Footage capturing the making of Ultramagnetic MC’s legend TR Love’s new album “In Street Concentration” dropping via Pritt Kalsi’s King Of The Beats label.
Footage capturing the making of Ultramagnetic MC’s legend TR Love’s new album “In Street Concentration” dropping via Pritt Kalsi’s King Of The Beats label.
DJ Moe Love of iconic Bronx crew Ultramagnetic MC’s showcases a dope selection of unreleased flavours on his new instrumental album available via Pritt Kalsi’s KingOfTheBeats.Com.
Pritt Kalsi footage of TR Love discussing his new seven-inch release of the rare Paul C. mix of “Ain’t It Good To You” which was of course featured in its original form on the Ultramagnetic’s classic 1988 album “Critical Beatdown”.
Kool Keith ft. Megabone – “Paradise” (@Junkadelic / 2014)
The Ultramagnetic emcee returns to reclaim New York in his own inimitable style with this DJ Junkaz Lou-produced track from the “Demolition Crash” album.
As the man behind cult underground films such as “King Of The Beats” and the Hijack documentary “Turntable Trixters”, UK-based Hip-Hop preservationist Pritt Kalsi has amassed some classic footage over the years.
Finally dropping his long-awaited Paul C. project, “Memories Of…” features the likes of Rakim, CJ Moore and Dr. Butcher reminiscing on the super-producer who crafted classics for Ultramagnetic MC’s, Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud, Mikey D and more – watch here via Pritt’s own site.
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”.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Check Part Three of this interview here.
Stetsasonic – “Go Stetsa I” (Tommy Boy Records / 1986)
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews, Old-School Hip-Hop
Tagged 80s Hip-Hop, Arthur Baker, Audio Two, BDP, Biz Markie, Blood Sweat & No Tears, Bob Power, Bobby Simmons, Boogie Down Productions, Cold Chillin' Records, Daddy-O, DBC, Delite, DJ Red Alert, East Coast Hip-Hop, Eric B & Rakim, Fly Ty, Frukwan, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, In Full Gear, Independent Hip-Hop, Just-Ice, Kid N Play, KRS-One, Latin Quarter, Lumumba Carson, MC Hammer, Mr Magic, Old-School Hip-Hop, On Fire, Paradise Gray, Pow Wow Records, Prince Paul, Robocop, Scott La Rock, Stetsasonic, Stretch, Sugarhill Records, Sylvia Robinson, The Incredible Mr. Freeze, The Rooftop, Tommy Boy Records, Tron, Ultramagnetic MC's, Underground Hip-Hop, Union Square, Wise
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Let Them Bars Go!” (@MCsUltra / 2013)
Typically random visuals from TR Love, Ced-Gee and Kool Keith.
Those of you out there who keep your ear close to the gritty Hip-Hop underground will no doubt already be familiar with Bronx-bred emcee The Almighty $amhill.
Making a memorable contribution to the P Brothers’ 2008 album “The Gas” alongside the likes of Milano Constantine and Roc Marciano, the Rotten Apple representative has also dropped a number of impressive street tracks whilst working on various official projects, mixing his honest and unapologetically raw approach to lyricism with rugged, soul-drenched production.
Having recently released his free EP project “The Preface” via Unkut.Com, the East Coast talent is currently putting the finishing touches to his debut album “The $amhill Story” which is scheduled to drop this summer and promises more of the wordsmith’s trademark New York straight talk.
Whilst $am was taking a break from the lab, I threw him a selection of my own personal favourite tracks to have emerged from the birthplace of Hip-Hop to see what memories, thoughts and opinions they may provoke.
The Bronx is back…
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Ego Trippin'” (Next Plateau Records /1986)
$amhill: “That s**t was crazy! What’s funny about Ultramagnetic MC’s is that them dudes is from my neighbourhood. Some them is from 159th Street & Washington and 3rd Avenue. I remember I used to see Ced Gee over there all time as a little boy. I would hear “Ego Trippin'” at the jams in the park and people would lose their minds. What was crazy though, was that dudes like Ultramagnetic were people I’d see in the community before I saw them on TV or anything like that. You’d see them around and people would be like, ‘Yo, that’s the dude from Ultramagnetic MC’s.’ So for me to then see them on Video Music Box after that was kinda bugged out. But that song was so dope to me because of that f**kin’ beat. It was just so knockin’! The drums were crazy and then that piano came in. That song was literally magnetic. It drew you to it. If you were a music head then you were drawn to “Ego Trippin'” not just because of the s**t that they were saying on there, but how they were saying it over that beat. That song made you want to move. I mean, Hip-Hop back then was like how soul music used to be, where you felt it from the inside first. What also bugged me out about that record was that when I first heard it, it kinda seemed like they were going at Run DMC with the lines about Peter Piper. I remember listening to that as a little boy thinking, ‘Hold on?! Are they shi**ing on Run DMC?!’ (laughs) It was songs like “Ego Trippin'” that made me realise that I like my music hardcore.”
Boogie-Down Productions – “The Bridge Is Over” (B-Boy Records / 1987)
$amhill: “I was a little boy when that record came out, man. That was one of those songs I’d hear when they used to have the jams in the park and everyone would bring their s**t out and plug into the street-light. But man, when that beat would come on with that piano, that s**t would be pandemonium. I had two older sisters and a brother and they would take me to the jams and I’d break away from them just acting crazy in the park taking it all in. I was young at the time and I didn’t really understand that KRS was beefin’ with Marley Marl and them, but the overall feel of that record was incredible. It was only after I saw the video on Video Music Box and then started to listen to Marley Marl and Red Alert on the radio that I realised what was happening with them.
But that song was so powerful because it was representing where we were from and it was also letting people know that Hip-Hop started in The Bronx and you’ll respect that or we’ll run right through you. With me growing-up in Hip-Hop, I had to recognise that that song was monumental. I mean, KRS was really disrespecting people on “The Bridge Is Over” (laughs).
I was in elementary school when that song dropped and rap was the consistent topic everyday that everyone would be talking about. So off of us talking about “The Bridge Is Over”, I also started to learn more about MC Shan, Craig G, Roxanne Shante and other people that were doing this music in other places. So I had to recognise that there were other people doing Hip-Hop in other parts of New York City. But from that moment right there I’ve always loved KRS-One as an emcee. I mean, he was born in Brooklyn but he’s always represented The Bronx and seeing him do that back then let me know early on that you have to represent where you’re from in this rap s**t and really be proud of it.”
Just-Ice – “Going Way Back” (Fresh Records / 1987)
$amhill: “That record is a classic. Around the time that “Going Way Back” came out the park jams were slowly dying down in The Bronx because people were getting killed and there’d always be something going on like a shootout. So the jams in the park were really getting shut down. So now you’d be hearing records first on the radio with Mr. Magic’s show and Red Alert and then a couple of weeks later Ralph McDaniels would be playing the video on Video Music Box.
Now, the thing with Just-Ice is that he was a street ni**a. He’s a dude that would handle what he needed to handle in his own way. A lot of people didn’t know that about Just-Ice then unless you were from The Bronx. But to hear him on that record talking about how he was there when certain things happened in The Bronx, Zulu Nation, this, that and a third, it really felt like he was teaching me and putting me onto some s**t that I really didn’t know about. But that record was so hardcore and Just-Ice always used to wear those leather rasta hats which he had on in the video. The part I always remember is when Just-Ice says ‘Yo KRS! What’s the purpose of you stopping me?’ (laughs).
The beat to that song was so strong and his voice was so aggressive but at the same time he was teaching me. It reminded me in some ways of someone like a Farrakhan, because he was always very aggressive in delivering his lessons. I learnt from listening to Farrakhan that if you’re not aggressive in the way you deliver your message then a lot of people won’t take you seriously. So when Just-Ice was telling me on “Going Way Back” about certain blocks and how if you don’t know what happened with this person then you wasn’t there, I had to listen to him because he was both commanding and demanding your attention. He was giving you a history lesson that you had to pay attention to.”
Tim Dog – “F**k Compton” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)
$amhill: “That record had a major impact on me and my whole entire neighbourhood because Tim Dog lived just a couple of buildings away from me. But the funny s**t about that is that I didn’t actually know that then (laughs). I guess the older dudes I was hanging around with already knew Tim Dog from around the way and of course he already had the Ultra affiliation. But when that song came out it was wild aggressive, it was ignorant, it was disrespectful, and we loved it (laughs). We loved everything about it. But at first it confused me why he was dissing certain people on that record because I f**ked with N.W.A.. I loved aggressive, hardcore sounding s**t and at the time N.W.A. was the epitome of that type of style and the way they were coming with it was just so real. I mean, back then, as a little boy I used to think rappers like the Geto Boys and N.W.A . would really come to my mother’s house and kill everybody there (laughs). Like, seeing the video to N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” I thought Ice Cube was going to bust through the TV screen and kill somebody. Then when Tim Dog came out and was like ‘F**k them! This is where I’m from and this is what I’m about’ I was like, ‘Yooooo! Hold on, man Who is this?’
I mean, I wasn’t taking sides or none of that, but Tim Dog was really staking his claim and it was hot! I remember buggin’ out how he dissed Michel’le like that because it was just so uncalled for (laughs). I also remember buggin’ over how he actually came on the record with ‘Awwww shit…’ I was like, ‘How do you just come on a record with ‘Awwww shit…’?’ I was a kid at the time and curse words intrigued me, I was always cursing someone out, so when a ni**a would be cursing everyone out that would be the funniest s**t in the world to me. So when Tim Dog did that on “F**k Compton” I thought the dude had lost his mind but I loved it. And it was more than just being about the fact that Tim Dog was from my block, it was about the fact that he had to have some f**kin’ balls to do what he did on that record. He went at the whole of Compton! I mean, I couldn’t be mad at DJ Quik, MC Eiht or any of those dudes for going back at him or dissing the Bronx. I mean, I liked DJ Quik and MC Eiht. Their music wasn’t getting played on New York radio at the time but their videos would be on Video Music Box and I was like, ‘Yo, these dudes have really got a story to tell.’ But Tim Dog was just like, ‘F**k your story!’ He really didn’t care (laughs).
After that I had to get “Penicillin On Wax” when it came out. I mean, everybody in my mother’s neighbourhood was listening to “Penicillin On Wax” because Tim Dog was from the block and that album was crazy! Nobody could say that Tim Dog was wack. But what I took from Tim Dog back then was the realisation that you can do exactly what you want to do with your life and not give a f**k about what anyone else has to say about it.”
Showbiz & A.G. – “Soul Clap” (Mercury Records / 1992)
$amhill: “Well, I can honestly say that Showbiz & A.G. really made me want to be $amhill even more and pursue this music. I used to hear “Soul Clap” on the radio and I remember the EP they had that it was on because I bought it. I s**t you not, I used to buy everything on bootleg back then (laughs). The bootleg man used to be up the block next to McRogers, which was my neighbourhood’s bootleg McDonalds (laughs). So the tape man would be there and sell everything for two dollars. I used to have thousands of those tapes. But I got Showbiz & A.G.’s first s**t with “Soul Clap” on there and that record was crazy to me. The bassline on there was just so breathtaking. I’d be walking to school listening to those dudes in my headphones and I loved what they were doing.
To me, A.G. is the epitome of the evolving emcee. From how he rhymed on Lord Finesse’s first album “Funky Technician”, to how he rhymed on his own early s**t, to how he rhymes now, you can hear that was somebody who wanted to get better every time he came out. A.G. didn’t take what he did as a joke. You could tell he wanted people to know rhyming was what he loved to do and that came across in the music. A.G. is definitely the epitome of an emcee to me.
As for Showbiz, I remember the first time I saw their video for “Fat Pockets” on Video Music Box and then went outside afterwards and saw him on the f**kin’ corner, that s**t changed my life forever. It made me realise that even with all the music stuff, Showbiz and A.G. were just regular dudes from my community. Seeing them around like that really made me follow everything they did and it let me know that I could do it to just by being me. But around that time, I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I’d be at house parties and when “Soul Clap” would come on the whole place would go crazy because that song was so funky.
I have such a profound respect for both of them. A.G.’s brother Wally World is one of my producers who I’ve done a whole bunch of stuff with. Two years ago I had about a two or three hour conversation with Showbiz in his studio. This dude I used to be cool with took me down there to meet him because I was always saying that Showbiz & A.G. were the reason why I was doing this. So I was introduced to Showbiz and we ended up having a three hour conversation about God and spirituality. He asked to hear my music and he respected what I was doing. I was telling him how I used to see him around the neighbourhood when I was a little boy and how he would have all this jewellery on and be looking so fly, and he was just sat there staring at me like, ‘Wow! Just off of me being me, this young ni**a is doing what he’s doing now.’ But I really respected Showbiz for taking the time to hear me out and to speak to me about the things that we did.
Same thing with A.G., I remember seeing him at a radio station a couple of years ago and he was saying how if something isn’t about the truth then he doesn’t want to speak about it because he’s so connected to wanting to spread the knowledge of God and that s**t literally sent chills down my spine.
But to me, Showbiz & A.G. have never done anything wack. They’ve consistently evolved and that’s what I’ve always loved about them. It would be a dream come true for me to do a song with Show & A.G. just off the strength of the impact those two men had on my life before they ever even knew anything about me.”
Fat Joe – “Flow Joe” (Relativity Records / 1993)
$amhill: “It’s funny that you say that s**t because “Flow Joe” is one of my personal favourites as well. I remember seeing when Fat Joe was filming that video. But it really impacted me because I remember when Red Alert used to play a short version of the song as a promo on his radio show with the ‘Everybody know Fat Joe’s in town…’ verse. I used to sit there and wait for that promo to come on when I’d be listening to the radio. That Diamond D beat was so hardcore and the way it dropped with the kick and the snare was just incredible to me. Back then you could buy the cassette maxi-singles with the instrumental on it and I picked that up and used to play that s**t all the time.
That s**t was so dope to me. I mean, what Fat Joe was saying on there in his lyrics was good and it was cool for what it was, but the s**t that was just so crazy about that track was that beat. The music was just so cinematic and I don’t know how many people got that same feeling from it that I did. It made me want to get into Fat Joe even more and see where he was coming from with his music. I mean, the founding members of D.I.T.C. being from the Bronx just made such an impression on me because I would just see these dudes walking around. It just made me believe that if I wanted to do this music thing then I could do it.
But going back to that track, if anyone ever asked me what my favourite Fat Joe tracks were I would have to say “Flow Joe” and “Respect Mine” off the second album. I always preferred the version of “Flow Joe” they did the video for rather than the one that was on the first album. But that album “Represent” was crazy. I remember I always wanted to rap over the beat that was used on the interlude “My Man Ski”. When I was in high-school there was a talent show and I was going to be in it and the beat on that interlude was so dope so I looped it up on the tape-deck and I was going to do a freestyle to it. But then I got kicked out of the show because I was being stupid (laughs).”
Money Boss Players – “Crap Game” (Warning Records / 1996)
$amhill: “Hmmmm. It’s like this man, the best thing about Money Boss Players is Lord Tariq and I’ma leave it at that. You can print that. The best thing about Money Boss is Lord Tariq and that’s all I have to say on it. It is what it is. I just don’t really f**k with that. I got respect for Lord Tariq and I’ve learnt that Lord Tariq has respect for me and my music and I’ll leave it at that.”
Big Pun – “I’m Not A Player” (Loud Records / 1997)
$amhill: “The original mix of that song is crazy. Big Pun was an intriguing dude to me. I mean, I never knew him personally, I just knew of him from the community. You remember the remix video where he’s riding around on that scooter? Pun would actually ride around the Bronx on that f**kin’ scooter. I would see Pun’s big ass on that scooter riding around Home Street, Boston Road, Forest Projects, I would see him do that. But the original version of that song was so crazy to me because I love soul music and the way that O’Jays sample was flipped was so dope. Then on top of that I had to respect the lyrical ability of Big Pun as well. I remember thinking how he reminded me of Kool G. Rap when I first heard him, not to where he was biting his style, but like Big L and Lord Finesse, Pun just enhanced that style and was the next generation. I just thought he was f**kin’ nice.
When Pun came out Hip-Hop was getting into some other s**t but he was still able to remain himself and keep it street. I mean, that “Capital Punishment” album was off-the-wall! You could tell there were certain tracks on there where Pun was trying to reach for that commercial appeal, but overall he did his thing on there. It always seemed to me that Pun knew what he wanted to do with his music and he did exactly that. I mean, Pun passed away in 2000, it’s now thirteen years after his death and we still haven’t had another new emcee come through from anywhere and make that type of impact to say I’m one of those next ni**as who’s going to be respected as legendary status.”
Follow $amhill on Twitter @MoeMiller96 and lookout for the full album “The $amhill Story” coming later this year.
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews
Tagged 80s Hip-Hop, 90s Hip-Hop, BDP, Big Pun, Boogie Down Productions, East Coast Hip-Hop, Fat Joe, Just-Ice, Money Boss Players, Old-School Hip-Hop, Showbiz & A.G., The $amhill Story, The Almighty $amhill, The Bronx, The Preface, Tim Dog, Ultramagnetic MC's
UK-based deejay Psykhomantus of A Few Good Men drops a nice collection of hardcore BX bangers in memory of the late, great Tim Dog – pay your respects here.
Waking up this morning to the news that Ultramagnetic MC’s affiliate Tim Dog had passed away yesterday following a diabetes-related seizure definitely had me wiping the sleep out of my eyes with the quickness.
The Bronx-bred emcee wasn’t the most popular lyricist in the rap game or even the most talented, but for anyone who was listening to Hip-Hop in the late-80s / early-90s he definitely ranks as one of the most memorable. From his one-man war against N.W.A., DJ Quik and various other West Coast gangsta rappers of the early-90s to his entertaining reunion with Kool Keith some years later as the duo Ultra, Tim Dog had a way with words that was equal parts deadpan comedy, bullying bluster and New York emcee bravado.
Tim’s blunt delivery played a huge part in ensuring that his threats of violence, sexual boasts and claims of lyrical superiority always left a mark, with the Dog’s classic 1991 debut solo album “Penicillin On Wax” ranking as one of Hip-Hop’s most hardcore albums yet also one of its most humorous.
Listening to thunderous tracks such as “Step To Me” and “I Ain’t Takin’ No Shorts”, you got the impression that laughing with Tim was fine, but laughing at the D-O-G would result in a good ol-fashioned Bronx-style beatdown.
Although the wider world will no doubt remember Timothy Blair for his 2012 appearance on NBC’s Dateline as a result of his legal issues surrounding an online dating scam, the Hip-Hop world will always remember Tim Dog as one of the game’s most charismatic characters to ever hold a microphone.
So, step to the rear and cheer, Tim Dog will always be here thanks to his many unforgettable appearances on vinyl, tape and CD.
RIP (1 January 1967 – 14 February 2013).
“A Chorus Line” (Next Plateau Records / 1989)
Setting off this classic Ced Gee-produced Ultramagnetic b-side, the Bronx bomber delivered a tongue-twisting verse which officially introduced the Dog’s gruff persona to the world amidst a barrage of what would become Tim’s trademark WWF-style threats, including telling rappers who wanted to play to “go ride a sleigh” and how he’d “bone your girl Emily”. Woo! Hot damn he’s great!
“F**k Compton” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)
I can still remember the first time I heard this in the summer of 91 on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show here in the UK. Although it was obviously heavily-edited for radio-play, that didn’t do anything to reduce the initial shock value of hearing Tim Dog not just taking shots at N.W.A., but taking on the whole of Compton! And that Michel’le impersonation is still priceless over twenty years later.
“Intro” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)
The N.W.A. bashing continued on the opening track from Tim’s classic “Pencillin On Wax” album. After a batch of amusing answerphone-style messages from the likes of gangsta-limpin’ Big Earl from Chicago and Houston-based groupie Sheila, the Dog dropped perhaps one of his most stinging West Coast disses, criticising the LA crew for “wearing Raider hats when the Giants won Super Bowl” over their own beat.
“I’ll Wax Anybody” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)
Baiting sucker emcees to show Tim their “weaky style” before he responded with his “freaky style”, the BX bully obliterated this Moe Love-produced track, punching the competition “in their third eye”, dissing Eddie Murphy and proclaiming his status as a “dope rap idol” over a timeless “Nautilus” sample.
“Bronx Ni**a – The One Seven O Mix” (Ruffhouse Records / 1992)
This remix courtesy of both T.R. Love and Moe Love found the Dog celebrating his old-school roots on what was probably one of my most played 12″ singles of 92. Over another chunk of Bob James’ classic “Nautilus”, Tim shouted out everyone and everywhere from the Zulu Nation and Bronx River to BDP and Soundview Projects, resulting in what must be one of the hardest dedications to the home of Hip-Hop on wax. Word to B.O.!
“Porno Star” (Mercury Records / 1992)
Although Tim had already delivered some outlandish, obscene tales of his own on 1991’s quiet storm classic “Secret Fantasies”, he returned once more in the role of the “Rated-X Man” on this self-explanatory track from Ultra’s “Funk Your Head Up” album. Dropping some of the most amusing explicit rhymes at the time since Kool G. Rap’s “Talk Like Sex” (clarifying that in the bedroom ‘Dog’ stood for “Doin’ it on the ground…”), the brazen emcee proved that it really ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none.
“I Get Wrecked” ft. KRS-One (Ruffhouse Records / 1993)
DJ Moe Love once again proved his ability to craft perfect breakbeat-driven hardcore bangers on this first single from Tim Dog’s sophomore solo project “Do Or Die”. A high-octane performance from the Blastmaster combined with a ridiculously obese bassline and Tim’s bulldozer-style rhymes resulted in a rough, rugged and raw anthem tailor-made to do the East Coast Stomp to.
“Timberlands” (Ruffhouse Records / 1993)
Speaking of the East Coast Stomp, the NY native delivered a heartfelt dedication to the Rotten Apple’s 90s footwear of choice, helpfully explaining how the hard-wearing boots had practical uses beyond just walking, such as leaving a sole print on someone’s face. “As long as Tims on my feet, I get much respect…” stated the Ultramagnetic emcee on this sparse, self-produced track. True indeed, Dog, true indeed.
“Industry Is Wak” (Our Turn Records / 1996)
After rallying against fake West Coast studio gangstas five years earlier, Tim reunited with Kool Keith for the Ultra album “Big Time” and turned his attentions to the jiggy trends that were surfacing on the East Coast in the wake of Biggie’s success. Over a head-nodding Kutmasta Kurt beat a rejuvenated Dog summed up his feelings succinctly with the lines, “Rhyming like Nas, Looking like Treach, Beat’s mad weak, Hook I can’t catch…”, speaking for legions of Hip-Hop fans in the process.
“Run Run Run” (Big City Entertainment / 2006)
Produced by the UK’s Zygote and DJ Jazz T of Diversion Tactics fame, this track from Tim’s “BX Warrior” project found the Dog at his growling best, barking over-the-top rhymes about guns, violence and rap dominance as if he was about to burst out of the speaker and punch you straight in the face.
In Part One of this interview with legendary lyricist Mikey D, the Queens, NY emcee discussed his earliest Hip-Hop memories, meeting LL Cool J and battling Kool G. Rap. In this next instalment, the Rotten Apple representative talks about working with the late, great producer Paul C., signing to Sleeping Bag Records in the late-80s and his historic New Music Seminar battle with Grandmaster Melle Mel.
How did you actually meet Paul C.?
“I met Paul C. through Will Seville and Eddie O’Jay of the Clientele Brothers. We lived in Laurelton and Paul C. lived in Rosedale which were within walking distance. So Will and Eddie picked me and Johnny Quest up one day and told us we’re going to this producer’s house. They’re telling us how this dude is kinda nice and how he’s got his studio set-up. Now, at that time, it was unheard of to have a studio in your crib and stuff like that. But Paul had his equipment hooked-up in his garage. I’d never heard of Paul before, but they took us there, and I remember Paul asking me to rhyme. I did my thing and me and Paul really hit it off from that point on. I mean, Paul really wasn’t dealing with Hip-Hop on a big scale at that time. He was still down with his band and all of that. Then he got offered a job to be an engineer at 1212 Studio. Now, prior to that, me and Quest were always going to Paul’s house making tapes for the street. Then once Paul got that job at 1212, after the sessions were finished late at night he would call us and be like ‘Come to the studio, let’s work!’ So we used to jump on the bus, head over to 1212 and that’s when it really started to happen.”
What were your first impressions of Paul when you met him?
“He wasn’t what I was expecting to see at all. I wouldn’t say he looked like a nerd, he looked a little bit cooler than a nerd (laughs). But Paul was really quiet and really humble. I don’t know really what I expected to see when we went over there. Maybe like a punk rocker dude with an attitude and a chip on his shoulder (laughs). But Paul was just really humble, super cool and so friendly. Paul’s personality definitely didn’t match the beats he was making (laughs). So at that time we were branching away from Reality, the Symbolic Three and all that because I was getting tired of writing for other people and knew I had something to offer myself. So me and Johnny Quest put Paul C. down with the L.A. Posse. Now, Johnny Quest and Paul, that was all I needed. I had a hot deejay that nobody could touch, I was a hot rapper that nobody could touch, and now, I’ve got this producer that nobody can touch in Paul C.. A white guy at that?! Oh my god! (laughs).”
From what you can remember was Paul C. aware that what he was doing in terms of chopping samples etc. was so revolutionary at that time and would have such an impact on Hip-Hop?
“Doing those beats was just natural for Paul. I mean, none of us ever really used to listen to the radio to hear what else was going on, we just stayed original to what we wanted to do. With Paul, I don’t think he thought it was going to become as big as it did in terms of his production. He just did what he did. It was effortless to him. He didn’t even really have to try that hard, it just came so naturally to him. Paul C. was a genius. Like, you remember my record “Bust A Rhyme Mike”, right, the flipside of “My Telephone”? Now, who would have ever thought of me doing the human beatbox? Paul told me to go ‘Boom’, ‘Kick’, that was all he told me do. That’s all I did. Then Paul hooked the beat up from that, which was crazy to me back then. Same thing with “I Get Rough”. The bassline on that track was Rahzel’s voice. What Paul C. was doing back then was incredible to me.”
So what was a typical studio session with Paul like back then?
“We would just go in and that was it. There was a store downstairs and we would go and buy some sandwiches and beer to take up to the studio. At that time, Paul was smoking his little joints of weed. We would just get creative and be in that studio until like seven the next morning. And at any given time you would have all sorts of different people in there with us as well. Large Professor was up in some of those early studio sessions we had, but he was real young then and I didn’t know who he was or that he’d go on to become Large Professor (laughs). Everybody was coming through 1212 at that time. That’s how I met Ced-Gee, Kool Keith and them from Ultramagnetic, Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud were up there all the time, Sweet Tee, Jazzy Jay would come through, even Jeru The Damaja used to be up there before he got on.”
Do you recall any memorable studio cyphers taking place?
“Everybody was just mingling really. There were six floors of studios in that place. There’d also be a lot of rock bands practising in there as well. Metallica used to work in that building. 1212 was like a college dorm with everyone hanging out in each other’s sessions and partying.”
What were your thoughts when you heard the creative direction that Ultramagnetic MC’s were taking with their whole scientific, spaced-out style?
“I remember just thinking it was so different. It wasn’t something I would have done back then personally, but it was different and I was definitely feelin’ it. There were so many different flavours being heard in that studio with all the artists working in there, but my thing was always just to stay in my lane and do me, rather than hearing what someone else was doing and trying to follow them.”
Out of interest, what were your thoughts on the Bridge Wars which would still have been simmering around that time? Were you offended when KRS-One dissed Queens?
“Absolutely, because Shan didn’t say Hip-Hop started in Queens, he said that was where it started at for him. But then everyone started jumping on the bandwagon. I remember one time, we had a roller rink in Queens and KRS-One was supposed to battle MC Shan there. Now, I don’t know what happened to Shan but he didn’t show up. So who was the first person to jump up onstage ready to battle and represent Queens? Me! I wanted to battle KRS-One but he didn’t want to battle me at that time. I remember T La Rock was there as well and he had some funny stuff to say, so I was looking to battle him as well. Now, T La Rock had obviously made “It’s Yours”, but going back to what I said about being the king of parody, I’d written a song called “Your Drawers”. So that’s how T La Rock met me, when I crushed him with his own song (laughs).”
So being from Queens could definitely cause problems when you would travel to other parts of New York even if you weren’t directly affiliated with any of the artists feuding on wax?
“Definitely, definitely. Now, at that time Queens had all the stars in Hip-Hop, partly because Russell Simmons took Hip-Hop to a whole ‘nother level. We had Run DMC. We had LL Cool J. We had Salt-N-Pepa. We had Sweet Tee. We had Kid-N-Play. A lot of the major money-making artists at that time were coming out of Queens. So the rest of New York City was looking at us in Queens like the way New York looks at Southern artists now (laughs). People from other boroughs would try and diss Queens by saying that we had green grass and both our parents (laughs). So because I didn’t have a pissy staircase and roaches I couldn’t be nice as an artist? Get out of my face with that (laughs). But Queens still proved itself at the end of the day.”
When you signed to Sleeping Bag Records was that on the strength of the buzz surrounding your 1987 single “I Get Rough” or was the label also familiar with your history prior to that?
“They were aware of me already through Ivan ‘Doc’ Rodriguez and Mantronik. The original plan was for me to get signed and be the new emcee for Mantronix. That’s what was supposed to happen. But I believe in loyalty so I wasn’t about to leave Quest and Paul. We’d already built something and I didn’t want to see that start to be taken apart. So if Sleeping Bag wanted to sign me, they had to sign Paul C. and Johnny Quest. It had to be Mikey D & The L.A. Posse. I’m not getting down with Mantronix. I liked the sound Mantronix had, even though it was very different to ours, but I wasn’t going to leave Paul and Quest behind.”
Sleeping Bag was a big label at the time with a lot of popular Hip-Hop and Dance acts on the roster – were you looking at that deal as a potentially life-changing situation considering the success other acts were experiencing on the label?
“You know what? It didn’t even hit us like that. We already believed in ourselves, so we were approaching it like we were meant to be there. We were of the opinion that a label like Sleeping Bag should have come to us a long time ago. But we just remained humble and stayed in our lane. It was cool, though. I mean, by the time we signed to Sleeping Bag I knew a lot of the artists affiliated with the label already like Just-Ice, EPMD, Mantronix of course. I remember everyone thinking DJ Cash Money of Cash Money & Marvelous and I were brothers (laughs). But yeah, we were really in a good space at that time and I enjoyed Sleeping Bag. Being signed to them, of course, was how I got entered into the New Music Seminar emcee battle in 1988 and the situation with Melle Mel happened.”
The story of you winning the emcee battle at the 1988 New Music Seminar and ending-up battling Melle Mel is very well known – but what was going through your mind at that time as a young, upcoming artist standing onstage knowing that you’re about to battle a legendary emcee and Hip-Hop pioneer?
“See, technically it wasn’t supposed to be a battle. It was supposed to be a demonstration with that year’s champion, me, rapping with the previous year’s champion, which was Melle Mel. But no. Melle Mel turned it into a battle. Now you’ve got to remember that at that time the Queens / Bronx thing was still going on and at the same time the Old-School / New-School thing was heating up. So I already had two strikes against me (laughs). First of all I’m from Queens and second of all I was considered new-school. Now, I was going to give Mel his respect. I said my rhymes and didn’t saying nothin’ about him. He gets on the microphone and disrespects me. Then he starts talking about how, if I’m a real champion I’d battle him for my belt. I said I didn’t want to battle for my belt. I’d just won it and I wanted to take it back to the ‘hood to represent. Melle Mel slams his belt on the ground, starts talking about how I’m no champion and now the crowd starts going crazy shouting ‘Go Mikey! Go Mikey!’ I look at Mel, I look at the crowd, I look at my belt, I look at his belt on the floor, I slammed my belt on top of his belt and was like ‘Let’s go!’. So now Melle Mel is doing push-ups onstage and I started rhyming off the beat of his push-ups dissing him and the crowd is going crazy. He couldn’t come back after that but at the same time that he was trying to, Grandmaster Caz picks up both of the belts while I have my back turned. So by the time Melle Mel finally lost the battle, Caz hands Mel the damn belts! Now Melle Mel was too big for me to be running up on him (laughs). But he’s rushing through the crowd with both belts, pushing Big Daddy Kane out the way and Jackie Paul, a lady who was a part of the New Music Seminar. It was a mess. But I proved myself. Then a few weeks later Tom Silverman from Tommy Boy Records who was involved with the Seminar presented me with a bigger and better belt (laughs).”
In hindsight do you have a different opinion now on Melle Mel’s actions that night?
“I forgive him for that but I still don’t agree with what he did. It was a coward move and I can’t respect that. I can respect Melle Mel as an artist, for his achievements and everything he’s done for Hip-Hop, but at that event he just made a complete idiot out of himself and I lost all respect for him. I mean, I respect him now as a man, but I don’t respect the move he made on that night.”
From hearing what Daddy-O said in the footage for your documentary “The Making Of A Legend” the situation could have turned very ugly…
“It could of but I defused a whole lot of that tension. I mean, I had people like King Sun and Just-Ice ready to move on Melle Mel and I was like ‘No!’ Johnny Quest and I were the only two out of our crew who went to the Seminar that night. Luckily, we went without my crew otherwise Mel could have got moved on that way. People in the audience who I’d just met were ready to make moves on him, but I didn’t want any of that because if someone had moved on Mel it would have reflected badly on me and my future. If anything had happened to Melle Mel people would have automatically said that I had a part in that so I just wanted everyone to let it go.”
After the Seminar what happened with the Sleeping Bag deal?
“Well, after the Seminar we were busy working on an album which was coming out pretty nice. We presented the album to Sleeping Bag and unfortunately God took Paul C. from us before it could be released. Once that happened everything started spiralling downhill because I didn’t want to put the album out after Paul passed away. It didn’t feel right to do that. I was like, ‘Nah, this ain’t cool.’ I left the label and all of that.”
So would you largely attribute you stepping away from the industry at that point to Paul C.’s 1989 murder?
“Well, at that time it felt like everything was spiralling out of my control. My daughter had just been born. The music money wasn’t enough to pay my bills, buy a crib or pay for my daughter’s baby food, y’know. I was giving more to the music than I was receiving. I was giving my life to this music and I just wasn’t really getting nothing in return. Then after Paul was taken from us it was really crazy because now I’m thinking ‘Damn, man. They did that in his house! Who does that?!’ So now we’re paranoid like, ‘Could they be coming after us next?’ I started drinking even more around that time like, ‘F**k this! I can’t handle it!’ It was like that beer made me feel like nothing could mess with me or something like that. So I really just fell back for a little while and helped raise my daughter. I still had Hip-Hop in my heart but all of the gangsta rap was starting to come out and I just wasn’t really feeling it like that, y’know.”
With one of your close friends having just been murdered it’s easy to see why you didn’t want to be around the more violent aspects of Hip-Hop that were starting to become popular at that time…
“Exactly. You just took the words right out my heart. That’s exactly how I felt at that time.”
Lookout for Part Three of this interview coming soon with Mikey D covering his time as a member of Main Source in the 90s and his new Elements Of Hip-Hop project.
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews, Old-School Hip-Hop
Tagged 1212 Studio, 1988 New Music Seminar, DJ Johnny Quest, East Coast Hip-Hop, EPMD, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Independent Hip-Hop, Just-Ice, Kign Sun, KRS-One, Kurtis Mantronik, Laurelton, Mantronix, MC Shan, Merrick Boulevard, Mikey D, Mikey D & The L.A. Posse, Mikey Destruction, New Music Seminar, NMS, Old-School Hip-Hop, Paul C, Paul McKasty, Sleeping Bag Records, T La Rock, Ultramagnetic MC's, Underground Hip-Hop
Seriously dope mix from Switzerland’s DJ Green Giant featuring a long list of Hip-Hop classics that have sampled the timeless 1973 Melvin Bliss / Bernard Purdie “Synthetic Substitution” breakbeat – snap ya neck to the sounds of Big Daddy Kane, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Positive K, Ghostface Killah and more here.
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Mixes / Podcasts, West Coast Hip-Hop
Tagged 80s Hip-Hop, 90s Hip-Hop, Bernard Purdie, Big Daddy Kane, DJ Green Giant, East Coast Hip-Hop, Ghostface Killah, Independent Hip-Hop, Melvin Bliss, Old-School Hip-Hop, Positive K, Synthetic Substitution, The Man With The Golden Arm, Ultramagnetic MC's, Underground Hip-Hop, West Coast Hip-Hop
UK-based vinyl junkies Boca 45 and DJ Format go back-to-back in the mix dropping some of their favourite golden-era-flavoured tracks from the likes of Gang Starr, Jurassic 5, Ultramagnetic MC’s and many more – take a sonic trip down memory lane here.
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Mixes / Podcasts, UK Hip-Hop, West Coast Hip-Hop
Tagged 80s Hip-Hop, 90s Hip-Hop, Beastie Boys, Boca 45, De La Soul, DJ Format, East Coast Hip-Hop, Gang Starr, Golden Era Party Mix, Independent Hip-Hop, Jurassic 5, Old-School Hip-Hop, Sugar Bear, UK Hip-Hop, Ultramagnetic MC's, Underground Hip-Hop, West Coast Hip-Hop
Tim Westwood digs in his Capital Radio vaults to dust off this vintage 1990 performance from the legendary Ultramagnetic MC’s at London’s Dingwalls venue.
1993 “Yo! MTV Raps” interview footage of Fab 5 Freddy discussing the science behind Ultramagnetic MC’s as the Bronx group released their third album “The Four Horsemen”.
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Ease Back – DuckAlert Mix” (DuckAlert / 2012)
Jazzy reworking of this Ultra classic from UK producer DuckAlert.
Kool Keith – “Who’s The Man” (Junkadelic Music / 2012)
Visuals for this DJ Junkaz Lou-produced cut from Kool Keith’s “Love & Danger” album featuring spraycan soldiers Hek and Junky of the TJS Crew putting some creative artwork to the Bronx emcee’s typically random rhymes.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York where the people are fresh, thirty-something producer Ray West has lived most of his life dedicated to the culture of Hip-Hop.
Having spent years honing his musical talents tucked away in the basement digging through old records and crafting his own unique sound, West’s recent collectable vinyl releases on his Red Apples 45 imprint (co-owned by D.I.T.C.’s A.G.) have quickly gained a cult following amongst vinyl lovers and fans of true-school Hip-Hop.
Genuinely bringing something different to the table, the humble music man’s ability to mix traditionally dusty-fingered East Coast-flavoured samples with progressive, organic live instrumentation conjures up images of early-80s graffiti-covered subway trains careering along rail-tracks built on the rings of Saturn.
Although West’s full-length 2010 album “Everything’s Berri” with A.G. initially confused some listeners with it’s spacey keyboards and minimalist feel, it also drew in many fans who eagerly awaited collaborations with Rotten Apple representatives like the late Party Arty and Roc Marciano on releases such as “Pianos In The Projects” and “The Pianos Companion EP”.
The producer’s latest project “LUV NY” is the work of a Hip-Hop super-group that would almost seem too good to be true if it wasn’t for the fact the music is already out there as proof their album has been completed. Consisting of D.I.T.C. legends A.G. and O.C., Ultramagnetic space cowboy Kool Keith, Uptown fly guy Kurious, Dave Dar and Strong Island smooth assassin Roc Marciano, the LUV NY crew’s rap pedigree is unquestionable and when matched with West’s intriguing soundscapes results in music that draws from the past whilst also looking towards the future.
Here, the BX studio maestro speaks on his early days as a fan of Hip-Hop, how he came to be surrounded by a posse of such iconic rap figures and the science behind the LUV NY release.
Beings that you’re from the birthplace of Hip-Hop what are your earliest memories of the music?
“My first true experience of Hip-Hop was the song “Roxanne, Roxanne” by U.T.F.O.. There were a bunch of older kids on the block I grew-up on who were deejays and they had the boombox outside and they were playing “Roxanne, Roxanne”. I was still a little kid, about eight or nine-years-old, but I was just totally mesmerised by that song. I mean, I always loved records even before that. I was like a record collector as a child (laughs). I had like old comic book records and things like that. So I started buying rap records around that time and I also got along with those older kids so I started deejay-ing around when I was about twelve-years-old. I already had a bunch of rap records from collecting beforehand, but those older guys helped me out and gave me a turntable, a mixer and I started really deejay-ing. So to answer your question, it was the deejays in my area and “Roxanne, Roxanne” that really made me fall in love with this music.”
Given that you were so young at the time were you already aware of the historic connection between the Bronx and the music you were discovering or was that something that came later?
“I learned about the history through really listening to brothers on the block. I mean, I really couldn’t get enough of the music and the culture. I was watching “Beat Street”, “Wild Style”, listening to KRS-One and analysing lyrics. Then the older cats would tell me about the records and artists before my era like the Sugarhill releases and Melle Mel and they would always tell me to respect where the music came from. So I really learnt about the history of the culture through listening to the music and from the older cats.”
When did you make the transition from deejay-ing to producing?
“It was awhile after I started deejay-ing. I deejay-ed from the time I was twelve to when I was in my twenties. I mean, we used to make songs in high-school but we didn’t have a sampler or anything, I’d just beat-juggle to keep the breakbeats going like “Impeach The President” and my friends would rhyme. So I was always around emcees but they would rhyme over instrumentals or breakbeats, not beats that I’d made. I was in my early twenties when I first brought a sampler and then I started making beats. But I didn’t really consider making a song or getting into the business. I was deejay-ing all over town in Manhattan and around the Bronx and then I was making beats for myself in the basement. I just loved digging through records and finding samples. I didn’t really try to make a proper song until I’d been making beats for about five or six years.”
Did any of the emcees you were working with in high-school go on to make a larger impact in the rap game?
“Most of them were cats who stayed local and just did the music thing for fun. I remember in high-school I got to meet Lord Tariq before he made any of the big records that he blew-up with. He was a little older than me but he came to a talent show that I was deejay-ing at and he rhymed over my set. I think I was bringing back the beginning drum track of Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill A Man” for him to rhyme to. We exchanged information but I never followed through with him and then he blew-up. Then years later I made about six or seven songs with him and I reminded him of that night but he only vaguely remembered and didn’t really remember me being there (laughs). All the other cats that were rhyming at the time were just cats from the buildings near where I lived. Some of them still rhyme, some of them don’t. Some of them aren’t around anymore. The only one from back then who is definitely still rhyming is Abdul Jabar who was on A.G.’s “Everything’s Berri” project and also on one of my vinyl releases. He’s like one of my boys from way back in our high-school days who always stuck with the music and he’s still a really good friend. He’s a family guy and doesn’t really work too much on music but I always try to include him when I can.”
An obvious question, but who would you say influenced you as a producer?
“I’d say Premier, D.I.T.C. of course, Diamond D, I always really liked KRS-One’s beats, the Kenny Parker stuff, Q-Tip, Pete Rock. But really I’d say DJ Premier had the biggest influence on me prior to me hearing J Dilla and Madlib. Once I caught onto Slum Village I really loved Dilla’s sound, that minimalistic approach to it.”
When you and A.G. dropped the “Everything’s Berri” album in 2010 it was met with mixed reactions from people who felt it was so different from what they were used to hearing from him – how did you feel about the way the album was received by some longstanding A.G. fans?
“I try to read all the comments and take everything in and see what people are saying. I mean, A.G. has some die-hard fans that only want to hear some traditional A.G. s**t, but what me and A do isn’t in the typical A.G. style. It’s not the straight boom-bap, raw rhyming that people have come to know him for. So I knew there were going to be people that liked it and some people that didn’t. But I also knew that there would be people who’d never listened to A.G. before who might start to listen to him because of that project. So I knew we might lose some people with “Everything’s Berri” but also gain some other people along the way and give A a fresh platform. I mean, we do some street stuff sometimes as well, but it was interesting to see the different reactions people had to that project. People listen to music for different reasons and the vibe is always more laidback with my stuff. Some people like to take music to the gym to help them workout, but “Everything’s Berri” isn’t the album to take if that’s the type of energy you’re looking for (laughs).”
Maybe for after the workout…
“Exactly. Like afterwards when you’re relaxing having a glass of wine or something (laughs)…”
So how did you actually hook up with A.G. to make that project?
“We met through a friend of mine who had contacted A.G. to do a song and he asked me to engineer the session for him. So I actually picked up A that day and drove him to my man’s house to do the song and then I dropped him back, but all through the day we’d really been getting along. I was always a huge D.I.T.C. fan and felt that A.G. was a really strong lyricist in that crew, so I wanted to show him more of my stuff and he really took an interest in what I played him. I had an idea for an EP at that time called “Pianos In The Projects” and I asked him about it and he was really interested in the music. We just really got along on a personal level so it made the creative process easy. We started recording under this “Pianos In The Projects” umbrella but the songs we recorded never actually came out as part of that project. We still actually have those. But recording those tracks was the basis of our initial relationship and we really felt like we’d hit on a style of music that was something that we’d created together that was different to anything else. A.G. having so much confidence in my sound pushed me into being even more obscure, and in turn me having confidence in A.G. and not telling him to rhyme about certain subjects but just letting him do whatever he wanted to do conceptually, it opened him up to be more free and make songs about girls and other things that he might not usually do. Plus, A introduced me to Party Arty early on and he was another guy who believed in me immediately. Party started taking beats home that I’d play him to make his own songs and then I’d see him three or four days later and he’d have two songs done. Arty lived in the projects and his house was so crazy because he had his Pro-Tools set-up, a picture of J Dilla on the wall, a gold Big L plaque and a bed. That was Party Arty’s environment (laughs). I’m kinda going off on a tangent here from your question…
Not at all…
“When I used to listen to Ghetto Dwellas before I even knew any of those guys I always liked Party Arty and D-Flow, but you always got the feel through the music that Party Arty was really A.G.’s man. But when you actually met them, you knew why Party was his man like that. Arty was a real stand-up, honest, positive guy who was a real musician. When you were working with Arty he really knew what to do to make a song better and he was way more talented than the world actually got to see.”
It was definitely a tragic loss because leading up to his passing it really felt like Party Arty was starting to step into the spotlight in his own right musically…
“Yo, it’s so sad bro. You know that Showbiz album “Street Talk”? I feel like Party Arty dominated that album with some great work. That’s such a great album because of 80 and if you look on the credits Show thanks Party Arty in particular, so you could tell he really did a lot in terms of tying that album together and filling the spaces wherever Show needed him.”
Being such a huge D.I.T.C. fan it must have felt like a dream come true to have A.G. and Arty really supporting what you were doing as a producer?
“It really was like living a dream and still to this day I cant believe the situations that I find myself in with this music. If you would’ve told me ten years ago that this is what I would be doing I wouldn’t have even believed it. So I really am thankful to both A and Party for their confidence in me as they gave me the opportunity to really take things to the next level.”
You mentioned earlier that you’re aware your sound is something different, so how would you actually describe your production style?
“I believe I’m capable of what I’m capable of. I’m not about duplicating someone else. My style is sample-driven music so the inspiration for it comes from digging through a lot of old records, but it does also have a lot of live components to it as well. I use a lot of Moog synths, hand instruments, conga drums, things like that. So I feel like my style is very free and as long as I believe it sounds good and it hits my soul in the right place I’m able to feel confident and work with that. So it’s really about freedom but it’s also sample-driven at the same time.”
Pianos seem to be an ongoing theme in your music – is there a particular reason for that?
“I love how pianos sound. My mother has been a piano player since she was little, she’s played in Carnegie Hall and she still does play. So a lot of the time when I’d be in the basement working on music I could hear the piano upstairs. I actually recorded my mother into Pro-Tools (laughs). But she’s not an ear musician, she has to read music, so she plays a lot of classical material rather than being someone who would sit there and vibe out and play some s**t. So I think growing up my whole life hearing the piano being played, I guess now I just gravitate towards that sound in my music. Plus, I think that rhymes over pianos from a rapper with a good voice just sound right. I mean, it can sound hard, it can sound emotional. I make beats using other instruments as well but I always feel like I move forward more with the piano stuff.”
The new “LUV NY” project features a number of New York legends coming together as a group – how did you manage to bring together A.G., O.C., Kurious, Kool Keith and Roc Marciano for this album?
“Right after introducing me to Party Arty, A.G. also introduced me to O.C. kinda early. Me and O formed our own relationship. We actually have our own project that we’re still working on, which O took a break from to do the Apollo Brown album. So O became family very early on. Then we did a show with Kurious and Dave Dar at the Bronx Musuem and A and Jorge knew each other, but we didn’t know Dave and I didn’t know Jorge. But we really got along and I loved what they were doing as the Bamboo Bros, so then we started working together on songs just having fun with it.”
What about Kool Keith?
“A.G. knows that Kool Keith is my favourite rapper of all-time. I’ve been a fan for years and have been to so many of his shows, he’s just the most hilarious, real dude ever. A.G. ran into Keith on Fordham Road in the Bronx and told him how much of a fan I was and that he should come by the studio and check out what we were doing and listen to some of my beats. Keith actually lives fairly close to me, so he came through to do a song with A and then me and Keith started working together and recorded maybe like thirty songs.
And finally, how does Roc Marciano fit into the puzzle?
Now, the thing with Roc Marciano, I had credits on his “Marcberg” album. Also, years ago I reached out with Roc to do a song with A as I felt the two of them would be great doing a song together. I was willing to pay him and approached him on a business level, but Roc was like ‘Nah, for A.G. I’ve got no problem doing that for free.’ So they did a song together. Me and Roc then started working together and while I was recording and mixing “Marcberg” we would do songs together inbetween. So now all these brothers were coming in and out of my studio at different times or sometimes people would arrive early and would be in there together with each other. It’s not like I reached out to a bunch of people just to do a project, the artists on the “LUV NY” album are the people who are around me on a regular basis who I’m making music with out of love not because of business. Me and A years ago came up with the name LUV NY and said that if we ever put together a big group or something that’s what we should call it. So I brought that back to the table and told A that with all the brothers we had working together, with all the songs we’d recorded, we could just do a couple more songs to solidify it and we could make it the “LUV NY” project. Everyone involved in the album has mutual respect for each other, everyone worked on it together and I feel like it’s special for that reason. There are no emailed vocals involved, it wasn’t about money, it really was a crazy blessing to be able to work with these brothers on a project like this.”
So does the name of the group purely reflect the sound of the album or is there a deeper meaning to the LUV NY concept?
“It stands for the blessing of being from this place. It’s not about having any malice towards anywhere else, or being critical about the music that’s coming from anywhere else, it’s just about showing what we do here in New York. It’s not necessarily about constantly waving the New York banner in the rhymes, it’s just everybody doing what they wanted to do and by doing that they’re showing you the different flavours of NYC, with Kurious being from Uptown, A.G. from the South Bronx, Roc from Long Island, O.C. being from Brooklyn, Dave Dar is from Washington Heights and Keith being from the Bronx as well. It’s just about some brothers coming together and making the music that comes naturally as artists who were born and raised in New York. It’s a happy album and is really just a celebration.”
How do you feel the city has changed when you think back to the NY of your childhood compared to today?
“I think it’s definitely got a lot safer (laughs). In the 70s and 80s it was definitely a wild place with things like the crack era and what happened around that in New York during that time. Then in the 90s the city started to get cleaned up a little bit and then by the time we got to the 2000s it was definitely a much safer place to live and visit. There were a lot of neighbourhoods that before you wouldn’t really want to go to or would even be able to go to, whereas now you can go there, sit down and have a cheese platter and some wine or something (laughs). So the city has definitely changed on that level and it’s definitely not as segregated as it used to be. But in terms of the energy, it’s still very much that same fast-paced New York and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Do you see a parallel between how New York has changed socially and the changes in some of the music from the city given that many people feel the Rotten Apple has had something of a sonic identity crisis in recent years?
“It’s weird because I just feel like Hip-Hop became such a big business that the organic element of the music became lost as people started to try and emulate successful formulas or sounds from other areas. I mean, there are definitely still good artists out there that are unknown in New York but the business isn’t built for that. If you’re going to pay attention to New York radio then you’re going to feel insecure about the music you’re making because if you’re doing something that reflects where you’re from as a New York artist it’s not going to sound like what they’re playing on the radio. It’s all good for people to monopolise the business like that, but the culture will still be here when they’re done making their money out of Hip-Hop. But I really try to avoid all of that stuff. I don’t listen to the radio at all, I don’t pay attention to pop artists and what they had for lunch, I don’t do that. But at the same time, I don’t want people thinking that all I’m listening to is “Return Of The Boom-Bap” from KRS-One because I listen to a lot of new artists and am constantly buying music from those artists because there is a lot of quality out there that you’re not hearing about on the radio etc. But I really try to avoid getting caught up in all of that stuff and I don’t move in those circles because if you stay away from that type of energy that you can’t become infected by it to the point where it starts to influence what you do.”
Do you find it frustrating when people think that just because you’re being critical of new music that must mean you only listen to old Hip-Hop instead of understanding that you’re actually also listening to new artists who just aren’t being promoted by that mainstream machine?
“I hate it when people think that. It’s almost like mass brain-washing the way these major outlets present artists and make people feel as if they have to like them or follow them. But someone, somewhere who doesn’t even care about the music is getting paid off of that and that’s what it comes down to. But like I said, we will still be here after they’ve made their money. Hip-Hop will still be here, the culture will still be here, and we’ll still be here doing what we do. I mean, if you look at a younger artist like a Blu who’s been making some great music, it gives you confidence that the music isn’t going anywhere and that there are still artists coming up who have that creative spark. But it’s frustrating that so many people out there don’t understand that just because you don’t like what’s being played on the radio that doesn’t mean you’re not listening to new music. I mean, I don’t really talk Hip-Hop with a lot of people outside of my circle and there’s probably people at my day job who don’t even know what I do because it’s frustrating to have the same conversation over and over.”
Considering your previous projects have been released via Fat Beats or on your own Red Apples 45 imprint why did you decide to go with France’s Ascetic label for the “LUV NY” album?
“They reached out to me back in January and told me they’d been following what I’d been doing and would really like to put a project out. I mean, I’ve been with Fat Beats for awhile now but I know that I’m not a really big seller compared to some of the other artists they deal with, so I was looking for a smaller situation where the label could really concentrate on the record. So it was actually good timing as the “LUV NY” project was done and I’d actually been talking to some other labels here but everything kind of felt the same, so I decided to take a chance with Ascetic in France. I looked into the label and the projects they’d put out from people like Count Bass D and Pace Won and really liked what they’d done. It’s been great being involved with Ascetic and they’ve really been on top of their game and done a lot for this project in a short space of time.”
So given the numerous artist connections you have there must be some other projects currently being put together in the Red Apples lab?
“Right now I have a seven-inch EP with A.G. and Party Arty called “Dancin’ In The Rain” which is under the “Pianos In The Projects” style. I have the album coming with O.C. called “Ray’s Cafe” plus an album that I did with A.G. and John Robinson which was great to work on as J.R. brought in some horn-players and singers, so it’s my mellow production with some really great live instruments. Then we also have a D-Flow solo album on the way. We’ve done about six songs already and we also have a few choice guestspots on there from people like A.G. and Milano so that’s something to watch out for. I’m really looking to build Red Apples into being a harmonious little label that me and A can use to help quality artists survive in an honest way in a dishonest business. It’s definitely a challenge (laughs).”
“LUV NY” is out now on Ascetic Music.
LUV NY ft. A.G. & Roc Marciano – “Egyptology” (Ascetic Music / 2012)
Posted in East Coast Hip-Hop, Interviews
Tagged A.G., Ascetic Music, D.I.T.C., Dave Dar, Diggin' In The Crates, East Coast Hip-Hop, Ghetto Dwellas, Independent Hip-Hop, Kool Keith, Kurious, Kurious Jorge, LUV NY, O.C., P-80, Party Arty, Pianos In The Projects, Ray West, Red Apples 45, Roc Marciano, The Piano Companion EP, Ultramagnetic MC's, Underground Hip-Hop
Typically random beats and rhymes from the Ultramagnetic emcee on this official free mixtape which follows the recent release of Keith’s “Love & Danger” album.
Kool Keith – “Goodbye Rap” (Junkadelic Music / 2012)
Could the man of many aliases be hanging his microphone up after today’s release of his new “Love & Danger” album?