Diamond D – The Unkut Interview
Growing up in Forest Projects in the South Bronx, DJ Diamond D embarked on a career as a local DJ before teaming-up with childhood friend Master Rob to form the Ultimate Force crew and release the “I’m Not Playing” single on Strong City. Following on from yesterdays detailed breakdown of his first solo album, we discussed his formative years as a music fan, his loyalty to those he grew-up with and some of his lesser known musical contributions beyond his work with the D.I.T.C. crew.
Robbie: How old were you when you first deejayed publicly?
Diamond D: First time I deejayed in public I was around 13, 14 in my projects at the jams outside. There were two DJ’s in my neighborhood – DJ Supreme and DJ Hutch. They would come outside and basically provide the soundtrack to our lives, through hip-hop. At some point, from me pestering them, they let me get on their set. To me that was the biggest deal, to be able to get on the turntables in your projects and feel the love of the people that were in the projects, basically.
Track By Track: Diamond D Breaks Down The Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop Album
Today marks ten years since I started Unkut Dot Com, and what better way to celebrate than to sit down with the original “Best Producer On The Mic” himself, Diamond D. Originally scheduled to take place in late 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of his classic debut album, Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop, it wasn’t until last week that it finally happened. We began by discussing his timeless debut, track-by-track:
Diamond D: I’mma keep it a hunned with you, I only wanted twelve songs on there. But you’ve gotta remember in the early 90’s it wasn’t uncommon for an album to have 18, 19 songs. You look at Pete Rock‘s album, Mecca and the Soul Brother. You look at De La Soul‘s first album. If it had been up to me it wouldn’t have been 21 songs on that album. But Chemistry was just like, “We gonna just roll the dice and throw all the shit on there.” I can’t say which ones I would have left off, but I can tell you I ain’t want all 21 on there! But it seems like it’s good that they did that, because I never put out an album with them again.
Non-Rapper Dudes Series – Spencer Bellamy Interview
After coming up with Howie Tee as DJ and then producer, Spencer Bellamy started East Flatbush Project and released a series of quality records on his own 10/30 Uproar label at the beginning of the mid 90’s independent hip-hop vinyl movement. Best known for being the man responsible for the legendary “Tried By 12″ instrumental, Spencer talks about the ups and downs of his experiences in the rap game.
Robbie: Can you tell me about how you started off with Howie Tee?
Spencer Bellamy: He used to have a crew called Count Disco. We were a local crew – myself, his brother and Howie would DJ – and then he had the MC’s, the Sureshot 4 MC’s, so they would do their routines. I hooked-up with him when I was around eleven years old. We played together for a few years and then we just became cool. After he cut-out of deejaying and went more into the production side of it, I would just watch what he would do. I was kinda like an apprentice, so to speak. From there, I tried my hand at production.
Sir Ibu – The Unkut Interview
Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant/Crown Heights, Sir Ibu cemented a place in rap folklore with a record called “Holy War (Live)”, which still stands as one of the rawest examples of beats and rhymes ever recorded, so much so that Ghostface recreated a portion of it on his own modern-day remake named “Mighty Healthy”. Beyond being an influential microphone god, it turns out that Ibu may also have been the first ever Conservative Rap Coalition member, as well as having an obscure connection to Australian culture. Salutes to BK Thoroughbred for connecting me with Brooklyn rap royalty and helping this interview happen…
Robbie: What sparked your interest in rhyming initially?
Sir Ibu: It was my cousin – I think it was back in ‘79. I heard him rapping, and I was like, “Wow! What is that?” So he told me what it was and then let me hear this record. I think it was by Spoonie Gee? I kinda liked that, so ever since then I just started writing. I just used to write about girls – all my raps were about girls. Girls this, girls that, just bragging about how I am with the girls. So then when I ran into Supreme – I would say was about ‘83, ‘84 – he told me, “Listen, you’re good. But you could be better if you changed your subject matter. Instead of talking about how good you are with girls, talk about how good you are on the microphone. How good you are with your lyrics and your music and your rhymes and your vocabulary. Just anything but girls!” I’m like, “Alright.” So I did it and I came back to him and I said, “How ‘bout this?” And he said, “That’s perfect! Do you wanna be part of my group?” I’m like, “Alright, let’s do it.” And that’s how I got with him and his sister. It’s interesting, ‘cos his sister – her name was Ice-T originally when we started – but Ice-T from the west coast started making a name for himself, so it was like, “Listen, you’ve gotta change your name.” So she changed it to Nefertiti.
Video: The Tuff City Records Story, Episode Four
The final part of my interview with Aaron Fuchs at the new Tuff City offices, which covers competing against Def Jam, his work with Funkmaster Wizard Wiz and the infamous “Crack It Up”, Freddy B and The Mighty Mic Masters and The Maximus Three, amongst others. Also features a random Bob Marley anecdote for good measure.
Non-Rapper Dudes Series – Joe Mansfield Interview
Starting out as a promising young DJ and producer in Boston, Joe Mansfield was responsible for the first Ed OG album and was heavily involved in Scientifik‘s tragically short career, while also producing some amazing white label remizes with DJ Shame and Sean C. as the Vinyl Reanimators. He also started Traffic Entertainment and Get On Down, while amassing an incredible collection of drum machines, some of which featured in his first book, titled Beat Box – A Drum Machine Obsession. I had the chance to pick his brain last Friday on all things drum computer…
Robbie: How did you start working with Ed OG?
Joe Mansfield: I was doing beats at the time, trying to find MC’s that were willing to rhyme over some of my tracks. A friend of Ed’s, this guy Money 1, was someone I working with and he happened to live nearby me. He brought Ed by my basement studio one day and we kinda clicked. I started making tracks for him and through that process we came up with his whole first album, pretty much.
So the Awesome Two were involved more in an A&R kind of role?
Yeah, they were more executive producers – Ted was Ed’s cousin. We would record tracks at my studio – well, my basement. It wasn’t a real studio, it was pretty primative. On the weekends, Ed would go up to New York and bring ‘em to his cousins to check out, so they shopped the tracks to labels and got the record deal. I did the beats and they handled the financial end of that record. The backbone of everything was done in my basement and then I would go up to Powerplay with my sequencer and my sampler and just dump everything down there.
Video: The Tuff City Records Story, Episode Three
Aaron Fuchs discusses working with Pumpkin, addresses the Ultramagnetic Basement Tapes controvery, names his three favorite Tuff City records and reflects and how the music histroy books will view his legacy.
Video: The Tuff City Records Story, Episode Two
Aaron Fuchs continues discussing key moments in Tuff City history, including working with Teddy Riley, Spoonie Gee, Marley Marl, DJ Hot Day and the Cold Crush Brothers.
Video: The Tuff City Records Story, Episode One
Tuff City Records founder Aaron Fuchs discusses starting the label in the early 80’s, his history as a music critic and the story behind some of the first records he released in the first part of this in-depth interview.
Grand Daddy I.U. – The Unkut Video Interview, Part 3
For the final part of this interview shot in Strong Island, The I Dot U Dot rags on bar patrons and his brother in between explaining about a bar room brawl against Treach and Tupac, the inspiration behind his first album cover and touring antics with Kool G Rap.
Grand Daddy I.U. – The Unkut Video Interview, Part 2
I.U. is joined by his brother DJ Kay Cee as he discusses the making of Smooth Assassin, why he changed his style up for Lead Pipe, record label problems and why shit went bad with Treach from Naughty By Nature.
Grand Daddy IU – The Unkut Video Interview, Part One
Grand Daddy IU breaks down how he started out rapping, meeting Biz Markie, getting kicked out of school and being compared to Rakim.
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – The Unkut Interview
Photo by richdirection
Best known for his zero fux given style, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire‘s more recent work reflects an MC who refuses to be pigeonholed. With a long list of indy releases under his belt, he’s currently preparing his major label debut for Universal. I could tell from his music that this guy wasn’t just another “New New York” type, and he proved me right with a deep appreciation for the music that came before him when we caught-up for a chat the other month.
Robbie: I heard the troubling news that you’ve stopped drinking?
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire: I stopped drinking a long time ago, almost a year now. I don’t drink,
I don’t have sex, none of that. I’m 28, I feel like when you get to a certain level in your life, you mature.
You’re Brooklyn born and raised?
I’m from the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Buckshot Shorty is from where I’m from, Ruste Juxx.
How do you feel about all the girls with bad tattoos who have moved into Brooklyn from outta state?
For the most part, I like it. I think it’s cool that people come and they find Brooklyn interesting. It’s different being from here, growing up and seeing a lot of things that you love disappear. The whole environments changed. Before, I could take you through Brooklyn and I would know everything. Now I have to relearn the neighborhood.
DJ Skizz – The Unkut Interview
As a veteran of the Halftime Show with DJ Eclipse, DJ Skizz has also been putting out some quality beats with the likes of Big Noyd in recent years. In 2012 he dropped the Kings From Queens mixtape, and his B.Q.E. album is out on the 17th September, featuring a varied selection of hoody rap heavyweights, with project an album with Problemz and an EP with Frank Dukes to follow. I visited his studio in Brooklyn to check the album and talk about his history in the game so far.
Robbie: How did it all start out for you?
DJ Skizz: I grew up in Boston and went to school in New Orleans for a couple of years and deejayed there at the college station. In 2000 I went to New York and started doing the Halftime Show with DJ Eclipse and DJ Riz. A couple of years later, Riz left and I kept on doing the show with Eclipse. As far as the production side of things, I’ve been making beats since around 2000. I was living in Astoria, Queens at the time, and met Big Noyd at the barbershop. He came to the crib and we banged out two songs. I got more serious about the beats and did a lotta joints for him. Over the years I connected with a lot of MC’s through the radio and Fat Beats.
Unkut TV: Episode 18 – Hannibal Stax Interview
On a sweltering summer afternoon in Manhattan, H. Stax talks about growing-up in East NY, the Gang Starr Foundation, memorable touring incidents, his memories of GURU, working with Marco Polo and the fate of his first crew, Fabidden Fruit.
Positive K – The Unkut Interview
Positive K has only released one album in his long career, the supremely entertaining The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills, but with a rich history of independent releases through First Priority and his Creative Control label, his discography is chock-full of memorable moments. As he prepares to drop new music this year, we talked about paying his dues at the Latin Quarter, how important Daddy-O and Big Daddy Kane were to his career, and answer the eternal question of just what made him so “clean-cut and dapper”.
Robbie: Where did you grow up?
Positive K: I was born in The Bronx. While my mother and father were working, they would drop me off in the daytime, and I would stay with my grandmother in The Bronx. This was across the street from Echo Park, which is the famous park known for everybody starting out deejaying, like Grandmaster Flash, DJ Sinbad and Busy Bee and all those dudes, man. I couldn’t go out late at night, so I would stay at the windows and just listen to that stuff. It was incredible. My uncle owned a corner store in The Bronx, and we used to hang out there as kids, while my uncle was working inside. There was a house party going on, it was the Fantastic Four. They had the microphone out there, “Hey shorty! You wanna say a rhyme?” Back then, everybody had their whole simple rhyme put together, “That lime to a lemon, lemon to a lime!” I did that, and the girls were like, “He’s so cute!” After that, man, it was over! It was finished for me. I knew rap was my thing.
Willie The Kid – The Unkut Interview
Although he’s been dropping music since 2006, the last two years have really seen Willie The Kid solidify his spot as one of the nicest MC’s in the game, bringing his own unique spin to the free-form, stream-of-consciousness flow that many have tried but few have mastered. I caught up with him last week to discuss where he’s been and where he’s going. His latest EP, Masterpiece Theatre, with The Alchemist, dropped yesterday. Check for Nah Right’s detailed listener’s guide while you’re at it.
Robbie: Where did you grow up?
Willie The Kid: I grew-up in West Michigan, Grand Rapids. My older brother and my family are from New York, which is often attributed to me. I left Grand Rapids to go to college down in Atlanta, and that’s when things really started to pick up for me. As far as doing music? It started back in Michigan. My father collected records – vinyl – all different genres, so music was always a big part of my household, growing up. Then my older brother went on and eventually signed a record deal and worked closely with Wu-Tang Clan, which gave me a really close view into how the music business works and took all the aspirations I had to wanna be a rapper and made them a reality. Where I’m from is not really a hub for hip-hop music, so I had to leave. I had to go to New York, L.A. or Atlanta. New York sounded good, ‘cos my family’s from New York, L.A. sounded good but it’s kinda far away, but Atlanta gave me an opportunity to go where the music was thriving at the time, as well as attend college and pursue my degree.
MC Chill – The Unkut Interview, Part 2
Continuing my conversation with MC Chill, he explains how he led his Cleveland crew to have an impact on several years of the New Music Seminar MC Battle For World Supremacy, despite never winning a title, and life after rap.
Robbie: Was “Nightmare On Chill Street” your last record?
MC Chill: I was working on a new album, and that certainly wasn’t the song that I was expecting to drop as a single, it was kind of a filler, but Fever were like, “We need to drop something from you right now”. At that point, Sutra got sued for some kind of piracy and folded, and I started working on a deal with 4th & Broadway, but at that time the music was changing, and I wasn’t anybody’s gangster rapper so the deal never happened.
Cleveland made a big impact on the NMS MC battles. What can you tell me about that?
They were all outta my crew. I started a crew called The Final Conflict, and since I was the only cat in Cleveland that had been out on the air and had a deal, I started trying to help out other cats from the city. By then, we’ve got a full-fledged hip-hop scene in Cleveland, so there was a lotta different crews, but my crew was dominant. At that time I also had a radio show on WBAK called The Rappers Delight Show, kinda like Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack, but I was the host of the show. My cats were in and out of the radio station, and we did lots of local shows. The major difference between my crew and anybody else’s crew is that we were fierce freestyle rappers. At one stage we had the most dangerous freestyle rappers ever assembled in a crew. You had Bango, you had Serge and another kid, Dale. They were all in my crew! Everybody battled everybody, everyday. We even had a female in the crew – Laurie D. She ended up being MC 350 and got hooked up with Scarface in Houston. She was part of the Face Mob. Not only did we have MC’s, we had dancers. This kid Todd Sams, who we called Todd-Ski, he ended up being the choreographer for Usher, and then later Chris Brown. We were totally dominant in the area. This one kid, they called him Smooth, he was like the father of freestyle battle rapping. He taught Bango how to freestyle. I actually named Bango “The B-Boy Outlaw”.
MC Chill – The Unkut Interview, Part 1
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.