Music, Movies, TV – An Insider’s Perspective

Tag: Hip-Hop

HIP HOP HOORAY (Part III)

Rap travels from the Bronx…to Harlem…to the clubs of NYC…and to RADIO & RECORDS

From the early seventies to 1979, rap was alive and well in the clubs, at house parties and in the parks of the Bronx. Soon everyone wanted to get in the game. MC’s and DJ’s started coming out of the woodwork. Battle rappin’ was becoming a huge thing and rap groups were forming everywhere. Battles became as big in the Bronx and Harlem as some of the sporting events and boxing matches. A well promoted rap battle could fill a venue. And Harlem World located in Harlem, NY was the epicenter of some of the first gigantic rap battles.

When two members of The Cold Crush Brothers left the crew and joined the Fantastic Five there became serious rivalry between the two groups. It did not take long before a new MC joined the Cold Crush Brothers. His name is GRANDMASTER CAZ (a.k.a. DJ Casanova Fly).

On July 3, 1981, one of the most legendary rap battles went down at Harlem World. It was between The Cold Crush Brothers and the Fantastic Five. The prize was $1,000 cash…WINNER TAKE ALL!

Cold Crush had been preparing for a major battle for almost a year and the time had finally come. They were about to go up against some “pretty boys” that seemed to be loved by the ladies….”THE FANTASTIC FIVE”

On the night of the battle, the club was HOT and packed with fans for each group. The winner would be chosen by the audience and the loudness of their cheering. Cold Crush was all about delivering dope lyrics that were also melodic. The Fantastic Five did not have lyrics of substance so they relied on getting the girls up front and screaming for them. Fantastic Five had dance routines, wore flashy clothes, and leaned heavily on their looks and flirting with the girls up front…..

Needless to say, the screaming girls worked and The Fantastic Five took home the $1,000 prize money. Cassette tapes of rap battles and live shows sold quickly throughout all 5 boroughs of New York. The tape of this battle revealed clearly who REALLY should have won the battle. The Cold Crush Brothers “CRUSHED IT” with their clever lyrics. When the underground, bootleg tape of the battle hit the streets “EVERYONE” was talking about the “Cold Crush Brothers.” At the time there were no real record labels signing rappers, and rappers were okay with that. The rap community loved having something that they could call their own. Rap was spontaneous, performed “LIVE” and found in the boroughs throughout New York. The underground tapes were giving The Bronx and Harlem a name in hip hop. Everyone wanted to be present when this music was performed live so the tapes were great for promoting the clubs, parties, and rap battles.

One night an R&B diva who had some radio hits under the name “Little Sylvia” (known for Pillow Talk & Love Is Strange) went to a party at a club in Harlem. Sylvia also had her own record label called “Platinum Records” which was not doing well. At the party she noticed the DJ who was also on the mic as an MC. He went by the name “Love Bug Starski.” Sylvia could not take her eyes off of him. After leaving the club she could not get “Starski” out of her mind. She saw something fresh and new that she felt could be big someday. It was not long until Sylvia Robinson founded the first hip hop record label…SUGAR HILL RECORDS. She and her son went out in search of a rapper that could thrill the world like she was thrilled watching “Love Bug Starski” in that Harlem club.

Sylvia Robinson and her son went to a local pizza shop to meet up with a guy who managed the Pizza spot and some of the local rappers. One of the rappers he managed was an amazing writer and member of the Cold Crush Brothers, “Grandmaster Caz.”

Sylvia and Joey rolled up and parked in the front of the shop and they asked, “Big Bank Hank” and a couple of his friends who also rapped a little to come out to the car to audition for her new record label. Big Bank Hank did not have lyrics of his own, so he started rapping lyrics that he knew. Those lyrics belonged to Grandmaster Caz (who was also known as Casanova Fly). Hank also managed Caz.

Sylvia loved what she heard from all three of the guys. They went by the monikers of Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee. Although she was only looking for one rapper to sign to her record label she decided that all three should be signed as a group. Sylvia Robinson did not know that Big Bank Hank’s lyrics were taken from another Rapper that Hank happened to manage.

Sylvia signed all of them and they became the “The Sugar Hill Gang.” Now Hank was in a real jam because he had no writing or real rapping skills of his own. He called his friend and client that he managed Grandmaster Caz. Hank asked Caz if he could borrow his lyric book to use some of his lyrics and rhymes. Caz thought if Hank’s group took off that it would be a break for him and “Cold Crush” as well. Caz handed over his precious lyric book to Hank. Back then, getting a record deal was new territory so Caz did not fully understand what could happen to him by handing over his “coveted and priceless” lyric book.

When The Sugar Hill Gang released their first BIG single “Rappers Delight” it took the world by storm. The song exploded on radio and the charts. It even cracked the Top 40 charts. The lyrics of Grandmaster Caz were now popular and made famous by “Big Bank Hank.” Fans were now rapping along to the lyrics of “The Sugarhill Gang”…so they thought!

FUN FACT  (for everyone but Grandmaster Caz)

When Wonder Mike introduced Big Bank Hank in the beginning of Rappers Delight, this is what went down on the record.

Wonder Mike said….

“Well, so far you’ve heard my voice, but I brought two friends along….And next on the mic is my man Hank: come on, Hank, sing that song”

Then Big Bank Hank said…..

“Check it out: I’m the C-a-s-an-the-o-v-a, and the rest is f-l-y

Hank didn’t even change the part in the song that actually spells out Caz’s original moniker, CASANOVA FLY. When Rapper’s Delight and the Sugarhill Gang shot to world-wide fame and fortune, our man C-a-s-an-the-o-v-a…f-l-y never saw a “p-e-nn-y” of royalties.

Caz did NOT get paid. The lyrics were “straight-up stolen,” No songwriting and credit and NO PAY! There were also other parts of the song that sounded much like lyrics that were performed during live sets in the clubs. It kind of makes you wonder how many lyrics were truly original and written for “Rappers Delight”

FUN FACT #2:

Rapper’s Delight was originally a 15-minute song that was recorded in just ‘ONE TAKE’. Black radio played the entire 15-minute version of the song but that was not suitable for pop radio, so the guys recorded a 7-minute version that introduced pop fans to the infectious hit song.

FUN FACT #3

I have always found this verse remarkably interesting…….

“A time to break and a time to chill
To act civilized or act real ill
But whatever ya do in your lifetime
Y’never let a MC steal your rhyme!

FUN FACT #4

In the classic  hip hop film “Wild Style” from 1983, Grandmaster Caz plays himself. This film is a must see and one to own for all old-school hip-hop fans.

Get it here: Wild Style on DeepDiscount.com

Although Grandmaster Caz received no writers credit or pay for his contribution to “Rappers Delight,” he is often acknowledged as the writer that took hip hop to the mainstream with the first “hit rap record.” Rappers Delight has now sold over 14 million copies…and counting.

In addition to Caz’s lyrics being stolen, the songs track also included a replayed sample of Chic’s “Good Times.” The two writers of “Good Times” sued Sugar Hill Records for copyright infringement. Writers, Nile Rodgers, and Bernard Edwards are now credited as songwriters on “Rappers Delight.”

My personal relationship to Rappers Delight….

Back in 1996, I had the concept in mind for an album that would be a tribute to some of the biggest rappers of the past.

Prominent rappers were asked to record “remakes” of their favorite rap songs that paid homage to the original songs and rappers.

On November 25, 1997 “In tha Beginning There Was Rap” was released and I was the Executive Producer.

Erick Sermon of EPMD, Keith Murray, and Redman (who had a close relationship with the Wu Tang Clan) recorded their remake of “Rappers Delight” for the album under the name “DEF SQUAD.” Their version also became a huge hit that pushed my album to #4 on the hip hop charts and into the Top 20 on the pop charts. Within two months the album achieved gold status, selling over 500,000 copies.

If you read Part 1 of “HIP HOP HOORAY” you heard that one of the true honors of my life was working with “DJ Grandmaster Caz” at the United Nations club in LA. In addition to being an important writer and MC, Caz is an enormously talented DJ.

Grandmaster Caz

Thanks to all of you that have sent messages concerning my hip hop features. I am glad that you enjoy hearing about the beginning of this important and historical era in hip hop.

I will be writing about several things that come to mind for October, but I will also keep the features coming on Hip Hop….Part IV is in the works now, so come on back for more!

HIP HOP HOORAY (Part II)

Now, if you read my feature on the “Holy Trinity of Hip Hop” (HOW IT ALL STARTED) you know a little about how it all began.

Over the next few months, I will have a lot to write about from all genres of music, movies, and television but my plan is to also go deeper into the history of rap music and hip hop culture. I will feature some of the most important originators of hip hop and their music. I will take you on a journey through where the artists are from and how their music found its way into the hearts of hip hop fans worldwide. If you are a subscriber to my blog, you probably have read a bit about my history in the music industry. You may know that I have had a lot of success with hip hop and that I have a deep love of the genre.

I will give you interesting information and personal stories of my relationships with hip hop artists and their music. In order to make it an easier and a quick read I have created the title “Hip Hop Hooray” in celebration of the genre, and it will include several parts to tie the full history together

Be sure to come back to my blog often to see which artists I am featuring and where my stories will take you. When I am interviewed I am often asked to share my personal stories that span over the nearly fifty years of hip hop. I am excited to share some of these stories and personal photos with all of my subscribers.

Before I get rollin’ on Part III, of “Hip Hop Hooray” I want to remind you about a historical collection that was released in 2021.

“SMITHSONIANS ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP”

Back On August 16, 2021, I reviewed this new extensive and definitive collection of hip hop. This amazing release should be in the personal collection of every hip hop fan. You can read my original feature on the link at the end of this post. After reading you will understand why I was chosen as a contributor to the making of this historical music project. You will also understand   how each song was added to this impressive release.

“Smithsonian’s Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap” could very well be the soundtrack to my “Hip Hop Hooray” features. I will highlight many of the Legends and Originators of Hip Hop that are included on this 9-disc collection of rap music.

I am bringing this title to your attention now because through September it is being offered at Deep Discount for an appealing sale price.

Here is the link to take advantage of this great deal – Click Here.

How do you put over 45 years of musical history into one disc?

It was impossible so the collection turned into 9 discs…129 definitive songs and a beautiful 300-page collectors book written by hip-hop’s leading writers and critics. The book also contains hundreds of iconic photos spanning the decades of hip-hop….1973—2018.

The final songs that were chosen for this ground-breaking and historical release were compiled by a committee of well-respected rappers, scholars, writers, aficionado’s, music critics and industry leaders. The committee was led by rappers Chuck D of Public Enemy and MC Lyte, Jeff Chang, and Mark Anthony Neil (writers and scholars), Bill Adler and Bill Stephney (early Def Jam Executives), Questlove (artist and writer) and 9th Wonder (educator). Along with a few other record executives and DJ’s, I was asked to submit 100 songs that I felt were worthy of being on this important piece of hip-hop history. I was pleased to see that many of my selections made the cut and are on SMITHSONIAN’S ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP.

Previously Smithsonian Folkways released extensive collections on Folk Music and on Jazz. For their third historical release they decided to celebrate the newest voice and dominant genre of music…HIP-HOP and RAP.

Here is the link to my feature from August 16, 2021, with more interesting details about the making of “SMITHSONIANS ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP”
GREATEST HITS – Violet Brown Told Me

Here is a short video that will tell you a little more about this important piece of hip hop history and how it came to be. Hear it straight from the mouths of Chuck D of Public Enemy and MC Lyte

Hip-Hop History in the making

Are you a WU-TANG CLAN fan?

If you are a fan I know you are watching their series, WU TANG: An American Saga on Hulu.

This past week on Wednesday morning as I was writing this Blog, my phone EXPLODED with messages. Since I did not want to stop writing, I decided to look at just one of the messages. So, I chose the message from my bestie.

Her message read: “Violet, have you seen who they cast to portray you in the Wu-Tang movie on Hulu?

My response: NO…..I have not seen it, nor do I know anything about it…..WTF

I immediately stopped writing my Blog to check this shocking information out. I was not up to date on my Wu-Tang episodes, so I went straight to the new one that just aired. It was SEASON 2: Episode 7. I was a little nervous to watch it since I did not know exactly what it was about. I knew that I had an exceptionally good history with Wu and I that it was “all love” back in the day but who knows what this could be about.

The episode is about when Wu-Tang Clan was first starting out. And how they worked diligently and creatively to get their music and name out to the masses. Every artist has their own personal story about “being discovered” and “breaking out” in the business. However, every artist or band does not have multiple seasons of their very own, Emmy nominated series to tell the story of their rise to fame.

This episode is about how a young group of talented rappers from Staten Island, NY caught fire and exploded throughout the world. This is the episode in which Wu-Tang clan used their clever methods to meet people who would understand their talent, see their potential, and help push them out on radio and in stores. My inclusion in Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” series was an enormous honor. I give BIG props to the actor Zoe Mann, who portrayed my character on the show.

Wu-Tang is not known for giant, cross-over radio hits but many fans of East Coast rap call them the “GREATEST RAP GROUP EVER.”

And West Coast fans, will always argue that NWA is the GREATEST RAP GROUP EVER!

I say, both groups belong in the HIP HOP HALL of FAME and in EVERY Hip-Hop fan collection.

Check out Wu-Tang Clan and NWA music from DeepDiscount.com (they help sponsor this blog) .

Wu-Tang Clan available here

NWA available here

Here is one of my favorite photos with Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan. The rapper Redman is also in the photo. Together along with Erick Sermon of EPMD they recorded a song for an album that I Executive Produced. The album is “In The Beginning There Was Rap.” Method Man, Redman and Erick Sermon formed the group “Def Squad,” and they recorded a re-make of “Rappers Delight” that became a huge hit. Wu-Tang Clan also contributed to the album with a remake of the Run DMC hit, “Sucker M.C.’s.” “In the Beginning There was Rap” contains twelve popular rappers that paid tribute and homage to their favorite rap songs. This is a unique album since Wu-Tang Clan, Def Squad, Snoop Dog, The Roots, Bone Thugs, Master P, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Cypress Hill, Too Short. Tha Dogg Pound, and Mack 10 are ALL on this ground-breaking album.

And check out NEW episodes of Wu-Tang: An American Saga, every Wednesday on Hulu.

In June we celebrate Black Music Month

On June 7, 1979 President Jimmy Carter decreed June to be an annual month-long celebration of Black Music in America. In 2009, President Barack Obama changed the name to African American Music Appreciation Month…By popular demand President Biden has reinstated the celebration and observance to its original name of  “Black Music Month”

Blacks in America have created or inspired many genres and sub-genres of music. Since 1979, we have celebrated all these genres in the month of June. Although there are talented black artists in ALL genres of music, in June we celebrate R&B (rhythm and blues/soul music), Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Funk, Rap and Hip-Hop.

You may have read about my long history in the music industry. I made it clear where I found the best times and the joy of my life. My biggest thrill and most memorable time in music was working in one of America’s most distinguished, important and beloved stores. This store (Big Ben’s and later Wherehouse Music) served the most diverse black community in Los Angeles. Although the store was part of a huge chain we served our neighborhood and community as if we were a stand-alone specialty store. Everyone within the community relied on our store to bring them EVERYTHING that was “Black Music”. Due to the popularity of our store,

it was not long until busses began to show up with tourists.

They wanted to get the music they could not find in most stores. They knew that a trip to our store could mean finding a hot new artist or a hard-to-find piece of music that they just, had to have.

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