Monday, December 31, 2007

It's been a long time.

Next year, I'm taking this blog to the next level. I'm hopeful that the results of my work will be greater than those of the 148 rappers who used that phrase on my show.

Here' s a clip from from Digital Underground offshoot, Raw Fusion in the meantime. See you in 2008.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fed-ex Crack

Temptation never fades for those of us in recovery. The lure of the so-called good times never stops it tug on our consciousness, even when we know better. Just one more time, we think to ourselves, it'll be different - we can handle it. It's been said that the only way to get control of an addiction is to admit that you're powerless to stop it.

My moment of weakness came in the mail last week. I still maintain the business address for Wavelength, and occasionally music videos trickle in from companies who don't update their mailing lists. Usually, it's nothing I'm interested in and they sit unwatched for weeks until I can get to the thrift store. Last week, however, they were three videos, all of them for music that I don't hate. I looked at the DVDs resting in their slim cases and shining under the lights of the Mailbox and Packaging Center. Three videos, I thought to myself. With just two more, I could have a show. I could use some old videos, create some kind of excuse, I mean theme, to air them with the fresh clips. I kept programming the show in my mind while I walked to the parking lot and the plotting continued well into my ride home.

I had a moment of clarity at a stoplight on Mechanicsville Turnpike. Suddenly, I was ashamed for spending the last half-hour of my life pondering a return to television. There are so many other things in my life to consider and prepare for and there I was daydreaming about taking one giant leap backwards. I couldn't continue to entertain the possibility of such a mistep /. It was time to move on. The light was green.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It Came from 1992 Pt. 2 or Illegal Search

So there we were, four young black males, shivering beside the interstate in northern Virginia as the po-lice illegally searched our car. The high of hanging with the hip-hop elite at the rap conference had fallen off fast as we watched two troopers turn a Thunderbird inside out. When one of them held up a pistol he found beneath the driver's seat, I thought our long night was just beginning.
"It's a b.b. gun," the driver said.
The officer considered the weapon with his flashlight and offered, "If someone pointed this at me, I'd shoot 'im."
After a moment of silence, the search ended and they let us off with a couple of smart remarks. As we carefully rode along at 55 mph, the mood in the car shifted. The warm vibes were replaced by cold reality as race and civil rights drove our in-car discussion. We debated whether the search should have been "allowed" and the reasoning for carrying an air pistol in your vehicle. Moments before the stop, we were thinking about our future in the music and television business, now we were content with getting home.
My association with this show ended a few week after this shoot. They continued to produce "Soundwave," their program, as I jump-started Wavelength. We wouldn't be friends again, but we'll always have the connection of shared experience.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It came from 1992 - Hip-Hop at Howard University Pt. 1

While I waited for Wavelength (the video show that landed me here in VJ rehab) to gather momentum, I continued to assist with the production of another video show. I had worked with these guys for about a year and we had been through all of the ups and downs typically associated with a neighborhood garage band: egos, arguments, disappointments and rare moments of cohesion. It was one drama after another, but like a soap opera, it was hard to turn away and it seemed the story would go on forever.

Eventually things came to head and we went our separate ways. I would love to paint myself as the O'Shea Jackson of this situation, but perhaps that's not as accurate as I would like it to be. For the short time our shows were on the air together, there was some on-air static and a competitive vibe that drove both of our productions. Nobody got hurt and we're all cool now, as far as I know.

In February of 1992, before the separation, we took our one and only road trip. We attended the Hip Hop Conference at Howard University, sponsored by a group called The Cultural Initiative. It was a very progressive thought at the time, that hip-hop could be discussed and debated at a university. We packed the co-host's Thunderbird with A.J.'s gear and hit the road.

Shortly after we arrived, we realized how well-attended and serious this conference was. Rappers were walking the campus, in the hallways and hanging out in the parking lot. Some of them actually showed up for the panel discussions on sampling, commercial rap music and the role of hip-hop publications. I saw Tim Dog, Sen Dog, B Real, Marly Marl, Jam Master Jay, Posdnous, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Organised Konfusion and Sister Souljah. It was a great day for hip hop and for getting drops for low-budget video shows. The way back home wouldn't be as fresh.

We, four black men in a speeding Thunderbird with tinted windows, were stopped by police on I-95. I think they may have been state troopers, but I don't recall what state they were from, it was dark. They got us out of the car and asked us if we had any "drugs, paraphernalia or loose women." We amused them with our claim that we were in the television business. I would recall this unfortunate moment years later, as I watched Robert Townsend's mythical quintet forced to perform a roadside concert by racist cops at the Southgate Cinemas.

We stood on the side of interstate in the cold darkness as they began to search our vehicle without permission. I knew I was clean, but I didn't know what someone else might be holding. Things grew tense as one of the show's hosts grew impatient with the police action. They continued despite his protest, while we all shot him the shut-the-fuk-up look. Then, one of the troopers emerged from the driver's side holding a gun by the trigger guard with a pen. I think he said something dramatic and original, like "What do we have here?"

Part 2 ... posted upon sufficient request.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Just Can't Live With My Radio

There's one move I'm glad I never made in my days in the music industry. Radio. It was tempting, though. I knew the music, the artists and owned a pocket full of fame. There was certainly more money, prestige and perks to be had. But I knew I could never conform to the rigid parameters imposed on the modern day disc jockey. Say your name. Give the time. Call Letters. On to the next song. Not me. I need to tell you what I think before I play what I want you to hear.

In radio, the personality of a DJ is kept in check, while some of the P.D.s and G.M.s, enjoy exerting their strong personality traits on record promoters, local artists and their staff. It's funny to watch a radio exec get drunk on the power that a corporation has allowed them to hold momentarily and funnier still to see the look on their faces when they realize it doesn't last forever.

Another thing about radio. The music sucks, and they know it, too. The men and women picking and playing records at radio today are of the generation that witnessed the golden era of hip hop. They know a good record when they hear it, but they seldom have the nerve to play it. Radio's become a corrupt, moribund medium that's lost any kind of real connection to the needs of the community it claims to serve.

I was reminded of the best non-move I ever made when I picked up a copy of what my grandfather used to call The Black Dispatch tonight. The first FM station to play hip hop in Richmond, Va. , Power 921, gutted its staff, firing longtime personalities Stress, Rosetta Devine and the Bad Boyz. I listen to the radio just enough in the last few years to know who the latter couple is. I'm sure their games and gimmicks will transfer easily to another market and they'll be missed here, for however long a dedicated radio listener with a short attention span does that kind of thing.

Stress and Rosetta Devine however, have strong ties to the community and have been a part of Power 92 for a long time. The sound of their voices meant you were in capable, experienced hands. I didn't listen Power that often and I'm still shaking off the shock.

I guess after a three quarters of getting trounced by the competition, something had to give. Ties were severed, changes were made and the beat goes on. It's not personal, its radio.

After having my TV own show, I couldn't imagine someone stopping me from doing something I love, abruptly and without warning. I stopped Wavelength when I wanted to and on my own terms. DJs never get to say good-bye.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


In 1997, Digital Underground were well into the downswing of their career. After four records on Tommy Boy with diminishing results, they came to Alley Katz in Richmond promoting a independent release called "Who Got The Gravy." The club was nearly as empty as a bag of chips at Aretha Franklin's crib.

It wasn't normally a hip hop spot, and the event could've been promoted better, so the small turnout wasn't all a reflection of D.U.'s declining significance.
The band didn't stop us from filming, so we shot until the tape ran out. I had another SVHS stashed for the interview, but that didn't happen. Money B told us that Shock was tired and didn't feel like it. This was around the time when he was doing a lot of drug talk, on stage he mentioned "some ecstasy on the tour bus" and he had recently given a revealing interview with XXL about his experiences with illegal substances. I mentioned the article to Shock after the show and he said the interview was upsetting as he had assumed that some of what he told the reporter was off the record.

Despite the half-empty club, Digital put on a devastating show and left the with something to remember and those close enough to the front got something take home.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Never Can Say Goodbye

The rumors of my release from the DBC are less than true. The lack of activity here and reports like this one, (scroll down, it's there) may have led you to assume I've finally made sense of it all, but that's not the case.

Over the last few weeks, I've been dismantling what remains of my video production company. After nearly ten years of treading water, it's time to let this part of my life float away. This ain't easy. It's like pulling the plug on a dying relative or putting your childhood pet to sleep. Saying goodbye is hard, as those boys from Philly sang.

Once everything is given away or sold, I'll be left with the tapes. Boxes and boxes of music videos. I have hundreds of these these, many are on the the antiquated format of 3/4 inch tape, which have made them a hindrance to transfer and forces me to cling onto bulky U-Matic machine to view them. The music video industry eventually moved to mini dv, which is less of a hassle to transport, but my collection is so huge, they're still in the way.

Should I hold on to these things? I've considering digitizing airthang and recycling the media, but that project never seems to get moving. I wish there was a hip hop museum I could bequeath my archive to. Maybe one day.

Until I find a home for my analog archive, it'll stay right here with me, next to the rap music and lies.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Salute to Captain Video

There's a crucial part of the music video industry called video promotion. In the early days of Wavelength, a 3/4 video delivered in the mail would be followed up with a call from a video promoter asking when you were going to play it. If you decided to add the video to your playlist, you could expect additional calls, which usually led to a sense of familiarity and kinship. Some of these people worked at record labels, but many of them were independent contractors, slinging Nas one week and Home Team the next.

Mark Weinstein was one of these independent promoters. He ran a company called RNR Freelance, which at one time was one of the largest of its kind. He and his staff were experienced and knowledgeable about the music and artists they hocked, two qualities that were undervalued at similar outfits. At least three of his employees had done time in established rock bands and Mark had been involved in hip-hop video since the days of UTFO. He was a staunch advocate for local and regional video shows, fighting for us in places we couldn't get to. He also wrote for The Source, back when it was readable, under the name "Captain Video." He was one of the music men.

The word "promoter" has some negative connotations. I have certainly encountered a few who were ethicly-challenged. Let's keep it real, Don King is a promoter. I didn't know Mark well enough to vouch for his moral upstanding, but do remember that if someone at his company promised something, they tried to make it happen. Concert tickets, vinyl, t-shirts, advertising, interviews or whatever else I badgered them for, I usually got it. Except for that "Warm It Up," twelve inch by Kriss Kross. But I've forgot all about that, really.

I got a call from one of Mark's former employees this week, telling me that Mark died on Monday. The circumstances regarding his death are unclear and rumors are circulating, as they often do in these situations.

Industry folk in New York will gather next week to remember Mark Weinstein, a true music man who earned his rank.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wrath of the Damaja

Artie Jefferson, the owner of the record store where this interview with Jeru the Damaja took place, was known to share his theories about artist development. I recall he and I discussing some of the thematic elements of "The Sun Rises In The East," and he said something I never forgot.

"You've got you're whole life to make that first album," he said, and then explained that coming up with another one within a shorter time frame was a challenge some new artists weren't up to.

I can't say whether Jeru's second record was rushed, but it didn't have the impact of his debut. Soon afterwards, he fell out with the Gangstarr foundation, which left him without the signature sound of DJ Premier and a association with recognized movement that's a prerequisite for rappers today.

On his second record, Jeru had the audacity to confront the forces that threatened the artistic integrity of the music he loved, while other rappers were either complicit with their silence or going with the flow. Jeru continues to fight the good fight on independent releases, but the damage is done.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My 25. Finally.

I know I'm late with this, but my access to the internets is restricted at the DBC, outside of these mandatory posts. My tardiness can't be argued, but my choices are up for discussion.

1. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back/Public Enemy
Conceptually sound, impeccable production and powerful lyricism. I memorized every word, sample and sound of this record. I might still know it, too.

2. 3 Feet High and Rising/De La Soul
A groundbreaking declaration of individuality and creativity. The album proved that its okay to be different, as long as you're dope.

3. Amerikkka's Most Wanted/Ice Cube
Anchored by Bomb Squad production, Ice Cube make one of the edgiest records of his time. Nothing set me off like hearing these songs back in the day.

4. Black Star/Mos Def and Talib Kwelli
Indisputable proof that real hip hop can still be made, if you're willing to try.

5. Ilmatic/Nas
Perfect poetry and production from hip hop's greatest beat makers. No one tells a story like Nas.

6. Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk/Son of Bazerk
I've already written a lot about this group on this site. The most explosive release of the '90s.

7. Criminal Minded/BDP
KRS-One's voice was the primary instrument of the minimalist production of BDP's debut. His timing, inflection and emphasis are impeccable. The politics and philosophy were often confusing, but that only made things more interesting.

8. The Cactus Album/3rd Bass
Deadly serious and seriously funny at the same time. The best hip-hop duo, pre-Outkast.

9. De La Soul is Dead/De La Soul
A skillful reinvention complete with a read along storybook. I listened to this so much, the lyrics became part of my everyday conversation. Sometimes this manifests at inopportune moments, like when we group last week, and there was a debate over seating arrangements, and I said "I'm Hemroid! I'm the leader!"

10. Hard to Earn/Gangstarr
Consistently indestructible beats and rhymes. It took a guy from Boston and another from Texas to make some of the best NY hip hop ever.

11. And The Winner Is .../Chubb Rock and Hitman Howie T
Chubb Rock's compelling delivery belies his intelligence and sharp sense of humor: "Some artists mix me with go-go/Def lyrics but it sounds so-so. Howie T's production chops were at their apex here and the Chubbster was in rare form.

12. Young Black Teenagers/Young Black Teenagers
The Bomb Squad and four guys rapping at once, none of them black or in their teens. That's keeping it real. The Bomb Squad nearly outdid themselves here, giving the YBT a potent sonic landscape that matched frustration and rage of their lyrics.

13. All Hail the Queen/Queen Latifah
One of the best releases from the Native Tongue collective. The Queen rapped and sang over beats from hip hop's A-List of producers with gratifying results. The chorus of Wrath of My Madness still haunts me. What is she saying?

14. Straight Out The Jungle/Jungle Brothers
I really got into this after the Native Tongue had begun. I was aware of it when it came out and I was attracted to their laid back style. This was an innovative record that launched a musical movement and the first rap hybrid - hip-house.

15. Blue Funk/Heavy D
The Heavster didn't make this one for the ladies who loved Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown. Blue Funk, with production from Pete Rock, DJ Premier, was for the heads. Classic material.

16. Sex Packets/Digital Underground
The closest any hip-hop group got to the conviction and spirit of P-Funk. Shock G came with dual identities, tales of fictitious sex drugs and everything on the one. I still have my ticket stub from Gutfest '89.

17. Outkast/Aquemini
Hip-Hop's most consistent duo proved they were here to stay with their third solid release. The ultimate Oukast record is tainted only by the ungroovable "Mamacita."

18. Brand Nubian/One For All
Politics, religion and social commentary over phat loops and inspired production. Puba, Derek X and Lord Jamar's relaxed deliveries made making a classic look real easy.

19. Eric B & Rakim/Follow the Leader
Rakim's verbal dexterity grew more complex on their second album. The instrumental tracks, a rap rarity these days, were needed to digest Ra's vigorous wordplay and furious styles.

20. Run-DMC/Raising Hell
This record is so full of timeless tracks, it sounds like a compilation of hits. Raising Hell was a landmark moment for hip hop, after "Walk This Way," there could be no turning back.

21. The Notorious B.I.G./Ready to Die
Radio friendly hip hop with a street edge from Brooklyn's finest. This record would be the blueprint for any rapper dreaming of commercial success. But nobody could do it like Biggie.

22. Dr. Dre/The Chronic
The Doctor prescribed a heavy dose of funk, replaying the sounds of soul hits interspersed with the original voices. Rhymes from Snoop Dogg and humor from the D.O.C. made this operation a success. Dre created a professional reputation with this record that remains unshakable. However, his personal reputation ... let's just say were it not for Dre, the would be no DBC.

23. Pharcyde/Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
The Pharcyde rapped songs about lost love, regret, drugs and ya mama. J Swift's production on this record was jazz-influenced by it's samples and spontaneity. It was the roller coaster ride the record cover promised, thrilling from end to end.

24. Redman/Whut? Thee Album
Redman introduced the WTFF factor to hip hop. He steered clear of preset categories of rap music and created a lane for himself, with fearless approach to making songs. He even freaked in Korean.

25. A Tribe Called Quest/The Low End Theory
The promise of "People's Instinctive Travel ..." was fufilled on this release. The sounds were sparse, yet more effective and integral to the work as a whole. Phife came into his own as Q-Tip continued to perform at the top of his game.

Anyone surprised?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Redman: Exploited on TV

Reggie Noble lit up the Phono Booth during his second visit to the store in 1995, in more ways than one. He kept things moving fast, but my capable co-host Dre was up for the challenge.

Enjoy Redman at his illest, as he critiques the music industry, explains his idea of success and ridicules our audio equipment.

P.S.The microphone used in this interview went on to bigger and better things.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Moments of Truth Pt. 2

Outside of Public Enemy, Gangstarr was my favorite rap group. Peep my myspace handle. Their formula never changed from record to record, but it was enhanced and updated with each release.
They remain one of the most consistent duos in hip hop, even if they're taking a break from each other right now.

The first part of the interview was posted in November of 2006.

Part 2.

CRAIG: How did you get the idea to put jazz in a rap record?

PRIMO: Well, I use anything that's funky ... It ain't even about bein' funky. We have to make it funky. It could be a sample that just fits the atmosphere of what we're doin'. It could be jazz, R&B, soul, rock, classical, anything that has a that type of sound, that sounds like a Gangstarr vibe, I use. There's a lot of jazz elements in a lot of our songs, but the intent is not to try to do jazz rap or try to just use jazz samples. I use anything that just sounds fly.

CRAIG: Okay.

PRIMO: If I rub your hat, and it sounds fly, I'm a loop it. You know what I'm sayin'? Like "Just to get a rep." Good example. That wasn't jazz that I sampled, but when you heard it, it has sort of a scary type of a bass line, a haunting type of a track. The way he told a story, it went together, the way he said it, the music had that little eerie type of feelin'. Same way with "Take It Personal." They way he sounds like he's angry about situations, it's like a creepin' up on ya track, the piano sounds like its comin' out of the woodworks and shit. Oh, Excuse my language.

CRAIG: "Take it Personal" sounds angry. Was there anything you were angry about? It's a very specific record.

GURU: It's specific. I mean, everybody has feelings like that. Some people say 'don't take it personal,' I'm sayin' take it personal. If you have a so-called friend, and they backstab you, you don't feel like 'don't take it personal.' You feel like Take it Personal.' When I see you I'm gonna be be mad, so don't say nothin' to me or we gonna be fightin or whatever. I'm sayin' –

PRIMO: Like you and your man right here, if y'all believe in each other and what y'all are doin', if all of a sudden he don't come through or – Say he took the camera, not sayin' you go'n do it my man, say he took the camera, took the film, and sold it to CBS or somethin' to air, and you'd be sittin here goin', 'I can't believe that!' Instead of just sayin' "Damn!" to yourself, I'm sure you want to have feelings of "Man, I wanna get back to him, for what he did, 'cause he really hurt me here, (Primo thumps his chest.) When it's someone that you really believe in and trust, it hurts here, when they actually backstab you. And that was one opinion in the song. There were three different opinions. The second verse was about sampling, about how we hate how people are blowing the sampling thing out of proportion. We feel the same way Stet and Kane said back in the day, if we didn't bring back alive old beats, you wouldn't survive.

CRAIG: Would you consider working with R&B artists?

PRIMO: It really depends on what the song is about. The song, the subject matter the artist, it all has to go like a hand and glove.

CRAIG: Anything else y'all wanna say?

GURU: I just wanna say keep watchin'' this program. 'Cause they got the real stuff, underground hip hop at its best.

PRIMO: Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself, Know yourself. Much respect to these brothers right here, yo, cameraman too, film yourself real quick, man.

MAURICE: I got a question.

PRIMO: The cameraman has a question, hold up.

MAURICE: DJ Premier, I want to know, other than yourself, who is the best dj out there?

PRIMO: I got a few. I like Jam Master Jay, my main man DJ Scratch form EPMD, that's my boy. Richie Rich from 3rd Bass, Mister C, Grandmaster Flash, Jazzy Jay, aw, it's too many. DST, Grand Wizard Theodore, Tat Money with Kwame, Miz, DJ Alladin, DJ Muggs, Baby G from Dallas, it's so many man. Flamboyant, Plastic Man ... aw man, I know I missed some. Steve D from Harlem, that brother's nasty, Chill Will and Barry B. It's a lot of good DJ out there. Whoever I missed, I know what's up, but my brain is on the gin and tonic tip right now. Peace out and much love to all you black people out there. Peace.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Bag and a Prayer

Preparing for a live broadcast of Wavelength was a soothing ritual I relished almost as much as the show itself. Hours before we went on, I picked out the videos from my ginormous collection of 3/4 and VHS tapes. Three quarter inch tapes, if you haven't seen one, about the size of 5 subject notebook and usually encased in a hard plastic case. They were awkward and unwieldy, but very durable. After I scripted the show, I filled my official Chicago Bears duffel bag with the tapes, usually in the same order they were on my playlist.

This was a very special bag. I got it for cheap at my day job at Burlington Coat Factory. It had a plastic bottom, a side pocket and two spacious compartments with a large C printed on both ends. The videos went in the middle of the bag, my clipboard, cassette giveways, tape recorder stashed on the ends. I couldn't have designed a better bag for what I needed. Well, I guess if it was Steelers bag, it would've been perfect.

So one day I was driving in Churchill went it struck me that I hadn't brought my bag into the house after the show. I pulled over at a gas station and opened the trunk of my '76 Camaro. The bag was gone. All my music videos, scripts, equipment were now missing in action. I drove home feeling somewhat less than whole.

It didn't take me long to determine what I done. I had brought my bag out of the studio, set it down to open the car door and left in in the middle of street. I was always forgetting little things back then, but this time I had really done it.

I moped around for a few days, considering ways to get the labels to resend the videos. It wouldn't be easy, as the tapes were heavy and shipping was expensive. I thought about the cost of replacing the lost equipment and the sentimental value of some of the things I carelessly left in the street. Days passed and hopes of being reunited with my bag began to fade.

I was walking out the door one day when my mother, may God rest her soul, told me something that stopped me cold. She said she had prayed that I someone would find my bag and return it to me. I was embarrassed she had taken my pitiful case to such a high court and I wasn't even sure I deserved my bag back.

After a week without my bag and my usual swagger, I got a call from a regional vice-president of Coca-Cola Bottling. He had found my bag in the street the night after my show, but didn't have time to track me down because his vacation started the following day. Immeasurable relief swelled over me, a feeling I didn't allow myself to anticipate.

When I told my mom, she smiled and said "I told you."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Every hero needs one

In a classic film from the 1980s, the protagonist returns home after a stint in the armed forces to find his old neighborhood in shambles. With his military knowledge, and a little help from his friends, he rids the streets of criminals and gangsters. He even gets the girl. But he can't walk off into the sunset until he gets what every good hero needs ... a theme song.

So imagine my excitement when I learned that a local rap group, The Soul of Brotherhood, had completed the Wavelength theme music. It was moment of validation for all the work we had put in over the years. We knew we were the sht, but it was good to hear somebody else say it.

Lil Roc's verses about our program stand as a historical record of who we were at that time. In under two minutes he touches on our content, our competition and the rescheduling of the Arsenio Hall show that sealed its fate.

This audio deserves some video and will get its proper tribute at some point. For now, here's our song.

p.s. Five points to anyone who can name the movie I'm talking about.

p.s.s. Answers must be submitted as comments on this post. Points are not redeemable outside of the U.S.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The First Cut is the Deepest

L Leshaun cut an imposing figure in 1993, a tall and muscular woman in dark glasses and door knockers, standing in a b-boy stance. She entered our television studio arguing with her road manager and she remained combative for the entirety of her brief visit with us. As I prepped the television studio, I was relieved that Dre had volunteered for this one.

As I was cuing up her video, her mood shifted and things got worse. Apparently, her record label had ordered an edit of her "Ready or Not" clip, one that she wasn't aware of until that moment. She went off on her road manager again, but that wasn't enough. She called her label from the studio, and gave them some too.

Dre tried to get her to talk about a recent THE SOURCE article about female rappers, but she cut him off and vented about her label and the male-dominated rap industry. Some of her points still ring true today, as female rappers are more scarce than ever and are finding success hard to earn.

Tommy Boy and her road manger weren't the last people to learn that Leshaun didn't take disrespect lying down. Years later, when LL Cool J redid her hit, "Wild Thang," (redubbed "Doin' It") he used her voice, but left her out of the video. She wasn't cool with that and let it be known. Eventually, they recorded another song together. Somewhere along the way, I guess Leshaun learned the art of negotiation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ray "Coach" Brown 1935-2007

I met Ray Brown when I was scouting locations for a shoot for Impact magazine. I was looking for a boxing ring and I heard that Citywide Boxing Club had a good look. It was a hollowed out warehouse, complete with a loading dock and a porta-john. It was perfect. After some negotiation, Coach let me use the space on a Sunday for a few hours, for a $100. I had pleaded poverty, but he stood firm. When the day came, he slept while we shot the promo, occasionally opening his eyes for playback. The spot came out decent and I heard it was well received at the Impact convention, which I never made it to. (That's another post.)

A few weeks later, I heard that Coach wanted to speak with me. I stopped by the gym, and after some kidding about my Alma mater, a frank assessment of my potential as a fighter, he told me what he wanted. He needed a video made about what he did at the gym. He told me how the boxing club worked, young kids paid what they could, while he taught them about boxing, giving them purpose and guidance. Then he asked me to do it for free. I told him I needed $100. Coach wasn't trying to hear that. He repeated my offer to his employees with incredulity in his voice. After a few minutes of staring and loud talk, we shook hands. I came back with my camera the following week.

After a couple of edits, he was happy with the video. I was touched by the devotion and admiration his boxers had for him. They accepted his instructions without question and carried them out with conviction. Coach told me later that he sent the tape somewhere and it was shown at a banquet where he received an award. We shook hands again and enjoyed mutual respect.

I saw Coach occasionally after that and filmed one of his fighters matches at a boxing competition. I stopped by to see him a few times, but I kept missing him by minutes. One day, one of his assistants at the gym told me he had fallen down and wouldn't be around for awhile. Several months later, I visited again and met his son. He told me his Dad was ill and seldom came to the gym. The look on his face told me whatever Coach was going through was serious. I asked him to tell his father that Craig from VCU said hello.

Last week, on the back of sports page of our daily paper there was picture of Coach below the headline Local Boxing Patron Dies It wasn't a good start to my morning.

Ray Brown may have never produced a Sweet Pea Whitaker or a Ray Leonard, but he provided leadership and direction to people who needed it. He didn't have to coach a champion to become one.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big Shug's Real Talk

In 1996, at the Phono Booth Record Store, Big Shug gave Wavelength one of the most personal and revealing interviews we ever recorded. For some reason, we never aired it.

I'm not sure what happened. But now, 11 years later, it's time to hear what Shug, a founding member of Gangstarr, had to say.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Big Bad Wu

This was another interview that almost didn't happen. The Wu-Tang Clan left the Phono Booth, our surrogate TV studio and neighborhood record store before I arrived for our scheduled interview. Imagine my disappointment. I called the label and spoke to a woman named named Charm. She shared my frustration.

Charm called their road manger right then and I stepped away from the phone. When I got back, she was laying into him something fierce. She apologized for her strong language and asked me if I could meet them at Ivory's Uptown Lounge. After seeing how she handled business, I couldn't say no.

When we walked in the VIP at Ivory's, the group recognized my partner Dre from the record store, where he worked. Dre had put then in touch with a gentleman who distributed organic pharmaceuticals independently and they indicated their pleasure with the transaction. The road manager was apologetic and invited us to film the performance.

Cash didn't rule that night. The clan were on a promotional tour with label mates the Alkaholics and performed for free. The Wu-Tang Clan was in full effect, minus at least three members. Ol' Dirty Bastard was missing in action. Ghostface was chilling with his newborn twins and RZA was producing some next shillznit.

In this interview, Method Man makes some weird noises, GZA admits to some career missteps and Raekwon predicts the future.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Flight Director

I didn’t do Wavelength all by myself. There were many people who supported and encouraged my efforts. Pookie, Kia, Lance, Carlos, Adrian, Derek, Paul, Lorna, Sir Lance ... But none more directly than Arthur F.D. Johnson, Jr. My director, producer, mentor, and friend. For a long time, before I made a move, I talked A.J. first

We met volunteering at the community access station on a long-running public affairs show. We both quit after the host was involved in a domestic dispute. A spot on the schedule opened soon afterwards and we decided to alternate. Wavelength one week, and A.J.’s show Points of Interest the next. P.O.I. was a retread of the other talk show we bounced from, minus the ego and drama.

A.J. didn’t know rap. But he knew how to work the equipment at the studio and he had his own video camera. He also had a hook-up on the postage, and I never had to pay for the countless cassettes and cds I sent out to contest winners. I could've made it without him, but it would've been hard.

Even his mistakes inspired me. His hesitation to cut to the next video usually led to some of my best ad-libs and one liners, aimed at Mr. Johnson. I was only kidding, A.J. Really.

When our live shows ended, we began shooting Wavelength entirely on location. By then, I had my own camera and luckily my job at the university afforded me access to editing equipment. I missed the fun of the live shows, but I enjoyed my newfound independence. A.J. and I didn’t speak as often and we seemed to be heading in different directions.

While Wavelength moved from cable to broadcast, and back again, A.J. stayed at the public access studio. Last time I checked, someone had put him in charge of the place.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Queens Get the Money

There was barely a buzz on Mobb Deep when they appeared on Wavelength. It was more like a hum. The group was known for their DJ Premier-produced single "Peer Pressure," off their first album. It was known that they were now producing themselves and everybody was waiting to see what they could do. Their second album, "The Infamous," was worth the wait. The duo established themselves as a benchmark for "keeping it real," and were the first to use the phrase on Wavelength.

As soon as the Queensbridge duo stepped into the Phono Booth, everybody wanted to know if what they had heard for years was true. Was Prodigy really the cousin of a local music producer? The producer's name kept coming up, the duo met each mention with implicit denials. It was explained later that they weren't exactly sure who everybody was talking about, and they weren't about to align themselves with someone whom they might not know. "Shook Ones" they weren't about to be. (Later, the claims were proven when Prodigy guested on a demo he produced.)

Prodigy's cousin, Diallo is still waitin' for a shot a remix.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Half Pint Pt. 2: Not the Average Chick

Rapper turnt school teacher Cassandra Jackson talks about being the only female in a group that sometimes spit misogynist lyrics, the state of hip hop and why Half Pint is for the children.

Do you ever think of picking up the mic again?

I thought of getting back in the game several times but I'm not sure people want to hear what I have to say. I'm not about capitalism, I'm about revolution. I think my stage is my classroom now. I can educate and nurture the souls and minds of young brothas and sistas with relevant information. We are reflections of each other they get what I saying, even if they don't at that moment, they know my heart and soul goes into my teaching like a performance. When they see me in the streets I can hear and see the spark I helped ignite that started in the classroom.
We are now corrupted with corporate hip hop and the essence of what it was all about got lost when the infiltrators started flashing cash for the young brothas and sistas to sell their souls. Again, I ain't tryin' to knock nobody's hustle but hip hop is supposed to be about diversity, unity, community and commentary, not capitalism, oversaturation of one form or destruction of oneself.
As consumers, we have the power to say this is what we want to hear this is hip hop. Unfortunately, its like "The Matrix," or something when someone else tells you what's hot and what's not. (say it enough people will believe) and we become the pawn in a game we once controlled because it was once pure now it's tainted. Hip hop was about braggin' and boastin' (on what we wanted not had) with ideas of improvement and upward mobility because of the conditions in which we lived in were not fit for humans and we needed to let others know we do exist we are humans.
Now that hip hop has given the opportunity to keep up with the Joneses it has become an individualistic culture. We are tryin' to take the top man down instead of standing beside them, growing and helping the community grow. The old schoolers know and understand that concept the youngsters don't. They have been brainwashed into believing that thuggin' makes you man and that sexin' makes you a woman and that money makes you better than the next person. (Let me get off my soap box.)

Have there been any attempts to reunite the group?
We never really talked about a reunion but I think that would be real fun to do after all this time. Daddy Raw does a lot of demo work with people from the area tryin' to break into business he is also working on his own project. I still have some of the outfits from those days (can't really fit them, not yet anyway) but I can't let them go, I love them.

Talk about what it was like in the studio, and the meaning of the song title "N-41."

The studio vibe was crazy. It was some long hours but is fun. I remember recording N-41 which was our last song to record and the concept as I said before was about steppin' into a different dimension ridin', rhymin' and doin' all the stuff you use to do back in the day. I thought it would be ill if when I started I did it like the twilight zone, then end up rowdy like I wanted to get things movin'. During the makin' of the album I wanted to rhyme on the mic but most of the stuff had been done before hand so I didn't have a chance to display my skills, so I thought it would be funny If I kept tryin' on this song the last song to rhyme( with hopes of more rhyming on the next album) When it was finally my turn I started out rhymin' but Bazerk threw me off because he was like, "Yo let's go this our stop (or something like that) and they were actin like they were leaving the booth while I was rhyming so that's when I said YOU DON'T KNOW ME, SO DON'T SWEAT IT ... and by the time I finished so was the reel. It was so hot it was the first and only take done, even though I had completely skipped almost an entire verse I thought that what I did fit the entire mood, craziness and fun we use to have in the studio. Keith Shocklee said "Yo, that's hot leave it just like that," and we did. We did a lot of snapping and playing jokes but it was not all fun and games. Work was first and foremost.
Anyway, N-41 was the name of the bus line that went through Freeport. If you had to ride the bus you usually took that one. We were trying to create a mental picture of gettin' on the bus entering another dimension, riding on the back of the bus rhyming like they use to do back in the days.

At the end of Honesty, there is an interlude where a club owner informs his customers, that" if they ain't buyin' nothin', don't hang around ..." I think it's the same voice at the end of "Trapped inside the Rage of Jahwell." Was this a sample? Where is it from?

The talking is actual events taking place at a bar called Fleetwood's. The
voice is the bar owner on the mic at the club one night. The guys frequented the place, I was too young to go into there.

Do you ever see any of your labelmates, the YBT?

I saw Kam about two years ago I think he still lives out here, I don't know. I believe Skribble is the only one still out there. I see everybody from time to time (not at the same time) I don't really go out, my students take up all my time and when not at work, I'm at home trying to relax. I think being on the road and touring and the fun stuff I did wore me out. I don't think I'm old, it's just going out can be hazardous to ones' health, ya know. It ain't hip hop like it use to be. I still LOVE hip hop 4 life it's just has become more of a reflection of society with no release of tension in sight.
Remember when label wouldn't even sign someone with a [criminal] record now it's a prerequisite. I am glad brothas and sistas are getting paid to do what they love but sometimes I think the cost may be too high when some are not keeping it real. And impressionable people think that's what Hip Hop is.

How did you find out that the second album wasn't going to be released?

Once we finished about 7 songs we found out SOUL was folding. We heard Rick Rubin was interested but I don't know what happened with that.

Did it bother you when Bazerk talked about pimps, ho's and bitches?

At first I had a problem with it because I thought it was disrespectful to me and other women. Unfortunately, I realized the targeted audience (men) used these terms to describe a certain kind of female I did not become familiar with until I went on the road. I still did not condone the language but I began to understand it. As usual my job was to keep the guys in check and educate the females about the issue but the females didn't buy it. The type of female they were referring to liked that they were being noticed no matter how disrespectful the message was.
Some seem to think that if your were offended then they are talking to you, but the reality is that the ones who should be offended are so lost they don't even know they are being disrespected. That is why I was a proud member of the hip hop community, where I could be apart of a group that at times could have been disrespectful to females but I was that strong minded independent woman who says straighten up and I took no sh*t.
Being the only women in the group gave me the edge to put sistas on to a brothas game but I can only lead 'em to the water I can't make 'em drink it. That's why the cut I did for the 2nd album was entitled "No Fair Ones" I was tryin to let 'em know, I ain't the average chick.
Just for reading the end of this interview, here's an unreleased Son of Bazerk track. Half Pint is all over this one. Here's Can't You See?

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Doobie U Be

Funkdoobiest was like Cypress Hill lite. They both had latin lead rappers, talked about getting high and shared the production talents of DJ Muggs. But while Cypress was known for their rhymes of violence and revenge, Funkdoobiest seemed to focus on the lighter side of things. Which made them cool to hang out with, as we found out in the Phono Booth in 1995.

Tomahawk Funk left the group after their second album. Funkdoobiest is still around and released a single last year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's a Jungle out there

Opening for the rapper-of-the-moment at a hollowed-out former restaurant, The Jungle Brothers weren't at the height of their career when they appeared on Wavelength. After three albums, the pioneering rap group seemed to have its best days behind them. The days when they created an urban music hybrid, hip-house. The days when they made black medallions as popular as gold chains. The days when they made being yourself cool.

Those were the days.

It was January of 1997 when we met them. The Jungle Brothers were promoting their new album "Raw Deluxe," on Gee Street Records. The album would be poorly received and I still haven't gotten around to listening to it. Years later, the brothers have carved out niche in dance music scene and seems to be doing well with their record sales in the european market.

There's still some rumble in the jungle, however, as Afrika has recorded a track dissing some of the more prominent members of the defunct Native Tongue movement. Mike G can be heard on the Nas "Where Are They Now?" remix.

CRAIG: Yo, what's up, my name is Craig and I'm here with – the Jungle, the Jungle, the Brothers, the Brothers.

JBS: Yo, yo. What's up?

CRAIG: Let's get everybody's name real quick.

MIKE G: Mike G in the House

CRAIG: Dready Bear.

AFRIKA: Afrika, right here, What' goin on? People in Vee Ayy whatchadoin'?

CRAIG: Who's that layin' in the cut right there?

AFRIKA: Ah .. That's Sweet Daddy.

SAMMY B: Sweet Daddy, Sammy B from the Boogie Down, Jungle Brothers.

CRAIG: It's been a while since you guys have been on tour or had a record out. Whatchu you guys been doin'?

AFRIKA: Right now, we got a single out called "How You Want It, I Got It." We were just travelin' to Vee Ayy area, talkin' to people through the radio, goin' to record stores, signin' autographs ... Lettin' the people that's been showin' us love all these years meet us in person and givin' 'em back that love.

CRAIG: You talk about years. How many years has it been?

AFRIKA: It's been ten years, man.

CRAIG: Ten years. And now you're on your fourth album on your third record label ...


CRAIG: Explain to me what happened with the record labels.

AFRIKA: Actually, our first record was one the same label that this fourth one is on. So it's really been like ....

CRAIG: So you've come full circle?

AFRIKA: Full circle, yeah.

CRAIG: Mike, what is a Jungle Brothers show like? What do you do on-stage?

MIKE G: We just give the basics of hip hop. We got Sweet Daddy rockin' the one and two's, the turntables. Afrika and myself, we are the MCs, masters of the ceremony, keep the party amped and everbody swayin' and feelin' the good vibe. Runnin' through the hits ... JBs Comin' Through, Straight out the Jungle, I'll House You, I got it like that, I'm a Do Ya.

CRAIG: How have you changed over the years? A lot of rappers stay out for too long and try to catch up too quick and it doesn't work. So what have you guys done.

MIKE G: The mental is still the same. We just upgraded the production. The brothers be family men, now. We just keepin' it live.

CRAIG: Yeah. So what's up with the Native Tongue, I hear it's back in effect.

AFRIKA: Yeah, we try to bring the people's that Native Tongue flavor. We remixed the first single and put De La and Tribe on it, so we could get that Native Tongue flavor back out there let people know we still together as a unit.

CRAIG: So Afrika, on the new album, y'all gonna talk about Versace, watches, gold chains and mafioso stuff, huh?

AFRIKA: Nah. The mentality's still the same like on the first album. Positive messages. The brothers is comin' back more mature this album. It's more like groove oriented. Buy ya tape, put it in your car and have a nice little free ride with the Jungle Brothers, you know what I'm sayin'? Laid back beats, nice lyrics.

CRAIG: Who did the production?

AFRIKA: Jungle Brothers did production. Mike, Sam, Afrika, we all chipped in and put beats together. Another brother by the name of Gingy Brown did two songs. He's comin' up. He did some stuff for Supanatural, for all the underground heads out there that know him. D.J. Roc Raider he did the first single.

CRAIG: You said you did a cut with The Roots also?

AFRIKA: Yeah, we just put the icin' on the cake with The Roots. They blessed us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Son of Bazerk's Half Pint Speaks

Known as Half Pint, she was 1/5 of the underrated rap group Son of Bazerk. Her high-pitched interjections brought urgency to the Bomb Squad produced tracks, similar to what her former babysitter, Flavor Flav did for Public Enemy.

Years later, she now answers to Ms. Jackson, as a teacher at Roosevelt High School in Long Island. Half-Pint shares memories from her colorful past as a member of a cutting-edge hip hop group.

How was the concept for Son of Bazerk brought to you?
The core of the group was already formed and a lot of the material done. It was Hank from the bomb squad who approached me one day when I was in the park playing basketball with my friends We were beating the guys as usual) He heard me talking loud (cracking jokes and so forth) and asked me if I wanted to be in a group I was like yeah whatever brushing him off cause I thought he was crazy. Then he told me who he was and what he did, still brushing him off when I looked it up from my music collection of PE and I just laughed. He contacted me the next day met my grandparents and told them his intentions and the rest is history.

Characterize your role in the group.
I was the Lynn Collins of the group to Bazerk's was James Brown .I thought our shows were the bomb as we all played off each other. Being on stage is the greatest high you can get. When we went overseas to Germany and France, we headlined our one show that was crazy we would do the entire album and then some. In Holland, we were apart of a weekend extravaganza, it was off the hook. The only thing I regret is not having any of our shows on tape. I also wish i had kept some other memorabilia.
On tour all the groups would stay and watch each other perform and then hang out afterwards. I remember sitting with Ice T off to the side watching Naughty By Nature (who was definitely hot) perform and he was explaining to me the excitement he got from watching the crowd get hype during each groups performance and how to read a crowd to give them want they want and make a show hot.

What was your first concert as a member of SOB like?
My first concert with SOB I believe we did the Apollo with PE, Rakim, we split time with Young Black Teenagers. It was crazy I never knew how a stage could impact a performance I loved it!! It was a little raw because it was like 7 of us 3 mikes. We all was supposed to dance but the guys really did get in to it so I danced with two dancers we had. One of them used to dance for LL cool J. The next time we performed I was ready and we had a nice routine set up. Overseas, we headlined several venues and it was hot to def I wish I had some footage from that.

What did you learn from touring with SOB and other hip hop groups?
Being on tour was fun. I got homesick because other than being at college an hour and a half away, I never really been away from home for an extended period of time. We had to rough it, with 17 in a van and no air conditioning in the summertime. Winnebagos [filled] with equipment, 11 people and no idea where we were going but it was fun. The tour with PE was the best I learned so much from them and the other groups (Fear of a Black Planet Tour) I think? It was us Leaders of the new school, Queen Latifah, M.C. Lyte Naughty by Nature, Kid N'Play, Fresh Prince, Geto Boys and Ice T.
It was nothin' but love on tour from day one they all treated me like a little sister and gave me much respect as I have much love and respect for them That was a pivotal moment in life.
When we came home that tour we began work on the 2nd album It was supposed to be titled "So many Tricks ..." We actually completed several songs including what was supposed to be my solo single "No Fair Ones."

Do your students know about your rap past?
I teach a history of hip hop class and yes, I tell the students about the small contribution to hip hop my group has made. They always wanna battle but the teacher remains the master even if the content has changed.

More to come ...

I've been Tagged

I'm usually not the one for internet and email games. But since a supporter of this blog asked me to participate, I'm playing this one. So, I think I'm supposed to post 7 songs I'm digging right now ask 7 other bloggers to do the same.

Here are my songs. Fellow bloggers, don't worry about getting called out in this post. The tag stops here.

Classic/Kanye West, Rakim, Nas and KRS-One.
Watch How It Go Down/Termanology
You Can't Turn Me Away/Slyvia Striplin
No More Dating DJs/Nick Holder
Gabrielle/re:Jazz feat. Alice Russell
Morning Child/4 Hero
Tears Dry On Their Own/Amy Winehouse

Now I can get back to prepping a very special post for later this week.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sayin' Nothin'

Getting a national recording artist to appear on a local TV show usually took days of negotiation with record label, road managers and video promoters. Despite our honest attempts to do things the right way, sometimes we got left holding the mic. This is about some of those times.

The following artists never appeared on Wavelength. The majority of these rappers or their representatives neglected to fulfill prearranged agreements, for various reasons. At the D.B. Center, I have learned the relevance of forgiveness in a successful rehabilitation. So as soon as these people or their former representatives ask for it, they'll get it.

We never played with a Yo-Yo
Her road manager explained that the president of I.B.W. had laryngitis after putting on a lackluster show at Ivory's Uptown Lounge. I would have believed him is she hadn't been chatting it up with her girlfriend in the background. What up with that, Yo?

Ya Bad, Chubbs
The Chubbster put us off. After setting things up with his road manager, the rotound rapper kept me at bay with, "In a minute, G. In a minute," for about half an hour, as he chatted with a police officer. The vice-president of his record label apologized and sent a box of t-shirts. I'm still a fan ... of his music.

Apache really ain't sht
While I may not remember more than the title of his one hit, I'll never forget what went down with Apache. Mr. "Gangsta Bitch" hollered "No!" and left us standing on the curb as his van sped off. Other people may have forgotten Apache, but we won't.

Who missed the shoot? Grand Puba
Puba Maxwell was reportedly several hours late to shoot photographs for the cover of his album, so why should he show up for an interview or a concert on time? But this time, Puba wasn't late enough. As his van pulled in front of the nightclub where he was scheduled to perform several hours prior, gunfire erupted. Nobody got shot and nobody performed.

What What?
I cut out of my girlfriend's graduation party to go interview one half of the rap group CNN, Noreaga. His people never called back. Someone thoughtful at Tommy Boy apologized and sent me a jacket with their upside down dancer logo. It never fit quite right, but I still have it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Saturday Nite Wavelength

Masta Ace and Lord Digga and subjected to the interview techniques of Dre and a critical review of his latest release. This interview was filmed in 1993 at the Phono Booth Record Store, which is now a laundromat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Redman Interview

I was concerned about our interview with Redman. The funk doctor was unlike any other rapper on the scene. He didn't fit the mold of conscious rappers, gangster rappers or just-a-regular-guy rappers. Plainly put, Redman just didn't give a fck. "Whut? thee Album," his debut, was a funkfest of hedonism, criminality and drug abuse. It was hilarious.

So I didn't know what to expect from Reggie Noble. I consulted a video promoter I trusted, who suggested I ask him about his hairstyle and phrase the other questions around his lyric content. I took her advice and hoped to survive the interview. Which I did, despite something unexpected happening. (Two points to anyone who can tell me what R&B artist caused Redman to react in this clip.)

Redman would appear on our show three times, bringing an new reason for us to be concerned with each visit.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Steady Decline

Every time I came across Warren McGlone, aka Steady B. things weren't going his way. The first time I saw him was at the Richmond Colesium in 1992. Steady B. was part of group called CEB, comprised of a couple of other past-their-prime rappers. (The name was comprised of their initials and also stood for the prophetic phrase "Count Endless Bank.") It would be a failed attempt at reinvention.

Steady B. wasn't recognizable, the baseball cap and glasses that were his hallmark were out. Now, his distinguishing features were a bald head and missing teeth. Alternate cameraman DJ Reese spotted him backstage and set up a quick interview, talking me into letting him do it in the process. Steady B. had time on his hands, as the promoter had just informed him that their would be no show and no paycheck for CEB.

The next time I saw Steady B., he was the opening act at the long gone Richmond night spot, The Flood Zone. The odds were against him, he hadn't been out for awhile and times had changed. I was hoping he could pull something off, he still had some hits. I was looking forward to hearing "Serious" again. That wasn't happening. Steady B came on stage and lit a blunt.

I looked over at a cop standing along the wall of the club. He looked offended, but just watched as Steady began a piteous performance that failed to keep the crowd's attention. He left the stage after a short set and I caught a glimpse of him behind the curtain. He was leaning against the wall with his hands over his head. I couldn't see his face, but he looked upset. Someone tried to console him, but he wouldn't budge from that spot for awhile.

Hip hop heads know how this story ends, and it ain't good. Steady B. had one more time become front page news . He was convicted of second degree murder on October 30, 1996 and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Kings and I

Whenever I'm asked, "So, what kind of guests did you have on your little show?" The first group I name is Run DMC. It wasn't my best or favorite interview, but it lets people know what level we were operating on. The Kings of Rock were the verge of a major comeback when we interviewed them in the meeting room of the Holiday Inn back in 1993.

The video for "Down with King," was scorching television screens with more cameos than "Who's The Man?" and beats and lyrics from Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. It wasn't just a new sound that was clearly evident. The band hand changed. DMC had sworn off alcohol, Run was rumored to be taking religon very seriously. Gone were the gold chains, the Gazelles and the godfather hats that exemplified their image. With their shaved heads, dark clothing and wooden crosses, they looked like rap monks. If only today's acts had half of their conviction.

Jam Master Jay was at soundcheck during the interview. He and the Hollis crew put on a stunning show that night. JMJ R.I.P

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Uptown's Lounge

They don't make nightclubs in Richmond like this one anymore, it lasted long enough to become a legend. Nightspots in the city now suffer short lifespans, shutting down and opening up within a few months. Most eventually fail, leaving empty husks that drag down the city's landscape.

Ivory's Uptown Lounge was the place to be in the late 1980s. I recall riding four deep in a Chevette with my high school friends, looking at the line of beautiful people that stretched down the block, counting the years until we could stand among them. Hell, Prince ate breakfast their once.

Once I started getting into Ivory's, I wasn't there for fun. It was always business. In the early '90's the club started to book rap artists for concerts and its dark basement became a second studio for our show. We talked to groups like The Pharcyde, Wu-Tang Clan, MC Lyte, Pete Rock and many more. About half of our trips to the club were fruitless, with lazy artists and their duplicitious road managers leaving us hanging at the last moment. (They'll get their own post.)

My best time at Ivory's was on a Wednesday evening, right after the show. We walked in the club to interview a slew of rappers set to perform that night. After a few minutes, I noticed something strange, they all acted like the knew me. I was really thrown off by the sudden recognition and I kept thinking it was an elaborate joke. Somebody told me later that they had been watching our show during sound check and enjoyed it.

This confirmed what Dre and I already knew. We were doing something right.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Word to the 3rd

3rd Bass had just split when MC Serch hopped on The Source Magazine's concert tour. Serch's stay on the tour, like his solo career, was brief. During his performance in Richmond, Va., he reportedly remarked that one of the members of The Almighty RSO looked like Humpty Hump. After his set, members of RSO (a group that included future Source publisher Benzino) allegedly chased Serch from the second floor to the door of the club, where he got off with a warning.

Since then, Serch has been an employee of Wild Pitch Records, the president of a marketing company and now a reality television host. Rumors of a reunion with Pete and Daddy Rich linger but they haven't brought 3rd bass home.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Forgot about Dre

When I think about the failure of Wavelength, I'm comforted by the thought that it wasn't all my fault. There were others to share the blame. One of those people is Andre. He appeared at the studio after the third program and quickly became part of the show. Dre was a music producer, a record store worker, and a self-described "hip-hop junkie" who wasn't shy about expressing himself. Yeah, he was a problem.

He brought constant chaos, interjecting and interrupting my scripted wit with extraneous comment and opinion. Some days, it was hard to cast a complete thought. It was a odd chemistry that was combustible at times, but kept things interesting.

In an effort to contain him, I gave him a quarter of the show to do with as he pleased. He dubbed it "The Breaks" and brought on a parade of local rappers, producers and artists for interviews. It was integral part of Wavelength, but it didn't keep him in check. He never seemed to run out of things to say.

Dre drifted away from the show after our public access run ended in '96. How much did I miss him? When Wavelength debuted on broadcast television a year later, I brought in someone to pretend to interrupt me.