Filed under: Flavor Unit Special,Interviews,Not Your Average,Speaker Smashers,Steady Bootleggin',Video Clips
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
You might remember Markey Fresh from the classic 45 King joint ‘The King Is Here’, or his solo single on Jive called ‘The Mack of Rap’. As it turns out, he was technically the first MC to ever work with The 45 King in his famous basement in New Jersey…
Robbie: How did you meet The 45 King?
Markey Fresh: I was born and raised in The Bronx. I used to live in the Bronxdale projects, and Afrika Bambatta used to come through there all the time, playing his music outside on the basketball court, and I just got consumed by that. I just started at a young age – say fourteen – writing rhymes. We moved to New Jersey when I was about sixteen. When we came to New Jersey it was just straight House music until I went to school one day and this guy brung a tape in. I was like, ‘Man, where’d you get that from?’ And he said, ‘From this guy named Mark. He lives around the corner from the school’. I went straight over there into the basement, and I was there every day after that, because he was the only one in New Jersey playing hip-hop – everyone else was into House. I was the first one down in that basement, and after three years that’s when everybody else came along, out of the woodwork, because Mark started becoming known. So all of these people I’d never heard of – or seen – just popped-up, all at once. A lot of the times they do these interviews with the so-called original members, and my name is not on there? Wow.
Would Mark just break-beat records for you back then?
He would have all the break-beat parts and I would just rhyme over it. I used to kill ‘Impeach The President’.
Did he have that train turnstile in the basement when you first started going?
Nah, that came later. I hated that turnstile! When I first went down there, it was just a bunch of crates filled with records, two turntables and a microphone. That’s all I needed to see.
Was Latee the first one to start coming to the basement after you?
After me, that’s when I met Latee, then he brought in Apache. Then Latifah came down, and everybody looked at her as the girl that wanted to be on the baseball team, but didn’t think she could hit any home runs. But then we let her try out, and she killed it! Since then, she became a member. Latee got his single deal first, then Latifah got her album deal, and then Lakim got his album deal and then that’s when I got my single deal. So all those people were before me, even though I was the first one down in that basement.
When did it become the Flavor Unit?
No, that was somebody else idea. When Latifah got her deal, that’s when it became the Flavor Unit. Before that, everybody was just doin’ their own thing. We were still down in the basement together, but as they got their deals and went on tour, they seemed to not remember who I was for some reason. To be honest with you Robbie, I don’t feel like I was ever a part of the Flavor Unit, because when they did things they didn’t call me, like, ‘C’mon Mark, let’s go!’ They just left without me. I was like that black sheep of the family. The whole group would go, and I would stay. But I wouldn’t stay and sit – I was doin’ my own thing.
I was just a solo artist, going down to the basement, making demo tapes. I gave one to Red Alert and he played it for a whole year! I was like, ‘Wow, that’s like having a record deal!’ That’s all I really wanted, was to get my stuff on the radio. So every year I would give him a promo and he would play it, until it got the attention of Jive Records and they signed me to a single deal. After that, they said, ‘Go in there and do another single’. I was like, ‘Do I get a video with it?’ And they was like, ‘Nah, we can’t give you a video with the single’. I said, ‘Everyone else has one – that’s how you promote and market’, and they was like, ‘We can’t give it you’. I was like, ‘Well, if I can’t get the video to this song then I don’t want t be a part of this deal anymore’. They took about 6-8 weeks going back and forth, then they decided, ‘OK, we will let you go’ and that was the end of that. I was happy. Red Alert was playing my promos on the radio as if they was records. I knew people that had record deals that wasn’t getting as much play as my promos, so I was satisfied. I really didn’t care about the money at that time, I was just happy to hear my songs on the radio. This went on from ’86 to ’92. Every year I’d give him a new song and he would just play it.
What was the story behind ‘The King Is Here’?
I don’t know what was going on over there at Tuff City, ‘cos I wasn’t actually signed to them. I just did that record for Mark – he was the one hooking me up, so I said, ‘Let me hook him up’. So I gave him that song…’Go ahead, do what you wanna do with it’.
What can you tell me about ‘The Mack of Rap’?
Originally I gave that song to Mark, and he gave it to Aaron Fuchs at Tuff City. Aaron Fuchs paid – I think – $700, but that’s when Jive stepped in and said, ‘Oh no, we getting’ him of that label and he’s comin’ over here’. So Jive had to pay $5,000 to get me out of that situation.
Did you really own a Gucci suit with your name on the back?
[laughs] I was gonna get one of those if I would’ve got my video for my next single, that’s what I was gonna wear.
Did you do many shows off of that single?
Yeah. I would do two songs – I would do one they never heard of and then I would go into ‘The Mack of Rap’. They would pay me between five and seven…thousand. A lot of times it was Red Alert who was deejaying for me. He would be the DJ at those shows I would go to, and he would have everything I ever did in his crate. I never really knew who else was on the bill – I was either the opening or the second act of that night. Mostly when Brand Nubian did shows I was the opening act in New York. They had me in they video too – that was cool.
‘Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down’. I had a blue and white striped shirt, coming out the train station, I thought that was cool they asked me to be in that.
It was wack how everyone in the Unit had a Hip-House song on their album.
I hated that, man! They tried to make me do that at least 2,000 times they asked me to do that! I was like, ‘No way! No way!’ That’s a whole different thing over there. Hip-hop beats are much harder.
You also released that hard-to-get EP on Mark’s label. When was that recorded?
We recorded that around that time, ’92-’93. We just did that to be doin’ it. We said, ‘We gonna throw it out there. If it sticks to the wall, then cool – we’ll go and do some more stuff’.
Did Mark’s drug problem affect your relationship with him?
I was upset that he allowed himself to do that. That happened when Warner Bros. gave him a recording deal and a budget for $250,000, and he acted like he had 7 million – because he got three apartments in one building, only lived in one. One was supposed to be for the office and one for the studio. That was a waste of money – he could have bought a house and put everything in there. Once again, when he got that deal with Warner Bros., more people started coming out of the woodwork! I’d never seen them in my life, and he’s just giving them money…I’m like, ‘Wow, man’. I’d say within a year all of that was gone and he had to move back into his mom’s house – back in the basement. You know how some people win the lottery? They get all that money and just go crazy? That’s what happened to him. It was so much money I guess he thought it was gonna last for ever. I didn’t wanna say nothin’ and tell him how to spend his money – I was juts observing from afar. Like, ‘Wow, man. I know what not to do if I get a $250, 000 budget!’ The guy that gave him the deal dropped him like a hot potato. ‘Oh man – angel dust?’ They let him go immediately.
Apache passing recently was sad news…
Yeah man. Yo, he smoked too many cigarettes, man. That’s what it was. His weight just went so high. All that hard, fast living just caught-up with him. He was young, too. I feel bad for him…I don’t wish death on nobody, man.
The 45 King feat. Markey Fresh - ‘The King Is Here’
Markey Fresh - ‘The Mack of Rap’
The 45 King feat. Markey Fresh - ‘Freestyle’
Markey Fresh – ‘Ain’t No Thang’
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