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. (more…)
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. (more…)
When Pretty Tone Capone went for delf and landed a deal with Def American subsidiary Ill Labels imprint, he unloaded the excellent ‘Case Dismissed’/’Kidnapped’ single and the slightly less amazing ‘Across 110th Street’ before Rick Rubin presumably decided he was bored with rap. Tone’s Mob Style crew were infamous for being gangsters who rapped as opposed to rappers who pretended to be gangsters, and as the ‘Case Dismissed’ video demonstrates, there’s no need to wear a shirt to court if you have enough juice. (more…)
Back in 2013, I got to chat to Black Rob for ten minutes as he was on his way to the studio. This time around I tried not to repeat the same questions, but unfortunately I caught him as he was trying to catch some food. Guess some things just aren’t meant to work out, huh? Regardless, you can catch Black Rob’s new LP, Genuine Article, is out 21 April.
Robbie: Were Spoonie Gee and Doug E. Fresh a big influence on you when you were a kid?
Black Rob: Hell yeah! Parties, break-outs – the whole shit! Doug E. Fresh was definitely slamming, man. I already wanted to my thing, but it gave me some inspiration to tbe best that I could be.
What was it like growing in Harlem?
It was different, man. A lotta kids was doing what they had to do, playing around and not doing music, so I came in there doing music. I used to have the parties jumping, little freestyles and all that stuff. Hear that shit out the window. I used to be the number one guy, but I was too young to really comprehend what I was going through, cos I was just stretching out. But I was nice though! [laughs] (more…)
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…)
Milano is finally releasing his vaulted 2002 album The Believers on CD and iTunes, featuring an impressive production team consisting of DJ Premier, Showbiz, Lord Finesse, Buckwild, Emile, Ahmed, T-Ray and Molecules from The Legion. For those who can’t wait for the official tissue, Milano has blessed me with a copy to share with the loyal Unkut Dot Com readers. Tell ’em!
*Update: The album is getting an official release so Milano requested that I remove the link. Please cop the official version when it drops.*
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…)
Following the always entertaining festivities surrounding the Carbon festival (which I’m under strict orders never to speak of publicly), heading to the A$AP Ferg show at the Corner Hotel seemed like the perfect way to cap off a week-long bender. The venue was filled with excitable kids eagerly throwing-up ‘bows to the sounds of the local androgynous “It’s a Trap” Lady known as Mafia, before the curtains were drawn to prepare for the main event. (more…)
Following the mixed blessings that were McGruff‘s deal with Uptown, where Heavy D tried to Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Herb’s sound for something smoother, with decidedly mixed results, the Crime Dog took it back the gutter with this self-released 1998 single featuring the mighty Mob Style, Loon and Meebo over a gritty piano loop. “They thought it was over? Own label!”
Miss Info (aka Queen of the Rap Internets) reported on this basketball game between members of The Diplomats and some of the roster of Fool’s Gold Records. This isn’t exactly surprising considering that Cam’Ron and A-Trak are recording a project together (not to mention that A-Trak’s song with JR Writer, Hell Rell, & 40 Cal in 2007 wasn’t too shabby at all), but the idea of the former Kufi Slapper Jim Jones sharing the court with the likes of Nick Catchdubs is the rap equivalent of finding out that there’s no Easter Bunny or that Kanye didn’t write “Jesus Walks.”
Here’s some promo-only b-side action intended for McGruff‘s underwhelming Destined To Be album, courtesy of a vinyl rip from The Martorialist’s comment section, which reveals that Isaac Hayes was a hater on a certain level, since he deaded this from retail release.
Why is it that The Heatmakerz, Swizz Beatz nor Dame Grease never snatched up this Giorgio Moroder 80’s epic from Stallone’s arm-wrestling magnum opus Over The Top? With it’s action packed synths, cock-rock geetar, tinny drum rolls and built-in chorus stabs, this could have been the tipping point for one of the numerous Dimplomats Diplomats weed carriers who never quite broke through.
Having already conquered the theme songs of Hill Street Blues, Nightcourt, Magnum, P.I., Facts of Life, Gimme A Break and now The Golden Girls, it’s fair to say that Cam’ron still has dozens of 80’s themes that require his unique talents to bring them into the present day. Here are ten contenders: (more…)
For the past three years, a guy in Miami has been fooling tourists with claims that he’s Harlem rap legend Spoonie Gee. Hopefully the guys who have filmed his antics give him a Newport loosie or $5 for his troubles, since he may or may not be homeless despite still managing to rock a different Ralph Lauren polo in several of the clips. Here is the story of Fake Spoonie Gee, according to shitty iPhone footage: (more…)
As the first rapper from Cleveland signed to a New York label, MC Chill made history not only as a recording artist but later as the leader of a crew of local battle MC’s who had a major impact on the New Music Seminar in the late 80’s. From the days where it actually was about “where you’re from”, MC Chill brought his own signature sound to the streets of NY and gave the locals a run for their money.
Robbie: How did you first get your appetite to grab the mic?
MC Chill: When I first heard “Rapper’s Delight”, I thought it was a guy I knew that was on the mic, he was a DJ. I became friends with this guy kid who became DJ Finesse, and he was from Queens. He used to make these tapes of all the good songs that weren’t being played over the air, like the Crash Crew and the Funky 4+1, Spoonie Gee and the Treacherous Three. I just really got down like that and was saying rhymes soon after that.
What the scene in Cleveland like back then?
When I started, it was one major crew, that was the crew I was down with. We were called The Bomb Squad. It was two DJ’s – this one kid named Cochise and the other kid, Kid Finesse. We had about three other MC’s – myself, Wayney G, and this young lady, who we called The Mellow Ice T at the time. Finesse and Cochise both rhymed they were DJ’s and they rapped. From us going on the radio, we kinda started the hip-hop scene in Cleveland. We were the first cats on Cleveland radio – one of the first supreme rap crews in the city. Sometime after that, I started doing some solo stuff and ended up getting a record deal out of New York. (more…)
Having cut his teeth working with the Diggin’ In The Crates crew at the beginning of his career, Milano Constantine went on to sign a deal with Warner Bros. but was let go before the project was released. Thanks to a handful of independent singles, four mixtapes and notable guest spots with The Beatnuts and the P Brothers, Milano has continued to rep that classic Uptown style with his witty wordplay and vocabulary spill. Following an extended leave of absence, ‘Lano is set to return the rap game with three new projects. He took a little time out to speak about how he came up, working with Big Pun, Showbiz and T-Ray and how the late Party Arty taught him his most valuable lesson as an MC.
Robbie: What are you working on at the moment?
Milano Constantine: I’ve got the Alfa Romeo mixtape. It’s a vintage feel, I’ve got some unreleased, uncut raw stuff from the lab on there, and some new stuff that I’ve been working on. I had to take time off, but I feel very blessed, and now is time for me to go back into it with full force. Now I’m just feeling more comfortable with everything, you can’t put forth any good material if you have to get your life situated, everything has to go in line correctly. This is a great time in my life, I just had a daughter. My mother is in good health – she was really sick. You’ve gotta take care of your family first and music will come secondary. I wanted to reach out to y’all guys for always keeping that platform for me. God bless you guys always keeping me alive. I thank you guys for that. (more…)