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.

Sunspot Jonz of Living Legends Speaks About New Film ‘Isis Dynasty’

Sunspot Jonz

Sunspot Jonz

We got a chance to catch up with Sunspot Jonz of Mystic Journeymen and front man for Living Legends to talk about his latest venture. Many have long know Jonz as a dope emcee who has put out countless albums and helped personify what it means to be an independent and corporate free within the music arena.

Not too many, know Sunspot for his work in education and his work as an accomplished film maker.  He had long been writing screenplays and had attracted quite a bit of interest for some of his projects. He also was behind the cameras for the Living Legends video ‘Now You Know’ . He also did a short called ‘Resin‘. and a documentary about the Living Legends called ‘Street Legendz‘. He also did a film called ‘Dreamweaver‘ which has yet to be released

Sunspot’s love of film was one of the factors that led to him leaving his native East Oakland for LA. The goal was to bust down the doors to Hollywood. In our recent interview he explained that unfortunately, many of the stereotypes and pitfalls that we’ve heard about La La Land  manifested themselves, which led him employing the DIY ethos that made him successful within music.

This new film Isis Dynasty is the product of a film company called CorFat he founded with co-director Fatima Washington in 2010. It’s about the challenges facing a young woman who has 30 days to make it in Hollywood . If features some well-known actors like; Faizon Love (Couples Retreat, Friday, Who’s Your Caddy), Golden Brooks (Girlfriends, Beauty Shop) and Paula Jai Parker (Hustle & Flow, She Hate Me, Friday). Jonz will also be starring in the film, putting his acting chops to the test…

Below is our Hard Knock Radio Interview with Sunspot Jonz

Click the link below to download or Listen

Click link below to download or Listen

Hip Hop History: Remembering the Historic 2001 Hip Hop Summit & Farrakhan’s Incredible Speech

2001 Hip Hop SummitAs we celebrate Hip Hop History Month and the 40th anniversary of the Universal Zulu Nation we wanted to take a look back and recall a historic event that has been written out of many Hip Hop history books.. It was the 2001 Hip Hop Summit in New York City. It was the first of its kind and came on the heels of  many in the Hip Hop generation being woken up in the aftermath of the 2000 election where the Presidency was stolen from Al Gore and given to George Bush via the Supreme Court.  That’s how many were feeling at that time and still feel to this day…

That sentiment was coupled with a heighten political awareness in New York,  tyrannical reign of Mayor Rudy Giuliani who had his police running around hemming people up if they stood more than 2 or 3 in group.. This was before Stop and Frisk. He had a street crimes unit that would have police walking around and arbitrarily stopping people , searching for weapons. This led to the shooting death of  Amadou Diallo in February of 1999 on Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx, the borough where Hip Hop was born. He was shot 41 times  by cops who ‘mistook his wallet’ for a gun. A year later those cops would be acquitted with the main urban station Hot 97, not even announcing it on the air..

All this and a slew of other incidents led to many within the Hip Hop generation pushing and demanding change. So in short, the time was right for the gathering that took place that day…Just about everyone in the Hip Hop/ Music industry was there. We are talking executives from MTV and BET.  Major record label heads were present.

A lot of Hip Hop journalists and writers were in there. All the major networks were there with their cameras and reports on hand..  Hip Hop pioneers and the biggest artists of the day from Dame Dash to Jermaine Dupri, Sean Puffy Combs, Master P, Wyclef  packed the place..Quite a few members of Congress including Cynthia McKinney was there to address the audience.

Minister Farrakhan addressed that body and gave what he described as the best speech of his life.. It was incredible and inspiring. It held artists feet to the fire and it held executives feet to the fire. It left everyone fired up. Quite a few came out of that gathering determined to make the necessary changes that were called for that day and they would go on to do bigger and better things. Others remained locked into a world of coonery and you have to wonder why since they were present and expressed appreciation for what took place that day..

Below is a recap of the speech and gathering written by Cedric Muhammad of Black Electorate a few days after the event.. I included some of the audio I gathered which I think you will find useful.. My only regret was not recording Minister Farrakhan’s speech.. I was under the impression that it would be immediately released.. Word was it was going to be released via Def jam.. That never happened and I never got the full story as to why.. What he said that day still applies to our current situation, if not more..

-Davey D-


Cedric Muhammad

Cedric Muhammad

On June 13th before a packed audience in the Mercury Ballroom of the New York Hilton Hotel, filled with some of the Hip Hop industry’s most prominent artists, producers and executives, Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered the keynote address at the recent Hip Hop Summit organized by Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records. In a nearly 3-hour address, the Minister simultaneously defended, encouraged, criticized and praised Hip- Hop artists, challenging them to take responsibility for their position as leaders of the world’s youth.

The Minister, who entered the ballroom to a standing ovation, began his remarks by speaking directly to the artists who were primarily seated in the front rows of the audience. Looking directly at such artists as L.L. Cool J., Talib Kweli, Keith Murray, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Crazy Legs, Damian Dash, Sister Souljah, Ja Rule, Afrika Bambatta, Redman, Luther “Luke” Campbell, Wyclef Jean, Fat Joe, Grandmaster Flash, Krazy Bone, D.J. Premier, Kurtis Blow, Eric B, U-God and many others, the Minister stated, “each of us is brought here with a purpose”.

2001 Hip Hop summit FarrakhanHe told the artists that part of their greatness rest in the fact that each of them, through the identification, development and cultivation of their talent had “discovered their reason for being”. Still directing his comments specifically to the artists in the audience, the Minister added, “Maybe you are not aware of it but you have been chosen to lead”.

On a dais with Queen Latifah, Chuck D., Haqq Islam, Jermaine Dupri, and others, Minister Farrakhan told the artists that because he was a spiritual leader he could inform them of “who you are and why you are called”, according to holy scripture, in both the Bible and Holy Quran. He began by quoting from the book of John, Chapter 1.

He quoted, in unison with some in the audience, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God”

The Minister then stated that in the historic evolution of culture and art, that the world has reached the point, through Hip-Hop, where the spoken word is dominating culture.

2001 Hip Hop Summit BamHe then began to provide his exegesis of those verses in John, explaining that “the word was god” and that god represents “force and power”. He remarked of the Hip-Hop community, “there is strength in this community but what it needs is guidance”.

The Minister then expressed that the Hip-Hop community and industry should be concerned with what stage of its evolution it had reached. He told the audience that they have to keep growing their art form. And he punctuated his point by stating that Hip-Hop, like reggae, calypso, gospel and rhythm and blues are all different today than when they began.

The Minister then began his defense of Hip-Hop artists who have come under fire for their lyrical content saying, “Society wants lyrics cleaned up but it (society) doesn’t want to clean itself up.” The Minister said that the most negative aspects of Hip Hop lyrics only reflect the mind and heart of community leadership and aspects of a gangster U.S. government. He added that Hip Hop lyrics were bringing out in public, the private aspects of people’s reality. He said, Gangster lyrics are only showing aspects of “a government that is gangster.” The Minister said that when rappers talk about killing people, they are no different than those in government who have assassinated leaders of other countries. He also said that when artists speak of drug abuse, they are speaking of a behavior, in the open, that has taken place even in the White House.

Hip Hop SummitWhat society wants to do with Hip Hop and young people is “break the mirror, rather than look in it and clean itself up.” The Minister concluded that part of his defense by stating: “If society cleaned itself up, rappers would have to talk about something else.”

The Minister then began part of his challenge to the Hip-Hop artists. He began by speaking of the female womb, telling the audience that the Holy Qur’an advises that we “reverence the womb that bore us”.

The Minister followed that beginning by saying that “the human brain is also a womb”.

He stated, “A man is what he eats, but what about the mind?” He answered his own question by saying, “Jesus said that “as a man thinketh, so he is”. He added that those who feed the mind shape the actions of others.

2001 Hip Hop summit The Minister said that the media was present at the summit because they knew that it was a world-shaking event. Because” all over the world the youth are being led by you”, he told the artists. He then asked , ” In Congress they want to pass a law to disturb your right to free speech. Why hasn’t the government stopped Hollywood? Why now pick on Eminem? Why now pick on you?”

The Minister then stated, “It’s not the lyrics, (they are concerned about). It is that you have taken away the children from their mothers and fathers.” And he added, that “every government has used young people to fight its wars”, making the point that Hip-Hop was actually interfering with the protocol of the world and the power of parents and government to control the masses of the world’s youth.

The Minister then spoke of how governments have always been interested in controlling the youth – desiring that they be able to be called upon to fight in wars. He then spoke of how in countries all over the world, in Africa and Europe, 10 and 11-year olds and teen agers were being taught how to make bombs and fight in war. But he added that all of the youth that are fighting and killing are unaware as to why they are doing such. He emphasized that the courage of young people was used to benefit others while they (the youth) were kept ignorant as to who and what purpose they were serving in fighting the war.

The Minister then added that the government was frightened because the U.S. was poised to go to war but has to deal with who controls the minds of the youth.

2001 Hip Hop summit back roomSensing that Hip-Hop has taken away the minds of the youth, the Minister argued that now some in government and society are asking the question, “How do we get our children back?”

The answer, the Minister explained, depended upon the destruction of Hip Hop beginning with its most prominent artists.

The Minister then articulated how much of the feuding and civil wars in Hip-Hop between prominent artists was orchestrated by the media and that the artists themselves, played right into the plan by making records that “dissed” other artists. But the Minister added that the conflict never remains between the two principals. Because Hip-Hop artists have fans and followers, their disagreements with each other result in groups of young people being opposed to one another.

And because of this fact the Minister challenged the artists “to accept responsibility that you have never accepted”, as leaders.

The Minister then spoke of the responsibility and consequences of words.

He said that America is a great country and unique in the world because “freedom of speech in the U.S. constitution is a guarantor” that wrong will be pointed out in society.

2001 Hip Hop SummitThe Minister then explained that part of the power in Hip-Hop is that the words are accompanied by music saying, “the beat in the song literally drives the word in.” The Minister then advised the artists that they should learn from his example.The Minister stated that he understands why artists feel they can not compromise the right to say whatever they feel but he cautioned that they should be aware of the consequences of their words.The Minister told the artists, that they should “learn the skill of words and how to use them in a way that gains universal respect…I have learned through years of pain that I can say things and say it in a way that doesn’t trigger a certain response”.

The Minister told the audience that Hip-Hop has brought Black and White together in a way that is frightening to some in power. He also spoke of Hip-Hop’s global implications, saying, “Rap has brought the children of the world to you: what will you do with your leadership?”

Minister Farrakhan told the artists that they were actually raising the world’s children – in the U.S., Iran, and China. And he stressed that because the church, mosque and school had failed, the children were in the street being raised by Hip-Hop and their peers.

The 68-year old Muslim leader said that Hip-Hop was actually in the middle of the transition of two worlds and that such a position required responsibility on the part of rappers. He said, “The freedom of speech is one thing but freedom is not license…carelessness is the right attitude to break from the old but not the right attitude to come into the new”

2001 Hip Hop summitBut the Minister, again, stressed that he was not there to rebuke young people and that he was following the example set by Jesus to “suffer the children…”

His comments were directed at some of the civil right sleaders who were present in the audience as well as those who were not present but who had dedicated a tremendous amount of energy to condemning Hip Hop.

The Minister said, “Children don’t need rebuke but to be shown the way to perfect what they are doing.”

The Minister then spoke of the account in the Bible and Holy Qur’an where the elders and magicians – the older leaders of the Children of Israel – actually helped Pharoah in his plan to spare the females of the Children of Israel while killing the male babies. He warned the older leaders that God did not bring but two “older” members of the Children of Israel into the promised land, with everyone else being twenty years old or younger.

2001 Hip Hop SummitThe Minister then returned his focus to the artists present, telling them that their fearlessness and courage is being used by the enemy to get them and their “followers” to kill one another.

He pointedly told the rappers that their association with weapons was counterproductive, and not the real source of their popularity. “Guns didn’t get you your power in China, Iran or Egypt, it was the word”, he said.

The Minister then turned his attention to the media and said that he knew that they were really there to see what he was going to do with his access to the Hip-Hop community. He commented that he knew that they were frightened by the relationship between he and the Hip-Hop community, recognizing its potential.

Speaking as if he were a reporter, he said, they want to know ” What is Farrakhan going to tell them?”

The Minister answered by saying that he had the following to tell the Hip Hop artists:

“I believe that you can change the reality of American life and racism – that you have the power to stop it.”

“I believe that 18-30 is the age group not registered to vote”

“I believe that wars can’t be prosecuted without the youth.”

2001 Hip Hop Summit He then asked the rappers, “Will you accept your responsibility as a leader of the youth?”

The Minister, still speaking to the artists said, “You have to digest a newspaper. Current events are what rap artists have to rap on. So here are some current events I want you to rap on…”

The Minister then turned the ballroom into a classroom and for the next 15 minutes verbally traveled the globe telling rappers what subjects he thinks they should focus on and weave into the creative works.

He began by advising them of the fulfillment of the vision of Nasser and Nkrumah through the OAU’s efforts to establish the “United States of Africa”.

He then spoke of how rap artists should speak on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians asking the audience, “What do you have to say about that? Are you ready to be a peacemaker?”

He then added, “Look at Black and Brown and how we are being pitted together (through the census and politics) and in prisons, we are against each other, being made to believe that we are enemies when we are natural allies. Can you rap about that?”

He then asked them, “What about DCFS snatching Black and Brown children sending them off away from their families… and where they end up going off to prison later?”

2001 Hip Hop Summit The Minister then asked the rappers of what they had to say about the drug trade being facilitated by a government that has satellites so powerful that they can see a grapefruit on the ground but can’t see whole convoys of drugs being brought into America and into the innercities.

He then asked them, “What do you have to say about the abuse of women?”

The Minister then told them that they should be aware of the fact that, “where there are no decent women, there are no decent men and women are the mothers of civilization”. He challenged them to influence society so that young boys and men will end up “admiring women instead of defiling them.”

Minister Farrakhan then went into a tactful but graphic elucidation of how the slang and cursing that many Hip-Hop artists have popularized is a reflection of the real condition of Black people, in its most negative sense.

The explanation he provided caused the entire audience to erupt in applause at various points.

2001 Hip Hop SummitHe began by saying that the curse word phrase with the initials “M.F.”, though depicting a filthy concept, accurately reflects the fact that many men have not fully grown up and have not accepted their responsibility. He said that is why men call women “ma” – a phrase that is very popular among rappers today. The result, at times, is that many men look to their girlfriends and wives as they looked to their mothers. And so women are forced to finish the raising of their boyfriends and husbands. The end result, the Minister said, for men, is that ” You are having sex with your other mother”. He told the women present that some men ” are looking for someone to finish the nurturing process”

The Minister then gently spoke of the hypocrisy of many who claim God at award shows and then join Satan in their musical creativity.

He then worked to prove his point by referring to Genesis Chapters 1 and 5 and Psalms 82 which clearly indicate that human beings are in the image and likeness of God and are, themselves, gods.

Minister Farrakhan then jumped back into Hip-Hip lingo, speaking of how rappers and youth greet one another with the phrase, “What’s up dog?” The Minister asked the question, “Why not what’s up god?” The Minister answered his own question, by saying, “Because a god will force you to respect god”. Several rappers, who are members of the 5% Nation of Islam and do in fact refer to one another as “god”, in the spirit of Psalms 82, literally jumped out of their seats when the Minister made that remark.

2001 Hip Hop SummitBut the largest applause were reserved for the Minister’s explanation of why artists use the word “bitch” in reference to women. The Minister said, “If ‘god’ has now become ‘dog’ then the woman has become a ‘bitch’. If you came from a ‘bitch’, then you are the son of a bitch”

The Minister followed that up by telling the rap artists that they don’t realize the devastating power of their words and that calling a woman a “bitch” denigrates their own mothers, grandmothers and aunts.

The Minister then skillfully used the 34th chapter of the book of Ezekiel to encourage the rappers, intellectuals and civil rights leaders present to consider themselves as shepherds and the consequences that they will face if they do not feed their flocks after they themselves have been fed by the flocks. The Minister said, that among other things, these verses were referring to people being fed the word of God. The Minister encouraged the artists, in particular, to use their words to grow the people up into the mind of God and into the fulfillment of their gifts.

The Minister then told the artists that they were obligated to do this and had in fact been fed and supported by their fans and followers. He told them that they have cars, private jets, jewelry and they have been able to move out of the projects where they grew up because the “little people gave it to you. You are their leaders…what are you going to do to show your appreciation?”

He then told them of the greatness of their power to transform human life. He spoke of his own experience with the most downtrodden of human beings, and the power of the word on human beings. He told the audience that his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, taught that light ravels from the sun to the earth at the rate of 186,000 miles per second and that it takes 500 seconds or 8 minutes and 20 seconds to strike the earth. He said blood travels from the heel of the human being to the head and back to the heel in 500 seconds. He said that the word of God is like light and when it enters into the heart of the human being, it causes a transformation. He said that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught him that within 500 seconds of delivering inspiration through words, just under ten minutes, the human being will begin to perk up.

2001 Hip Hop summitThe Minister related this teaching to his experience in speaking to prisoners on death row.

He gave an account of a recent trip that he took to a prison where he asked to speak to those who were scheduled to receive the death penalty. The Minister was taken to that section of the jail but was told that he would have to speak to them through the bars. The Minister refused and said that there was no way that he would speak to them through bars. He told the audience that he was warned not to enter this part of the prison and that his safety could not be guaranteed by the prison guards, if he went into that part of the jail and spoke to them after they had been let outside of their jail cells. The guard told Minister Farrakhan that if the Minister insisted on speaking to the death row inmates that he would come with him. The Minister told him that he did not need his protection. The audience laughed when the Minister relayed how the prison guard agreed to let the Minister go by himself and then told him that he would be nearby if the Minister needed him. Minister Farrakhan told the audience that he told the guard that that he wasn’t needed.

The Minister explained that he asked the men to get chairs and form a circle with him. They did. He said that there were 17 altogether – 14 Blacks, 2 Brown and 1 White death row inmate. The Minister said that within 10 minutes their countenance had totally changed, they were relaxed, smiling and that one of the inmates asked Minister Farrakhan if he could read him a poem that he had written. The Minister said that of course he welcomed such and the prisoner read his poem to Minister Farrakhan. The Minister said that the poem was one of the most beautiful he had heard.

After 10 minutes, the Minister said that he called the guard over to look at the group and asked him what did he see. Minster Farrakhan was making the point to the prison guard that buried deep in even these men was great beauty and warmth.

He then added that some of the most powerful and intelligent Black men are in prisons and some of the most powerful women on earth, right now, are prostitutes.

The Minister then, after recounting this story, stressed to the rappers that they have the power to transform human beings with their mouths. He told them that they are in the “word business” and that they have a loyalty and allegiance from their fans that is staggering. He said, “They dress like you, they walk like you, they talk like you, they even bling-bling like you.” Of course, the audience cracked up with laughter at the Minister’s reference to the obsession that some have with jewelry – the so-called “bling-bling” phenomenon.

The Minister then told the Hip-Hop artists, “I love you, but I am not satisfied. We can do better. I am here to encourage you to do better.” The Minister told them that he was not asking for” a radical change, but speak to the issues that enlighten”

He then challenged the rappers, again, to see if they could contribute, through their lyrics to a peaceful resolution to the race problem in America and the conflict in the Middle East. He told the audience that all conflict can be solved and he then spoke of the public disagreement between Russell Simmons and Conrad Muhammad. The Minister said that Conrad Muhammad loves his people and that he knows this because he (Conrad Muhammad) was a former student of his. But he stated that he did not think that it was appropriate that Mr. Muhammad had taken his disagreement with Russell Simmons before the media, which does not support either man or Hip Hop.

Minister Farrakhan then urged Russell Simmons and Conrad Muhammad to come together. He then added that he hoped that Conrad Muhammad, who he believed was not present, would get the tape of Minister Farrakhan’s address to the Hip Hop Summit.

Then, from the rear left corner of the audience came shouts of “He’s here!”

It turned out that although two days before on CNN’s Talk Back Live program, Conrad Muhammad had said that he was not invited and even told not to come to the summit; he in fact was in attendance for the Minister’s remarks.

The Minister was pleasantly surprised, acknowledged Conrad Muhammad’s presence and again, urged he and Russell Simmons to resolve their differences in private and then come out in unity before the media. Russell Simmons, from the stage, nodded his head in agreement, and Conrad Muhammad from the back of the ballroom, smiled, waved to Minister Farrakhan and nodded his head as well.

2001 Hip Hop summitThe Minister concluded his remarks by telling the artists, ” It is not enough to be a good rapper, your character has to be up under your rap”. He said that the real power of a human being was present in the power of character to generate trust and maintain it. The Minister said that people trust him and that some have entrusted him with many secrets and then turned on him, but that he has never divulged their secrets.

Minister Farrakhan then added that he hoped he would be able to visit Rev. Al Sharpton in prison and he added that what Rev. Sharpton did in protesting the Vieques bombing was so important in that it demonstrated unity between the Black and the Brown working together. He said that Rev. Sharpton should not be in jail for 90 days or even for 90 minutes.

The Minister then briefly touched on his efforts to help raise $1 billion dollars in an economic trust fund and he encouraged the artists to prepare for the day when they will not be making records. He encouraged them to save and invest their money and to not partake in excessive conspicuous consumption or “bling-blinging”.

After receiving a standing ovation, the Minister made some concluding remarks and after walking over to hug Queen Latifah, Minister Farrakhan encouraged unity among music executives like Kedar Massenberg, Russell Simmons, and Barry Hankerson, and also acknowledged the attendance of Sister Souljah, Stephanie Mills and Lennox Lewis.

Among those in attendance at the Minister’s keynote address were Hip-Hop opinion leader Davey D, writers Kevin Powell and Harry Allen, activists Viola Plummer and Ras Baraka, radio host Bob Law and Hip-Hop pioneers Kool Herc, Fab Five Freddy and D.J. Red Alert. Also present were Black intellectuals Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West as well as NAACP head Kweisi Mfume.


written by Cedric Muhammad

Friday, June 15, 2001


CynthiaMckinneyred-225Before Minister Farrakhan spoke there was a private gathering of artists and label executives.. During that gathering several members of congress addressed the body. Earl Hilliard, Benny Thompson and Cynthia McKinney.. Mckinney’s speech to the audience was passionate and penetrating.. She talked in detail about Cointel-Pro. For many in the room it was the first time they had ever heard about the FBI’s insidious program that impacted many of the freedom struggles.. McKinney talked about how Cointel-Pro was impacting artists today….



After Cynthia Mckinney a number of people spoke including Talib Kweli and Michael Eric Dyson who lit up the place.. We are including his address to the artists…

Just before Minister Farrakhan spoke in the big hall, Chuck D of Public Enemy spoke to the gathering of artists and executives.. In the room were executives from MTV as well Stephen Hill of BET.. Chuck went in on the role of media and the perception it leaves with folks around the world.. Many of the executives were left feeling very uncomfortable.. Here’s his blistering address…


Hip Hop Icon B-Girl Asia One featured in a New Film About Her Life

Asia One

Asia One

As Hip Hop History month unfolds we wanna pay respects to Asia One. For those who don’t know her, she’s legendary Bgirl originally from Denver, Colorado who migrated  to the West Coast where she cut her teeth and honed her skillz with the Rock Steady Crew and the Zulu Nation..She’s been in countless videos and has worked with everyone from the Black Eyed Peas to Tribe Called Quest and the late Malcolm McClaren

She later established (1994) the BBoy Summit which has been one of the premier and dopest International Hip Hop gatherings around.. In recent years she’s been working directly with youth and setting standards with her organization No Easy Props which now has chapters in Europe.

She has been featured in Vibe’s Hip-Hop Divas book and the We B*Girlz book by Martha Cooper and Nika Kramer. Asia One is in the Freshest Kids movie.

Late this summer Asia One was featured in a short documentary called Asia One: Expect the Unexpected. It’s about her life, put together by long time writer, film maker, racial justice activist J-Love Calderon who is also from Denver, Colorado..The film was an official selection of 2013 Hollywood Film Festival and has been getting rave reviews. J-Love and Asia One also teamed up with a tech company called gravidi to enhance the viewing experience..and make the movie more interactive..

In the meantime folks may wanna check out the film below and dive into the unique lifestyles of the global concrete jungle led by enlightened street icon Asia One. Explore behind the scenes world of Hip-Hop culture and street dance told through the eyes of an unlikely bgirl born and bred in the Midwest.

3 Dope Songs From Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales A True Renaissance Woman

Amanda Diva Seales

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales

Amanda Seales formerly known as Amanda Diva was born in Southern, Cali, but raised in Orlando Florida. She is a singer/ emcee of Grenadian descent ..She’s a playwright, comedian, author, designer, DJ and entrepreneur, a True Renaissance woman

In 1994, Seales made her debut at the age of 12 on the Nickelodeon sitcom My Brother and Me, the show was a big hit on the network but was eventually canceled due to disagreements between the producers and creators of the show, during this time Seales took a hiatus to focus on her education.

In 2004, Seales who was now calling herself Diva, released her debut Mixtape entitled “It Bigger Than Hip Hop, Vol 1”. After landing a job hosting MTV2, Diva began hosting a radio show on SIRIUS, the Hip-Hop Nation Show.

She also joined the DJ Drama/Don Cannon/DJ Sense-helmed Aphilliates crew, and published a book of poetry, all before receiving a degree in African-American studies from Columbia University. In 2007 her career took a surprising turn, when she was asked to replace Natalie Stewart of the musical duo Floetry, on tour. December of the same year, Diva released Life Experience the first EP of a trilogy.

After being released from the emergency room for a spinal tap, Diva continued to promote her sophomore EP, Spandex, Rhymes and Soul, which was released June 24, 2008. Amanda also provides social commentary and updates on her projects on her blog.

In 2009, Diva was a guest commentator on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s. Amanda is also featured on Johnny Polygon’s 2010 mixtape Rebel Without Applause on two songs entitled “Blvd Broad” and “Get Right”….


Currently Amanda is making noise with a weekly online series called Things I Learned this Week.. It’s hilarious as she shows off her wit and acting chops.. It’s an extension of the work she’s been doing in the form of her one woman plays Death of a Diva and stand up routines/play It’s Complicated... Amanda also made a lot of noise as a host on Master in the Mix.

Below are 3 Dope Songs from Amanda Seales:

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales ‘Catch Me’

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales ‘Manchild’

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales Trendsetter’

Bonus joint:

Amanda ‘Diva’ Seales  w/ Q-Tip ’40 emcees’

3 Dope Songs from Chilean Emcee Anita Tijoux

Ana Tijoux blueToday’s 3 Dope Songs celebrates the work of  Chilean emcee Anita Tijoux also known as Ana Tijoux.. She was born in France to two exiled Chilean parents who later returned after the US backed dictator General Augusto Pinochet was disposed.

She is what many would consider an emcee’s emcee.. Her nice, intense, laid back flows are precise, mesmerizing and often laced with social and political commentary..Her popularity is understated..

At almost every show I’ve seen her perform from Austin, Texas to the Bay Area gets sold out, attracting crowds that know every word to her songs, even as she raps in Spanish and French.

She had been grinding away for a minute. Initially it was with the group Makiza who many compared to NY’s famed Native Tongues because of their sound and style.. They made some noise with a couple of underground bangers in the late 90s that made the charts in Chile..The group put out a couple of albums including; ‘Vida Salvaje‘ and ‘Casino Royal‘ which was released in 2005 to rave reviews..

The following year Makiza broke up and Tijoux went solo. In 2009 she became a break star internationally with the release of her album 1977 which proclaims the year of her birth and is mostly autobiographical. Many in the US got their first peak at her when she touched down at SXSW in 2010 and blew up the spot doing songs off that album including the popular jam Sube which was done with Detroit emcee Invincible. The SXSW stop led to her launching a successful US tour..

anita-tijoux-latinaSince then she’s released two other projects including; Elefant Mixtape and  the album La Bala which was nominated for a Grammy.  Her music has been featured in the video game FIFA 11 and on the hit TV show Breaking Bad. She was also voted as Best Female Emcee Dominating Mics Everywhere on MTV Iggy…Lastly she’s been part of a campaign for women’s empowerment called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

If you don’t know Anita Tijoux, you been missing out.. Check out some her joints below as well our first interview which was done a couple of years ago when I was introduced to her by the group and fellow Chilean emcees Rebel Diaz..

Anita Tijoux SXSW Intv


Ana Tijoux w/ Quantic  Doo Whop That Thing

This is a recent song from Anita Tijoux  where she hooked up with Colombia-based, British-born producer and musician Quantic. Here the two do a dope cover of Lauryn Hill‘s classic hit “Doo Wop (That Thing)”  The lyrics are flipped into Spanish by Tijoux, whose understated yet charismatic flow makes her a beguiling vocal presence, along with a Cumbia beat giving an alternative, tropical slant to this landmark jam.

Ana Tijoux Elephant

This is from the mixtape Ana dropped about a year and half ago.. Its a fun video and a warm up to what she had in store on the album LA Bala which would be nominated for a Grammy.

Anita Tijoux Sacar La Voz ft (Jorge Drexler)

This is vintage Ana Tijoux…low key, but powerful and captivating ..It’s an inspiring song about walking proud, being fearless, even if you have ‘nothing in your pockets’ and standing up in the face of oppression..  One of my favorite cuts from her featured on the La Bala album..

Anita Tijoux Shocked

This is one of Ana Tijoux‘s most popular songs to date which she did a couple of years ago to bring attention and support to the massive student strikes that were going on in Chile, which brought millions of people out to the streets but was ignored here in the US..She later re-did an acoustic version of this song in Tuscon, Arizona to bring attention to the plight of undocumented folks and the harsh anti-immigrant SB 1070 laws.. You can peep that video


The Wisdom of Chali 2na..Jurassic 5 is No Joke

chali_2na_Here’s a throwback interview from the Breakdown FM vaults.. It was done in LA 2006.. It’s the one and only Chali 2na of Jurassic 5

In promotion of their highly anticipated album, Feedback, true school Interscope recording artists Jurassic 5 have launched a massive nationwide tour that began on June 18th and will end September 13th 2006. Incorporated within those dates are back to back to back shows in Florida, including one at Club Revolution in Fort Lauderdale on August 5th.

For all of you that don’t know, Jurassic 5 is a very eclectic group of artists from Los Angeles, California that have been in the game since 1993. Originally consisting of two separate groups, the Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee, Jurassic 5 is made up of emcees Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir AKA Soup, Mark 7even, and turntablist/producer DJ Nu-Mark. DJ Cut Chemist was an original member of the group but has since left.

Hip Hop pioneer journalist and activist, Davey D, had the opportunity to interview the deep sounding basso tone voiced member of Jurassic 5, Charles Stewart AKA Chali 2na. Originally from Chicago, many believe that Chali was nicknamed as such simply after Charlie the Tuna, the deep-voiced animated mascot of Starkist. But as he notes, it was really his father who originally gave him the name, who he himself was referred to by his peers as “peewee.”

Considered to be perhaps the most eclectic member of Jurassic 5, Chali is highly influenced by different forms of music, including Reggae, Soul and House. It was his musical well roundedness that led him to become a founding member of the Salsa Funk band Ozomatli (although he is no longer with Ozomatli, he still collaborates with them on occasions). Lyrically, Chali’’s highly complicated style has been compared to the likes of Rakim, often focused on topics surrounding the social and political climate of the times with wit and wisdom. His very artfully creative expression could be traced way back to his original experiences in Hip Hop as a graffiti artist, which complements his overall persona. As he very humbly puts it, “Hip Hop saved my life.”

The following is a short excerpt of a lively interview with Chali that was originally conducted on Breakdown FM and its full length audio version can be accessed through Davey D’s political website For right now, just check out this snippet of what Chali had to say.

-Tony Muhammad-

Download and Listen to the Breakdown FM Intv

Download and Listen to the Breakdown FM Intv



chali-2naDavey D (DD): When you think of Jurassic 5, it hearts back to the days when Hip Hop was flourishing with groups. Now everyone is a solo artist. Now you very rarely see a pair of emcees. One of the challenges of being a group is defining the roles, keeping the chemistry, that sort of stuff. So with Jurassic 5, do you guys have different roles? How do you keep the vibe and how do you keep the chemistry together?

Chali 2na (C2): It is a team thing, like having a basketball team or somethin’. We indeed sink into these roles that we feel most comfortable with and bring to the table. Everything that I bring to the table, eventually it was kind of fashioned for me to do, whether it is the basso tone part of the harmony or the presence itself. I guess that’s my role. For every member there is a role. There are four emcees. We are all on the same wavelength, but I guess different waves. Each part of what we bring to the table is the chemistry and makes Jurassic 5. I guess my role (laugh) is to hold the wall up.

DD: You as Chali 2na come from a very specific tradition of emcees; the basso tone voice, you know, starting with Melle Mel, moving to Chuck D … There are very few that have that, and so you have a lot of responsibility. And so when you get on stage or even when you get in the mic booth, do you feel like you are of a certain class? There’s been that tradition in Black music of, as you put it, of those who “Holds the wall up” and people just have to listen to the guy with “the voice.”

C2: (Laughs) I don’t think I think like that, it’s more like what could I contribute to make the song better; like it needs more of that, or maybe it needs less of me. But, I do feel proud to be part of that lineage of the Rakims and the Melle Mels, for sure. I’m proud of that for real.

DD: When you look over your albums, I’d like to say that you guys boldly go where a lot of other people don’t go as a group out the gate. Like in your song Contribution, man, you guys were talking about raising kids at a time when no one was thinking about it! This other song, Freedom, you guys are boldly talking about Mumia and challenging people! Talk about that and the reason why you guys bring that political spirit when you do your songs, bring up these relevant issues at a time when grown up adults who run these media outlets are saying, “You guys are a little too smart for your audience. Can you talk about a blunt? Something like that?” (Laughs)

C2: Well, for us man, besides all the fun we have and besides rockin’ the crowd, making people dance, moving you’re a**, we want to make your mind follow … In the end, at the bottom of the line of it all, we being Black people in America up on stage, with the mics in our hands, broadcasting our voices amongst the crowd … that privilege was not granted to us all the time in this country. There were a lot of cats that had to die so that we could have the privilege to speak as clear and as concise and as opinionated as we are able to do right now. I think I could speak for the rest of my fellows when I say that when we do have the mic, the responsibility to being allowed to say something that helps and not hurts is evident. It’s on us and there is no way we can shun that responsibility. I feel that the minute we do is the minute that we have taken it for granted.

DD: Talk to us about the song Freedom which is at least 2 years old and is having quite a bit of a resurgence. Why have people immediately embraced it? What was going through y’all minds when you sat this down?

C2: See … we did the song before 9-11 and we were going to talk about the topic of freedom … But after the 9-11 thing, just watching how the world changed. Like, I’m 34. To see the sky stop and no planes fly, I’ve never seen that (before). I’ve never heard the sky like that (before). That bugged me out! To see the world change in an instant and seeing peoples’ civil liberties being threatened! We are pretty political in the sense that we try to keep up with daily events. This whole thing is a scary thing. The thin line of freedom … people are walking on that thin line. But freedom to me is the freedom to be free. So it’s like we had to speak on it from all of our perspectives, like a united front.

DD: Your line specifically talked about Mumia. It almost seemed like you were issuing a challenge to people! It sounded like you were mad as heck!

Mumia Abu Jamal

Mumia Abu Jamal

C2: Well, the line goes, “While we try to free Mumia Abu-Jamal two or three of ya’ll will probably be at the mall.” (Meaning) Just try to go on with your day-to-day lives. Basically, just try to live in life (in the way) that was created. You don’t want this world to be shattered; doing whatever it takes to keep things the way they are. When you have people like Mumia who have been jailed and who’s rights have been abused and certain actions have been misconstrued to the point that he is in jail for life.

… There are a lot of things going on as far as terrorism is concerned, where territory is concerned and it’s going on in our country and in your neighborhood. And it’s not necessarily the government per say, but you may have a corrupt preacher on your block that’s trippin’ and has everybody twisted or some alderman or some senator, someone that everyone looks up to … I mean these things need to be addressed at all times. And we feel that to speak out against evil is one of the stronger things you can do as a person.