Filed under: Conservative Rap Coalition,No Country For Old (Rap) Men,Not Your Average,The Unkut Guide,Web Work
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
The CRC is deeper than rap.
The CRC is deeper than rap.
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.
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.
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.
This is the clip to the new Doppz single. Album drops 12 March, hopefully with a Dapper Dan Gucci Black Cloak bundle as I suggested.
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”.
It’s tough being the Big Man On Campus in the wacky world of Rap Magazines. The Source had a great run where they were basically unchallenged for years – despite some good work from Hip Hop Connection in the UK, they couldn’t match the access that the Mind Squadd had to cutting-edge New York music for the first half of the 90′s. The influence that The Source had also made them a prime target for disgruntled rappers, all of whom seemed to believe that everything they released was worth “Five Mics” (you may recall Outkast complaining that their debut “only” received 4.5 mics in later tracks). Sometimes it was a little more personal, as was the case for Ice-T, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, who were all directly criticised in columns and decided to fire back on record. The following is a collection of some of the more noteworthy attacks on the house that Sheck built.
“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.
To compliment the interview with Jonathan Shecter, here’s a classic episode of Shecky Green (aka The Sultan of Rap) and David Mays (aka Go-Go Dave) old radio show, which started The Source newsletter, on 95.3FM WHRB. Featuring Almighty R.S.O.‘s DJ Deff Jeff. Thanks to DJ 7L for passing this on.
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.
This week I channeled my inner teenage girl and made like a less mannish Wendy Williams.
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.
Concluding my discussion with Percy Carey, he talks about battling DMX, missing out on his spot on “Live At The BBQ”, working with Kool G Rap and the continuing process of recovery from his injuries.
Robbie: It seems like there were two separate leagues of MC’s. Guys like Mikey D didn’t care about making records because they were so focused on street respect for battling. Is that how you felt?
MF Grimm: That’s exactly how I felt. At the time, people I was with and things of that nature, money wasn’t an issue. It was a street rep. You wanted to be known for that. “Don’t go against him! Don’t waste your time!” I bring up DMX, because he came to me. We were at a Def Jam Christmas party, and he wanted to battle me. His boys were from the street, and my boys were from the street, and they all knew each other. They were just talking about it, “I don’t think your boy is better than my boy!” “What?” So it just started that way. I wasn’t even in the mood that day, but I had to. Far as I’m concerned, I destroyed him. I like X. Then he turned around and battled Jay-Z, that’s the way it was.
MF Grimm has survived many trials and tribulations during his life and career, having barley survived multiple gunshot wounds which left him in a wheelchair for the past twenty years, missing out on his spot on “Live At The BBQ” after a run-in with a taxi driver and having the master reels of his first album stolen from a recording studio. Returning to music after an extended hiatus, Grimm spoke to me about his new project Good Morning Vietnam, developing his rhyme style, rolling with King Sun, forging his reputation as a serious battle MC in his younger days and the importance of the New Music Seminar Battle For World Supremacy.
Robbie: It must be exciting to release some new music.
MF Grimm: This time around with Drasar Monumental, I feel like I’m just starting my career now, working with him. I’ve never been able to work hands-on with a producer like I’m working with him. It’s more than music, we get along like brothers. It’s not about profit margin, it’s about making quality songs and music. I have so much to learn that it’s fun to be around him, we’re both students of the game. Every song we did was created on the spot, was written that same day.
What else are you doing these days?
I’m currently the president of a multi-media company called Arch Enemy Entertainment. We work with USA Today, which goes out to 11.9 million people, so I’m in film and television. I’m responsible for a lot of writers, illustrators and animators. Music is something which I can only do when I make time for it. I started working with them in 2008 in marketing, and I made president in 2011.
Check this hour-long 2010 documentary about Freshco & Miz, the winners of the MC and DJ divisions of the 1990 NMS Battle For World Supremacy. Featuring appearances by Ice T, Ice Cube, DJ Enuff, MC Lyte, Treach, Kool DJ Red Alert, Monie Love, Dres, Phife, Yo-Yo, D Nice, MC Serch, Ed Lover & Dr. Dre, Guru, and DJ Wiz of Kid N Play.