T La Rock Interview Pt. 2 – The Lost Tapes

08-t-la-rock

Continuing my talk with “Super Rapper” T La Rock, we discuss the origins of his name, working with Mantronik, bootleggers and unreleased recordings. T is currently developing a biopic called ‘The T La Rock Story’ with “a very powerful producer from Hollywood” named Bonnie Timmerman (who was the Casting Director on Man On Fire, Carlito’s Way and State of Grace to name a few) as well as working on new music.

What’s the story behind your name?

T La Rock: That’s the thing, I was asking my brother about that. I’ve been ‘T La Rock’ for so long that it escapes me. I try to think real hard, ‘What made me say La Rock?’ I was ‘T La Rock’ when there was only three MC’s that was with Flash, put it that way. [laughs] There was only two ‘La Rocks’. People ask me was I the first ‘La Rock’ and I say, ‘It’s a toss-up’, because there was one other ‘La Rock’ – and this is way before Scott La Rock, ‘cos you know Scott La Rock actually got his name from me. We knew each other – in other words, I knew Scott, I know Scott’s brother, I know Scott’s mother, I know Scott’s cousin – so I knew him. He just was hanging around me all the time and one day he just added the ‘La Rock’ and said, ‘You got a problem with that, do you?’ I said, ‘Nah! Ga’ head’. Not many people know about that.

Who was the other ‘La Rock’?

There was another one who was with Kool Herc, and his name was Coka La Rock. But the thing that was funny about it is his name was pronounced two different ways – ‘Coke La Rock’ and ‘Coka La Rock’. We didn’t know each other. The way I came up with the ‘La Rock’ had nothin’ to do with emceeing. That was from breakdancing…well, dancing, rather. We didn’t call it breakdancing back then.

How did you get introduced to Kurtis Mantronik?

He had just signed with Sleeping Bag too around the same time and he had just done ‘Fresh Is The Word’. Actually, I wanted Kurtis to come in and mix some of the songs [for the ‘He’s Incredible’ EP] with me, but it didn’t happen. He told me he always wanted to work with me, but it was too late for that record. That’s around the time when hip-hop was big, but dance music and Freestyle music was the music that was hittin’ at that time, so Sleeping Bag focused all their energy on Mantronik. So I got pushed – but not as much push as Mantronik got – so ‘He’s Incredible’ kinda slipped through the cracks a little bit. Me and Kurtis would hang-out a lot outside of the whole music thing. I went to his house a lot, I would be going to his shows. Even when he was recording Music Madness, I remember MC Tee getting writer’s block and I kinda helped him out and gave him some rhymes and lyrics. A friendly thing – nothing like charging him or anything. We just started playing around with some beats one night at his house, and I said, ‘Sounds good!’ I remember when we did ‘Bass Machine’, which was the b-side to ‘Breaking Bells’. I produced ‘Breaking Bells’ and mixed it down with Louie Lou.

I didn’t know that. Mantronik is credited for the record, wasn’t he?

That’s what’s so funny. Do you know that the only thing that Kurtis Mantronik did with ‘This Beat Kicks’ was mixed it down with us? ‘This Beat Kicks’ was produced by me and Louie Lou. The record was written for Kurtis Mantronik, but he only showed-up to the studio once, and didn’t come back until the record was finished. Me and Louie Lou finished the record. The reason why people think Mantronik did it, because in the rhyme I’m sayin’, ‘The name Mantronik now world renown!’ The record was written for him even though he didn’t show up to the session. I could’ve changed it but I didn’t.

Mantronik was a real technology head. His studio must’ve been pretty crazy.

He’s a trip, man. Kurtis was such a nut…I don’t know how he did it, but Kurtis would be able to call your house and have a McDonald’s restaurant on a three-way – without dialing the three-way call! I don’t know how he did it. He used to rig things up. Kurtis was the type that would have a porno movie playing and have your voice over the porno movie! [laughs]

You also helped MC Serch get on?

Serch was one of my best friends at one time. He lived in Queens, I lived in the Bronx. Serch used to drive from Queens to The Bronx every other day to hang out with me. I was getting Serch in all the clubs, he was able to walk-in with me and he started networking and meeting people. There’s a song on the Lyrical King album called ‘Tutti Fruity Judy’ and Serch is on that record too. Talking at the beginning – that’s Serch and Greg Nice.

Apparently Serch would be the only white kid at places like Latin Quarter?

The clubs like The Roxy, The Funhouse, Roseland – all of those clubs, if you wasn’t V.I.P. like I was – there would be lines, especially at The Roxy, I kid you not. There were lines about a hundred feet long! So Serch didn’t have to wait on that line, I would walk him in through the front door. ‘You’re with me. C’mon’ and just walk right in.

Who else did you used to run with?

There’s another rapper from The Bronx named Deshawn [who appeared on Showbiz & AG‘s ‘Represent’]. He’s another one of those Kool Keith-type rappers that has a bunch of different names. He was ‘Sunkiss’, he was ‘Deshawn E. Thunder’, he was ‘Bald-Head Assassin’. He was so nice. When I hooked-up with him he was only fifteen years old. He used to go to Harlem and battle Big L and all these rappers like that, and go around the Bronx battling. We went to a club together one time, and me and him battled ten rappers at the same time, and I took a break and he kept goin’! I didn’t have to take a break, I just did because somebody wanted to do an interview or something. I left and came back and he was still battling. He was like, ‘I got this’ and he took out the next three. So all together we took out like thirteen MC’s in one night.

Is there any particular performance of your that really stands out to you?

There’s actually two. One was in New York City in a club called The Roxy…no, there’s actually two clubs in New York – one called The Roxy and one called Roseland. The other one that really stood-out for me was in Amsterdam. One thing I wanna make clear – I can’t think of one show that I did where the crowd wasn’t excited and it got amped and it wasn’t live – but these shows I’m naming were just more explosive. Believe me, throughout my career I think I’ve done about a thousand performances. That’s before I turned professional and after. Since I’ve gotten into hip-hop I’ve done about a thousand performances worldwide. I’m asked all the time to do performances and I turn them down. I’ve done it for so long I’ve slowed down a little bit, so it really depends on where it is and how I’m feeling at the time.

Do you have a lot of unreleased tracks that never came out?

Yeah I have a lot of those, they’re all over the place. I’m actually gathering them now, just for my personal collection. I have quite a few. There’s about fifteen unreleased songs that I have – that I started recording and were not mixed and mastered – that I recorded with Sleeping Bag Records that were not released, ‘cos I would go in the studio and record a whole bunch of songs and just pick ten to go on the album. But here’s the problem – finding them! Some of the copies I have somewhere, probably in a box.

Were these songs you produced yourself or with Mantronik?

A lot of ‘em I did myself, a lot of ‘em I did with Louie, some of ‘em I did with Mantronik. One or two I did with Mark The 45 King, ‘cos I used to go to Mark’s house all the time.

The idea of a T La Rock/45 King song is mind-blowing to say the least.

Yup, it’s out there somewhere! The way it was set-up is…Mark is like me – we’re breakbeat collectors. Mark just came down to the studio and bought some breaks with ‘em. We just started doin’ the record and that was it! I wonder if he even remembers that? It was so long ago – we’re talkin’ 80’s, so you know it’s a classic!

A lot of those songs must been before DAT tapes. Are those old reel-to-reels harder to track down?

I was the type that every time I was in the studio, no matter whether we started the record or whether it was mixed, I’d always leave with a cassette tape of it or a CD of it. I might actually have some formatted songs that are recorded, not necessarily mixed down. There was also a demo tape that I had did back in the days of Sleeping Bag Records, and back in 2000 I met this guy named Sean Ritchie, and he was asking me the same thing you asked me, ‘Is there any unreleased songs you have that you did?’ And this is on a cassette – third, fourth generation – a copy of a copy of a copy. He says that he had a record company and distribution and he knew some people, and he says that he actually wanted to put it out – go in the studio and re-record the songs. What he did was, he took the tape that I gave him and pressed it. Mastered the songs off the cassette and called it ‘The Lost Tapes’! I couldn’t believe it. I still haven’t found that guy yet! [chuckles] The songs weren’t bad but the recording just wasn’t that good. If you like T La Rock you’ll like that stuff, but it wasn’t a record that was mixed and mastered in a studio. The thing about it is, this guy who I’m talkin’ about – Sean Ritchie – I was with Percee-P and someone else, we was in the studio hangin’ out and he had a guy with him with a camera was just taking pictures. You know, a bunch of people just hangin’ out, takin’ pictures. Guess what he does? One of the pictures he took of me – he actually put it on the cover to make it look official! And then, to get himself out of it – you can probably hear the anger in my voice – he puts on the back of the credits, ‘All songs Produced and Mixed by T La Rock’! Nothing’s mixed by me! That’s another one of the ‘highlights’ of my career. That’s sorta like a warning to all the other artists out there – you gotta be careful, there’s a lot of shady characters out there. Coincidentally, who comes out with an album years later? Nas – The Lost Tapes. I was like, ‘Oh boy’.

Was that your only copy of the tape?

That’s the other thing. That’s the part of why I’m so angry – I only gave him the tape to listen to it. So he actually had my copy of the cassette, so I’m left with nothing. So I was really angry. Any artist you speak to will tell you, that’s not only memorabilia, that’s something that you keep with you. Unless of course I come across another tape! He has the original tape and everything, I never got that back.

Back to Part 1.

T La Rock @ MySpace

T La Rock - ‘Breaking Bells’

T La Rock - ‘This Beat Kicks’

T La Rock - ‘Live In Hempstead 1985, Part 1′

T La Rock - ‘Live In Hempstead 1985, Part 2′

T La Rock - ‘Verbal Assassin’ (demo)

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on TumblrDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

23 Comments so far
Leave a comment

How about we all volunteer to go over to his apartment one day and help him look for all those songs? :-D

Comment by Werner von Wallenrod 06.25.08 @

another great one Robbie.

was verbal assassin on that lost tapes release?

Comment by Smooth Triumph 06.25.08 @

nas should play him for the biopic

Comment by Smooth Triumph 06.25.08 @

great interview..

Comment by richdirection 06.25.08 @

i’d like to hear mantronik’s side of the “breakin bells” story …

Comment by lj 06.25.08 @

Dope interview Robbie! When we can except an interview with the original King of the Beats aka Kurtis Mantronik???

Peace
Pim

Comment by Pim 06.25.08 @

Verbal Assassin is so sick. Definately the best thing on all the unreleased tracks which’ve leaked thus far.

Comment by brian beck from wisconsin 06.26.08 @

T La Rock is dope.

Comment by End Level Boss 06.27.08 @

That signed picture looks a bit familiar…

Comment by Drew Huge 06.27.08 @

That interview looks familiar . . .

Comment by Jonny Roxwell 06.27.08 @

dope interview robbie.

Cosign Pim, PLEASE ROBBIE try to get a Kurtis Mantronik interview! IMO Just Ice “Cold Getting Dumb” is the GOAT beat in hiphop.

Comment by KQ 06.28.08 @

Hey, Robbie.

I just finished reading the entirety of your interview, and I honestly have to say, without any level of flattery or overt praise, that it was the most detailed analysis of T La Rock’s works, life, and unfortunate endurance of misrepresentation, dissimulation and insidiousness on the part of all people that deceived him, failed to pay the man when he truly deserved/earned acquired/obtained money, and swindled personal possessions without ever thinking about creating any clones from the master copies I have ever read. I’d always wondered in the past why he wasn’t making music to a great extent any more. I’ve originally thought that it was because of shameful, sad incidents in that same manner of format, but had no idea what actually occurred/took place, and to how serious and existence-damaging an extent it was (or they were).

It was no mystery to me that he (including most, if not all, of the other rappers/groups signed under Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records at that time, including Just-Ice, EPMD, Mantronix, Tricky Tee, 12:41 (old-school KRS-One preceding Boogie Down Productions and his solo career) and the like) was victimized by poor business practices, bad/lack of proper management/promotion and poor advertising consequently/constantly/consistently holding/restraining the companies and their incredible collection/assembly/compilation of albums/records back from good RIAA certification and Oricon chart rankings (“On a Warpath,” if it had been additionally released here in the United States, should have achieved Platinum certification (2x Platinum status should he have decided to wait and release it in 1990 instead of ’89)), but I haven’t been able earlier on to find any real information on what the causes/situations/questions at hand were. So, now more than ever, I’m EXTREMELY grateful to finally gain more knowledge/understanding of these problems he previously had (and probably still does to this day in some way).

Comment by BLRD 06.30.08 @

@SmoothTriumph:

Yes, “Verbal Assassin” WAS on the 2000 “Lost Tapes” LP. It’s track six, as a matter of fact.

And, also, I would personally just as well be IMMENSELY interested to see what would happen/take place if T La Rock were to go up against Nas for the right to claim the biographical picture name. Although, in my opinion, I feel/believe that T, despite not having the spiritual/metaphysical edge that enables Nas to become even more lyrically dangerous in battle, still has the skills to get his/do damage, and would absolutely whip him like a slavemaster if they ever went head-up (if you notice how upgraded/updated his flow was in “On a Warpath,” and his gaining of a better ability to articulate/speak flavorfully, with evolutions in rhyme/vocabulary utilization structure compared to “Lyrical King,” you can only imagine how reinvented his techniques are nowadays).

I’d also give it to him on the influential strength of La Rock having written what is quite possibly the greatest song in hip-hop history (with the Treacherous Three and Spoonie Gee’s “The New Rap Language” following close by in second place).

Comment by BLRD 06.30.08 @

Oh, sorry; I mean to say AWFUL advertising.

Comment by BLRD 06.30.08 @

^No I meant Nas, as an actor, should play T La Rock in the biopic about T’s life… not battle each other… I mean ’cause Nas was such a great thesbian in Belly, dontcha think?

frrrnt.

and like AZ said in the same movie, “I’m about to blow, dun.”

Comment by Smooth Triumph 07.02.08 @

@Smooth Triumph again:

Sorry, but you spelled “front” wrong. You spell it with one “r,” not three.

And, no, I’m not a fronter. I might be a fifteen year old white teenager with autism (there, I said it; let the flaming begin), but I’d rather listen to Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, young LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee before all of the Soulja Boys, T-I’s, Young Jeezys and Yung Jocs that have plagued the radio currently.

Comment by BLRD 07.06.08 @

You also spelled “thespian” incorrectly.

Go work on your writing errors before you try and insult me again. Notice how there are no misspelled words in all four of my posts (including this one).

Comment by BLRD 07.06.08 @

great interview robbie..hey i aint know nas played a lesbian in belly lol!!

Comment by dj blendz 07.06.08 @

@DJ Blendz:

Damn… if that’s true, then I’ve got to give Smooth Triumph some credit for cleverly disguising what I originally conceived as an intentional mistake with an actually quite humorous factoid.

Also, I’m not, IMHO, down with the idea of Nas playing T La Rock in his biopic. N’s getting a little bit up there in age (34 going on 35), and I don’t think he’d be able to pull off playing a young T quite well. Crazy as it sounds, I’d feel a bit better about someone like Ace Hood, Lupe Fiasco, or even Li’l Wayne performing the role.

Comment by BLRD 07.07.08 @

Also, Smooth Triumph, you might want to lay off whatever you blow. And AZ sucks. You ever wonder why he never appears on G.O.A.T. lists?

Comment by BLRD 07.09.08 @

man what a interview
i love it all

Comment by The Imperial astro kid 01.21.10 @

Excellent interview with a mc who was sooooo ahead of his time lyrically.I remember an answer back to “it’s yours”,it was called “it’s mine” came out not long after T-LA-ROCKS.
Any idea if TLA had anything to do with that record?I cant remember who did “it’s mine” but it was dope too
T-LA-ROCK what a legend.His other brother TONE had some heat out in the late 80s…What a talented family.
I’d rather see “Neil Patrick Harris” play T-LA-ROCK in a movie before lil wayne.That would be an ever bigger insult.A guy with a country accent playing a legend from the bronx???Like I said DOOGIE HOUSER would be a better choice.
Dope Dope Dope interview!!!

Comment by DJ DAVITO 03.28.10 @

T La Rocks music lives on and on.One of the 1st in a long line of intelligent wordsmith mCs. I was knockin On A Warpath and Lyrical King on Youtube when I stumbled across this interview!

Comment by chronwell 07.04.11 @



Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)