Filed under: Bronx Bombers,Features,Interviews,The 80's Files
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Around the same time I talked to DJ Moe Love in 2010, I also did a follow-up interview with TR Love, aka The Funk Ignitor, covering the early days of Ultramagnetic MC’s, his knowledge of the break beat game, connection with the Zulu DJ’s and how they used to put it down for live shows back in the 80’s.
Robbie: What was your first crew?
TR Love: Moe’s DJ crew was the People’s Choice Crew, and mine was the Hardcore Brothers. They made a couple of records but it didn’t pan-out the way we felt that it should.
How did you first meet the rest of the crew?
They went to the same school together, and I went to the rival school. Cedric and I used to play ball together, we were on opposing teams, so we used to play each other four times a year. Other than that, we would see each other in passing in the street, at parties, or we knew certain individuals that knew the same people as we knew, so we would bump into each other a lot.
Was Ultramagnetic already a unit when you joined?
The group was already formed, but in that particular time, there was another member by the name of Ronnie Tee who was going through a situation, and I had to fill-in for him. He wasn’t able to come back, I just remained in that slot. I was also the dancer/hypeman for the group at that particular time. After that, they just put me in the group full-fledged. My first record was “Feelin’ It”. I did the verse originally on the A-side, but we didn’t have enough room at the time, ‘cos we were trying to make it enough for radio, and we had to get the record cut so we could get it to Red at a certain time, when Red needed the record to play on the radio. So we stashed that vocal and used it on the b-side for the instrumental. We didn’t want to give everybody the whole instrumental of the song, ‘cos we felt like they were getting too much of a bonus at that particular time.
That was like my little introduction, then “Chorus Line” was my re-introduction to let people know that I did rhyme. A lot more meets the eye than you just see me on stage, and I’m just there hyping them up. A lot of people didn’t know that I was deejaying and I rhyme, so I had to showcase the talents, gradually. Keith and Ced were the front men, so I wasn’t trying to take anything away from them. I was trying to add life and add an extra twist to our situation.
Can you describe the process of putting together the early Ultramagnetic records?
Our pre-production was mostly hashed-out in the house by myself and Cedric and Moe Love. We would get the breakbeat that we particularly wanted to work on, we would take it, disect it and break it down. I would have the record – or records – that we were trying to find that particular groove and I would go through them with Cedric and we would try to find the right sounds or stabs so that we could construct the beat.
What were you using at that stage?
We had an SP-1200, and we had a regular SP-12, the first one. Then later on we had an MPC-60 too. Most of the 80’s stuff from Critical was the SP-12. Between those two core machines, an S-950, two other samplers and a Juno 106 keyboard.
You and Moe were finding a lot of the records too, right?
I always had records, ‘cos I’ve been around my mentors – Jazzy Jay, Bambatta, Red Alert, Afrika Islam – all of those cats from Zulu Nation. I was a crate man for them for a little while, running around, carrying records for them at all their parties and shit like that, so that’s how I got into the records. My family owned a record store, so at the same time when I was dealing with them and all the records I was seeing, we was getting the same records in the record shop, so I was able to get my hands on a lot of major tunes and obscure things. I used to work at Rock ‘N Soul on 34th Street. Shirley used to get a whole consignment of boxes of records from all the labels, and I’d have to go through them to see what was what, at the particular time when the other site manager wasn’t there, I was the one that was in charge, so I had to make sure they were OK as far as the shipment and returns if they had to go back. It was cool.
Was that your family’s store?
No, we were up in The Bronx – LBM Music. Rock ‘N Soul had a mixture of everything, old and new. If you were a vinyl junkie, Rock ‘N Soul was the place to go. They had all the current records that were out and also the classics.
How did you feel about the Ultimate Beats and Breaks type of compilations back then?
It didn’t bother me at the time, because I was keen into my breaks, so whatever breaks that were being exposed on the Ultimate Beats and Breaks, I already had. It was the fact of how they were going to work it and do the editing, until I found out that the guy who was doing them was my uncle, Lenny Roberts. I found out that he was doing us a service as far as the DJ’s. That was the embodiment of the thing, he was doing it for the DJ’s. He wasn’t doing it for the collectors or anybody else. He knew of the collectors that would want these certain type of records to be heard. Then you have other collectors who just want to collect, they don’t want nobody to hear nothing, they just want to keep everything to themselves. You can’t do that! At the end of the day, some of the stuff needs to be heard. He did a good job. It was just a fact that some other cat was trying to bootleg his stuff, so that’s why he changed the covers, the plate and the artwork so it was his own fashion and style. Wasn’t no way that you could possibly say that you were the creator of Ultimate Breaks and Beats, everybody and they mother knew who it was. People started taking it to the next level and taking it to the ninth power, everybody and their mother wanted to start doing the same shit but it wasn’t the same.
How did you get involved with the Zulu DJ’s?
They used to come to the record store to buy certain records, when they wasn’t downtown going to they certain spots that they had. Back then I used to see Flash and all of them downtown, 13th Street, 23rd Street, when I used to be out shopping with my family and things of that nature. I always wondered, some of the spots that they would ventured into to go find these eclectic breaks or these distinctive grooves, so one day I just started venturing out with my DJ team into certain places in the city. We would bump heads and find out that these were the same places that these guys were circulating in. You got Downstairs, you got Sounds on 23rd, you got Bob’s, you got K & R on Park Road, there’s a whole bunch of obscure places that aren’t around anymore. These places was key, ‘cos it taught me how to start diggin’ for records and what to look for. How to look for records, how to search for certain grooves. It’s not by names alone – the name could be funky but the band could be wack! It all depends on what you’re looking for and the groove.
There used to be this band out here called New York Mary, and nobody knew who the hell New York Mary was, but they had a funky breakbeat. I knew who it was, and certain other DJ’s like Flash or Bam knew what it was. Most other “DJ’s”, if you tell ‘em to name they top ten beat records, I bet you none of them could say the same records that I could say twice, I guarantee you. Unless they real heads, the Pete Rock’s, Diamond D’s, Mark the 45 King’s, Mo Bee’s and all of that. There’s very few, but the few core niggas like Primo, they know what I’m talking about. But the rest of these cats? They just fly-by-night, wanna be down DJ’s. They gotta do they homework, a lotta research.
You guys were the first to rap over “Synthetic Substitution”, right?
Yeah, we were the first to use that. We used to hear it in parties all the time. Me and Cedric would be at outside jams, and the DJ’s would be playing that record. We’d go to Flash block party or we hear Bam or DJ Kenny Ken. Me and Keith would be at someone’s house party, and certain DJ’s playing the record and we hear the breakbeat come on [imitates drum pattern]. That beat was infectious, it was just something catchy. The beat was hard! That record made you bob your head. If you wasn’t into that record, there was something wrong with you!
Who found the Joe Cocker sample?
“Woman To Woman”? I wasn’t a fan of that particular record, I ain’t even think about the piano part until Keith made it prominent when he brought the 45 over. I had the album, but the 45 – the piano groove was fatter. He put the record on one day when we were doing a session in the house, he was like, “Yo, let’s do this!” Ced heard the record and he was like, “Yeah, we could fuck with that!” We listened to the piano stabs and it was clear as day right there! We just chopped it up and put it together.
What about “Mentally Mad”?
“Mentally Mad” was a sound effect record and a James Brown horn from “The Grunt”, that we used before Public Enemy came out with it on “Rebel Without A Pause”. We had it first, they came out with it second, but there’s jumped off first, and then ours came out behind theirs.
You guys had a great run of twelve inch singles leading up to the first album.
Yeah, in ‘88, because we weren’t completely finished with the album. We were almost there, but we wanted to make sure that we kept the crowd pleased as far as their pallette is concerned, to let them know we still have more material and we wasn’t slipping and we always had that fire. That’s why they called us “King Of The Twelve Inches”.
What can you tell me about The Castle in The Bronx?
We performed there a couple of times. A little a hole-in-the-wall, it was alright. It was cool for the time because of the asthetic of the club – it was big, it was known and that was the only thing popular in that particular time in The Bronx. We had Devil’s Nest, the old Latin Quarters was closed so they opened the new Latin Quarters but it wasn’t really popular. We had certain venues that we could only go to, for our crowd, to do what we wanted to do.
What were your main spots in the old days?
LQ was the main one, then we had Union Square, we had Roxy‘s, we had Rooftop. We had a couple of roller rinks, Empire, but the main spots were Latin Quarters and Union Square and The Roxy. We had Palladium, Tramps and Irving Plaza also.
Can you describe an Ultra show from that era?
It was crazy. We would have damn-near the whole projects with us, we’d walk into the club, fifty deep. We’d have an entourage of maybe a hundred people and we’d just go and tear the club up, do what we wanna do and be out! We had a little plan, we would bug the crowd out and let Keith do his little spacey thing. We’d introduce ourselves individually and do what we had to do and then we’d do the hits, we’d do the freestyle and then we’d do maybe two, three unreleased songs that we were working on, just to tease the crowd to get feedback and see if they liked them or not. Then we’d close it out with our hit and leave!
Ultramagnetic MC’s “Feelin’ It'” [Instrumental with TR Love verse]
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Chorus Line”
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Chorus Line, Part 2”
Ultramagnetic MC’s – “You Ain’t Real”
“TR Love The Superstar freestyle”
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