SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: All right. We're going to have the panel discussion up next, and I'm going to ask Mr. Jeff Chang to come back to the stage to introduce our panelists, our pioneers, our most esteemed guests. Give them a round of applause, please.
JEFF CHANG: Thank you.
SPEAKER 2: OK. Thank you.
JEFF CHANG: OK, let's see here. OK. So it's my honor to be able to introduce to you this panel which, I've got to say, it's never been assembled before. This is not just hip hop history in the collection, but hip hop history right on stage in a few seconds here. So I want you all to cheer really loud when I mention these people's names.
First, we're going to bring up Johan Kugelberg, the person that assembled this hip hop collection here at Cornell University. He's going to serve-- yes, please.
Johan Is asking me to say that he is a non-pioneer. He and I are going to tag team with the questions here. A lot of you have submitted questions via the web. And also, some of you have filled out cards. So we're going to have that portion of it as well.
But the first person I'd like to introduce today is the person that could be in a lot of ways, along with Johan, the person most responsible for this collection being here at Cornell. He was the first hip hop photographer. If you've seen the book Born in the Bronx and don't own it, you should buy the book Born in the Bronx. So you can see it as you own it. And he can sign it here as well, right? You'll be here to sign it. Tables are up front right at the registration area. But his stuff is amazing, and he continues to photograph. He's exhibited everywhere around the world. Please give it up for Joe the photographer, Joe Conzo.
The next person I have the pleasure of introducing is somebody who started off responding to a record, became huge off of that. Did a record that was a revenge record, an answer record, to end all arguments and to start all on-record beefs, in a lot of respects. She went on to become the queen of the Juice Crew, "Big Mama," and now she has a PhD, Dr. Roxanne Shante.
The next person I get to introduce is the Senior Vice President of Rock Steady Crew. He's also from Universal Zulu Nation. He is a master teacher, got his start with the Magnificent Force. But he's somebody who is one of those elders that's constantly in the community giving back all the time. Could you please give it up for Jorge "Popmaster Fabel" Pabon.
The next person I have coming up is Luis Cedeno, who is better known as "DJ Disco Wiz," the first Latino DJ in hip hop.
I've got to mention, too, he's got a new book coming out next spring-- is it, something like that? 2009. It's called It's Just Begun-- The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, The First Latino DJ. It's on Powerhouse Books. Cop that, all right?
The next person I get to introduce is the first female MC soloist in hip hop. She started off with Kool Herc's Herculoids. She did a couple records. She did A Fly Guy, another awesome [INAUDIBLE] record. She also did a record with her brother, Master Don and the Committee Funk Box Party. Please give it up for Pebblee Poo.
Next, we have DJ Tony Tone, who founded the Cold Crush Brothers in the Bronx in 1979. And he's just one of the greatest folks of all time, one of the greatest rhymers of all time, DJ Tony Tone, Cold Crush Brothers.
Sound controller, master of the universe, Tony Tone.
Next, we have the person who as a young man invented the thing that we know as the wicka-wicka scratch. Grandwizzard Theodore is a member of the "L" Brothers and the Fantastic Five. Please give it up for the man who made the scratch possible, Grandwizzard Theodore.
It's my pleasure to introduce Mr. Grandmaster Caz, a.k.a. Casanova Fly, who began his DJ career in 1974. And along with Tony Tone and Charlie Chase, was one of the original members of the Cold Crush Brothers. One of the greatest rappers of all time, Grandmaster Caz.
All the way official, all the way official.
And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to give it up for the man who has inspired all of us in so many deep kinds of ways, one of the main reasons that we see hip hop as the global force that it is, the founder of the organization, the founder of the Universal Zulu Nation, Afrika Bambaataa, the "Godfather of Hip Hop."
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: Thank you.
JEFF CHANG: History, history, Cornell, this is history.
Thank you. Thanks to all of you. So we've got a wonderful session here. I just want to have Johann actually set it off, if you will. Why don't you put the mic up to your-- so people can hear.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Bam, can you set me straight on the actual first jam? Because 1976 wasn't the date, right?
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: What, what, what, what? Yeah. Well, basically, I started deejaying before there was even a name called hip hop in the year of 1970. And we started to call this hip hop culture in the year of 1973.
JEFF CHANG: I want to-- yeah, why not? Why not give it up?
I want to ask everybody on the panel maybe if you could just talk about your first hip hop moment. And maybe in that sense, give folks a little bit of the history of hip hop that has been least recorded, the years from 1973 on up to the dawn of the recorded era. And anybody feel free to jump in.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Your first defining hip hop moment in your life.
DISCO WIZ: Well, you have to understand that, for me, it's more profound than that. Hip hop, for me, is my inspiration, the soundtrack of my life. And by saying that, I'm probably saying too much, because I lived a whole life before hip hop came around. How Johan touched earlier on the economic and social backdrop that we all grew up in, times were tough. So we had to do what we had to do just to survive, just to get home, just to go to school. And we had volatile home fronts.
And hip hop, for me, became my first structure. Before that I was probably a young wild kid running around the Bronx aimlessly, just not knowing what I was looking for. Probably before hip hop touched me, I had gotten into organized boxing at the PAL. And one day, I was downstairs in the gym, and I heard this overwhelming thumping, this sound, this earth-shattering thing, this presence. And I walked upstairs, and there were people just running around organizing stuff.
And I said, what's going on? And the guy told me, Kool Herc is having a jam here later on tonight. And I said, Kool Herc? And this dude-- I'm not going to lie to you-- he was a legend before I ever saw him. So, I mean, he already had the Bronx mesmerized. So I said, really? And the guy said, yeah, he's right there on stage. And I looked at the stage in my boxing gear, in my trunks, and I just saw this huge two columns that reached the ceiling.
And I looked at him, and he was just throwing one record after another, just practicing. And he spoke into the mic, and I'm not sure if any of you have seen Kool Herc-- he's an immense presence-- and when he said just "one, two, check," that was it. It sent shivers down my spine. And I was just encaptured by the whole moment. And I've been in that same trance now for over 33 years.
JEFF CHANG: Caz, why don't you pick that up too. Why don't you pick that question up, since you got started in '74.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Well, I too was inspired by the "Father of Hip Hop," DJ Kool Herc. I used to live on the West side of the Bronx. And I was 13 years old when that first hip hop jam was given by him at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. And the whole West side of the Bronx was buzzing with anticipation and excitement, hearing about this epic party that was given on the night of August 11th in 1973.
I was a b-boy at the time, and I used to dance with a group of guys known as the Casanova Crew. And everybody in the group's name was Casanova something. And in order to be in the group you had to pick a Casanova name, so my name was Casanova Fly.
And my first real introduction, I think, into hip hop is when my friend Troy, who used to call himself JJ Hollywood, used to bring his turntable over to my house. And then he had one turntable, and I had one turntable. And we used to try to do what Kool Herc used to do at the parties. We didn't know what a mixer was at the time, so he would turn his down slowly, and I would turn mine up slowly. And that's how we would DJ.
And I was at one of those summers that you reach during puberty when you grow up like seven inches over the summer. I kind of retired very quickly from that b-boy thing. And once I saw Kool Herc deejay indoors, in an inside venue, that was it for me. That changed my life. And like Wiz said, I've been on a roller coaster ever since.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Pebblee Poo.
Pebblee, would you like to share some memories of Herc and the Herculoids in the early days? Because you were the first female MC with that crew, right?
PEBBLEE POO: Yes. Hey, everyone. Well, I was a b-girl before I was an MC. And I didn't want to be no MC. That was a boy thing. Boy thing was breakdancing too. But I was a challenger, so I wanted to go after the guys, because I knew I could dance. Now, we have a lot of ladies in the room, and we know that when we see a challenge, we're going after it.
So I was like, I don't want to be an MC. That's whack. I want to breakdance. So this guy, we used to be around each other all the time. He used to love when I'd dance. He was like, yo, you need to rap, and he wrote me eight bars, eight lines. And I memorized them. I hated it, but him and T La Rock used to bang on the cars. And I was like, I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this.
So I used to go to all of the talent shows and still be breakdancing. And I would get on the mic when I'd go to Herc's jams when he'd be at the park. And one day, I went to this roller skating rink, and he said-- I looked at this man, and I was like, this man has come over here. And I know I went to the gym, and I got on his mic, but why is he over here at the skating ring looking at me?
So I kept looking at him. I kept skating around the rink, skating around the rink. And then I seen him again. I was like, oh, my god. And he said, can I speak to you for a minute? And I was like, oh, my god. I was young. I was like, my mother said I can't talk to-- so he said, I heard you on the mic every time that you came to one of my jams. And I want to know if you would like to be a Herculoid. I was like, a who? He said, I want you to MC on the mic. I'm like, you do?
I was a little nervous because I only had eight lines. And I was like, I'm going to ask Bombay to help me write some more. Next thing you know, I'm on the mic, and they're liking what I'm doing. I was like, oh, sookie, sookie. I'm going to still keep dancing, but I kind of like this. So it was really good. I didn't have a problem when I started. I really didn't.
Can I say something to my ladies? Can all my ladies stand up? You all just stand up. This is what I like to do. Ladies--
--let me tell you all something. We are beautiful. Don't let nobody ever try to tell you anything different. You all don't have to take off your clothes to be nobody else. Be yourself. OK?
That's my girl, right there. That's Shante. That's my heart. We stick together.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: I have to ask you, do you remember the eight lines?
PEBBLEE POO: Oh, my god.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Come on, Pebblee.
PEBBLEE POO: Mm, I don't know. I don't know that thing.
SPEAKER 3: Yeah, but do something.
PEBBLEE POO: I don't know. I want to-- wait, wait, wait, let me see. Let me see. I want to get something straight for this chick to be-- no, that's now. Good evening, everyone. Yes, how do you feel? Going to get the party jumping-- something.
JEFF CHANG: I wonder too if you all could talk about-- well, actually, please continue with your first hip hop moments. We haven't heard from Theodore, or--
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Fabel.
JEFF CHANG: --or Fabel, or Shante.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Your first hip hop moment.
JEFF CHANG: Joe.
POPMASTER FABEL: Wow. All right. Well, I was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. Yeah, but I had family in the Bronx, so we would take trips up there. And so, actually, the first jam I ever experienced-- a hip hop jam-- was in Spanish Harlem, where we had, I believe his name was Campy Love from the Black Spades. He used to bring out equipment and DJ at the St. Paul Street Fair. That was on 117th Street, between Lexington and Park.
And what can I say? I think I was like 12 years old, or something. It was like '77, and I would see the B-boys. Spanish Harlem was just a heartbeat away from the Bronx. Where I grew up on 123rd Street, you could walk five minutes and be over that bridge. So we were experiencing very similar cultural realities, the same makeup-- Puerto Ricans, blacks, a couple of Dominicans, and that's how it was. So it was very colorful.
What I loved the most about my early experiences of hip hop was the fact that it was just free for everyone, all ages, no dress code, come as you want. You had grandmothers out there. They were flipping burgers on the grill. It was totally a communal thing, which is, I think, what's kind of missing now, except for some of the efforts by some people that do bring it to the parks, like my wife Christie and other people.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Theodore, you want to be next? Grandwizzard Theodore, everybody.
GRANDWIZZARD THEODORE: One, two, one, two. One, two, one, two. Can you all hear me? One, two, one, two. OK, they call me Shy Brother, because I'm kind of shy. First, let me say that I'm just glad to be here because there's a lot of people that's not here to see hip hop and how far it's gone. And I think about these people every time I perform and everywhere I go.
And I would like to say that I was born into this culture of hip hop. Because even before I started deejaying, people were B-boying. People were doing graffiti. There were other DJs out, and stuff like that. So I have to say, I was born into the culture. I had an older brother. His name is Mean Gene. He was down with Grandmaster Flash, and that's how I got introduced into this culture.
And my first recollection is basically when my mother moved to Boston Road. And I think it was like-- when did she move to Boston Road? She moved to Boston Road like '80-- no it wasn't '80. She moved to Boston Road in like '73, 74. And that's when I first got introduced to the DJ culture, as far as my brother and Grandmaster Flash is concerned. So that would have to be my first recollection of hip hop, because my brother Mean Gene and Grandmaster Flash, they introduced it to me. So that's my first recollection.
TONY TONE: Testing. Hello. How you all doing? At the age of 12, my cousin opened up a record store on Third Avenue and Claremont Parkway. One day, we came to the record store. We opened up, and somebody had broke into it. They went in the building next door and they went through the wall. They broke this big hole in the wall, and they robbed us.
So we closed it down, and we moved up to Burnside and University. And that's when I started hearing-- me being in the record store, I called myself deejaying. I sneak my mother's receiver out. And on the receiver, it's got an A section and a B section. So I'm going from A for one side of the turntable and B for the other side of the turntable. And then the speakers-- the music would go over here. And when I go to B, the music would go over here, because I had one speaker on one side.
So now we moved the record shop up on University and Burnside. And I start hearing about this Kool Herc, Kool Herc, Kool Herc. And I lived on the East side of the Bronx and Herc was from the West. So one day, I'm home on the weekend, a Sunday, and I hear Kool Herc is playing in Cedar Park. so I start walking from the East side to the West side. It's about two hours.
But as I'm walking, I see people going the other way. And I say, is he still out there? Yes, he's still out there. As I'm walking, I see people. I say, is he still out there? He's still out there.
So just as I get to Cedar Park, it's getting dark. And I'm upstairs. I haven't come downstairs yet. And I hear him say, goodnight. That's all. So I'm like, OK. And Cedar Park, when it's dark, you don't want to be there. They call it Dust Bowl.
All right, so now, I'm still hearing about this Kool Herc. So my godbrother is like, yo, we're going to take you to the Hevalo. Someone said, what's the Hevalo? So he said, this guy Kool Herc plays there. So I said, OK.
But my godbrother is older than me. My brother is older than me. I'm the youngest one, but I'm taller than both of them. So they say, well, what we're going to do is I'm going to go in first. You come in second. The guy is going to check me. He's probably not going to check to you. So that's how I got in.
But as I walk into the Hevalo, it's like a whole different world. Because even though I'm in the record store, all day long, selling records-- Earth Wind and Fire, Solomon Burke, thing it's like that-- but everything Herc is playing, I basically never heard it. And I'm not selling it. And I'm saying, what's this? And it just was a whole change from there.
And my post was right beside the DJ booth, looking just to try to see what-- but every record he put on is taped. He's got the name covered. So I've got to do my homework and find out what is this. So that's my beginning of hip hop and Kool Herc.
JOE CONZO: Good afternoon, everybody. My first introduction to hip hop was from Tony Tone. Tony Tone and I went to high school together, and I was the high school photographer over at South Bronx High School. And I've got to be totally honest, I was a disco head. I was heavy into disco at the time. And Tony and Easy AD played on the basketball team, and they invited me to the T-Connection. I'm like, what is the T-Connection and where is the T-Connection?
And the T Connection was a club up in the West Bronx that Tony and Caz and Charlie Chase were putting together their group, the Cold Crush Brothers. And I remember going there that night with some friends, and it was just totally a whole different world, nothing but breakbeats and that funk and soul music. And hearing the fellas on the mic, that's when I fell in love with hip hop. And I've just been a hip hop head ever since then. That's it.
ROXANNE SHANTE: Wow, am I the last person to go? Oh, OK. Oh. My first experience with hip hop, I was about 11 years old, and I was told that I had what was called the Nipsey Russell syndrome. And that's when you're able to make up rhymes about anything at any time, no matter what's going on. And it's fun when you're in the house because you know your mom is getting a kick out of it. Do it again, baby, do it again. Do it again. Show my friends what you can do. Do it again.
And what happened was some guys from my projects-- I grew up in the largest housing project in the world, which is Queensbridge public housing, 30,000 tenants on paper. So that's not including those who are not on paper. So growing up in Queensbridge public housing, there was always someone, somewhere, on some block ready to do something with you. Like, OK, you want to rhyme? This is what we're going to do.
So they came to me-- some guys from the neighborhood approached me and said, listen, we heard that you can rhyme just about anything, anywhere. And I said, Yeah, but right now, I've got to do the laundry. So unless you want to rhyme about the laundry, and you know how my mother is--
So they were like, no, don't worry about it. Don't worry about it. Because what we're going to do is you're going to go, and you're going to go battle these guys. And when you go and battle them, then we're going to put money up. So I hear "money," so I tell my mother, Ma, they're going to pay me to go rhyme. Oh, yeah? Well then, you know what? Hold off on that laundry and go ahead and get that money.
So my first experience was actually being a battle MC from the door. I never got a chance to pick up the microphone and just be happy holding the microphone. My rhymes have always-- I've always been in a very aggressive moment. So I came in as a battle MC. And I can recall my first time going to another housing project, and the guys would rhyme in. And they were like, well, such and such and such, and take your little sister home. And then I remember them saying, that's your cue. Now you're supposed to go ahead. And I said, well, am I supposed to be nice? And they were like, no, never be nice. Don't worry about it. Need I say that we had to run out of the park, and they were literally dragging me.
And they were literally dragging me, like, we didn't tell you to say all of that. You're not supposed to talk about people's mothers. You ain't supposed to say that about their clothes. So it was like a scolding all the way home, counting the money.
And I remember coming in the house and telling my mom, like, Ma, guess what? They wanted to fight us. They wanted to do this. She was like, are you OK? I said, yeah. She said, did you get the money? I said, yeah. And that was my first experience with hip hop.
JEFF CHANG: Hip hop is all about the battling. So I'm kind of curious in some ways. Well, one question is, how did folks distinguish themselves when you guys were trying to come up? And what are the biggest battles that you recall that you were involved in? If you could talk about that, and whether you came out on the winning side or the losing side, whatever.
PEBBLEE POO: Oh, go ahead, because you definitely did more than I did.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Oh, god, yeah. One, one, one, one. I can sit here, really, and tell you about the hundreds of battles that I've won and my group has won. But I want to talk about this one battle that I didn't fare so well in. In 1977, my man, Disco Wiz, was my partner. We were DJ partners back then. And we were young and up-and-coming.
We're trying to be Kool Herc. We're trying to be Bambaataa. We're trying to be Flash. We're trying to be as big as these names are out here. We want to be up in the ranks of those guys.
Me, I want to go about it over the long run. If we work and we practice, and we do what we got to do, eventually, we'll make it. Wiz is like, no, let's battle them now. Let's go get them now. So they set up this jam with us and Afrika Bambaataa at a venue called the PAL, the Police Athletic League on West Avenue in the Bronx.
Now, in order to be a DJ back in the early days, you couldn't just walk into a party with records, OK. Thankfully, Bambaataa put an end to that. But in the early days, you had to have an entire sound system. You had to have equipment, speakers, amps, records, turntable, everything. So I had this little mini set, really, that was made for the house, but I didn't know back then. And that was my first set. And I had a little extra speaker here and an extra speaker there. But we're going to battle Bambaataa.
So, of course, Bambaataa is set up on the stage, and we were at the other end of the gym. Now, how a DJ battle works is that the DJs, each one of you brings your sound system to a particularly event. One DJ plays for an hour. The next DJ plays for an hour, and then you exchange hours. I guess whoever fares the best-- if it goes that long-- plays for the last hour and is declared the winner or the best DJ for that day or particular night.
Now sometimes a battle can end your career. I'm glad that this didn't. But I'm all set up. Now we're trying to make a mark. We're trying to make a presence. So we're going out, and we're going to show Bambaataa we are somebody to be reckoned with, OK? We are Casanova Fly and Disco Wiz, dammit.
So boom, the first record I play is "We Will Rock You" by Queen. I'm trying to make a statement, all right? So here, they go, go ahead, Casanova Fly. And I'm like, all right, here we go. Boom, boom, cha. Boom, boom, cha. Boom, boom, cha. Boom, boom, cha. (SINGING) Buddy, you're a boy, make a big noise, playing in the street, going to be-- and then out of the blue, you hear, Casanova Fly, we can't hear you.
I looked at my man, Wiz. I'm like, yo, they're trying to play us, man. Yo, turn the amps up, man. Turn everything up. Turn everything up, right? So then we're going to start all over. Boom, boom, cha. Boom, boom, cha. Boom, boom, cha. (SINGING) Buddy, you're a boy, make a big noise, playing-- Casanova Fly, we still can't hear you. Is this what you're trying to play? Boom! Boom! Cha! Boom! Boom! Cha! We just started pulling the cords out. Yo, let's go. We're out.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Was that how you remember it too, Bambaataa?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Oh, yeah. I mean, a lesser cat, he would have been done for life. But we just took it as a lesson. Yo, when you come, you've got to come correct on all angles. I felt like, I know I deejay better than Bambaataa. Like, yeah, right, but they've got to hear you first. So it was just another lesson learned along the road in hip hop. But like I said, I don't count the successes as much as I count those lessons learned by those failures. And that was a good one there.
ROXANNE SHANTE: Yeah, absolutely.
TONY TONE: Can I share one on the dancing tip?
POPMASTER FABEL: Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo. You going, Tone?
TONY TONE: Go ahead. [INAUDIBLE].
POPMASTER FABEL: All right. So obviously, hip hop wouldn't have excelled if it wasn't for the fierce competitive nature of all the elements. But before I even tell you the story, I've got to acknowledge one of the founders of Rock Steady Crew, and that's JoJo, who's sitting right there.
Without him, Crazy Legs wouldn't be Rock Steady. I wouldn't be Rock Steady. It started with him, Jimmy D, Jimmy Lee, and the story goes on.
Long story short, I used to battle this kid named Larry Love. How many of you are familiar with a song that goes, (SINGING) Le-le-le-le-le-le Larry Love, right? OK.
So before Larry became part of Flash and them, he was from West Harlem, like Lenox, or maybe further west. I was from East Harlem, right? So quite often-- like what Roxanne Shante was saying is real. You have to be careful who you're going to battle. And sometimes you have to go and, for instance, if you said, well we're going to battle you on your block, we would go a day ahead just to figure out how to run out of there. Because if you're winning, you might get your ass beat, right?
So long story short, I battled them once, right? And he was just with a few of his bros. But he battled me in my neighborhood. It was kind of a tie. I think I sort of won. But it was like people were saying it was a tie.
So he came back the next time. The next jam were like 10 heads, because he needed his cheerleaders If he's going to come to my neighborhood. I had the whole block there rooting for me. So he comes with 10, boom, we battle again. It was a tie again.
He came back the next time with like 30 people hollering his name before we even started battling-- Larry! Larry! Larry! And we went at it. And man, for once, I was kind of shook. Because I'm like, wow, now I'm in my neighborhood. Now, if I lose here, I might have to face up to my people, every day, walk out of the projects. You lost to Larry. Oh, you lost to Larry.
So I had to step up my game hard core. And I think that was probably one of the most memorable battles. Because I went at him so hard that I actually convinced his 30 people that I was whooping his ass. And I won that one for real.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: One, two.
PEBBLEE POO: One, all right.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: You got it?
PEBBLEE POO: I had one experience. They had this flyer going around. It was just for the females. It was Female Battle. It was Rayvon and Johnny Wa. That's the two guys who were giving the competition.
I was like, I'm into this competition, because I just want to see what this is all about. It was like 40 girls, and they made me like number 38. So I was like, oh, my god. So I had to sit there. I wanted to get there from the beginning.
We were at this club called Mr. Soul's. Now, I lived in the Bronx. I didn't want to come to Harlem. So I was like, I'm going to come because I want to go and see this, who is going to be competing, because I know I'm good.
I get to the competition. I'm listening to all the females. I'm like, whack, I got this. And they're paying. So I'm like, when you're a female, and you know you've got something going for you, you'll be like, I've got this, especially when you start looking and hearing at the people.
So I'm sitting there. I'm listening. I'm like, oh, this is not working. I am going to get this. So 37 comes up. I said, I'm next, right? They were like, no, we're making you 40. I was like, 40? I said, by that time, everybody's going to be gone. Ain't nobody going to be there to hear me. So I was like, this is a set-up. They're going to keep the money for themselves. I'm getting ready to leave.
So I'm listening. I listened to all these females. Here comes this female, 39. I'm like, shh. She goes, one, two, one, two. I'm like, uh-oh. I was like, oh, my god, because I didn't hear any oomph in any female. If was like, hello. [MUMBLING RAP] I was like, I got that.
Then it was like, na, na, nana, nana, nana. Also, I got that, all down the line. Number 39, one, two, one two. I was like, oh, my god, I was like, let me see what she's kicking.
She was like, will my DJ, Mr. Freeze, come to the front. I was like, oh, my god. She had her hand on her hip. She was walking back and forth. I was like, this is my competition. I can see it right now. She got up there. She did her thing. Her name was Missy D.
I was like, all right, I know what I got to do. I had my DJ with me. His name was DJ Andre. I said, I need you to play my national anthem. Wreck it. He was like, are you ready? You sure you can do this? I said, yes, I think I can.
So everybody there was coming to the stage. We got MC Pebblee Poo. So for those who heard me, they were like, yay. So I was like, uh-oh, because it didn't sound like [ROAR]. It was like, yay. I was like, all right
I was like, one, two, one, two. I was just calm. One, two, one two. She was looking. She looked at me. I looked at her. She was like, what's up? I was like, I don't know what you all came here to do, but this is what I want you all to do. Clap your hands, everybody. And everybody clap, clapping your hands. Everybody over there. Everybody started clapping. And see, when you start seeing people from the stage doing that and moving their head, I was like, I got this! I got this!
And it was got to be real. I was like da-na-na-ne, da-na-na-ne. And I grabbed the mic. I was like, ugh! Let's go. I won.
I won. But for that one second, oh, my god, I was like this. I got this! I got this! In the beginning, I was hearing her, and I was like, ooooooh. But I won. I won.
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: One, two, one, two. Well, basically, in the year of 1977, I used to have this spot, this junior high school, that we called the Funky Three. And we were getting ready for a big battle with Grandmaster Flash. We were getting everything ready. Everybody was waiting for this, because this was the big thing-- Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash getting ready to go at it.
So when we got there, we set everything up. People started coming in and the place got packed. And we're just waiting and waiting. Grandmaster Flash never showed.
So in the year of 1978, another brother of mine by the name of Disco King Mario, he had to have a battle with Grandmaster Flash at Monroe High School. Grandmaster Flash came in there with a crazy wall of speakers. This was something like a movie. Everybody was decked out. All the fly girls and honeys were coming all in the place, waiting for this big battle. And Mario was getting nervous.
And at that time, I controlled like thousands of people on the streets. So I sent the word out for help to some of the other Black Spades' own DJs, text DJ Hollywood. I brought my earthquake system. We put all the speakers together. Flash was saying, oh, shit.
So Flash was already getting a name for himself with some serious, furious 3MCs. So I had to go get Starski, Hutch. Then there was this young brother who was just as bad as my DJ Jazzy Jay, by the name of Grandwizzard Theodore. And Mario was, oh, man, Flash is going to kick my ass. What am i going to do? What am I going to do? I said, Flash, don't worry about it. I mean, Mario, don't worry about it. Because a lot of people at that time were scared to mess with the music that I'd be playing.
And Grandwizzard Theodore never heard none of my songs before, never played it. And all I did was show him, here, hit it here, wham. Boom. Hit it here. And I'm known-- most DJs at that time, when they played, they played the same record for about 15 minutes. It may play a good time for 15 minutes. But I was changing records every two minutes to three minutes. So when Theodore was hearing that beat and that groove, he just started getting funky on Flash. Flash didn't know what to do.
Then the MCs-- Starski and Hutch-- were just tearing up on Melle Mel, because we had a big super wall system. And the groove and the sounds and the horns and everything was coming out. Flash got so pissed off, he came under the ropes-- because we used to have ropes that keep people back-- came back [INAUDIBLE] said, Bam, you know you're wrong. You know you're wrong. You giving Ted and all of them that shit. You are fucked up. That man.
TONY TONE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, Bam got me one night. We had just started up with the Cold Crush. We had built like six speakers. We only had six speakers. And we came up in the Bronx River out of respect for everybody-- Herc, Bam, Flash. We take care of the little guys and wait for the big guys to give us a chance-- yeah, you can play with us tonight-- to prove ourselves. Once we proved ourselves and dusted off the little guy, we wait for Herc, Bam, and Flash to say, OK, you ought to play with us tonight.
So Bam gave us the shot-- come on in Bronx River and play with us. So we come in there. And it ain't like that night is the party. That whole month is the party. Because you keep going over it, over it, over it in your head, what I'm going to do.
And we come in. Bam and them is on the stage. We set up on the left side of the gymnasium. So we're going at it, and Caz gets on the turntable. And he's going so fast, he goes this way, and when he comes back this way, he slaps the needle. And it shoots across the record-- ziiiiiip, bang, bang, boom! And that's all you here is, ch, ch, ch, ch. He blew every speaker, every horn. The only thing that was working was the Piezo tweeters. Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch.
So here we go again. Mr. Biggs and them get on the mic. Cold Crush, we can't hear you all. And we're sitting there looking at Caz like-- that was our--
GRANDMASTER CAZ: That's why I'm an MC now, OK?
TONY TONE: He's a great DJ too.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: All that equipment and all that to turn? No, no, I deejay to this day. But like Tony said, and I'm sure every one of us on this panel has experienced at one time or another the agony of defeat, as well as the thrill of victory. But we persevered, and we kept it going. And I believe without that spirit, hip hop wouldn't be here today. And our competitions were definitely competitive but friendly. I never wanted to kill Bambaataa-- maybe a flesh wound, or something.
But there was never the kind of animosity that would pit us against each other in life. This was all about hip hop.
JEFF CHANG: Theodore, did you want to add to this? I saw you had the microphone for a second. Are you-- OK.
GRANDWIZZARD THEODORE: When we was "L" Brothers, we--
TONY TONE: Sorry, man, you all got to give us more, man. We can't hear ourselves.
GRANDWIZZARD THEODORE: This is hip hop.
TONY TONE: We're feeling like we're fighting to talk through these mics because we can't hear ourselves.
GRANDWIZZARD THEODORE: One, two, one, two. I remember when we was "L" Brothers, Bambaataa let us come to Bronx River for the battle. So it was myself, my brother Mean Gene, and my brother Cordio. And we had three MCs-- Master Rob, Ruby Dee, and Busy Bee Starski. Now, we brought our equipment in. Bambaataa is set it up on the stage, and they put us in a little corner in the back, and stuff like that.
And I mean, the party got so packed. It's like at a blink of an eye, Bronx River was so packed. So Bambaataa was playing music and rocking the crowd. Then it was time for us to go on. My brother Mean Gene, I mean, he's the kind of person where he's always filling them with stuff, and moving this, and moving that, and pushing this over to here and pushing that over there.
So we were given a table that night, and the table wasn't really that stable. So after Bambaataa and them finish playing, they turn their music down and say, OK, our brothers, it's you guys' turn. I got to play one record, and my brother must have pressed something under the table, and the whole entire table hit the floor. One side of the table went down, and everything just slid off of it onto the floor-- bam. The two turntables, the mixer, the amp, everything just slid on the floor and said, bam.
And it was like, Bam, we can't play no more. We have to go. We just packed our stuff up. They made a little way for us in the Bronx River, a little path for us. It's like after we packed our stuff up, it's like Bambaataa just raised his hand and the sea just opened up.
And they let us out of Bronx River, and we just packed our stuff, and we were just gone. That's one of my memories, man.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: To summarize, everybody lost against Bam.
JEFF CHANG: I've got a question here, actually, from the web for Dr. Shante, and it relates to the topic. The question is, as a mistress of the diss, what was the most disrespectful thing that was ever said to you? And second question, a follow-up, if I may, then what was the flyest diss you ever told somebody else?
ROXANNE SHANTE: I would say the most disrespectful thing that was ever said to me was I didn't win. And the reason why I'm going to say that is because it took so long for me to get one of the fellas that I felt was truly, truly one of the greats, and that is Busy Bee. And none of the fellas would ever battle me. Why? I didn't know.
But finally, I was able to get one to agree. He was like, yeah, all right, so you want to battle, Roxanne? It's cool. Don't worry about it. You're just a little girl. Come on up here. This right here is Super Rocker Busy Bee. You don't even know what you're getting yourself into, girl. I'm going to make you cry.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: That's him.
ROXANNE SHANTE: I said, good. I was like, oh yeah, this is going to be great. And this was actually for world supremacy. This was at the DMC. This was at the seminar. This was like a really big deal internationally. It was going to prove that I was the best in the world. So I was really looking forward to it, because I didn't come in the industry to be a great female rapper. I came in the industry because I am a great rapper. So that's where it stood.
And this was going to finally be in a war that didn't say "greatest female rapper." This was just going to say, "world supremacy greatest rapper." Oh, yeah, I've got to have that. I have to have that.
So we get into a battle. Now, behind the scenes, he says to me, listen, we're going to take it easy on each other. That's what we're going to do. We're going to just do it up for the crowd. So I say, OK, we can do that. I won't go in as hard as I usually go in. I'm going to be nice. I'm still going to win, but I'm going to be nice.
We get out there. I'm being nice, and my crew is looking at me as if I'm a boxer throwing a fight, like what the-- what are you doing? And I'm still trying to be nice. And then all of a sudden, he says something like, yeah, you're a little girl, something. You should go home, such and such and such. And they don't leave you alone.
Whatever the case was, I felt like, oh, you're going back on your word? Oh, that's what you're doing? And from that point on, I think I said-- I must have hit him with everything but the kitchen sink.
And I knew that I had won. I just felt deep down in my heart that I was the winner. The crowd was going crazy, said I had won, and everything else. And it came to one vote from Kurtis Blow. And Kurtis looked at me and said, it ain't no way. She didn't win and raised it up.
And I think that was the first time I had ever cried. Because I had no reason to cry. Because when you walk away a winner, you don't really cry. But that was the first time I had ever cried at a battle.
And I think now it has become one of the most popular battles downloaded from the internet and all this other stuff. But, basically, if I had to say when was my major hurting point or the most disrespectful thing I felt was said to me, it wasn't all about the curses or the foul language, because I used it myself. So as well as I can give it, is as well as I can take it. So that wasn't a problem. But just the fact to have something so great, I felt, stolen from me, I was very upset. So every record from that point on was really nasty.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: As an outsider who has heard this battle, there's no doubt that Roxanne won.
ROXANNE SHANTE: Thank you. Thank you.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: On another note, Ma, don't worry about it, because that was in 1985, right?
ROXANNE SHANTE: Absolutely.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: The next year, 1986, I tore his ass up, all right.
JOHAN KUGELBERG: Caz, would you like to talk to the crowd for a bit about the creation of rhymes, and the inspiration of rhymes, and keeping a rhyme book, and all that stuff? Because it's important.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Well, basically, rhymes-- the microphone didn't play as large a role in hip hop in the early days as it is today and as it eventually became. The mic was basically used for making announcements and acknowledging the crew and people that was in the house, shout outs. So-and-so is in the house. And if somebody said your name on the mic, you felt special. People would be like, you know them? I'd be like, yeah, you know. I carry a crate. But writing rhymes became a real integral part of hip hop, and it pretty much gave you the advantage over the next guy, whoever could say the flyest stuff. And at first, rhymes were very corny, if you really look back and listen to the cadence and the things that people were using and saying and copying off rhymes.
One of the first rhymes in hip hop was based on a car commercial. It was a commercial for Great Bear Auto Parts. And everybody's rhyme sounded like that commercial at first. And then eventually, I mean, you would do things to set yourself apart from the next person.
My philosophy has always been I'm an MC that's built to the same mold as Roxanne Shante. I'm basically a battle MC. I'm here to take your heart away. I'm here to make you sorry you ever picked up a microphone. And that's my whole mindset when I write. And I once said that I don't care if God and the 12 disciples come down here to battle me, I'm busting their ass. He can send me to hell, but I'm busting their ass, all right?
And to write, I mean, it's just about going beyond. You have to take it to a level where nobody is at. And I think the way that you do that is by incorporating your own personality and imagination into writing and into rhyming. Slick Rick is pretty much basically known as one of the greatest storytellers of all time.
But like 10 years before Slick Rick ever touched a microphone, I wrote rhymes that were basically stories that drew pictures for people, that made you listen to him and feel like you were a part of that story. And you followed it along the way. And it has hills and valleys and peaks. And you follow it all the way till its conclusion. And at the end of its conclusion, you stand up. You cheer. You're happy, and you remember that.
So to this day, I have people stop me in the street and recite my rhymes back to me. And I'm talking about I don't have a large recording profile. I've never had no gold platinum records, or whatever, to speak of. But my rhymes are remembered verbatim from the early '70s.
And that's just a testament to writing and to having something creative to say. Because anybody can rap today. There are so many examples that you have to go by. There are so many guidelines that have been drawn. There are so many extraordinary people who have come and drawn a blueprint for you.
So when somebody hands me a demo today, or somebody says, yo, you've got to hear this guy, he's good. I'm like, he'd better be good. What else can you be when you've got 30 years of hip hop to guide you?
I think even though with the advent of freestyle in hip hop-- people be like, yeah, freestyling. Freestyling to us back then was just saying a rhyme that wasn't attached to a record, or something. Or saying a rhyme that was just around for the sake of that rhyme. Today, freestyling is rhyming off the top of your head, and I don't think that's really an art form. It's more of a novelty to me.
Freestyling was invented by people who don't remember their rhymes. Freestlying came about from people who can't really write well or just forget what to say and then just start babbling intermittently. Some people have gotten good at that. But I think a complete thought out thought is better than off the top of your head, any day.
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: Yeah.
ROXANNE SHANTE: You're saying that to say what?
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: What?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Nothing Nothing.
JEFF CHANG: For the DJs, talk a little bit, too, about the development of the sound of hip hop.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Well, actually-- oh, no.
TONY TONE: The sound of hip hop is big. When we do things, we like to bring our own sound. We like to set up our own sound, because we like to play it like it needs to be played, and so people could actually feel the passion behind it.
From age 12-- I ran back into a burning house to get my amp at the age of 12. And my mother was like, what are you doing? And I said, I'll be right back. And I ran in there, and I saved my receiver, because I said, OK, I probably could get everything else, but that's probably going to be the hardest thing for me to get.
So right now, I'm a hip hop junkie. I'm an equipment junkie. I still buy equipment, and I've got a whole garage full of equipment. But when you're putting your whole thing together, that's part of your whole thing. A lot of DJs today, they walk in with their laptop. They hook it up to somebody else's sound system.
Back in the days, you had to have your own sound system to compete. And if your sound system wasn't up to par, that meant you wasn't up to par. So your DJs had to be up to par. Your MCs had to be up to par. And your sound system had to be up to par, your record collection. Everything on the menu had to be up to par. And if it wasn't, then you wasn't. You had to keep trying.
Speakers-- just one speaker might cost $2,000. Back in the days, we didn't have-- even today, we don't have $2,000 for one speaker. So we used to try to build our own speakers and hoped they sound good. We'd buy somebody else's used stuff. Theodore might have something, and he's getting something better. So we buy his hand-me-down and continue to push.
So a lot of people today, they think just walking in with their laptop is enough. And we look at them, no, that's not enough. Because out of 100 DJs, you might have like 60% of them that even know how to plug in turntables. And it's a crying shame that they claim to love something so much, but they don't even look past just playing the records and really try to understand what they're getting into.
Like I say, a lot of people say they will "champion" freestyling. But if you ask them to write a rhyme, or something, they can't. So some people are like, well, I'm going to push that to the side, because I can't do that. But I'm going to yell this out so people can think "this is the better thing to do."
And it's not, because-- whoa, whoa, sorry. It's like you're not really respecting what you're doing. It's like you're lying to a person, because I'm a DJ, I'm a DJ, but you don't even know how to set up turntables.
JEFF CHANG: What about the music, though, like in terms of the kinds of music that you all chose?
TONY TONE: Well, the music, when we first started, it was jazz, funk, rock and roll. There was no hip hop music. And when Herc or Bambaataa put on a record, they didn't say, this is a white guy's record, or this is a Latin guy's record. They just played the music, and we enjoyed it.
A lot of people ask me, well, when the hip hop started, was it a black thing? And I was like, how could it? We listened to all kinds of music. And I really think people shouldn't try to put labels on everything. Because some of the greatest hip hop records-- Dennis Coffey, Bob James, Etta James, Santana, J. Geils Band, Babe Ruth, Baby Huey-- and these might be a lot of people that a couple of people in here might not have heard of, but their music was the beginning of hip hop.
So it's like, today, when young kids hear records, and they've got these James Brown samples in it. And then when they hear James Brown's record, they say, oh, that's Jay-Z's record. No, it's not. So our purpose is to teach and to keep on teaching. Because people rather look at what's here now and say, James Brown is copying. No, he's not copying. They're using James Brown's music. Get it right.
And then some people will say, well, there was rap before hip hop. James Brown was rapping. But I say, well, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, why would you want to call them rappers when you've been calling them soulful singers all this time? Why do you want to take them and make them rappers now, just because hip hop is supposed to be the hottest thing now? Let them be who they are.
And when I met Roy Ayers and Norman Connors, I looked at them and I said, yo, hip hop owes you all something. But they don't even understand what they gave to hip hop. They don't even know, because people are so caught up on it now, and they don't do their history to understand the music that we was playing.
And we played it because we love it. We love it till today. And it's like, oh, well, that's your grandmothers music. But when people was back in the hip hop parties, they didn't look at it as old people's music. Oh, that's jazz. No, they just, look, yo, that's funky. I've got to go out and get that. And that's what it is.
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: Just giving a little brief history of turntables or rap before it was called hip hop. Dealing with turntables first, you had the turntables that your grandmother and them used to have, where you used to wind it up, like you used to see on the old RCA Victor label, with the big horn sitting up there, where they used to do their bebop, swing, and all that.
Then coming in the '60s, you've finally got as a little kid this type of turntable that they call close and play, which had the big needle that you put on. And then you had the turntables that came all together in a component set with your TV. Well, you try to put on a 45, and you might want to put it in a certain spot, and the needle just keeps going, comes back.
Or you might have the spindle, where you put six 45s on, and you hear the record. Everybody's dancing at the party. Then it stops. Everybody's got to wait for the next record to drop, something like what you see in Happy Days, in the jukebox.
And then they started breaking up the turntables, where you could have the speaker and put the wire here, one little speaker in the house there, another speaker there, before they had all this quadraphonic sound, and all that. And you had your component set, a little wooden set. Still, you had the same with the needle. Go across and the spindle comes down.
And we tried. We used to give part of your mother or father by smacking your head. You're trying to steal the turntable to take it to the center to play. But this is how we used to start playing.
Before, you had the two turntables together. We used to take the component set that your mama had or your papa had, put it on one side of the hallway, right here, where you're going to play. Then another person would come with their mama or papa's set and stick it on the other side. So you might have the spindle that you have to drop. Or you have the one spindle where you take the six one on and put the one on.
So when you're playing, I might be playing "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5. And I knew it was going to the end. And it's dark. You have your little light. So you flash your flashlight to the other guy on the other side. And he knows to hurry up and put the other record and hoping that it's not going to cross over so you could keep the party moving.
So that was before, when the whole disco era started coming in, and you started getting the two turntables in the component set. And you started getting the mixer in it. And then on the side, you start having something if you wanted the echo chamber. Or in the disco days, they started adding the smoke chambers that make it look more like you was in some type of space alien type of party.
And at that time, we was getting tired of hearing disco, disco, disco. Because in the black Latino community, dances changed every three months. But here, a lot of the Europeans and white Americans were starting to get in there and just wanted to hustle. For this year, we said, OK. They want to hustle again for the second year.
We said, all right, we're already doing the Funky Chicken, the Breakdown, the Penguin, and all these other dances. But they still want to Hustle. And then they got away from the funk. They wasn't playing James Brown no more, or Sly and the Family Stone, or War, or Mandrill. They started playing Queen, Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, and all these other types of songs. So it was a fight trying to keep that happening.
And only a few artists could switch over. Like Diana Ross, she became the boss, and we started playing all her music. And that's when we started using both turntables. And we started elevating to more big speakers, making our own home sets, putting our own speakers in and drilling, getting your own drill and sticking a speaker in there and hoping that it was going to sound right. Until we started getting some money from the party that you made before.
And that's how we started to become a young entrepreneurship at the age of 12, 13, 14, and starting to rent centers at that time. And what we couldn't rent, we used to go get our big brother or somebody we knew that's of age to go in and rent a center for us. And that's when we started making money with this new style of music that we was calling go off or boyoyoy. Or we took it back from the jazz swing or the bebop, diddy bop.
And in the Zulu Nation, we used to always go and name places. We'd go play in Yonkers. We'd say, that's Jitterbug City. Or we'd go to a junior high school. It's 123. We'd say it's the Funky 3. Then we used to have certain production names that we would call ourselves. Like we'd say, Nubian Production. Then I used to run around and just start naming everybody, naming this and this and this and this and that.
And then, well, my brothers who was down with me from the Black Spades, Keith Cowboy used to be rocking those rhymes with the hip. LoveBug Starski used to do the hip, another Black Spade brother of mine. So when the time came around and the press started getting into it, they were saying, so what do you call this stuff? I said, I could've called it boyoyoy or bebop. I said, we call it hip hop.
And then that's when we started putting the elements together, because everything was spread out. So through the Universal Zulu Nation, we said, come on, DJs, you're part of this culture. You are an element of this. Come on, B-boys, B-girls, you're part of this culture. You're an element of this. Come on, MCs, and aerosol writers, graffiti writers, you're part of this element, which was the first four elements that we started calling hip hop on the Universal Zulu Nation pulled together as that.
And then I added that fifth element, which was the knowledge. It's really the first element that holds it all together. Because without knowledge, you'd break your damn neck if you was trying to really do the B-boy, B-girl thing. And without knowledge, when you shot aerosol or spray paint, you could get the fumes, and you wouldn't know how to breathe and know how to get out of there.
The same way, when you were spitting a rhyme, if you don't know how to hold that breath-- and this is a master that could go like 15, 20 minutes, him and Melle Mel. It's amazing when you see them start going off. And they could tell you how you had to hold your breath at a certain time, or you might catch a stroke, or something, or a heart attack.
And that's how you dealt with that. Now, with rap music, or rap itself, rap has always been here. When the creator talked to the prophet, he was rapping. OK, so now we're going to bring it up to the early days of the '40s and '30s, when Cab Calloway was doing hi-de hi-de ho. They were doing their style of diddy bop, jazz rap with Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald. It was the bebop, bebop, diddy bop swing, and making the bottles break, and all type of crap like that-- skat rap.
And then when it came to the Last Poets, the poetry style rappers, you had the Last Poets on the East Coast, and you had the Watts Prophets on the West Coast. Then you had a sister by the name of Nikki Giovanni, who also was very powerful with the knowledge type of poetry rap she was doing. And you had Sonia Sanchez, who was doing her style of rapping.
Then we have the party rap of the 60s, where you had Shirley Ellis with 3, 6, 9, the goose drink wine. The monkey chewed tobacco on the streetcar line-- all that. And the Name Game, Shirley, Shirley, Bo birley, and all that type of stuff. And then you had Isaac Hayes, who did his little love baby, I'm going to-- take your time to [INAUDIBLE]. Then you had Barry White who came out and also did the same thing Isaac Hayes was doing.
In the rock music, you had Three Dog Night, who did "Mama Told Me Not to Come," which they was rapping. They also did "Joy to the World." You had the country rapping with Tony Joe White who did "Polk Salad Annie." Or you had the country rappers when they just sound like they're rapping-- [SPEAKING VERY FAST]. They was rapping.
You could go back into The Music Man, if many of you have seen it with Robert Preston, when he was talking about oh, you got trouble right here in River City. That stands with T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pool. So that's dealing with Robert Preston and The Music Man.
Then you had the rapping there that boy, boy, crazy boy. Get cool, boy, which was dealing with West Side Story. And then you've got the Sly and the Family Stone when he was rapping on his album. And then you've got the Nubian Nut, George Clinton, when he's rapping on his album. Then you had James Brown, calling can I get it? Ugh. Can I get it, quick? Yeah, yeah. Can I get it? Hit it! Hm. And then it came up to us, where it came to Kool Herc, myself, Grandmaster Flash, and all the great [? pioneers ?], where we called this whole cultural movement hip hop.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: I just want to say that, your question as far as the sound of hip hop, I think it's important that people know that this man, Afrika Bambaataa, is the person who gave us our soundtrack. He broadened our horizons, as far as the music that we were seeking.
Herc pretty much gave us the way in the early days in breakbeats. OK, we're looking for breaks. We're looking for that part of the song that the singing stops, and the melodies drop out, and the drums take over. That's the part of the song we dance off. That became the music and the soundtrack for hip hop.
But after a while, everybody's playing James Brown and James Brown and George Clinton, and everybody, the same music. Bambaataa is the first one to say, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Why don't you all look outside of the scope of where you're looking now? Look into some calypso music. Why don't you all check out some of this jazz music?
Bambaataa was the first DJ to play reggae music in hip hop jams. So he's the one that really made us look outside of our normal scope of music, even though we already had a better view of music than most, because we looked back. And today, people don't look back at music. They look forward.
And so we were enriched to know about groups like the Detroit Emeralds and, I mean, Joe Cuba, and Mandrill, and all of these places that we didn't normally look for music. So Bam was responsible for that. You all need to know that.
DISCO WIZ: Yeah, just to piggyback on what Caz just said, not only was Bam responsible for that, but he was also responsible for sharing that with us. I mean, like Tony said earlier, this was the era when our era was about deejaying. It was about the DJ. Don't ever let anybody tell you differently. It was about the DJ and the evolution of the DJ.
And everybody in the stage brung something different to help elevate that crowd. Where, right now, I stand astounded when I see these young kids doing absolute acrobatics on turntables. It makes me just stare in awe, because I remember when me and Caz got our first sound system. It was like, belt-drive Kenwood turntables.
And for us to even hold onto a record, we had to first tape a penny or a nickel to the head of the needle. And the second thing we did was we used to take old album covers and stencil out the record and make our own slip mats. So, I mean, whoever came later on and invented that craft owes us royalties.
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: Yeah.
DISCO WIZ: No doubt. No doubt. But Bam brung not only that. He brung a sense of community, a sense of brotherhood, a sense of something more. I said earlier that hip hop has been my true inspiration, and I don't lie when I say that. I really mean that.
I mean, Herc did what Herc did. But Herc wasn't a brother that was going to stand there and share any of his records with you, or really extend his hand to you in that way. But I remember the first time me and Caz was playing at 123, and Bambaataa was in the background. I mean we almost peed in our pants. We said, oh, shit, Bambaataa's here. I mean, we pulled out like every eclectic record we had. And no, he's still there? He's still there?
And then after the jam, he hung around. And we were wiring up our stuff and packing it up, and we talked about records like it seemed like forever, man. And Caz is like, yo, what's the name of this joint that goes ta-na-na-na na-na-na-na-na? And the other one, George, is going eeh-eeh-- I mean, he just spit off a whole catalog of names of records, and where to go get them, and so forth, and yada, yada yada. And those are the things that were very meaningful to us as younger cats, coming up and trying to be under the tutelage of Herc and Bambaataa. That was real to us.
AFRIKA BAMBAATAA: Also, most people must know, with hip hop music, you've got to know that it has evolved. Most people, when they say hip hop, they really don't know what they're talking about. When you say hip hop, you're talking about the whole movement of hip hop. But if you're talking about hip hop music, you've got to know that you're also talking about beats per minute that could be slowed down. You could be talking about the electric funk, which is the "Planet Rock" type sound.
You could be talking about trip hop. You could be talking about drummer bass or jungle or hipstep. you could be talking about real funk or baile funk from Brazil. You could be talking about the other international flavors of hip hop. That's why, through the Zulu Nation, we've been attacking a lot of these so-called hip hop and R&B radio stations who are really jiving the people. We're saying, bring the balance of [INAUDIBLE] back to the stations. Stop playing the same 10, 15 records over and over and over again.
And see, many of you all got to get up and stand up. If you all keep sitting there and let them keep playing certain things-- like they keep saying, well, the people don't want to hear that. They want to hear just gangster rap. No, this is what you're programming as a program director, to program the minds of the masses, the people. He's trying to put this type of stuff in their heads.
And this is why the different situations that we are getting in today, where you think you can't control your kids, or the youth of today. Because if you keep letting them just hear the same thing over and over-- I mean, I had a meeting. And I had to ask all these people who came to the meeting-- and it was packed-- I saw all these people. You all say you love Allah, Jehovah, Yah, Jesus-- name all these religions-- the mosques, the temples, the churches.
And said, you all sit on your butts and let these station's program directors keep doing what they're doing? Then you deserve what you get. So if somebody smacks you upside your head, rapes your daughter, run in your house, and shoots you down because you didn't get up off your butt and get out there and do something. So you deserve what you get.
So people must have to organize and start challenging these so-called radio stations. We're saying to play the old with the new, the new with the old. We don't care if it's country western, metal, rock, house, techno, salsa, soca, reggae, jazz, anything. Challenge all these radio stations. Say listen, I want to hear the old with the new, the new with the old. If you're going to play something about kill, kill, kill, then play me something about love. What's wrong with you can't play Delfonics with R. Kelly, Rolling Stones with Limp Bizkit?
JEFF CHANG: We have probably time to get through one more question. And we want to make sure that Joe gets to show his photos, which everybody needs to see. I want to give him a little bit of time to do that.
So I want to kind of go back a little bit. You were talking about the elements and Wiz you're talking about community. And I think today, a lot of the themes have been around the fifth element of knowledge and the idea of building community. And I think a lot of folks have a lot of questions here from the web, from the cards, and that kind of stuff, asking advice. But I think they all boil down to-- there's a lot of different individual issues-- homophobia in hip hop, women in hip hop, all these different types of issues. I think it boils down to what do we need to do?
We've developed the four elements very deeply. In some cases, there's a lot of money being made off of some of those elements. What do we need to do as students of hip hops to develop knowledge and continue to help develop the community? And I actually want to pose it over there to Dr. Shante and also to Fabel, because you're both-- you got your PhD, and you do a lot of master teaching. So we could start there.
ROXANNE SHANTE: Well, there's no one correct answer, or there's no one solution to it, because there are so many individual problems with it. My main focus is that I always believed in the fact that education is something that needs to be more so implemented and brought on the forefront. A majority of our most successful rappers are actually college graduates. But they don't usually say that, because they feel that saying that they graduated from college is not the cool thing to do.
Or that's not the type of information they want to put out there, because they know that an educated consumer is going to choose wisely what they purchase. So therefore, they want to keep people ignorant to what's going on. So therefore, they don't put it out there.
Another thing also that I felt needed to be told is that myself, Pebblee Poo, and a lot of other female rappers who have participated in this culture, this wonderful thing called hip hop, have never ever really seen the glory or the accolades that I felt they were deserved because of the hard work that we put in, and the support that we put in behind our brothers, beside our brothers, and sometimes even in front of our brothers.
And the main thing now, to find out that the most influential vision of a female in hip hop happens to be the video chick is devastating to me. To know that I have went to parks, and got put on punishment, went through spankings, went through fights, you name it, went through beefs and everything else, just so that here it is, 20 years later, the most influential female vision in hip hop is the video chick.
To have someone say, oh, do you know who's really hot now? And I'm like, well, yeah, tell me because I have an independent radio station called ESP51.com. And what we do is we're not politically controlled, so therefore, we play all the hip hop you won't hear anyplace else.
And to have that being said, one of the children said to me, well, her name is Buffy and she's really, really hot. So I say, well, what type of rhymes does she sing? I've never heard of her as a female rapper. Oh no, she's in a video. And to have that be said was really heart-wrenching. I think what they need to do is set a standard on, again, incorporating education. It's very, very important.
So if they decided to say to all these young little girls who aspire to want to become these video chicks-- because they think that these girls really ride off into the sunset with these rappers. And they think that these girls really get these cars and these rings and these fur coats. And they live in these big houses and open up these doors for these rappers, when they do not, when everything in the video is rented.
The fact is, we need to at least say, if you want to become a video chick, the minimum level is at least two years of college. So at least they will aspire to say, OK, if we get all the major artists to say, well, in order to have a chick in our video, she has to at least have a minimum of a certain amount of college credits so that these little girls can aspire to say, well, at least I've got to get a minimum of credits before I can get in the video. So that's what I'm going to do. Because I don't want to be a GED video ho. I want to be the college version--
--because I hear the college version gets paid more an hour. So the fact is, if we're able to even implement that on such a small scale, where they say, OK, our sessions are closed out unless you have this. Because believe it or not, their closest circle, the circle of people that they trust the most, are well-educated.
So right now, to see you guys here, know for a fact that you are taking the right steps, not just for yourself, but just the right steps in life. Because education is very important. And had someone told that to me sooner, than even though I have now obtained what it is I feel that I've obtained thus far-- because I am what I am today, but I'm not what I'm going to be tomorrow. So the fact is, education is very, very important, and I think we need to start with that.
POPMASTER FABEL: I agree 200%. I think that knowledge starts with knowledge of self, before anything else-- knowing who you are and knowing your importance in the whole scheme of things, and not just hip, in life, in general. And some people aren't privileged to have that kind of support in the house. So it's still not an excuse because we now live in an era of information and technology, where you can jump on the internet and YouTube things all night long and Google your heart away.
But I think in terms of hip hop, specifically, some of the efforts-- for instance, like Nas said hip hop was dead, right, recently? I said it 10 years ago. And I said it in a lecture 10 years ago for shock value. And then I clarified myself and I said, what's really dead about it is that there are no block parties anymore. There's no jams. That is, the essence of hip hop starts at a jam.
Because why? It's communal. You have people of all ages there, grandmothers, like I mentioned before. That's where you grab a protege and mentor him. That's where a young kid looks for a teacher. And that sort of thing isn't happening that often. So again I've got to give props to my wife and the whole Tools of War movement which I helped co-found.
And not only her, but Rock Steady Crew, we always have one free joint every Sunday. We have a four-day event, the Rock Steady anniversaries. And the last day is always a free jump-off. And that's where people can see with their own eyes really wholesome clean fun.
Secondly, I think that we need to start meeting our youth halfway. I did the after-school program thing-- the CBOs, Community Based Organizations-- for years. I was a site director at CS4, across the street from Katonah Park Pool, for three years in the summer. I turned it into a hip hop camp, basically, where we needed an academic component to it, so I hired three teachers to teach some of the subjects.
Some students were mandated-- they had to go to that, just like a summer school thing. But I wanted to keep it fun as well, the "edutainment." So I hired a "graffiti writer," but we called him a "muralist." Yeah. You've got to be politically correct, especially when you deal with the Board of Ed. Sometimes you've got to be stealth about it, right?
So the point is, I got a muralist. I got a B-boy to teach the dance element of it. And I tried to incorporate as much hip hop as-- oh, and I had a spoken word person come in that had a hip hop flair. So we rocked that for like three years, very successful.
Then another example I want to give is that I worked at another junior high school in the Bronx. I was all over the place, by the way. From Bed Stuy to the Bronx to Queens to Harlem, they had me all over the place, this one particular foundation I worked for. And by the way, that's wherein I found out how the school system is in total shambles. I mean, it is really bad.
So I went to this one school, in particular. My first day there, and we were teaching a curriculum called "Media-Smart Youth," where we were trying to engage students on learning about the things they eat. So my job was to add a hip hop element to that. So the first day there, the world studies teacher says, you must be the hip hop guy. And I say, yeah, that's me. And I'm not going to front the boy. He was kind of on the geeky tip, this nerdy world studies dude, right?
So I was like, who are you? He said, well, I teach history here. I said, that's cool. He said, well, you know what? I want to share something with you. And he shared his lesson plan. He was, I think, teaching them about Africa and Egypt and stuff like that.
And he said, what do you think of this? And he started-- it was a rhyme. His whole lesson plan was a rhyme. OK, it definitely wasn't Grandmaster Caz material. But I'm saying, he made an effort and I was really-- I said, so, I mean, how did they do? He said 80% of them passed. And prior to that, it was not 80%. He was having a real hard time engaging the students.
So that blew my mind totally. I said, look at this guy, a Caucasian man, totally understood that this is a very powerful tool and saw the potential in it to implement a little rhyme, entice the students, and rock it. And I think that even with simple solutions like that, like Shante said, it's-- Dr. Shante, pardon me-- it's really about being about it.
We can theorize all day hypothetically, this, that, and the third. Unless you roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches, and get dirty, and work with the youth in the streets, and find interesting ways to use hip hop as more than just party and bullshit, and the same bullshit we do all day. If you go to a hip hop jam, and all you got out of it was picking up a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and you go home with nothing else, guess what? That's not enough. That's not enough. So we need to really realize the full potential of this culture and implement it and make it happen.
TONY TONE: Like I said earlier, I am sorry that our parents didn't step in when we first started doing hip hop, or jamming, or whatever, and really get involved in what we were doing. It might be a different picture now if they had. And a lot of parents, they seem like they're scared to get involved in their kids' life. And so the kids just go all kinds of directions, following the wrong people.
So I think a lot of parents need to get into their kids' life and really say, what's that? And learn about what they're doing and who their kids are. A lot of people don't like to own up to the thing that they do wrong. They always want to blame somebody else. And you've got to be accountable for what you do. And a lot of people need to wake up and say, OK, I want to lead a positive life. Because I don't think nobody wakes up and say, yo, I want my day to be negative.
So people need to really start looking at who they are and trying to be responsible for the actions that they want to put out there, do, or whatever. But a lot of people don't. And a lot of parents just let their kids go crazy. But I hear kids cursing at they parents. I've never disrespected my mother till today. I have never disrespected my mother.
And when I hear about kids disrespecting their mother, and stuff, I don't understand it. People call me from other cities, and they say, Tone, we need you and the Zulu Nation to come out here. We've got a bad gang situation out here. And I say, all those kids that's in gangs got to have parents. What are the people doing in the community? Those are your kids. But it just seems like they're scared to talk to their kids.
And I wish we could go to Nebraska and places like that and sit down and talk to every kid. Because our area was gang-ridden when we started it. But we took it upon ourselves to say, OK, this is not going to make it. We've got to change this. And it's the community, and people got to say, hold up, those are my kids-- those are our kids-- and start talking to them at home, instead of just let them run out in the street and do whatever. And then when you get a call that your kid is laying on the corner dead, then you want to say, well, I should have did more.
You've got to talk to your kids. And you've got to show them that you've got confidence enough to talk to them, so they'll have confidence enough to talk to you. So I think that's what's a big thing. I think people really need to say it.
JEFF CHANG: Tony Tone. Let's give it up for all our panelists. Thank you very much.
I don't want you all to leave, but just please give it up for our panelists. Joe Conzo, Dr. Roxanne Shante, Popmaster Fabel, Disco Wiz, Pebblee Poo, Tony Tone, Grandwizzard Theodore, Grandmaster Caz, Afrika Bambaataa. We're going to have Joe here talk a little bit about the photos. This is the heart of the collection that's going to be here at the Cornell University Library. And we want to have Joe talk a little bit about what he's got here.
One thing I want to say is we talk a lot about what a hip hop world view looks like from the ground up. This is a person who really began seeing that in many ways itself And so we're actually seeing the beginnings of hip hop through Joe's eyes in these photos. So let's give it up for Joe.
JOE CONZO: Thank you. Thank you.
JEFF CHANG: Thank you.
JOE CONZO: Thank you, Jeff. What I'm going to try and do for the next 5, 10 minutes is just all the stories that you heard the pioneers speak about, I'm going to try and bring you back there with my photos, OK? Add the visuals to their stories, to their history. And first, I want Charlie Ahearn to stand up and take a bow. Charlie Ahearn had the foresight back then to do a movie called Wild Styles. And 25 years later, we're celebrating his seminal movie, Wild Styles.
And this photo was actually taken at the Dixie Club with the Cold Crush Brothers, Tony, Easy AD, KG, JDL, and a young, good-looking Grandmaster Caz there, slim, and Charlie Ahearn there.
What? This was our neighborhood growing up. As Sean pointed out earlier, the Bronx was burning. Well, to a lot of us, the Bronx was already burnt. And this was our neighborhood. And this is where the culture of hip hop grew out of. We took something out of nothing and made it into something big.
These are our little angels. These are the kids back there, innocent. And I walked around-- I was a chubby little kid with a big Angela Davis afro that you'll see later on. And I just took pictures of my neighborhood, not only hip hop, just everything around me. And this is the beauty that I captured back then.
This is a photo of a young Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Charlie Chase, a young DJ Red Alert, and an MC pow-wow sitting in the back there. And this was the seat behind the ropes when we were playing our music.
This is Roseland Ballroom downtown, '81/'82. Kool Lady Blue, who couldn't make it up here, was instrumental in bringing hip hop from the Bronx downtown. And Roseland is a very big and famous club downtown. Yeah, 4,000 people, and we used to pack it. We used to bring our shows down there and pack it.
And this is one of the earliest pictures I have of a cypher, right, JoJo?
Young kids of the South Bronx. I call this the Wannabe B-boys from the South Bronx. And it's all about what you were wearing back then, your attitude, and how you projected yourself.
Again, the B-girls, same thing. Yeah, that's Gina. I ended up marrying one of these girls here and having a kid. Remember, Tony, Gina? Anyways, she's just our fashion back then. And you see the guy ogling the girls from back there I wonder why. And it wasn't cold that day either, so next.
I don't know if-- can anybody tell me what he's doing there besides sitting on a curb? Exactly. Who said that? Yeah, we actually used to take string and everything and put gum and a weight and lower it into the sewers to pick up quarters. And he's actually sitting there on top of a sewer, lowering the string to get the quarters and dimes and everything that had fallen out of somebody's pocket. Times were rough back then. Yeah.
This picture is taken in Fran Seigel Park. This was at a Tito Puente jam. Thank you, thank you. And it's just music affects all ages. And that's the beautiful thing about music. And here we have two beautiful kids just enjoying the music of Tito Puente.
This picture here-- it's a famous picture. This picture appeared in the Chris Rock movie CB4, unbeknownst to me. I'm sitting in the movie theater one day watching this movie, and this picture blew me away.
But this was at my high school prom at South Bronx High School, and the Cold Crush Brothers performed there. And this picture has appeared in many books and publications. And that is the ultimate art of rhyming, four guys on two mics, improvise, overcome and adapt. And the Cold Crush Brothers made sweet music back then.
Another one of my early shots of just friends in the street. It's all about attitude, the culture, dressing.
This picture here, I'm known a lot for my hip hop photos. But there are so many other photos. The late '70s, early '80s was about social change, social movement. And a lot of things were happening back then. My grandmother, the late Dr. Evelina Antonetty, was known as the "Hell Lady of the Bronx." She was instrumental in introducing the summer lunch programs in the streets of the South Bronx, bilingual education in public schools. And whenever she didn't like something going on in the city, she did something about it.
Well, this is during the movie Fort Apache the Bronx, where blacks and Latinos were portrayed as pimps, and whores, and drug dealers, and everything like that. And we took to the streets and demonstrated. I mean, we followed Paul Newman-- may he rest in peace-- all over. And we actually got a disclaimer in the movie to say that this movie does not portray the Hispanic or the black people of the community as pimps, pushers, or whores.
And this is just at one of the demonstrations. And coming from a strong family background, you could be five years old. You were going to a demonstration that day. You were going to protest. And this is one of the pictures I have from there.
This is Grandmaster Caz on the turntables. Grandmaster Caz, like you heard from him earlier, before he picked up the mic, he was on the turntable. And he's one of those seminal DJs that can deejay and rhyme at the same time.
This is a picture from my graduation. That's part of my Angela Davis afro there. That's my grandmother, my grandfather, and a Bronx politician named Ramon Velez.
Another one of my famous Cold Crush Brothers pictures there. I mean, I hope my pictures are conveying-- we were just having such a good time back then, good time. I didn't know that 30 years later, they would be part of this archive here in Cornell. And it's just truly a blessing.
These are the speakers that you hear Bam and Caz and Theodore and Tony speak about. Tony, was this one of your biggest sets? Or this was a small set?
TONY TONE: Well, back then, it was a big set.
JOE CONZO: It wasn't big enough to beat Bam, but you know.
TONY TONE: No, it wasn't.
JOE CONZO: And Tony could tell you, they built these speakers. We didn't have money to go spend and buy Cerwin Vega speakers, or anything like that. They built it, and that was Tony's thing back then.
TONY TONE: The two bottom ones, Jazzy Jay built those for us. Jazzy Jay is Superman.
JOE CONZO: Yeah. So we took our stuff serious back then. We really did.
Here's Tony deejaying, and Bam in the background, and Chief Rocker Busy Bee in the background.
TONY TONE: Oh, Roxanne, go get them.
JOE CONZO: This is a typical jam in a school. It was Roosevelt High School. You see the rope? Nobody could come past that rope. But we filled this school up.
TONY TONE: Yo, that rope meant so much.
JOE CONZO: Yeah.
TONY TONE: It was like a wall. It was only this thin, but people ain't walking past that rope.
JOE CONZO: Yeah. And this is where we put on our shows. This is where people saw the rhyming. I mean, Grandmaster Caz wrote rhymes to Gilbert O'Sullivan. I mean, it's great.
That's me. That's me.
And photography, for me, was my outlet from the streets. Girls love having their pictures taken at that young age. And Tony invited me to take pictures of his group, and it's just been a love affair ever since then.
Last but not least, this is Charlotte Street. Sean pointed earlier about when Reagan came to the South Bronx and made those comments about how it reminded him of burnt-out Berlin-- bombed. And this was the famous Charlotte Street. And, of course, we're demonstrating again because the president was in town. We put up the big Puerto Rican flag and that was it.
TONY TONE: [INAUDIBLE], right?
JOE CONZO: Yeah, that's our [INAUDIBLE]. So I'm grateful that I'm here and I'm truly blessed. And it's nice to see the visuals going along with the stories, the histories of this culture. And I'm just blessed that I was around at a time that these pioneers up here were making a difference, and I was able to capture it. So thank you. Thank you.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: One, two. All right. Hello? We're almost over, right? I just want to do a commercial real quick. I know you guys know we're going to be around for the rest of the day. We've got little performances later on and a little after-party tonight.
We're right outside this hall. We have a few tables set up outside where we're making available some of these copies of some of these archival things. We have some of the early live CDs from parties, from people like my group, the Cold Crush Brothers, and Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa, and all that. We have some of Joe Conzo's photographs right outside-- prints on sale. So as you make your way outside, take some history home with you, all right? Peace.
SPEAKER 2: All right. Check, check, check, check, check.
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"This is history, Cornell!" Those words started a panel discussion among an impressive array of hip hop's founders: Roxanne Shante, Popmaster Fabel, Disco Wiz, Pebblee Poo, Tony Tone, Grandwizzard Theodore, Grandmaster Caz and Afrika Bambaataa. They gathered at Cornell's Bailey Hall on Oct. 31, 2008, to talk about their music, defining moments in their lives and the future of hip hop, as well as answer questions from the audience.
The panel was moderated by Jeff Chang, hip hop historian and award-winning author of "Can't Stop Won't Stop: a History of the Hip-Hop Generation" and editor of the anthology "Total Chaos: The Art & Aesthetics of Hip-Hop," and Johan Kugelberg, collector and author of "Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop." Bronx photographer Joe Conzo, Jr. also showed projected images of his historic photographs of hip hop in the 1970s and 1980s.
The panel was part of a two-day conference celebrating Cornell University Library's acquisition of "Born in the Bronx: The Legacy and Evolution of Hip Hop," a collection that documents the early days of hip hop with recordings, photographs, posters and more. Events on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2008, included music, performances and lectures by several of hip hop's founders, and roundtable discussions led by prominent speakers from the hip hop and academic communities.