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. (more…)
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. (more…)
Stumbled onto this piece of gold the other night thanks to TR Love – Angus Batey’s interview with Kool Keith and Ced-Gee for the liner notes of the Roadrunner edition of Critical Beatdown! Of particular interest was Ced’s breaking down his involvement with Criminal Minded:
Ced-Gee: Me and Scott [La Rock] grew up together. I knew Scott’s whole family. With BDP’s Criminal Minded, my input was more of showing Scott how to use the sampler. When the SP-12 came out, a lot of engineers just looped. But I would take sounds and chop ’em up – even if it wasn’t a full sound I’d make it sound full. I was the first person to chop samples on the SP-12. Soon everyone was doing it. [KRS-ONE] would bring the record, I would take it, chop it, rearrange it. I did the whole album, apart from four songs. I didn’t do ‘Criminal Minded,’ ‘South Bronx,’ ‘My 9mm’ and ‘Elementary,’ but I did the rest. But I got jerked on the credit. Scott kept telling me to stay on the back of the guy who ran the label. ‘I’m telling you,’ he said, ‘he’s sheisty’. I’m like, ‘Nah, he said he got me’. And when it came out, it didn’t say ‘Produced by Ced-Gee and Boogie Down’, it said ‘Produced by Boogie Down, special thanks to Ced-Gee’. Me and Scott didn’t fall out, but it cost me money.
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….
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:
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!
While EPMD and Heavy D had already scored hits by looping ‘More Bounce To The Ounce,’ the sound of the first X-Clan album really brought the most out of the whole Parliament Funkadelic movement in terms of flipping it into a entirely new context. Their combination of jazz and soul samples with the heavy funk sound created a sound that was far ‘heavier’ than anything we’d heard from New York, soaked in a cosmic slop that no doubt made an impression on the ears of LA rap producers. Clearly the popularity of Zapp and P-Funk on the West Coast meant that it was always going to play a major role in the pre-synth era (or Before Chronic as I like to call it), but when I had the chance to speak to Brother J back in 2007 leading up to the release of the his new X-Clan project, he confirmed this theory for me:
Robbie: X-Clan was one of the first groups to get deep into the P-Funk samples. Do you think that West Coast artists were influenced by that?
Brother J: I don’t think they took it and ran with it, it’s always been here. I think what X-Clan did was we took music that we love. I never sample ‘More Bounce…’ because I wanted West Coast artists to pick-up on my music, I sampled it because in my basement that’s what we deejayed. You go to the parties, that’s what we put on. I’m from Flatbush, Brooklyn, I wasn’t traveling worldwide when I was making this album. I was 17, 18 years old writing To The East, Blackwards. I wasn’t world orientated, I just knew when we go to the block parties, when they put on that Zapp ‘More Bounce…’ the crowd was crazy! When adults hear ‘Knee Deep’? My father and mother listened to records. I dig in their crates and make my album! I knew what was moving the crowd I wanted to serve. It’s beautiful to see that a lotta producers out here in the west coast say, ‘Man, you inspired me. We used to play your album up on the big speakers when we was making Ice Cube’s album and making this dude’s album and this cat’s album.’ I’ve met a lot of legendary west coast cats that gave me a salute, and I’m saluting them cos they’ve got crystal clean sound. I’m from New York where sampling was king, and these cats are playing stuff over and got the mean band on it and the good engineer on it and their sound was just so much more cracking than what we were getting in New York. I admire Dre’s production, he had the best EQ’s.
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.
Here’s a little something from the Unkut archives with producer T-Ray discussing how MC Serch became involved with Nas‘ career when he started out in the music business. There seem to be some major discrepancies between some of the key details when compared to Serch’s version of events…
T-Ray: MC Serch tried to claim a lot of times that he found Nas. He had just come out on ‘Live At The BBQ,’ but when I was producing MC Serch I was doing a song called ‘Back To The Grill Again.’ It was just MC Serch with Chubb Rock, and the track was just so fuckin’ happy – at that time, happy tracks were kinda cool, but that track was really happy – and I liked darker tracks, but Serch wanted to use that track so I was cool with it. But then when I heard Serch and Chubb Rock I said, ‘Damn, both of these guys kinda have passed their prime, I need some new blood on here. Someone who’s more street.’ So I called up every unknown MC at the time, including Percee-P, including Nas, including Akinyele and a few others, like maybe four or five others. The original version of ‘Back To The Grill Again’ had maybe eight rappers on it. I told ‘em, ‘Whoever does the best is gonna get on the record.’ So we did a whole version with Akinyele and everybody on it, and Nas just destroyed it! So Nas, in a sense, won the position and he got on the record. It was literally a recording battle. (more…)
While the rap world falls over itself in the never-ending J. Dilla circle jerk, today would have marked James Brown’s 81st year if he was still with us. Considering just how hard he worked during his life, it’s amazing that he lived until 73 – a lesser man may have perished mid-splits. According to his long-suffering friend Bobby Byrd, JB and Tina Turner once shared a stage at the Five Four Ballroom in LA where they spent the entire night attempting to outdo each other by jumping off the piano into the splits and whatnot! Yet the only mention of JB I’ve seen on the rap internets has been egotripland posting couple of JB tribute mixes courtesy of DJ Scratch and J. Period. So let us take a minute to recognize and realize just why James Brown is the alpha and omega of this hip-hop shit…. (more…)
Just read this wonderfully comprehensive feature on Big L over at Complex, titled Casualty of the Game: The Big L Story, and was inspired to collate a few stories of my own from past interviews. T-Ray, Peter Oasis, Milano and AG all share some memories involving The Devil’s Son… (more…)
During the formative days of the mid 80’s, when Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow and the Fat Boys were the biggest names in rap, the New York club scene was a vital part of the hip-hop food chain, providing both essential networking opportunities and the chance for new acts to get on, provided they could win over the often unforgiving crowds. Let’s take a step back into time as some 80’s hip-hop artists recount the good, the bad and the ugly of the club scene back then. (more…)
Schott Free just blessed his Instagram with the track listing for an early version of Roc Marciano’s debut solo project, back when it was intended to drop on SRC Records. As you can see, only a portion of these tracks made the final version (albeit with some changes to the names and spellings). Here’s what Schott had to say about it: (more…)
After twenty long years, the CDQ version of Mobb Deep’s contribution to the long tradition of “The Bridge” remakes has finally been released into the wild. I’m declaring today an international holiday to celebrate – skip work, grab a few 40’s and go and brake some car windows in honor of this historic occasion.
After having this Vance Wright produced gem on repeat for the last few days after being reunited with my records, I stumbled across the video today. Two things worth noting – Greyson and Jaysun might have sold more records if they’d shot a cover photo dressed like this instead of the whole “suits in an abandoned bath house” look they went with, and this is still the finest use of “The Big Payback” loop ever used in rap, thanks to the slight pitch distortion effect, which I’m sure was the result of something messing up in the studio for brilliant results along the lines of the “Top Billin'” drum pattern.