why no rappers were covering it. So, Monica brought the idea of doing the record to us. She told us that they were going to talk about doing a song to some of the other groups on the label as well, but that she wanted to hear what we thought about it. I immediately said yes, went home and did a little bit of research. Danny actually had a video tape and it was heart-wrenching watching that for the first time and seeing everything that was going on in South Africa…”

At the time apartheid was a topic that nobody really wanted to speak on in the Western world because, regardless of your skin colour, it was almost impossible to talk about it without having to confront certain uncomfortable contributing issues…

“Right, right. Absolutely. So Dan showed us this tape and straight away I was like, ‘We’re going to do it.’ Now, Delite, that was one thing that he wasn’t really with initially, but Frukwan definitely was. So we went into the studio, Frukwan, myself and Wise. Now the beat for “A.F.R.I.C.A.”, that came from Wise with him beat-boxing and we took that and made it into a beat. Then me and Frukwan wrote the rhyme. We wrote the whole thing. So by the time we brought Delite, Paul and DBC in, they were like, ‘Yo, that’s kinda hot.’ I showed Delite where he was going to fit in and that was it. We did it and it really worked out. Looking back on it, what was interesting was that “A.F.R.I.C.A.” was our first video as Stetsasonic. We used to have big fights with Tommy Boy because Monica Lynch used to say that videos didn’t sell records. So we never got the videos that you saw other artists at that time getting from their labels. So with “A.F.R.I.C.A.”, we were happy to be getting a video.”

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That record really made a big impact at the time because this was before the likes of Public Enemy and KRS-One were really dealing with politics in a major way in their music…

“Yeah, definitely. But it was really that 1990 Wembley performance in London for Nelson Mandela that opened a lot up for us. Even though we’d done a lot of other things around the record and apartheid with people like Jesse Jackson, that Wembley performance really opened things up. The crowd were receptive to what we were saying and that was great. I mean, that was a great day for us as a group. Going back to when Kevin Porter used to mentor us, he always used to tell us not to just look at ourselves as a rap group, but to look at ourselves as entertainers who could be on a par with a Prince or a Michael Jackson, who just happened to rap. So that performance at Wembley let us feel like we were real entertainers. I remember, we met Terence Trent D’Arby, Patti Labelle, Neil Young and just an array of entertainers who were huge at the time. Me and Bono from U2 were talking, just kickin’ it, and that was dope because we were being accepted by everyone. I remember Denzel Washington was there, we performed that song, I walked offstage and Denzel hugged me. But it just felt like the other artists there understood what we were trying to do and that was always something that Delite and I wanted to do for Hip-Hop, to get people to understand what Hip-Hop was about and what it could be. I mean, I’m still the same way today because I still think a lot of people have got it twisted in terms of what they think we are.”

Would you say “A.F.R.I.C.A.” was the catalyst which led to you addressing other political issues on 1988’s “In Full Gear” album with tracks like “Freedom Or Death”?

“I’d say yes, but in a weird way (laughs). I mean, “Freedom Or Death”  was something I made for Sonny Carson. That was always his line. I mean there were different things happening in New York at the time, there was the whole Yusef Hawkins thing, and Sonny had this whole ‘freedom or death’ thing that he was doing in response to that. Lumumba Carson and them hadn’t made any records yet. He wasn’t Professor X yet and there was no X-Clan at this point. So there was really no voice at that time to express what Sonny was talking about. I sat with Sonny one day and he explained the whole freedom or death concept to me and he said it exactly the way I wrote it. So I would say that “A.F.R.I.C.A.” did have something to do with us touching on other issues because making that record let us know that we could cover certain issues as a group because the challenge had been how do we make a record about something like apartheid and make it fun? I mean, you could make message records all day, but they’re not necessarily going to be hot. Plus, it wasn’t like we were making a song like Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message” that was about the general ghetto that a lot of people already knew about or could relate to. There were specific names of people who were involved in apartheid in South Africa and different things that were going on, so in order to really express what was happening we knew that we had to put all of that into the record. We knew it wouldn’t have been enough to just gloss over it and say that apartheid was going on and that people shouldn’t like what was happening. We knew that wasn’t going to work. We had to go into detail. So then it was about how do we make that fun for people to listen to. But once we’d done it, that first time, we realised that there was no telling what we could do musically. So “A.F.R.I.C.A.” definitely opened up something for us as far as that was concerned and introduced us to being able to make songs about specific things. I mean, when we were recording “On Fire”, there were songs on there about specific things as well, but it was more about us being Stetsasonic…”

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There was definitely a noticeable amount of artistic growth between “On Fire” and “In Full Gear”…

“Right, right. Well, you’ve probably heard Chuck D’s story about how Stetsasonic and Public Enemy went on tour together and three albums came out of that tour bus – “In Full Gear”, “It Takes A Nation Of Millions…” and “3 Feet High And Rising”. I mean, whilst Public Enemy were making “Nation” we were making “In Full Gear”, so we were bouncing ideas off of each other all the time. But one story I always remember about “A.F.R.I.C.A.” is when we were on tour with MC Hammer, Public Enemy, EPMD and 2 Live Crew. I can’t remember exactly what year this was, but it was heyday Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This” Hammer. We were doing different spots and on some dates you got all of the groups, other times you might just get three of us. But as Stetsasonic we were used to opening up and we would trade with EPMD, so one night it was them opening and the next night it was us. Anyway, this one night, Hammer had flown in on his private jet, EPMD had opened up, we were getting ready to go onstage and the promoter came to us and said that Hammer was going on before us. We were like, ‘What?!’ I mean, when I say this was heyday Hammer, he had the full stage show with all the dancers and everything. So there was nothing we would do about it. Hammer went out there and killed it and then we’ve got to go on after that. So the rest of the group are looking at me like, ‘What are we going to do now, D?’ I was like, ‘I know how we’re going to do this. I want you to come out with me first Paul.’ Everyone was like, ‘Huh?!’ because the way we used to do it was the band would go out first and play a little, then introduce Frukwan, he would introduce Delite and then Delite would introduce me and we’d do the show. But I wanted Paul to just come out with me and I told him to get “A.F.R.I.C.A.” ready. So we went out there and I got on some real preacher s**t. I was saying how for years Black people had been singing and dancing. I made Hammer look like it was buffoonery that he’d just done (laughs). I talked a little about apartheid, told Paul to drop the beat, the rest of the group came out and we performed “A.F.R.I.C.A.” first before we did all our other records that people wanted to hear.”

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When you recorded “Talkin’ All That Jazz” were you expecting it to play such a large part in the debate surrounding sampling at the time?

“Absolutely not. “Talkin’ All That Jazz” was the only record on “In Full Gear” that I wrote for all three of us, me, Delite and Frukwan. Now, there’s a radio show in New York called The Week In Review with Bob Slade which is still on today. It’s a very, very informative show where they highlight certain things and talk about different issues. So what happened was, James Mtume was a guest on the radio show and he was talking about how Hip-Hop was creating this generation of uncreative musicians through sampling. He’s saying how it’s making people lazy and how the people who’re sampling don’t know how to play instruments or really know anything about music, blah, blah, blah. Now, I wasn’t able to be a guest on that particular show, but then Bob Slade brought me up on another show and I was able to talk about sampling from our perspective. So it kinda kept going back and forth between me and Mtume, but not directly. Now, Delite had already come up with the idea of doing a record called “Talkin’ All That Jazz”, but his idea was to do something similar to what Guru and Premier did later with “Jazz Music” and “Jazz Thing”. Delite wanted to do a record like that, really showing the similarities between Hip-Hop and jazz. We also wanted to show how, not being disrespectful, but in the same way that people thought Kenny G and Najee was real jazz, we felt the same thing was going to happen with Hip-Hop and that our own Coltranes and all of that would be pushed to the side if we weren’t being mindful. So that was originally what we wanted to do with “Talkin’ All That Jazz” and Delite had also come up with the idea of using the Lonnie Liston Smith “Expansions” sample.

Were you already a fan of “Expansions”?

“Yeah, yeah. I mean, “Expansions” was one of the records that people used to play out in the parks at those jams back in Brooklyn in the 70s. So I thought the original idea was cool and we were going to do it. But when this whole Mtume thing came up, I told Delite and Frukwan that I was going to write “Talkin’ All That Jazz” about that situation. I remember them both saying to me, ‘Are you sure, D?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do this.’ So I put it together. Then we went in the studio and we tried to sample “Expansions” but it was too fast, so we slowed it down but it didn’t sound right. I guess if the time-stretch stuff that they use nowadays had been available then we would have done that. But it wasn’t. So, Prince Paul was already in the studio at this point working with De La Soul and Don Newkirk was also involved in some of those sessions. So Paul just said we should let Don play it. Bobby Simmons said that we needed to have it played using this cello type sound and when he pulled it up I told Don that’s what we were looking for. So he played those opening bars that you hear on the record. Then Newkirk said he was going to do something else with it, and that’s when he added some of the other keyboard parts that you hear on there. Then Tom Silverman at Tommy Boy had to get me on the phone with Lonnie Liston Smith for the rights to use his record. I remember I got on the phone and Lonnie said to me, ‘Young blood, you can have that, man. That ain’t “Expansions” no more, you done made something new.'”

Which basically proved the exact point you were trying to make with the record…

“It did (laughs). I couldn’t believe he was saying that to me. I remember him saying how he was proud of us for taking his music and making something new out of it.”

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Throughout “In Full Gear” you made a handful of references to Miami and there was also the track “Miami Bass”. What was your preoccupation with Miami at the time you were recording that album?

“At that time, I’ll tell you what it was in one word…

The girls?

“No, it was Luke (laughs). When Stetsasonic went to Miami for the first time when we did the Def Jam tour in 87 with LL Cool J, Luke took care of me like, man, I don’t really know how to describe it. It was like the royal guard came out for me or something, yo. He took me to the ‘hood and showed me around and from that point on there was like a carte blanch thing going on with Stetsasonic in Miami. All the way down to Luke telling us what to perform in Miami. I remember him telling us to perform “On Fire” and saying that they didn’t know anything else that we did down there (laughs). I was like, ‘They like “On Fire”?!’ and Luke said, ‘It’s the bass! That’s what they listen to down here.’ I was smoking weed at the time and I remember Luke taking me to this guy’s house to pick some up and when the guy opened the door he started jumping up and down saying ‘You’re “On Fire”?! “On Fire”, “On Fire”?!’ Luke really laid it out and it was such a great experience for us, particularly in contrast with other people on the tour like LL. He had a lot of pressure at the time and they didn’t really like him down there. But one thing about Stet which I really think went a long way towards how people accepted us was that we never sneered our noses at anybody. We always let the music speak for itself and we really won a lot of people over that way. I remember we were on tour in the Midwest one time with Public Enemy and we were getting ready to perform. There was this dude there who was saying, ‘Ya’ll Stetsasonic? Yeah, I like you, y’all okay, but Public Enemy are my boys.’ He had a little money and whatever.  I’ll never forget, we did the show, and he left Public Enemy and took us to the club and brought us all champagne (laughs).”

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You were featured some years back in Mikey D’s documentary “The Making Of A Legend” commenting on his infamous battle with Melle Mel at the 1988 New Music Seminar. What do you remember about that incident?

“That was just a horrible night, man. I don’t think anyone is ever going to forget what happened that night. I mean, I tell people all the time, when they’re talking about the greatest emcee to ever live, I always say Melle Mel. When people talk about the greatest rhyme ever recorded, I always say it’s Melle Mel’s rhyme on “Beat Street Breakdown”…

Melle Mel will always be one of my favourite emcees and personally I think his three greatest lyrical moments are “The Message”, “Beat Street Breakdown” and “World War III”…

“Yeah, I mean that rhyme on “Beat Street Breakdown” just encompasses everything. He didn’t miss out anything on that record. It’s all there. So I say all of that almost as a disclaimer because Mel will always be my hero. But, when it comes down to it, a battle is a battle. So he tried to come at Mikey D with some rhymes that he’d done before and Mikey really isn’t the type of emcee to come at or go up against like that. Mike is nice. So Mel came at him and Mikey tossed him (laughs). Then Melle Mel got physically mad and went and took the Seminar belt back. It was sad, man. I mean, Mike ain’t no super tough guy but he ain’t from no punk part of Queens either and he had enough massive in there with him that night to have turned that into something totally different. But the respect level was there. So I remember Mikey just looking at Mel, like ‘What?!’ There was definitely a sadness in Mikey that night like, ‘I can’t believe Mel would do that.’ I mean, it was an honour for Mikey to go up against Melle Mel, it would have been an honour for Mikey to have lost to Melle Mel, but he didn’t (laughs). It was tough to see that happen to Mikey, man. But Mel’s got those moments, man. Some years back I worked with a company called Sock Bandit on their documentary “Hip-Hop Immortals”. Now, when we did that we called Mel up to the office, and Melle Mel went on for about forty minutes cursing out 50 Cent and then we found out he didn’t actually know 50 (laughs). It was just weird. So Mel has his moments, man (laughs).”

You produced Bango’s “Ghettoish” for Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate compilation in 1988 and you also worked on a couple of tracks off the 7A3 album “Coolin’ In Cali”. How did you get involved in those two projects?

“The Bango track came about purely through me and Ice-T being cool and him liking me as a producer. He told me that he was working on the Rhyme Syndicate compilation and that he had this kid out of Cleveland with a little street edge to him who he thought I would like. Now, 7A3, I actually knew Sean and Brett already because we were from the same area in Brooklyn. But again, that came through Ice-T and Jorge Hinosoja, because Jorge was involved in putting that project together. Jorge was just a cool dude and when you were working with him, if he saw there was an opportunity, then he did it. So I knew Sean and Brett from East New York, I knew Jorge and Ice-T, so we just put it together and made that happen.”

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1989 saw Stetsasonic taking on a major role in the Stop The Violence Movement’s “Self-Destruction”. What do you remember about recording that single?

“There’s a couple of things that I always remember, like LL Cool J not being on the record. Now, there’s actually a performance we did on the Dr. Ruth Show that had LL on it that was really dope. He obviously didn’t have a part on the record, but the band played something behind him and he did a little something on there. LL was asked about “Self-Destruction” and why he didn’t participate and he said it was because of that beat that we used for the song. He said he hadn’t had a record out in awhile, he was due to be coming out with “Walking With A Panther” and he said, ‘Man, I haven’t been heard for awhile and I didn’t want to be heard after some time away on that beat.’ There were actually a few people who didn’t really care for the original track. Public Enemy actually didn’t really care for the track. Then D-Nice started throwing those extra parts in there from people’s own records. We actually didn’t say anything. So we didn’t know he was going to throw that part from the “Talkin’ All That Jazz” remix up under there because when we’d recorded our part we’d rhymed to the original track. So that was something I remember. Plus, I was right there when LL wrote MC Lyte’s rhyme and that really was an ill piece of history to see. LL asked Lyte to say her rhyme and she’d done this part rhyming all these facts together. LL asked Lyte who was going on after her on the record and she said it was me. LL was like, ‘You can’t go on before Daddy-O with that. You know how he’s going to come…’ So LL just took the pad from her and started writing the whole thing down which became Lyte’s verse. Then, one of my biggest recollections of making that record, which connects with what we were talking about earlier, is that the video shoot for “Self-Destruction” is where I first met James Mtume. He walked up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Hi, I’m James Mtume the narrow-minded.’ I mean, we’re really good friends now (laughs). But that was definitely a moment.”

Ryan Proctor

Check the final part of this interview here.

Stetsasonic performing “A.F.R.I.C.A.” at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1990.

Old To The New Q&A (Part Two) – Daddy-O

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In this second instalment of my interview with Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O, the Brooklyn-bred Hip-Hop legend discusses almost signing to Sugarhill Records, recording the group’s debut 1986 album “On Fire” and rocking the stage at NYC’s infamous Latin Quarter – check Part One here.

So how did you get involved in the Mr. Magic competition that subsequently led to Stetsasonic securing a record deal?

“I’m trying to think how we met Fly Ty because that’s how it came about. We met Tyrone from Cold Chillin’. I don’t remember exactly how we met Fly Ty, that’s something that Delite probably would remember better. But we met Ty somehow and he liked us, so he was kind of managing us for a time, and at the same time he was managing Roxanne Shante and I think he had Biz Markie as well. It was at the time when they were first trying to pull that whole Cold Chillin’ roster together. Ty was telling us that we should enter this rap contest that Mr. Magic was putting on. Now, we’d been entering different contests prior to the Mr. Magic thing. But as Delite so eloquently puts it, we always kept coming in second (laughs). I mean, I remember being beaten by this kid Mike in Brooklyn who was one of the baddest singers I ever heard, which was ill because he ended-up just singing on the train. But I remember Mike beating us one time. I remember losing to Father Taheem out in Queens. I remember all of that. It’s not like we were wack, but we just kept coming in second (laughs). I remember one time we had a tie and we got thirty three dollars and some cents because we had to split the one hundred dollars prize money with Doug E. Fresh and Busy Bee at a competition at the Roxy (laughs). I was mad because Doug came on with Ricky, Slick Rick, and that was the first time Doug had brought Rick out. They actually performed “Treat Her Like A Prositute” that night. I left early because I was so mad (laughs). I remember Delite coming to my house, explaining that we’d tied and giving me this money, but telling me that I shouldn’t have left (laughs).”

So what happened with the Mr. Magic contest?

“So anyway, Fly Ty told us we should enter the contest and we did it. I’m not sure how many times we performed before we got into the finals. It might have been twice or it might have been three times. But we performed in different boroughs of New York and every time we did it went really well and the people loved us. Each time we got boosted up to the next level.”

Who else do you remember being in the competition?

“I know there were other people who ended up making records who performed as part of the contest, but I can’t really remember who. What I do remember though is that we won so unanimously in the final and Coney Island was going bananas. Now the way it was set up, there were three labels involved who would each give a deal to the artists in first, second and third place. I remember Pop Art was the third place label, Tommy Boy was second place and Sugarhill Records was first place. I always tell people that if we’d been smart we’d have gone with Lawrence Goodman and Pop Art as that could have led us to Next Plateau with the link he had with Salt-N-Pepa and all the success they had. But that’s a whole other story, right. I mean, Lawrence told us that day that we should have rocked with him, but we didn’t. Then there was Tommy Boy, but as we’d won first place we weren’t really thinking about Tommy Boy at that time. So we ended up doing the Sugarhill thing and Fly Ty knew Sylvia Robinson and all those guys. So we won the competition and now Sugarhill are going to offer us this contract. We went up to Sugarhill Records in New Jersey and it was just a joke. It was like this crazy, whole pre-staged thing. I mean, the Furious Five were playing frisbee in the parking lot when we arrived, Melle Mel comes out from the back of the house with two girls up under his arms, like ‘What’s up Daddy-O?’ I’ll never forget, Leland Robinson, who was real young at the time, but he was out there with a new Toyota which was the hot car at the time. So he was cleaning the rims of his Toyota and then Joey Robinson Jr. drove in with a Benz.”

So they were really pulling out all the stops to show you there was big money at Sugarhill…

“Exactly. Now Sugarhill had two properties that looked exactly the same, one at the bottom of the hill in New Jersey and one up the hill. So we were at the one down the hill, and then they said they were going to take us to the other property up the hill as Sylvia Robinson wanted to meet us. So we went, and all of us in the group tell this story the same way, but we kinda felt like her Rolls Royce keys were strategically placed on the counter in the house and things like that (laughs). Sylvia kept saying, ‘The kids have been raging about y’all’, but when they gave us the contract it was just horrible…”

Locking you in for ten years with two percent royalties or something?

“It was exactly two percent royalties (laughs). It was four percent wholesale. But we were just like, ‘Yo, this is just…no.’ Not that our Tommy Boy deal ended up being that much better, but I did love the flexibility and the time that we had with Tommy Boy. So we told Fly Ty, we’re not rocking with Sugarhill. He was trying to convince us to go with them and saying how big they were as a label and if we put a record out on Sugarhill then it would blow up. But we were all just like, ‘This is wack!'”

So you decided to take the competition’s second prize of signing with Tommy Boy…

“That’s right. It was actually Tom Silverman at Tommy Boy who taught us what a hook was in a record because we didn’t know (laughs). Our first single “Just Say Stet” was originally a record we’d made that was just called “Stetsasonic” and the hook we ended-up using, ‘If you can’t say it all, Just say Stet…’, was originally just a line from one of my rhymes. Tom heard that line and was like, ‘That’s a hook!’ and we were like, ‘What do you mean?’ So he explained the whole thing about using that line as a hook. Then after the single dropped we started working on the first album, “On Fire”.”

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“On Fire” dropped in 1986 but that same year you and Delite appeared on the Incredible Mr. Freeze single “Back To The Scene Of The Crime” on Pow Wow Records. How did that come about?

“Freeze was another guy that I knew through Kevin Porter. It’s funny because at that time we were trying so hard to get on. But Stetsasonic’s road to getting put on was so different to everyone else’s (laughs). Now, Freeze was from East New York, he had a record deal, and he said to us, ‘Yo, I want you guys to rhyme on this.’ But to be honest, we weren’t really in love with the beat on that particular track…”

I always thought perhaps the reason you were featured on that single was due to the fact it was produced by Arthur Baker and the connection he had with Tommy Boy…

“No, no. Like I said, we already knew Freeze and at the time that he got his deal we were killing the park jams. Freeze wished that he was getting what me and Delite were getting in Alabama Park. I mean, once we started doing those Alabama jams, we got nice. Delite became everything I wanted him to become. I mean, D would say to me, ‘Yo, do I sound good?’ and I’d be like, ‘D, you don’t know how good you sound.’ I mean, his voice next to mine and the way we would bounce off of each other….”

When Stetsasonic’s first album came out I was still a huge Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five fan and I would judge any new group I heard against them. I always remember thinking at the time that, to me, Delite was to Stet what Cowboy was to the Furious Five in terms of how his voice had such a big presence on record…

“Absolutely. You nailed it one thousand percent. I loved the way we sounded together and what Delite brought to the group. I mean, we were really doing it out in those parks, so Freeze wanted us on his record because he’d already told us that he loved what we were doing. When we actually recorded “Back To The Scene Of The Crime” we didn’t even had a record deal ourselves. So doing that record was part of us trying to get on and get ourselves a deal.”

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At what point did Stet first start referring to themselves as ‘The Hip-Hop Band’?

“We started using that name when DBC first came onboard. We didn’t have Bobby Simmons in the group yet on the drums. But we started using the Hip-Hop Band name when DBC joined us because me and Delite looked around and said, ‘Holy s**t, we’ve got a band now.’ The band to us was always DBC, Wise and Paul, because those guys could play music all day, whether it be on the drum machine, the human beatbox or the turntables. Then you had the three emcees, which was me, Delite and Frukwan. I mean, if you listen to “On Fire”, you hear us talking about being the six-man band. One of the most prominent lines on “On Fire” that related to how we saw ourselves was, ‘If you call us a group, we’ll call you a liar, Stetsasonic is a band my man, We’re on fire!'”

So how did Bobby Simmons originally become involved with the group?

“Okay, this is a long story (laughs). When we did “Go Stetsa I” I had originally programmed the beat on the LinnDrum for that track and it was an old-school James Brown beat, right? But I wanted drum rolls. Now, me and Delite we had a friend called Nawthar Muhammad and he played the drums. So we asked him to come in and do drum rolls and cymbals for the track. I remember we were in Calliope Studios and I was telling him exactly where I wanted him to do a cymbal, do a roll, and he did it. But we had to play a little beat up underneath what he was doing so that he could keep the beat. It was so unplanned, but the drums on “Go Stetsa” are only three tracks. We had a mic on him and then a mic all the way on the other side of the studio in the bathroom that we used for ambience. So if you listen to my verse on “Go Stetsa” we dropped that ambience track out and then we bring it back. So that’s why my line ‘Brooklyn, New York is our hometown…’ sounds so tight because we took that track out. So it was so unplanned, because we’d talked to the engineer and he’d said we didn’t need to put extra mics on the drums if all we were doing was recording a roll.”

Bob Power of A Tribe Called Quest fame engineered that record, right?

“Bob Power was a pain in the ass (laughs). We taught Bob Power how to make all these types of Hip-Hop records. I’m not saying he wasn’t already a good engineer, but he really cut his teeth with Stetsasonic. I mean, this is obviously pre-D’Angelo and all of that. In fact, the reason he got hooked up with all of that was through me and Kedar Massenburg being connected, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, he was a good engineer but it was very difficult for us to deal with him back then because of what we were trying to do. Especially me and Prince Paul because of the type of guys we are. We are super spontaneous in the studio.”

Plus, with Hip-Hop still being relatively new, it must have been a completely different recording experience to what studio engineers were used to in comparison to working with artists from other genres…

“Right, right. So on and off Bob Power wouldn’t be available and we’d be happy when he wasn’t (laughs). So the reason we hooked up with Bob Colter is because we’d already tried working with all these different engineers and things just hadn’t worked out. I mean, we even tried the tech guy because we thought he might work as he knew so much about all of the equipment. One of the biggest problems we had was that we had this raw sound because we were still trying to mimick the whole two turntables and a mic sound, and the engineers used to always clean it up and we’d be like, ‘That’s not what we want!’ Then we’d go through this whole thing and they’d end up giving the music back to us how we originally wanted it and that was something they could have done two hours before (laughs). So anyway, one day we had Bob Colter in the studio, who we later found out was just as spontaneous as we were. So anyway, he pulls up the “Go Stetsa” track which we were getting ready to work on, but he only pulls up the live drums and the vocals, I guess because of the way the track was labelled. So then he’s getting ready to pull up the drum machine track and I just said, ‘Whoa! Hold up, hold up. Play it like that.’ I was like, ‘Delite, come over here. Do you hear this s**t?’ And that’s how “Go Stetsa” ended-up sounding the way it did with the drums. Which is a very long story to say, that experience then let us know exactly how we sounded on live drums and that we could use those live drums in a way that didn’t sound like some corny R&B record.”

Is that what then gave you the idea of putting Bobby Simmons down with the group?

“So getting back to Bobby, remember I mentioned DJ Scooter Love and the Kickin’ Coffin earlier? Bobby used to carry records for those guys and was already my boy from Brownsville. So Bobby was now the back-up deejay for Red Alert at the Latin Quarter when we started poppin’. He walked up to me one day and said, ‘Yo, D. I know you cut “Go Stetsa” with drums and you know that I’m nice on the drums. We should try it one time…’ and I just said, ‘Let’s do it!’ But it was an ill set-up the way we performed with Bobby in the Latin Quarter for the first time. Now, the best way I can describe it to you is if you look at the video to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Tramp”, you can see how the Latin Quarter worked. The stage they had was up top and then the dance-floor was at the bottom. We had to put Bobby and his drums down on the floor and then we were up top on the stage. But it turned out dope as hell.”

So Bobby was performing with Stet in a live context before he actually started working  with the group in the studio?

“Exactly. I mean, the live performances were coming out so dope that by the time we went into the studio to do “In Full Gear”, Bobby was officially in the group.”

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Touching on the Latin Quarter for a moment, what memories do you have of that particular spot?

“Overall, I remember that the Latin Quarter represented the underground. I mean, I know that word gets used over and over, but it’s really the only word I’ve got to describe what was happening in New York back then. I mean, at the time, Russell Simmons was really starting to blow with the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, he had Whodini, so the commercial part of being on the radio and getting big money for tours was starting to happen and a lot of that was happening with Russell. Russell was that guy who was doing all of that. But then there were the rest of us, and all the rest of us had to cut our teeth at the Latin Quarter. Now, this is obviously prior to us being managed by Rush a little later down the line. But when it came to the Latin Quarter, you had Stetsasonic, you had Ultramagnetic MC’s, you had Boogie-Down Productions, Lumumba Carson who went on to be Professor X in X-Clan was hanging out there with me as he was managing us for awhile, you had Just-Ice, even Kid-N-Play and a little later on the Audio Two. It was actually through meeting Audio Two at the Latin Quarter that I ended-up producing “Top Billin'” for them because Red Alert used to play “I Like Cherries” all the time. Of course, Red Alert played a huge part in the Latin Quarter, then along with Red came the Violators. So you had all of this real Hip-Hop that was happening in this place and it was kinda the polar opposite at the time of what Russell was doing with the tours and all of that.”

When you think back to that time, are there any particular moments that standout to you that really represent the Latin Quarter experience?

“One particular moment that I always think of when people ask me about the Latin Quarter was Red Alert playing Eric B. & Rakim’s “My Melody” for the first time. Yo, man, that might even be my most magical moment in Hip-Hop. That was the first time that any of us had heard it. I remember it coming on and just thinking, ‘What the hell is happening right now?’ The way the record started with the keyboard and then it goes into those drums was just crazy, but then Rakim’s voice came on and everyone was just like, ‘Yooooooo!’ I mean, none of us who went to the Latin Quarter knew Rakim at this point. Actually, Biz Markie knew Rakim because he used to be out on Long Island. But the rest of us didn’t know Rakim. We didn’t really know anything about him. The only tapes you could find of Rakim back then were Wyandanch High School parties or whatever from all the way out there in Long Island. I mean, it wasn’t like Rakim was coming and rhyming with people at the Latin Quarter or anything like that. So we still didn’t really know who he was. Which is what made it so ill when everyone heard that record for the first time. Eric B. was there that night though. I remember Eric coming in with his whole massive, Supreme Magnetic and all of those dudes. They were standing there with all these gold rings on and all of that whilst “My Melody” is playing (laughs). It was just the illest thing.”

Just to let everyone know that was their boy Rakim booming over the system…

“Man, that record was so hot that Red Alert played it three times in a row that night. I tell people all the time, that on the streets of New York, “My Melody” was killin’ “Eric B. Is President”. I think “Eric B. Is President” was a better radio record, but “My Melody” was the bigger street record.”

Considering the amount of legendary artists who were part of that Latin Quarter scene, how much of a sense of community was there amongst you all?

“I think it was the tightest Hip-Hop community I’ve ever seen. I mean, the only thing I’ve ever felt that could rival that was when Stetsasonic and Public Enemy shared a tour bus together, but that was just two groups, so it wasn’t what you would call a community like the Latin Quarter. There was so much of a community at the Latin Quarter that Lumumba Carson had actually created a Hip-Hop Coalition thing that Stetsasonic, MC Serch, King Sun, Eric B. & Rakim, all of us were part of that. Also, a lot of us were still doing day jobs at the time, so when it came to paid gigs, the Latin Quarter was one of the only places you could go as an artist. There were a couple of things that might have happened at the Rooftop in Harlem, but they had there own thing going on there. There were a couple of things that might have happened at the USA roller-skating rink out in Queens, but they had there own little thing going on as well. But when it came to some real Hip-Hop, the Latin Quarter was where it was at and everyone wanted to be a part of it. So much so that you had a group like Salt-N-Pepa, who weren’t frequently at the Latin Quarter, but, as I mentioned earlier, they ended up shooting their video for “Tramp” there because that place was a staple of New York Hip-Hop.”

It was the place that everybody wanted to be affiliated with in some way at the time?

“Absolutely. Let me tell you, one of my dopest Latin Quarter stories involves MC Hammer. Now, me and Hammer have been cool for a long time. But when I first met Hammer I met him as Stanley Kirk Burrell of the Holy Ghost Boys. He was the first gospel rapper I ever met in my life. He used to come to the Latin Quarter to watch Stretch and Tron dance. Now, that whole thing he used to do going across the stage that everyone called the Hammer Dance, that was Stretch and Tron’s thing. But the Latin Quarter was like a university or something, man. I mean, I can’t even front, there were some guys who went in there wack who came out dope (laughs). But you really had to be there to fully understand how important the Latin Quarter was, man. Every week there would be someone performing, every week Red Alert would be playing something new, there was the fashion, there was just all this stuff going on. I mean, Union Square was the only real equivalent to Latin Quarter, although they had a lot of problems with violence. But Latin Quarter got violent to. Man, it got so violent that it was ridiculous.”

People who were associated with the Latin Quarter seem to have differing opinions on how violent it actually was there. From what you remember, was violence a regular problem?

“I mean, people were getting robbed at Latin Quarter every week. People were getting robbed and all of that. But the security dudes, Robocop and them, they had a way of getting the trouble out of the club quickly. They did it the same way the guys at the Roxy used to do it early in the disco days. At the Roxy, a fight would break out, the guards would jump in, grab the guy, take him outside, and the party would just keep on going. That’s how they did it at the Latin Quarter as well. But I do remember there was this one particular night that was just the illest night. Paradise was my man and him and Stetsasonic’s then manager Lumumba Carson were cool, so we used to hang out up in the office. Now, the office in the Latin Quarter was also upstairs where the stage was, but it was across from the stage on the other side. Now, this one particular night, man, it just went bananas. We were all standing upstairs in the office just looking down watching this fight break out and it was nuts. People were throwing stuff and it was just really going crazy. I’ll never forget that night…”

Was this the infamous Jackie Wilson benefit event that so many artists have spoken about over the years?

“I don’t remember what night it was. All I remember was, yo, it was like something out of a movie. It was crazy. But like I said, there was always something happening at Latin Quarter, but they were just real good at isolating it quickly and getting it outside. There was a backdoor downstairs that was directly underneath the office and that gave them a pretty straight line to grab the culprit if they were on the dance-floor and then get them straight outside.”

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How true is it that “Go Stetsa I” was the Crooklyn stick-up kid anthem at the Latin Quarter?

“For robbing people? Yeah, it was (laughs). That’s true. I don’t know how that happened but it’s true…”

It probably had something to do with that ‘Go Brooklyn!’ chant…

“Maybe it was (laughs). But “Go Stetsa” was definitely the tuck-your-chain record in the Latin Quarter. Once you heard that drum roll, if you weren’t ’bout it then you needed to leave right then (laughs). I don’t really know where that started, but it might have started in prison. I had a homie who was locked-up on Rikers Island when “Go Stetsa” came out and he told me that people used to throw their shoes at the speaker when that record came on the radio. Not to cut the record off, but just because they were excited to hear it. So when “Go Stetsa” came on the radio in prison, people would start throwing their shoes at the speaker (laughs). That’s crazy.”

So dudes were probably coming out of prison and telling people how “Go Stetsa” used to make people go crazy when they were locked-up…

“Exactly (laughs). But yeah, that’s definitely true that “Go Stetsa” was the stick-up kid anthem. That’s not a myth. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. It was nuts. The one thing that we did love though, was that Stetsasonic, and also BDP, had a certain reputation. When both us and BDP performed at the Latin Quarter, no junk went on in the crowd. I can’t say anything about what would happen after, but while we were onstage nothing went down.”

Was that down to the respect the LQ crowd had for Stet and BDP as artists or was it down to the size of the crews that you rolled with?

“It was a little bit of both. I only remember one particular night when I had to get a little bit antsy with the crowd. Someone in the crowd had said something and I just said, ‘Stop the music! Man, they’ll take you out of here in a bag, man…’ and the whole audience started laughing because they knew. But overall, I think a lot of it had to do with the respect both us and BDP had, but it also had a lot to do with the actual entertainment as well. I mean, with Stetsasonic, there was a bunch of us onstage so people knew that was going to be exciting. But with BDP, there was only three of them, Scott La Rock, D-Nice and KRS-One. But to see them onstage was incredible. I mean, even to this day Kris is phenomenal, but back then they were just the illest thing to watch, yo. To watch Kris as a young kid, brand new, doing “Poetry”, we were looking at him like, ‘How the f**k did he come up with this?’ I’m listening to him and watching him as an emcee myself, thinking, ‘Where did this guy come from?’ It was bananas, man. But I would say, aside from Just-Ice, compared to Stetsasonic and BDP, the rest of the artists who would perform at the Latin Quarter didn’t really make the grade. They were okay, they did their thing, they rocked, but not like that. If I could describe it as one thing, they just didn’t keep it interesting enough for the crowd. I mean, with BDP, Scott La Rock would take the SP-12 onstage with them and things like that. So we were always doing something to make it interesting. Like, whatever was the hot record out at the time, we might drop that at the beginning of the show and say a rhyme over it, just to give the people something a little different each time we performed.”


What impact do you remember the news of Scott La Rock’s tragic murder having on the Latin Quarter community?

“I remember Lumumba calling me to tell me what had happened and I couldn’t believe it. We jumped in the car and went Uptown to confirm it. It was hard on all of us, man. Scott was Puffy before Puffy was Puff. Scott had three label deals before he died. He really was about his business and he was about the business of Hip-Hop. So Scott’s whole thing wasn’t just about making the music, it was about how we could be independent and in control of our own music. Scott wasn’t really with Stet being signed to Tommy Boy in particular (laughs). He’d say to me, ‘Daddy-O, you could have you own label.'”

So he had that sense of vision back then to understand how large Hip-Hop could become as a business?

“Exactly. But what made Scott’s death so tough was that, when someone close to you passes away and they’ve reached an old age you can make sense of it, but when it happens to a young person, it’s unexpected. Plus, what made it even more unexpected, was that we were all going through this huge period of growth in Hip-Hop and there was so much happening at the time, so for one of our heroes to get taken out like that, it was just real tough. Obviously we heard what happened around D-Nice getting into some beef over a chick, but then we started to hear rumours that the guy who did it wasn’t even no hardcore dude like that, so it was like ‘C’mon, man. That didn’t have to happen.’ So that was a tough one, man. But as far as KRS, I’m not saying that Kris wasn’t already dope, but it definitely did something to him on the rhyming side…”

There was definitely a huge difference between the KRS you heard on the “Criminal Minded” album in 1987 and the KRS you heard on 1988’s “By All Means Necessary”…

“To me, at that point, KRS-One became the best emcee in the world…”

As as fan, you listened to “Criminal Minded” and thought KRS-One was a great emcee, but you listened to “By All Means Necessary” and thought, ‘This is someone who’s really trying to teach me something here’…

“That situation definitely changed Kris and, this is just my opinion, but I think he felt he definitely had to make sure that Scott’s legacy stood for something. I mean, I wasn’t privy to any of this, but knowing the type of person that Scott was, Scott probably always told Kris to rhyme about the stuff he was talking about on “By All Means Necessary”. I can see Scott La Rock saying to Kris, ‘Yo, man. Why don’t you say something, man?’ So if there was anything good that came out of that whole situation, I guess you can say it was the impact it had on the music KRS went on to make.”

Ryan Proctor

Check Part Three of this interview here.

Stetsasonic – “Go Stetsa I” (Tommy Boy Records / 1986)

Old To The New Q&A (Part One) – Daddy-O

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When it comes to golden-era Hip-Hop greats, the six-man crew Stetsasonic can proudly take their place alongside the likes of Run-DMC and Public Enemy as one of the most talented groups to have emerged during the genre’s immense growth period of the 1980s.

Signed to Tommy Boy Records, the self-proclaimed ‘Hip-Hop Band’ followed the success of their debut single “Just Say Stet” with 1986’s “On Fire” album, before adding to the catalogue of classic long-players released throughout 1988 with the brilliant “In Full Gear”, which, of course, spawned the timeless pro-sampling anthem, “Talkin’ All That Jazz”.

Led by fiery Brooklyn-bred lyricist Daddy-O, Delite, Wise, Frukwan, DBC and Prince Paul embraced the influences of multi-faceted old-school crews such as Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five whilst carving out their own creative space within the ever-evolving Hip-Hop scene of the time, delivering an energetic mix of emcee bravado, sparse beats, live instrumentation and social commentary.

By the time Stet’s 1991 album “Blood, Sweat & No Tears” was released, Prince Paul had helped to reshape Hip-Hop’s sonic landscape through his work with De La Soul, whilst Daddy-O had also been spreading his production wings via a diverse selection of artists including Queen Latifah, Third World and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

In subsequent years, Paul would join Frukwan in the original line-up of the Wu-Tang spin-off project Gravediggaz, whilst Daddy-O would release his 1993 solo project “You Can Be A Daddy, But Never Daddy-O” whilst continuing to produce for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Freestyle Fellowship and Junior M.A.F.I.A..

In this first instalment of my four-part interview with the BK rap legend, Daddy-O discusses Crooklyn block parties, his introduction to Hip-Hop and the formation of Stetsasonic.

But remember, if you can’t say it all….

What are you earliest musical memories growing-up in New York City?

“I always say that Hip-Hop has a mother, a father and a godfather. This is the Daddy-O version of things, right (laughs). For me, the mother of Hip-Hop is disco. But not John Travolta disco. I’m talking about disco like First Choice and the Salsoul Orchestra. The type of music that Pete DJ Jones and all those guys were playing right before Grandmaster Flash learnt how to deejay. Now, I always say that the father of Hip-Hop is reggae because I firmly believe that we got our rhyme style from the toasters of the past like Lone Ranger, Fat Head, Yellowman and all of them. Then the godfather is James Brown. I mean, without his music I’m not sure how things would have happened because it was his whole style and rhythm that really enabled the culture to grow and develop in those very early days. So that’s what was happening in New York in the 1970s. Now, even though there were parties and things happening all year round, let’s put it in the summer. You’ve got equipment out everywhere. I’m growing-up in Brooklyn at the time, so I’m not where Flash or none of them are in the Bronx, but there were systems galore. In every project building there were people playing outside and because some of the projects were so big there might be two or three systems out playing in the same project. I remember the concept of having the newest record was always the thing, and that wasn’t just the case for the deejays, but for the fans as well. I mean, most of those records that you would hear being played at the block parties weren’t being played on the radio. The radio was playing disco like Donna Summer and that type of stuff. I mean, back then some of those underground disco records were like twelve minutes long and at that time before things like Pro Tools it was hard to make radio versions, yo. These records were twelve minutes of dopeness with bands in the studio playing, and those long records were structured that way with different breakdowns and parts where the girl would come in singing and things like that (laughs). I’m not saying it would have been impossible for some of those artists to have made radio versions of their songs that were easier to play, but going into that studio and cutting all that tape was nothing like doing a digital edit today…”

Times have definitely changed, right…

“I mean, let’s be honest, it was expensive as well (laughs). So getting back to my story, the majority of the records you were hearing at the parties and in the parks were not being heard on the radio. Those were records you would hear in the clubs or at the jams. Now me being a teenager at the time, there weren’t that many clubs I could get into (laughs). So I’m hearing records like John Davis & The Monster Orchestra’s “I Can’t Stop” being played at the jams and there would be an announcer on the mic. There wasn’t any rapping going on at this point as we came to know it. There would be an announcer on the mic and he would be saying stuff and shouting out neighbourhoods and things like that. We’d also have the reggae parties in Brooklyn at that time as well, which were a different thing altogether. You’d have the reggae block parties where they’d be playing all these different 45s and dub-plates, which was their particular thing. So the Brooklyn I grew-up in was vibrant with music and it was definitely a young crowd who were at the jams and it was a whole lot of fun. It was all about who  was jammin’ on a particular day, hangin’ out at the jam, maybe a particular sound system wasn’t really killin’ it, so you’d be like, ‘Yo! We’re leaving. We’re going to go over to that jam on Williams Avenue as this one on Wyona is wack!'”

Who were some of the local deejays you remember from that time?

“I remember a kid named Reggie D. I  also remember this kid called DJ Wise. But the big deejay from where I was from in Brownsville, East New York was a guy named Scooter Love. His crew had this thing called the Kickin’ Coffin and they had a real coffin that they would bring onstage with them. The thing about the Kickin’ Coffin was that people would wait to see them bring that out (laughs). I mean, even them bringing their equipment out was a show. Then Scooter and them would put on the white gloves and everything and they’d actually have their turntables inside the coffin. So the hottest parties in my area were always from Scooter Love with the Kickin’ Coffin. Now, if you were to speak with Delite, his version would be totally different because he was still in Queens at this time and I guess the guys over there had a little bit more money, which is why Queens actually had the best sound systems with cats like Cipher Sounds and all them. I mean, they would have bottoms in their set-ups and everything. Our thing in Brooklyn, we had Cerwin Vega speakers and all that, so it was still loud, but the systems were nothing like the walls of sound that guys like Cipher used to have. Our thing in Brooklyn was more about the flash and the parties and the records. I mean, every area used to have their own records and we definitely had some records that were specific to Brooklyn and were considered our anthems back then.”

What were some of the most popular Brooklyn anthems that you’d hear at the jams?

“MFSB’s “Love Is The Message” was probably the number one Brooklyn anthem back then. There was also this other record that was huge in Brooklyn at the time, which it took me a long time to find, I have it on my hard-drive now but I can’t remember the group right now. But it’s a cover version of the the O’Jay’s “For The Love Of Money” which was remade by a disco group. That was an incredible record. There was also the Brooklyn Dreams record “Music, Harmony & Rhythm” which we sampled on a Stetsasonic record years later. Then you had the whole Salsoul thing, which, I don’t know how that translated in other boroughs of New York at the time, but the Salsoul thing was huge in Brooklyn. Anything by Larry Levan, Loleatta Holloway, First Choice, all of that stuff was heavy-duty and we loved it in Brooklyn.”

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So all of this is around the late-70s?

“Yeah, we’re going into the late-70s here, 78, 79. Then by 1980, that’s when I actually started hearing Hip-Hop and knowing that it existed because that’s when I started getting the tapes. I remember my prize possession back then was a Cold Crush Brothers tape that was from New Year’s Eve of 1980 going into 1981. I remember JDL had a rhyme on there where he was talking about what he’d done in 1980 but how he was going to do so much more in 81 (laughs). So that was when I really started hearing Hip-Hop, from hearing those tapes. I mean, I always loved music and I had always had a boombox that I carried around before people started rapping and stuff. But the first time I was introduced to Hip-Hop, I remember I was sitting on the stoop and one of my buddies who knew I loved music told me that he had something that I had to hear. Now, I want to say this was in 1980. But he had a Grandmaster Flash tape. But it wasn’t a Flash tape that had been recorded outside at one of the jams, this was a Flash tape that had been made inside Flash’s crib. Now, at that time, there were three types of Hip-Hop tapes. There were the live tapes that were recorded with the condenser mics that most people hated because you couldn’t really even tell what people were saying (laughs). Then you had the live tapes that were recorded at the shows that were actually taped from being plugged into the system. Those were the ones that everyone loved because you could really hear the crowd, the emcees and everything else. Then there were the tapes that people made in the crib. Now a lot of people liked hearing those tapes from the crib because they were basically practice tapes for the different crews, so you got to hear them putting their routines together. So it was one of those tapes from Flash that my buddy brought to me on this particular day. I’ll never forget it because it started off with Flash cutting up The Headhunters’ “God Made Me Funky” and Melle Mel was saying ‘One for the treble, two for the bass, C’mon Flash let’s rock the place…’ and they had the funk machine on as well with the echoes, ‘Yes, yes, y’all (y’all, y’all), To the beat y’all (y’all, y’all)’ I was like, ‘What the hell is that?!’ I had never heard nothing like that in my life. I’d never heard anybody rhyming in rhythm like that, the echo-chamber was driving me crazy because I thought it sounded so dope and the scratching behind it was just so ill.”

When did you first start rhyming yourself?

“Now at this same time, me and my brother Kedar Massenburg were going to high-school. He was going to a high-school called Erasmus Hall which was in Flatbush and I was going to a high-school called Thomas Jefferson which was in East New York. Now, Kedar said to me one day, ‘Yo, you really like all that rapping stuff? My man does all of that, my man Reggie. He’s got equipment and everything.’ Now, this was the same Reggie D that I mentioned earlier. So Kedar knew that I was starting to write my little rhymes and everything, so he knew that Reggie and this rapper he had called Barshon D had this show coming up on Labour Day. So Kedar was like, ‘Why don’t you write the rhyme for the kid?’ So he hooked it up somehow and I wrote this Labour Day rhyme for this Barshon kid for him to perform with Reggie at this show in the neighbourhood. So I went to this show to see him perform my rhyme, and he was wack! I was so hurt because it was my rhyme (laughs). I was like, ‘I will never write for anybody else again. I’m going to do this myself’ and that’s really when I seriously started rhyming (laughs).”

So this happened during that 1980 period?

“Yeah, this is 1980, slipping into 1981. I came up with a name, Doctor On, and I started rhyming. But I was rhyming differently back then to how people heard me later on. I actually still have this old Doctor On tape but I can’t find it and I’m so mad (laughs). But the largest difference back then was that I really didn’t have any point of reference in terms of what I should sound like. So I was sounding like all the different emcees from Uptown that I’d heard on the tapes because I didn’t know how else I should sound. But I was writing my own rhymes, all these different types of rhymes, and figuring out how to write four-bar rhymes, which I guess were really more like limericks, and then I was also writing regular rhymes. I mean, it amazes me that people don’t really do those kind of four-bar limerick rhymes anymore. I actually heard Kendrick Lamar doing something like that recently and it was brilliant. Now, just to clarify, what we used to call four-bar rhymes were the rhymes that would go something like, ‘I was walking down the street one day and I saw this pretty girl, But I kept on walking….’ and then you finish it with the next line. So I was doing stuff like that, the nursery-rhyme type stuff, and then I was also doing more regular rhymes as well.”

Were any other members of what would become Stetsasonic in the picture at this point?

“Well, Delite was one of my best friends and even though he knew Cipher Sounds and all those dudes out in Queens, he was just never really into it. But he had moved to Brooklyn by this time. So when I started writing my rhymes, he was like, ‘You want to get into that? I’m down!’ So me and him, just me and Delite, started figuring out what we were going to do with the music thing. So me and Delite started rhyming together, trying to figure it out, and we started going through this third member thing because we knew we wanted to be something, but we were just trying to work it out. Now, at the same time I was living in East New York, which was Ocean Hill, Brownsville, but we call it East New York, there were a group of young guys who used to hang out on the corner selling dope. I knew all of them, but they used to be on that ‘Yo, don’t come around here. Don’t hang around us’ stuff. But they’d still shout me out and say hi when they saw me. I’ll never forget this one day I was walking down the block, and one of these guys, Nathaniel, he called me over and was like, ‘Yo! What’s your name?’ I told him that I went by the name Doctor On and he was like, ‘Yo! F**k that! That’s wack! You’re going to go by the name of Daddy-O and this is how you’re going to do it…’ And he just killed me right there because he started going, ‘D-to- the-A-double-D-Y-O, I go by the code of MC Daddy-O, And this is something that you must be told, You couldn’t touch me with a sureshot pole, Daddy-O, Rhymes galore, MC Daddy-O came back for more, y’all…’ I looked at him like he was crazy but he sounded so dope. So I took on the name Daddy-O from that moment. So, from there I started hanging around these guys and they started telling me stuff, like, ‘We was in this group called the Stetson Brothers, we were out on Long Island with this deejay Pudgy T and emcee Supreme, and they tossed Melle Mel and them!’ Now Flash and Melle Mel were my favourite group at the time, so I’m thinking that nobody could beat them. But this is another tape that I wish I still had. They brought me the tape and I heard it. Flash and them had gone out to Long Island and those Stetson boys beat the brakes off them with that style that Nathaniel had used when he gave me my name. They used to call that rhyme style the ‘Gangster Rock’ because it was so much harder than what everyone else was doing at the time. I mean, Uptown, you’d hear guys saying things like, ‘Toot the horn, ring the bell…’, but with this ‘Gangster Rock’ style that these Stetson guys had which they taught me, one thing was that we slowed the beat down crazy. Let me tell you how much I thought we owned the slow beat, I didn’t even talk to Grand Daddy I.U. for the first year of knowing him (laughs). Later on, I said to him, ‘I was so mad at you, man’ and I.U. was like, ‘Why Daddy-O?’ and I told him, ‘Because that slow thing is ours, man.’ I mean, that first I.U. album was crazy to me, man, because it was slow (laughs). But the difference that let me know I.U. wasn’t biting was because he wasn’t trying to do the second part of the style, which was to be really hard and aggressive with your voice.”

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So the ‘Gangster Rock’ style was about slow beats and really punctuating the words in your rhymes?

“Yeah, absolutely. So anyway, the guys on the corner, they were telling me about the whole Stetson Brothers thing and I was always saying, ‘Yo! I wanna meet Pudge. I wanna meet Supreme’ and they would always say ‘One day, one day’. But these guys were hustling. So what happened is, as they started teaching me, I started building this whole thing up. Now, Bambaataa had the Zulu Nation, so I decided I was going to make this whole Stetsa Nation thing. So I went in my old neighbourhood, where Alabama Park was, and me and Delite just started recruiting people to be in Stetsa Nation. Some people were emcees, some people were deejays, we made little buttons to show you were in Stetsa Nation (laughs). So we were just out there recruiting…”

Was anybody part of that wider crew who went on to leave their own mark in Hip-Hop?

“Nobody. Nope. They all went on to do other things with their lives, so I guess you could say those of us who ended up in Stetsasonic were the pick of the litter (laughs). The only thing I will say, is that I remember AZ was a little boy at the time we were doing the Stetsa Nation thing. I mean, when people always talk about how AZ is fly, I always tell them that AZ has been fly since he was three-years-old (laughs). I remember him being a three-old-year old kid out on Alabama Avenue with doper kicks on then the grown men (laughs). But as far as Stetsa Nation was concerned, there wasn’t really anyone else involved who went on to make a name for themselves in Hip-Hop.”

So how did the group itself start to develop out of the Stetsa Nation?

“So as we started to grow, we found this deejay. One day me and Delite were hanging out in East New York and this guy had his speakers out of his window and he was killing it. I remember we always wanted to find a guy that could do a three-second backspin and things like that and we heard this guy doing it out of his window using “I Can’t Stop”, just going back and forth doing these crazy backspins. So we were both like, ‘Who is that?!’ One of my homeboys was like, ‘Yo, that’s Mike.’ I was asking if he had emcees, but my boy was telling that he was just a deejay. So me and Delite went up to his crib like, ‘Yo, we want you to be our deejay’ and he was real happy about it (laughs). Mike had actually put together a deejay set-up called Mass Communication. So me and Delite were part of Mass Communication for a minute, we were doing the Stetsa Nation thing and then when I was out on the block I was still hanging out with Nathaniel and them from the Stetson Brothers. Now, at this point, when it looked like we were about to start bringing the equipment out and be rhyming, I tried to bring them with me. I was like, ‘Yo, man, c’mon!‘ because Nat was nice. I mean, later on I may have got better than them, but at that point, Nat was so nice that it was crazy. I mean, Nat was the dude who gave me my name, he showed me my vocal growl, all of that, so I really wanted them to come and be down to perform. But they were doing their thing on the corner, so they were like, ‘Nah, man. You can have that. We’re passing the torch.’ So when I told Delite what they’d said, he was like, ‘Okay, well I get where you’re coming from with the Stetsa Nation thing D, but what are we going to do about the group, us?’ I told him, ‘Well, we can just be Stetsa Nation’ but Delite was like, ‘Nah, that’s not going to work. We’ve got to be something. Treacherous Three is something. Fearless Four is something. We’ve got to be something.’ So Delite came up with the name Stetsasonic, which he explained by saying that Stetsa means style and Sonic means sound. So we did the Stetsasonic 3 MC’s and then we fought like battlecats for the next, let me see, 80, 81, 82, 83, for about the next two-and-a-half years to try and figure out who that third emcee was going to be. So it was me and Delite, then we put this kid Asim in the group for like half-a-second, but he said he couldn’t do it because we practiced too much (laughs). Then we put Crown Supreme in the group and actually started doing some shows around town, but then Supreme got hooked up with his girl Peaches and she didn’t want him to come to practice (laughs). Then we grabbed Del D, who would have always been the best third emcee we would have had, he was nice, but I don’t know what happened with Del (laughs). Then we grabbed Bushaan, but he got tired of practicing. Then we ended up grabbing two deejays because we were seeing Doug E. Fresh doing the two deejay thing with Chill Will and Barry B, but that didn’t really work out.”

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So the group definitely didn’t come together easily then?

“Not at all (laughs). We had this guy Kevin Porter, who was kind of like a mentor, who was a dancer and one of the original lockers in New York. He was showing us the industry and getting us in, but he was more on the theatrical side. I mean, he was the reason our first show was at Carnegie Hall! Hip-Hop was so new back then that nobody denied it. I tell people all the time, that we used to perform at friggin’ dinner clubs on top of pianos while people were eating (laughs). Anyway, we were trying to pull things together, and Kevin Porter really kept trying to help us improve the group. Now, I’m trying to think if he brought Wise to us first or Frukwan. I think he brought Wise first and it was at the time when Buffy and them who went on to become the Fat Boys lived right around the corner from me and they’d just won the Tin Pan Apple contest that got them their deal. So the Fat Boys were just getting popular with the whole beatbox thing and Kevin told us he wanted to bring us this kid who could beatbox. So he brings us Wise, who was this little skinny, light-skinned, handsome dude and he could do everything that Buffy and them could do. At the time, people were under the impression that Buffy could do what he did because he was fat, and I was under that impression as well (laughs). But Wise could do all of that stuff as well, so I said he had to be in the group. Mind you, Delite was getting mad at me because I kept adding people to the group (laughs). Delite was saying that I didn’t actually have to add more people to the group, but that we could just use them as we needed them, like the equivalent of work-for-hire. But I didn’t want to do that and then have someone else run off with them in another group (laughs). So Wise became part of the group. Del D was still in the group at this point as the third emcee, but it was a weird kind of situation because he was never around. So me, Delite and Wise started making these routines, and man, we started blowing the brakes off of every block party we went to. We used to do this thing where before we would perform, we’d put Wise onstage under a sheet and he would stay really still, so nobody even knew what that was. Then me and Delite would get up there, put in a tape, rap for about half-a-second, then Wise would start doing the beatbox and as he got up the sheet would be coming up like a ghost (laughs). Man, we were burning those block parties up with that routine…”

Were these local block parties in Brooklyn or were you starting to travel more as as a crew by this time?

“I remember the one we really killed was right back at Arasmus Hall. We went right back to Arasmus and murdered it. But yeah, we were doing block parties all around Brooklyn. Then I remember, Kevin Porter brought me Frukwan. He was like, ‘You’ve got to hear this rapper.’ It was actually supposed to be Cal Cash, Frukwan’s brother, who was originally meant to be in the group. Cal was nice, he was a real emcee and he had the voice and everything. But when we heard Frukwan, he sounded just like us. We had those mean rhymes, like going at an emcee’s throat rhymes, and Frukwan had that. I told Delite, ‘Yo, if we don’t put this boy in the group then he’s going to come back at some point and destroy us.’ I remember thinking he had this ill whine in his voice as well. That was the other thing, because the original Stetson Brothers had this kid in the group called Rocko who had this whine in his voice. When I heard Frukwan I remember saying to Delite, ‘Yo, you hear the whine in his voice? He’s got the Rocko whine, yo.’ So we put Frukwan in the group. My man Shamel, he was down with us as well and was sort of like the fourth emcee who would come in sometimes and then not come in sometimes (laughs). Me, Delite and Wise used to practice a whole lot, so a lot of the others who were down with the group at different times just trailed off a bit, but Frukwan endured it. He actually endured coming to shows with us where he wouldn’t even get to go onstage. Frukwan was actually in the group when we won the contest to get our record deal and he wasn’t even on stage.”

That was the competition that Mr. Magic and WBLS were involved with, right?

“Yeah, exactly. I mean, me, Delite and Wise had practiced so much with just the three of us and we had all these different routines, we just didn’t feel that we had the time to change the routine to slide Frukwan in to do a rhyme. We told him that we were just going to have to go ahead and do it.  So he endured all of that to still be part of the group. But the way the other guys got into the group was ill. So with DBC, me and Delite had a mutual friend who was DBC’s brother, and he came to us one day and was like, ‘Yo, my brother lives in Middletown, New York and he does music for this rap stuff.’ DBC had actually worked with the Boogie Boys on the “Fly Girl” record and a couple of other things, so he had equipment like drum machines and everything. So DBC came down from Middletown to meet us one time, spent the night at my house talking about some stuff, and then, once again, I got Delite mad because I told him that I was putting D in the group (laughs).”

Now, I’ve heard Prince Paul talk about how he became part of the group numerous times, but how do you remember it happening?

“At the time, we didn’t even have a deejay, but we were able to go around town and do all these different routines because we had Wise on the beatbox. The music that we used to use for our intro as we were coming onstage, I used to make that doing the pause-tape thing and then just put the cassette in at the beginning of the performance. Me and Delite just used to say a few lines over the music and then Wise would start beat-boxing and we’d do our routines. So we decided that we needed a deejay. One day, we were at Breevort Houses in Brooklyn, and they used to do a thing called Breevort Day and in the main part of the projects all the big deejays used to be out there. Now, on one of the little side blocks there was some equipment set-up and someone was cutting up Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern”. I could hear them cutting up that track and they really were hurting that record. I heard it first before I saw who was doing it. Then when I looked, I saw this little dude behind the turntables with all this attitude as he’s back-spinning those records. You know how that Liquid Liquid track has that cymbal right at the beginning of it, right? Paul was catching that and just going back and forth, but he was doing it with so much attitude that it looked like he was almost throwing the damn records (laughs).”

So it was that combination of skill and attitude that caught your attention?

“Yeah, yeah. Now, at that time, Frukwan was in the group now, Shamel was with us that day, there was a bunch of us there. Prince Paul always tells the story that he thought we were a gang when he first saw us because we were there with all those damn spikes and the leather on, which is how we were dressing back then. I’m stood there in the middle of the group and I’m motioning for him to come over and he thought we were going to beat him up (laughs).”

I’ve heard him say that he almost didn’t travel from Long Island to Brooklyn that day for that particular jam, so things could have have happened very differently…

“Yeah (laughs). So we went over there to speak with Paul and told him that we really wanted him to deejay for us and he agreed. So now we’ve got a deejay, Prince Paul, and then we just really started making a go of it with the group.”

Ryan Proctor

Check Part Two of this interview here.

Stetsasonic 3 MC’s performing in 1984.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Proctor

Check out the final part of this interview here.

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

New Joint – J-Zone / Breeze Brewin / Prince Paul / Oxygen

J-Zone ft. Breeze Brewin, Prince Paul & Oxygen – “The Fox Hunt” (GoVillainGo.Com / 2012)

After something of an extended musical hiatus the mighty Zone Loc returns to wax with some limited edition vinyl action packed with typically quality beats and his trademark mack-attack rhymes.

New Joint – Big Daddy Kane / Prince Paul

Big Daddy Kane – “It’s A Big Daddy Thing – Prince Paul Demo Mix” (@DJPrincePaul / 2011)

The Stetsasonic / De La Soul / Gravediggaz producer continues to sift through his archives with this unreleased version of the title track to BDK’s 1989 sophomore album.

Words From Prince Paul:

“This is a Song I did for Kane in 1989 which is the title track of his album ” It’s a Big Daddy Thing”.  At this point in my career this was a big highlight to work with Kane and there was definitely a mutual respect for each other’s talents. This was our first time working together and I have to say Kane is truly genius, a funny guy and a pleasure to work with. Listening back to this song I really wish I could have made the production better. Keep in mind this was just a rough mix, the better mixed version is on the album.”

New Joint – Slick Rick / Prince Paul

Slick Rick – “Behind Bars – Unreleased Mix” (@DJPrincePaul / 2011)

Legendary producer Prince Paul continues to dust off some unreleased gems from his vaults with this original version of the title track from MC Ricky D’s 1994 album.

Words From Prince Paul:

“This was the original version of ” Behind Bars ” I recorded for Slick Rick during his incarceration in the early 90’s . The song didn’t come out until 94 but to my surprise was remixed by Warren G and Def Jam scrapped my mix . Though I’m still considered a writer of the song I was really hoping to have this heard (well in 92 when we recorded it that is) . Though it sounds pretty dated it’s still one of my favourites and I had the pleasure of working with a Genius, Slick Rick . Enjoy the Prince Paul unreleased series .. share music!”

New Joint – R.A. The Rugged Man

R.A. The Rugged Man – “A Star Is Born” (Nature Sounds / 2011)

Okay, so technically this isn’t a ‘new joint’ as the track is taken from R.A.’s 2004 Nature Sounds album “Die, Rugged Man, Die”, but the video is new and was made by the infamous NY emcee to tide fans over whilst he records his new album.

The short film features Prince Paul, J-Zone, Playboy model Rachael Robbins, “Revenge Of The Nerds” actor Andrew Cassese and R.A.’s little sister Niki Lee.

Can You Dig It? – Gravediggaz

1994 Gravediggaz interview with the crew promoting their classic debut album “6 Feet Deep” – RIP Poetic.

Prince Amongst Thieves – Prince Paul

Legendary producer Prince Paul speaks on working with Stetsasonic, De La Soul, Gravediggaz etc.

Soul Power – De La Soul

1989 performance of De La Soul’s classic “Me, Myself And I” on The Arsenio Hall Show.

Souls Of Mischief Interview (Originally Posted On BlackSheepMag.Com)

Many artists dream of releasing a debut single that crashes into the consciousness of listeners the world over, but very few actually achieve such a goal. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Oakland, California’s Souls Of Mischief, when, in the early-90s, they dropped the instant hip-hop classic ‘93 ‘Til Infinity’ on Jive Records, an upbeat, jazz-fuelled explosion of high-calibre lyricism that firmly established A-Plus, Opio, Tajai and Phesto as emcees to look out for.

As members of the Hieroglyphics collective, a crew initially introduced by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Souls displayed another sonic side to Oakland, which at the time was primarily known in rap circles for the explicit freaky tales of hometown hero Too Short and the gangsta funk of Ant Banks and MC Pooh.

Seventeen years, four albums and hundreds of shows later, Souls Of Mischief recently released their latest project ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’, which finds the group teaming up with visionary music man Prince Paul, who produced a large chunk of the album. Still as sharp as ever on the microphone, the group’s latest endeavour finds the foursome once again displaying the same proud independent spirit that prompted the Hiero crew to break free from label contracts in the 90s, blazing a trail as one of the first rap outfits to embrace the internet as a viable business outlet for artists.

Group member Tajai recently kicked it with Black Sheep to talk about working with the great Prince Paul, the lost art of lyricism and some of his favourite rappers.

Souls Of Mischief have been releasing music as a group now since the early-90s – what hopes did you all have for your music careers back then?

“Man, we were just trying to put a record out. We were kids when we recorded that first album, I was only 17. There really was no groundbreaking, over-arcing concept behind any of the stuff we were doing back then, we really were just young kids trying to make music. It’s kinda hard to fathom now looking back on how young we were because kids nowadays are like a Soulja Boy or a Bow Wow. But we just wanted to make a fresh record.

Are there any particular memories from that time period that really stand out for you looking back now?

“Being on tour with A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Just being able to be on the same show as greats like that was definitely special. It was a great time in hindsight because things have gotten so bad for rap music, but to be honest the whole journey has been a great memory and the best part is that it hasn’t ended. It’s not like I’m only sitting around reminiscing about some shit I did back in the day, we do bigger shows and travel more than we did back then and we’re still out there making music.”

The recently released Souls album ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ was largely produced by the legendary Prince Paul – how did that come about?

“Opio and Domino were on tour and Prince Paul had expressed an interest to them in doing a record with us. We just thought he meant a track, but he wanted to do a whole album. I mean, c’mon, we’re sorta from that whole Native Tongues, black medallions, no gold thing, that’s what gave Souls Of Mischief life in a place like Oakland where it’s all about pimps and keeping it real. So for us to be able to do a song with one of the architects of that movement, let alone a whole album, it was just like a dream come true. It’s kinda unreal. I mean, Paul flew out and lived with us for a month to record the album. We rented a house and he came out, stayed there with us and we recorded everything real guerrilla style. It was an amazing experience and we definitely didn’t want to disappoint him and I think it really brought out the best in us creatively. Paul had a vision and I’m just glad he’s as happy with the record as we are.”

Through his work with the likes of De La Soul and Gravediggaz, Prince Paul has always seemed to enjoy bringing concepts to the table when creating music. Did he do the same thing during his time working with you?

“Paul had a whole concept for the album, but it wasn’t anything that was really rigid. But that’s how we’ve always made records as Souls Of Mischief, we make whole albums. I mean, we came up after the 12″ single era but before the mix-tape era, so we came up when it was normal for artists to actually think about putting a whole album together, instead of just throwing a single out or putting a bunch of unrelated songs together on a mix-tape. Other than about three songs on the new album, like ‘Proper Aim’, which are just us straight ripping the track, everything else is concepts and stories. We’ve always been known as being rapper’s rappers, but even on ‘93 Til Infinity’ we had tracks like ‘What A Way To Go Out’ and ‘Tell Me Who Profits’, which were more than us just freestyling. But Paul is such a down to earth person that sometimes you wonder if he knows how important he is to hip-hop. I mean, to go from De La Soul, to Gravediggaz to ‘Prince Among Thieves’ to Handsome Boy Modelling School, those are all creative leaps and bounds that are miles apart, but he just seems comfortable in everything he does. So for Souls Of Mischief to be a part of that pantheon of great records is incredible, because I really think that when you put this new album next to all that stuff, it’s gonna stand up because it’s really a Prince Paul record. That’s why we put him on the cover because it’s not just a Souls record with Prince Paul beats.”

Souls Of Mischief and pretty much the whole Hieroglyphics crew have always been known to keep a fairly hectic tour schedule. Is that still the case?

“I mean, we have to man, because if you’re not on TV nobody knows your record is out unless you’re in town. Nowadays, nobody’s going to buy your record unless they’ve been to the show and seen that you’re dope. We probably do between one hundred and two hundred shows a year. We tour like The Roots or The Grateful Dead (laughs). We get it in as far as shows are concerned and it’s definitely integral to our whole get down.”

Given that you’re part of a group that’s now been making records for almost 20 years, does it surprise you when you see younger fans at shows?

“It’s hella surprising because I’m like, ‘You like this shit? You actually know this shit? You were born the year this record came out!!’ (laughs). That’s the craziest part to me when we see kids at our shows who weren’t even born when ‘93 ‘Til Infinity’ came out. That’s a trip. But that’s what keeps performing those old songs fresh because they’re always going to be new to younger fans who’ve just discovered them. What’s really cool though is when you see older fans who were there the first time around now bringing their teenage kids to the shows. It is surprising, but it’s great because it makes you realise that, as an artist, you’re only as old as when people find out about you. I mean, Earth, Wind & Fire and Curtis Mayfield are two of my favourite artists, but most of their biggest hits came out before I was even born, so I can relate to our younger fans from a certain perspective because of that, but then in another way I can’t relate because it’s hard for me to put myself in that position and see us how our younger fans must see us. But when you look at the rhyme styles we were using on our early records, some dudes are only just getting there now, so that first album was a manual of rap flows.”

Listening to a lot of the early Heiro material from the likes of Del, Casual and Souls Of Mischief, you definitely got the sense that when you were all on a track together everyone was pushing each other to really up their game lyrically…

“None of that was contrived either. I mean, we were all sitting in the same room making those records. It isn’t like that was a time when you could send a track to each other over the internet and all add to it, we were all sitting there together. So one person might’ve kicked something and if it was similar to someone else’s rhyme then they’d change it up. Then there’d be other times where we were writing together, trying to mirror each other’s flow and bounce off of each other. Lyricism is definitely kind of a lost art nowadays and I do feel like a samurai in a world of gunfighters, but it doesn’t matter because in the same way that martial arts are practiced today, it’s about self-mastery and perfecting an art.”

And as a fan of hip-hop and lyricism that’s what you want to hear an artist doing – pushing themselves to perfect their craft. Back in the day you didn’t necessarily want to completely understand a rhyme straight away or catch everything an artist was saying in a verse the first time you heard it…

“Nah, you wanted to be able to play it over and hear something new in it. The whole point of it was to impress people and make them think about what you were saying at the same time. Even with the whole freestyling thing, we were trying to get to the level of making our freestyles sound like written raps and a lot of the time I don’t think that really connected because guys just thought we were kicking written raps. But our whole thing was to be able to rock a rap that sounded like it could be album worthy, but it’d actually be off the top of the head. I mean, we were never really about that snap-rap where dudes are joking about each other and dissing each other’s moms, we came up on Rakim, Brother J, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, ain’t no rappers like that no more. I mean, there are some new dudes out there worth checking out like a Skyzoo or a Blu, but most new artists now are involved in the music for other reasons outside of the creativity. It’s almost like a cage fighter going against a dude who’s mastered ju-jitsu, on the one hand you have a guy who’s more about brawling and just does the cage fight shit for the money, then you have the other guy who’s about mastering his art and carrying on tradition. It’s really a sign of the times though and it goes beyond just hip-hop. We’re in microwave times and we have a dumbed down population that really can’t follow a lot of the shit people are saying. I mean, I play these records to some kids and they really don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about because they don’t understand things like metaphors. Lyricism is an art and some respect that and some people don’t, but I can’t blame that just on new rappers and the fact they’re trying to get paid before anything else, there’s also a lot of social factors involved. But it’s also not just about mainstream versus underground, or them versus us, because the dudes I listen to and think are fresh makes for a weird ass list (laughs). Fabolous, Peedi Crakk, Cassidy, Blu and Black Milk, those are some of the dudes that I think are from that true school mentality when it comes to rhyming. Someone like Fabolous I think tapers his lyrical complexities with his choice of subject matter, which I know some people think is wack, but the best way I can describe him is to say he’s a master architect but he chooses to build restaurants for McDonalds (laughs).”

So now ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ has been released is there more new Hiero material on the way?

Yeah, I think we’re going to put out a mix-tape type project of all original material to hold people over as far as Hiero is concerned. Then there’s a new A-Plus record which I think is going to be called ‘The Return Of Good Time Charlie’, Phesto’s got a record called ‘Background Check’, Opio’s coming with ‘Vulture’s Wisdom, Volume 2’ and I’ve got a new record coming as well called ‘Rap Noir’. We’re also gonna put out a remix version of this new Souls album and Pep Love’s got ‘Reconstruction’ coming. So we have a lot of stuff in the pipeline, but I don’t want to over promise and under deliver, so those are the things I know are definitely in the works.”

Ryan Proctor

R.A. The Rugged Man Interview (Originally Posted On BlackSheepMag.Com)

R.A. The Rugged Man is a cult hip-hop hero of epic proportions. Whilst many of today’s fair-weather rap fans might not be able to recite any of his rhymes or name anything from his extensive catalogue that dates back to the early-90s, the Long Island lyricist has consistently shocked, entertained and impressed true heads the world over during a storied career that has been plagued with industry politics and controversy.

Originally signed to Jive Records under his first alias of Crustified Dibbs, R.A. recorded a debut album, ‘Night Of The Bloody Apes’, that would be consigned to the label’s vault of unreleased material after the rapper’s “violent, disgusting and irresponsible” behaviour saw him banned from the Jive offices and subsequently dropped. Stories involving R.A., guns, girls and beatdowns soon circulated throughout the rap industry, leaving many labels unwilling to work with the talented artist. But while R.A.’s reputation for trouble was keeping him out of corporate offices, his other reputation for being a formidable emcee was keeping him in the studio recording with rap royalty such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Brand Nubian’s Sadat X.

Although he didn’t release an official solo album until 2004’s ‘Die, Rugged Man, Die’ on the Nature Sounds imprint, a look back over R.A.’s career shows that he’s always remained busy, whether writing for magazines such as Vibe and Mass Appeal, working on a book documenting his love of boxing, or showcasing his passion for horror flicks by collaborating with director Frank Henenlotter on their ‘Bad Biology’ film project.

Yet hip-hop has clearly remained the Rugged one’s first priority, with R.A.’s love of the culture and encyclopaedic knowledge of its history spilling out in verses that capture the energy and creativity of golden-era rap whilst simultaneously pushing the art of rhyme forward through intricate flows and literally jaw-dropping wordplay. If you’re in any doubt about R.A.’s capabilities as an emcee then just listen to his first person account of the impact his father’s Vietnam experiences had on his family on the 2006 Jedi Mind Tricks gem ‘Uncommon Valour’ – incredible.

Currently back in the studio recording the long-awaited follow-up to his ‘Die, Rugged Man, Die’ project, R.A. latest release, ‘Legendary Classics Vol. 1’, pulls together many of his most memorable back-in-the-day bangers, such as the unforgettable ‘Every Record Label Sucks D**k’.

Here, the always opinionated Rugged Man speaks on educating the masses, pissing off Lil Wayne fans, working with Prince Paul and trying to track down Black Thought of The Roots.

What made you decide to release a best-of project like ‘Legendary Classics Vol. 1’ at this point in your career?


“Well, I’ve been meaning to put this album out for a lot of years and I just wanted to teach the kids who have no idea about me a history lesson. I also wanted to put out quality sounding mixes of all the old songs that my fans like so much that they’ve been listening to on vinyl bootlegs that were made from old dusty cassette tapes. I really wanted to put some of those old songs out the way they were originally intended to sound. Plus, I’m about ten songs into recording a new studio album, so I wanted to use ‘Legendary Classics Vol. 1’ as a way of getting the name R.A. The Rugged Man back into the limelight a bit, have cats talking again, then in about six months time we’ll drop the new album. So ‘Legendary Classics’ is basically a bunch of songs that were never released commercially and then some songs that were released that are considered to be classics. But I’ve got so many songs that there’ll definitely be a volume two coming in the future.”

When you listen back to the material on ‘Legendary Classics’ how do you feel you’ve developed as an emcee over the years?


“When you start rhyming, you’re rapping like the other dudes in your neighbourhood or the dudes you look up to and respect. So in the 80s you’d be trying to do a little Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie, then you’d be trying a little Grand Puba flow. But then it comes to a point where you develop your own sound with all of your influences mixed together, but it sounds like you. But as you continue you have to keep advancing otherwise there’s no reason to keep doing it. So you have to keep updating your sh*t, so it’s still the same R.A. The Rugged Man, but each year you’re getting the advanced version and it’s about wanting to keep getting better as an emcee. The new album I’m working on now, that’s gonna blow anything else I ever did out the way, and if I do another album in five years, that album will blow this new one out the way.”

Was there a particular moment when you first started rhyming that you realised you weren’t just emulating artists you looked up to anymore and you’d actually found your own style?


“I think when I was about sixteen I did a couple of demo tapes. Before that I was really trying to figure out my style, but when I was around sixteen the demo tapes I was working on all of a sudden just sounded like something that I’d never really heard before and I knew I had something that I could call my own sh*t. I took that style and just kept updating it every year and that’s still really what I’m doing today, but it’s just a far more advanced version of what I originally started out with. I mean, I’ll kill any rapper today, but fifteen years ago I would’ve killed any rapper as well, it’s just all about the styles of the times. Right now, you could listen to shit I did fifteen years ago and say it sounds dated, but if you were around in the early 90s and caught me in a cipher spitting those rhymes you would’ve seen everybody getting mutilated. So I was just as good then as I am today, but the styles have advanced. I mean, I was always great at what I did. When I first started rapping around eleven-years-old, for some reason within a year or so I was better than most of the guys in the neighbourhood. It was just something that came naturally to me, and by the time I was fourteen I was one of the nicest cats on Long Island.”

Your 2006 appearances on Jedi Mind Tricks’ Vietnam-inspired cut ‘Uncommon Valour’ and Hell Razah’s hip-hop tribute ‘The Renaissance’ led to you having two of the most talked about verses in underground rap in recent years. What was your writing process for each of those rhymes?


“Firstly, imagine if those rhymes came out of Jay-Z’s mouth or one of these other dudes who’re supposed to be the best rapper out? People would be praising that for eternity like it’s the greatest rhyme ever written. If anybody in the mainstream said the rhymes I spit they’d be praised endlessly, but when I do it it’s like ‘Ah, it’s just that underground kid.’ But then they’re looking at some of these dudes on the TV like ‘That guy’s a lyrical genius!’ and I’m like, ‘Nah, they can’t f**k me with me, none of these cats can.’ But my whole writing process can differ depending on the song. For ‘Uncommon Valour’ I used a different process because I was writing about my father in that verse and his experiences in Vietnam. That verse took me a week or two to write because I wanted to get all the facts straight. Plus, it’s forty-four bars, so it’s longer than a standard verse. But before I wrote the verse I called my dad and was asking him where he was at in Vietnam, what was the name of his helicopter etc, then I spoke to my step-mother and asked her all the correct medical terms for the conditions my brother and sister had, and when I had all the information down on paper I just started writing the f**kin’ thing and it all came together easy because I knew the story I wanted to tell already from hearing it as a kid. The verse on ‘The Renaissance’ came super easy because I was just rapping about my favourite rappers (laughs). I love hip-hop so much and that verse is about the rappers I grew-up on like Big Daddy Kane, so that verse came together easy.”

Nowadays it seems as though a lot of newer artists are fixated on this whole ‘I-don’t-write-my-rhymes-down’ approach to making music, as if that automatically makes them dope regardless of the end result. As someone who obviously takes time perfecting their lyrics, what’s your opinion on that?


“It all depends on what’s gonna make your rhyme come out the best. If you don’t need to write your rhymes down on paper and your rhymes come out better doing it that way, then do it. But if you’re gonna end up with a better rhyme from writing the sh*t down, then you should do it that way. People always talk about how this guy and that guy never write their rhymes down, like Biggie, but both times I worked with Big I saw him write with a pad and paper, I didn’t seen him doing it off the head. People say he did, but the two particular times he worked with me he didn’t. I mean, Jay-Z is the person who kinda made that style of not writing your rhymes down famous, but if you listen to something like ‘22 Twos’, which is one of his better rhymes, I bet that wasn’t done off his head because it’s so precise.”

You recently completed a series of outspoken online video blogs to promote the ‘Legendary Classics’ project – were you surprised by the reaction they received or was it what you were expecting?


“I felt stupid doing the blogs, but the f**kin’ label said this is the era where people watch videos online more than they’ll listen to f**kin’ music, so they thought the video blogs would be a good idea. When I’m filming them I feel like a f**kin’ asshole, but when they’re done I look at them and say ‘Okay, they’re funny, that’s cool.’ I like them when they’re done, I just feel stupid while I’m doing them. But the response has pretty much been what I expected. People say ‘He’s right! He’s great!’ and then other people will say ‘He’s a piece of sh*t! He’s a bum! He sucks d**k!’ Then people will come back with ‘He’s a legend!’ I’ve offended a lot of people by calling out certain pop rapper names who people seem to think are the best ever, but you just have to laugh at some of the people who comment on the internet because they have no idea about the culture of hip-hop and don’t know there’s a whole other world out there they know nothing about. The blog that pissed a lot of people off, and made a lot of people happy, was when I said I thought a lot of dudes in my neighbourhood could rap better than Lil Wayne. People got really offended by that, but I really believe that if Lil Wayne came to my neighbourhood, we could find many rappers who could beat him in a battle. Why is that offensive? That’s just my opinion and what I believe. I live in New York City and I believe that there are kids rhyming in the streets who’re nicer that the dudes you see on television. It’s not me trying to be shocking or offensive, it’s just my opinion.”

It’s crazy that people can be so close-minded to what else is out there as back in the day, regardless of how much you might’ve liked a Rakim or a KRS-One, if someone told you they’d heard someone who was nicer than them you’d want to hear that other emcee in-case it was true, not just immediately dismiss them.


“The general public are mainly sheep, so when you’re dealing with a public full of uncultured people, you can’t expect them to know the difference. I mean, you could give them the best verse you ever spat in your life and the wackest verse and they wouldn’t know the difference. A lot of these people didn’t grow-up on this culture, they have no idea about the culture, so they have to go by who a particular TV channel is saying is the best rapper. Meanwhile, dudes that understand the art form can listen for themselves and say ‘You know what? That dude everyone’s talking about is nice, he’s okay, but I think this other dude is better.’ It’s all about having your own opinions and knowing the history of the culture. I mean, we just recently lost Mr. Magic and so many people came up on him, but there’s so many people out there who only know his name because Biggie said it in ‘Juicy’.”

How’s the ‘God Take, God Give’ film project you’re making about your father’s experiences in Vietnam coming along?


“It’s going a little slow because I ran out of money and I’m financing it myself. I don’t want to bring an investor in because I want to own it and I want one hundred percent freedom to do what the hell I want to do. I’m touring through October and November so I’ll have some money for it and should be able to continue. Also, my father, who’s in the film, he’s a little up and down and is sick sometimes so shoots that I have planned can get put on hold. But we will get it done.”

Is the film business something you’d like to become more involved in?


“Well, I’m never going to stop doing the rhyming, that’s always going to be my top priority, being the best rhymer I can be. But there are different avenues to take and you can do more than one thing in the world, so I am going to try and venture out more into film and just have fun doing it. The music is my entire life, so to me hip-hop will always be that one bitch that you love and always come home to even if you do f**k other pu**y (laughs).”

There’s been talk on the internet recently of you working on an album with Prince Paul – is that actually happening?


“He’s making me be top secret about everything to do with the project but we have already started work on it. It’s me, Prince Paul and another legendary emcee.”

Is it a concept album like some of Prince Paul’s previous work?


“There is a concept to it and the title of the group is kinda strange and having me involved with the project might be a little dangerous (laughs). But Paul and the other cat are very into the idea of doing it, but you’ll see what I mean when you hear the name of the group, you’ll be like ‘What the f**k?!!’”

Can you give any hints as to who the other emcee involved is? Is he an old-school artist? A 90s artist?


“He’s been around for a lot of years, let’s put it that way. I hate being secretive like this as I’m like a truth machine when people ask me questions, I just tell them sh*t. But Paul and the other cat wanted to keep it on the low until we have about ten songs done and then we’ll put it out there. I mean, I might’ve talked too much already (laughs).”

What can people expect from the new solo album you’re working on?


“Well I had a bit of a budget this time around so I’m getting in the studio to record twelve to fifteen brand new songs. Doing the ‘Die, Rugged Man, Die’ album I didn’t really have any budget, so some of those songs were recorded in 1999, 2000 and 2002 and the album didn’t come out until 2004. But this new album is all brand new songs so they’re all fuckin’ bangers. Every joint on the album is crazy lyrically and I’ve been working with producers like Lil’ Fame, Marco Polo and Ayatollah.”

Any artist collaborations to look out for?


“I’ve got this one beat that Lil’ Fame did and I’ve put one verse to it and I’m gonna put an ill hook on it, but I’ve been trying to get at Black Thought but I’m having a hard time getting in touch. Rumour has it that those Strong Arm Steady dudes were up at Nature Sounds and they were saying they were with Black Thought and when they said they fuck with Nature Sounds, Black Thought was like ‘R.A. The Rugged Man is an incredible emcee.’ But that’s hearsay so I’m can’t say that’s exactly what happened, but that’s what Strong Arm Steady were telling Nature Sounds. Black Thought is a respected lyricist to a lot of people so I’d really like to make that collaboration happen.”

You often seem to collaborate with artists who could quite easily put a lesser emcee in the shade, like Biggie and Kool G. Rap for example. Is that degree of pressure something you look for when you decide who you want to work with?

“I want somebody who has a chance of being competitive with me or maybe even edging me out. I’d like to see that happen, because so far it never has (laughs).”

Has it ever nearly happened?

“I don’t know if I’ve said this in an interview before, but the only time I ever felt like ‘Oh sh*t, this dude’s getting me’ was when I was about thirteen or fourteen and I was battling seven kids at the same time. I was at a house party and I was already known around the neighbourhood for being nasty, so this one emcee got up, I splattered him, another kid got up, splattered him, so I was getting cocky like ‘Who’s next? Who’s next?’ By the time the seventh dude got up to rhyme against me, he was spitting fire and I was like ‘Oh sh*t, this dude’s about to get me’ and then in the middle of his rhyme I realised what I was hearing and I was like, ‘Nah motherf**ker, that’s ‘Men At Work’ from Kool G. Rap!’ So that’s the only time I’ve ever felt like someone was getting the better of me and it wasn’t even with their own rhymes (laughs). I think they just thought that because I was a white kid I wouldn’t know the rhymes they were using (laughs). I remember a couple of times in the 80s cats tried to battle me with other artist’s rhymes.”

So as a closing question and a nod to one of your earlier legendary classics, does every record label still suck d**k?

“Oh yeah, of course. But the great thing about that is that I said that back when you weren’t allowed to say it, and then what’s happened now is that a lot of these labels sucked d**k so bad that they’re all shutting down. So I’m in my glory seeing my enemies all laying down defeated while I’m still standing. It’s like a scene from one of those old bad movies where I’m standing there at the end surrounded by all these bloodied dead bodies and I survived the sh*t. I’m just glad the cards fell the way they did because I like being here and laughing at my enemies.”

Ryan Proctor

Liquor Lyrics – J-Zone

The second trailer promoting J-Zone’s forthcoming “Live @ The Liqua Sto” project featuring Captain Backslap talking about the concept behind the album.

“Live @ The Liqua Sto” Cover Art

Hip-Hop Drunkies – J-Zone / Chief Chinchilla

I’m not usually the type to post up entire press releases, but the big homie J-Zone always writes such good promo material that I thought I might as well throw this up in its entirety:



As promised, we’re keeping you in the loop with the debut album from rap’s favorite soprano, the Commissioner Of Crass, P.E.T.A’s worst enemy, The Furglar, the Onion Ring Pimp himself, Chief Chinchilla!

For those that missed last month’s initial press release (look through your inbox, I ain’t re-pasting it), Chief Chinchilla -J-Zone’s off the wall sidekick on the Gator$-n-Fur$ mix show- has finally recorded an album, but this is no ordinary rap album. The entire project -titled Live @ The Liqua Sto- revolves around malt liquor advertising and is based on the popular St. Ides Malt Liquor commercials of the early 1990’s. Everything from Colt 45 to that nasty Crazy Horse gets an 80 second advertisement (the album is only 40 minutes long). Even fictional malt liquors -Pimp Potion, Hillbilly Beer, Calvin’s Hard Lemonade- get a funky jungle. Produced entirely by J-Zone, Chief enlisted the help of some of their friends to drunkify -is that a word? ok, intoxicate- the party including RA The Rugged Man, Prince Paul…ah f**k it, here’s the album track list and special guest info…

2. A MESSAGE FROM E-SWIFT (of Tha Alkaholiks)
5. MILD RIOT (ft. Al Shid)
9. NO MO’ CISCO (ft. The Farmers Blvd. Liqua Sto Quartet)
10. HILLBILLY BEER (ft. Jethro The Rappin’ Redneck)
11. HI-N-ERGY!
12. TOWN BIZNE$$ (ft. Ammbush)
14. LEAVE THAT HORSE ALONE! (ft. Louis Logic & The Farmers Blvd. Liqua Sto Quartet)
16. CALVIN’S HARD LEMONADE (ft. Breeze Brewin of The Juggaknots)
20. HEY MON BREW (ft. Creyesis- Jamaican MC)
22. BO$$ HOG EGG NOG (ft. Dick $tallion)
23. PIMP POTION (ft. Celph Titled)
24. PROJECT PARADISE (ft. Poison Pen)
26. FALL DOWN BREW (ft. RA The Rugged Man)
27. BIGG BUZZ BEER (ft. Crazy DJ Bazarro)
30. THE DRUG SONG (Instrumental- Bonus Track)
Funk, Ol School Rap, Doo Wop, Disco and of course straight comedy…its all there!

The album will drop on Old Maid/F**k P.E.T.A Ent. and will be available on itunes in early October (September 30 is the actual release date). It will also be accompanied by a VERY limited CD release (those things are Frisbees these days).

Speaking of Gator$-n-Fur$, the show will be a week or two late this month. Besides completing the album, J-Zone is going back to school and has been on the road. Chief has been dealing with rehab, probation, finding a new White Castle to pander in front of and fall shopping for fine endangered fur and reptile clothing at the Bronx Zoo with his crossbow…time has been tight. Give us a late pass and we’ll get you the September show soon.

PS. The picture above is not the album cover.


Drank Collins (J-Zone & Chief Chinchilla’s publicist)

Pass The Shovel – Gravediggaz

Frukwan and the late Poetic take the crowd six feet deep at LA’s legendary open mic venue The Good Life Cafe during the summer of 1994.