Oakland’s Mystic Hits Hard on Black/ Brown Genocide w/ the ‘Country Roads’

mysticGlad to see Oakland emcee Mystic is back on the scene with a new album called ‘Beautiful Resistance’. It not only speaks truth to power but touches our soul in profound ways.. This is what she wrote about the song Country Roads which takes on different weight in light of what we just seen unfold in Ferguson and the ongoing assaults of Black and Brown girls and women.

Country Roads” is the last free song before the release of the Beautiful Resistance album on 8/26. Like the first two free songs, this was produced Eligh. I would never have released this song separately from the album sequence if I had a choice due to how heavy the subject matter is. Although this is a historical song about the incredibly painful, violent, and racist history of the United States, the lynching of primarily Black men and boys (along with Brown men/boys) continues in the form of apparently legally sanctioned executions by vigilantes and police with very little justice or recognition of the historical systemic racism that ‘birthed’ this nation.

Just as importantly, the kidnappings, rapes, and murders of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor women continue to receive less recognition and national outcry. The value placed on our lives and our right to exist/dream/thrive is still unequal as it was in the inception of this country. In this song you hear pain, anger, me wishing I could go back and hold everyone in my arms to protect them; but none of us can return. We can only continue to beautifully resist and push forward through action and solidarity with those of us who make up the majority of the world. These are not just issues in the United States; these are global issues.

In love and in struggle,


Changing pace, here’s another cut from Mystic called ‘Homage‘…


How Will Dr Dre Becoming a Billionaire Impact Hip Hop?

Dr Dre black-whiteThere’s a lot of chatter about Dr Dre becoming the first Hip Hop billionaire if his deal with Beats by Dre goes through with Apple… I’m not sure what all that means at the end of the day.. Am i happy Dr Dre might have a billion dollars? Sure.. There’s nothing to hate on..In fact, one might say his business acumen is inspiring. He made some head phones sold them and is doing well..But in terms of what it means for Hip Hop and Black people in general? I’m not sure..

First let’s be clear we already know a few billionaires. If you live in northern Cali there’s all sorts of billionaires from Mark Zuckerberg to the founders of Google, to Larry Ellison of Oracle to Steve Jobs when he was alive.. And even though they don’t live here we can toss in Oprah and Bill Gates for good measure. How have those billionaires impacted our day-to-day lives?

Record foreclosures occurred in Northern Cali as these folks made their billions..Tuitions at state schools like Cal increased 300% in the past 5-6 years.. Tuitions at CSUs also increased dramatically. Rents have tripled and for many the ability to live day-to-day has become much more difficult. So Yes, right here in our backyard we have lots of billionaires, several of them young. They are inspiring, but thats about it. With Dr Dre becoming the newest billionaire, I’m not sure how much things will change.

The other thing for us to think about is that Hip Hop has already generated billions.. Lots of record, radio and music industry executives have and continue to live quite well off of Hip Hop.. The eco systems connected to Hip Hop generate billions with many living well.. That’s been the case for quite some time.. Yet with all these billions Hip Hop has generated we see poverty has increased not decreased for the majority of the people who live in communities that gave birth to this culture.  And this increase in poverty is happening as we have quite a few Black folks in control of their careers and products and doing well.. From Jay Z to Diddy to 50 Cent to Russell Simmons to Steve Stoute to Ice Cube to Baby of Cash Money We got lots of Black folks making loot and doing well off of Hip Hop, but how has that trickled down to the masses other than us being consumers who fill their pockets?

Dr Dre hustlinDo I want to see Dr Dre become a billionaire? Sure if you can make your money do so.. But ideally I’d like to see a deal where Dre came back and said he sold Beats by Dre to Apple and in return he became a significant owner of Apple with the ability to set aside a few thousand well-paying jobs annually complete with a healthy budget for those wishing to start-up business to become the next Apple..Maybe thats wishful thinking..but why not put that out there and dream?

Do I want Dre to be a billionaire? Sure, but ideally I would’ve like to see him make a deal that Apple would have to build a tuition free top-notch college where Dre gets to set aside a few thousand seats for deserving folks from his community..Again why not dream big?After all Dre and his partner Jimmy Iovine did that for USC…

Whats so sad about all this is when Common and Kanye announced that they would be working to create 20 thousand jobs with their new foundation, folks worked over time to prove it couldn’t be done and then dissed them for asserting their goal..Some of those same people are giddy over Dre possibly being a Hip Hop billionaire..

Black Male Achievement, Hip Hop in the Academy; 2 Educators Speak Out

Brenden Anderson

Brenden Anderson

Hard Knock Radio: 04-08-14 We speak with local community activist and educator Brenden Anderson about Black Male achievement, effective teaching methods, the school to prison pipeline and the upcoming Black male Achievement Man Up Conference. We talk about the obstacles that are in the way preventing effective methods from being implemented in schools. We talk about the way economic incentives around mass incarceration and private prisons. play a role in keeping education underfunded. We talk about how the programs Brenden is involved in have become a model currently being looked at by the Obama administration for their My Brother’s Keeper program.

Mazi Mutafa

Mazi Mutafa

Later on in the show we talk with educator Mazi Mutafa about his Washington DC based organization Words, Beats and Life. We talk about Hip Hop in the academy and how its grown over the years and the various approaches many are taking to enhance their teaching and excite students. We talk about their peer reviewed magazine and the significance of having scholars directly interact with practioners, artists and pioneers vs being detached and ‘studying them’.

We talk about the on going One Mic Festival in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center in which WBL is participating . We talk about How Hip Hop has spread globally and the steps folks here in the US must take to become a better participant in Hip Hop’s global conversation.

500 Female Emcees Everyone Should Know- ( Davey D’s Ultimate List )

maria Isa

Maria Isa

Below is a list of 500 Female Emcees and the first thing that everyone reading this should know is that the list is not complete. To be honest there’s more than 500 names, much more, but still the list is not complete nor will it ever be. There are too many places and spaces that I have never been nor have the incredible artists like Aisha Fukashima the Raptivist, Mad-lines, Aima the Dreamer, Raw G, Ximbo, Invincible and D’Labrie who over the past year contributed greatly to this list.

The list is not complete even as we have other wonderful lists like; the Illest Female Rappers, Women of Hip Hop, Female Rappers Tumblir, The Female Rappers Network or more recently Patrick McNease‘s Ultimate Female Emcee List. If we really think about it, we don’t want this or any list to be complete. There will always be more emcees to add as long as this culture call Hip Hop is alive, well and is global. If the list stops growing Hip Hop stops growing..

With that being said, the reason why the list came about in the first place was out of frustration and a realization that many within this industry , in particular my male brethren needed to be enlightened.

It was a frustration that many of my women friends within Hip Hop were having when they would hear some pompous music critic or ‘industry expert’ say some ignorant crap like; ‘all women sound the same‘ or ‘these women need to put out hit songs‘, women need to grind harder and promote themselves better or ‘there aren’t a lot of quality women emcees out there‘. All those statements are gross generalizations and reflect a laziness on the part of those making the claim or extreme bias.

The frustration many were feeling was one that would come after hearing announcement after announcement for some huge mega-Cochella-Sumer-Jam-Rock-the-Bells-Spring-Bling type concert that would feature 20 plus acts and only one woman would be on the bill. It was frustration that was felt after pointing out such egregious oversights only to be ignored and ridiculed.

female-emcees-psoterlightIt was the frustration of hearing promoters doing smaller shows claiming that women won’t attract an audience and hence would not be a sound business move even to have one open up a show.

It was frustration of going to a club featuring a popular deejay lauded for being a Hip Hop icon with a reputation for ‘digging in the crates’ and turning audiences onto new music from far off lands and forgotten times only to discover that they rarely dig in crates and ‘discover’ a dope female emcee…

And don’t get it twisted, this refusal to share space has been going on a for a while and many women have expressed frustration the ones I know have not been sitting around waiting for miracles to occur. Many have started doing their own shows and put on vibrant events..From Invincible out of Detroit who I saw do several all women showcases at SXSW and have them packed with lines out the door to Aisha the Raptivist who has traveled the world and and done her own tours to Raw G who promotes here in the Bay Area locally and always brings out incredible women emcees like Alika from Argentina Dunay Surez from Cuba or Ximbo from Mexico, folks are steady grinding and making moves

Where I think folks are getting short changed are in male dominated spaces where female voices, POV and approaches toward Hip Hop are not readily present. Its a cipher that’s incomplete and that has got to change.
The list below was ideally to serve as a guide of sorts to anyone who had this female emcee blind spot.

Its a guide for deejays caught yapping about how ‘there ain’t no good female emcees‘. Its a weak excuse often given for them not rocking any women during a deejay set or mixshow.. Out of all the emcees featured on this list there are  some hard hitters out there they can not and will not be denied. This list gives them no excuse. There are sistas on here who do Trap, Backpack, boom bap, raggamuffin, pop, underground, commercial, hardcore etc..The variety is endless.

The list below is guide for promoters who say there’s ‘no market out there for women emcees‘.  A quick look at some of the folks on this list crushes that assertion down to its very last compound. From the days of Her Story Hip Hop Tours and See It Live showcases to 5th Element gatherings to upcoming Queendom Concerts to all women showcases put on by Invincible to showcases like Black Women Rock w/ Jessica Care Moore to Rock Like A Girl on the Mic w/ Toni Blackman to Hip Sister Radio to name a few, the scene is healthy. No matter what city. No matter what country, there are emcees listed for you to check out.. From Brooklyn to Oakland to Russia to new Zealand to Pakistan and beyond..



The list is a guide for academic types who can speak at length about male artists over various eras in Hip Hop but when it comes time to referencing women, they only know MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Nicki Minaj and maybe a Lil Kim. This list is for them to check out and help expand their hip hop vocabulary so they can reference dynamic women like; Sa-Roc, Stahhr, Rocky Rivera, Shadia Mansour, Keny Arkana, Cihuatl Ce, Kellee Maize or Farrah Burns. Rock their songs, play their videos, examine their lyrics

The way the list works is each name is linked to a video and in a few cases to a sound cloud page.. Some of the names are linked to 3 Dope Song series page or a 500 Female Emcee page. In putting this list together it was noted that one song or video often didn’t do artists justice. They are much more complex. As you will note, included on the list are several singers and  spoke nword artists whose presence and influence in Hip Hop can not be denied.

It’s hoped that folks will peep the music, read about the artists click on the links associated with them and start digitally digging in the crates. Not everyone is gonna be great. Not everyone is gonna have a masterpiece of a song or album, but many do and as lovers and protectors of this culture we all should be pushing ourselves to do a better job bringing forth ‘new finds‘ vs having it be dictated to us by corporate interests and their mouth pieces.


-Davey D-

























Posse Cuts

Da Ladies in the House

10 white Female Rappers

Compton Female Cypher

Team Backpack Female Cypher

Team Backpack female Cypher #2

Rocky Rivera, Plane Jane, Oh Blimey, Raven Sorina ‘Girlz Rmx

Reebok Female Cypher

Illest Female Rappers

Phuturehype 2006

Hip Sista Hop Radio

Women of Hip Hop

Mujeres Trabajando

Shamako Noble: A Call For a Bay Area and Other Cities to Unite

This is an article penned by Shamako Noble of Hip Hop Congress several years ago-back in October 2005 to be exact. With the current state of affairs bringing forth everything from increased poverty to gentrification and  dwindling opportunities impacting not just the Bay Area but all our respective cities, what he penned has just as much relevance today as it did when he first wrote it.. Its a Call for A Bay Area United that applies to many of our cities..

As you read this column and soak up some of the info.. folks may want to click the link below check out this recent article penned by Shamako, The Rise of Silicon Valley Bay http://www.siliconvalleydebug.org/articles/2014/03/14/rise-silicon-valley-bay

A Call For A Bay Area United (Oct 2005)

Shamako Noble wallInspired by so many things like the recent Zion-I,Team, Mr. Fab, Crown City Rockers show, the growth of Distortion to Static, Katrina, and Millions More Movements, I recognize that it may truly be time for a Bay Area Movement.

This article is not about Democrat or Republican, although it will address some issues brought up by both parties as well as some of the movements they are committed to. This series is not about Bloods or Crips, Nortenos or Surenos, Guns, Rap, Graff, etc. It is about our communities, our cultures, our children and our elders. These are simply suggestions or thoughts for what I believe may already be occurring on many levels. In the coming weeks, I will continue this series getting into more depth on each topic.

Please excuse the length of the first, as the
remaining will be more consolidated in dealing with each topic specifically with more supporting evidence, facts, statistics and the like. The final piece will be the one that ties the vision together for a more community connected Bay Area. To anyone already doing the things I’m talking about, good looking out and keep it moving. We support you.

The areas I will focus on will be: Youth Services, Hip Hop and Media, Philanthropy, and Political Activism

Youth Services:
1. Defining the problem(s): Youth Violence, Gangs, Health Care, Drugs, Education, etc. Although many of our community’s problems are unique, many of them are shared. Also, see number 3 in political activism.

2. Identifying potential solutions, resources and establishing those willing to put in the work. We have much more in our favor than we currently recognize. Right now, we are working on a master list of Bay Area Youth Organizations for all of us to share collectively. I believe that many of us are already doing considerable networking. Let us continue to do so.

3. Drawing the bridge between regions so that although localized areas are focused on localized problems, the Bay Area as a whole is focused on networking and utilizing youth resources and information.

4. If we make the world bigger than our regions and ourselves, it will be easier for us to transition that understanding to the youth. Too many of our youth don’t know enough about what is beyond their borders. How can we honestly tell them that the world is bigger than what they see, and we don’t even show them what is across a bridge?

5. Take the idea of Hip Hop and Education, but more importantly the spirit of ‘by any means necessary’ in education seriously. The Bay Area is one of the country’s most active groups in that respect with groups like 5th Element, Sisters of the Underground, The Academy of Hip Hop, Trinity Wolf Productions, Unity Care and many more leading the helm. Even in this ‘liberal’ area, there is still too much of a divide and hesitation on the part of many educators and administrators to recognize the importance or relating to, challenging and embracing the experience of the student. This is risky and fearful at best and dangerous and negligent at its worst.

Hip Hop and Media

Hip Hop mean To You sign1. Hip Hop must stop dividing itself. Leaders, activists, artists of all elements must come together as a unified social, economic and political force organizing under a collective banner of the empowerment of the poor, marginalized and disenfranchised of the Bay Area. New or Old, Graff Writer or DJ we are much more useful to each other collectively than we are separately.

2. De-regionalize our mentalities, our markets and musical movements. The Bay Area boasts one of the highest numbers of independent artists in the Unites States of America and the truth is that a lot of those artists just don’t know each other or know of each other. This undermines our collective strength and our ability to truly stimulate the culture of our region. So to some extent, let’s stop being San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, East Palo Alto and
Richmond. Let’s just be the Bay.

3. Prejudice directly connected to labeling must end and we must begin to view titles such as ‘conscious’ or ‘gangsta’ as almost, if not completely, counter-productive. Granted, they may refer to some degree of a musical style, but Hip Hop is Hip Hop and even before that (and perhaps more importantly), human expression is human expression. If there are specific issues that we wish to engage in the music of individuals or a certain ‘market’
then let us do so as a community with shared interests and common goals.

4. We must take collective ownership for our economics, cultural conditions and media savvy. The Bay Area has one of the most ripe Independent and College Radio Markets in the world today. We need radio DJs like T-Cash and others who are willing to embrace not only the universal struggle of independent artistry in the Bay Area, but that are willing to recognize their importance and responsibility as community beacons of information and good music. When the commercial radio stations are not willing to do it, we need college/independent radio stations that are. Also, please refer to the previous point.

DJ Luicidal and D'Labrie & Sellasie

DJ Luicidal and D’Labrie & Sellasie

5. We must take the collective initiative to stay informed and to keep others informed. The Bay Area, with folks like Adisa Banjoko, Davey D, Jeff Chang, Vanessa Nisperos, Kenny May, Boots, Emcee Lynx, Balance, Ren the Vinyl Archeologist, E-40, Shock G, DLabrie, Rahman Jamaal and many more, clearly has one of the most fertile grounds of Hip Hop and social thinking that this country has to offer. However, all anyone can do is make this information as readily available as possible. It is our collective responsibility to keep others and ourselves as informed as we can in our busy schedules.

6. Let’s begin seriously drawing bridges between, African-American, Latino American, Native American, LGBT, Women, Pacific Islander, and poor and working-class white communities. Realistically, most of these groups have Hip Hop music distinct to their communities, and although we cannot simply expect to make fans out of thin air, perhaps the more we can make people aware of the music, the more we can make them aware of the issues.

7. See above: #5 under Youth Services.

Philanthropy and Social Venture Capitalism:

money_stack1. There are dozens of organizations and activists out there right now doing amazing things that are scrambling desperately for money. The structure in which philanthropy is designed currently forces the activist, organizer, non-profit etc., to find the money, apply for the money, and then compete for and with the money. That’s fine when it comes to certain services that are not of an urgent nature. However, our children are dying, being mis-educated, undereducated misled and cornered into situations that are not healthy for themselves, their families and their communities.

There are organizations that are on the front lines of poverty, of culture, and of youth advocacy and activism and they need your help. They can prove they’re effective, and they can give you good documentation for your tax purposes. However, if you have it in your foundation budget, start hiring community activists already on the
frontlines of these communities to help guide you. Don’t build a stadium or center in the community, find out what the community is doing, if they need your help and then offer. Stop starting new programs and start supporting the ones that already exist without a bunch of hoops and strings.

2. Take aggressive, proactive collaboration and outreach seriously. When I say that, I don’t simply mean reach out to those with whom you are comfortable. I mean reach out even to those with whom you are not comfortable and know nothing about. If you find you don’t understand something about a community, be proactive in learning more. Do not be satisfied until a true state of equity in opportunity and standard of living is in place. Recognize that there is no one individual, group, foundation or organization that is
going to solve the entirety of this collective problem.

In other words: stop competing with each other and stop making good organizations and good people compete for small dollars that only make small dents. Work collaboratively with other foundations, and other foundation collectives to begin to target issues with the right amount of dollars, and take seriously the search for organizations to funnel those dollars through. Groups like the PCF in the peninsula and RFC in the South Bay are models for that kind of work.

Political Activism:

Protests Edinburgh Photos 0091. Let’s continue to build on the momentum established in 2004 during the election. However, let’s do so with a more determined and defined strategy. If there is still a Bay Area LOC, and a South Bay LOC, let’s recharge them and get them involved in state and local issues. Let’s connect with the labor unions, the teacher unions, the independents, and the greens. Let’s begin to take each other’s lives more seriously than we take each
other’s politics.

2. To representatives, tell us, as a community, what you need from us to make happen what you want to make
happen. If we recognize our collective power, and even further if we recognize that working together, you (the rep) can leverage our collective power to make a difference, what specifically would you need us to do? Organize, vote, protest and rally, e-mail or phone calls? Let us form a true leadership with grassroots, universal concepts that seeks to empower and galvanize the whole in an inclusive but uncompromising manner and utilize that to make use of or expose the highest value of political process.

3. We pretty much know our issues; let’s get married to them. I don’t think that there is too much confusion here. We know that education, health care, poverty, violence in the home and the hood, prison/industrial complex, housing, the environment and other violations of basic rights to life are at the core of this discussion and that although that may take different forms in different regions, it’s essentially going to come down to similar things.
Let’s find our common bonds, and apply collective leverage. If we can’t figure it out in a week, then let’s take a month. If we can’t figure it out in a month, then let’s take a year. Let’s work on it until we get it right and recognize that any time invested in this endeavor is time well spent.

Like I said, this is the beginning but if there is anybody out there feeling this, please don’t hesitate to hit me up and let’s get this moving. My thinking on this matter has evolved over the course of years, and I’m sure it will continue to do so. However, there can be few things more important right now than productive, honest dialogue and quick, effective short, medium and long-term action.

Shamako Noble is a co-founder and current President of Hip Hop Congress and Co-Executive Director of
R.E.F.U.G.E. (Real Education for Urban Growth Enterprises). He can be reached at shamako@hiphopcongress.com

3 Dope songs from LA Rapper Ak’sent

aksentAk’Sent aka  Krystle Kantrece Johnson is from LA..I remember when she first hit the scene around ’05, ’06, she looked like she was ready to be that main person everyone was checking for.. But then she disappeared.. Not sure what happened, but her music was dope and as an emcee she was up there..

Her father is of African-American descent, while her mother is of Mexican descent. Ak’Sent grew up quickly thanks to a rough childhood. Her father was an aspiring rapper caught up in the gang lifestyle and was killed in a gang shooting when she was four years old, and with her mother unable to support her on her own, she was sent to live with her grandparents in South Central, Los Angeles.

Ak’Sent was signed to Capitol Records when she was only 16. Since then she has worked with a number of well-known professionals such as The Jugganauts, DJ Quik, & Beenie Man.

Ak’Sent aims to avoid the glorification of violence and prefers to think of Hip-Hop as a form of “street poetry.” Her first album, International, was released on September 26, 2006. She released her second album Gem-In-I under the Avex label. It was released on July 16, 2008 in Japan only. She is currently recording her third album and a mixtape.

Although Ak’Sent signed to a major label when she was only 16 years old, her African-American/Latino background had her wondering where to fit in. Adding to her challenges, rap music wasn’t allowed in her grandparent’s house, but as Ak’Sent learned more about her father’s hip-hop aspirations, she decided she should carry on in his honor. She eventually spent time in several R&B-based girl groups and began dance training with Debbie Allen. One showcase at the age of 16 had the young multi-talent signed to Capitol and working with the production duo The Jugganauts. Ak’Sent was especially excited about the Caribbean-styled beats the Jugganauts were working on, and soon she was writing a series of dancehall numbers. One was the future hit “Zingy“, featuring guest star Beenie Man, who Ak’Sent herself had chosen because she was a huge fan. Her debut International landed in 2006 with a Spanish-language remix of “Zingy” and an ode to her departed father titled “My Life“.

source wikipedia.. for more info on Ak’sent go to http://www.aksent.com/

Ak’sent ‘The Bomb’


Ak’sent ‘Bounce’


Ak’sent ‘I Hate Love’


Remembering Malcolm X’s Long Connection to Hip Hop

In the aftermath of the firestorm Nicki Minaj caused soiling the image of Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) by using him as a marketing tool for her new song ‘Lookin’ Ass Nigga‘, we wanted to take some time out to remind people of the long history our Black Shining Prince has with Hip Hop.

Malcolm X had such a presence in Hip Hop because he was sampled so much and his image was put in so many videos, many would remark that he was an emcee. His words of wisdom and powerful voice was a part of Hip Hop’s soundtrack and it informed us.

Those who are old enough will recall the early days of Hip Hop, before records were made, pioneering deejays like Afrika Bambaataa would rock Malcolm speeches over break beats. Not only did it sound funky but it helped raise our consciousness. For many of us it was our first introduction to him. It inspired many to pick up his autobiography which was transformative.

In all fairness it should be noted that Bam was doing what many within jazz had already started doing in terms of inserting Malcolm’s voice within their work. Many did songs that paid tribute to him.. Hip Hop had joined the circle.

Audonbon BallroomIn the pioneering days of Hip Hop, Malcolm’s presence was felt because many of us one of the hot spots for early Hip Hop jams was the famed Audubon Ballroom.  Situated right across the street from Presbyterian Hospital on 168th and Broadway (where I was born), one could not attend a Hip Hop jam in the late 70s early 80s at the Audubon and not think of its sordid history. This was where Malcolm was assassinated (Feb 21 1965) . One could not enter that Audubon, see the huge hospital less than 100 feet away across the street and not wonder why it took over 45 minutes for the police and medics to get him inside that building after he was shot to work on saving his life..

It should also be noted that Malcolm’s presence was felt when folks picked up compilations of reissued break beats ‘Super Disco Breaks‘ on Paul Winley records. Winley also pressed up copies of Malcolm’s speeches. Many of us snatched copies of Ballot or the Bullet along with early recordings where Malcolm would spit fire. On some of the reissued speeches, Winley rearranged them to sound like press conferences. He had an announcer ask questions and than would edit in excerpts from one of Malcolm’s speeches.

Break beats and Malcolm X was the formula back in the early days. It was all crystallized in 1983 when Tommy Boy records released the song ‘No sell Out’ from drummer Keith Leblanc where bits and pieces of Malcolm were interspersed throughout the song.


KRS-One Malcolm XDuring the so-called Golden era you had everyone from Poor Righteous Teachers to Paris to 3x Dope to Gang Starr to Public Enemy all rocked Malcolm samples in their songs.. KRS One mimicked the infamous Malcolm X pitcher, that Nicki Minaj soiled, where he was holding a gun looking out the window, ready to protect himself after his home had been firebombed. Many say KRS kicked things off when he featured Malcolm X in his My Philosophy video … I miss those days..



Malcolm X The SourceMalcolm was sampled so much that he wound up being on the cover of the Source Magazine in 1990. Many forgot about that.  Say what you will, the powers that be (Cointel-Pro, J Edgar Hoover, FBI) worked overtime to remove Malcolm from our collective consciousness must’ve been fuming when that happened. At the height of the crack era, Malcolm had reached young minds from the grave and was helping reshaped them..

It wasn’t too long after that Source cover that we started to not see and hear Malcolm as much. Some said it was because labels and his estate were smashing on people for sampling him and wanted to collect money if his voice was added to any record. Others said he was over exposed especially after Spike Lee‘s movie came out in 92 and folks started rocking X hats thinking it stood for the number ’10’ vs Malcolm X…

Perhaps it was a new version of cointel-pro working in overdrive to stamp out his presence once and for all and make sure he never got that far into the mainstream undistorted and un-maligned. Perhaps it’s for that reason when future generations of emcees sampled Malcolm X and did justice to his image that the songs were uncelebrated and damn near marginalized. They range from David Banner‘s Malcolm X to local artists like D’Labrie‘s  It Aint EZ w/ San Quinn and Keyanna Bean to folks like DJ/ Professor Jared Ball (I Mix What I Like) taking it to another level and by editing and penning books about Malcolm X to keep his legacy in tact.. (A Lie of Reivention Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X )

Nicki MinajMaybe it was this effort to erase Malcolm that artists like Nicki Minaj felt comfortable maligning him.. She didn’t see him as a peer as was the case with past generations, but instead as dusty irrelevant relic of the past.

Nicki was pressured to remove this image and issue an apology thanks to other Hip Hop community leaders like Rosa Clemente who were outraged, still saw Malcolm as a peer and launched an online petition that garnered thousands of signatures opposing Nicki’s latest offering which many found offensive.

Here are a few other  songs that were dope that came out at a time many were screaming for conscious music that evoked Malcolm and have gone unnoticed..

Killer Mike w/ Ice Cube ‘The Pressure’


Akrobatik ‘Remind My Soul’


Jasiri XUniversal Ruler


K-Hill For My People


Malcolm Meets Fort Minor Our Black Shining Prince (Davey D remix)


Many have got it twisted in thinking Malcom X somehow softened or lightened up in his final days.. This speech given in 1965 one month before he was killed is anything but soft.. He stays sharply focused and unwavering in his fight for freedom




Is Hip Hop a Movement? In 2009 We Examined Our Political Relevance..

Tonight the good folks from Hip Hop Ed will be hosting their weekly online twitter discussion with the topic being ‘Can Hip Hop Advance a Movement?’  We are reposting this article from 2009 along with some videos we did at the time addressing this issue. Obvious 4 years later we have a lot more things to look at in weighing this question, but its good to go back and see how folks were thinking at what was deemed a monumental moment in time..

Racist People are suspicious of President Obama, with or without a hoodie

President Obama

With President Barack Obama in the White House and more than 2/3 of the voters between the ages of 18-40 (the Hip Hop generation) voting for him, many are celebrating and talking about the political power and social movement potential of Hip Hop. Is Hip Hop a Movement?

That’s the question we been asking from coast to coast. If it is a movement how is that manifested? Is there a political agenda or does it even need one? Some say the movement is centered around the music and dance aspects and that Hip Hop has managed to bring people of all races and all creeds around one proverbial campfire.

The concept pushed forth by pioneer Afrika Bambaataa of Peace, Love and Having Fun as opposed to engaging in gang violence is a movement. The commitment to embrace Hip Hop’s 5th element-Knowledge is a movement for some. The fact that Hip Hop is practiced all over the world is proof of a movement.Many have argued that had it not been for Hip Hop President Obama would not have been elected because Hip Hop significantly lessened the type of apprehension and prejudices held by people in older generations who simply could not and would not vote for a Black candidate.
Others are saying that because Obama had Hip Hop super stars like Jay-Z and Will I am playing key roles in exciting voters and getting them to the poles, is proof that Hip Hop is a Movement.

Others say such activities is not a movement but a clever marketing strategy. In fact getting a president into office is not a movement-Having day to day political capital and people in office being accountable to you on local levels is what makes a movement. It’s been pointed out that if Hip Hop played such a crucial role in getting President Obama into the White House where is the payback? Has been addressing issues held dear by the Hip Hop generation? Does he have someone who understands the Hip Hop community in his cabinet? What sort of money is being directed to Hip Hop organizations in the latest stimulus packages?

We assembled a number of people ranging from Chuck D of Public Enemy to former Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente to Professor Jared Ball to Hip Hop icons Paradise Gray of X-Clan and a host of others to tackle this question. Is Hip Hop a Movement? Take a look at the videos and weigh in.

We also show how Hip Hop folks are out and about making things happen. Some of what we depict are folks like Shamako Noble of Hip Hop Congress helping lead a Poor People’s march to Oakland rapper D’Labrie stirring up a crowd at a Get out to Vote rally to Baltimore rapper Labtekwon freestyling on a street about consciousness raising. The clips and corresponding links are shown below. Enjoy

Is Hip Hop a Movement? pt1


We speak w/ former rapper Khari Mosley who is a member of One Hood out of Pittsburgh, Pa and an elected official who also heads up the League of Young Voters field operations & Dr Jared Ball who ran for Green Party Presidential nominee and does the FreeMix Mixtapes who offer up differing opinions on this topic on Hip Hop

Is Hip Hop a Movement? pt2


Paradise the Arkitech

Paradise the Arkitech

We continue our conversation about Hip Hop being a movement. Here we talk to two veterans of the Civil Rights Movements and the Black Power Movements. One is DJ Paradise of the legendary group X-Clan. Paradise was part of the Blackwatch Movement which fought for social justice. He was also a part of the Black Spades street gang at a time when Afrika Bambaataa was transforming it and moving it in a direction where members took on community responsibility.

We also talk with Fred Rush who is the deputy mayor of Erie, Pa. He is a civil rights vet who at age 15 went to the historic March on Washington where Dr Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. He contrasts the Hip Hop Movement with the Civil Rights Movement and explains what is needed in order to have a successful movement

Is Hip Hop a Movement? pt3


Our discussion continues w/ TJ Crawford who put together the National Hip Hop Political Convention in Chicago 2006. We also talk with Rev Lennox Yearwood who heads up the Washington DC based Hip Hop Caucus. We also hear from rapper Haitian Fresh-who is defining the Hip Hop Movement for him and his fans. Where do u stand on this?

Is Hip Hop a Movement? pt4


We continue our discussion by breaking bread w/ Baltimore rapper Omar Akbar aka Labtekwon. We also talk w/ Shamako Noble & D’Labrie of Hip Hop Congress and see them in action fighting for social justice.

Chuck D

Chuck D

Is Hip Hop a Movement? We Interview Chuck D of Public Enemy


We sat down w/ Public Enemy front man Chuck D and asked him to weigh in on the question of ‘Is Hip Hop a Movement? He tells us about the world wide impact of this culture and explains what we need to consider when answering this question.

Is Hip Hop a Movement? Hip Hop activist Rosa Clemente Speaks


Long time Hip Hop activists and former VP Green Party candidate Rosa Clemente sat with us and gave us her take on Hip Hop and it’s political relevance. She offers us up a cold dose of reality and asks some very hard questions

Here’s a Dope Afrocentric Remake of Lorde’s Hit Song ‘Royals’

Maimouna Youssef tiltLove this song from Maimouna Youssef (Mumu Fresh ) who hails from Washington DC. She does an incredible job covering this song ‘Royals‘ by Lorde which recently just won two Grammys for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year.

What stands out about this version is how she flips up the words and chorus and goes hard at the the concept of elitism. and reminds us that we are already Royal..  She does a rap verse that especially is potent, reminding us she’s a dope emcee as well as a gifted singer.

Most should find this remake of Royals’ to be quite uplifting.. The song will be featured on an upcoming mixtape… For those unfamiliar with this sista, you may wanna check out some of her past work in particular the album called ‘The Blooming’

Maimouna YoussefMeet Me In Brazil’



Maimouna YoussefThe Blooming

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.