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..
This 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.
This 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!
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:
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.
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