Founding Fathers Documentary: Hip Hop Did Not Start in the Bronx

This is a throwback article from Feb 5 2009, penned by writer/historian Mark Skillz that talks about the clips that were circulating around about a documentary called Founding Fathers; The Untold Story of Hip Hop which chronicles the mobile deejay scene that existed in Brooklyn before and alongside what was cracking off in the Bronx in the late 60s, early 70s… Since this article was penned, we added some video clips to give the story more context..

Founding Fathers Disco Twinst 8.23.18 AMThis is a documentary coming out sometime next year, I don’t know who the producers of this film are, but they are on point in this joint. Some of the people I recognize off the bat are: DJ Divine of Infinity Machine, Sweety Gee and Pete DJ Jones.

One of the premises of this film is that hip-hop didn’t just start in the Bronx. One of the first people I remember is a guy who played all over Queens named King Charles. This was 1977 maybe early 1978, that I started seeing flyers all over the place featuring his jams, along with the Disco Twins and Cipher Sounds. At the top of the flyer it would say: Tiny Promotions, or something like that.

I hope Pete Jones says live on camera that he is NOT from Brooklyn! For years it has been reported that Pete DJ Jones was from Brooklyn – he isn’t, he lives in the Bronx and is originally from Durham, North Carolina.

I remember a couple of years back my home boy Davey D was on a panel somewhere in New York, when a brother in the audience got real heated up, when a Bronx cat, possibly Grandmaster Caz, said something to the effect of hip-hop starting in the Bronx with Kool Herc.

Founding Fathers King CharlesThis brother, who was the maintenance man or something like that in the venue where the panel was being held took real exception to the whole “hip-hop started in the Bronx” thing. He said, hip-hop started in Brooklyn with guys like Grandmaster Flowers and the Smith Brothers and he named off all kinds of streets and projects where the different deejays did their thing at. To top it off, he said the Bronx cats never came around there, so how would they know what they were doing?

To be sure, there were all kinds of mobile jocks in New York in the early 70’s. Hands down, no questions. I’ve always asked the Bronx cats that I’ve interviewed this one important question, “Yo, what impact did the Jamaican sound systems have on ya’ll?”

Everybody from Toney Tone to Kool Herc to Bambaataa said: “None, none at all. They weren’t a part of our thing. They did their own thing.”

Which is more than likely true, with one exception Grandmaster Flash’s sound system the Gladiator was built by some Jamaican brothers on Freeman Street. And in Brooklyn, there is no way in the world those dudes in Brooklyn could not have heard the different sound systems. Deejay culture in Jamaica goes back to the 50’s!

KoolhercflyerThe one time I interviewed Kool Herc I asked him about the Jamaican sound systems in the Bronx and he acknowledged knowing a few of them, but said that they had no influence or impact whatsoever.

What pisses alot of dudes from Queens and Brooklyn off is when the Bronx cats dismiss them (the early dudes that is) as being “disco”. That’s a diss, in the literal sense. It’s their way of dismissing those brothers as being something inauthentic. To be sure, yes, the brothers did play what was popular on the radio, but they also played breaks too! The real division between the Bronx and I’m gonna say the other four boroughs, is the fact that there was a heavier emphasis on breaks – rare breaks and scratching. Also the MC’ing was a little rawer too. But it was basically the same thing: Talking over funky ass beats on a sureshot sound system.

See the pic above for my personal opinion as to where hip-hop really comes from.

Here’s some clips from Founding fathers: pt1 pt2 pt3 pt4

Founding Fathers Part Two: My Disco Brother…

Because I want to be able to walk the streets of the Bronx in peace I better clarify my position on the last post.


Ok…the hip-hop of the Bronx was pioneered by Kool DJ Herc in 1973. Hands down no questions or arguments from me. What Kool Herc did back then inspired Afrika Bam, Flash, Theodore, AJ, Charlie Chase, Breakout and hundreds and hundreds of others.

Grandmaster Flowers (left)

Grandmaster Flowers (left)

However, in the other boroughs a similiar thing was going on. The differences weren’t major. Whereas, Kool Herc called his set the ‘merry go round’ (when he played break after break after break after break) cats in Brooklyn and Queens ie; Master D, the Smith Brothers, Grandmaster Flowers, King Charles, Disco Twins, Infinity Machine and many others were playing rhythm and blues and funk and soul records. They didn’t specialize in rare and obscure records with five second breaks like the Bronx cats did, but they did spin records like “Phenomenon Theme” and “Ashley’s Roachclip” and when the break came on they kept it going. Not by scratching or cuttin, but they extended the break.

At that time damn near everything in Black music was called disco as the producer (Ron Lawrence) of the documentary below asked me recently.

“Yo, what was Grandmaster Flash’s right hand mans name?” Disco Bee. He has a point there.

Lil Rodney Cee of the Funky Four used this line in one of his rhymes: “to be a dis-co sensation a rock rock yall.”

Or how bout this: (can’t remember the groups name but as the MC handed the mic off to the next MC he said) “My disco brother, get on the mic you undercover lover!”

There was an uptown group called the Disco Enforcers. There was another group (actually one of my favorite groups ) called the Disco Four.

All this to say, cats front on disco big time. But everything back then was called disco and there was no such thing or concept as hip-hop. Especially if we’re talking about 1975.

King Charles, Grandmaster Flowers and Pete DJ Jones had been doing their thing since the late 60’s! These guys mixed the hell out of records. What they did inspired cats in Brooklyn and Queens. At some point (don’t ask me when or where) the two different styles (the Bronx style and the BK/Queens style) started converging.

written by Mark Skillz

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

One Night at the Executive Playouse: Kool Herc vs Pete DJ Jones

Today January 15 2014, word has just come to me from writer and historian Mark Skillz that we lost Pete DJ Jones.. For many reading this his name is unknown. He’s not often associated with the pioneering days of Hip Hop because he was older and many saw him as part of the emerging disco/club era when turn tables started to replace live bands.

Both Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash note that Pete was the first one they ever saw rock two turntables and spin two copies of the same record. This was in 1972.. His influence and his importance should not be understated or overlooked.  There are two pieces people should read to understand who this man was and why he was important..

First is an great interview from Tha Foundation Pete DJ Jones Intv

The second is this story we posted below a while back from Mark Skillz….We lost a true legend today May He Rest in Peace.


As Hip Hop continues to evolve and becomes more of a corporate thing, many of its landmark, golden moments get lost. In this article, veteran writer and longtime DJ Mark Skillz unearthed one of Hip Hop’s pivotal moments when an emerging Kool Herc squared off with well-known popular DJ Pete Jones.

This battle was symbolic on many levels. For Kool Herc to go up against Pete DJ Jones meant that Hip Hop had arrived and there was no denying it. It was Student vs Teacher, Young vs Old, and Hip Hop vs Disco… It’s a moment in time we should not forget.

Props to Mark Skillz and Wax Poetic Magazine where this article first appeared

Logo Kool herc vs Pete Jones

Pete DJ Jones vs. Kool DJ Herc:
One Night At the Executive Playhouse

By Mark Skillz

Mark skillz brown-225Back in the good old days of 1977 when gas lines were long and unemployment was high, there were two schools of deejays competing for Black and Latino audiences in New York City: the Pete D.J. Jones crowd and the devout followers of Kool D.J. Herc. One group played the popular music of the day for party-going adult audiences in clubs in downtown Manhattan. The other played raw funk and break-beats for a rapidly growing, fanatic – almost cult-like following of teenagers in rec centers and parks. Both sides had their devotees. One night the two-masters of the separate tribes clashed in a dark and crowded club on Mount Eden and Jerome Avenue called the Executive Playhouse.

The First Master: The Wise Teacher

You can’t miss Pete D.J. Jones at a party – or anywhere else for that matter, he is somewhere near seven feet tall and bespectacled, today at 64 years old he is a retired school teacher from the Bronx, but if you listen to him speak you immediately know he ain’t from New York – he’s from ‘down home’ as they say in Durham, North Carolina. But no matter where he was from, back in the ’70’s, Pete Jones was the man.

“I played everywhere”, Mr. Jones says in a voice that sounds like your uncle or grandfather from somewhere down deep in the south, even though he’s been in New York for more than thirty years. “I played Smalls Paradise, Leviticus, Justine’s, Nells – everywhere.”

“Looky here”, he says to me in the coolest southern drawl before he asks me a question, “You ever heard of Charles Gallery?”

“Yes”, I said, as I tell him that I’m only 36 years old and I had only heard about the place through stories from people who had been there. “Oh”, he says in response, “that was one helluva club. Tell you what, you know that club, Wilt’s ‘Small’s Paradise’?”

“Yep”, I said, “that place is internationally known – but I never went there either.”

“That’s ok”, he says still as cool as a North Carolina summer breeze, “When I played there GQ and the Fatback Band opened for me.”

“No way – are you talking about ‘Rock-Freak’ GQ, the same people that did ‘Disco Nights?’

“One and the same”, he says. He suspects that I don’t believe him so he says, “Hey, we can call Rahiem right now and he’ll tell ya.” As much as I would love to speak with Rahiem Vaughn I pass, I believe him.

pete dj jones-225In his heyday Pete DJ Jones was to adult African- American partygoers what Kool Herc was to West Bronx proto- type hip-hoppers, he was the be all to end all. He played jams all over the city for the number one black radio station at the time: WBLS. At these jams is where he blasted away the competition with his four Bose 901 speakers and two Macintosh 100’s – which were very powerful amps.

At certain venues he’d position his Bose speakers facing toward the wall, so that when they played the sound would deflect off of the wall and out to the crowd. The results were stunning to say the least. His system, complete with two belt drive Technic SL-23’s (which were way before 1200’s) and a light and screen show, which he says he’d make by: “Taking a white sheet and hanging it on the wall, and aiming a projector that had slides in it from some of the clubs I played at.” These effects wowed audiences all over the city. He went head to head with the biggest names of that era: the Smith Brothers, Ron Plummer, Maboya, Grandmaster Flowers, the Disco Twins, “Oh yeah”, he says, “I took them all on.”

On the black club circuit in Manhattan at that time – much like the Bronx scene – deejays spun records and had guys rap on the mike. “I ran a club called Superstar 33, ask anyone and they will tell you: That was the first place that Kurtis Blow got on the mic at”, says a gruff voiced gentlemen who, back then, called himself JT Hollywood – not to be confused with D.J. Hollywood, whom JT remembers as, “An arrogant ass who always wanted @#%$ to go his way.”

“I wouldn’t call what we did rappin’ – I used to say some ol’ slick and sophisticated @#%$ on the mike”, said a proud JT.

“We spun breaks back then too”, Pete Jones says, “I played “Do it anyway you wanna,” ‘Scorpio’, ‘Bongo Rock’, BT Express, Crown Heights Affair, Kool and the Gang, we played all of that stuff – and we’d keep the break going too. I played it all, disco, it didn’t matter, there was no hip-hop per se back then, except for the parts we made up by spinning it over and over again.”

There have been so many stories written about hip-hop’s early days that have not reported on the guys that spun in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the early and mid ’70’s, that many crucial deejays of that time feel left out.

Kool-Herc-the-father-300“Kool Herc and guys like that didn’t have a big reputation back then”, explains Jones, “they were in the Bronx – we, meaning guys like myself and Flowers, we played everywhere, so we were known. Their crowd was anywhere between 4 to 70. Mine was 18-22. They played in parks – where anybody could go, no matter how old you are you could go to a park. We played in clubs.”

With a sense of urgency Mr. Jones says, “I have to clear something up, many people think that we played disco – that’s not true. There were two things happening in black music at that time: there was the “Hustle” type music being played – which was stuff like Van McCoy’s “Do the Hustle” – I couldn’t stand that record. And then there were the funky type records that mixed the Blues and jazz with Latin percussion that would later be called funk. Well, hip-hop emerged from that.”

He places special emphasis on the word ’emerged’. He says that because “If you know anything about the history of music, you know, no one person created anything, it ’emerges’ from different things.

The Second Master: The Cult Leader

Kool Herc drivingThere must have been a height requirement for deejays in the ’70’s, because like Pete DJ Jones, Kool DJ Herc is a giant among men. In fact, with his gargantuan sized sound system and 6’5, 200 plus pound frame, the man is probably the closest thing hip-hop has ever seen to the Biblical Goliath. Today, some thirty years since his first party in the West Bronx, Kool Herc is still larger than life. His long reddish-brown dreads hang on his shoulders giving him a regal look – sort of like a lion. His hands – which are big enough to crush soda cans and walnuts, reveal scarred knuckles, which are evidence of a rough life. During our conversation, Kool Herc, whose street hardened voice peppered with the speech patterns of his homeland Jamaica and his adopted city of New York made several references to ‘lock up’, ‘the precinct’ and the ‘bullpen’, all in a manner that showed that he had more than a passing familiarity with those types of situations.

As the tale goes Kool Herc planted the seeds for hip-hop in 1973 in the West Bronx. Along with his friends Timmy Tim and Coke La Rock, and with the backing of his family – in particular his sister Cindy , the parties he threw back then are the food of urban legend. In the 1984 BBC documentary “The History of Hip Hop” an eight-millimeter movie is shown – it is perhaps the only piece of physical evidence of those historic parties. In the film, teenagers of anywhere between 17-20 years old are grooving to the sounds of James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turn It Loose“. Young men wearing sunglasses and sporting fishermen hats with doo rags underneath them, are seen dancing with excited young women, all while crowded into the rec room of hip-hop’s birthplace: 1520 Sedgwick Ave.

As the camera pans to the right, the large hulking figure of Kool Herc takes the forefront. Sporting dark sunglasses and wearing a large medallion around his neck, Kool Herc is decked out in an AJ Lester’s suit. He isn’t just an imposing figure over his set; he looms large over his audience as well. His sound system – a monstrous assemblage of technology, was large and intimidating too, so awesome was it that his speakers were dubbed the ‘Herculords‘. When Kool Herc played his gargantuan sized sound system – the ground shook. And so did his competition.

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

Legend has it that with his twin tower Shure columns and his powerful Macintosh amplifiers, he is said to have drowned the mighty Afrika Bambaataa at a sound clash. “Bambaataa”, Herc said with the volume of his echo plex turned up and in his cool Jamaica meets the Bronx voice, ‘Turn your system down…”

But the mighty Zulu chief was unbowed.

So once again Herc spoke into the mike, “Ahem, Bambaataa…turn your system down!” And with that, Herc turned the volume of the echo plex up, and bought in the notorious break-beat classic ‘The Mexican’ all the while drowning Bambaataa in a wall of reverberated bass and funk drumming. According to Disco Bee, “That was typical of Herc – if you went over your time, hell yeah, he’d drown you out.”

In his arsenal Herc had the mighty twin speakers dubbed the ‘Herculords’ and his crew, a mixture of high school friends and neighborhood kids called the ‘Herculoids’. The squad consisted of the Imperial Jay Cee, LaBrew, Sweet and Sour, Clark Kent, Timmy Tim, Pebblee Poo, Coke La Rock, Eldorado Mike and the Nigger Twins. According to Herc, “Coke and Tim were friends of mine, it’s like I got the Chevy, and I’m driving. You my man, so you roll too. So when Coke wanted to play – he play, you know what I mean?”

Coke La Rock

Coke La Rock

Although the core crew was Herc, Timmy Tim and Coke La Rock, many of the people that frequented these parties could also be dubbed Herculoids as well. Even though they weren’t members of the crew, many of these people would become disciples of a new musical gospel. They would help spread the musical message and further build upon the foundation that Herc had laid down. Much like the early Christians, who endured all manner of harassment, the early followers of Kool Herc, would lead what would later be called hip-hop, through the parks and rec centers of New York and then onto the international stage. These devotees’s would be active figures in this new genre from the late 70’s into the mid-80’s.

“Man, Herc was a monster”, remembers D.J. AJ Scratch, who Kurtis Blow paid homage to on the classic record “AJ”. “I wasn’t even on back then – I was trying to get in the game back then”, reminisced AJ, “I was a nobody, I was like a regular dude, you know what I’m saying? I was a Kool Herc follower – I was a loyal follower, I would’ve followed Kool Herc to the edge of the Earth.”

“Yo, Herc was unstoppable back then”, said D.J. EZ Mike – who alongside Disco Bee, were Grandmaster Flash’s left and right hand men, they helped Flash develop his quick-mix theories and rock shows back in the day. “Back then, no one could touch Herc and his system – it was just that powerful.”

Disco Bee

Disco Bee

Disco Bee concurs, “The first time I heard Kool Herc, I used to always hear his music, I used to live in these apartments and I would hear this loud ass music. We used to go to the park and we would hear his @#%$ from three or four blocks away! We would hear this sound coming out of the park. You’d be like ‘what is that sound?’ You’d hear (Disco Bee imitates the sound of the drums) ‘shoooop, shoooop, donk, donk, shooooop. You wouldn’t hear any bass until you started getting closer. But you could hear his music from very far. And you’d know that Kool Herc was in the park. We used to go to Grant Ave. where Kool Herc would be giving block parties. We’d hear him while we’re coming up the street, we’re coming up from the 9 and we’d be coming up the steps and you’d hear his music on Grant Ave. It used to be crazy.”

“Herc had the recognition, he was the big name in the Bronx back then”, explains AJ. “Back then the guys with the big names were: Kool D, Disco King Mario, Smokey and the Smoke-a-trons, Pete DJ Jones, Grandmaster Flowers and Kool Herc. Not even Bambaataa had a big name at that time, you know what I’m sayin?”

According to Herc’s own account, he was the man back then. “Hands down the ’70’s were mine”, he said. “Timmy Tim is the one that bought me ‘Bongo Rock’, and I made it more popular. He bought me that album, and after I heard that album I said to Coke “Listen to this @#%$ here man! We used that record and that was what kicked off my format called the ‘merry go round”.

“Pete D.J. Jones was basically a whole other level”, says AJ. “He played disco music, and Herc played b-boy music, you know what I’m sayin?”

Mark Skillz: “So, when you say he played ‘disco’ music what do you mean? Give me an example of a record that Pete Jones might play.

AJ: Ok, he played things like ‘Love is the Message’ and ‘Got to Be Real’ – stuff like that; he played stuff with that disco pop to it. He didn’t play original break-beats like what Kool Herc was on. He played like a lot of radio stuff. That’s what Pete D.J. Jones did – that’s what made him good. I mean he had a sound system but he played a lot of radio stuff. Kool Herc played the hardcore @#%$ you ain’t ever hear: Yellow Sunshine, Bongo Rock and Babe Ruth – a whole variety of stuff; James Brown ‘Sex Machine’, you know the version with the ‘Clap your hands, stomp your feet?’

Before hip-hop was a multi-billion dollar a year industry, it was a sub-culture. All of the elements were coming into place, sort of being cooked like a stew, in a melting pot: a spoonful of funk, a fistful of bass, a heap of raw energy, all cut up on a platter with a dash of angel dust.

The Battleground

Deep in the heart of the Bronx located on Mt. Eden and Jerome was one of the first indoor hip hop spots. The owners of the venue probably gave it other names over the years but the two most popular ones were the Sparkle and the Executive Playhouse.

AJ Scratch

AJ Scratch

“It was real dark [in the Executive Playhouse]”, remembers AJ, “it wasn’t really like put together, it had a little stage, it had like a little miniature light show, you know what I’m sayin’, it was like a low budget venue. Right around the corner from the Executive Playhouse was the Parkside Plaza – that was a disco. The Executive Playhouse was something that maybe the guys went into the Parkside Plaza and got the idea to open up a club. So they went right around the corner on Mt. Eden and Jerome and opened up the Executive Playhouse – maybe they had the idea, but it wasn’t comparable with the Parkside Plaza. You go in there [the Executive Playhouse] and would be looking around, and you probably wouldn’t wanna go to the bathroom, because of the lighting, you know what I’m saying? There were lights but it was dim. That was hip-hop back then everything was dimmed out.”

The drug of choice back then was weed sprinkled with PCP – the ‘dust heads’ and the stick-up kids were all over the place, “That was the vibe back then”, declared AJ “and you wanted to be a part of that. The lights, the breaks, the dancing, them talking on the mike with the echo – that was hip-hop back then. You would go through anything just to hear Kool Herc’s performance. Kool Herc was special back then. It didn’t matter what the venue was like. It was what he displayed the night of the show; he did his thing.”

The Protégé

By day Pete Jones was an English teacher in Brooklyn. However, at night, Pete taught another set of students a whole other set of skills.

“I had several young guys that came around me trying to learn the deejay business”, explains Mr. Jones, “Magic Mike, Herby Herb and a lot of others, but none of them could figure out how to hook my system up. Except for one guy: Lovebug Starski. He went everywhere with me.”

Lovebug Starski

Lovebug Starski

Lovebug Starski was one of the few deejays of that time that could play for either a hard-core hip-hop crowd with an underground deejay like Kool DJ AJ or for the adult audience’s downtown with Pete Jones or in Harlem with D.J. Hollywood. His original mentor was his stepfather Thunderbird Johnny, a man who ran after hour spots uptown in Harlem. Starski was one of the few cats that could rock the mike and the wheels of steel at the same time.

But Pete had another protégé whose talent was immeasurable. In fact, he would forever change the skill set necessary to be a deejay. He was one-part scientist another part electronics wizard who possessed a sense of timing that was not of this world.

“One of the baddest deejays I ever saw was Grandmaster Flowers”, Jones says, “He could blend. He was a mixer. The things he did with records were incredible. He could hold a blend like you wouldn’t believe. He was the baddest thing I had ever saw.” That was until he saw a young man that had grown up in the Hoe Ave section of the South Bronx.

He was named Joseph at birth, called Joey in the neighborhood but would later gain fame under another name, a name which was partly inspired by a comic book hero. E-Z Mike, his best friend since childhood remembers it like this, “He got the name Flash because he was fast at everything he did. When we played basketball as kids, none of us could keep up with him. No matter what we did, he was always faster than the rest of us. He could outrun us all.” Later a local guy named Joe Kidd gave him the title of Grandmaster.

Before he became the Grandmaster Flash of legend, he was a student of Pete DJ Jones’. Friends described him as being intense, “When that guy caught the deejay bug real bad around 1973, we didn’t know what was happening”, said E-Z Mike, “He had a messenger job”, Mike continues, “He would get paid and by the next day – he would be broke. We’d be like, ‘Yo, where’s all of your money?’ He spent it all on records.”

From 1973 to 1977 Flash and his crew which first consisted of Mean Gene, Disco Bee and E-Z Mike and then later Cowboy, Mele Mel, Creole and Scorpio, were struggling to gain a foothold in the Bronx scene. But they could not get around Kool Herc. He was a giant.

“We’d try and get on Herc’s system”, Mike recalls, “But Herc wasn’t going for it. Flash would ask, “Could I get on?” and Herc would be like ‘Not”. You see back then”, Mike explains, “Nobody wanted Flash to touch their system. They’d be like, “Hell no, you be messing up needles and records and @#%$.” Both Disco Bee and E-Z Mike agree that Herc used to publicly embarrass Flash on the mike by talking ‘really greasy’ about him.

There have been many stories told about Flash’s early sound system, both EZ Mike and Disco Bee confirm that although Flash was an electronic wizard (E-Z Mike says, “Flash could build a TV from scratch”), his first system was the technological equivalent of a ’75 hoopty.

Disco Bee recalls that, “Flash built his own cueing system. Anything he could think of Flash would try to invent it”, Disco Bee laughs, “His system looked so raggedy, awww man, we had some raggedy junk. We were soldering stuff together right before we’d get ready to play, because he just built this thing, and he didn’t finish it. We used to get to a spot early and set up everything and he would be soldering stuff trying to get it to work. Man, we had some raggedy stuff.”

“Awww man this is gonna make you laugh”, E-Z Mike says, “Flash had these two speakers that he built from scratch, they were about six and a half feet tall, they were wood, he had three speakers in each one and on the top he put a piece of plastic with Christmas lights on the inside of it, so that when he deejayed the top of the speaker would be lighting up. Then he took white plastic and wrapped it around the wood – so that the speakers wouldn’t look like they were wood. We didn’t have any bass – there was no bass whatsoever. Just mids and highs”, Mike remembers.

The only person willing to give Flash a break was Pete Jones.

“The first time I met Pete was when I went with Flash to ‘Pete’s Lounge’. Like I said, Flash had gotten real serious about this deejay stuff and he would hook up with Pete and learn a lot of @#%$ from him.”

It must’ve been on one of these meetings at Pete’s Lounge that Flash and Pete plotted against Kool Herc.

A Sound Clash on the West Side of Jerome Ave.

Pete DJ Jones

Pete DJ Jones

“When I battled Pete, it wasn’t even a battle, it was telling my audience, what you think you gettin’? And you tried disrespectin’ and all that; let’s see what the other side of the spectrum sound like by a guy by the name of Pete DJ Jones”, said Herc.

Jones remembers it a little differently, “I guess he was somehow down with the club, he was like the resident deejay [at the Executive Playhouse] and they wanted to get a big crowd, so I guess it was his idea to battle me.”

It was inevitable that the two masters would clash.

The way Herc describes Pete’s audience is as “The bourgeoisie, the ones that graduated from the little house parties, you grown now you out your momma’s house. You puttin’ on Pierre Cardin now, you wearing Halston, you getting’ into the Jordache and Sassoon era, you down there where Frankie Crocker hangs out at, places like Nell Gwynn’s, or the big spot, whadda ya call it? Oh yeah, Leviticus, you down there. ”

“I’d say it was a week before the battle”, Pete remembers, “When I was out one night, and I ran into the twins. They must’ve had some kind of falling out with Herc, cause they were real mad at him. They said, “I’ll tell you all of the records he’s gonna play”. And he wrote all of them out for me, right there on the street.”

The twins he was referring to were the Nigger Twins, a couple of dancers who were a part of Herc’s crew. “When they wrote out his playlist for me, they said, “He’s gonna play them in this order”, Pete recalls.

The night of the battle Pete had a few cards up his sleeve so he went on first. ‘I broke out all of the records that the twins told me about, and I played them in the order that he would play them in. The next thing I knew I saw him walking around talking on the mike saying, “It sounds like I’m listening to a tape of myself.” He sounded real frustrated. I figured if I went first and played what he was gonna play, it would look like to the crowd he wasn’t doing anything different. That was the edge I had over him that night.”

But Herc’s followers were a devoted bunch.

After Pete played Herc went on and he dug deep into his playlist for the rarest of records.

“That was Kool Herc’s venue, the Executive Playhouse was a place that he played at constantly, so maybe they was using Pete to get a little extra audience. But Pete had notoriety. Kool Herc was big back then, he was probably number one in the Bronx.” Remembers AJ. “No matter if he took his playlist or not that doesn’t matter.”

AJ – a man who is well into his 40’s is still a devout practitioner of the ‘keep it real’ mentality. “Nah, Pete didn’t get the edge over Kool Herc”, AJ says, “You know why I think he got the edge over Kool Herc to be honest with you. This is only my opinion: Pete DJ Jones was a deejay but he was mad lazy yo. Pete DJ Jones used to hire dudes to come and play for him. The Executive Playhouse was not Pete’s kind of crowd. It wasn’t that he was a lazy dude it just wasn’t his crowd. It wasn’t Nell Gwynn’s or Nemo’s, it wasn’t downtown, so he wasn’t comfortable, so he put on the people that could rock that kind of crowd.”

After Herc played it was Pete’s turn again, this time he played his R&B and funk records – but the crowd wasn’t feeling it. So he pulled out a couple of ringers, in the form of his protégés: Lovebug Starski and Grandmaster Flash.

“Flash tore Herc’s ass up that night”, remembers E-Z Mike. “When it came crunch time to see what was what: Pete put Grandmaster Flash on”, remembers AJ. That was the first time I ever saw Flash play. The people were amazed. You see, Flash was a deejay, he was doing all that quick-mixing and spinning around and stuff – the Bronx lost its mind that night because we had never seen anything like that before.”

To the crowd of hundreds it looked like Pete Jones was winning. No one knew who Grandmaster Flash was that night. He was an unknown deejay playing on the set of one of the most popular jocks of that time. People yelled and screamed because it was the first time that they had seen a deejay with a magician’s flair for showmanship. Nobody played like that before. Kool Herc would haphazardly drop the needle on the record – sometimes the break was there, often times it wasn’t. Pete Jones could mix his ass off – but he wasn’t entertaining to watch. Both men had huge sound systems, but they weren’t charismatic spinners. Flash was.

On this night, the crowd at the Executive Playhouse was entranced with Flash’s spinning techniques, which were really revolutionary at this time. He had perfected a new technique called the ‘backspin’.

E-Z Mike remembers the first time Flash did the backspin: “He spent the night at my house, he woke up out of his sleep and turned the equipment on, it was like 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. The first record he did it with was Karen Young’s “Hotshot” and he backspun it a bunch of times, and then turned to me and said “Yo, remember that and remind me about it when I wake up.” And he jumped back in his bed. When he woke up the next morning, he did it again.”

One could only imagine that night at the Executive Playhouse in front of hundreds of stunned spectators Flash cutting ‘Hotshot’ to pieces:

“Hot shot, hot shot, hot…hot shot hot shot hot…hot shot. Hot shot. Hot shot…hot…hot…hot.

“You know what at that battle, Flash showed the Bronx that he was for real”, said AJ. By Herc’s own admission by 1977 he was on the decline. Whether or not it had anything to do with him getting stabbed at the Executive Playhouse is open to speculation. What is a fact though, is that after this battle between two of the biggest stars of the era the name Grandmaster Flash was no longer relegated to a small section of the Bronx. His fame spread like wildfire throughout the city. According to more than just one person interviewed for this story, the long-term effects of the battle on Kool Herc were not good. In the weeks proceeding the battle Herc’s audience got smaller and smaller. They were leaving the Executive Playhouse for another hotspot: The Dixie, which was the home of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four.

Soon The Dixie would become so crowded that by 4 a.m. when the house was still packed the only way they could get people out of there was by playing Jackie Wilson’s “Work Out”, but the fly girls and b-boys would still want to party, “We’d put that record on”, said Disco Bee, “And you’d look out on the floor and folks would be doing the Twist”.

The battle between Kool Herc and Pete Jones was also a pivotal moment in time because previous to it battles were all about equipment, records and who moved the crowd – Grandmaster Flash added the next dimension: showmanship. This was at a time when the sound system was king. Breakout and Baron had Sasquatch. D.J. Divine had the Infinity Machine, Kool Herc had the Herculords and Grandmaster Flash would later have a system called the Gladiator. Today’s deejays know nothing of sound systems; even fewer know how to hook one up.

Mark Skillz says peace, respect and special thanks to Jeff Chang, Davey D, Christie Z Pabon, Cindy Campbell, Kool Herc, Kool DJ AJ, E-Z Mike, KC the Prince of Soul, JT Hollywood, Pete Jones, Charlie Ahearn for the photos and Disco Bee.

Hip Hop History: Eddie Cheba & DJ Hollywood -The ‘Disco Side’ of Hip Hop

Eddie Cheba FlyerWhen looking at Hip Hop its important to note that it didn’t evolve in a vacuum… Much of it’s music, vocal and dance expressions have always been around and central to other genres. To a large degree these genres have overlapped and informed many within Hip Hop…

We sat down and spoke with writer/historian Mark Skillz, who explained that there is no doubt that folks were deejaying before Kool Herc did his first party August 11th 1973. There is no doubt there were Jamaican style sound systems, before Herc came along that were redefining parties and club audio sound scapes throughout New York in particular Brooklyn and Queens.

Skillz noted that there were a number of deejays who played in older adult oriented nightclubs, then called disco who were creating new ways to play records as well as experimenting with rhyming over records. Hip Hop comes on the scene just as these activities were unfolding and not only adds to the stew in some very unique and exciting ways (ie introducing break beats), but also reaches and inspires a new generation of people who had been written off and had little access to these clubs..

With that being said to discount the influence and contributions of what many like to describe as Disco deejays is to do a grave disservice, especially when you consider that many of these folks interacted and would eventually be solidly aligned with Hip Hop music and culture. In the article below  Mark Skillz sheds some light on Hip Hop’s Disco side as he spotlights two important pioneering figures.. Eddie Cheeba and DJ Hollywood.

We did a recent interview with Mark Skillz who elaborated on points he raised his article including how the term ‘disco’ was applied to any and all Black music.. It was usually done as a pejorative. He noted that popular deejays who catered to an older audience, like  Eddie Cheeba, DJ Hollywood, Pete DJ Jones, Reggie Wells  and many others etc played Black, R&B music. It wasn’t a whole lot of sounds that we associate with the John Travolta movie Saturday Night Fever.  The style of rhyming done by folks like Cheeba and Hollywood were done over the instrumentals of popular R&B songs vs percussion driven break beats. The style and cadence were more like radio announcers puking vs the straight ahead raw style of emceeing heard in the parks and at block parties that would define Hip Hop..

We also caught up with DJ Hollywood a few years ago who along with DJ Kool Herc and Kurtis Blow talked about the pioneering days of Hip Hop. Hollywood talks about how he was rhyming over records as far back as 1969.. We encourage folks to listen to both interviews as you read the article which originally ran in Wax Poetic..

-Davey D-

Mark skillz brown-225

Download-Intv w/ Mark Skillz

Cheeba, Cheeba Y’all!
“Let’s take a trip,
Back into the past,
When the rappers had no records
And the deejays were fast.
When the great Kool Herc lead the Hevalo pack,
And Hollywood and Cheba rocked the Diplomat…”

‘AJ Is Cool’ by Kurtis Blow

Cheeba, Cheeba Y’all: Original House Rocker Eddie Cheba

The Fishtail Bar in the Bay Watch Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is right out back over looking the beach. Dozens of families are crowded in several swimming pools trying to beat the heat. Overhead the sound system is playing the dance hall reggae classic ‘Level the Vibes‘ by Half Pint. On the surface it appears to be the most unlikely place to meet a former ghetto celeb and rap innovator. But then again it is.

Decked out in a white and green short set with matching jersey, is a middle-aged man who many would find likable. His easy-going personality mixed with his affable charm makes him the kind of guy you’d want to share a drink and swap stories with. But it’s the stories that this man with droopy eyes and a raspy voice would tell that could make you look at him cross-eyed while sipping your Long Island Iced Tea. That is unless you’re up on your hip-hop history.

Way before the bling era and rappers rubbing shoulders with the likes of Donald Trump and Paris Hilton in the Hamptons, and definitely before multi-million dollar deals, ring tones, clothing lines and sneaker endorsements, rap was the music of ghetto Black New York. That means you didn’t hear it too far beyond the infamous five boroughs.

Almost jumping out of his seat he says to me, “Most guys back then, only got $175 or $150 with a sound system to play a gig. You know what I’m sayin’? We got $500 for an hour – without a sound system.” All the while he’s tapping me on the shoulder in between sips of a Heineken. “And you’d be happy that you got that hour!” He says to me with the cockiness of a used car salesman. “We’d do one hour over here, jump in our cars and head out to Queens or Hempstead, Long Island and do an hour out there.”

That was in 1977 when the cost of living was different and so was the cost of the best deejay in New York.

Ladies and Gentlemen: meet, Eddie Cheba, who along with Mele Mel, Cowboy, Creole, Coke La Rock, Timmy Tim and DJ Hollywood is one of the founding fathers of rap.

In his day Cheba was a legend. At hot night clubbing spots like Small’s Paradise, Charles Gallery, Hotel Diplomat and Club 371, Cheba would shout into the mic: “Who makes it sweeter?” And the crowd of hundreds would shout back “Cheeba, Cheeba, Cheeba!

He is credited with creating the old school rhyme: “It’s on and on and on and on and on like the hot butter on the what?” And if you were in the club and ‘in the know’, you knew to holler back: “Popcorn!” “We had a book of ’em”, he told me in reference to the call and response tactics that he and his friend, partner and sometime rival, DJ Hollywood came up with.

The call and response style (back then called ‘house rockin‘) that MC’s/DJ’s like Busy Bee, Kid Capri, Doug E Fresh, Kurtis Blow and Biz Markie are notorious for can be traced back to the smooth style of guys like Lovebug Starski, DJ Hollywood and Eddie Cheba.

On this day Eddie is in an upbeat mood because Tuff City Records is re-releasing the only recording Eddie ever did, a disco rap work out called ‘Looking Good (Shake Your Body)‘. A song which was originally recorded for Tree Line Records in 1980, and was backed by the owners of Club 371, it will be a part of an old school rap compilation.

Cheba’s raspy- voiced, call and response style made a special impact out in Long Island, with some college kids that called themselves ‘Spectrum Sound‘, the group would later be known as Public Enemy.

“Eddie Cheba was as important to hip-hop/rap as Ike Turner was to rock n roll”, Chuck D front man for Public Enemy informed me, “nowhere does he get his due credit for spreading it from the BX to [make it more] accessible [to] heads [outside of Harlem and the Bronx]. Cheba and Hollywood simply infiltrated the over 18 college adult bracket that simply hated on the art form. They put a bowtie on hip-hop at that time to get it through. Cheba commanded the audience with voice and a great sense of timing. These cats used rap to set up records like no other. His synergy with Easy G his deejay was simply… telepathic.”

“Now mind you”, says an emphatic Kurtis Blow, a rap pioneer in his own right, ‘let’s not get it twisted okay: Cheba was before DJ Hollywood. On that side of the family tree we have Pete DJ Jones who was the first real disco street deejay with emcee’s JJ Disco the King, KC the Prince of Soul and JT Hollywood – these guys were just announcers…the next level was the crowd response which was Eddie Cheba’s thing, he was the master of the crowd response. He had routines, he had girls – the Cheba Girls, he had little routines and he did it with a little rhythm ya know: ‘Throw your hands in the air, everybody now, we don’t need no music, come on y’all say it, so just clap your hands everybody and everybody body clap your hands! If you’re not too skinny or not too fat everybody say and ya know that!” Eddie was mad sick with the crowd response he was a master!”

As I think back on other names that rung out loud on the streets back then I ask Eddie about:

Ron Plummer: “Awww man, Plummer gave Pete Jones hell with those refrigerator sized speakers.”

Maboya: “He used to play reggae. He was one of the first ones out there to play reggae. At that time rap and reggae were not accepted – you’d play that stuff and people would turn around and look at you.”

The Smith Brothers: “They were older than us, they had an older clientel, but their sound system was good.”

But it’s the name DJ Hollywood that Cheba’s name is almost synonymous with. For many their names are almost linked together like Salt and Pepper, Butch and Sundance or Martin and Lewis. Can’t have one without the other. They were Uptown royalty when Cam’ Ron and Jim Jones were in Pampers.

Back Like Cadillac’s and Brim Hats

Edward Sturgis was born and raised in Harlem, New York’s Douglas Projects, home to such alums as Kenny Smith, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and fellow deejay Reggie Wells. Originally a music major Eddie got involved with funk and soul bands, but soon grew tired of the instability that goes with being in a group. He soon found that his love for music could be expressed another way: with turntables and records.

“My sister’s boyfriend Thomas was one of the first people I ever saw really mix music in a smooth way. I mean he knew how to keep the beat going, you know what I mean?” Eddie says to me while taking a drag off of his cigarette. “I said to myself ‘I wanna do that!”

Soon the Brandice High School student was spending hours a day practicing on his turntables. “I was completely locked into it. My girlfriend, who is my wife now, a date for us back then was, her sitting on my bed reading her books while I practiced.”

By 1974 he got so good at spinning records that he was able to quit his job at Bankers Trust and really concentrate on deejaying, “The money was flowing in.” He says to me with a sly smile.

On the way down the path to being a ghetto celeb he played in Uptown’s hottest spots: Charles Gallery, Hotel Diplomat (which on some nights attracted a white audience and was called LeJardin) and Wilt’s Small’s Paradise. “In 1972 when Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali at the Garden, he came to Small’s Paradise after the fight to hang out. I have a picture of me and him at Small’s.”

The Sound Systems in the Park

At the same time that Eddie was perfecting his craft in Harlem there was a whole other scene jumping off in the Bronx. This crowd was younger, rougher and rowdier.

“There were two different crowds”, says Kurtis Blow, who’s classic recording ‘The Breaks’ was the second 12′ inch record to be certified gold. “Grandmaster Flash calls them the shoe people and the sneaker people.”

Blow, a Harlem native, is a student of both the R&B style of guys like Pete Jones and Hollywood and the hardcore b-boy approach of the Kool Herc followers. In fact with his deep, booming bass voice and crisp enunciation Kurtis’ style was the perfect blend between Harlem’s smooth R&B chic and Bronx b-boy cool.

At the parties that guys like Eddie, Grandmaster Flowers, Pete DJ Jones, the Disco Twins and the Smith Brothers would play at, songs like ‘Do it Anyway You Wanna‘, “I Got My Mind Made Up‘, ‘All Night Thing‘, ‘Pipeline‘ and ‘Soul Makossa‘ would rock crowds of hundreds of the 21 and over crowd. Men came to the party wearing dress shoes, suits and slacks and women wore dresses.

Kool Herc, Flash, Breakout, Kool DJ AJ, Disco King Mario, Bambaataa and others rocked the teenage b-boy crowds. Their crowds would come in packs of 15 to 20 strong, wearing sneakers, jeans, hats and silver chains. They couldn’t wait to hear their favorite deejay play obscurities like ‘Give it to Me‘, ‘Champ‘, ‘Mardi Gras‘, ‘Synthetic Substitution‘, ‘Hit or Miss‘ and many other unknown records that were worshipped by this cult following.

The slight exception was in Harlem at the Renaissance Ballroom, or the ‘Renny‘ as it was called, where a promoter named Willie Gums had a thing called the ‘Rolls Royce Movement‘, “That was Lovebug Starski’s thing right there”, says Kurtis Blow. “It was the Sapphire Crew: Donald Dee and B Fats that was their thing. That was hip-hop with class. They were young people but they got dressed up for these parties. I think D.J. Hollywood might’ve played there once.”

“Kool Herc and them played in the park. We were blessed to be able to play in clubs,” Eddie says to me. “If you think about it anybody could play in a park; little kids were in the park. There was no money playing in parks. Either the cops was coming to tell you to turn it down or they were gonna unplug you from the light pole or there was gonna be a shootout or something. I played in clubs where people drank champagne and came to have fun. Besides, the park was dangerous”, Eddie says to me while looking from side to side. “You got five niggas over there drinkin’ talkin’ ’bout fuckin’ you up. Would you wanna be there?”

The Man With The Golden Voice

Before anyone could claim the title of King of New York, there was the original ‘King of Rap’: DJ Hollywood. On the streets of New York in the 70’s, Wood (as he is sometimes called) was the quintessential man. He was the first deejay to play multiple spots in one night and collect a fee of $500 per appearance. According to Cheba, “Hollywood would call ahead to Club 371 [after playing at other spots around the city] and say, “I’m on my way, have my envelope ready.”

He was a rap star before there were any records. The history of the mixtape game can be traced back to him. He used to sell 8 track tapes of his mixes for ten or fifteen bucks a pop way back in 1972. He sang, he rapped, he did vocal impressions and crowd participation. On the rap tip in the 70’s no one could touch him.

Download Intv w/ DJ Hollywood

“Hollywood was ‘all city’ he could play anywhere he wanted in the city back then”, says Kurtis Blow. “Hollywood, had a golden voice, he had a round and fat voice, he had tonality, tonality almost like a singer – he had singing routines where he would sing, “Got a word from the wise, just to tranquilize, your mind your body and soul. We got a brand new rhythm now, and we’re gonna let it take control. Come on y’all let’s do it. Let’s do it’… that was Hollywood, he was the master at the crowd response but his voice…” Kurtis pauses excitedly looking for the right words and when he finds them he says, ‘his voice was golden like a God almost – that’s why I wanted to be an MC!”

DJ Hollywood “If you went out to a club – you had to go to Club 371 to hear this cat. Hollywood was the talk of the town”, an animated Kurtis Blow says to me. “Everybody was losing their minds, he had skits like ‘Throw your hands in the air, and wave ’em like ya just don’t care. And if you got on clean underwear, somebody say ‘Oh yeah!’ And the crowd would shout back: Oh yeah! Hollywood had the golden voice, the chants the rhythm. The first rhythmic rhymes I ever heard …a cat say during the hip-hop days – we’re talking about the ’70’s. I’m not talking about the ’60’s or anything before that because rap has been around for a long time. We’re talking about the first rhymes that I ever heard DJ Hollywood say were:

“I’m bonnified, I’m celitified and I’m qualified to do,
I say anything your heart can stand,
It all depends on you.
I’m listed in the yellow pages,
All around the world,
I got 21 years experience with loving sweet young girls…”

During an early morning phone interview Hollywood related the story of his discovery to me. “One day in 1975, I was at home playing records, and one of the records I pulled out was the “Black Moses” album. It was not popular at the time. So, there I was listening to this album, and I put on a song called “Good Love 69969”. Isaac Hayes was singing this part that went “I’m listed in the yellow pages, all around the world; I got 30 years experience in loving sweet young girls.” That record stopped me dead in my tracks. You see, before that record I had been doing nursery rhymes. But after that record: I was doing rhymes. And not only was I doing rhymes but I was talking about love. This was another level.”

In a reflective mood the one time King of Rap recalled the next events.”I thought to myself, what if I take what he’s doing and put it with this? What would I get? I got fame, that’s what I got. I got more famous than I could ever imagine. Everybody bit that rhyme. I would go to jams and people would be saying that rhyme, and none of them, not one of them, knew where it came from. It blew my mind.”

“I knew of Hollywood cause we were both from Harlem.” Eddie remembers. “Back in the day when Hollywood would play at the Apollo Theatre the marquee would say: “The Spinners, Black Ivory, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and D.J. Hollywood”. He was that large.”

But Eddie wanted the spot light too.

“I was sitting in my room one day when I came up with my rhyme. I wrote it out in a notebook it went.

About a while ago and I want you to know, just who you been listening to. Just listen to me now, while I tell you how, who I am, and what I do. I’m 5’9 and a half, bow legged as you ever wanna see. Just look up on the stage baby doll, I’m talking about little old me. It’s Cheba girl and I’m so glad that you came around. So we can spend some time together maybe even mess around.

Very quickly, like Hollywood’s rap, Eddie’s rap was eagerly consumed by other deejays, whom very soon, had no knowledge of the raps origin either. ASCAP and BMI were not looking for rappers back then, and rappers were no more aware of ASCAP and BMI then they were about words like ‘publishing’, ‘writing credit’, ‘points’ and ‘royalties’. This was before records.

“Before Club 371 I was playing at a spot called “A Bunch of Grapes” this was on the East side of 125th St. You see back then, the only people that were hip to my shit were the hustlers that went to the after hours spots. That’s where my rep started at was with the hustlers.” Said DJ Hollywood.

Every other rapper today fantasizes about knowing or being somehow connected with a notorious gangster, back in the day – Nicky Barnes was that gangster. Wood played for some of the most notorious figures of the ’70’s and ’80’s, chief among them was Guy Fisher. It was Fisher who owned and operated the Apollo Theatre as a legitimate front. It was at the Apollo that Hollywood gained his rep for providing entertainment between acts for some of the biggest stars of the era, and often times he overshadowed them.

Guy Fisher was no stranger to the hip-hop set back then. Many an old timer tell stories of the days when Fisher, Bats Ross and other members of Nicky Barnes’ old crew would frequent hip-hop spots like the Hevalo and check out Kool Herc and Coke La Rock.

At the very mention of Fisher’s name Eddie becomes visibly uncomfortable. “Yes, Wood worked for Guy Fisher and them, those were Nicky Barnes’ people. I didn’t want to have anything to do with those people.” He tells me. “Yeah sure, we did parties for them, but that was it! They were nice guys outside of their business, but I didn’t want to play for them that much.”

“Why is that?” I ask.

“Because see, Hollywood might show up to Club 371 at two, three o’clock in the morning. Sometimes he didn’t show up at all. You couldn’t do that kind of shit with people like that because they would come and get you – and throw you in a bag or something.”

Havin’ Fun at Club 371

Sometime in 1978 a group of gentlemen called the Ten Good Guys wanted to expand their Bronx disco. It was called Club 371. They got DJ Hollywood to play there after seeing the impact of what he was doing in 1975 at the club ‘A Bunch Of Grapes’. Hollywood had been playing at 371 for at least three years before the owners decided to expand the club.

“Hollywood was packing em in, they had lines around the corner. They built a part two, which was called the ‘House of Glass’. They talked to Reggie Wells and we made a deal and they came to get me.”

It was at Club 371 that Eddie Cheba would meet Hollywood.

“It was Hollywood and his deejay Junebug downstairs and me, Reggie Wells and my deejay EZ Gee upstairs. I’m telling you, we had them people running up and down those steps all night long.” Eddie recalls. “My deejay EZ Gee played with me when it was time for me to rap, [that’s when] he’d take over. I used to rent out a loft so that we could practice our routines. God sent EZ Gee to me.”

“371 was one of the greatest clubs of all time in the Bronx, New York, it was the first black owned club in New York to gross over a million dollars in one year and this was back in 1979, when they charged six or seven dollars to get in the door.” Eddie asserts. “They cleared a million dollars at the door – not to say how much they cleared under the table. This was one of the greatest clubs of all time: Eddie Cheba, Reggie Wells, Junebug and DJ Hollywood at Club 371 that’s where all the fame and fortune came from.”

“Everybody came to Club 371”, Hollywood recalls, “If you came in from out of town, people would be like, you gotta go here – it was like no other!”

Any old time Club 371 regular will tell you that the original chant that Big Bank Hank from the Sugar Hill Gang used in ‘Rapper’s Delight’ went: “Hotel/Motel/Holiday Inn, if you don’t tell then I won’t tell, but I know where you been!” 98.7 KISS-FM mix master Reggie Wells told me the origin of the chant had something to do with the Courtesy in New Jersey and people sneaking around after the club let out.

The club did so well that the owners went to great lengths to take care of their deejays. Reggie Wells remembers the money being so good at 371 that “all of the deejays had caddy’s back then.”

“Hollywood needed a car and didn’t have a license, so they bought him a Caddy and got him a license by sliding somebody at the DMV some money.” Eddie laughs while recalling the time. “They really took care of us.”

Reflecting on his heyday Eddie told me, “I had everything I shopped at AJ Lester’s. I was walked into any club in the city – I always got in free. Champagne? I got bottles of it wherever I went. If I walked down 125th St. in Harlem, people would see me and walk up to me and want to shake my hand or ask me for an autograph. If I had someplace to go I called a car service [Godfather’s, Touch of Class and OJ’s] and they would be there to pick me up. I’d say wait here until I’m done and they would. I used to sell my tapes for $20 a pop. People would be reserving tapes weeks in advance. Godfather’s and OJ’s and them used to sell my tapes. They would have a customer in a car and would be playing my stuff, the customer would be like ‘Who’s that?’ They’d say that’s Eddie Cheba. I was one of the top deejays in the city.

Like Butch and Sundance

“Me and Hollywood became really good friends. We worked together as well, but we were also friends. We used to go to after hour’s spots all over the city together and sit, drink and talk into early in the morning. We were close man.” Eddie said to me.

Soon a partnership was born. “At one point they were called DJ-Eddie-Hollywood-Cheba”, laughs Kurtis Blow.

“Let me tell you how large I got.” Eddie says as he leans back in his seat and exhales a cloud of cigarette smoke above his head. “One night we were playing in Queens at the La Chalet on Hillside Ave. Anyway, these brothers were outside shooting at each other. I mean it was a real shootout. Me and my crew, the Cheeba Crew, pulled up when all of this is going on. We were like, ‘Shit, we ain’t getting’ out of the car!’ Somebody went inside and got on the mike and said, ‘Yo y’all stop all that shit. Eddie Cheba is outside right now and he says he ain’t coming in until y’all stop that shit.” Well, the next thing we know, they drop their guns and go inside.” Eddie says to me with an amazed look on his face, “these niggas stopped shooting at each other because they wanted to hear us play.”

The partnership of Hollywood and Cheba made them the two most popular Black deejays in the city. And the best paid. “Hollywood had no problem asking for whatever he wanted.” Eddie remembers. “He could be really arrogant. He had no problem at all blowing people off. I mean Wood was really arrogant. When we first started to play together, I was afraid to ask for more money. Wood would say ‘Say you want $500.” I’d be like, “I don’t know.” Wood would say that he was getting $500, so I’d go in there and say I wanted $500 too.”

As close as the two were they didn’t play everywhere together. Eddie played in midtown clubs such as the Pegasus, Captain Nemo’s, Nell Gwynn’s, Leviticus, the Tunnel, Cork and the Bottle and the Executive Suite. But it was at Charles Gallery that Eddie started to earn his rep.

“Charles Gallery was on some other shit”, Hollywood recalls, “Those guys in there were announcers, they would get on the mike and announce the next record and shit like that. I came in there with my rappin’ – they never heard anything like it before – they threw me out of there!”

Kurtis Blow described the Charles Huggins owned Charles Gallery as a classy spot for the 21 and over crowd. Men and women were dressed to the nines. Kurtis – and his then manager Russell Simmons first saw Eddie doing his thing there on a night called ‘Wild Wild Wednesday’s‘.

But Hollywood didn’t like those kinds of clubs. Nor did he like ghetto type clubs such as Disco Fever. “The Fever was a fuckin’ drug store”, Eddie shot back, “you could get anything you wanted at the Fever. Drugs were all over the place. Hollywood did not play the Fever – and he was arrogant about it too.” Eddie says while taking a drag off of his cigarette. “We used to say, ‘Yo Wood, you need to play the Fever.’ He would brush it off and say, ‘them niggas ain’t my kind of crowd.” Hollywood’s crowd were places that catered to an older black clientele such as the many clubs in the Bronx, Harlem and Queens.

“Me on the other hand I liked playing anywhere.” Eddie tells me.

A Young Russell Simmons

A Young Russell Simmons

It was while playing in clubs in Queens that Hollywood and Cheba would bump into an eager young promoter that called himself Russell Rush. “Every time we played in Queens in some place like… the Fantasia, Russell would be right outside waiting for us. He was a big fan of ours. He used to beg me, he’d be like “Yo Cheba, I’m throwing a party at so and so place, could you stop by and do a little something?” Hollywood would be very arrogant and would say things like ‘tell that nigga to go away’. I couldn’t do that. I’d say ‘Russell; I’m a little too expensive for what you’re trying to do. I’ll see what I can do.’ I couldn’t blow people off like Wood could.”

Out in Long Island, Hollywood and Cheba were the rap equivalent of the Beatles. According to Chuck D, “In 1979 the whole cowboy look was in [cowboy hats and boots] and Hollywood and Cheba pimped that!”

One night Eddie bought Furious Five lead MC Mele Mel with him to play a gig in Roosevelt. “When he brought Mele Mel with him it was like two voices from heaven,” Chuck D says, “back then, if you didn’t have a good voice you couldn’t ‘cut through inferior sound systems. These cats were flawless. Hearing them sold me on hip-hop as being a wonderful thing for my life.”

“The night I took Mele Mel with me, out to Long Island, I dunno, he was more reserved than usual. I had to give the nigga the mike and say, “here do your thing.” I knew the nigga was bad as a motherfucker. This was just before their record ‘Superrappin’ came out.” Said Eddie.

It was also during this time that he was introduced to a young man who was trying to make a name for himself on the rap scene.

“DJ Hollywood had a ‘disco son’ named DJ Smalls, we figured a way for me get my name out there was if I was the disco son of Eddie Cheba.” Said Kurtis Blow. Although Kurtis, who would later be known as the ‘King of Rap’, would see his own career eclipse that of both Hollywood and Eddie Cheba’s, is to this day still clearly a devoted fan.

At it’s root hip-hop is a competitive art form whether its MC’s going head to head on the mike, or deejay’s crossing swords on turntables, “I was the one that did all of the battling.” Cheba tells me, “Hollywood would not battle anybody. I battled everybody. I didn’t give a fuck. Wood was not into battling. The only person he battled was Woody Wood from Queens. And me and Lovebug Starski had to push him to battle that nigga to do it.”

“Why’s that?” I ask.

“Because that nigga was stealing everything that Wood was doing. Not only did he sound like Wood, but also he got his name from him and all of his rhymes too. I told him ‘Fuck that shit, you got to battle that nigga.’ The way Woody Wood was stealing from Hollywood was a damn shame.”

In any other business imitation is considered to be a form of flattery, but in the rap game even as far back as 1976, it was almost the equivalent of stealing a brother’s hubcaps.

“At one time there were about thirty to forty me’s out there”, Hollywood says to me sounding almost as irritated today about it as he was thirty years ago. “Everybody was saying the rhymes and when it would come time to say my name – they would take mine out and put theirs in. Woody Wood was one of them people.”

“So you battled him?” I asked.

“Yeah, I stepped on him too”, Wood said as confidently as Muhammad Ali in 1975, “at that time there wasn’t nobody that could get wit’ me. I was top dog back then. I had control of everything.”

The battle took place at the Hotel Diplomat, “It wasn’t really what you would call a battle”, Wood interjects, “He did his thing first and then I did mine. No one could beat me with the crowd response thing. Woody Wood was an imitator, his voice, his rhymes he did his pronunciations just like me.”

“We were on top.” Eddie says coolly, “I had battled everyone. But as much as Wood didn’t like to battle he’d always tell me: “Eddie, whatever you do: Never battle me.”

“I thought to myself, ‘What kind of shit is that for him to say?’ I had my own ego too you know. Little did I know…”

One night the two friends went head to head in a sound clash.

“I pulled out all stops this night at the Parkside Plaza. It was a battle for the title.” Eddie remembers. “Wood’s title was on the line. Wood did his thing, but even his people weren’t really feeling him on this night. And then I went on. I rocked the hell outta them people. At the end of the battle even Wood’s people were cheering for me, you know like his main man Captain Jack and all of them people. It took 45 minutes for the judges to make a decision. And they came back and gave the trophy to Hollywood. And that’s when it hit me: No wonder he said to never battle him, it was because he had it set up for him to win regardless. Hell, the trophy already had his name inscribed on it!”

“Nah, nah, nah, nah, it didn’t quite go down like that, Mark”, Hollywood tells me in between laughing.

“You see, it’s like this I was the top dog, couldn’t nobody touch me back then. Eddie did all of the battles. One night he kept going on and on saying, ‘I’m the king battler’ and this and that. He must’ve forgot who I was. He made that happen.” Wood said to me.
“Made what happen?” I ask.

“Yo man, he wouldn’t listen. The shit was already done. I didn’t know it was done. I told him, “Ok, but whatever you do never battle me. He wouldn’t listen.”

What Hollywood meant by it being ‘done’ was that at the time he got major love from all of the promoters back then, these were people that for many years had made good money from billing Hollywood all over the city. It was in their interest for Wood to emerge as the winner in any battle. Hollywood remembers the crowd response that night being about even, but to this day swears that he had no knowledge of the fix being in.

One Night at the Jamaica Armory

One day in October 1979 Eddie and his peers heard the sound that would forever alter the course of their lives: ‘Rapper’s Delight.’

“Hollywood and Starski, you would always hear them say ‘hip-hop-da-hippit-da-hibbit-to-da-hip-hip-a-hop ya don’t stop‘ and shit like that, they started it. I heard the song on the radio. I was mad when I first heard it. These people came from out of nowhere. We didn’t have the vision to see that records were the next level.” Eddie said as he thinks back to the time. ‘We were making so much money from deejaying that making records just wasn’t our thing. We couldn’t see it.”

What he didn’t know was that the first person that Sylvia Robinson approached to record ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was Lovebug Starski. Then she went to DJ Hollywood to see about he and Eddie making the record.

“One night and this was after ‘Rapper’s Delight’ had long been out and making money, Hollywood and I were at an after hours spot called ‘Poppa Dee’s‘ in Harlem. It was on 130th between 7th and Lenox Ave. I mean this was an exclusive spot. Only the hustlers could get in there – people with money. Anyway, so there we are drinking and talking and shit at like 3 o’clock in the morning when Hollywood turns to me and says, “Yeah man, she wanted me and you to do that record, but I turned her down.”

“I must’ve looked at him and said, ‘what record are you talking about?”

He said, “Yeah, Sylvia wanted us to do Rapper’s Delight first.” I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to knock him out of his seat. If I had done that record do you know what my life would be like today?”

‘Rapper’s Delight’ changed the direction of the rap movement forever. The days of guys running sections of the city or dominating the club scene were over. All you needed was a record to make a name.

It isn’t a stretch to believe that the Robinson’s wanted Hollywood and Cheba for their landmark recording, especially when you consider that both of the groundbreaking rap recordings The Fatback Band‘s (a group for whom Hollywood used to open for at the Apollo Theatre) ‘King Tim III (Personality Jock)‘ and the Sugar Hill Gang‘s ‘Rapper’s Delight‘ stylistically bore a serious resemblance to Hollywood and Cheba. Although Big Bank Hank got his rhymes from Grandmaster Caz his delivery was much closer to Hollywood’s than the Cold Crush Brothers lead MC.

One night at the Jamaica, Queens Armory the best deejays and emcees of that time got together for a jam. In some ways it was the end of an era. To this day cassette tapes of that night still circulate the streets. It was a star-studded affair; on the bill were DJ Divine and the Infinity Machine, Grandmaster Flash and his MC’s Mele Mel and Kurtis Blow, Lovebug Starski, DJ Hollywood, DJ Smalls, Eddie Cheba and DJ Easy Gee.

“…Like Earl the Pearl has got the moves, ya see Cheba Cheba has got the groove. Now ya heard the best and you’re ready to go, with the baddest deejay of all disco…”

Easy Gee bought in MFSB‘s classic ‘Love is the Message‘, cued up from the point where the sax and violins are building up to the point of climax. This was a record that guys like Hollywood, Eddie Cheba, Kool Kyle and many others knew well. It was a staple of their act. In some ways it was the main part. This was the song that showcased their skills the best. They could do their crowd participation thing, free style rhymes and party chants; all of it came together best over that song.

“Get ready now you might’ve heard on WBLS tomorrow night we gonna take the sugar out the hill at Harlem World. Sugar Hill and Eddie Cheba tomorrow night. But first we have some unfinished business to take care of right here in Jamaica…we’re gonna rundown a few of the things that we know we made famous…”

As the sax squealed and the organist rocked Eddie went into one of the many routines that made him a legend at that time.

“Go down go down go down go down, owww, go down… Get up close on the freak and shake like Jones is at its peak. Ya say who makes it sweeter? (Cheba, Cheba, Cheba)…You don’t care if I’m the one – cause all you wanna do is have some fun…”

At least for that one night it didn’t matter if there was a record selling in stores all over the country because it was the guys on the stage that night that were the real stars. It could almost be said that ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was what changed the relationship between deejay and MC. For years it was the deejays that the crowds of thousands came out to see, now because the MC’s rap could be heard on a record, the balance of power was about to change.

One by one each crew went up onstage at the Armory that night and showcased for the crowd in Queens the reasons that they were better than any group of upstarts, especially ones from across the Hudson. These guys were the originators of a new phenomenon; they were kings of a sub-culture in a time of innocence. Every empire has its time in the sun, but the sun sets on every kingdom.

Welcome Home

disco feverAs we walk outside to the front of the hotel, Eddie tells me some funny stories about the club Disco Fever. If only I could print those stories. We sit on the steps and talk some more while I wait on my ride.

“I rocked the shit out of the Sugar Hill Gang that night at Harlem World”, he told me. “I pulled out all stops, I made it difficult for them to come .. me. All they had was that one record – I had books and books of rhymes – they couldn’t fuck with me.”

In the mid-80’s to everyone’s surprise hip-hop started its ascent to becoming a dominant force in music. But Eddie was nowhere to be found.

“France was some shit”, he tells me “I was the man over there.”

Sometime in the early 80’s while he was the resident deejay at the club Broadway International, Eddie got the call that would change his life. He went over to France to compete in deejay competitions and spin at clubs. Judging by his descriptions of the clubs and the audiences it sounds like he spun for the jet set crowd. “These people drove Ferrari’s and wore tuxedo’s and expensive jewelry”, he said. All together he stayed in France for eight years.

“I was a New York deejay in Paris. I was a rare commodity over there. They were so far behind what we were doing over here – I beat all of them. I did TV commercials, I spun at the biggest clubs in the country.” Eddie says, “I was a celebrity. I lived in a nice house and drove a custom made Mercedes Benz.”

“So why did you leave?” I ask him.

“Because”, he says as he frowns up his face, “I got bored over there. My daughter was growing up not knowing any of my family. I had done everything I could over there. I won the world competition; I spun at some of the chicest clubs. I got tired of it all.”

But coming back home to New York was not easy. Everything had changed. “Hollywood was over”, Eddie said looking out at the clouds, “he was on 8th Avenue messing up. Kurtis was over, he was in L.A.; Club 371 was over. Just about all of the clubs that I had spun at were over. And rap was different. I couldn’t relate to it anymore. I had been in France, I wore French clothes, and I had been living in a nice house. I couldn’t relate anymore.”

As my wife pulls up we say our good byes. I give him CD’s of the Queens Armory Jam in 1979 and mix tapes from the boat rides that he, Hollywood and Lovebug Starski had done together in the late 90’s.

“Eddie”, I ask him, “one more thing, did you know that JB Moore and Rocky Ford wanted you to do the Christmas Rappin’ record?”

“Yeah, I heard about that”, he says to me with a touch of regret. “If I had done that record do you have any idea what my life would be like right now?”

Not that the man is starving: he owns a funeral business as well as a limousine and deejay service. By no means is the man hard up for a dollar. But who among us couldn’t use a nice little royalty check every now and then?

Eddie Cheba wants to send a special shout and a big fat ‘I love you’ to all of the fans that supported him from 1972 until this day. He can be reached at Special thanks to Van Silk, Kurtis BlowChuck D, Dianne, Reggie Wells and DJ Hollywood.

This feature originally ran in Wax Poetics please contact author for permission to use any part of this story.

Hip Hop History: Afrika Bambaataa Speaks on the Early Days of Hip Hop & the Zulu Nation

Zulu_Natio symbolNovember marks Hip Hop History Month and hence we wanna kick things off by highlighting the work and perspective of one of Hip Hop’s founding fathers Afrika Bambaataa and the Universal Zulu Nation who celebrate their 40th anniversary this year (2013) Included below are a couple of short clips from documentaries where Bam speaks about Hip Hop culture and Zulu Nation.. The last one is a long interview done by myself and writer Mark Skillz, where Bam opens up and gives an in-depth History lesson.. I also included an article written back in the 90s called From Gangs to Glory

Afrika Bambaataa breaks down the history of the Universal Zulu Nation this is from a BBC documentary!

In this interview Afrika Bambaataa gives an in depth look at what Hip Hop was like during the early days in the 1970s.. He talks about the importance of Funk Music.. He talks about the early gangs and the culture of violence. The forming of Zulu nation and the racial tensions that existed in NY as Hip Hop was forming.. Bambaataa also breaks down many of the myths surrounding early Hip Hop.


by – Davey D

afrika-Bambaataa-GangFirst thing we wanna do is offer up our congratulations to Hip Hop’s oldest and largest organization, the Universal Zulu Nation. They are set to celebrate their 29th Anniversary this weekend [November 8-10] where they will be paying tribute to soul music and funk music Godfathers, Sly Stone, James Brown, and George Clinton. They will also pay tribute to Hip Hop’s seminal figures Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa.. For those who are unfamiliar with the Zulu Nation, they began as an organization founded by Afrika Bambaataa at Stevenson High School in the Bronx. Back than it was simply known as ‘The Organization‘.

Bam who once lived the gang lifestyle and was a Gang Lord was trying to change his ways and saw the newly formed group as a way out. Bam who was known for reading and staying up on the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and other African American leaders, changed the name to Zulu Nation after watching a movie of the same name that told the tale of the well known South African tribe.. Bam was inspired by their resistance to Dutch settlers. As Hip Hop became popular, the group became known as the Mighty Zulu Nation and as later the Universal Zulu Nation.

The story behind the evolution of UZN is significant. Back in the days Zulu’s struck fear in many who lived outside of their Bronx River Housing Project strong hold. While they gave birth to Hip Hop’s first B-Boys and B-Girls, the group for the most part was made up of former gang members. Many of them from the Notorious Black Spades which once reigned terror throughout the Bronx in the early to mid 70s. It used to be a really big deal for cats to hang out at Bronx River and not get stuck up. It was a sign of toughness and brought much prestige.

Black spades jacket 2Many of the early crews tried to associate themselves with Zulu Nation for protection from roving bands of stick up kids and other gangs turned crew. It was in this backdrop that Bambaataa and other conscious brothers spent a lot of time teaching and preaching and working with Zulu members to bring about positive change. Bam often talks about how he would do simple things like bestow titles like ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ upon Zulu members in an attempt to instill pride and confidence. His feeling was that if you treated people like royalty then they would turn around and act like royalty in their actions. As Bam’s recording career blew up, he saw too it that many of folks who were from the streets got an opportunity to go on tour with him and the Soul Sonic Force. Sometimes they were employed as roadies. Other times they worked as security. Again Bam’s main objective was to see to it that local cats got a chance to see there was a much bigger world outside the Bronx.

Change didn’t happen over night, but today the testament to all that hard work is the fact that there are vibrant Zulu chapters in more than 20 countries all over the world with estimated membership of over 10 thousand. They have come to embrace and preserve Hip Hop’s key elements and have exemplified what is often considered Hip Hop’s 5th Element-‘Knowledge‘.

Afrika Bambaataa mohawkTo me the beauty of it all is seeing what was once considered a ‘ruthless gang’ evolve’ to a group that has strived and succeeded in serving the community. There are all sorts of stories about Zulus ridding their housing projects of drug dealers and many of the older guys spending time mentoring younger people. There are stories about Zulus escorting women to and from their apartments as well as looking out and helping those in need. This of course is in addition to various Zulu chapters that have involved themselves in local politics including the fight to Free Mumia and get him a new trial. We also can not overlook the fact that it was Zulu Nation members who put out some of Hip Hop’s first records as well as among the first to establish Hip Hop’s first radio shows. Who could forget Zulu Beats with Afrika Islam on WHBI. It’s a shame that there hasn’t been more of a public celebration and acknowledgment of this organization and its accomplishments. In any case, props to them on their 29th anniversary.. For more information and a run down of this week’s schedule check out…

by Davey D
Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Breakdown FM: The History of the Latin Quarter Night Club During Hip Hop’s Golden Era

Paradise the Arkitech

Paradise the Arkitech

The Latin Quarter in midtown Manhattan was the place where every Hip Hop artist came from far and wide to be blessed back in the Golden Era of Hip Hop in the mid to late 80s.

It was the club of clubs. It was the place to be seen. It was a place to hear and see the latest and greatest It was the scene of epic battles and KRS-One vs Mele-Mel..

It was where folks like Public Enemy, LL Cool J, 3rd Bass, Schoolly D, Jungle Brothers and numerous others went to get their start..It was hard on folks who didnt bring the ruckus.. Public Enemy and MC Hammer were booed when they first performed at the famed club..

We relive those lofty days with Paradise Gray of X-Clan.. He was the one who ran the show back in the days, booking the acts and making sure the high standards were met..  He has lots of insights and stories to tell..especially about a set of secret meetings between the top artists of the day that would forever change the face of Hip Hop.and usher in an important era centered on social justice. The LQ was where the idea of rocking African leather medallions in lieu of Gold chains was born. The story behind it is fascinating..

On a side note be on the look out for a book penned by Paradise and Italian author Giuseppe Pipitone called ‘The Latin Quarter: Oral and Pictorial History

Download and listen to Breakdown FM Intv

Download and listen to Breakdown FM Intv

Breakdown FM History of the-Latin Quarter pt1

Breakdown FM: History of the Latin Quarter pt2

Enjoy the interview and the pictures..

Paradise Gray & Fab 5 Freddy

Paradise Gray & Fab 5 Freddy

Paradise Gray & LL Cool J

Paradise Gray & LL Cool J

Paradise Gray & Just-Ice

Paradise Gray & Just-Ice


Paradise Gray & Chuck D

Paradise Gray & Chuck D

Paradise Gray & Kurtis Blow

Paradise Gray & Kurtis Blow

paradise-Latin quarter

Hip Hop History: The Behind the Scenes Story of Sugar Hill Gang

This is another throwback interview that highlights some important Hip Hop History. It’s the story behind the legendary Sugar Hill Gang and what led to the two original members Master Gee and Wonder Mike leaving the group and the type of misleading the public shenanigans that took place with respect to the label…This interview was done back in 2006..It was done by Christopher Milan Thomas of in a piece entitled Sugar Hill Gang: And You Don’t Stop…Check it out… 

wonder Mike-Master Gee I Want My Name BackIn the annals of Hip-Hop history, the reputation of The Sugar Hill Gang has been tarnished by the controversy surrounding band member Big Bank Hank’’s unauthorized use of Grandmaster Caz’’s rhyme book. The pioneering rap crew has been called “inauthentic” and labeled as “Jersey rap puppets” in the mainstream media.

In an exclusive, two of the group’s original members, Master Gee and Wonder Mike, address the criticism they’ve received over the years and air out some long-held beefs, not surprisingly, with former band mates like Big Bank Hank and the alleged shady practices of Sugar Hill Records. Currently juggling between music and traditional nine-to-fives, the duo is working on an independent album, and plan on releasing it by the end of the year.

Fan or not, these MC’s guided Hip-Hop through it’s infancy in 1979 with “Rapper’s Delight” and sent the genre into the mainstream. Read on for a candid, brutally honest interview with Hip-Hop icons. The Smithsonian recently premiered a Hip-Hop exhibition, and it’s now in full swing. Although you weren’’t at the inauguration, were you guys approached at all for the project?

Master Gee: Through our management, we’ve been getting in touch with the people running the exhibit, and they are actually looking for things to be donated for it. From what I heard, it’s going to be a huge exhibit commemorating the whole beginnings of rap music. I’’m getting ready to donate a custom-made tour jacket that has “Master Gee” on the front and “Sugar Hill” in the back. It’s a frozen-in-time kind of piece. I heard [Grandmaster] Flash donated a hat and a mixer, so I’m trying to keep it in the same form as that.

Wonder Mike: I might contribute a newer jacket so I can get that s**t out of my life. I’m looking to entirely move on. That’s a part of my life that is over. After 26 years, f**k that, it’s finished. I love all the fans and the recognition and the place I have in history. The rest of it, they can keep. Since 1982’’s 8th Wonder, the music stopped. What gave you been doing since?

Master Gee and Wonder Mike

Master Gee and Wonder Mike

Master Gee: When I left in ’85, I got involved in the magazine industry, doing sales as a cold caller, going door-to-door. I was mentored very well and then I started my own company selling magazine subscriptions for the last ten years. I stopped recording and touring with them since ’85. With me stepping away from the group, [The 2nd Master Gee] felt that it was his opportunity to go on the road and take my place. He was involved in all the sessions, but he never performed on any of the hits, “Rapper’s Delight,” “Apache,” “8th Wonder.” That’s all me.

Wonder Mike: I had a ten-year break from music from ’84 to ’94. When we disbanded, I went and started a painting company doing interiors and exteriors and all that. A lot of people, including myself, weren’’t even alive when you made history with “Rapper’s Delight.” I know you were very young when you made that record. What were you doing at the time it was recorded?

Master Gee: I was 17 when I made that record, and I was just getting ready to go into 12th grade in high school. I was DJing at the time, and that brings me to a misconception that a lot of people have about us. A lot of people think that we were put together to record the record and we didn’t have any history. I was doing parties and rapping several years before getting discovered and doing “Rapper’s Delight.” I met the guy that turned me on to [Sugar Hill Records founder/producer] Sylvia Robinson, and them while doing a party for his girlfriend. When Sylvia approached us with the idea of doing the record, I thought it was pretty clever.


Wonder Mike

Wonder Mike

Wonder Mike: “Rapper’’s Delight” was recorded in August and May [of that year] was the first time I ever heard of Hip-Hop. My cousin brought over a boom box and there were these guys from New York rapping on the tape and I was like, “What is that?” This is rap, baby. So, I listened to it and I started making rhymes at my job in my head. That’s how I came up with the “Chicken tastes like wood,” s**t. I asked my cousin to join his group and the rest is history. What was the initial reaction you had to the track when you first heard it?

Master Gee: Because of the fact that I was DJing and rapping in peoples’ basements and dance halls, we ended up rapping to [Chic’s] “Good Times” at almost every party. That was our anthem that we used to turn the party out. Not the guitar part [mimics riff] but the actual break. The first songs that we did [as the Sugarhill Gang] were all songs that we used at the party. “8th Wonder” was a break, “Apache” was a break, “Good Times” was a break. My favorite break of them all was “Catch A Groove.” If you buy the Sugarhill Gang album, it’s the beat to the song called “Sugarhill Groove.” What was the vibe like in the studio when you recorded the vocals to “Rapper’s Delight?”

Wonder Mike: It really was cool. I had a sense of history in the making as it was happening. In terms of global recognition, it happened a lot faster than I thought it was. The vibe in the studio was like, “Wow, I think we got something here.” Before the demise of Sugar Hill and all the bulls**t, it was a good feeling.

Master Gee: It was a great experience because it was so new. My father was a recording engineer, so I had been in studios before but recording rap music was new to me. It was a very exciting thing because nobody was doing it, aside from King Tim [III] who had the “Fatback” record. Do you ever feel like a pioneer?


Master Gee

Master Gee

Master Gee: To a certain degree, yes. We kinda created the rap star. Before us, there was no rap star. Young people didn’t aspire to be a rapper and we gave the people another choice in our environment to become successful. You either had to be an athlete, an entertainer of some sort or, if you were lucky enough, involved in business. Once we became successful recording artists that happened to rap, we opened up a whole new avenue for people to be successful in. I want to build on that and ask you who are some of your favorite rappers that are out now?

Wonder Mike: I listen to some, as long as they don’’t glorify killing other brothers. I’m 48 years old. I grew up and they were shooting water cannons on our people and sicking dogs on them, beating women down and setting kids on fire. I can’t really listen to violence and black-on-black crime s**t.

Master Gee: I like Busta Rhymes because he’s so creative. I’m really feeling Common. He’s so unique. I know, technically, there had to be a start for these people to come out and, I just happened to be the person who got the opportunity to start it. I don’t look at it like, if it wasn’t for me, there wouldn’t be them. Somebody had to get it going, and I’m that person, Mike and I. And Hank.


Grandmaster Caz

Grandmaster Caz What’s up with Hank? Your myspace page promotes the two of you and Big Bank Hank is notably absent from it. People may not know that Hank used Grandmaster Caz’‘s rhymes for most, if not, all of his Sugar Hill raps. Do you think he’’s been getting a rough deal as far as how he’s been portrayed, historically?

Master Gee: The truth is the truth, man. He didn’’t write the lyrics. He’’s a hell of a performer, totally awesome when it comes to performing lyrics, and his voice is so classy. As far as the lyrics go, he didn’’t write them. You gotta give credit where credit is due.

Wonder Mike: I love Hank. He’s like a brother to me. But every man has to make his own decisions. I decided to leave the group when I did, and he decided to stay on. Speaking of that, you both performed “Rapper’s Delight” with Grandmaster Caz in place of Hank, and you have each said that it was one of the best performances you’ve ever done, maybe even, the best of all time?

Master Gee: Absolutely. You see, we got clumped together with [Hank’s failure to write his own lyrics]. At first, people were trying to say that none of us wrote our stuff; we were called inauthentic. We ran into Caz on a number of occasions and we had a lot of friction with him. Eventually, we had to come to terms and sit down with Caz and his people and let them know, when [“Rapper’s Delight”] came out, we didn’t know that stuff wasn’t his. Hank was coming from The Bronx, and Mike and I came from Jersey and we didn’’t know what was going on in The Bronx at that time. To say that we were down with it, or privy to it, is a falsehood. So we wanted to legitimize the whole thing and give [Caz] the opportunity to do his s**t. That’s why it was such a great performance. I’’ve performed “Rapper’s Delight” 10,000 times, but to hear this person perform his own lyrics is indescribable. No one knows your lyrics like you do.

Wonder Mike: We did that about five times at different venues. I think that it would be a big thing if he came on the road and did “Rapper’s Delight” with us. I still got a lot of love for Hank, but this would be, like, setting things straight a little bit. Hank is the voice on “Rapper’s Delight” and that won’t change, but Caz is the writer and he raps the lyrics different from Hank. Hank has a very forceful, aggressive style. But Caz says them in a smoother, slicker way. When I heard it for the first time, I was like, “Damn. That’s the way it’s supposed to sound.” But, how does Hank feel about this?

Master Gee: He’s gotta give credit where credit is due. It is what it is, man. If somebody wrote my lyrics and they finally got the credit for it, I would have to give them their props too. That’s what Hank’s gotta do. I mean, we all know each other and time has made it possible for the truth to be told. What me and Mike are doing now is working to get out and let people see the real deal, because some people aren’t even sure about who’s who. They think that this other guy is Master Gee. Fortunately, because our music is timeless, the public is going to have the chance to see what is the truth. They need to see Wonder Mike and Master Gee perform so they could see the song done the way it’s supposed to be done. Ok, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Grandmaster Caz performing “Rapper’s Delight” is not the way it was originally performed, do you agree?

Master Gee: [It isn’t], but Grandmaster Caz is also the person who wrote the lyrics. Now you get the chance to see the original lyricist and the original performers do the song. I would love to see me, Hank, Wonder Mike and Grandmaster Caz perform “Rapper’s Delight.” Could you ever see the 2nd Master Gee perform the song with you also?

Master Gee: No. First of all, you’re not supposed to use someone else’s name. There was never an agreement made between him and I. As far as performing, he didn’’t write the lyrics, he didn’’t record the songs. He’’s not really entitled to say that he’’s me. There’s only one original member performing as the Sugar Hill Gang right now, and that’s Hank. The rest are stand-ins and they’re duping the public. When people go out to see them, they’re not getting the real deal. You guys have gotten a rough deal as far as the history of the Sugar Hill Gang has been portrayed. But, if it weren’t for you guys, a lot of people would be out of a job; do you know what I mean?

Wonder Mike: A lot of these people that hate on us weren’’t there when all these R&B groups pulled the plugs on us and turned the lights off during our performances back in the day. We had to set their punk asses straight. We opened up for them and then we ended up headlining in a month. We kicked the damn door in for Hip-Hop and now everybody else is coming in to eat. Nobody f**king recognizes that. No one showed us any respect; we had to take the damn respect. Do you have any regrets about the Sugar Hill experience?

Wonder Mike: One time, we came out and surprised Busta Rhymes while he was on the Vibe show. We came out while he was doing an interview and he gave us a hug with tears coming out of his eyes. The next thing I knew, Sugar Hill was suing him for using Hank’s lyrics for “Whoo-Hah! Got You All In Check.” Come on, man, that’s just dumb. The same thing happened backstage at the second VH1 Hip-Hop Honors Awards with the Beastie Boys. They were jumping around like little kids, excited and happy to see us. Then, here came Sugar Hill again, suing them a few weeks later for something else that they used. All that happy, teenage, horses**t I used to say in the past about Sugar Hill [Records] is out the window. I will never go back to them. It will be all good once people know that we’re not with those clowns anymore.

Master Gee: Listen man, our music is a part of everyday life. Somewhere in the world, everyday, our music is being played. I can’t be mad at that.

Concert dates and tour info can be found at

Hip Hop History: Kool DJ Red Alert Gives the Ultimate Interview

Red Alert

Red Alert

You wanna know about some Hip Hop history? Well long time Hip Hop head, Troy L Smith who was there at the beginning sat down with the legendary Red Alert and dug deep into the crates so to speak to unearth some serious pearls of wisdom.

In this incredible interview Red Alert opens up and goes into great detail about Hip Hop pioneering years in the 1970s. He talks about the street scene and the important influence people like Kool Herc, Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Disco King Mario, The Casanova Crew and of course The Mighty Zulu Nation had on the scene.

Red goes into detail about the early club scene at spots like Harlem World, The Hevalo, The T-Connection and others.

He talks about the early days when Hip Hop started to mix with the early Punk Rock and New Wave scene and how he first made his way into radio doing the Zulu Beats Show on WHBI. Red talks about the types of dues he paid in doing radio and who all the key players were when he first got on the air..

What was really fascinating was reading Red’s take on the infamous Bridge Wars between the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions as well as his frosty relationship with Mr Magic of WBLS. Red talks about the times the two warring deejays crossed paths and how he moved above and beyond the fray.

Troy got Red to talk about his 11 years at 98.7 Kiss FM and the sorted details behind Hot 97 which was built around Funkmaster Flex.

Like I said this is the realest interview you will read in along time. Big Props to Troy L Smith for bringing this out. And big props to my man Red Alert. I spoke to him the other day and he remarked how he felt it was important to give some accuracy to the details surrounding this culture

Davey D

Hip Hop History:
The Ultimate Interview w/ Kool DJ Red Alert

By Troy L. Smith Winter of 2006

Red Alert: The Early Years When Hip Hop Began

red_alert_brickTroy: Where were you born and raised?

Red Alert: I was born in Harlem, on 112th street between 8th avenue and Manhattan Avenue. A year later we moved over to 234 west 111th street. I was bouncing back and forth in my childhood to Colonial Projects, which is behind Polo Grounds project, on 155th street and 8th avenue.

Troy: Right, right. You still have family over there right?

Red Alert: Yes one of my older brothers is still up there.

Troy: Your parent’s weren’’t raised here?

Red Alert No, my mother is from Antigua, and on my father’s side who’ is Creole. His last name is French.

Troy: How did you get exposed to hip hop in the early days?

Red Alert I went to Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. I went to I.S. 10 Junior High School in Harlem when it first opened, we called it the Dime. But hip hop had not started just yet, not until I got to high school. When I was in Clinton there was this guy that used to tell me and all the Manhattan guys about Herc, Herc, Herc. So we decided one evening to go up to the Bronx. We went to this club called the Twilight Zone; I think it was up on Jerome Avenue. When I first got there it looked like a condemned building, it looked kind of suspect. But when we got closer we heard noise and we got closer there were people on the stairs hanging out like everything was o.k. So we put our guard down a little something. We went upstairs and it’s about 3 or 4 dollars to get inside. When we get inside I notice that nobody is dressed up, just a few were. I guess at that time those would have been considered the fly girls or fly guys because they stood out looking all dapper. When I stepped to the back I had no idea that I would be stepping to the area where the DJ was playing. It was basically the first time I seen a brother rocking two turntables like that. Do you want me to break down what type of turntables he was rocking?

Troy: Please do.

Red Alert: First person I saw was a big tall brother muscular, husky with fair skin. The other one was real dark skin with big side burns.

Troy Do you remember either one of these two guy’s names?

Red Alert: I didn’t know their names at first; I was noticing the fair skin brother rocking the turntables. The turntables were Pioneer PL15’s. He was using a Sony mic mixer as mixer. His system was a Shure P.A. system. It was a Shure Amplifier with P.A. column speakers. That is what I seen in front of me. Connected to it was the mic mixer from the mic mixer to the turntables. In the middle of the mic mixer was a big knob. He was playing stuff that was different then what you would regularly hear.

Troy: What were you listening to in Harlem that you were vibing with before you went to the Bronx that night?

Red Alert: Well I was digging mostly what you were hearing on radio. We are talking the early to mid seventy’s, 74, 75.

Troy So we were listening to the funk hits, the early Disco records.
Did you hear Hollywood or Flowers before you went up to the Bronx that night?

Red Alert: No!

Troy So there was nobody you really heard but Hank Span and those other guys?

Red Alert: Right, but the only person that was really dominating was Frankie Crocker. The people who influenced me at the time were Crocker and Ken Spider Webb.

Troy Damn Ken Spider Webb has been around for a long time.

Red Alert Right, Ken Spider Webb was doing the mornings; I don’t remember who did the after noons, because I was in school at the time. Later on after we came out of school you would hear Crocker from 4pm to 8pm.

Troy Right.

Red Alert: Crocker was banging the joints. Besides that when I wasn’t listening to WBLS I was listening to WWRL. Between Hank Span, Eddie O’Jay and Jerry Bledsoe, those were the cats I was listening to on the radio. Before I got to the Bronx I was also heading downtown. I was going to different places down town, like on a Thursday after work or a late night Friday. I am not supposed to be in these spots but I am able to get up in there. I was like 16, 17 years old. The first spot I used to go into was Nell Gwen’s. Nell Gwen’s used to be on the corner of 42nd street and Park Avenue, it was across the street from Grand Central station. I think it used to be a restaurant during the day and a club at night. When I got there that was when I heard the beginning of full disco sound, right along with radio records. The DJs that were in there at that time was the Together Brothers that were from Brooklyn. Different DJs took turns every week. I always bounced down there to hear those DJ’s. Also Pete D.J. Jones, then there was the first female DJ I ever heard name Becky D.J. Jones. Who was Pete’s girl at the time. Also Grand Master Flowers played down there.

Troy: What about Maboya?

Red Alert: I never really heard of him, but I did catch Plummer and DJ Charisma.

Troy: What about (Larry)Levan?

Red Alert: No I never went to the Garage on his night. I have been there on a Friday but not on a Saturday. Levan I think was part of the deep disco and High Energy, like places like Studio 54 or something similar to that, then you had the spots like Nell Gwen, Hotel Diplomat and Superstar Cafeteria. These were like the three main spots around 42nd street area. Besides that you had a place called the River Boat, you had another club called Pippins, also another club called Leviticus. These spots were for quote unquote black dapper, sophisticated audience. Here it is when you think about Levan you think about the cats like Larry Patterson, Kenny Carpenter and Bruce Forrest and them. They were more towards that gay audience. That’s why I say it’s a separation there.

Troy Your man Kool Kyle the Star Child told me it was two types of disco being played also. That Euro Disco with say for instance Kraftwerk and then your man at 371 would play that Ring my Bell by Anita Ward type disco.

Red Alert: Right, see what it is, is it would be separated. Cats that lived in the Bronx and Harlem that didn’t feel like going all the way down town also didn’t feel like paying all that money, would stay up town and go to 371. The people that came out of 371 were rest in peace June Bug, Hollywood, Reggie Wells and Eddie Cheba. I have to tell you the God’s honest truth, I never stepped in there one time in my life!

Troy Word, why not?

Red Alert: Well I was always with quote unquote the grime side. The grimy side is what we are going to talk about later on.

Troy The reason why I say that is because you would still go to those same types of clubs like 371 downtown.

Red Alert: Yes you are right, but that was because that was what was introduced to me in the beginning. So at that time I was playing both sides of the music. So now with the grime side I would go to Herc’s parties at the Twilight Zone, he later started rocking at the Hevalo. By the time he started rocking at the Hevalo you had to be dressed!

Troy My man and Caz told me about the days when cats would shoe paint their sneakers black to get in the Hevalo because no sneakers were allowed.

Red Alert: Not only that, but this is the time when brothers started hustling, making a little bit of money selling nickel bags, tray bags and loose joints. If you were with the big boys then you were bumping off the quarters. If you know what I am talking about!

Troy Of course, quarters of dope!

Red Alert: Right, doing that. The cats coming up town to the Hevalo were guys like Bat, Guy Fisher all those players.

Troy: Alright.

Red Alert: They were rolling up in there. You had to be dapper, these were the days when you step your game up, and you are wearing the Courterfields, your wearing the Gabberdeen pants.

Troy Shopping at Leighton’s, A.J. Lester’s or Mr. Tony’s on 125th street.

Red Alert: Right and you’re wearing your knits or you’re Blyes and your Al Packer’s. Your wearing your British Walkers or your Play Boys, and if you step up, you wearing your Gators or half Gators.

Troy Right.

Red Alert: Also you will have either your Gold or Silver medallion on. That was stepping from the Twilight Zone to the Hevalo.

Troy What about Charles Gallery, before that place caught on fire and they shut it down?

Red Alert: Charles Gallery did have something going on back then that I didn’t know about until later. My older brother used to hang out at all the spots in Harlem. He played in the Rucker league under Mr. Rucker. He used to be down with the whole circle of people that used to go to all the spots, such as Big Wilt’s Smalls Paradise, Charles Gallery, Baby Grand, 22 West, etc. These were all the spots that were in Harlem at the time. So Charles Gallery was right on 125th street and 8th avenue next to the old Army and Navy store.

Troy That’s Right, in fact a couple of stores away from Randy’s Place, and Vets clothing and sneaker store.

Red Alert: Exactly, you said it better then me. I wanted to be like my brother so much that I used to be across the street and watching. (Troy starts laughing.) I learned later on that guys like Eddie Cheba and Hollywood started rocking these spots. But I would never step into them. To be honest I wasn’t really influenced by the D.J, but I was influenced by the vibe of the party. You really just wanted to be on the scene at that time to party with the people that were there.

The Hevalo is where they stepped up their game. A little bit after the Hevalo, they stepped it up by taking it down to the Executive Play House. That was where Herc went to after that. He commanded the whole Jerome Avenue that was his. To be honest he was also commanding all the parties at the high schools.

Troy: At first he was rocking over on University and all around there, I had no idea until recently he was also killing it on Jerome avenue!

Red Alert: I really didn’t know anything about him until I caught him on Jerome, and then started hearing about the work he had put in over on the West side of the Bronx.

Troy: So lets go into the part were you say Coke La Rock was the first emcee that you heard rhyme!

Red Alert: He was the first person I ever heard and saw through my eyes.
I had to think that also because Herc and his Herculords were first, before the Furious 3 emcees. Although I heard Cowboy was running around doing his thing solo before he even got on with Flash.

Well I know he was Flash’s first emcee, but to my eyes Coke was first on the mic before anybody. Coke used to say his rhymes and once in a while I would see Herc get on and say something on the mic but it was mostly Coke.

Troy So would you say he was that Disco emcee, or was he really trying to put some rhymes together?

Red Alert: I would say it was simple rhymes here and there. Cowboy and them first came on the scene they were also doing simple rhymes. Jack and Jill went up the Hill, Jill took a Chill Pill.

Troy Everybody had that little joint.

Red Alert: While they were doing their thing I would watch the crowd and notice certain cats with their footwork. That’s when I started learning about cats like the Nigger Twins, Eldorado Mike! This guy name Sha Sha, who was the best one out of everybody.

Troy: I never hear them talk about this guy I always hear about the Nigger Twins.

Red Alert: They were very popular, but Sha Sha was the best out of everybody. Then you had my man Trixie. I can’t remember his brothers’ name right now. But they all would hang out over by Jerome Avenue, in Herc’s parties. Any where else Herc went, club to club they was right there with Herc. I started to also get to know all of Hercs D.J.s, such as little Timmy. Then there was the original Clark Kent, as well as Black Jack. Then the Imperial J.C.

Troy Yeah I didn’t know how good J.C. was until I recently did his story.

Red Alert: Yeah he was and still is nice.


Red Alert: Meeting Flash-Meeting Bam-The Zulu Years

Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay & Red Alert photo: Joe Conzo

Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay & Red Alert
photo: Joe Conzo

Troy: How did you first run into Flash?

Red Alert: I used to be close with this guy named Sidney Robinson. Sid and I were real close and he used to live over there on Longwood and Hewitt Avenue, by Prospect Avenue. Me and Sid were close because I was in this Upper Bound program.

Troy You talking about the College bound program over at Columbia University?

Red Alert Similar, but his one was at Fordham University in the Bronx. I know Columbia was PPD also. We used to play against them in basketball in the summer. Sid and I got close at Clinton High, so I started going around his way. This kid I knew that lived across the street from Sid had some fine girls that hung out in the basement of his home where he played the drums for a band. So I would hang out with them from time to time. This guy one day came from the house next door and asked does anybody know how to fix the cone of a speaker. We all said no, and he was mad because he was trying to fix it. I did not know until later on that that guy was Flash. He might have had his first child by the girl that lived next door to my friend.

One day somebody pulled my coat about him rocking at this club on Garrison Avenue, a block or two from Hunts Point Avenue. It was right next to a cab stand. That was the first time I got to hear Cowboy.

Troy He was the only emcee for Flash at this time?

Red Alert: Right. After that then I started hearing about Flash rocking at the Black Door.

Troy So you used to come from where you lived at in Harlem, which was the Colonial projects at the time, to the Bronx!

Red Alert: Well the reason why was because I went to Clinton High were I got close with everybody. Then when I got to Fordham and its program, I started staying on the campus, during my junior and senior year. So I got to build a lot of relationships with cats from the Bronx. I also started seeing a young lady over there on the Grand Concourse and 149th street. With all these people that I was meeting in the Bronx, and they always talking about the parties, so I started going. So there would be a group of us going over to the Black Door. Then you had A.J. and his partner Kenny Gee doing parties at the Moore House projects. This place was located over there on 149th street and Jackson Avenue. It was between those two spots that we were going back and forth whenever they were having something.

I started learning about the L- Brothers when they started doing parties at the Boys Club over on Fox street.

Troy All that time you were being a spectator, never touching the turntables yet?

Red Alert: Right, not yet but kind of, sort of. But I am going to let you know when. Also there was Love Bug. He was rocking with A.J. and Kenny Gee. He also rocked with Smokey and the Smokatrons.

Troy He also played with Pete D.J. Jones!

Red Alert: Right, Love Bug was a floater. His claim to fame was he knew how to play for the grimy as well as the Disco crowd. He could flip it either way. At the time they were going to Smokey parties, him and Love Bug used to D.J. at Burger King during the evening.

Troy Right I heard about that Burger King Disco.

Red Alert: Right, it was over by Prospect Avenue. I went in there a couple of times. Now during the time I was on campus is when I started thinking I wanted to become a D.J. I have to say Herc is who influenced me. It was me and my room mate Roosevelt Smith who came from Melrose projects, combined our stereo systems together. Us trying to be creative we hooked up two turntables to the receiver, crossed one to the phono, and the other to the auxiliary. We would let the record play out of course, but we would then click it from phono to auxiliary, and back and forth to the next record. We ended up doing a party on the campus, which I considered my very first party.

Troy I got you.

Red Alert: I was doing a little bit of record collecting and gathering records from my older brother, who had all the records. I ended up going to college. I did a year and a half at Hampton. When I would come back I started hearing more and more about Flash and the other popular D.J.s, which just influenced me more to want to be apart of this D.J. thing. I started working down in the garment district on 35th street between 7th and 8th avenue. I started saving up my money; little by little I started getting my own set. The first set I ever had was a pair of Technics 1800’s, and a Clubmen 1,1 mixer. That was the model number one. After every payday I wasn’t thinking about getting dressed, I was going around the corner to two stores, Rock and Soul and Discomat. They were right there on 35th street and I was picking up the latest 12 inches of disco and R@B and Funk and what ever else.

During this time I moved from the Colonial projects, back down to where my parents lived which was on 113th street and 7th avenue. I hooked up my equipment right in my room and just stayed in there and practiced and learned the art every day and night. I got close with another brother by the name of Tyrone Mckivor, he was also from up in the Bronx. He went to Clinton and the Upper Bound program also. We tried to hook up together on this thing but he was somewhat inconsistent during those times. We had plans to go and rock at this park on 188th street and Webster Avenue. I don’t remember the date but he wasn’t on point, which upset me so I ended up doing the jam by myself. I took every little bit of equipment I had and put it inside a cab and went up there and did it by myself.

Troy So who was holding you down while you were doing this party? I say that because you know cats was always talking about how other brothers were getting their set taken!

Red Alert: I was fortunate because it was people in the neighborhood that I already knew. So when they saw me dragging my stuff in, they started helping me by saying “yo, you D.J.?” “I didn’t know.” “Let me help you.” They helped me get it out of the cab, and bought it in to the park. They got me hooked up to the lamp in the park. They pulled out the long wooden table for me that you would use for the picnic tables.

Troy Yep.

Red Alert: I just started
How long did you do your thing that day?

Red Alert: All day, through the evening. Say 3p.m to maybe 10 p.m.

Troy All by yourself?

Red Alert: He never came.

Troy Did anybody else around that day D.j. for you?

Red Alert: It was all me. Everybody was shocked, they were like “we didn’t know.” The people from down on 149th street came up to support me. In fact now that it is coming to me I also rocked at a school down there on 149th street by myself. There was another cat named Bruce Moore who was doing his thing during that time, that came from that area but he never took it further. More and more I started doing my thing and getting known. At this time my cousin is starting to be influenced by me.

Troy Jazzy Jay!

Red Alert: Exactly, my cousin and aunt and the rest of them were living up on a 151st and Amsterdam Avenue.

Troy: Over there by the Battle Grounds!

Red Alert: Right. Jazzy and my man Sid were going to the same Church as well as Teddy Riley. This was Reverend Coalfields church on 136th between Lenox and 7th avenue. I forgot the name of the church. Jazzy was already influenced with music because he played the drums. While he was playing the drums at the church Teddy was playing the organ. I didn’t go to the church but I was always amongst all of them. When Jazzy seen I was more and more D.Jing he started coming over to the house, I started showing him the fundamentals of what to do D.Jing. Just like you show a person how to play basketball is how I showed him how to D.J.

During this time Jazzy and my aunt and them moved to the Bronx, they moved to Bronx River. By that time my aunt and uncle bought Jazzy a little set. A pair of turntables, technics 210’s, and I think he had the same mixer as I. He started collecting records. We used to always go down town to the village to collect records together. We would be down there all day digging and looking. Jazzy started doing his thing up in his house and somebody pulled (rest in peace) Disco King Mario’s coat about Jazzy. They told Mario about Jazzy and his little record collection and suggested that he might want to put him on. Mario at the time was known for having a sound system, but he didn’t have any turntables or any real records. But he had the sound system. He used to always go and battle Bam at the j.h.s. 123. That’s another spot I used to go to.

Disco King Mario came to my cousin, and asked did I he want to get on? Jazzy said yes he would love to get on. It was something new and exciting and he got on. The bad thing is Mario started jerking Jazzy and started jerking him by using him for his records and turntables but not paying him. Meanwhile Bam already had his D.J.s, Zambo and Sinbad.

Troy Are you taking about he same Sinbad from the T- Connection that use to rock with Kool Kyle?

Red Alert: No, this was another guy but one of them left Bam. Bam is hearing a lot about Jazzy and wondering who this kid, playing with Mario is. Somebody told him it’s a new kid that just moved into the projects. He said “he just moved into the projects, so what is he doing over there?” (Troy starts laughing.) See Mario was from Sound View Projects.

Some body steps over to my cousin and says Bam wants to see you. They met and Bam asked him did he want to get down. Zambo stepped off so it was Sinbad and Jazzy. Me and Jazzy were doing our own thing on the side, and he one day said I got a couple of guys that want to emcee for us. They were from Sound View and we called them the Jazzy 3. That was little Sundance, Charlie Chew and Master Bee. While we were doing this, Jazzy would be talking to Bam and always saying my cousin my cousin my cousin! As I started coming to the parties Bam asked me one day would I like to be down. I said sure I would love to get down with ya’ll. They bought me in. That was like in 1979. Now with the Jazzy 3, Charlie Chew quit and went into the service. Little Sundance (Red says the word little to separate Sundance from the Big Son Dance that used to break dance and wasn’t no joke with the knuckle game.) and Master Bee stuck around. Bam liked Sundance so he put him on as a Soul Sonic Force emcee. Mind you Bam already had an army of emcees.

Troy: Well who was that army at that time?

Red Alert: The people under Soul Sonic were Mr. Biggs, who was with Bam from the very beginning. So you had Pow wow, Sundance, Biggs, Ice, Lisa Lee, Hutch Hutch. Then there was Master Ice that was little Sundance’s brother. Mr. Freeze and Master Bee, Charlie Rock.

Troy Malibu too?

Red Alert: No, Malibu wasn’t officially down. He was down with Love Squid. Malibu came from Edenwald projects. They were from another division of Zulu. The three D.J.s became Bam, Jazzy and me after Sinbad stepped off. The branch off of us was the Funk Machine with Africa Islam, Donald Dee and Kid Vicious. A girl named Nae Nae was also down with Funk Machine. D.St. was a branch off also, he had the Infinity Emcee’s. He was up in Mount Vernon. That was big Shyheem. There was another brother running with them who later got on with the R&B group in the 80’s called Entouch. He was the light skinned one. He was one of D.St.’s emcees.

Troy: When you first got down with Bam and a little before that, how were you dealing with the crime going around hip hop and the Bronx? Who I am referring to is the stick up kids, Billy bad asses, wanna be killers and actual killers? I know you Zulu brothers were untouchable because you were with Bam but everybody doesn’t follow protocol .

Red Alert: I think what was fortunate on my behalf is I am cool with everybody, and got along with everybody. Everybody knew who I was. I had trouble but it never escalated to anything big. Even if I was at those Flash parties I knew people. I knew the all the Casanova dudes. I got along with them until they started bugging when Peanut got killed. Allegedly Joe Kidd killed him over there by I.S. 167. Over there by West Tremont during a party. I was almost caught in the middle of that because Joe Kidd was down with the Boston Road crew and he was also down with some cats that I was cool with. My man Lance from Clinton High was cool with him. When I got down with Bam I was leaving that whole scene of Flash and A.J. parties.

It was crazy because I never forget the first time ever Bam and Flash played together at Bronx River. Casanova’s always followed Flash to his parties. So when they saw me they were bugging. Tiny steps over to Bam and starts talking to him. I remember Bam saying to me later on “They were asking about you, watch those guys.” I always kept my eyes open. On a whole they would try and test me but not to the fullest. They would test me just to see how far they could go. But I was just the happy go lucky brother cool with everybody. I never tried to come around with no screw face, walking around like I got to prove something.

Troy: Even though you have an army of Zulu cats behind you?

Red Alert: Right, I just was never going around like that. But when they tried me I stood stern and didn’t flinch.

Troy: So once and a while you didn’t have to slap nobody?

Red Alert: I never had to go there. Also at that time I was focusing on having my son. This was 1980; I got down with Bam in 79. Although I am I am now working down in the Wall Street area. It was a Purchasing and Management company. I was more less an assistant to a broker and worked the mailroom. It was down on 11 Park Place.

Troy: With you D.Jing strong now how did this affect your girl and family, you not going to college any longer because of the Seeing as they really didn’t see Hip Hop going anywhere.

Red Alert: It’s funny you say that, when I started in the house, rest in peace my father, he use to say cut that s— down. My mother used to say, God bless her also, used to say I rather he be in the house than in the street. He used to mumble about that, but he used to deal with it.

Troy: Now you living right in the block with all the big hustlers right out side over there on 112th street and 113th street, you didn’t get pulled in trying to bump off the Quarters and dimes (Heroine.) in 116th street for a minute as well?

Red Alert: I did my thing for a minute!

Troy: So you were around Underwood, Headache, Fat Steve, Bat and them?

Red Alert: I knew all of them cats. There was one time were I had to solve a situation. During the time I was in the Upper Bound program at Fordham University, there used to be a basketball tournament behind the Colonial projects called the C.Y.A. Bat, Cisco and their crew from 116th street had a team out there. So they had a game this day and some trouble breaks out in the game, and there is a shooting. People from the projects knew I had family down town. People from downtown knew I lived up in the projects. Some how some way both sides got a hold of me and said “yo man you got to solve this.”

Troy: You had to be the mediator.

Red Alert: I was like yo what do you mean. They said you know this person and that person. Now mind you I am like a nobody to them at that time. I am like whats little old me going to do? “Yo, you have to talk to this guy and that guy.” I finally got to talk to one of each and they got to talk to somebody else. It had to get squashed. Remember the school that used to be on 135th street called Harlem Prep? It was on the downtown side. It’s a church there now. (D.J. Imperial J.C.’s Church.) That was the meeting place, because it was over a basketball game and more violence was going to happen if they didn’t solve this.

Troy: So who was this Small Paul and them from uptown that was going against Headache and them?

Red Alert: Damn you knew them names huh? (Red starts laughing.) Nah it wasn’t Small and them it was more of the cats from the projects. Paul and them mostly stayed in their lane. But Paul did marry a woman from my projects.

Troy: Ah man Paul was off the hook.

Red Alert: No doubt but they mostly stayed in their circle, him, Pimp Kid and a couple others, they stayed in their circle.

Troy: Why did you choose Clinton High school over say Martin Luther King or Louis D. Brandeis high schools downtown?

Red Alert: I was influenced by the history of Clinton’s sports.

Troy: Right, right I forgot. It was also known for its academics, as well as some good actors like John Barrymore I believe, and writers such as James Baldwin.

Red Alert: Right and some cats pulled my coat to come up there and play ball.

Troy: Now how did you get that name Red Alert?

Red Alert: From my man name Dennis who lived on the Grand Concourse. I was good when it came to playing ball.

Troy: Were you better then Easy A.D. from the Cold Crush, because I often heard from different brothers that A.D. was nice back in the day.

Red Alert: I never played against him, nor did I see him play. But I know that we are not that far apart in age, although I might be older. But I was known for playing ball. My man Dennis used to always tease me and say Red Alert, Red Alert! This was because I was skinny, frail with a big ole red afro. But I was fast on my feet. It was like I was the signal, I was fast and alert. So that name stuck on to me, and being as I got along with everybody the put the cool to it. Kool D.J. Red Alert.

Troy: What position did you play?

Red Alert: Swing man, guard and forward.

Troy: So which group did you mainly D.J for between the Cosmic Force, Soul Sonic and Jazzy 5?

Red Alert: More Jazzy 5

Troy: But you did D.J. for the other groups that I just spoke of?

Red Alert: Well Easy L. G. had Cosmic Force, and me and Jazzy Jay always had the Jazzy 3 that later turned to the Jazzy 5. But when it came to the Soul Sonic Force, Bam took a little bit of everybody from the group. I told you how many was in the group so he would break it down. He would take Lisa Lee away from the Soul Sonic Force and get Ikey Cee and Ice Ice from Throgs Neck, and put them together and make the Cosmic Force.

Troy: Actually what I heard was she was originally down with Soul Sonic and was supposed to be going to the studio to cut a record with Soul Sonic but she came the wrong day and came on the day that Cosmic was cutting their record. So Bam said you might as well stay there and she cut the record with Cosmic and stayed a Cosmic emcee!

Red Alert: That I don’t know, and it may be true because I wasn’t there!
Other than Bam and Herc, who else did you look up to?

Red Alert: Flash, but to be honest with you I respected a lot of them. I looked up to Flash; I was looking up to see how nice Theodore was.

Troy: Was there a favorite one that you had, where you said I am going to sit back and watch and listen to this brother here do his thing on the turntables?

Red Alert: Theodore. Also Jazzy, because there were many times I wouldn’t even touch the turntables. I would just sit there and pass him the records and enjoy the vibe that he was creating.

Troy: Did you ever have any battles?

Red Alert: Never

Troy: Did anybody ever try to bring it to you?

Red Alert: Never.


Red Alert: Paying Dues in Radio-The Early Years-Zulu Beats-Kiss FM

Troy: So who were some of the groups ya’ll were playing with?

Red Alert: Talking Heads, Devo, Nena Hoggin, Bow Wow Wow. These were like alternative new wave groups. By 1983 Islam got him self involved with this radio show on WHBI, called Zulu Beats. As he developed this show, I started coming down there to be with him. The Zulu Beats show used to come on after Gill Baileys Caribbean show. We did this on a Wednesday night. See Magic started all this. He started all the way back in 1980.

Troy: Right when hip hop records first started coming out.

Red Alert: Then after that you had the Worlds Famous Supreme Team Show. After that you had people like Jerry Blood Rock.

Troy: Jerry Blood Rock, I don’t remember that!

Red Alert: Oh yeah, he was doing his thing also on the hip hop.

Troy: Where was he from?

Red Alert: He was from Jersey. Later on you had Special K and Donald B. they were the original Awesome Two. Then Donald B. had a fall out with K, so he bought his cousin in. They would say the Awesome Two featuring the Ohh Child Teddy Ted. Then after Donald B. left it was just them two. They were doing their thing on the weekends, while we were doing our thing on the week day on Wednesday. I think what it was was Islam hooked up a deal with a guy name Steve Hager who was the manager at the Roxy at the time. Islam had the gift for gab, so he talked Hager into putting up the money to be on the radio. You had to pay for your spot and that was an independent radio station. So Islam was like if you do this then we can advertise Roxy. WHBI wasn’t far from home. It was on 80th street and Riverside drive.

Troy: All that time I thought it was up in Jersey or something like that.

Red Alert: The antenna is in Jersey, but the station was on 80th street and Riverside Drive in the basement. So I used to come down there and help Islam and I would bring a tape from one of the shows. That was another thing people knew me for I was taping all the Zulu parties. So I would play a different tape every week. After Rock Steady got successful because of the movie Wild Style, they along with Islam went on tour.

Troy: Are you talking about that tour with Fab 5 Freddy, Cold Crush, Charlie Ahearn and the rest that went to Japan?

Red Alert: Yes, so when they stepped off Islam told me to take over the show.

Troy: Damn, good move there.

Red Alert: So I started taking over the show. But Islam was still considered the man out of all of us at the Roxy. So going on into that summer the program director Barry Mayo approached Bam, saying listen here we have an interest in incorporating a mix show with hip hop on the radio. This was while Magic was doing his thing on the radio as well. He came on in 1982 with WBLS.

Troy: Right.

Red Alert: This was 1983 when they stepped to Bam; they let him know that they were interested in Islam. They asked for Islam to come down several times. Islam would miss the appointments. So they asked who was the next person Bam had?

Troy: What was the reason Islam wouldn’t show up? Did he have a cavalier attitude; was he hanging out too much?

Red Alert: That I can’t tell you, because I have no idea. So the next person they asked was my cousin Jazzy. Jazzy went and did it for a couple months. After that he quit. The reason was he wasn’t getting any money for it. But he was getting a lot of exposure. So Mayo came to me next.

Troy: So when you say not getting paid, do you mean very little money or no money at all?

Red Alert: No money!

Troy: Damn, so why would they do that, ask you to come down to work but don’t pay you? They thought that was enough pay just being exposed?

Red Alert: Put it this way, the name of the game is you have to pay your dues!

Troy: I got you.

Red Alert: Now there was this guy Michael Hailey who used to work for MCA records. He was a brother in law of the Master B. of the Jazzy 5. He said to Master B. what’s up with your man Red Alert; he might have an interest in doing this show. He was also close to Barry Mayo. So when they came to me asking I told them hell yeah I will do it.

So when they first bought me in it started with tapes. It wasn’t live. I used to be on from 11 at night to 2 in the morning. I would just make mixes on these tapes. Not like what I was doing on the Zulu shows. Also I didn’t have a reel to reel. I couldn’t afford that. So what they said was make these tapes and then bring them in, so I had to make three sixty minute tapes, because I was on for three hours. What they would do is take the tapes and pass them over to Tony Humphries. Tony Humphries would take the tapes and transfer the tapes to the reel to reel. This was because they were playing the reel to reels on the air. What I was doing was paying attention to what other people were doing in their mixes. Not only what Jazzy had done or what Marly did, but what other guys did in the past, namely the Disco D.J.s. a lot of people forgot that there was a lot of Disco D.J.s before hip hop d.j.s.

So I always used to listen to people like Larry Patterson, Ted Curry, and Sergio Munsabar. I mean the list is long. These were mostly live broadcasts from a club or just straight up mixes. So what I had learned also on behalf of Bam, by all the different types of music we played in the Roxy, I would play R&B, Disco, Dance music. Quote unquote hip hop sounds and some rap records all mixed together. So I started in October in 1983. I did it for three months with no pay.

Troy: It was all good for you.

Red Alert: It was all good for me because I was gaining exposure, I started getting gigs.

Troy: So it really didn’t take any time out from your life because you could easily make the tapes at your house and be doing something else right as your tape was being played.

Red Alert: Right and at the same time I had my J.O.B.! That’s why I said it’s paying dues.

Troy: Was somebody saying your name over the air for you, while your tapes were being played?

Red Alert: Yes, “Red Alert is on the mix doing the live master mix.” You know you getting those plugs from a major radio.

Troy: That’s right.

Red Alert: I was on every other week. It would be me and the next week it would be Tony Humphries. A little bit after me they bought in the Latin Rascals. After them they bought in Chuck Chill Out. So I did it for three months every other week with no pay. When it got to 1984 I got see my first check which was $100, every other week. But here it is I am doing gigs in clubs for like 2 and $300. Which I thought was good for me at that time.

Troy: Doing what you like.

Red Alert: Right, doing what I like and getting paid for it, and building from there! From there I started to do my own recordings. I met a brother at WHBI while doing Zulu Beats by the name Vincent Davis. He came down with the record 2, 3, break, which was on Vintertainment Records. That was how I really met Chuck Chill Out, because he did that cut Hip Hop on Wax, Volume one. Vincent Davis came to me and asked me would I like to do the same thing like Chuck? I said sure. So I went and did a recording called Hip Hop on Wax Volume 2. I also did some scratching for a record by Tommy Boy.

By the end of 1984 the Roxanne, Roxanne era began. When the Roxanne era started a young lady by the name of Sparky Dee came along and made a record defending U.T.F.O. going after Shante’, called ‘Sparky’s Turn’. Now mind you all during this time when I first started being involved more with KISS, I was going down to Russell Simmons office hanging out with him. Russell Simmons used to have an office on 26th street and Broadway.

Troy: What made you go over there?

Red Alert He invited me.

Troy: How long did you know him before he invited you?

Red Alert: I met Russell in a club, I think it was Danceteria. When I met him he let me know that he was the manager of RunDmc. Also Kurtis Blow, Spyder D, Jimmy Spicer etc. So he said when ever you feel free come on down. I felt delighted so I took it upon my self to start going down there. So I was chillin with him and got to meet Steve Salem (Rest in peace.) who was representing Full Force. Full Force also was behind the music of U.T.F.O.

Troy: Full Force also had Lisa Lisa, right?

Red Alert: Right. By me coming down to Russell’s office I got my hands on a lot of product first. That was why I was getting credit for a breaking a lot of records. I was the first person to break Roxanne Roxanne.

Troy: O.K. I didn’t know that. Was that the very first record you broke that became popular?

Red Alert: I think my very first record I broke was T- La Rocks “It’s Yours.”

Troy: Who bought it to you? Was it Special K?

Red Alert: No, either Jazzy or Rick Rubin at the time. Then there were records like “I need a beat.” I also was getting all the early RunDmc records.


Red Alert:-The Bridge Wars and Dealing w/ Mr. Magic

The legendary Mr Magic

The legendary Mr Magic

Troy: At this time Mr. Magic wouldn’’t break these records?

Red Alert: I wouldn’’t say that, but Magic was the person who was always trying to be the trend setter, which he was. He was getting the records before anybody. But a fresh new breed was coming in. That was when I came along.

Troy: I would have to say you put KISS on the map as far as this Hip Hop thing is concerned.

Red Alert: You are right, but Magic kind of helped me also. See first he used to try and dis my cousin Jazzy!

Troy: What?

Red Alert: Yeah, see you have to remember Magic got to BLS through WHBI. He was the only man in town on major radio. But by the time when KISS started having hip hop incorporated in the mixes, and having people like my cousin Jazzy, Magic was dissing. Saying who is this guy? I forgot what he was calling Jazzy. By the time I started doing mixes I heard he started dissing me also. He would say things like who is this guy, I heard he got red hair looking like Woody Wood Pecker.

Troy: Ah man.

Red Alert: He was like is his name Red Alert or Red Dirt? Yeah we will call him Red Dirt!

Troy: Let me ask you this. You were making your bones way back when hip hop first started, where did Magic come from that he was able to get on WHBI?

Red Alert: I am going to tell you how he made his mark. First he was known as Lucky, I did my homework on him. (We both start laughing.) He was known as D.J. Lucky, he used to work in the stereo shop down on Chambers street called AST. He must have had the gift for gab. He probably said “I found this radio station were you can buy air time.” “Let me get on and we can advertise the store on the station.” He bought his time and he was the first one to play rap records before anybody else.

Troy: I always wondered where he came from.

Red Alert: That is how he broke through. He gained his momentum through that era so WBLS could notice him and bring him to major radio.

Troy: I bought that up because I can’t believe he would call you and Jazzy names like that when you guys made your bones in this hip hop thing long before he ever did. Have you ever seen him D.J.?

Red Alert: No I haven’t. but you have to realize that for a person to take it to that magnitude from no where to some where, he felt like he was the God of that format.

Troy: I understand what you’re saying in that instance.

Red Alert: You have to understand even though we were vets; we were stepping into something totally new when it came to the radio industry. See Magic was already here, at least before us. So he is looking at Jazzy and me as “who are these cats,” “I am the king when it comes to rap shows on radio.”

Troy: I feel what you are saying. How long did it take before you and him finally met, did ya’ll break bread together and become cool?

Red Alert: Well what had happened was, when I heard so much about how he was dissing me, I remember one day coming to the station and stepping right to Barry Mayo my boss and program director and said yo man I keep hearing this dude Magic is dissing me. As I am telling Mayo all frustrated, he is standing there laughing as I am talking. As he is laughing I am getting madder and madder, because I am thinking he is laughing at me. So I ask him why are you laughing at me. He closes his office door and says “sit down.” He says I respect that you are mad, the reason why I am laughing is you have to learn something, while that man is spending time dissing you, he is advertising you. Think about it, instead of spending time talking about his show, he is spending time talking about you. What he is doing is his own listeners are going to start leaving his show just to hear who you are. So take it in hand that he maybe dissing you, but he is advertising you.

Troy: Right.

DJ Red Alert albumRed Alert: I still had that anger in me, but I had to go into a deep deep thought to my self. So I had to start to learn how to swallow my pride, and let his dissing game go. It was like I was getting two disses in a sense. Number one when people see me in the streets they would say “yo man that guy Magic is dissing you.” Then there were even times when cats would say to me in the streets “I am better then you,” “I know I could do better then you on the turntables if they was to give me a shot.” I had to ignore them. So I had to learn how to swallow them both, Magic and the streets.

Six months go by and I finally met Magic in person in the basement in Danceateria. It was one of those nights I will never forget. One of those jams was going on and Larry Smith the producer of Whodini, Rundmc and so many other groups, was down there with us. So Magic is down there and Larry. When I come down there Larry sees me and says “yo Magic I want you to meet a good friend of mine.” He says “Magic this is Red Alert, Red Alert this is Magic.” When Magic turns around Larry points his finger at him and says “he is busting your ass.” (Troy starts laughing.) Magic opens his mouth to say something, I am about to open my mouth and say something, but then I shut up. He is arguing with Larry about why he is better, mind you Larry is laughing. As I shut up I just backed off and I walked back up stairs.

He kept up the disrespectful remarks. I started playing this record by an independent group which was called “Get Smart”, off the television show “Get Smart”. They didn’t like Magic because of his mouth; I guess he must have dissed them as well, because he was really known for dissing people’s records. So they come to me and said we got something for you to play just for Magic. They did this mix saying “you ain’t fresh, you ain’t fresh. Sorry mister Magic.” So I started playing it a lot and I got the feed back that it was getting the best of him. He really hated it.

For a minute Magic got cut off of WBLS and he went back to WHBI doing Sunday nights. When Roxanne Roxanne came out Marley Marl came back with the answer record by Shante. They played it for the first time on WHBI and got a hell of a response which in turn gave more popularity to Mr. Magic. Which lead to Mr. Magic being called back to WBLS.

Troy: I hear you

Red Alert: In turn Sparky Dee answers that record. Another reason why I spoke about Russell Simmons and why I used to hang down there so much is he also used to manager Spyder Dee. Spyder Dee used to go with Sparky Dee.

Troy: O.K., that’s D.J. Divines man. Jayquan interviewed him as well.

Red Alert: Right. So being as Spyder was going with Sparky he encouraged her to do this answer record. So Spyder comes back to the office while I am there and says “yo I got this new cut that we just put together that’s the answer to Shante.” They played it right there, as I listened to it, we all starting giving it props. Cats were ohhing and ahhhing. So Russell with his management mind was like “yo we could get something going here.” “We can start getting her shows and what ever else.” She turns around and says “yo but I am not prepared nor do I have a D.J..” She blew my mind because she turns right around toward me and says “do you want to be my D.J. Red?” I said “o.k. no problem”. That’s how that became. I d.j.ed for Sparky for 2 years. The strange thing is we never practiced. We would go to the place and do a twenty minute show. She would always tell me in advance what particular records she wanted and we would rock it. We were like traveling almost every weekend.

Troy: I got a tape of you and her at Roxy’s (182.) and she took the song from Millie Jackson’s F— you symphony.

Red Alert: That’s right that was part of the routine.

Troy: She kind of shocked me because it was a pretty vicious hit towards Shante who was in the crowd? How deep were those wars between the two of them?

MC Shan

MC Shan

Red Alert: Well the crazy thing about it was when they finally got to meet each other not too many words were said between them. If fact we were booked together so much out of town with them that they became cool with each other. Now as I think more about it smiling to my self, the person that tried to challenge me on the road was MC Shan. When we used to be on the road it would be me and Sparky and her road manager & brother named Donald Broadnax and sometimes Spyder Dee. When Shante was rolling with us sometimes she would have Shan, Biz Markie or Marley Marl. Fly Ty who was running with Prism records which later turned to Cold Chillin records was always there and he was mostly my roommate when we were on the road. We were pretty cool with each other. Back to Shan, the first time me and him were on the road he was trying to size me up. As he was trying to size me up looking at me up and down I would look back at him and just smile. I knew what he wanted me to do, which was respond. But I paid him no mind. He tried but it didn’t go far.

I remember back then of hanging in the Roxy, if I wasn’t playing in the Roxy I was hanging in there till 5 or 6 in the morning, go home pick up my bags head to the airport for a 7:00 am flight that we would have. It was like a routine for me, we were always on the go. We were rocking all up and down the east coast.

Troy: These jobs were all through Russell Simmons?

Red Alert: Yes, we received a lot of bookings through Russell.

Troy: So was Marley also running with Russell?

Red Alert: No, but who ever booked us wanted Shante also. We were often on the same bill. But we played with a lot of other groups also. Guys like Divine Sounds, Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic 3. Then there would be Klymaxx, Ready for the World.

Troy: Damn you played with some good groups!

Red Alert: Hip hop wasn’t holding up on it’s own yet. So they used to combine hip hop with R@B. After the Roxanne thing slowed down BDP came into focus. Scott La Rock and I were already good friends. I knew him back in the days when he used to rock Broadway International. We were real cool, and he used to always talk about how he was trying to find a way to break into the business. When him and KRS1 made this record Success is the Word. They called them selves 24:16, and they were on Sleeping Bag records.

Troy: What was that 24:16 suppose to mean?

Red Alert: I don’t know? Mr. Magic played the record and dissed it so bad that Sleeping Bag dropped the record. So now him and Chris are mad, furious. Some how they came across these guys that owned Rock Candy records. Through Rock Candy records Scott incorporated Boogie Down Productions. When Shan made that record called the Bridge they made the record South Bronx. So back in the days at the Latin Quarters they used to have this thing called Celebrity Tuesday’s. The Awesome two used to rock this along with this other guy name Raul who was the house D.J. he was a big heavy set Latin guy. Scott came up in there with the acetate, looked at Raul and said I want you to play this. He put that on and when we heard that we went bananas.

Troy: Off the first play they were jumping?

Red Alert: Yes, they went bananas! I am talking bananas.

Troy: Scott and Chris really went back to the lab after that first one!

Red Alert: Yes, Raul didn’t even let it go to the end, he turned it off got on the mic and said this is so hot I got to play this again. We were going crazy. After he finish playing it, Scott took the acetate, that is a plate and took it and handed it right to me and said this is for you.

(Troy starts laughing.)

Let me go back for a minute and come right back to this Bridge thing. 1983 to 1986 I was making the tapes for the radio station then after that I started going live. What happened was Barry Mayo moved up to General Manager, his man Tony Q became program director. As Tony Q got sick, and before he left for a leave of absence he did something I didn’t understand, he let Tony Humphries go. With this he bought in Fred Buggs. Buggs was now the music director. By this time it was me and Chuck Chill Out. We use to alternate on Saturdays for the 11pm to 2am. So Buggs and Mayo were really listening, because they asked us questions like “how come y’all don’t do the same type of style like the Latin Rascals.” See the Latin Rascals were known for doing the editing with the special effects and other stuff. So we explained to Mayo and Buggs that the reason why we don’t do it like that is because the same way how they hear us on the radio, they expect to hear us like that in the club. If they see that is not the same like on radio then they feel you are a fake.

Troy: That’s right.

Red Alert: We made the tapes like we were playing in the clubs. So they said this is what they are going to do. We are going to split you two up, and bring you down from 11 to 2 in the morning to 9pm to midnight against Magic.

(Troy starts laughing.)

Red Alert: He said I want you Chuck to do Fridays and Red I want you to do Saturdays. So as I started doing live, that’s when I got that acetate from Scott La Rock. I will never forget when I did this move. When I played the Bridge, and it came to the chorus line “the bridge, the bri the bri the Bridge.” That’s when I slapped in the words “South Bronx, South South Bronx.”

(Troy starts laughing.)

And what I did was make one sound louder then the other. So it over crowded. That was the introduction and it caused a stir.

Troy: Right.

Red Alert: As it caused a stir Shan made a record called Kill that Noise. So when Shan did that Scott asked me to come down to Power play Studio. When I started going live in the radio studio Bugsy used to tell me get on the microphone. I said for what, because I was nervous as hell. I was never known for talking, I was just into the mixing part. I said I don’t talk he said you are going to talk now. As I started talking I started thinking of all types of things to say. I had this drop that was on behalf of me and my man Pow Wow. There was a cartoon that used to come on with this chicken, and I forgot the name of the cartoon but every time he would do something he would always say “Yes.” (Red is making a dramatic sound of yes like his trade mark Yes.) So I took that Yes and stretched it yeeeeeeees. I made that as a drop. Every time they would play my tapes they would drop that on there. So when I started talking on the microphone I started dropping that yes down.

Troy: How did Pow Wow have something to do with this?

Red Alert: When me and Pow Wow use to run together in the early days of Zulu we used to always joke about that cartoon. We used to always be around people and say Yes.

Troy: That is a funny nigga there, you can’t help but like that dude.

Red Alert: Pow Wow yeah he is nuts, he used to always say Yes, Yes. (Remember Red is saying it in a dramatic way and he is funny with it.) So I took that and started saying Yeeeeeees. So when Scott bought me down to the studio he said I want you to listen to this. It was the Bridge is over. When that chorus came up he said you know when you saying that thing you say on the radio Yeeeeeees? I want you to go in there and do it on this part. So when I went in I did it on the first take. I believe when I did that that was when I became a member of Boogie Down Productions from there on.

Troy: So did that Duck Alert come in because of that?

Red Alert: I am going to tell you about that. Later on Scott got killed, and the next year Kris went and made that album Necessary, and asked for me to be more indepth with them. I got there and did Jimmy which was the answer to Jim Browski and anything else. The album was done in 1987, 1988 and we went on Tour.

Troy: Did you D.J. for Kris?

Red Alert: No, D. Nice D.J.ed for us. I was the hype man. I was something like Flavor Flav to Chuck D, not as crazy but similar. During that time Sammy Bee of the Jungle Brothers was taking my place doing the mixes on the radio. In fact a little bit of every body got a piece, some times it was Sammy, some times it was Mase of De La Soul……

Troy: You was cool with that, why would you break out from the radio to do that?

Red Alert: Well I had an opportunity to be on the road.

Troy: So you think that was more profitable to be on the road then in the station?

Red Alert: It was a challenge for me as far as far as the next stage of exposure for myself. I already had exposure with Sparky but now its more indepth and to the next level with the group Boogie Down Productions. After the Bridge was over, and the other stuff, people started looking at me as a member of Boogie Down.

Troy: Yeah I was kind of shocked because I have a video with y’all out there with Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh, Eric B and Rakim.

Red Alert: That’s the Dope Jam Tour. I am going to tell you the bill. First Ice T, after him then Biz Markie. Then we came on, then Moe Dee. Then Doug and Eric B and Rakim ended it. We did 53 cities that summer.

Troy: Who put that together?

Red Alert: I don’t remember but it was very successful.

Troy: So ya’ll all ran together for 2 months?

Red Alert: Yeah we left at the end of May and came back at the end of August.

Troy: Everybody was peace?

Red Alert: Man we had some great times. Before I left while I was rocking at Latin Quarters, I had Jungle Brothers as up and coming. During the time they were in High School my nephew Mike G used to always come to me and saying yo man we want to make a record. I used to say I don’t think ya’ll are ready. Then there was Tony D the D.J. for the group Bad Boys that made the record, “Inspector Gadget.” He told me one day that he had a recording studio in his house. He said whenever I was ready we could come over and put in some work; it was cool.

I started thinking about it and I asked my nephew if he thought they were ready now? Of course he said yes. They were in their senior year in high school. They went to Murry Bertrum high school, him and Africa. By 1988 when I was leaving for the road I asked Sammy did he want to take over for me! He said sure, I found out later a little bit of everybody from Native Tongues was in there. Some times Sammy was on the turn tables, Mike, Mase, Pos, Q- Tip, and Ali Shaheed even got down. The thing about it is everybody in each group all D.J.ed, and my boss was cool with it. At that time Jungle Brothers name was building up.

Troy: Right and it was bringing more listeners.

Red Alert: Right as well as people thinking they were part of my camp. This is also the time when they encouraged Craig G to make Duck Alert, which came during the summer when I was on the road. That’s also during the time when Poet made that record dissing KRS1.

Troy: Right but Poet also tried to dis Justice..

Red Alert: Right

Troy: And Justice had to go out there with the shotgun looking for Poet and your man Shan had to intercept. Of course Poet and Justice are cool today.

Red Alert: Right, well you know how that goes. Well we come off tour and I hear I got a dis record, and Poet is dissing Chris. This was my retaliation, when I came back and got back on the radio that first Saturday, I got on the microphone and said for the people who dissed me during the time I was gone, this is for you. Baby Chris who is known as Chris Lighty of Violator records, who is also one of the original members of the Violators, he was in the studio with me. I slowed down the dub side of My Prerogative by Bobby Brown and slowed down the part were he says “Why you want to talk about me. Tell me.” At the end of that sentence I played Duck Alert. Chris looked at me bugging saying “how you going to play this record dissing your self.” Then after that there was a promo that Chris made that I played. Which was about who is down with us, who is not down with us and then it would say regardless I am still number one. Then I would bring in the remix of still number one. When I bought in that remix of “Still number one” that shut everything down. It was like saying that record finished the whole entire Juice Crew. That was it, it defeated the purpose.

Troy: Right, but before that what was you hearing from them. Was their anything extra coming from them or their camp?

Red Alert: No.

Troy: So it was really just coming through Magic’s radio show.

Red Alert: Basically.

Troy: So now when it came to the Self Destruction video, did you and Marley have some type of beef or something? That’s why you and him are standing there together and Doug E. Fresh is in the middle, and it looks as though ya’ll are trying to end this beef?

Red Alert: I never ever had beef with Marley.

Troy: One of the brothers from wanted me to ask you about that. I found it interesting my self once he broke it down.

Red Alert: We never had a problem; if anything we had a bunch of Howard Cousells amongst us gassing it up. But when ever we seen each other we never thought anything of it.

Troy: Ya’ll were always cool that’s good.

Red Alert: We never had much to say but we were still cool.

Troy: So how was it working on that set for Self Destruction and how did you get called in?

Red Alert: It was real cool and because of my affiliation with KRS1, I knew ever thing that was going on. And so I just came right on in and we just did it. I guess because of the scene at the Grave site and they see me and Marly together people were like oh s— them two together it’s like a big thing.

Troy: And you say it wasn’t anything!

Red Alert: Right, it wasn’t. We never, ever had any beef.

Troy: During that time Self Destruction came months after Down with Us?

Red Alert: That was going into 89.

Troy: ]The Bridge wars were pretty much over by that time?

Red Alert: Pretty much so.

Troy: Did it ever become a time were you and Magic became cool? Hold before you answer that did you ever use to listen to his show when all that B.S. was going on?

Red Alert: Yeah but….

Troy: I know you had to do your show as well; maybe you might have recorded it or heard recordings of it.

Red Alert: I heard some of it.

Troy: What were your feelings about his show?

Red Alert: I still had the anger in side me, but I just didn’t show it. But I always had the anger in the back of my mind but I remember what Barry Mayo said let him advertise. I think we got cool when they let him go. Marley Marl started doing the show by himself. First they let Magic go from BLS and then they later let Chuck go on KISS, and that was because he wasn’t holding it down they way they wanted him to. So I seen Magic one night at a club up in the Bronx called the Castle.

Troy: Your man Kid Capri’s old spot where he used to rock!

Red Alert: Yeah that was alike a big start off for Capri before he came down town.

Troy: Hold up didn’t he go from the Roof Top to the Castle?

Red Alert: Not really, it’s just that they would let him get on at the Roof Top a couple of times, but that wasn’t his night.

Troy: Oh man I thought he was strictly rocking in there. Like Bruce had it one night and he had it the other night.

Red Alert: Naw, naw that was strictly Bruce’s house.

Troy: The reason why I say that is because he had so many tapes out on the streets.

Red Alert: Yeah, from his home.

Troy: Damn you learn something every day. I remember the first night I heard about him selling them on the streets. It was about 1 in the morning on a hot summer night and my man Fat Bub said yo that kid Kid Capri from the Roof Top is further down 125th street selling those tapes for $10, and they hot. I was always stuck on who was first to sell those type of tapes him or Brucie Bee.

Red Alert: Well really it was between Star Child and Brucie Bee.

Troy: Well I knew Star Child was doing his thing out of the Love Nest, but to be honest Star Child s joints were cool, but Brucie Bee had that real cool voice with his.

Red Alert: You right but it is between Brucie and Star Child for mix tapes. I will definitely vouch for that. But with Kid Capri he was rocking up there in the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx across the bridge from the Marble Hill area. So he was always local for them. He slowly started coming downtown to various spots. Brucie and Star Child would let him get a shot, and get on the turntables for at least a 15 to 20 minute set. Star Child would let him rock like that at the S and S club.

Troy: The S and S was crazy.

Red Alert: Capri built him self up and went home and started making his own tapes, and then selling them on the streets. But Brucie was making his tapes from the club as well as from home.

Troy: I didn’t know that. I thought Brucie was strictly from the club as well.

Red Alert: So back to the Castle, I seen Magic one night and he wasn’t in the business at the time, and the rumor mill had him hanging out too much. Our conversation was more or less him talking about him missing the business and the recognition, and I just mostly listened and then we said peace to each other and went our way. I haven’t seen him since.

Troy: Did you ever give WBLS a shot?

Red Alert: I never have been there.


Red Alert: The Hot 97 Years-
The House that Funkmaster Flex Built

Troy: So now you are heading over to Hot 97.

Red Alert and Funkmaster Flex

Red Alert and Funkmaster Flex

Red Alert: What happened is Sammy is no longer my back up D.J., Funk Master Flex is now my back up D.J. …Flex came in through Chuck Chillout. He first used to rock at a place called Home Base. This was a young crowd party spot. Flex and I got close through a misunderstand between me, him and Chuck Chill Out. In fact we got closer once I explained to him me and Chucks problem. So when Flex was getting let go from WBLS, I let go of Sammy because he was not holding it down like I wanted him to either. So I let Flex hold it down for me while I was out of town on business, by me doing this Flex built up his name. So now as his name is building the people at HOT 97 are getting interested in him. So he came to me and said he had to be honest with me because I gave him a shot. He said these people over at Hot 97 are interested in him, and would I be cool with him going over there. I said well it can hurt you and help you. See at that time Hot 97 was still a Dance radio station, playing that free style dance music, more towards the Latin and Italian crowds.

They were trying something new with the hip hop, because they weren’t touching hip hop before he got on. So I told him all the best to you. That was 1993 when he stepped over there. At that time Bugsy was on the air over there also. The new program director Steve Smith came in, he saw what Flex was doing on the weekends and said he wanted to try something different and he wanted to put Flex on through the whole week 10pm to midnight, instead of just the weekend. He asked Flex if he could do it, Flex said sure and that took him to a new horizon. If you think about it Hot 97 is built around Flex.

Troy: I was thinking that. He is the King over there.

Red Alert: Right like Babe Ruth built Yankee Stadium. So HOT 97 is building strong. Remember I said I was the newest breed to Magic when I was coming along, now Flex is. I then learned the people that owned HOT 97 were ready to buy KISS FM. As they were ready to buy KISS they were also going to change the format of KISS. I didn’t know about this until later but they were going to take our contracts, me Tony Humphries and Wendy Williams to HOT 97. Now mind you I had put in 11 years at KISS FM, I have never been to any other station. I said I am going down with the ship because I was a die hard KISS person. They got me in the office and offered me a contract to go over to HOT 97 but I told them no. They asked me if I was sure.

Troy: This was during the time when they was taking all hip hop off and was ready to go all the way with the Soul and R&B?

Red Alert: No, they were taking the entire hip hop off by the end of 94. I went all the way to the last week end when they were taking hip hop off. Then that Monday, they called me in the office and asked me could I come over to HOT 97. I said no, I can’t I am going down with the ship. I was stubborn; I was a die hard KISS person.

Troy: So you were ready to be unemployed and not do any more music, and I am talking about unemployed in the radio business?

Red Alert: You know what my life was at KISS!

Troy: I understand, your going to be a Yankee for the rest of your life, you not going to play for the Mets.

Red Alert: Right, so I was like that. But not knowing the word was going all over the industry that I did not want to go over to HOT. I am telling you the God honest truth. The top executives in this business that would not give you the time of the day, got on that phone to reach me at home or though my beeper and read my ass, saying what the f— is wrong with you? Are you crazy they would say?

Troy: Like who, give me some names?

Red Alert: Guys like Hank Caldwell, Moe Austin, Russell Simmons, and Sylvia Rhome’s, Ed Eckstein. They cursed me out. Here it is I was with my girl who is now my wife. I stayed out for about a week. I talked to her, my mother and a few other people. I thought deeply about it after so many people got on my case about it. I then came to the conclusion to reconsider. So when I called Steve Smith the director over there and let him know I was going to take the offer he said great we have a slot for you. I said already, he said yeah, we been had a spot for you, we was just waiting on you. When I got there Wendy Williams was already there. They put me on at five o’clock. I started the five o’clock Free Ride.

Troy: Did you and Wendy hit it off from the very beginning?

Red Alert: I already knew how she got down from over at KISS so it was nothing new at HOT. She was already causing problems over at KISS in fact she raised a lot of hell over there. So we never had no problems with each other because we were cool with each other. After about a year or so of me doing the five o’clock Free Ride they called me into the office and asked me to replace the guy doing noon’s old school, who was Glenn Fisher. He was doing old school but he still had some Dance music mixed in there. He was kind of out of pocket of what the station became. What I heard and I didn’t know at that time, but a lot of people were trying to get this spot. Such as Mr. Cee, Marley Marl such and such. So they bought me down and asked me how I felt about doing noon and 5pm.

Troy: Both instead of one?

Red Alert: Right, so they said we will increase your pay and you will get double exposure. I said o.k.

Troy: So how did you feel about Star and Buck Wild once they got on?

Red Alert: I just tuned them out.

Troy: I am not trying to be controversial but I have to very honest and say that there were many times they were very entertaining to listen to. But then there were times when I thought it was very disrespectful to women and children, and so I had to push it to the side and in fact I just had to stop listening to it. I am not going to front there are times I want to listen but it can anger the hell out of you if you are not careful. So I just don’t listen at all.

Red Alert: I really don’t have anything for them; it is the same thing for Wendy Williams. People would always ask me every day in the streets angrily what’s up with this and what up with that with Wendy. I say I have nothing to do with that. They are like well you work with her! I say yeah but that doesn’t mean I have to be part of what she does, or say.

Troy: How long did you rock with HOT 97?

Red Alert: I rocked with them for 7 years.
It seems like KISS was more yours then HOT 97. I say that because it seemed like it got too complicated over there. I am referring to the drama.

Red Alert: Yeah you right, for the 11 years I was at KISS that was a family home type thing for me. From an intern to a General Manager, there was love through thick and thin. The people from HOT 97 seemed to have a chip on their shoulder and not have the respect for the new people that came over from KISS. So when I came over there I felt the airy feeling right off the top. Mind you the program director that hired me just came over there from another station in Arizona. He had it in his mind to change it into what it is today. But the people that were there before him and me had this antisocial way of being. Me and the new program director that took his spot, a woman,(Tracey Chlorety) never got a long. I also learned later that she never respected any one that been in the game for awhile. She gave me, Wendy and Bugsy a hard time. She couldn’t give Flex a hard time because everything was built around him. Now the funny thing about Mr. Magic he was already over there before I got to HOT. He had the Sunday night showcase.

Troy: So he beat you to HOT?

Red Alert Yes he was over there before me. So I seen him and then Marley and then it got real cool we were all joined together.

Troy: Damn, that’s damn near a 360 Degree.

Red Alert: Also I don’t know if you remember but while I was at HOT there was a Sprite commercial with me, Chris, Shan and Magic that we did together.

Troy: I forgot about that one because they did so many. Did you ask or promote that they let the Furious 5 come on the station to have shows for them selves?

Red Alert: No I didn’t have anything to do with that. That was their open mic thing on Sunday.

Troy: I got a few of those shows with Flex and Mel and the boys as well as Theodore and Dot and other brothers. I thought you might have pushed that!

Red Alert No, that was going on before I got there. See in 1994 a lot of things were being created over there around Flex. They bought in Mrs. Jones, Ed and Dre and a lot of other people. Little by little they just kept coming on. Mr. Cee was already over there, they also put Fat Man Scoop in, and they just kept adding people in.

Troy: So what made you break out?

Red Alert It was differences between management. They went around the back end and talked to my lawyer and gave me a deal. They asked if I would let go of the 5pm slot and just do the noon spot or go back to KISS.

Troy: That is what I was going to ask you. Did you ever have problems just doing R&B?

Red Alert Nah. I was always open minded to everything.

Troy: But they didn’t want to give you that spot to just spin R&B before you first left KISS to do Hot 97? Or you didn’t really want that?

Red Alert Well when they first went to Classic Soul there weren’t any mixes! Only time they asked me to do a mix is when there was a tribute to Roger Troutman. Remember Troutman used to do the weekends.

Troy: Right.

Red Alert So when he got killed they asked me to do the mix and that was the first time I did something for KISS in some years. See I was under contract to the company that owned both stations. They also own CD101. February 2001 I stepped away for three months. Then I came back to KISS. They had a big presentation party for me. I wasn’t totally happy so my man Ken Spellman approached me and told me about Satellite radio. I took his offer and started doing Sirius Satellite for about a year. By 2002 the start of Power 105 radio came. I was still at KISS and doing Satellite. Some of my homies were telling me I should try and get over there to Power. But I said can’t I am under contract. I later learned that I had a two year contract with one year, and a one year option. I waited till the end of September and that made a full year that I was with KISS. I stopped right there, and when I did I shocked everybody. They was like what is the matter. I said I just don’t want to be here any more. They thought they had me on a non compete clause. There is a non compete clause that has you where if you are under contract after the contract expires for some people its 3 to 6 months you are not allowed to go to any competitive station.

Troy: How they heck were they able to do something like that?

Red Alert That’s the business, that’s how it is in the radio business. It’s like that every where.

Troy: How are you going to make money then? How you going to feed your family? I am just saying if the situation was real tough as that. Do you have to go to another state?

Red Alert: It has to be like that. See a lot of people don’t understand how shrewd the business is. See they don’t think about you, they think about with in their company. Number one, if I have a strong following the advertisers and sponsors want to advertise the time that you are on. If you get up and leave and go to another station all the advertisers and sponsors are going to follow you. Your original company is going to lose money because they not going to see that money any longer. So what they want to do is freeze you to see if they can lower your standards. One thing I learned about this city, if they don’t hear you for a while……

Troy: (Troy starts laughing.) Out of sight, out of mind!

Red Alert Exactly! But the good thing on my behalf I learned to show strong presence, not just through radio but I was visible through the streets, clubs and amongst people. So I was always like a self promoted person. I was always on the scene. So Hot thought they had me behind a barrel saying I still owed them a year but my lawyer let them know they slipped. So my lawyer got in contact with Clear Channel that ran Power 105. Steve Smith was already getting at my lawyer because he was running Power and he wanted me. Steve Smith got the lawyers from Clear Channel to work in my behalf and he got that whole decision reversed in my favor. I sat out 3 months but I still did satellite radio. I came to Power 2003 on Martin Luther King’s birthday.

Troy: How did you handle that payola situation? As far as cats coming at you saying play my record and I will hit you with dough.

Red Alert I had learned through the older cats in the business, people like Bugsy and many others that said let me tell you something, if you want to be pimped go ahead and go for that nonsense. Because that’s all you doing is being pimped. They said I know the money looks good but it ain’t worth it. Then they started bringing up the stories about what happened to Frankie Crocker. To be honest I always had a reputation for not receiving any money as well I had a reputation that no matter if the record doesn’t sound good I ain’t playing it.

Troy: What records have you played that you thought were hits and they became duds?

Red Alert: It is quite a few, its hard to remember how many. But there are quite a few that people credit me for breaking also.

Troy: For sure.

Red Alert: Everything is not going to make it.

Troy: So how did this work out you giving to the children in the schools.

Red Alert: An old friend of mine, by the name Greg Ellis. He works for a school district up in the Bronx.

Troy: Are you talking about Greg from the Polo Grounds?

Red Alert: Yeah.

Troy: That’s my man, one of the coolest brothers in the world. He is the father of my little niece.

Red Alert Well me and Greg have known each other for a long time, one day he asked me to come to a school up in the Bronx. When I came up there and he seen the response, he said yo man do you feel like doing this a little bit more often? I said sure not a problem. We first started doing this in 1990.

Troy: So what is the actual curriculum? How do you do it?

Red Alert: It would be me and another brother. Greg would set up with different schools and tell them we have some one to talk to the kids but we don’t want to let them know who it is.

Troy: I like that.

Red Alert: So what it is is the first person would talk to them and then after he finishes his words he then says I have a special guest, some body from the radio station, etc, etc, etc. then when they bring me out they go bananas. The reason why we did it that way is because if we would tell people ahead of time that we are coming the anticipation is so strong that when I finally get on the stage and start talking they start yawning. That’s because they are thinking entertainment, meaning because I am coming from radio I am going to play some music.

Troy: So what are some of the things you talk about with them?

Red Alert: We talk about school, home, life skills, opportunities and potentials. Also talk about the drugs, a little bit of everything.

Troy: How long do your seminars last?

Red Alert: About 45 minutes.

Troy: Do you ever bring in any celebrities?

Red Alert: No, but the only one I ever bought was Crazy Sam.

Troy: Damn Crazy Sam of the Grant Projects!

Red Alert: He came to quite a few of them with us.

Troy: He gets up there and speaks?

Red Alert: Yes he talks and they love him. They remember seeing him on nervous Thursdays on Video music Box. But the reason why we didn’t bring other big name stars was because we knew that they did not know what to say to them, meaning they weren’t prepared. All they really wanted to do was promote their music. Cats have come to me wanting to be down but I had to tell them this is to talk to the children. They still would ask could they do a little routine for them. So I would have to separate my self from them.

Troy: How long have you been doing this?

Red Alert: Me and Greg have been doing this now for 15 years.

Troy: Damn, 15 years?

Red Alert We don’t just do schools but we have done jails. I have been on Rikers Island several times.

Troy: Talk about it.

Red Alert: I did Spofford several times. (Children’s home for delinquents.) I have done drug rehabilitations, hospitals. I would do elementary and jr. high but never high school. In high school they want to challenge you more. I have their attention more in the lower grades.

Troy: That is some real deep stuff. How did get you on with the United Nations?

Red Alert: The United Nations bought me in to be the ambassador of good will. This happened when they looked in to my back ground and track record for the things I have contributed and done. That was a great feeling.

Troy: For sure. Thank you Red for a great story and giving me the time.

Red Alert: No problem Troy. Peace.

Troy: Peace.

Brother Red Alert is rocking today on Power 105.1 Old School at Noon and Sirius Satellite on the Boom Box channel 34. I want to thank my men’s and them, D.J. Divine and Greg Hope for setting me up to do this story.
Also want to thank the web site some of the coolest knowledgeable people in the world of hip hop.

Peace Troy L. from HARLEM
With my two sons Shemar and Troy Jr.
Praise God and God bless you.


DJ Disco Wiz Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ Breaks Down History of Early Days

Disco_Wiz_UptownHKR August 19 2013: As we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the First Jam thrown by Hip Hop pioneer Kool Herc, we’ve been reaching out and talking with a number of other fore-fathers and fore-mothers to this vibrant culture we call Hip Hop. One of the people we got to build with is Bronx legend DJ Disco Wiz who many consider to be Hip Hop’s first Latino DJ.

Wiz back in the mid 70s teamed up with his best friend Grandmaster Caz to form the Mighty Force Crew.. Caz would evolve that crew to become the Cold Crush Brothers. In the early days Wiz and Caz would go to battle the man who inspired them.. DJ Kool Herc.. They would later go on to battle the man who nurtured and mentored them Afrika Bambaataa.

Wiz chronicles much of went down in those early years in a book called ‘Its Just Begun The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ.. To say the least the book is incredible and is basically written in 3 parts. One talks about the early days of Hip Hop. Two, talks about the rough and tumble street culture that gave birth to Hip Hop and how Disco Wiz was involved. Three, speaks on how he survived the challenges after prison on the road to redemption.

As we noted in our interview, Hip Hop was not born in a vacuum. It was born out of the pain and hardships many were enduring at the time. The triumph people had in the backdrop of that hardship and Hip Hop flourishing as a culture is what makes it so special

Wiz’s take no prisoners honesty about his involvement in the street hustles, his eventual incarceration, his battles inside prison and the long road to overcoming bad habits, shaking an addiction to cocaine both as a user and seller and two bouts with cancer, is what makes him remarkable and his book an absolute must read.

We cover that and so much other ground in our compelling Hard Knock Radio interview with DJ Disco Wiz

Click the link below to Listen

Click the link below to Listen

hkr-08-19-2013 DJ Disco Wiz Mixdown 1

Hip Hop History 101: Jitu of Ten Tray Explains the Origins of Hip Hop in Chicago

chicago_sunsetskylineNowadays it’s hard to turn on the radio and not hear music from one of Chicago’s many music superstars. Kanye WestLupe Fiasco, Common, Rhymefest, Twista, Da Brat, Shawnna, Doe or Die and Crucial Conflict  seem to have firmly positioned themselves over the years as household names within the mainstream..In recent days many have come to know Chicago rappers via the exploits of Chief Keef.

If you dig a little deeper and check out Hip Hop’s underground, you’ll discover that very few people are willing to roll up and do battle with esteemed Chi-town lyricists like M’Rald and of course Juice. On the political front acts like Rebel Diaz and Lah Tere have proven to be no joke..Others like DJ Third Rail, DJ Illanoize, and the late DJ Pinkhouse to name a few have not only made names for themselves as deejays not to be toyed with but also provided important platform for local artists.

Yes, the Chi seems to have established itself in the world of Hip Hop, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact much of the Chi-Town’s success is a direct result of organized effort by it’s pioneering Hip Hop community that grew frustrated from being locked out by the industry that saw Chicago, more as a consumer market as a opposed to a place where stars are born.

Many within the music industry were only willing to embrace the nation’s third largest city as the Mecca for House Music and somehow managed to disconnect that music form from Hip Hop when in many ways the two are intertwined, especially along the lines of deejay culture.

cashusd-225The battle to establish ‘Tha Chi’ within Hip Hop was about as brutal as its political landscape. Unsung heroes like Dr Groove, Lord Cashus D, DA Smart, Black Allies, Sugar Ray Dinky, George Daniels, World wide Posse, God Squad, The Chi Rock Nation, Ill State Assassins, and the late DJ Pink House all played crucial roles in organizing, pushing the envelop and seeing to it that the Windy City get its respect. They used to roll up on nightclubs, radio stations and even label executives demanding to be recognized. Many will forget that back in the late 80s there was a movement called the New World Order which brought many of Chicago’s Hip Hop community together as they fought for change and respect.

Sadly despite those heroic efforts of the past, today, many local artists who are not signed to a major record label or coming out of Kanye or Common’s camp find that many outlets like radio and even nightclubs are closed to them. This is now spurning up a new generation of Chi-Town Hip Hoppers to start organizing to bring about change.

Jitu of Ten Tray 8.40.21 PMDuring the recently held National Hip Hop Political Convention (2006) we sat down with one of Chicago’s premier pioneering emcees, Jitu the Juggernaut of the group Ten Tray. For those who are unfamiliar ten Tray was the first group to be signed to major label. Back in 91, Jitu the lead rapper was and to this day remains an activist who saw the power of Hip Hop and decided to use his talents to spark political thought and hopefully change.

In our interview he gave a serious rundown of the city’s history. He also cleared up a lot of perceptions. For example, he talked about Hip Hop first emerging in the Chi around the late 70s. He talked about how Afrika Bambaataa’s Universal Zulu Nation set up a chapter under pioneer Lord Cashus D in ‘78.

Jitu broke down the important connection between Hip Hop and House. He reminds us that House is a Black music genre that at least in the Chi was enjoyed by cats that lived in the hood. He talked about the Hip House movement that came about in the late 80s with key players like Fast Eddie, Tyree, JMD and the late Kool Rock Steady being not only household names in the Chicago, but in many ways ambassadors for the city around the world. Jitu goes into depth about the important role Kool Rock played.

He also talked about how the House music deejays forced everyone to step up their deejay skillz and that it was not unusual to have b-boys and b-girls at House music parties and events. He also drew parallels to how the lack of public school after school programs and music classes forced many to turn to deejaying as a way to express themselves musically. A good part of House music was born out of that void.

Jitu also talked about The Chi’s early graf scene with pioneers like Warp One.

What really stood out in our conversation was Jitu talking about the early club and open mic scene. He talked about how the now defunct El Rukins street gang (originally the Blackstone Rangers) had a building on the Southside complete with an auditorium where they would hold weekly emcee battles.

Jitu freestyling8.44.02 PMJitu details the influence Chicago’s highly organized, legendary street gangs have had the scene. He also talks about how other groups like the Nation of Islam and the legacy of the Black Panthers which had its largest and most organized chapter in the Chi have also had influence on folks as they were coming up and into Hip Hop.

Lastly Jitu goes into detail about the politics and the layout of the city. He talks about the differing cultures that exist on the historic Southside, the Westside and the Northside of the city. He also runs down a report card of sorts about some of Chicago’s famous people and organizations and the role they played or ‘have not’ played in terms of elevating Hip Hop.

Jitu finds himself back on the scene after coming out of retirement and ready to drop a new album called ‘Necessary Ingredients’ which is being backed by the Universal Zulu Nation.

Here is our 2006 Interview which first aired on Breakdown FM..

We also posted this interview on Youtube..

Below is a brief timeline of Jitu and his career courtesy of

Jito tha jugganotJitu is an African name, given to him in 1995 meaning “A giant among men.” Jitu is a youth program coordinator and community organizer on the south side of Chicago. He swarmed the game in 2002, entering battles and open mics. Leaving crowds in a state of disbelief, Jitu has humbled emcees all over the country, blending a once in a lifetime voice with an expansive vocabulary and ferocious delivery. On the underground, many call him the best they have ever heard! A short look at his accomplishments: • 1986-Winner of “Battle of Chicago Rappers” at El Rukn Fort

• 1989-2nd Place-“Battle of Chicago Rappers”

• 1989-Formed “New World Order” along with Cashus D of the Universal Zulu Nation, to organize rappers, dancers, singers and dj’s in Chicago. Was the largest such organization in the country with over 200 members.

• 1989-Organized, with Dr. Groove (Source Magazine) and DA Smart, a massive hip-hop community protest of the opening of “Sarafina” at the Regal Theatre for refusing to recognize DA after he won a national talent competition with his rap, “Black People ain’t Prejudiced, They Just Mad.” They recognized DA as the winner of the contest.

• 1991-With group Ten Tray, signed to Smash Polygram records to become the first rap act in Chicago on a major label.

• 1992-Appeared on Rap City, The Box and Yo! MTV Raps.

• 1992-Album, “Realm of Darkness” recognized as album of the month in Rapmasters magazine.

• 1992-Song, “Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Sister” was number one song in Las Vegas region and other west coast markets for 4-9 weeks.

• 2003-Winner-“Battle of the Iron Mic”

• 2003-4 Time Champion-Emcee Battle @ Wild Hare

• 2003-Winner-1st Annual Kool Mix Emcee Battle

• 2003-3 Time Champion-Microphone War @ Subterranean

• 2004-Represented Chicago in national BRAINSTORM rap battle in Seattle (semi-finalist)

• 2004-2nd Place-Rhyme Spitters emcee battle and documentary (see enclosed DVD…we got shafted!)

• Joined and helped develop veteran hip-hop alliance, “FIGHT CLUB”

• 2005-Begin work on album, “NECESSARY INGREDIENTS.”

On this album, entitled NECESSARY INGREDIENTS, Jitu brings pure, unbridled passion and energy with ridiculous beats provided by the likes of Harvy Allbangers, Tony Baines, Joe Blaque, Ty Hill and Issues. Jitu blends real street cuts and bruises, consciousness, passion and skillz to deliver the gz-noods on this project. This album is a holy book for emcees, as Jitu blends subject matter, lyrics, delivery, flow, energy, breath control to give you what we believe, is ONE OF THE BEST ALBUMS IN THE HISTORY OF HIP-HOP.

Contact Information: Jitu tha Jugganott 4356 S. Lake Park, Suite 1N (yeah, right!) Chicago, IL 60653 (773) 317-6343 (Respect the Art of Emceeing!)

August 11th 1973 Hip Hop Had its First Party-An Intv w/ kool Herc & His Sister Cindy


Click HERE to listen to pt of our interview w/ Kool Herc

In celebration of the 39th anniversary of Hip Hop’s First party-August 11th 1973 ,we sat down with the father of Hip Hop music and culture the legendary Kool Herc.

He gave us an in-depth run down of Hip Hop in the early days. He speaks about the early party scene and talks about how he and sister Cindy made history when they threw a back to school party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx.

He talks about how he used to be a graffiti artist and how his sister had his back and shielded him from the wrath of his strict father who would’ve whupped that butt if he knew his son was defacing New York City property.

Kool Herc also lets us know that Hip Hop did not start in the South Bronx as is often erroneously reported. Herc never lived in the South Bronx, he lived in the West bronx which is a totally different area.

In this interview Kool Herc talks about his Jamaican background. He talks about how he grew up in the same township as Bob Marley and he explains how and why Jamaican culture is an important root within Hip Hop.

One important aspect of Jamaican culture Herc speaks to us about is the sound system. In this interview he talks about the type of equipment he used and why he named it the Herculords.

What was really fascinating in this sit down, was hearing Herc go into detail about the different clubs and parties he threw. He describes the clientele which ranged from some of New York’s most notorious sharp dressing mob type gangstas to high school kids from the projects around the way.

Herc gives us a run down of his playlist and talks about his approach for keeping the crowd satisfied. He speaks about his early deejay battles most notably with Pete DJ Jones. He also talks about the importance of funk music and bands like the Incredible Bongo Band.

Herc concludes this first segment by talking about Hip Hop’s early emcees including his own crew member Coke La Rock. Herc also talks about his other crew members including Timmy Tim.

He talks about the role DJ Hollywood played in Hip Hop. He also gives major praise to Mele-Mel and his brother Kid Creole for inventing the style of rap we all embrace to this day.

We caught up w/ Cindy Campbell who we consider to be the first lady of Hip Hop. We talked to her about the work she’s done on behalf of her brother Hip Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc. We talk to her about what took place August 11 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Ave which was home to the first Hip Hop party.

Cindy explains that the party started out as a fundraiser for her to get some school clothes. She talked about how they actually had Old E 800 and Colt 45 being sold there and how it was a 25 cent for women and 50 cent for guys.. They made 500 bucks

She also explained how she herself brought slow jam records for her brother to spin..

Cindy also talks about other deals she’s done for her brother including how she talked Harry Belafonte into making sure Herc’s character was positive in the movie Beat Street.