Filed under: Bronx Bombers,Features,Interviews,Not Your Average,The 90's Files
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Bronx-bred MC Snaggapuss got his start with the Trackmasterz before joining DJ Doo Wop’s Bounce Squad and landing a solo deal with Virgin. After some false starts, Snaggapuss has returned with Black Rob and Doo Wop for a second go-round, this time balancing his Snaggapuss character with Snaggadon.
Robbie: Why are you calling yourself Snaggadon now?
Snaggapuss: There are certain topics where if I touched it and I was doing the Snaggapuss character, it would take away from it. If I wanted to talk about a serious topic it would make it comical, so I created this other persona which is more regular me so I could deal with other topics. Snaggadon is more serious, everything is not a joke to him.
What age did you begin rhyming?
I was nine or ten years old when I first started reciting my own lines. My cousin Lamount and I had this thing where we would have 30-second rap battles. There was only enough time for two or three lines real quick, just like snappin’ on each other. At twelve years old, I recorded in my first professional studio, which was K-Rock Studio on Wicks Avenue in The Bronx. It was owned by a guy named Kenny Scott, who passed away unfortunately. They robbed him or something. At the time I was recording there, you had Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe – this is early, all before their deals – all recording outta there. Red Alert worked outta there, I met Jam-Master Jay down there. Being that it was in my neighborhood and they took a liking to me, I was able to just come to the studio and be around all these dudes from when I was little, and it was real inspiring. The first time I heard Main Source was from Lord Finesse. He was just minding his business in the studio and I just walked-up, like “Yo, what you listening to?”. He just gave me his headphones – at this time it was a Walkman – and I ended-up listening to the whole thing.
What was your first MC name?
[laughs] I had something with a “G” or a “ski” in it! Graffiti was big around that time, I never wrote on any walls but I was a notebook graffiti artist. I had a name like Ralphski or something like that. My mother had the demo for years and years, and I used to despise when she put it on. It was called “Slick Scientist”.
Who was doing your beats at the time?
Kenny Scott did some production for me, couple of times I got Diamond D to hook-up a sample for me. I was so happy to be recording, I even took the song to my sixth grade class, and the teacher played it for the class! Later on in life, I got cool with Fat Joe through Doo Wop and I asked him, “You remember when you used to go to K-Rock Studio? I was the little dude who used to be there!”. Nobody remembered, I was just like a mascot or something. Big L wanted me on the first album, but we never did connect.
What was the next step?
I hooked-up with the Trackmasterz. Pudgee was the one who plugged me in with Poke and Tone.
Speaking of Pudgee, on his album they announced the whole original line-up of the Trackmasterz. Do you remember was in the crew back then?
The ones I met where Al Richberg, Poke and Tone, Frank Pamentel, Curt Gowdy, Rich Nice and Hot Dogg. Mona Me was managing all of us at the time. I think I left a sour taste in they mouth, I had a lot of learning to do. Sometimes when they would shop the demo, the label might be interested in the music and not the artist, and a couple of joints off my demo got used for G Rap and somebody else. I wasn’t offended by who used it, but I was like, “Damn! That was a beat on my demo!” They were like, “Be easy! You’re gonna get something better, but we just gotta get this money right now”. That was one of the reasons I stepped. I’ve grown a lot since then, and I was sincerely honored to be around them and learn from them, and I hope one day we can all be cool again.
When did you meet Doo Wop?
First time I met him, Doo Wop held an open mic, he was looking for MCs. My friend was in the competition and he asked me to come, and that was the reason I didn’t step-up. I didn’t want to clash with my homey. So I got to kick it with Wop, and he told me he had heard me on a neighborhood mix tape, and he said he was interested in working with me. The chemistry was there, he was from my hood and he had a buzz going so we just took it and ran with it from there. I left Trackmasterz to go work with Doo Wop, so they were like, “What the hell is a Doo Wop? You wanna leave Trackmasterz to go do a mixtape?” It’s kinda crazy when I think about it now! [laughs]
What was the tape that Doo Wop had heard you on?
I went to Dewood Clinton, and DJ Red Handed – who was deejaying for Foxy for a while – also went to school with me, and we used to go to K-Rock Studio, ‘cos he was mentored by DJ Red Alert. He used to do mixtapes, and he asked me to come through and get on a joint with him. They were selling it on Fordham Road in a store called Young Star, where they also used to sell Doo Wop tapes. Wop came in and they were playing it.
Had you already developed the Snaggapuss style?
Yes, I developed it while I was with Trackmasterz. I got the name from Red Hot Lover Tone. Him, Pudge and myself were on a conference call, and I had told them that people used to say I reminded them of a cartoon character. They didn’t tell me to use the style, they just said, “That’s gonna be your name”, so I experimented and people gravitated towards it.
Who were the MC’s in the Bounce Squad when you first joined?
Uneek, Rev. Gotti, All That, myself, Doo Wop and Leatherface. Then we had the mini Bounce Squad, who was coming-up under us, Rambro and Andre Schwartzanigga! [laughs] I named those two! I’m proud of that! You had Keith Nut from Fat Joe’s camp, a dude named Merc, Wild Child and Pretty Boy Floyd, who Wop later informed committed suicide, so may he rest in peace.
How often would you record together? Whenever Wop dropped a tape?
He was kinda natural with it. Let’s say he dropped a tape this week, that tape might be poppin’ for two, three months! Until the seasons change! In that time you had to put in the leg work. We were getting the copies made and goin’ to different boroughs to deliver ‘em. Wop would say, “Meet me in the morning, we’re gonna hit Brooklyn, Queens and Harlem”.
Would you give the stores the master or copies?
He would do both. If a store wanted a master to make their own copies, he would have a set price for a master. Or he would bring the tapes and you sell it for whatever price and split it with him. I used to tell Wop, We do a freestyle on the A-side, let’s do an original song on the other side. I didn’t want to get pigeon-holed into just freestyling on a beat, I wanted to showcase my song-writing skills too. That led to Noo Trybe/Virgin hollering at Wop and offering him the deal. The actual deal would have been Doo Wop, Uneek and myself. Everybody else would have been “featured” and able to get their own deals later on. That caused a rift within the group and ultimately led to the break-up. Noo Trybe offered me a solo deal, and that’s how I ended-up moving out to California for the two years that I was out there.
Why did you move?
When I inked the deal with ‘em I wasn’t even old enough to sign, I was seventeen. I wasn’t living with my parents, so I was like, “I need that up-front money”. They were like, “You’re gonna have to get your mother’s signature”. I wasn’t even talking to my mother at the time! I was trying to prove to her that I could be a man and I was gonna make it pop with this music thing. So they created something called a “Deal Memo”, where I signed and once I was eighteen I was gonna sign the real contract. I had eight months to wait until my birthday, and I just ran rampant! They was paying my rent and it was a party every night at my crib! Nobody was going to school or anything! I got into some trouble, and an older dude in my neighborhood popped a shot at me. DJ Mel Ice, who was an A&R in the New York branch of Virgin, said, “Would you like to go to California for a little while and do some song writing? Get out the city”. I went there and just loved it, I told him I wanted to stay. I got to record while I was out there, meet a lot of people and make some contacts.
How did that Red Bandit “All Men Are Dogs” song happen?
Positive K had a studio on 125th Street, right up the block from the Apollo, on top of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Positive K and Big Daddy Kane were starting Black Caeser Management, and they wanted me to be their first artist. I used to go kick it with Kane, I remember brother’s in the hood didn’t believe me, I was like “Yo, Big Daddy Kane comin’ to pick me up”. They’d go, “Yeah, right!”. Positive called me down one day, Red Bandit was his artist. I wasn’t there when Big or Grand Puba laid their vocal, later on when I heard the song I was like, “Wow, that was a good look!” Sadat X was originally from The Bronx and I knew people that knew him, and Sadat hollered at me at The Fever. I came down to Chung King and that’s how I got onto “Step Into Da Cipher” with Brand Nubian.
How about “No Hand Outs” with the Alkaholiks?
Xzibit had just signed his first deal with Loud at the time, and I was looking for the weed man and I met Phil Da Agony. We was kickin’ it, and he introduced me to Xzibit and they took me up to E-Swift’s house. When I introduced myself they knew right away. I did shows with them out there, I was kinda an impromptu member of the Likwit Crew. We recorded quite a few songs – I would have had more of them, but when I moved back to the East Coast there was a fire in my mom’s house, it burned a lot of material. We recorded that song for the Million [Man] March album in Ice-T’s crib, and while I was there I recorded other joints with him. All of it burned up. I cried like a baby.
What happened to the Virgin deal?
My label mates at the time were Shyheim – I was on one of his songs too – and they had The Luniz. They released “I Got 5 On It”, which blew-up. They were going through problems with the label, as far as royalties and things of that nature. Numskull from the Luniz was my right-hand man at the time, he was staying in my crib for a little while because he wanted to move outta Oakland and he needed a place in LA to stay while he looked for a spot. They had a problem with the label, and we went down there and they flipped out! So that led to a whole lot of other things aside from business that was going down, threats and all this. I was like, “Damn, I left the East Coast to get away from this shit!”. Numskull had bought $30,000 worth of studio equipment and they had broke in my apartment and stole it. They just kicked the door in, went in there and ripped everything out. They didn’t even unplug the wires! It was a whole bunch of hood shit going on. I felt like my life was in jeopardy. I was like, “These dudes just kicked the door down! Imagine if I was here!” That night I had went to Peanuts, a lesbian strip club out there on Lacieniga. When I saw that, I was like, “Man, I’m going back to New York”.
I hollered at the label, they told me, “Hey Snag, you’re already over budget. Let’s just go ahead and finish the project so we can get this money back”. So they were refusing to send me back to New York. So I concocted a story and told them my mother was sick. They booked the flight and I told ‘em, “I ain’t comin’ back”. That’s how I breached the contract, which was like shooting myself in the foot, because it left me in limbo. Anybody who wanted to deal with me musically would have had to pay off the $300,000 budget first, so the only people who were in a position to do that at the time were Aftermath. So I got in with Ski Beatz and I recorded a new demo and my homey sent it out there to Cali. They showed some interest and sent for us. It looked like it was gonna go down, but once again due to a bunch of personal BS, I got into a fight on the plane coming back – and this is after I shook Dre’s hand and he said we were gonna do the deal after the New Year – and it never went down.
How much material did you record for Noo Trybe?
I recorded with E-Swift, with Dollaz and Sense from Oakland. They flew me to Texas to work with NO Joe. He did most of my production. Flying everywhere burned up most of my budget. My vision was to put a lyrical East Coast dude on those G-Funk beats.
What is it about The Bronx that separates the MCs?
A Bronx MC is coming with that grime. We tend to be more leaning towards to the lyrics, where as in Brooklyn they lean more towards the gangster type, where they wanna scare you and gun-butt you and all that. I think The Bronx is a little more lyrical.
Pudgee Tha Phat Bastard feat. Snaggapuss – “Doin MC’s Sum ‘N Terrible”
Brand Nubian feat. Serge & Snagglepuss- “Step Into Da Cipher
Xzibit, Alkaholiks, Phil the Agony – “No Hands Outs”
DJ Doo Wop & The Bounce Squad – “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll”
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