Is crowd funding your album any better than being a corporate shill?
Is crowd funding your album any better than being a corporate shill?
Following on from last year’s interview with former Beatnut Al’ Tariq, I finally got a chance to speak with Psycho Les about the ups and downs of one of rap’s greatest groups. Turns out that Les’ history foes back even further than I thought, as he revealed he worked at Music Factory during high school and produced his first record in 1988…
Robbie: Do you feel like Al’ Tariq’s comments about his time with the Beatnuts were accurate?
Psycho Les: It was pretty much right. Me and Al’ Tariq never had a problem. The problem was between Juju and him, they didn’t really get along. When people don’t get along shit ain’t gonna happen.
He mentioned some subliminal stuff between him and Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul?
There was subliminal shit going on but it was more on Juju and Fashion’s part. That had nothing to do with me, I always stay away from any negative shit. I ain’t out to diss nobody.
What made you want to get involved in hip-hop?
Just being a kid from the streets. When I was coming up in mid ’80s the streets was the only place you could find hip-hop. You would go to the parks and we would have the cardboards, people breakdancing and the guy with his boom box playing tapes of Cold Crush and Spoonie Gee and Kool Moe Dee and all that shit. I was into everything of the culture, man – from breaking to graffiti, I did it all. I just fell in love with the music, just watching the DJ and all the power he had. I started messing with all the DJ’s that lived in my building. I would go to their apartments and watch them DJ. From there I developed the whole dream to have turntables and mixers and collecting records.
Aaron Fuchs‘ Tuff City label was the David to Def Jam‘s Goliath in the early 80’s. The label would go on to deliver important records from the Cold Crush Brothers, Spoonie Gee, The 45 King and Lakim Shabazz, to name but a few. Aaron talked extensively about how to keep your head above water in the record game and offered some interesting opinions about where hip-hop might have ended up if Harlem hadn’t gotten involved.
Robbie: What’s the longest that you’ve been in one location?
Aaron Fuchs: Five, six years. In New York City, no matter what business you’re in, you also have to be in the real estate business. It’s just chaotic keeping an office address for more than a few years at a time.
What are your proudest achievements as a record label so far?
I was very proud to be on the scene around ’82, when the electronic drum machines came on the scene. I described it as ‘a thousand flowers bloomed.’ You previously had all your DJ’s just looping or sampling beats from the same body of records, and when the electronic drum machines came in, all of a sudden it seemed like the unique sub rhythms of the DJ’s ethnic backgrounds – because hip-hop is a very Pan-Caribbean music-came to the forefront – it was wonderful to be working with Charlie Chase and Master OC, who were Puerto Rican; Pumpkin, who was Costa Rican;and Davey-D who was American black. It was really reflected in their different approaches to rhythms. What a wonderful time to be making music.
How had you met all these guys?
Hip-hop was incredibly small when I got into hip-hop, circa ’78. The communications medium for hip-hop was a 7 x 5 sheet of paper called The Phillip Edwards Report. He was the guy who had the bright idea to list all the stores in the metropolitan area and create a list of records that they were selling and distribute them around the boroughs. When I told Bambaataa, I wanted to sign an MC crew, I didn’t know he’d bring me the greatest of all-time, the Cold Crush Brothers. When I befriended Barry Michael Cooper, because we were both music critics for the Village Voice, I had no idea that he had cultivated a friendship with Spoonie Gee, who was the most influential of hip-hop artist of the old school era.
What can you tell me about your experiences as a music critic?
Criticism started because of Dylan and John Lennon. All of a sudden, lit. majors had something to write about with rock & roll. I always had a niche because I was one of the very few guys writing about black music, so while the review of the new Beatles or Dylan album was always taken, the review of the Wilson Pickett album or the Aretha Franklin album was always available.
Newest latest for the good people at Cuepoint is an in-depth look at the story behind Snap! and ‘The Power,’ covering Chill Rob G‘s response, how Penny Ford was recruited to add new vocals and an unfortunate incident involving Turbo B and some drag queens in Boston.
Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate was one of the more unusual extended rap crews, with a core membership that included everyone from old school veteran Donald D, ‘Caucasian Sensation’ Everlast, rapper/crooner dude Bronx Style Bob and acid casualty Divine Styler. According to the Syndicate Facebook page, which looks like it’s run by Donald D, the official role call is as follows:
Ice-T, Donald-D, Everlast, Afrika Islam, Darlene the Syndicate Queen, Bronx Style Bob, Divine Styler & the Scheme Team, Bilal Bashir, Low Profile (W.C. & Aladdin), Spinmasters (Hen-Gee & Evil-E), Hijack, Randy Mac, DJ Chilly Dee, MC Taste, Shaquel Shabazz, Nat the Cat, Domination, T.D.F., Mixmaster Quick, F.B.I. Crew, Lord Finesse, Nile Kings, Rhamel, Tre Kan, Bang-O, Toddy Tee, Monie Love, MC Trouble and Body Count.
Here’s a collection of my favorite Syndicate songs from that era, a reminder of when LA rappers were still trying to impress New York by rapping properly and when important issues such as how great it would be to have a sweet new Rolex watch were addressed with the seriousness they deserved. Sadly, despite having some great production from Aladdin and SLJ, Ice’s rapping had begun to fall into steep decline by the time he made Home Invasion, where he introduced some teenage chick rapper named Grip. I blame Body Count, obviously.
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]
You know those times when groups are greater than the sum of their parts? Here are some examples of rappers and producers who, despite their talents, were less effective on their own.
CL Smooth without Pete Rock
Corey has always been technically strong but without Peter it was hard to care about what he was saying.
GURU without DJ Premier
Keithy EE and Premo had an unbeatable chemistry. The Jazzmatazz albums were a good idea on paper but hardly thrilling to listen to.
Jeru The Damaja without DJ Premier
The Sun Rises In The East was a pretty great album, and the follow-up wasn’t half bad either. Good luck naming a single thing Jeru did once he and Chris Martin stopped hanging out.
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.
If, by some tragic turn of fate, all rap released prior to the year 2000 was somehow obliterated from the face of the earth and you were given the opportunity to take twenty CD’s to pass the time while I wasted away in exile on some deserted island (stay with me here), then what would you take? I considered the options this afternoon and devised the following list of hip-hop platters to bring along.
R.I.P. Easy Rick. Taken from the Paper Is My Priority LP.
A few months ago Random Rap Radio dug up an early MC DJ Flavor tape from the Spectrum City era when Terminator X was still calling himself DJ Mellow Dee. The hook for this record is nothing short of incredible.
Following Sir Paul’s awkward connect with Ye and RiRi, I predict some future uncomfortable collaborations.
Finally, we have an entry into the Gentrification Rap genre! Interesting to note that Droog seems to share the same singing voice as the little homey as well. Produced by DJ Skizz, from the Kinison EP.
Here’s the official video for this dope track from last year, which previously had a behind the scenes clip that was removed since it wasn’t the proper clip.
This morning I had a quick chat with DJ, producer and record collector Freddy Fresh about B-Boy Records, Breakbeat Lenny, The Rap Records book and the correct storage of 45’s. Freddy’s latest album, Play The Music, is out this March.
Robbie: How did you get involved in remixing a track for BDP’s Man and His Music album?
Freddy Fresh: That was ‘88. My first recorded work was that remix with one button pause switching and broken turntables. That was me hanging out at the offices in the South Bronx of B-Boy Records. The plaque on the Criminal Minded album – there’s a plaque between Kris and Scott – I made that plaque. If you look at the back of the album it says, ‘Freddy Fresh, thanks for the plaque.’ I got name-checked on a lot of those albums – Public Enemy thanked me, MC Lyte, Audio Two – all those guys said ‘thanks Freddy Fresh’ on their album, because I was engraving name plates and sending them out to my favorite hip-hop artists in the Bronx and Brooklyn and stuff in 1985, 6 and 7.
Kid Rap became a fad in the early 90’s, but youngsters rapping has been going on since the beginning of hip-hop. Matter of fact, some of them had more to offer than shaved heads and shouted choruses. Tragedy and LL were sonning their peers back when they were 14 and 16, respectively. Meanwhile, Jeff from the De La Soul skits never made an album while those Quo clowns got Redman and Aaron Hall features on their album. Where’s the justice?
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.
Brand Nubian – Slow Down [Pete Rock Remix]
Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘Straighten It Out’ [remix]
This is the best rap song of 2015 so far.
These are the best 40 rap songs of 2014, according to the Conservative Rap Coalition. Please mail all complaints to the usual address.
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.
Not sure where this was filmed. Is this a bar or a lounge room? Why is there a Tekken 3 machine in the background? Nevertheless, I approve of this song.
A couple of new releases from Debonair P‘s Gentleman’s Relief Records, featuring the talents of Omniscence and K-Hill, who were featured on the Counterstrike 2 album. Check the snippets below and order the vinyl, tape or digital versions here.
Engineer all-star CJ Moore delves into the behind the scenes events of Kool G Rap‘s Roots of Evil and the infamous Rawkus album, heading out west, working with the Live Squad and much more in the second part of this interview trilogy.
Robbie: What happened after the Akinyele sessions finished?
CJ Moore: When money started coming into play between Dr. Butcher and myself, things started getting funny. I went out to California and I teamed-up with Ed Strickland again and we was with a guy doing a project called The Reality Check – a guy named Michael Harris – Harry O. He’s the guy who funded Death Row Records. Ice Cube, Ice-T, Dub C, all those guys were involved. I produced a couple of records with Ice-T with me and him rapping back and forth. I was doing the east coast stuff, Battlecat was doing the west coast stuff. I went to Big Daddy Kane, talked to him on the phone, I said, ‘I need you to be out in California. I’m doing this project, it’s kinda merging the east coast with the west coast. Let’s talk about what it’s gonna take to get you on the project.’ He asked me who was on the project, and I explained to him. There was guy named Black Ceasar on the project, he was from Pittsburgh, real talented guy, but Kane had a problem because his name was Black Ceasar. I said, ‘But your name is Big Daddy Kane!’ ‘Yeah, aka Black Ceasar.’ I said, ‘What kind of bullshit is that?’ He couldn’t do the project because of that. I stepped to Method Man and I was trying to get to Redman and everyone was kinda busy, so the east coast/west coast thing never did the proper merge. There was so much money on the table, more than these guys have ever made. For some reason it just backed-out. I guess the whole Harry O thing might have scared people to a degree, if you know the homework on the whole Death Row situation. But we can’t get into that.
Biz Markie apparently makes up all his rhymes on the spot in the studio and then learns them later – except for when he gets his pals to write songs for him. Big Daddy Kane wrote the first side of Goin’ Off, as was clearly stated on the back cover (therefore not a case of ‘ghostwriting’) and for his next LP he enlisted GMC to lend his storytelling prowess for this entertainly tasteless tale of transgender luh gone wrong.
Seeing as though Caz’s original reference track was eventually issued with a 45 King remix, we can now compare the two. Who rocked it better?
This is the ultimate rap addict dedication – the fantasy league lost Ultramagnetic album that we might have enjoyed if they’d released a follow-up to Critical Beatdown in 1990. Sure, it’s a collection of b-sides and vaulted tracks from between 1987 and 1990, but this sums up everything that makes Ultramagnetic MC’s the greatest rap crew of all time. All praise due to Ced-Gee, Kool Keith, Moe Love and TR Love – the best to ever do it. Shout out to James aka BadNewz of 100X Posse for dropping that ‘MC Champion’ verse.