Filed under: Features,Interviews,Killa Queens,The 90's Files
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Queens resident B-1 is best remembered for his work with Kool G Rap and Large Professor, but with a lost tape single from 1997 dropping soon through Ill Adrenaline on 45 and cassette and a new album in the works, it turns out that his history in Queens rap runs deep. Not to mention I finally got to ask him about that mythical song from his RapPages “demo” tape.
Robbie: You were featured in the “Demos” section of RapPages back the 90’s as “One”, and the piece mentioned a song with you, MF Grimm and Freddie Foxxx over a Lord Finesse beat. Do you remember that?
B-1:Yeah, I think that was 1995-96. We did that song back in ‘92. We recorded it at Power Play Studio in Queens. Lord Finesse did that track and we asked him to get on it. It was Grimm’s record, ‘cos we was doing Grimm’s project at that time. We did the record, we got everything squared away, then Freddie Foxxx blessed us with a verse, so that song came out real good. I think the reels got misplaced, and that song became a myth, a mystery, like it never happened. But I was searching through some of my cassettes of my old shit and I found a copy of it. I think I might have the only existing copy of that song. Lord Finesse – that’s a guy that I always looked up to – back in the days – lyrically. I studied him, and that was one of the original tapes that I had, Funky Technician. He was one of the original lyricists that I admired. Freddie Foxxx? That’s just an old school legend. That goes without saying.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Queens, New York. Jamaica Queens area, St. Albans, Hollis, Farmers Boulevard. That’s pretty much where I grew up at. I sold my little drugs or whatever the case may be, I did a good job at that. I always was about my money. When I was maybe about twelve years-old I had a paper route, I used to deliver the New York Daily News. The white guy used to come to my crib and collect the money and shit. He used to deliver the newspapers to me in the morning and I had certain people that I used to deliver the papers to, and that introduced me to hustling. Fast access to cash. After that, my mother’s boyfriend used to own a laundromat, so there was always cash and coins in my crib. When I was thirteen I was introduced to the block. “Bring this drugs to the block,” “Take this money back,” “Go to the store for us” or whatever, so I was always involved in some aspect of the street from an early age.
When did you become interested in rhyming?
My mom’s always had music around the crib – Ohio Players, Marvin Gaye, Chic, a lot of the disco shit in the 80’s. As far as the hip-hop shit, when I was little I used to go to the jams in the park where they used to have the speakers all roped off and the turntables were the P-100’s with the straight arm, before they even made the 1200’s, you couldn’t even control the pitch or nothing like that. That was so old school that the DJ’s used to use a telephone jack as the headphones! The front-man would get busy over the breakbeats. That’s the memories that I had that brought me to the point where I felt like I could get involved with the music, possibly be a DJ or possibly be a rapper. LL Cool J was from my neighborhood, we know him very well. Run-DMC and them, we know them well. As far as actually writing raps? It took me a while before I really started writing rhymes, but I always had a love for the music. I remember I bought “Super Rhymes,” I bought Kurtis Blow “The Breaks.” I bought all the Sugarhill records. It just took a certain spark for me to realize, “You could do this too. You could actually put what you feel on paper and relate it to people as well.”
Who were some of the DJ’s out there in the parks?
It used to be Grandmaster Vic, he was always a very well known DJ in Queens. Cut Creator used to be out in the park, he used to bring his turntables out. Jam-Master Jay, Jazzy Jay out in Hollis, before [they were] famous or anything. This is just when the block party come and the speakers come out and some hip-hop starts getting played. This is before hip-hop was on the radio, people were just doing it because they loved the art.
Who were some of the MC’s?
The guys who used to rap used to be Dot-A-Rock, Spank Gee, Mikey D, MC Lotto. A lot of these guys used to be ill with the lyrics. I can’t even remember some of these guy’s names, but they was ill though! That shit was thirty years ago, but I still recall the feeling that I had at that time.
How did you get your rap name?
B-1, I got that name from my man Peebo, God bless the dead. That was my nigga right there, man. We used to hang out after school and shit, we used to go to Jamaica Avenue every day at the Colosseum. The Coliseum is kinda like a mall in Queens. Shirt Kings used to be in there, a bunch of sneaker stores, a bunch of jewelry stores and shit like that. All type of high schools used to meet up over there – Jamaica High School, Frankville High School, Thomas Edison High School, Martin Van Buren, August Martin, Andrew Jackson, all the high schools used to meet up at Jamaica Ave in Queens. That’s how we started running with the Lost Boys. Me and my other man, B-2, we used to be in Queens and in Brooklyn at the same time too, so we had kinda a different style of dress. We used to wear Polo Ralph Lauren and the Nautica shit, Liz Claiborne and the Girbaud jeans, Guess jeans, and the dudes from Queens used to wear the Carhartt shit, the Dickies work suits and shit like that. So that shit just birthed into B-1 and B-2. “Yo, where the twins at? They both dress like they from Brooklyn – Brooklyn 1 and Brooklyn 2.” And then they call me One for short.
Did you have a crew when you started rapping?
I kinda was a soloist, ‘cos I was embarrassed to let anybody know that I was rapping. It was just something that I was doing in my crib, I didn’t feel that I was nice enough to be really doing it like that. Once I heard Kool G Rap’s Road To The Riches album in 1989 I was like, “This guy is crazy! I gotta be able to rap like this!” That album is what really made me get a pen and a pad and be like, “This guy is ridiculous! You could do that shit too.”
So that album was the turning point for you?
That guy was the one that really took me to the top. Him and Lord Finesse. Rakim, all them other guys were ill and a very heavy influence on me. When I was trying to rap, the tapes that I would listen to were Kool G Rap, Lord Finesse, Rakim. That developed my whole style as far as the cadence and the wordplay.
That must have been crazy to later get to record with G Rap.
That happened because of Grimm. Grimm knew G Rap from hanging around in Flushing with Large Professor and guys like that. He also knew Dr. Butcher – Butcher’s my man – and he got my tape and he heard my shit and he was like, “I want y’all to get on my album.” He already knew what Grimm sounded like, because that was his man.
Do you remember a Queens MC called Corey D?
Corey D was ridiculous. Corey D is a real street dude, official tissue, all the way real nigga. It just happens that he was nice with his lyrics. He did the “Dedication Rhyme” to the cars, and he did the “Dedication Rhyme” to the dudes that was deceased in the hood. He was nice. He was more official in the streets than he was in the rap game. He didn’t even really get a chance to get on and then he got killed, unfortunately.
He used to rock at a spot called The Grey Door, right?
That was a spot that was on Broad and 109. Grandmaster Vic used to be the DJ in there, and dudes used to get on and do they “1, 2” in there, and Corey D was one of the dudes that used to get on and do his “1, 2,” along with Cochise from the Lost Boys. Cheeks is my man from the Lost Boys, we used to run around in Queens in the streets and do a lot of things. Me and Cheeks go all the way back. That’s MC Cochise to me.
Was this before the Lost Boys?
The Lost Boys – we were a gang! We wasn’t really a rap crew, we were a street gang. Running around, wildin’ out, doing all sorts of ill shit on Jamaica Ave, the Colosseum. These are facts that I’m speaking. Cheeks was always nice, he used to go to Baisley Park and do his thing, he used to go to Lincoln Park and rock. He was another influence on me as far as MC shit, he was real nice with it, early. I never even let him know that I was trying to rap, because he was so good. He was the man at that time! I didn’t want to come out and be less than up-to-par or in his shadow, so I didn’t really let the cat out the bag. This was like ‘89-’91.
After being inspired by G Rap’s first album, what really pushed you to the stage of making music?
Seeing everybody get on, even Onyx. So I’m like, “Yo, I’mma have to make me some songs.” I did my little demos in the crib, and the first time I ever heard myself on a record was with my man – God bless – Doobie Shane. He was doing some work over in this studio in Queens called 1212 on Archer Avenue. That’s where Jam-Master Jay’s first studio was at, it was a bunch of studios in that building. We had rented some time out and that was the first time I had ever heard myself on a record, and I was like, “Wow! Damn I sound good on the record!” That was one of the reasons I really started pushing to make songs. Ironically, Doobie Shane is Maino’s cousin. We knew Maino from way back, he used to Doobie Shane’s crib. I’m very well connected out here, I’ve been around a long time.
What was next?
I was introduced to my man Bomb, and I did a single with me, Bomb and Kool G Rap that was called “Cardinal Sins.” Bomb was from my neighborhood, he was a little bit older than me and he was friends with Todd – LL. Bomb did a song on that Mama Said Knock You Out album called “Farmers Boulevard (Our Anthem).” It was LL, Bomb, Hi-C and my man Money Grip. The funny part is I gave Bomb a copy of the tape before he even had that shit. The reason that I got it was because my man Born Allah from Movement X was on Columbia and Def Jam was on Columbia at that time, and they passed that tape off. That album sold three million copies and shit! When my homie was able to get on LL’s album, I’m like, “We could make something out of this shit!” That was when shit came to reality, like, “This shit could really happen.”
So when did you try to put a record out?
I used to sell my little drugs and go to college at the same time. I was on some Stringer Bell shit, with a napsack to go Uptown and go cop my work, come back on the train with a napsack full of fuckin’ coke.
What were you studying?
Did you graduate?
Nah, I didn’t graduate. I attended though, for four years. I got a little bit more to do. I’m actually about to start going back right now. I only have thirteen more classes to finish and then I get my Bachelors Degree.
Nice. So you started shopping demos after that?
I never sent my music to anybody, it landed in Kool G Rap’s hands, wherever it landed, it landed. Rawkus Records set up the RapPages thing, I didn’t even send that in. They set that up in ‘97 when my work with the was coming out. That was a direct result of the Kool G Rap project.
How did you meet Grimm?
It’s a funny story. I went to high school in Queens, and my man that went to school with me was from The Bronx, and his name was Jeff, but we called him Uptown. His brother was from the west coast, part of a group called Movement X. They had a couple of records out. It was Born Allah and King Born, which is the DJ and producer. King Born was Uptown’s brother. They was signed on Columbia Records, so I was trying to rap at the same time. That was around 1991, so Uptown introduced me to his brother when they was out here recording their second album in Brooklyn and they asked me to get on their album. I don’t think the album was released, but I did do the song. They knew Grimm and King Sun, so through the God Body connection it just all panned out. Me and Grimm hit it off crazy, and it took off from there. He showed me how to do my shit in song format, how to write on topic (by tousson). I was like a little protege, he molded me. He was always super sharp with his lyrics, he was real ill. Grimm was one of the best dudes out at that time, he was really ill. He took me under his wing and we made it happen from there.
A lot of people loved that “Emotions” record you two did.
“Emotions” came out on DOLO Records, it was featured in the score of New Jersey Drive. We took the O.C. hook and we went in and we snapped it out, man. That was our usual steelo of what we do, that was how we got busty like that. That chemistry that me and him had was crazy.
Who was DJ Kool G?
That was Ayatollah before he was called Ayatollah. He produced “Put Yourself In My Place”.
How did you meet Large Pro?
I met Large Pro through my man Selow. Selow was running with us and the Lost Boys, and Selow was from Flushing and Large was his man, so we just connected the dots. The first ever Large Professor track that I ever rapped on was called “That’s How It Goes When You’re Fucking With Hoes.” Me and Cee-Lo did that song in 1994. That was the first time I ever met Large, first time being in the studio with him. I think it was on my birthday.
I’m assuming that isn’t the same Cee-Lo from the Legion?
Nah, this is my man Cee-Lo 4,5,6 from Philly. The god.
I remember stories about Onyx having green dreadlocks and dancing to House music in Doc Martin boots. Is that true?
Yeah, that’s true. Fredro my man though. Trop is Sticky, I don’t know him a Sticky. I know him as Tropical. Fred has cut my hair before, I’ve knew them dudes a long time. They used to work at New Tribe Barbershop. They first song was “Ahh, And We Do It Like This” on Profile Records. They used to have a different type of style, but that was the style back then. The whole club style. I was fuckin’ happy that they popped off with Jam Master Jay, that just showed us that we could fuckin’ pop off too from the hood.
Was Grandmaster Vic doing the blend tapes before Ron G?
100%. He was the first person in Queens to do that. He had a crew, it was Grandmaster Vic, it was Amazing Dewit, and it was my man Tapemaster Bob. Tapemaster B, that was the soundman. You also had DJ Dog Time, DJ Sage, there was a couple of dudes that was real nice with the blend tapes back in the day.
Where was the best place to get these tapes?
Certain stores used to have ‘em, or with the Grandmaster Vic tapes you might have to go to his crib in the projects and ring his bell if you know him or something. Pay $20 and get the latest tape that he has. That was that rocket fuel right there! You just had to have it! $20 for a 90 minute Maxwell or a nice TDK. He used to make tapes of the live jams he was doing in the park and shit. Also my man Baby J from Hollis was one of the illest with the blends, and my man Chucky Madness as well. He actually blended the Super Mario track with “The Bridge” back in the day, that shit was crazy.
What are some of your memories of hip-hop radio?
I used to listen to Marley Marl, Rap Attack, Mr. Magic. The Fresh Fest used to come on the radio back in the days, I used to tape that shit. First it was the Rap Attack and then it went to Marley Marl In Control, that’s when he used to have Masta Ace, Craig G, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane – they used to get up there and freestyle. That was a catalyst for me being influenced by this hip-hop shit.
Did you mess with KISS-FM?
Nah, nah, nah. I didn’t fuck with KISS-FM. I love DJ Red Alert and all that, but my station was WBLS. Mr. Magic, Marley, Pete Rock, Clark Kent. I didn’t fuck with that other shit. This is when hip-hop shit only used to come on the radio on Saturdays and Sundays. Frankie Crocker used to be on the radio and shit, Vaughn Harper.
Trying to stay up late to catch the new songs to take to school on tape.
You was the fuckin’ man when you had that shot back in the day! I remember when my man came to school with “Children’s Story,” that was my first time ever hearing that shit. I had Slick Rick “Treat ‘Em Like A Prostitute,” I had the tape of that shit live, before it came to a record, and he had the Vanessa Williams extended version at the end of that shit!
What separates Queens from everywhere else?
You used to be able to differentiate a Brooklyn nigga from a Queens nigga from a Harlem nigga from a Bronx nigga, just based on how they dressed. The Queens niggas had the Carhartts, the Discus sweatshirts, the Champion sweatshirts and all that, they had a different type of style. Brooklyn always had the fly Reebok shit, the Liz Claiborne, the Polo shit. Always the fly YSL shit, Louie V, Gucci shit, whatever the case may be. The Harlem niggas already had their own fly style too, with the leather jackets and the apple jack hats. Harlem dudes more flashy like. As far as styles, Brooklyn more resemble The Bronx and Harlem more resemble Queens – that’s back then. Now, you can’t tell who’s from there. It’s just a New York nigga. Fashion styles have transcended the boroughs – everybody wear True Religion jeans, everybody wears Prada, everybody wear Jordan.
What can you tell me about the records you have coming out soon?
The “Hands Of Time” is an old single, from 1997 actually. That’s one of my first demos that I had recorded with Large Professor. I actually was gonna put that out as my first single with Rawkus, but we decided to go with “Verbal Affairs” instead, and I had that song in the archives for fifteen, sixteen years. Ben from Ill Adrenaline heard it and said, “That shit is dope, man. I wanna put that shit out.” Lyrically it still sounded intact, so I was like, “Fuck it, put it out.”
Why didn’t you put an album out back then?
It just never panned out. I’ve still got a bunch of material from back then, and the new stuff that I’ve got right now. I asked Large [Professor], I take his opinion very heavily, I asked him, “Yo son, is it too late?” He said, “Not at all. As long as the sword is still sharp, it’s never too late.”
People forget how important Lord Finesse was. Big L built his style off of Finesse, as did most punchline rappers that followed him.
A lot of people was influenced by Lord Finesse. Lord Finesse doesn’t get nearly as much props as he should, as far as lyrics. He was the original punchline, slick rapper. He put Big L, then from Big L became Killa Kam, then from Killa Kam became me, then from me became Jadakiss – the basis and foundation of all of those styles is from Lord Finesse, in my opinion.
Which three B-1 records would you play somebody who didn’t know your work?
“Verbal Affairs”, “Take ‘Em To War” and “Put Yo’ Self In My Place” just so they could get an idea of what my abilities are, what my skill set is.
MF Grimm feat. B-1 – “Emotions”
B-1 Feat. Large Professor – “Put Yo’ Self In My Place”
B-1 – “Verbal Affairs”
Kool G Rap feat. B-1 and MF Grimm – “Take ‘Em To War”
Neek The Exotic feat. B-1 – “Comin’ In Piles”
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