Ron Delite [Priority One] – The Unkut Interview
One of the lesser-known albums released through Aaron Fuch‘s Tuff City label was Priority One‘s Total Chaos, which featured Bronx-born MC Ron Delite and Louie Louie doing their thing with claim “Featuring Mixes By The 45 King” scrawled across the cover. As a result of internal conflicts and label pressures, the project was’t everything Ron hoped it would be, as he explained when I talked to him back in 2007.
Robbie: How did you first get into rhyming?
Ron Delite: I have this immense love for hip-hop. I grew-up in the South Bronx, so I’m here at the Mecca of it. I’m here at the beginning, before there’s rap records. I’m in the park jams. The first park jam I went to, I’m watching this guy grab a microphone and he’s putting poetry to music. At the time, I’m nine years old, and I’m at home writing poetry. Being an only child, that was my outlet. Looking at this guy, I said, “I’m doing the same thing he’s doing, only he’s doing it to music”. Went home, and needless to say I broke my mother’s record player, ‘cos now I’m trying to emulate what this guy is doing, scratching records and stuff. My mother was pissed-off of course, but she encouraged me later on. She was always my biggest critic, but I knew if I brought something home and she liked it? I’ve gotta do something else! My mother likes it, so this ain’t gonna pop off!
Unsigned Skype: Cole James Cash
Although I ignore pretty much everything that turns up randomly in my email, the notes for this album caught my eye:
“Shoutout to New York for giving me my entire style of production that I essentially ripped off from producers much better than myself. Shoutout to my worthless deadbeat of a father for abandoning my mother but leaving me well over 2000 records to sample from because you had no means to take them.”
Turns out the album was a good listen, so I reached out to it’s producer and had a quick talk to him to find out his story.
Cappadonna – The Unkut Mini Interview
Cappadonna released a new double album last month titled Eyrth, Wynd and Fyre, which focused on more message-orientated tracks. I caught up with him for a quick discussion that provided as many jewels as it did dead-ends. He also explained he makes his music “the best way I know how, by milking this cow”, which makes me wish that more MC’s would answer questions in rhyme form.
Robbie: Ghost and Rae told me you were the Slick Rick of Staten Island. Do you agree?
Cappadonna: It just came from where we was at and where we were brought-up, just coming from Brooklyn and Staten Island. A lot of my friends were from different places, like from Queens and The Bronx, so it was a collaboration of all of those styles that was put together. We had brothers before us that was into fly things and rapping and fashion, so I mainly looked-up to cats from around my way. Mainly my brother Sham God, Ice, Ugar, Jerry G and all of ‘em. Irwin, The Villas. Phase 3, the Freedom Machine, Party Doctors, The Force MD’s. All of that was right at our fingertips, all the time. At an early age I was already mimicking some of the great styles and great flavors that caused my peers to be attracted to it. We bounced flavors around on each other, but I’m glad that my brothers feel like I put some flavor in they ear.
MC Uptown Recalls Growing-Up With Biggie
Seems like the perfect time to revisit Uptown‘s memories of his friendship with Biggie Smalls…
Uptown: I was about 10, 11 years old. I grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York – about three blocks from where Biggie Smalls lived. Me and a whole bunch of friends would go around in the neighborhood and do these little block parties. They would stop the street off, put a DJ out there and we would grab the mic. Biggie, Half-A-Mil, there’s a couple of us that was out there together in the neighborhood, used to go ‘round to all kind of block parties and do the shows. Me and Biggie Smalls, we would bump heads a lot. He lived three blocks away from me – I was on Nostrand Ave and he lived closer to Clinton. My people knew his people and they were always trying to get us together, ‘cos they knew it would be a great fuckin’ show. Big was a cool dude. I have a homeboy right now, if he could find some of the cassette tapes that me, him and Big did in the crib, rhyming while we smoked a blunt and shit like that, he would probably be a millionaire.
Even though he was big-time, he was known to come back in the neighborhood, sit down and chat with us when he didn’t have to. He used to make jokes at me, ‘cos he had first took a ear to the Buckshot LeFonque project. “Let me find out you a jazz rapper now? So now you don’t do parties? You do fuckin’ jazz?” We grew-up respecting each other – he knew the skills I had, I knew the skills he had. We just used to make fun of it. He was like, “Well I’m glad you took that route, now I can get all my money!” Just to know that he was still paying attention to the stuff that I did was an honor to me.
Spyder-D – The Unkut Interview, Part 2
Continuing my talk with Spyder-D, we discuss his relationship with Sparky-D, the saga of Kool Moe Dee ripping-off his song, record label headaches and why Run won’t talk to him anymore.
Robbie: Was the Tuff City compilation of your early work an authorized release?
Spyder-D: I wouldn’t be surprised if Tuff City didn’t have something to do with the bootlegging of “Big Apple Rappin’”, ‘cos I didn’t technically give the right to do “Big Apple Rappin’”, before I found out they were already planning on doing it, so I believe they’d been in contact with the dude. It was somewhat authorized. Aaron Fuchs – ha and I have had a love/hate relationship for a long time. Aaron is a guy who’s love for hip-hop and his understanding of it, I recognized early on. He was a pioneer in that sense. He understood where hip-hop was going and that it was here to stay a long time before a lot of other people did, and I always loved that about him. But he’s as crooked as lightening bolt!
Spyder-D – The Unkut Interview, Part 1
Spyder-D has quite the forgotten legacy. He was the first MC to release a record on his own label (“Big Apple Rappin’”, 1980), was sporting the pork-pie hat that inspired Run-DMC, helped “The Smurf” dance spread across America and stalked Vaughn Mason, all before 1985. He later had a song ripped-off by Kool Moe Dee, discovered Sparky-D and eventually became the manager of Power Play Studios in the 90′s.
Robbie: How did you first get introduced to rhyming?
Spyder-D: In Queens, we were kinda following what the guys in The Bronx and Manhattan were doing. A couple of people I knew had become DJ’s, one being Davey DMX – at the time was David Reeves, Jnr. We went to school together and I was playing trumpet in his band. This was the mid-70’s, but by ‘76, ‘77 the DJ scene was starting to knock bands off the scene. These guys started hijacking power from the light poles and throwing instant parties in parks and whatnot. The area of Queens I lived in, they had Liberty Park, Jamaica Park and then the park I lived closest at was Henderson Park. Once a DJ crew would roll-up and tap into the light pole to get their power, word would spread like wildfire. People would come, literally, from miles around to be at that park jam. That was my introduction to it, and I wasn’t into it at the time, but it was very intriguing. It attracted all of the ladies, so I was like, “Wow! There’s a lotta chicks rolling up here!” The DJ or the rappers, that was where all the chicks was flocking to, so that part of it appealed to me. Then when Sugarhill broke out with “Rapper’s Delight” they took it to another level. That’s when I said, “OK, I’ve got to get into this”. Being a recording artist of any kind was always appealing to me from growing-up and listening to the Jacksons and Parliament-Funkadelic. I’ll never forget, 60 Minutes did a piece on Peter Brown, showing how they did the multi-layer recording. That was it for me. Rapping was now a recorded music, and the combination of those two became a very powerful ingredient that made me say, “I’m going to do this”. I wrote my first rhymes in 1978.
Black Rob – The Unkut Mini Interview
When I caught Black Rob on a patchy phone line this evening, he was in the studio recording new material for Life Story 2, and as a result was only able to spare ten minutes. Nevertheless, I was able to fill in a couple of the blanks in regards to his history in the rap game and future plans.
Robbie: How old were you when you started rhyming?
Black Rob: About eleven? Twelve? Around that time. What inspired me was what was going on around me – the music! When I heard that, I wanted to be in.
Did you have a group back then or were you always a soloist?
I was in a rap group when I was like 22, 23. We was called Schizophrenics. It was me, my man Alto and my man Godzilla.
Dante Ross Responds To The Uptown Interview
Since he was the topic of much of the Uptown interview posted yesterday, it’s only right that Dante Ross should be able to give us his version of events. This is what he just left in the comment section for those of you who already read the piece:
Ok now there’s a lot of inaccuracies here. First off me and CJ got none of Uptowns publishing me and CJ each got 12.5% which equaled 25% of the pub for writing the music. Tommy Boy got the rest minus samples. Also CJ and me split 500 bucks for the record making a whooping 250 a piece. As for programming the drums CJ and me both did a bit of the programming shit CJ taught me how to use the SP1200 and was nicer than I was on the SP (He was very skilled I might add) so I would say he definitely helped tighten it up. we started the beat either in CJ’s house or my pad I can’t remember but I think it was at CJ’s in the Astoria Project then we went to 12 12 and fixed it up and laid it down with Uptown in the studio with us.
Uptown – The Unkut Interview
After he read my interview with Dante Ross, former Tommy Boy artist Uptown reached out to tell his side of the story: “A lot of people don’t know the reason why I was a one-hit wonder, so I just wanted to share that”. Turns out there was a lot more to his story than a great single from 1989 – Uptown grew-up with Maseo from De La Soul and used to kick rhymes with a young Christopher Wallace back in the days, and featured on both of the Buckshot LeFonque albums which DJ Premier recorded with Branford Marsalis.
Robbie: What age were you when you got the bug to start rhyming?
Uptown: I was about 10, 11 years old. I grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York – about three blocks from where Biggie Smalls lived. Me and a whole bunch of friends would go around in the neighborhood and do these little block parties. They would stop the street off, put a DJ out there and we would grab the mic. Biggie, Half-A-Mil, there’s a couple of us that was out there together in the neighborhood, used to go ‘round to all kind of block parties and do the shows. How I got my deal was, Mase from De La Soul actually grew-up in my neighborhood too, but in his early teens he moved to Amityvillle. I used to go out there and visit, even before they made their first record. He used to DJ their backyard parties and I used to battle everybody in the neighborhood. A couple of months go by and Mase comes to my house and he says, “Yo! I finally got it! I got a hit! My song is on the radio!” He gave me his first demo, it was not ready for sale yet, and it was “Plug Tunin”. I was like, “Oh my god! You can’t be serious! This is you?” Because “Plug Tunin’” was the number one jam at the time. He said, “Yeah. We’re doing a show in Virginia, we want you to come with us.” So I packed up my stuff immediately and go to the show with them in Virginia. While they’re doing their show, I met Dante Ross backstage ‘cos he was the A&R for Tommy Boy at the time. He heard me rhyme one time, and he was like, “Hey, I want you to come to our office, I like the way that you sound.” So I got signed to Tommy Boy with just a one-shot rhyme to Dante Ross!
Snaggapuss – The Unkut Interview
Bronx-bred MC Snaggapuss got his start with the Trackmasterz before joining DJ Doo Wop’s Bounce Squad and landing a solo deal with Virgin. After some false starts, Snaggapuss has returned with Black Rob and Doo Wop for a second go-round, this time balancing his Snaggapuss character with Snaggadon.
Robbie: Why are you calling yourself Snaggadon now?
Snaggapuss: There are certain topics where if I touched it and I was doing the Snaggapuss character, it would take away from it. If I wanted to talk about a serious topic it would make it comical, so I created this other persona which is more regular me so I could deal with other topics. Snaggadon is more serious, everything is not a joke to him.
What age did you begin rhyming?
I was nine or ten years old when I first started reciting my own lines. My cousin Lamount and I had this thing where we would have 30-second rap battles. There was only enough time for two or three lines real quick, just like snappin’ on each other. At twelve years old, I recorded in my first professional studio, which was K-Rock Studio on Wicks Avenue in The Bronx. It was owned by a guy named Kenny Scott, who passed away unfortunately. They robbed him or something. At the time I was recording there, you had Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe – this is early, all before their deals – all recording outta there. Red Alert worked outta there, I met Jam-Master Jay down there. Being that it was in my neighborhood and they took a liking to me, I was able to just come to the studio and be around all these dudes from when I was little, and it was real inspiring. The first time I heard Main Source was from Lord Finesse. He was just minding his business in the studio and I just walked-up, like “Yo, what you listening to?”. He just gave me his headphones – at this time it was a Walkman – and I ended-up listening to the whole thing.
Craig G – The Unkut Interview
MC Craig G started his recording career back in 1985 with “Shout” on Lawrence Goodman‘s Philadelphia-based Pop Art label in 1985, before “Droppin’ Science” for Marley Marl and releasing two solo albums on Atlantic before he took the independent route. Despite being initially known for his freestyle skills, Craig has since refined his song-writing abilities and dropped his latest project at the end of last year. We talk about Queensbridge, the Juice Crew, working with Marley Marl and his involvement with 8 Mile.
Robbie: What sparked you to start rhyming?
Craig G: My older brother was in a neighborhood rap group, they were called the High-Fidelity Crew. They did a party for my sister – this was in Queensbridge – and they had left the equipment there overnight, and decided to bring it back later the next day. So I just started messing with the turntables and acting like I was an MC. I just liked how it felt and from there I just started practicing and practicing, but I didn’t even write my first rhyme until my first record. I used to freestyle everywhere. I was 8 or 9 nine years old when this happened.
What was the first park jam you went to?
I had to be home by the time it was dark, so I was there but I didn’t get to see the real live action. The ill MC’s in the neighborhood wouldn’t even crack the mic until nine o’clock. I used to get a little charity rhyme during the day, but nobody really cared, they were still getting it ready. The party jumped-off about an hour before the shooting started. That was all you needed to know! [laughs] If they started shooting, you was like, “They was rocking right before then! Damn, man!” Just hood shit.
Ralph McDaniels – The Unkut Interview, Part 2
Continuing the session with Video Music Box legend Uncle Ralph McDaniels, he discusses his Classic Concept Productions music video company, dealing with the competition, working on the movie Juice, his Lifer’s Group documentary and why $amhill is ahead of his time.
Robbie: When did it get to the stage where Video Music Box became your full-time job?
Ralph McDaniels: Eventually the station was like, “You’ve got to make a choice. You’re either going to be an engineer or you’re going to do Video Music Box”. From that point on, that was my full-time thing. On the show it was Ralph McDaniels and The Vid Kid – Lionel Martin – he was a guy I grew-up with, who went on to direct some of the best hip-hop and R&B videos in the 80’s and 90’s. I produced and directed, but he directed more than me because I was doing Video Music Box more at the time. We formed a company called Classic Concept Productions. Some of the first videos that we did were MC Shan “Left Me Lonely”, Roxanne Shante “Roxanne’s Revenge”. We worked a lot with Cold Chillin’ Records, so all of Biz Markie’s first videos, all of Big Daddy Kane’s first videos, Kool G Rap and Polo. If it wasn’t for Cold Chillin’, I don’t know if we’d have been as successful in the video business. Before the Genius was the GZA, we did his early videos, Masta Ace, “The Symphony” for Marley Marl. We started to move into some R&B stuff, all of the Bel Biv Devoe stuff. I did all the X-Clan videos, I did Wu-Tang Clan “C.R.E.A.M”, Raekwon “Ice Cream”.
Ralph McDaniels – The Unkut Interview, Part 1
“Uncle” Ralph McDaniels is an institution in New York hip-hop. Creating the city’s first music video show – Video Music Box – in 1983, he delivered rap videos, concert footage and interviews years before Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City hit the airwaves. He was also involved on the other side of the camera, producing and directing music videos for the Juice Crew, Nas and Wu-Tang Clan amongst others. Celebrating thirty years on the air this month, Uncle Ralph took some time out to discuss how he started off his career as a DJ, the birth of music videos and the impact of filming Fresh Fest 2 in the first part of our interview.
Robbie: Where did you grow-up?
Ralph McDaniels: I grew-up in Brooklyn and then I moved to Queens as a teenager, and that’s where my music really took off. In Brooklyn I was young, but I was influenced by my family, they’re Caribbean and American, so we listened to all types of music in the house. We listened to soca, we listened to reggae, we listened to R&B, we listened to soul music. By the time I got to Queens and started getting some type of DJ set-up in my house, then I could play new music that I listened to and that’s how that whole thing jumped off. When I went to college, I moved back to Brooklyn.
How did you get your start in music?
It was me and my partner, Lionel Martin. Back then, he was called DJ Trip. We had a crew we used to call The Brothership – don’t ask, it’s a crazy name. We started doing clubs, and my first gig in a club was a place called The Blue Ice. People used to pack it in, 300-400 people. That was a lot to me. Back in the days when DJ’s would play, there would be a band, and the band would be the headliner. The DJ was secondary, and then after a while the DJ became the headliner because the promoters didn’t want to pay for a band. Around that time I met Russell Simmons, he lived in our neighborhood and he was a party promoter. They were called Rush parties. Somehow he started working with these record companies and he started becoming a record promoter.
Jonathan Shecter aka Shecky Green – The Unkut Interview, Part 2
Concluding my sit-down with Shecky Green (you can read Part 1 here), he explains catering to an expanding readership, getting Illmatic six months before the rest of world, the Game Recordings era and working the party scene in Las Vegas.
Robbie: As you began to expand, you were able to start putting on shows like The Source Tour, right?
Shecky Green: We did the tour and we had some legendary shows in New York. One of them was Cypress Hill when they were red hot – “…Kill A Man” had just come out and they were the biggest record in New York. We did a show that was so insane – there were people jumping off the fuckin’ ceiling. It was nuts! The walls were coming down! Then we did an incredible show with the Hit Squad, at this spot on the West Side Highway. It was the entire Hit Squad – EPMD, Redman, K-Solo, Das-EFX and many more guests. Every single incredible song they ever created was performed that night.
Jonathan Shecter aka Shecky Green – The Unkut Interview, Part 1
Jonathan Shecter rose up from his humble beginnings rapping over Wild Cherry loops as a member of Big Men On Campus to starting The Source magazine, which was the definitive hip-hop bible for many years, setting the stage for other great publications that followed in the mid 90′s such as On The Go, ego trip and Stress. Shecky took some time out of his busy schedule as a Las Vegas party promoter to reminisce about the early years spent documenting the music he loved.
Robbie: How did your involvement in hip-hop start?
Jonathan Shecter: I’m just old enough to have heard “Rapper’s Delight” when it came out on vinyl. Somebody came into school and played the record on a plastic Fisher-Price turntable. I heard that beat, and I kinda recognized it, ‘cos I was already into disco at a very young age, and I was immediately intrigued. A couple of days later, I went to a record store in Philadelphia and asking if they had the record where the guy talks about a bottle of Kaopectate, and he was like, “Yeah, that’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’”. They gave me the vinyl and I bought it. I was hooked right away. I was consuming the radio in Philly at the time, which in the early ‘80s was Lady B. I would record each show on cassette and analyse it and try to figure out what each song was. I had some friends in New York, and they would bring down tapes from Red Alert and stuff like that. I would go to the record store all the time, and I would try to stay up on records from Sugarhill, Profile, Tommy Boy, Enjoy and later Def Jam. I was an avid consumer from day one.