When I caught-up with DJ Moe Love in 2010, he sounded as if he was two-sheets to the wind as he explained why he and TR Love hadn’t been involved in the Best Kept Secret LP, and why they decided to release their own Ultramagnetic Foundation project. We also talked about the early days of the legendary crew, the story behind “Ego Trippin’” and the Ultra Lab, and their mixed experiences with different record labels over the years.
Robbie: What age did you get into music?
DJ Moe Love: As far as deejaying and all that stuff? I started at a young age. Probably around ten years-old. I was brought up into music, my father had mad records. Music was in my blood. Before I started with Ultramagnetic I was in a group called People’s Choice Crew. We were from Brooklyn, Fort Greene. I’m originally from Brooklyn. Dana Dane was a part of that crew. People’s Choice Crew was just friends, neighborhood DJ’s and MC’s. We used to do it for the fun. Just-Ice is from my neighborhood also.
What were you calling yourself back then?
I used to call myself Master Mel! Master Mel on the 1’s and 2’s. [Kool] Keith used to breakdance also.
What brought Ultra together originally?
Ced Gee’s my cousin, and Ced Gee and Kool Keith went to school together up in The Bronx. Roonie Roon was the guy who put the group together. He was the guy who got Keith to meet Ced Gee, they had formed a group together. I got involved, ‘cos Ced was like, “We need a DJ in the group”. I was a DJ and I had records, I was a big record collector. I used to dig in the crates and look for all types of records – Isaac Hayes, Barry White, Bob James, “Apache” – I used look for all types of records.
What was the next step for the group?
Red Alert had interest in us. Him and Keith was real tight from back in the days. Red Alert was the one who got us the deal on Next Plateau Records. A lotta people don’t know that. We had a record out before that, on Diamond International. “Give Me Love”. That was with a guy named DNA, he ain’t know how to promote it.
What do you remember about the recording of “Ego Trippin’”?
MC Ultra? That was a song that we did, it was me, TR Love, Kool Keith, Keyboard Money Mike and Ced Gee. Keyboard Money Mike helped produce “Ego Trippin”. There was another in the group named Roonie Roon, also. He got locked-up during that time. TR Love actually took his place, that’s how TR got in the group.
How did you meet TR?
I met TR Love at a store called Rock and Soul on 34th Street. That’s where he worked at.
What can you tell me about Keyboard Money Mike?
Keyboard Money Mike did a lot of stuff for Ultra. The record called “MC Ultra/Ego Trippin”, Keyboard Money Mike did a lot on there and never got the right credit, and I’ll vouch for that. He’s the also doing the hook, “MC Ultra!” He added all the sounds, the bassline, everything. He did a lot for the record. Once he didn’t get the right credit, he left us alone after that. He ended-up going with KRS.
What was the initial response to “Ego Trippin”?
People went crazy for it! That was the number one record in New York. You’d hear that everywhere, that was one our biggest records in the streets. It was summer, 1986. You had “Eric B. For President”, that was one of the hottest records. You had “The Bridge” by MC Shan, Run-DMC “Peter Piper”.
The “Travelling At The Speed of Thought” video was pretty out there. Who’s idea was that?
That’s our first video, that was something that Next Plateau wanted us to do. Honestly, I didn’t want to do a video for that song, that was the label’s suggestion. “Give The Drummer Some” – we should’ve done a video for that. Or “Chorus Line”.
I’ve heard that Ced Gee was the only guy in THe Bronx with an SP-12. Is that true?
He was the only guy in The Bronx with the SP-12. KRS and Scott La Rock used to come to the crib, they did the records together.
Would you bring a lot of the samples to Ced?
Me and TR Love used to always go out and look for records. We’d be in the streets, we’d go anywhere to find records. There was a record store called Music Factory, up in Manhattan, over in Times Square area, on 42nd street. We used to go over there looking for breakbeats and all that stuff. We used to always look for rare records – it could be rock records, R&B records – we used to dig into the 70’s and early 80’s.
Why did you leave Next Plateau?
We had a little issue with Next Plateau because of the contract. We felt that their focus was on Salt ‘N Pepa, so it was time to make a change.
When you moved to Polygram, did they pressure you make some smoother stuff?
When we did the Funk Your Head Up album, there were a lot of people involved with that album. There was us and it was these guys from Germany that were doing music on that album too. That was the labels idea, I guess they were the hottest producers out in Germany. They did some nice beats for NWA.
Was it their idea for the R&B stuff such as “I Like Your Style”?
That was something Ced did, that was a commercial song. During that time, everyone was into that New Jack Swing era. The label wanted us to do something like that, but it was understandable. You wanna get on regular rotation, you gotta do one of those type of songs. But we had hard songs on that album, we had songs like “Plucking Everyone’s Card”, that was hard. “You Ain’t Real”.
Was Tim Dog ever officially Ultramagnetic or part of the extended crew?
He was extended crew. He was one of the guys that just hung around with us and shit. He wasn’t a member of Ultra but he was down with the crew.
Did “Fuck Compton” cause you guys any problems?
Nah, it didn’t cause no conflict or anything. He was just dissing NWA. It wasn’t a diss to go out and kill anyone, it was just making records.
But a lot of LA rappers got offended.
They got offended, but no violence got involved with it. NWA had a song called “Straight Outta Compton”, he had a song called “Fuck Compton”. [laughs]
What can you tell me about The Four Horsemen album?
The Four Horsemen was a good album, we had more control on that album. We did what we feel at the time. When we signed to Wild Pitch, MC Serch was working at the label. We knew Stu Fine for years. Godfather Don also did tracks on the album, that’s a cool dude.
How long did your scratch records usually take to put together?
When I did “Moe Love On The 1’s and 2’s”, I took my time doing that. When I did this one [“Inside Herman’s Head”], they rushed me, and I don’t like to be rushed. That’s why it’s real short.
What happened after that album?
Kool Keith been wanting to do his solo album since we did Critical Beatdown. Everyone branched out and did their own little thing. Everyone was still doing music. I had a group called Slaughterhouse Cartel, and TR Love had a group called Raw Breed with Marc Live.
What are your feelings about the Tuff City release of old Ultra songs?
Ced had put out a couple of ‘em, so me and the road manager, JC, we put out one. These were just songs that we did and were just sitting around. The reason we put them out was just to keep the name going, like a mixtape.
There must have been hundreds of songs recorded when Ultra was together, based on all those Tuff City compilations.
Back in the days when we was doing Ultra, we lived in the studio. Everyday we would record like five songs! That was something in the blood. Get up in the morning and record. It was like a nine to five job! Our ears was always focused what was going on on the radio, and record.
Is that what made Critical Beatdown so great? The fact that you had so much material to choose from?
It wasn’t a rushed album. It took us about a month to complete the whole album.
Can you describing a typical Ultra show from that era?
We used to rock Latin Quarters like every week! We’d do a show at Union Square, we’d do a show in Harlem – The Rooftop. We would do our record, and then eventually we would do a freestyle off a breakbeat. Off of James Brown “Funky Drummer”. I’d just cut it up on the turntables. We had a good response. It was cool back then.
What was the wildest thing that ever happened on stage?
We were out in London when Keith had the straight-jacket on, when we performed at The Fridge. That was one of our biggest shows out there. We wanted to have him hanging [upside-down] at first, but he wouldn’t do it.
Can you describe a typical Moe Love DJ set?
I play old rap records from the early 80’s, I throw in a couple of break-beats and shit. I just play the hardcore street, I’m against the commercial hip-hop. When I do these parties I play cats like Freddie Foxxx, Mobb Deep, Kool G Rap, Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy – all the classics and the hard stuff. Even 50. What kinda music are they listening to in Europe right now?
I’m in Australia, actually.
Oh, I thought you lived in London! Australia made one of my favorite movies – Mad Max. I watched that movie over a hundred times! That’s my movie right there! I was amazed at the highways. I have a picture of the car on my Facebook page.
Do you think Europe appreciates hardcore rap more than back home?
Hell yeah, America’s all fucked-up now. They don’t like hardcore music here, they like Lil’ Wayne and Drake out here. The guys dominate the airwaves and they say that’s hardcore hip-hop. I respect what they do, but it’s not hardcore. That’s pop music right there. New York radio is fucked-up, they play ten records on rotation, all day! We don’t even have underground radio in New York no more. The last underground show we had was Bobbito and Stretch Armstrong.
What was the legendary Ultra Lab like?
It got burnt down and shit! Nah, he just moved. He was living in the projects on 169th in The Bronx, and he had the silver wallpapers and stuff. Actually, his brother put that together. Rest in peace, Patrick Miller. It was Patrick Miller and Keyboard Money Mike that put that all together. They had a four-track, it was called Mastermind Productions, and then they changed it to the Ultra Lab. That’s where KRS used to record at, he had a group called The Celebrity 3. Him and Jerry Lee [Levi 167] and this guy named Cav. They had a little group and they used to come up to the house and record. We’re talking about 1982-3, going way back then.
Did you record any of Beatdown there?
We recorded some in the house, but most of it was recorded at Studio 1212 in Queens, with a guy called Paul C. Real cool guy, he got killed. He did “Give The Drummer Some” and “Travelling At The Speed of Thought”, and he also did two songs on Eric B. & Rakim album.
What do you remember about Paul C?
He was the engineer, but he had beats. This guy had like a million records, a lotta old stuff, very rare records that you could never find nowhere. He knew our sound. When he did “Give The Drummer Some”. He was like, “Listen, I got a beat for y’all niggas”. He played the beat and we were like, “Oh shit!” He’s like, “This is something for y’all, right here. Y’all should name it ‘Give The Drummer Some”. He thought of the hook and everything. Keith and Ced just went in the booth and rhymed and the song was complete. He played us a couple of beats that he had for Rakim for us. Unfortunately, he passed away. It’s sad.
Ultramagnetic MCs – “Moe Love’s Theme”
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Moe Love On The 1 and 2″
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Adventure’s Of Herman’s Lust (Moe Love III)”
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Poppa Large” [Moe Love´s Original]
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “MC’s Ultra [Part 2]“