November 26, 2011

Bring That Beat Back Part 1

As I write this article I can not help but to ask myself the meaning of Hip Hop.  Truthfully, I can't give a direct definition to the meaning of Hip Hop. Now if you asked me the meaning of Hip Hop twenty years ago, I could sum it up with four words, "A Way Of Life".  In the early 80's, Hip Hop was considered a culture among the black community.  Every song had a message.  Every message was positive.  That was a time when your parents would sing rap verbatim.  One of the best Hip Hop albums recorded was "Into The Battle The Art Of Noise".  It was strictly instrumental. The beats were insane.  When we we speak of Hip Hop, you have to pay homage to the originators. I'm talking about the greats that layed the structure down for groups like The Furious Five, Sugar Hill Gang, Treacherous Three and etc.  I'm talking about the disc jockeys such as the late, Jocko Henderson that described rap as rhythm talk.  In this article we will travel to many places in Hip Hop.  One of those places will be the movies that prepared us for this new movement, Hip Hop.  Movies such as Wild Style, Breakin', Beat Street and Krush Groove.  Many people were inspired by these movies.  I'm going to take you behind the scenes of Beat Street.  I was blessed with the opportunity to interview the writer of Beat Street, Steven Hager.  Check out his interview below.
OR: Beat Street has and will always be a major monument in Hip Hop. What was the inspiration behind Beat Street ?
SH: I went to an art show in Long Island City titled New York/New Wave, curated by Diego Cortez. "Break" a photo of a subway car painted by Futura 2000 was included (along with hundreds of other photos of graffiti art). "These Are They Breaks" by Kurtis Blow was just starting to climb the charts, one of the first rap songs to enter the mainstream. While staring at Futura's painting, it occurred to me graffiti and rap music were deeply connected. I went on a search to find Futura so I could write about him (and buy a framed photo of "Break"), and in the process, made connections with Fab Five Freddy and Afrika Bambaataa.
OR: I must say this a thousand times a day, Hip Hop is a culture. I can clearly remember going to the movies when Beat Street was first released. Everything amazed me. I was intrigued by the graffiti (art), the New Yorker dialogue, breakers, and music. Every kid in the 80’s era wanted to move to New York and become a rapper after seeing Beat Street . It wasn’t until I did the research on Beat Street did I learn the writer, Steven Hager was white. Are many people surprised when they meet you? 
SH: Nobody today seems surprised by my whiteness. But I have to admit a few people did look at me funny when I was attending Bam's shows at Bronx River Projects, where I'd often be the only white face in the crowd. After the shows were over, Bam always put a bodyguard on me to make sure I made it back to the subway.
OR:  In 1983, Charlie Alhern released Wild Style. Wild Style was the first Hip Hop movie. Wild Style is actually the movie that introduced the art of free styling and party battles. In May of 1984, Charlie Parker and Allen DeBevoise released Breakin’. Sadly, I can’t say that it really fit into the hip hop culture. It definitely wasn’t a great movie to be released after Wild Style. On June 6, 1984, a beast was released. Beat Street the king of the beat. 
Did you ever expect for Beat Street to hit as big as it did? If not, why?
SH: Actually, I was pretty disappointed with the final product. My script was closer to Boyz n the Hood. It was closer to reality. I didn't recognize any of the interiors or characters in the final film. They all seemed way too middle class, and not street smart (except for the dancers and rappers who were just playing themselves.) What saves the movie are the battles with New York City Breakers and the Rocksteady Crew, and a few of the rap performances. One major problem is that I wanted the Furious Five and the Treacherous Three in the film, but the Furious were in the midst of a huge legal problem and Flash couldn't even perform for several months or use his name. The Cold Crush Brothers would have been a viable substitution, and I encourage Harry Belafonte to use them, but he demanded an audition, and the Cold Crush refused because they were the premier group at the time and felt an audition was an insult. Actually, that was a mistake on their part because they could have captured a huge audience by appearing in the film. At the time they were more interested in live performance than records or films. Grandmaster Caz should have become a major star, but never got over the hump.
OR: What is your opinion of the transformation in Hip Hop from then to now? 
SH: Don't really listen to much hip hop, especially the gangsta stuff, just don't connect with the message. I did like Asher Roth's "I Love College" even though it's just a party song because I like Asher's personality.
OR: What would you like to see change in today’s Hip Hop?
SH: It's not for me to prescribe anything to today's artists. But I'd like to see more respect for the First Generation. I'd like to see more remakes of the original songs, and more use of the First Generation on the CD's being released today. The big hip hop stars of today should reach out to people like Grandmaster Caz, Sha-Rock and Coke La Rock and invite them to do duets with them.  
You can also purchase Steven Hager's book at
Through the movie Beat Street one song and group will forever be a part of me, "The Message" by The Furious Five.  This song is very relative in Hip Hop. The title is self explanatory.  I was fortunate to interview  The Furious  Five's legendary Hype Man, Dynamite.  Here's the interview posted below.
OR: First, I would like to thank you for taking the time out to answer these questions. You are truly one of the originators of Hip Hop. Many refer to you as not only one of the first but the best Hype man in the business. How were you introduced into the industry and what is a Hype man?
RDS:Why Thank you. I come from a time when the Hype man was truly an entertainer. My early influences and idols were Cats like Bobby Byrd, Jerome from The Time (although we started the at the same time) and a guy many of you probably never heard of named L.T.D who performed with D.J Hollywood in New York. These Cats had the knack to steal the show but never over shadowed the lead. Bobby Byrd was always right in the pocket and complimented every move James Brown made. I remember my Dad taking me to see James Brown at the Apollo when I was 8 and there was a part in the act when James Brown would leave the stage as Bobby Byrd egged the crowd on for an encore. He would scream James Brown! James Brown! James Brown! As he placed this cape on James' back leading him off stage James would hurl the cape off his back and return for the encore. Priceless. They would do that about three times to the delight of the audience.
Jerome just had this stage presence. He and Morris Day were like one. Their smooth as silk choreography made The Time untouchable on that stage. You couldn't go on after The Time. And the thing they did with the Mirror was show stopping material. I mean when you got your own dance (The Bird) you doing something right. We always had this friendly competition between us and he remains one of my dear friends in this business. Just saw him at the Soul Train awards.
D.J Hollywood is a Cat from New York who is definitely one of those unsung Pioneers. At his height in 76 77 he would do three to four parties a night easy. But when he played Club 371 in The Bronx those parties were stuff of Legend. He had a group of kids that followed him around called The Corporation and the leader was this Cat called LTD. Not only was he this great dancer but he lead the call and response that Hollywood would do with the Crowd. For example Hollywood would be D.Jing and out of the crowd a voice would scream
LTD- Holly!
Hollywood- What
LTD- Shake Your Wood!
Hollywood- What you say
And Then the crowd would repeat that. I always knew if I could command a crowd like that it would make the actual M.C's job that much easier.
OR:The Furious 5 has to be one of the best to ever make it in Hip Hop. You guys took Hip Hop to another level. I can remember being a little girl when the song The Message came out. It's funny because I think every kid born in the 70's can relate to their mom singing Don't Push Me Cause I'm Close To The Edge! I'm Trying Not To Lose My Head! How does it make you feel being a part of Hip Hop history?
RDS:The Message was a career defining record. It's almost a gift and a curse because I never wanted to be in the group. I had solo aspirations with them Producing me. Myself and group founder the late Keith Cowboy were best friends and he was more or less the M.C who's job it was to handle crowd response. I was brought on to handle the groups business. As an intern at Sugar hill Records that's the job I was groomed for. But while on tour we needed a way to end The Message to coincide with the cop part at the end of the song. So I donned a Police suit and would run on stage and drag the group off. It worked so well we decided to keep me in the act but instead of at the end of The Message we realized it would work better if I came out before we did The Message leading the crowd to believe that the show was over thus setting The Message up for the encore. So when Flash left and the group first split up it was only natural for me to become a full time touring member. I developed a good chemistry with Melle Mel thus freeing up Cowboy to Rhyme more.
OR:Hip Hop began as a culture, a lot of tears sweat and hard work went into making an Album. When you went to a Rap concert you really saw a concert. It was labeled a concert and not a show. There were Breakers costumes dance routines and passion. You didn't mind paying for a Ticket because it was worth it. Now days a show is what you pay for versus a concert. A ticket for a show consist of an Artist and a Hype man. The dancing consist of the artist prancing back and forth on stage. Would you agree that Hip Hop has def changed?
RDS:I'm glad you brought that up because it's definitely changed for the worst from the times we went out. What a lot of people don't realize is that we didn't tour with other Rap Acts. We toured with Cameo, The Barkays, The Commodores, Rick James, The Zapp Band, The Ojays and the top R&B acts of the day. We used to catch alot of slack because we didn't have a band. They wanted to pay us less money because we didn't have a band. So in our minds we wanted to destroy all those acts on stage and in order to do that we had to have the best show in town. So our act was more like a Broadway show incorporated with our Records and I would like to think alot of that had to do with me. I would physically get into a fight onstage every night with Melle Mel as part of the intro to The Message (Don't Push Me Man!) and get all my clothes torn off. I would get my head chopped off in a guillotine, I would dress up as Demon and levitate across the stage through fog. It all goes back to A&R and I blame the Record companies for just throwing these kids out on stage with no formal training. So now what you get is Lil Wayne with his pants hanging to his ankles holding his crotch and a Hype man whose singing the lead louder than the principle. Jay Z had a terrible show at one time but he got better after years of touring.
OR:Again music has and still is transforming to this very day, What is your opinion of Hip Hop today.
RDS:Its just a bunch of commercial nonsense made to sell ring tones and alot of it has no substance. The Message made us the first rap act inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and just this week we were nominated into The Grammy Hall of Fame. I know a lot of acts that wait their whole career and they never get that call. We did The Message 30 years ago and it still stands the test of times. 10 years from now you wont remember any of these songs done today or the Artist that sung them. Remember Laffy Taffy?
OR:Who's your favorite Hype man?
RDS:I def gotta give it up to Spliff Star. Buster Rhymes Hype man. He's on another level. And I'll also give a nod to the Late Freaky Tah from The Lost Boyz. Puffy was definitely a better Hype man than an Artist. And Flava Flav can kiss the ass that birthed him.
OR:What is the difference between the music then and now?
RDS:Then, we did it for the love of the culture we helped to create. Now it's commercially driven by corporations that have a bottom line. Songs are made now with the intention of selling a product like say a Chevy or some Burgers. I call it disposable music.
OR:What advice do you have for the young person that is trying to get into the entertainment field
RDS:Find out what works best for them first and blaze your own path which is hard to do because all the Labels want to copy what worked for the other guy. So the best Artist today might not necessarily be the best selling one. Treat it like a business and save your money because whats hot today may be passe tomorrow. In closing I have a book I just completed called How I Keep From Goin Under I'm trying to get Published and a Play Called The Death of Hip Hop as well I'm trying to get done. Any interested parties contact me at and I thank you for your time and interest in my story. Shout to Melle Mel Scorpio Rahiem and Kidd Creole.
It was groups like this that made the path for younger artist to get into the business.  Artist such as, Mc.Shan.  Mc.Shan was part of the Juice Crew.  He will forever be remembered in Rap History for the battle between KRS-1 and himself.  Mc.Shan created hits like, Jane Stop This Crazy, The Bridge, Down By Law and many more.  Shan was kind enough to share his history and opinion of Hip Hop.  Check it out below.
OR:At what age did you start rapping?
MC.Shan: 18yrs.old
OR:Who besides yourself was part of The Juice Crew and where did you all grow up at?
MC.Shan: DJ Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante', Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markey and Mr.Magic (R.I.P.). We're from The South Bronx.
OR: In 1983, RUN DMC released the single, "It's Like That".  Every city embraced it and every care blasted it through their Alpines. In 1987, you released "Down By Law"  Did you feel pressured to ensure your album would receive the same praise as RUN DMC.  
MC.Shan: No, not at all.  Mc.Shan would've made music records regardless.  It was what we do. (The Juice Crew).  Rap was a break from the projects for me.
OR: In Philadelphia, Mc.Shan was instantly famous for the infamous battle between you and KRS-1 from Boogie Down Productions.  Would you credit that as a contribution to the start of your career?
MC.Shan: Not at all. I credit Kris for making that dumb record because it went down in History.
OR: What is the difference between Hip Hop then to now?
MC.Shan: They ain't saying (bleep).  In order to be successful in Hip Hop now all you need is a few gold chains and a Rolex. 
OR: What is your opinion of the transformation of Hip Hop?
MC.Shan:Everything changes. Everything evolves.  Get with it or get lost.
OR: What advice to you have for that teenager just starting out and trying to succeed in music industry?
MC.Shan: Learn your business.  If not, my story will be your story. The owner of Cold Chillin' Records which happens to be my former manager took advantage of  many artist on Juice Crew.  Because I trusted him, he robbed me of my publishing right.  This gives reason to Mc.Shan's last answer.  Mc.Shan is now making cartoons.  Check out site below.
In 1986, a female group named, Salt N Pepa hit the airwaves with the album, Hot, Cool and Vicious.  Although, the majority of New York will credit them of being the first female rappers on wax it isn't true.  Philly's own Lady B was the first female ever to have her rap recorded on wax.  She then opened the doors for a lot of Philly rappers. When I was a young girl, I would practice her famous quote, "How You Doing?.  Every Friday night I would sit in the kitchen under the ironing board and listen to Power 99fm's Street Beat., hosted by Lady B. She was also the first rap artist to have her own Hip Hop show on an AM station.  It was female pioneers like Lady B that left the gate open for the female rapper, Yvette Money.  Yvette Money was the first female in PHILADELPHIA to make a diss album on wax.  Thank the Lord for LL Cool J's, "Dear Evette". For that album born one of Philly's finest, Yvette Money.  Check out Yvette's history of being a female rapper from Philadelphia below.
OR: In 1985, LL Cool J made a record that unknown to him will go down in Philly's Ol' Skool History. That record was "Dear Evette" But, the record really didn't slam until the reply. The reply to Dear Evette was "Evette's Revenge".
How old were you when you recorded Evette's Revenge?
YM: I was 15
OR: Before the year 1988, there was a popular club named, The After Midnight. This is where a lot of new artist performed at in Philadelphia. LL Cool J also frequented The After Midnight. 
What was LL Cool J's reaction when he first seen the feisty teenage girl that made the "Evette's Revenge" album?
YM: I had my first show in Bhutan with L(LL Cool J) and he wasn't too happy. He decline many  interviews and magazine pictures. It wasn't until we did a show in Chester at Chester High that he became a gentleman. L came out on the side of the stage and gave me a dozen of roses. He apologized and said it angered him that I wasn't ugly. He said he thought I was a ugly chick by the way that  I sound on the records. He was mad because he didn't have anything to reply back with. So, we became good friends there after.
OR: Lady B was the first female from Philadelphia to record a rap record. That record was "To The Beat Yall". 
Did Lady B inspire you to become a rapper? If so, how?
YM: Lady B was the first female rapper on wax period. Not just in Philly but, world wide. Of course it inspired me.  I tried to memorize every line.  But, in my era to make a record was sooo far fetched for me. I didn't want to record until Roxanne Shante came out.
OR: Lil' Kim has been named the first hardcore rapper. This label was earned from the vulgar lyrics that she uses in her music. She earned the name as the first bad girl of rap. But, when I listened to Yvette's Revenge, she didn't deserve that title because you actually was the first female to use profanity in a rap. She is the first female rapper to use vulgar and sexual explicit lyrics in her music.
Would you accept the title of being the first bad girl in hip hop? If so, why?
YM: Yes, Of course I would accept it because it's rightfully mines. U can't change history. I did it first!
OR: What is your opinion of the transformation in Hip Hop?
YM: The transformation wow... It's a big change because the respect is gone. If the new school knew the history and how hard we worked to get it where it is today. Kats wouldn't be so cocky with it. They wouldn't use it to degrade us as black people so much. I feel the new school is selfish and only think of themselves, they just wanna sell records and get paid as the play devils advocate. They don't think of the consequences and the way they degrading our women, how they putting in our young black youth mines the us as black women aren't shit. If we don't take it off enough were not shit and if we take it off to much we still ain't shit. So black women are in a lose lose situation. Our men walking around thinking it cool to have their pants hanging down off their add, not know the true meaning of it. Not knowing that's to let other dudes in prison know who's AVAILABLE SEXUALLY. Everything is about a pay check now... The fun and the heart of hip hop is gone.
OR: If you could take any female rapper back in a time capsule to your era, who would it be and why?
YM: A female rapper to take back in time???? Teflon from Philly.  She's an up and coming artist that is also my niece.  It's not because of her being my niece.but, her skills are crazy. She have that love, that respect and the Passion for hip hop. She wants to know the history and if we have more people in hip hop today like her... I feel hip hop will get that respect again.

This leads me to the end of "Bring That Beat Back".  A lot of people don't know that here in Philly a lot of history in music was made. There was a time that Philly's Deejays had the best beats.  I'm talking about Parry P, Jazzy Jeff, Woody Wood, etc the list goes on.  Artist would actually travel from New York to get beats from the greats mentioned above.  Stop believing that NWA was the first Gangsta Rappers.  The truth is Schooly D was the first Gangsta Rapper, period.  Check out a little musical history from Philly Legends below:
I would like to thank each and everyone that participated in making such a wonderful story.  Each entertainer and writer took the time out of their busy schedule to give me their story.  I thank you and I am so appreciative to your involvement in the culture of Hip Hop.  Let's Bring That Beat Back.....Peace..


1 comment:

  1. Thank you Rasheemah for considering me for this interview. You asked valet questions that are important to our Hip Hop history and hopefully it will shed some light on our hip hoppers today. Congratulations on an awesome article!! This is a first of many...Keep doing what you do!!
    Love, Yvette Money


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