CJ Moore has been at ground zero for more classic hip-hop records that most of us can either count, through his work as an engineer at 1212 during the Paul C. era, with his group Black By Demand and with his work for Akinyele and Kool G Rap to name a few. After chopping it with CJ for three hours, there’s a lot of material to get through and a lot of behind the scenes stories to drop, so let’s begin with how it all got started.
Robbie: When did you first get involved with music?
CJ Moore: About 83, 84. My brothers had a DJ group, and I was just a guy around the group. They were into the deejaying aspect of it and I was into the rapping aspect of it. I started getting into the technical side of it around 84, 85. My mom had bought me a little portable piano and I started making my little compositions from that point. That stemmed into me being the guy who understood a lot of the technical ins and outs as far as equipment was concerned, and I took it from there.
You didn’t study engineering formally?
I just picked it up as I went along. It was a studio called 1212 that I worked at, I was 14, going on 15. I had made a record called ‘We’re Gettin’ Paid.’ My aunt had bought me a drum machine, called a Casio RZ-1. One of the first sampling drum machines, it had like a 2.5 seconds of sample time on it, so I started making my beats from that and using my little piano. I took it into 1212, and the guy who owned the studio – his name is Mick Corey – he took a liking to the fact that I had never been in the studio before, how I kinda knew my way around to where I recognised what I was looking at. I knew how to get in and out.I used to go over to Sam Ash and Manny’s on 48th Street after school and play around with the equipment until they kicked me out. I would watch people and at some point I would overhear conversations about studios. I was trying to get in these places, but I didn’t have the money nor the backing, as far as you get into the buildings and they see this little kid trying to come into a music building. They looking at me like I’m crazy, with no supervision. 1212, I saved up my little money and went and did the sessions. I asked him, ‘I would love to work in a place like this!’ And he said, ‘Why not?’ I liked at him like he was crazy. He was asking me what did I know about this and what did I know about that and I was answering all of the questions right. He was talking about ratio and threshold and attack and things of that nature. I understood that because I used to read a lot and picked it up from that point until I really got my hands on it. I had some sort of a tutorial head-start due to literature. (more…)
Sugar Bear The Powerful Powerlord was responsible for the highly enjoyable 1988 single, ‘Don’t Scandalize Mine’ / ‘Ready To Penetrate’, and was also no slouch when it came to freestyling, as he demonstrated with this amusing Tim Westwood guest spot.
Every now and then it’s good to throw on a tape of rap of old school rap at it’s finest, and without a doubt two of the sharpest crews to ever do it where those led by Grandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee. These four snippets from Troy L. Smith‘s crates are a fine reminder of just how advanced KMD was in his prime (check for shots fired at Melle Mel) and the amusing banter of weary performers after a long night celebrating Easy-AD‘s birthday. (more…)
It’s taken me ten years to interview a female rapper on these pages, which either means this marks the onset of ‘progressive’ thinking in my old age or I’m a natural born rap misogynist. Either way, during the limited window of time I had to talk with Angie we kicked it about her days in The Sequence and she shared an eye-opening story about her involvement with The Roxy.
A great moment in rap – the time that LL Cool J went at Run at The Roxy:
Dr. Butcher: That was not Jam-Master Jay, that was [Jay] Philpot [the second Cut Creator] his DJ on the turntables when he was rhyming. Run-DMC was performing after him, so when he’s freestyling he’s talking about Run in that rhyme. They were walking in and that’s why he wouldn’t let go the mic – he had something to say to Run because they weren’t getting along. Then they took the mic from him and pushed him off stage so Run-DMC could perform.
The always under-appreciated role of the engineer, both in the studio and on tour, is always a fascinating one. Akili Walker, who has worked with everyone from hip-hop production legend Larry Smith to James Brown, Eddie Kendricks, Kurtis Blow, Prince, George Clinton and LL Cool J, took some time out after the release of his new book, Turn The Horns On, to recall some of his best memories behind the boards.
Robbie: Where about did you grow up?
Akili Walker: I grew up in Freeport, Long Island, right next to Chuck D and Flavor Flav. We were like a mile from each other, they grew up in Roosevelt, but they’re a little younger than I was.
Are you a recording engineer by trade?
I’m an audio engineer, I switch between the studio and on the road. I was a musician at an early age – I was a drummer when I was thirteen. I won the ‘Battle of the Bands’ with my band and we was in the Musicians Union of New York at the age of thirteen. My father was an audiophile, he loved music and he had a large jazz collection and an expensive stereo. My drumming career ended when I was sixteen. I stopped drumming to join the hippy generation and do drugs. (more…)
“Take a peak into the exclusive material from hip hop pioneer DJ Afrika Bambaataa. ‘Mix By Jimmy’ features recordings Bambaataa had pressed to acetate for spinning live at shows in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This mix includes entirely unreleased material along with demo versions of hits like ‘Looking For The Perfect Beat,’ ‘Renegades of Funk’ and ‘Planet Rock.’ Listen and take a trip through the deepest part of the most important music collection of our time.”
DJ Stretch Armstrong breaks down his favorite old rap radio tapes in this new column he’s writing at Cuepoint, a new collection of long-form music articles curated by Jon “Shecyk Green” Shecter of The Source/Game Records fame. Since many of my fondest memories of first hearing rap revolving around Red Alert and Chuck Chillout tapes, hearing tape rips like this are always guaranteed to slightly defrost my cold, frosty heart.
Continuing my discussion with Stetsasonic drummer Bobby Simmons, we discuss touring, Flavor Flav ethering Prince, the rivalry with EPMD, beef with WreckX N Effect and vaulted tracks.
Robbie: Touring must have been essential back then.
Bobby Simmons: The best tour I’ve ever done was that Run-DMCRun’s House tour. Every night I would sit on the side of the stage and I couldn’t wait to watch Run and them’s show. Run and them were just amazing to watch. When you watch Krush Groove and you saw Jam-Master Jay cut that “Run! Run!” You were like, “Oh shoot! They getting ready to do something!” It was really that kind of intensity in the air, waiting for Run to come on, and DMC just standing there with his arm’s folded. You just couldn’t wait to see Run walk out! Then when he came out, Run really controlled you with what he said. You didn’t see that in the movie. You didn’t get to see people take their Adidas sneakers off and put it in the air. When I saw that, I said, “This is it. It’s finished.” Who in the world can get everyone in Madison Square Garden to take off their sneakers and put them in the air? All you saw was different colored Adidas in the air. It was amazing to see that command. It was beautiful. (more…)
Erick and Parrish made some dollars, then “someone” robbed P’s crib and E Double “fell” out of a window. We’re all familiar with their many hit singles, but here are a selection of worthy album tracks from the seven group albums, plus a couple from when they went for “delf.” (more…)
Bobby Simmons is best known as a member of Stetsasonic, the original “Hip-Hop Band,” but during an extensive conversation with him last week he also shared some classic memories about Melle Mel trolling new rappers in the late 80’s, a two-year stint as a DJ at the Latin Quarters and the escapades of Eric B. and Rakim‘s main muscle, the original 50 Cent. This is part one of a three part interview, so get comfortable…
Robbie: Did you study drumming at school?
Bobby Simmons: I self-taught myself drums, I was six years-old. My brother was in the music business too, he was a session guitarist for groups like Sister Sledge and Dan Hartman in the mid-70’s, so I kinda self-taught myself listening to a lotta the records that he would play and trying to figure out the drum – what does what. The first record that I actually learned how to play – that took me from when I was six to when I was seven – was the Ohio Players. The drummer, Diamond, I was so fascinated how he played drums on ‘Skin Tight’ and ‘Fire,’ I wanted to learn to play how he played. The drum sounds were heavy, the snare was fat, the kick was fat, and Diamond used to do all this fast foot [work] on the pedal.
From there I played in my brothers local band and just kept myself active doing that. Deejaying also helped me how to play drums too, cos in the early 80’s it helped me how to blend timings and beats, with the disco records and the Chuck Brown records and the James Brown records helped me keep great timing. Knowing how to keep timing and knowing what the kick and snare and the hi-hat do, I self-taught myself. I kinda wish I was taught and went to schooling to read for it, but my father took me to drumming school and I never went back. It was taking too long! “I wanna get to this part!” [laughs] (more…)
These aren’t one hit wonders, since none of these records were technically “hits” in the traditional sense. This is more of a collection of rappers who only got one chance to shine before they got a steady city job with a pension or dangled in record company hell for all eternity. (more…)
Perhaps best known for providing Melle Mel with the beat to “The Message” while working as a Sugarhill Records session player, Duke Bootee went on to unleash a series of DMX/Linn Drum driven speaker smashers for Profile and his own Beauty and the Beat imprint, as well as his own solo album. When combined with a great scratch DJ and some effective Shout Rap (Word of Mouth‘s “King Kut”) or the hardcore b-boy stance of one-time Rammellzee rhyme partner and a razor sharp Latin Rascals edit (K-Rob‘s “I’m A Homeboy”), the trademark Duke sound was unstoppable. Here’s a collection of his production and vocal work, including that time that Bootee was recruited to record a guest rap in Ewok…
Thanks to Will and Aaron from Tuff City records, I had the chance to speak to pioneering Harlem rapper Spoonie Gee last week, who set the standard for street tales and slick talk on his earlier work for Enjoy and Sugarhill before he enjoyed a late 80’s comeback with Marley Marl and Teddy Riley providing the cutting edge beats. After enduring some rocky times for most of the 90’s, he’s currently in the process of recording one last project before he retires from music for good.
Robbie: Being from Harlem, in the early days before records, did you have to travel to see shows?
Spoonie Gee: I went to The Bronx, that’s the first place I saw Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. First time I seen him, I think it was P.A.L on Webster Avenue. I used to go see the Funky 4 + 1, Fantastic Five.
How had you heard about them?
I heard a tape of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four MC’s at the time, this was before Raheim joined them. (more…)