Filed under: Features,Killa Queens,Tragedy Special
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
DJ Phantom aka Distrolord talks with Tragedy about his debut album.
DJ Phantom aka Distrolord talks with Tragedy about his debut album.
Cole James Cash was cleaning up his mom’s basement last week and found this old record which features not one but two rhymes which are ripped off word-for-word from other rappers. Apparently Lo Down had some connection with the Wu-Tang, with Islord from Killarmy contributing the final verse which is actually the Raekown’s rap from ‘Meth Vs. Chef.’ This either means that:
1. They both shared a ghostwriter who sold them the same rhyme without telling the other one;
2. Islord from Killarmy used to write Rae’s raps; or
3. The dude was so weeded out when he heard the Tical album that The Chef’s verse blended into his subconscious so deeply that he somehow convinced himself that he made it up himself.
Pretty Tone Capone in the studio with Real Live, 2004. Photo: richdirection
The infamous Pretty Tone Capone from Harlem’s Mob Style is about to return to the rap game. While I haven’t heard his new material yet, his work with the group and as a soloist has given us some of the most authentic street rap possible, as well as some amusing N.W.A. diss records. Tone discussed how he was born into the hustling lifestyle in Harlem, why Tim Dog almost got scalped and explains how drug dealers are the trend-setters that rappers want to be.
Robbie: What can you tell me about growing up in Harlem?
Pretty Tone Capone: Harlem was all about money. Hustlers and stick-up kids – everybody else was workers and people in the way. Young kids getting a lotta money – doing whatever we wanted to do, where ever we wanted to do it at – at whoevers expense. It was wild like that back then. Rapping was something we did for fun, after it took off, ‘cos the public liked it. We were the only – the only – cats that were in the studio having fun rapping. There were many real cats out here, but they wasn’t rapping.
How old were you when you got involved with the street life?
I was born into this here, man. I’m from a long line of gangsters. I’m from the hustling tree of Harlem, which is from the hustling tree of the world. Family members and all that, I was raised among them. I didn’t have to go that route, but I chose that route. I’m also very intelligent – I coulda been [a] top Goldman Sachs official or one of them [top] 500 company running guys. More or less I chose this life and I love every minute of it, regardless of the down pits and downfalls.
MF Doom is one of the few rapper’s who releases different vocal takes of his songs. It’s a great idea…
This is the first take of ‘Jam On It,’ recorded on a four track tape recorder and sans the Wikki’s.
Nothing worse than seeing the names of rapper’s on the back of a hip-hop album and thinking to yourself, ‘Sweet! Looking forward to hearing this dude rap on this shit!’ Then you get home and it turns out that the ‘feature’ is just the MC in question performing the hook and doing a shout-out at the end of the song. Please note this list excludes the excellent hook work from Greg Nice, since that guy can turn a house party into a concert with his hooks.
Shout-out to Adam Mansbach for suggesting this topic.
Organized Konfusion feat. Q-Tip – ‘Let’s Organize’
KRS-One feat. Fat Joe – ‘De Automatic‘
Sean Price feat. Pharoahe Monch – ‘BBQ Sauce‘
Fat Joe feat. Raekwon – ‘Respect Mine‘
DJ M-Walk, who you may remember as Tone Loc’s DJ, produced a song for Romeo & Master Rhyme in 1987 which sampled ‘To Be Real.’ It was picked up by Delicious Vinyl and remixed by the Dust Brothers, and contained some lines which were seemingly aimed at another local LA crew:
M-Walk don’t dig dirty dudes dealing dope/so stop saying sess ’til the suckers say soap
Rhymes raps and riddles of rhymes he’s real raw/said seven sorry suckers saw [O’] Shay on the Shaw
And that’s no lie, and if you want to try/you can come and try and I won’t even ask you
Here’s the complete transcript of my talk with Tom Silverman, who created the Dance Music Report and Tommy Boy Records in addition to co-founding the New Music Seminar, home of the MC and DJ Battle for World Supremacy. There’s a lot that I couldn’t fit into the NMS oral history piece from last month, so I thought it was worth printing in full seeing as though it paints an interesting picture of the
Robbie: What was your first exposure to hip-hop?
Tom Silverman: I went to the T-Connection to hear Bambaataa thing after learning about breakbeats in 1980, healing about this whole breakbeat phenomenon/b-boy concept in 1980 and wanted to find out about it. I called up Bambaataa and went to see him at T-Connection in the Bronx, and that’s how I first heard him and Red Alert and Jazzy Jay spinning the most amazing variety of music in a way that I’d never heard before. I just asked him if he wanted to make a record and that was kind of the beginning of Tommy Boy, when he said yes. To hear Kraftwerk and Billy Squier and Bob James and Cerone and The Monkees mixed in with normal James Brown and Sly Stone and all of this funk music was the thing that was the real revelation. And then to see how they cut it up and extended beats and found breaks and turned them into something more was just crazy at the time. Imagine seeing that in 1980 when no one had ever experienced it before? It’s like fire! ‘We’ve never seen fire before. What is that?’
When did the NMS begin?
The commencement was 1980, it was a one day event that year. In 1981 we did it in a club venue and it became a two-day event. The place was called Privates, and for the first time we did an event, it was called ‘a DJ spinning exhibition’ where we showed people what was happening in 1981 with spinning. We had a guy called Jeff Broitman, who was a disco DJ, showing how DJ’s mix records in a normal club situation. Then we had a guy called Whiz Kid – who later made records for us at Tommy Boy – who was a quick-cut DJ from the Afrika Bambaataa school of the Zulu Nation. He was from the Bronx and he was one of the greatest masters of fast spinning. It was a DJ’s exhibition to show how they did it, and people were just blown away. Nobody had seen people cutting two bars back and forth between records before. Everybody started talking about it, the room was packed to the gills and people were so excited about seeing it.
Some things just aren’t built to last…
I kicked it with Devin The Dude about how he came up in the rap game while somehow neglecting any direct questions about getting high. With a discography that stretches back to 1994 and a discography that features an impressive roster of big names including Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Scarface and Nas, Devin has seen it all. We caught up over the phone to discuss his days as a breakdancer, the dangers of touring and his dream posse cut line-up.
Robbie: How did you first get into rap?
Devin The Dude: I was a breakdancer since the fifth grade. Towards the late 80’s, breakdancing was getting commercialised a little bit so we didn’t do that quite as much, but we would still be at the park where we used to breakdance. I used to collect a lotta music too, especially with the breakdancing and having a lotta routines and stuff, and I eventually bridged over to rapping at the park.
What was your crew called?
I was in a number of breakdancing crews as we moved around. I lived in Houston and I moved to East Texas in tenth through twelfth grade and then I moved back to Houston. The Rhythmic Rockers was my last breakdancing crew, but I had a crew with my brother and another guy – we called ourselves 3-D.
I always wondered why Detroit’s Awesome Dre had a song going at Kool Moe Dee on his highly enjoyable 1989 album, You Can’t Hold Me Back. Now that I’ve heard his second single, it makes a little more sense. It appears that Dre took it upon himself to fire shots at both LL Cool J and Moe Dee on separate songs. This mystery was finally solved when Werner interviewed Dre in 2009:
This is the most complete Original Flavor Unit oral history I could put together without access to Queen Latifah or Latee.
Some of you may aware that Doug E. Fresh has been a member of the Church of Scientology for the last twenty years or so. Thanks to John Safron‘s Music Jamboree series from a few years back, I can now bring you footage of ‘the world’s greatest entertainer’ using his talents to celebrate the power of dianetics and hopefully wiping out a few disembodied theatans in the process. If you want to hear more, you can enjoy his two tracks recorded especially for The Golden Era Musicians and Friends The Joy of Creating album in 2001, which also featured exclusive L. Ron bangers from Issac Hayes and Chick Corea.
Time and time again I read claims that the reason why the producers who cut their teeth in the 12-bit sampling era aren’t bringing the same level of beat-making wizardry to the table is because they’ve moved on from their dusty old SP-1200’s, MPC 60’s and EPS’. I’m claiming bullshit. Sure, there’s no denying that a certain range of drum machines and samplers have a distinct sound and character, but at the end of the day they’re still a means to an end. All the Fender Rhodes, S-950’s and SSL 4000 desks in the world aren’t going to magically bring your favorites back to their prime.
Here’s a quick cross-section of quotes regarding equipment:
Nothing worse than pouring your heart and soul into shitting on another rapper only to be greeted by deathly silence.
Do you ever sit around and wonder ‘What the hell happened to that marginally talented rap crew who released an album in the early nineties?’ If so, I’m here to help. It turns out that some of your old favorites didn’t all go back to working ‘civilian’ jobs after the roller coaster ride that is a recording contract. Some of them kept keeping on for another shot at fame, and a few are still releasing music this decade, believe it or not. I’ve previously posted modern efforts from The Legion and Freestyle Professors, but after donning my grey trenchcoat and developing a Columbo style wonky eye I was able to dig up the following:
There’s going to be a Sean Price album produced entirely by Lil’ Fame, which is a true reason for the CRC to celebrate since it means that we don’t have to hear Termanology waste any more Fizzy Womack beats for a little while, but also because they both continue to put in some fine work. That being said, some of these rap team-ups are inevitably better on paper than the finished result. I’m sure DJ Premier and Nas will get around to recording an album in 2050 to a captive audience of fifteen people, but in the meantime I’m still campaigning for an group featuring Grand Daddy I.U., Roc Maciano and Parrish Smith called Strong Island Styling, with Prince Paul on the beats. Since the build your own supergroup topic has already been done here, let’s stick to producer and MC combos.
Here are album five team-ups that I would pay money for:
Hitman Howie Tee got his start as part of CD III, before laying down the demo version of ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ for UTFO and helping out Full Force with some material, before lending his talents to Whistle, Chubb Rock, Special Ed, the Real Roxanne and Little Shawn. Later in his career he branched out into reggae (Vicious, Patra) and created pop (Color Me Badd, Madonna, EMF). Here are some of his more memorable moments when he was in hardcore rap mode.
The NMS Battle for World Supremacy was the place to be if you wanted make a name for yourself in the late 80s. Here are some of those involved reporting directly from the front line…
As the WWF (World of [W]rap Fuckery) continues to flourish, I can’t help but pine for the days when rappers would make actual diss songs in between the theatrics.
Forgive me if this is common knowledge, but I only just realized that the group Whistle, best known for their 1985 hit ‘(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin,’ released four albums on the Select label. Jazzy Jazz, Kool Doobie and DJ Silver Spinner were the original line-up, with Kraze and Terk joining in ’90 after
Jazzy Jazz Doobie broke north. At this point they abandoned rapping altogether and got on some Boyz II Men type shit for their third album Always and Forever. By the time 1992 rolled around, the crew was riding the Bel Biv Devoe wave and broke out the mustard hooded t-shirts to join the New Jack Swing movement bfore they rode off into the sunset.
While Whistle were doing R&B style love songs as far back as their first Howie Tee and Kangol produced debut album, it’s always amusing to watch groups adapt to the times. Although I guess it’s no worse than how Heavy D & The Boyz or Prince Markie Dee flipped their sound. Whistle should also be remembered as having recorded one of the worst Christmas rap songs ever.
So Doc Brown shows up and says you can borrow the modified DeLoran to go back in time. Where do you go? Here are a few rap related suggestions once you’ve tired of trips to ancient Egypt, seen the dinosaurs and punched Hitler in the throat:
1. Checking out Kool Herc DJing his sister’s rent party at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue, Bronx, New York in 1973.
2. Attending the Run-DMC show at Madison Square Garden when Run told the crowd to put their Adidas in the air.
3. Watching KRS-One battle Grandmaster Melle Mel at the Latin Quarter in 1987.
4. Witnessing Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five performing at the Audubon Ballroom on Broadway and 165th Street, Harlem, on September 2nd, 1976.
Hurby ‘Lug Bug’ Azor played a big part in exposing a different style of Queens rap to the world as his Idol Makers crew concentrated on dressing fly, club hopping and bagging the opposite sex, largely favoring story-telling over the classic brag and boast technique. Hurby’s appreciation of go-go beats, DMX shakers and classic breakbeats produced some dance floor classics before he broke through to the pop charts with Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It’ and into the movies via Kid ‘N Play‘s Houseparty franchise. After producing a couple of records for MC Shan‘s white reggae artist Snow in 1995, Hurby vanished from the music scene altogether. Here are what I consider to be his sixteen finest moments behind the boards.
Debonair P sez:
As a major fan of Behind the Iron Curtain, the previously CD/tape-only 1996 album by the 4 man NY/Atlanta crew Sleestack’z, GRR is excited to be releasing the long overdue 2LP vinyl version of this cult classic. Featuring all 18 tracks from the original album PLUS 3 bonus joints recorded around the same time, this is a must-have for any fans of 90s hip hop. The vinyl is limited to 300 copies (100 on clear vinyl, 200 on black vinyl) and comes in a white jacket with oversize sticker, as well as printed liner notes on the history of the group and making of the album.
I’ve never heard of these guys before but you can order this here if you like the sound of it.
Following the death of Joey Robinson Jnr. this week, I take a look at how his family’s legacy of great music and bad business.