After transcribing my video interview with Tuff City founder Aaron Fuchs recently, I came across this intriguing quote:
Aaron Fuchs: The Bronx and Harlem were worlds apart cultural by the time the 70’s happened, because Harlem’s a community and The Bronx was burnt-out, but they were geographically very close to each other. You had hip-hop evolve like a weed, like top seed and bang! The Harlem record guys take over. You had Spoonie Gee, who was really an R&B guy who was rapping instead of singing. You had this truncating of what hip-hop was into the constraints of the Harlem record business. These couple of [Cold Crush Brothers] records actually reflect what hip-hop was before it was a record business. This crazy, formless, sprawling kind of music. You wonder sometimes would would have happened to hip-hop had The Bronx had not been so close to Harlem and was so quickly engulfed by the vastly deeper traditions of Harlem.
As a member of The Chosen Few, Trio Connection and Black By Demand, CJ Moore did his thing as a rapper in the 80’s while honing his skills as an engineer and mixer. Here are some examples of CJ in action on the mic and behind the boards.
DJ Cash Money: Wow my man Too Tuff just sent me this…I haven’t heard this in years…The Cash Money Echo Scratch on Lady B’s Show…..Talk about taking me back? I remember the day after this was on the radio..I would hear everyone blasting this out of their cars…”Jerome is the King”…JJJJJerome is the jigajigajiga King….Hahahahahaha….I have to show what i did that scratch on….Classic Times!!!!
I used this machine to do this scratch…I turned this sideways and put masking tape on the delay fader so i couldn’t go up on the volume….Those were the days when you had to really think on being creative…The technology wasn’t there yet..So hearing this will always have a special place in my heart because this was the beginning of me starting to get recognized for what i do today….This was late 80’s….
While I was staying in New Jersey mid 2013, I attempted to shoot some footage of the original Flavor Unit crew. As it happened, I only managed to get Chill Rob G on film, and after watching the video back I’ve decided that this plays better as a written piece. While some of the same stuff from our 2006 conversation is covered, Rob also went into a lot more detail on some topics, making it a worthwhile piece on it’s own. Not to mention that Ride The Rhythm still stands as one of the strongest and most original releases of 1989.
Robbie: You mentioned that you went through a few different names when you were younger?
Chill Rob G: When I first started I had an identity crisis, I had a bunch of different names. It was Jazzy B, it was Bobby G, it was Killer B – cos my name was Robert. I was down with a couple of different crews too. I was down with The World Rap Crew and I was down with the Dignified Almighty Magnificent MC’s – Those D.A.M. MC’s. When all of that fell apart I just kept rapping on my own. I used to practice with my man Michael Ali, be up at his house every single day, making tapes. When I said that on the record it was true!
Were these beats that he’d made?
He tried to make beats but they was [blows raspberry]. I would just rap over popular rap records. He would try to cut the break. He wasn’t really that good a DJ either – but that was my man back then. [laughs] We would make tapes and try to get it out to the drug dealers, cos they’d be out all night. They would play that music and people would get a chance to hear me rap. (more…)
Beat machine wonder kid Kurtis Mantronik had a nice little run over at Sleeping Bag Records, where he split his time between hard hitting electro hip-hop beats for T La Rock and Just-Ice and Freestyle/dance music for artists such as Joyce Simms. After three Mantronix albums with MC Tee on the mic, Tee decided to join the airforce and Kurtis recruited Bryce Luvah from Queens Brooklyn Connection to fill his shoes for the next two LP’s before moving onto to dance music for good. Shout out to Chep Nunez and Omar Santana on some of those razor blade edits.
Despite being one of the greatest rappers to ever enter a recording studio, Rakim‘s four albums with Eric B. were pretty patchy, mainly due to the abundance of filler and sub par scratch showcases. This wasn’t such a big deal on Paid In Full, since every with vocals was amazing and 1987 rap LP’s usually consisted of a few strong singles and plenty of filler, but this formula really didn’t cut it by the time Follow The Leader dropped in ’88. I’m not sure if anyone noticed at the time though, because the first three tracks are so powerful that you’ve already been won over before you even get to the second side of the album, much like NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. (more…)
This one has been cooking up for long time now, but it’s finally out of the oven and ready to throw on your plate with a side of mash – the history of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series told by the people who put them together and some of the DJ’s and producers they went on to influence:
Four of Jazzy Jay‘s Strong City groups released an album during the Uni Records distribution deal – Ice Cream Tee, Busy Bee, Don Baron and Nu Sounds. I vaguely remember owning the Mackin’ album at some stage but not really enjoying anything off it, and listening back now it’s clear that these guys were totally run-of-the-mill. Still, considering their modest talents they did well to have two videos shot, get Afrika Bambaataa to chant the hook, rent some colorful suits and still have enough left over to hire some hawt cheerleaders and video skeezers. ‘Condition Red’ is a slightly better track if you enjoy distorted phone crank callers, otherwise notable for being Skeff Anslem‘s first production credit. (more…)
The prospect of getting a guided audio tour through Afrika Bambaataa‘s record collection by two lifelong music geeks is appealing to even the most cursory of music fans, if the jam-packed crowd that squeezed into Melbourne’s Forum Theater on Friday night is anything to go by. It certainly didn’t hurt that it was helmed by music festival darlings Shadow and Cut Chemist, which made the whole thing easier to digest for those in the audience who haven’t memorised Bam’s original Blues and Soul list of his favorite breaks. (more…)
Thanks to Drew Huge for spotting this classic clip of Rock Around The Clock, a hip-hop event broadcast on UK TV in 1986 featuring performances from Word of Mouth and DJ Cheese, Mantronix, T La Rock and local lads Phaze One, with commentary from Morgan Khan, Dave Pierce and John Peel (who was able to squeeze in a quick appearance in-between bedding underage school girls). There’s also some break dancing and graffiti action going on, but I pity the fool who would rather watch someone doing a headspin on a chair than witness the microphone techniques of the great Terry La Rock backed-up by Kurtis on the decks!
The original 5ive-0 Posse, not to be confused with the weak 5ive-0 crew from 1994, dropped an entertaining LP in 1989 on Sue Records which dealt with the concerns of a rapper and a DJ who just happened to work for the New York City Police Department. Making it clear that they weren’t soft just because they were the fuzz (cutting in the Jungle Brothers ‘Shot and killed by an off duty jake’ line as a warning to anyone who stepped to them), while boasting of being able to ‘carry all the guns that I want and be legal.’ In case you were concerned that the duo were walking around like a couple of cowboys, we’re reminded that they never ever got a civilian complaint. Prince Rashaad and DJ Brother Lee-Luv broke down their statement of intent on the back cover:
“During the day to protect and serve, during the night to create and project an image that Police Officers are human and can be down to earth like anybody else.”
There once was a time when the human beatbox was an entertaining addition to 80’s rap songs, rather than something that you could do on into an iPad on your late night talk show. One of the unsung practitioners of this humble talent was Greg Nice, who lent his vocal percussive skills to no less than three crews before he teamed-up with Smooth B to make history. As revealed in my interview with CJ Moore, Greg Nice was down with the Nasty Comedians crew, which was originally Greg and Cool Nate-T. Their first single was released on Home Boys Only Records in 1985, the same label that CJ’s Small’s Chosen Few 12″ appeared on. As it turns out, the guy who owned HBO Records was Larry Davis, who would later rise to worldwide fame after he shot six cops in self-defense when they raided his sisters apartment in the Bronx. (more…)
If you were a rap fan outside of the USA in 1987, it was in your best interest to collect the Street SoundsElectro/Hip-Hop albums, which were compilations of an often eclectic mix of current singles, mixed together by a selection of UK DJ’s. The one that really stood out for me was Hip Hop 18, which was mixed by a fellow named R.J. Scratch [Roger Johnson] and was a particularly mixed bag of great, obscure and just plain weird rap tracks from New York. I was eventually able to find copies of ‘You Know How To Reach Us’ and ‘We Have Risin”, but the two Marley Marl produced tunes on this volume remained out of reach. As it turns out, what would have been Frick ‘N Frack’s second single was never actually released, only existing on a couple of acetates. This was annoying since it means there was no way to hear the complete, unmixed versions of these tracks – until now. Turns out that Frick ‘N Frack have uploaded some of their old songs to iTunes for those of us who have waited for 28 years to hear the last minute of ‘Who’s On Mine.’ From the preview it sounds like they’ve been dubbed off cassette from when they were played on WBLS, but for 99 cents each I guess it’s worth taking a gamble.
UPDATE: The iTunes version is just a recording of the version on the Street Sounds compilation that cuts off when the Kings Of Pressure comes in. Guess we’ll be waiting another 28 years until Marley presses it up on Hot Chillin’… (more…)
Another rap mystery case file can be closed, as we finally have photographic proof of what Puffy Dee looked like, courtesy of Fat Lace. In case you missed it, here’s her infamous Pumpkin produced b-side:
Are you an ill homeboy looking to find a funky fresh fly girl to chill with after school? Then step on up the Hip Hop Connection‘s cleverly titled ‘Connections’ page and find a pen pal today! Sure, these ads were placed on the late 80’s but there’s a decent chance that some of these fellas are still living with mum if you care to try sending them some snail mail, ladies!
The following are a collection of remixes that where perhaps only an extra horn, new drums or a rearrangement of the samples differentiates them from the original version, but they’re still significantly better. You could add most of the 80’s Cold Chillin’ 12: mixes to this list, natch.
The limited shelf life of most rap groups is a an unfortunate reality. For some MC’s, the window of opportunity is so small that getting stuck in record label limbo for two or three years can spell career ruin, while even some of the genre’s greatest groups such as Run-DMC and Public Enemy suffered album release delays which saw them slip from cutting-edge to being eclipsed by the new kids on the block (with the exception of Donny Walberg’s ‘posse’). (more…)
Concluding the three part interview with Black By Demand front man CJ Moore, he covers working with Paul C, Ultramagnetic MC’s and Super Lover Cee, the importance of engineering and chopping, getting ripped off on the ‘Rump Shaker’ single and his deep crates of unreleased material.
Robbie: What was your involvement with Super Lover Cee and Cassanova Rudd?
Super Lover Cee lived in the building behind mine. He has a group called Future Four MC’s, which was Super Lover Cee, myself, DJ Rudd and there was another DJ named Tiny Tim. We did shows around the neighbourhoods and then we disbanded. I was the guy doing the beats and the choruses and putting the track together. When I did ‘All Rapper’s Give Up,’ I had not gotten a deal just yet. He was hanging out of his window, cos he lived on the first floor, he was playing some stuff and he said, ‘Yo C, listen to this!’ I’m standing by his window and I said, ‘Let’s put it together.’ He wound up putting it together and I wound up tightening it up. When I brought him to the studio to do the session and introduced him to Paul and Mick, Paul C. didn’t want to do the session. He couldn’t hear it, he didn’t see anything pleasurable about it. He wound up doing it. As far as the entirety of the project, when he did their album Girls I Got ‘Em Locked, I did not do any of those records. But a lotta those routines we had in the Future Four? He wound up using them. (more…)
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.