Originally posted on March 16, 2006

Well this is definitely the shit right here. A roundtable discussion about the history of the early days of Hip hop when the DJ's ruled. Make sure you digest all the knowledge & history in this article because chances are this will be the only time you read this on the net. This is history right here especially for all young heads out there that have just begun to rock the tables and didn't read the article when in came out in 1996. So here it is enjoy all my Hip Hoppers out there....

On the Ones & Twos: A Roudtable discussion with the Pioneers of Hip Hop
Afrika Bambaaataa, Jazzy Jay, Grandmixer DST, Grandwizard Theodore, Charlie Chase, Tony Tone

by Chairman Mao
[First published in April 1996 issue of Rap Pages:The DJ Special]

In the beginning, there was the DJ....

Afrika Bambaataa: I been djing since 1970,and the first type of djing I ever did was ata community center we used to have called the O-Center in our area. And we used to give parties down there in the gang days. We would take two turntables from somebody's houses and put one guy on one side and I'd be on the other side and put on a record. And when it was getting toward the end,you'd take a flashlight and flash it to him and he would put another record on. This was how it was going before you had two turntables and mixer and all that.

The "old school" . Never in Hip Hop's Illustrious history has the term's definition been so hazy to its audience. If Hip hop is today's youth music then what,realistically,does "old school" mean to your average member of the 15-26 age demographic? Despite the best of intentions,even Hip hop's place of birth-NEW York City- fuels these ambiguities on the regular. Turn on the Video Music Box,the city's famed rap music video show, and you're liable to see the clip for Eric B & Rakim's"I Ain't No joke" labeled "old school". Check out the local urban contemporary radio ststion's "old school" power hour and you're likely to hear "Do The James" as you are "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose". While "old school" may be just another handy catch phrase to cover whatever Hip Hop miscellanea that precedes one's firsthand experiences,don't blame the youth for their ignorance.

Today's 21-year old legal adult was an as-yet unconceived foetus when Increible Bongo Band's "Apache"-aka the Bronx's National Anthem-first hit the bins in 1973. Although Doug E. Fresh's eloquent sentiments from 1988 still echo within the corridors of Hip Hop nation's collective consciousness("Old school,new school-no school rule,but other than that ,everything's cool"),let's get serious like Jermaine Jackson and establish one thing for all the young people out there:For the record,Hip Hop's true founders were the DJ's-the ones who controlled crowds through their scratching and mixing innovations ,their shrewd and open-minded song selections ,their beat-digging diligence,their unparalleled showmanship and the sheer power by their sound systems.

The following are excerpts from conversations held in both separately and in group discussion format with just a few of the folks who gave birth to Hip hop: Afrika Bambaataa,founder of the Universal Zulu Nation,famed "Master Of Records" and international Hip hop Icon; DJ Jazzy Jay, Zulu Nation master technician and one of Bambaataa's original featured DJ's; DJ Grand Wizard Theodore,backspinner behind the original Fantastic Five and acknowledged inventor of scratching; DJ Grandmixer D.ST. of Zulu Nation,scratching technician extraordinaire and worldwide populizer of cutting; DJ Charlie Chase and Tony Tone,co-founders of one of Hip Hop's most celebrated performing groups,the Cold Crush Brothers; DJ Kev E Kev Rockwell,Grandwizard Theodore long time partner and an original member of the Fantastic Five and Funky 4+1; DJ La Spank of Mercedes Ladies, Hip Hop's original MC-DJ crew; and finally DJ Kool Herc,Hip Hop's original sound system kingpin,breakbeat innovator and the pioneers' ultimate inspiartional leader.

Their recollections of Hip Hop's original essence can only inspire those DJ's who today walk the path they blazed and continue to search for records and build their skills with the expressed concern of expanding ears and rocking the party like it's never been done before.

Hip Hop started with the DJ and you all started at the beginning. But what was it hat inspired you to get into djing?
Tony Tone: I used work in a record shop from age 12, and when I was around 15 I kept hearing about this "Kool Herc, Kool Herc". Tony Tonebut everytime I went to go where he was playing at,by the time i'd get there it'd be over.I'd alaways hear about it at the wrong time.then my godbrother, who was older than me,took me the heatherlowe[to hear herc]. and that was it. the Heatherlowe was a club.like the first home base. i was too young to be int here but 'cause of my height and stuff they got me past the door.We was inthere.the music,was bouncin' .And my whole thing actually before DJing was like I'd get a hard-on for equipment.so I used to go in the Heatherlowe and get high off just the way the music was hittin'.
Jazzy Jay: When Herc set up and played, it was lie something you had to be there to witness. I remember one day I went down to Ceder Park to see Kool Herc. And I was a little aguy then, and I used to stand up inside the speakers-you know, he had these monstrous speakers. and the bass pressure was like something you would never see in the Bronx. The only people who had systems like that were the big Jamacian systems that were out in the Brooklyn. Nobody in the Bronx had nothin' like that. Even when we used to DJ,we'd steal our mothers's little receiver,somebody'd take areceiver from they pops, somebody else take a speaker from they cousin. And you know, we'd all get together and do our thing. But Herc just came out with the monster.
Charlie Chase: Herc lived up to his name.'Cause when you saw or heard Herc,all you though about was the system.
Grandmixer D ST: I forgot what year it was, but one night--Webster Avenue PAL, DJ Smoke and Kool Herc on the same card. Smokey set on the ground on the floor in front of the stage, and Herc set up on stage.It was smokey's hour. In the middle of his hour, Herc threw on "Hustler's Convention", where Grit says,"Dig this lame,challenging my game/Why, you must be out of your head,chump/Boy , I'll baet you so fast,you be peddling your ass/Trying to make back your bread." And threw on "Apache". and he drowned him. Klark Kent got on the mic and he said,"DJ Smoke!"-with the echo plex-"DJ Smoke..Smoke...Smoke..Turn your shit down or will drown you..drown..drown you.." And he drowned him. He blew him out. Smoke got so mad that he packed up his shit,went to ggrand Avenue, where he lived at. He set his shit up outside the window and played until the sun came up. and when the party was over,everybody left and went Smokey's block--all abandoned buildings. He was the only family left on that whole block. And he put his speakers out the window and played. herc blew himout that night. It was ridiculous.
Charlie Chase: Was that the beginning of the end of him??
Grandmixer D. ST: Yeah .After that he disappeared.I think he went into the service.
Tony Tone: These days, a lot of the young,they don't even think about equipment. It's like, "Equipment? What?"
Grand mixer D. ST: "Let me get my demo together"
Charlie Chase: Naw, but you know what it is? Today's equipment is made to sound the way we were taught to make it sound back then. Right now you can just buy it.-
Tony Tone: But we're not even talking about that. We're talking about the fact that a whole lot don't even buy equipment. They rent sets.
Jazzy Jay: Me and my partner Superman used to sit down in the basement covered with sawdust, 'cause we used to build speakers from-
Tony tone: I still got two speakers they built for me ten,15 years ago.
Jazzy Jay: - build speakers for the ground up. Once the speaker's finished,we sittin' inside the speaker like this smilin'-Yeah.
Tony Tone: Matter of fact, mine need an overhaul. I will see you.
Jazzy Jay: They got a lifetime guarantee. No doubt.
Bambaataa: It was Kool DJ D -who was one of the first people that came out of the gang days of the black spades,who gave me the inspiration to go and become a DJ,to become fully fledged with the whole turntable,mixer and everything.

In the Zulu Nation,did you have a technician whose duty it was to deal exclusively with equipment?
Bambaataa: Yeah ,well, I always had different people who been with me. My main technicians at the time was mighty Sinbad,the Original DJ Jazzy jay and DJ Superman. And they were wizards in the engineering of the sets that we had.

Jazzy Jay & Grandwizard TheodoreJazzy how'd you and Bambaataa start out?
Jazzy Jay: I was DJing with Mario--he was called King Mario at the time. Alot of people don't remember Mario,but he was one of the pioneers also.
Grandmixer D ST: Chuck Chuck City!
Jazzy Jay: Chuck Chuck City crew. Mario was the type of motherfucker,you get down with Mario and he would claim everything you brought to the table. So I had all the beats I had stolen from Bam. When Bam wasn't looking, I used to sneak up and take apeek. Pull the tape off the beats and shit,put'em back before he could realize that I saw what it was. And I went down to the village and copped all the records. And when I went to DJ for Mario,Bam and them got upset.Bam sent liek ten zulus toa party one day talkin' 'bout they was gonna kick my ass 'cause I gave away Zulu beats to the enemy. So I was like,"aight, it's alla that."But you know my style,that I wasn't goin' out without afight. So being that[they respected my style and] we was sll cool and everything like that, Bam's turntables broke down one night he was playing inYonkers. So they knocked on my door: "Yo, Bam needs to borrow youtr turntables." I was like,"Cool. Bam want to borrow my turntables. Bet" He coulda kept'em, as far as I was concerned. Just for him asking me ws like yo,a big deal. And not only did he borrow the turntables,he took me to play with him that night, and then he gave me money for playing--which I could not beleive. I was 13 at the time.

What was your working relationship like?
Jazzy Jay: The whole situation for me was Bam was dedicated to the records. Me, I was just a wild man. I used to show up,spin my little set and be gone. To be Jazzy Jay was an easy job. Bam had everything, so he made me look good 'cause his record repertoire was so extensive. he would just pass a record and just point.
Tony Tone: I've seen Bam do that alot. with you,Red Alert,everybody.
Jazzy Jay: And then it gave me so much of a well-rounded education of music. Bam would pass me Bo Didley,then back it up with Elvis Presley,then hit me off witha Coca Cola commercial. His music came from so many different angles and he was teaching everybody in the audience. He'd play a record, and if the audience didn't like it,he'd play that record four or five times,six times, back it up in between two records that they loved, and made them like it. Whereas alot of DJ's today,if it ain't on the top playlist,they won't play it 'cause they scarred everybody's gonna walk off the dance floor. They don't break records no more,they just play them.

So what records can each of you claim you broke?
Tony Tone & Charlie Chase 1979Grandwizard Theodore: "Dance To The Drummer's Beat" by Herman Kelly & Life. As far as I'm concerned,that record wasthe record and "Super Sperm"
Grandmixer DST: "Bumpin' Bump Bump" and "Johnny The Fox"
Charlie Chase: We brought out "Stiletto",Billy Joel. We brought out Trouble Funk,"Pump Me Up"
Jazzy Jay: Liar! [general laughter]
Charlie Chase: I got that shit direct from Washington!

Bam,how did your musical tastes evole to the point where you built up your collection and attained the title "Master Of Records"?
Bambaataa: It was Kool Herc who came with the sounds that I had. so when I heard him playing what I be having in my house, I said,"Whoa,that's what I was jammin' on". When I heard him play certain things, I knew I had alot of other stuff. So I just said,"I'm goin' off and just shock people's minds." And the more crazier stuff I played,the more wider my audience came to hear what I was gonna do.
Theodore: Afrika Bambaataa was the first person I remember to cross out labels. Every Bambaataa party,he'd play a record--and you could be at the back of the party and you'd try to make your way all the way to the front to the turntables. Soon as you get there,the label's crossed off.

It's generally acknowledged that you were the first to backspin the record and initiate the noise.
Grandwizard Theodore: I was first to scratch the record. I was home in my house at Boston Road on 168 th street. my brother Mean Gene was down with Grandmaster Flash. I was their record boy. I was in charge of going downtown and buying all the records for them. Getting the set for wherever they gonna do on the weekend. Usually when I came home from school,I had a little tme to, yo know,go in the room and mess with the turntables a bit. This one particular day I went in the room and put two copies of "Passport" on the turntables and,you know,the music was kind of loud.
Grandmixer DST: "Juju man"!
Theodore: Yeah. and my moms bust in the room and she ws like,"If you don't turn that effin' music down, i'm gon'..." So during the time that she was standing there cursing me out, I was like holding the record. the record was like goin' back and forth in my ear while my moms was talking to me. So when she closed the door and left the room,I was like, "Hey, this is good. I can do something with this."

Grandmixer D STWhat about the art of needle-dropping?How did that develop?
Theodore: Let me tell you,everybody's moms had a alittle turntable in the they house sittin' on top of the amp. So I used to always be in the house with the little Dennis Coffey 45 "Scorpio" And just be pickin' the needle just listeing to it all day long 'til it just came natural. it was likea process,we just take the needle and just skip it back to the dark part of the line and just be like, pow.
Grandmixer DST: And I try to tell alot of the young brothers comin' up, 'cause I noticed most of them now went back to..[motions extensive backspinning]
Theodore: That shit wears!
Grandmixer DST: To the real art form, you got to be able to drop them joints. You know, in LA, the first party I went to,I was like, "These guys are spinning back--"
Jazzy Jay: Like half the record.
Grandmixer DST: After the beat is gone and they back into the last verse of the song and shit,they'd start spinning back from there.
Charlie Chase: I remember I used to lend my records to some DJ's and they'd start that. I be like, "Yo, give me my shit back" Especially when you went out digging for beats and you couldn't find no more. And you had a motherfucer bulldozing your shit with pickering.
Grandmixer DST: With a quarter on that motherfucker!

To be continued.....

Next Week:
Part 2 On The Ones & Twos: A Roundtable Discussion With the Pioneers

The Dynamic Hamza 21®

Hip Hop since 1982.

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