DS & FL Vol 24: FUNKY 4 + 1

Originally Posted On May 25,2006

FUNKY 4 + 1

The Funky Four~s background is an interesting one,with Lil` Rodney Cee having been part of the street-jivers the Magnificent Seven between 1977 and 1978. The crew was originally called the Brothers Disco.

The Funky Four were founded when KK Rockwell (Kevin Smith) and D.J. Breakout,adding first Keith Keith (Keith Caesar), and then female MC Sha Rock (Sharon Green) and unlike many female rappers today, she was not looked at as a sex object, but rather she was just another member of the group. Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams) also was added to the group. In ' 78 Sha rock left and Raheim left the group to join Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five and was replaced by Lil' Rodney Cee (Rodney Stone) and Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey Myree). ( not of Fresh Prince fame ) after leaving the Magnificent 7. Keith Keith also left then returned.

With the addition of Lil` Rodney Cee,then Jazzy Jeff,the group became the Funky Four,with D.J. Breakout and Baron. Sha Rock returned and made the plus one. None of the group were older than 17 when they signed with the Enjoy label. The Funky Four are actually another crew that is full of firsts ; for instance the Funky 4 + 1 were the first mixed gender crew , the first Emcees to perform on Saturday Night Live ( in 1980 opening up for Blondie), and first with two djs - Breakout and Baron . In ' 79 they dropped " Rappin And Rockin The House " on Enjoy records.

This utilized the Cheryl Lynn break,"Got To Be Real",over which a 15-minute rap commentary was placed. The longest hip hop song ever!!The drums were programmed by Pumpkin,arguably rap`s first production hero,and it was an impressive overall introduction.

They signed to Sugarhill records in 1980 adding the Plus One More suffix. and dropped " Thats The Joint " ... a classic by any standards . They lifted an old break from Taste Of Honey and crafted one of the best rap joints ever. A song arranged by jazz-funk organist Clifton Jiggs Chase. Their performances at Bronx house parties included full blown dance routines.

In addition to this cast D.J. Mark The 45 King would act as Breakout`s record boy,locating and passing records up to the decks as his D.J. requested them. Their next record was " Do you wanna rock ? " , then " Feel It " and after that " King Heroin " . By 1983 the group had split up. KK Rockwell and Rodney Cee formed Double Trouble......and they had a few small parts in the movie Wild Style .

Sha Rock joined Lisa Lee from Cosmic Force and Debbie D and formed Us Girls , and they had a small performance in Beat Street. Due to the same politics and lack of industry knowledge that swallowed most first generation rap artists the Funky Four had a shorter career than they should have.

Jazzy Jeff sued Jive records in the mid 80s for signing Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff while he was signed with the same name . He won and built a studio with the loot , and is supposed to be bringing out some old school artists. Jazzy Jeff was the first solo artist signed to Jive /Zomba . Sha Rock is married and she has a daughter who Emcees. Funky 4 are indeed an important brick in the foundation of Hip Hop . Despite never releasing a full length album, they remain a very influential group.

Interview with Lil Rodney Cee

JayQuan : Peace ...Definitely honored to speak to you.

Lil Rodney C : Thanks

I understand that you originally started in a crew called the Magnificent Seven.

LRC : Yes I was down with them from 1976-79 . It was Stevie Steve , Shaft ,Calipo 9 , Lil Rodney C , Shotgun , Davey Dave and Jazzy Jeff . Kev Kev was the record man and Pookie Dee was the record man from Bros. Disco. Funky 4 was originally Sha Rock , Rahiem , KK Rockwell and Keith Keith . During a 3 month period in 79 all the groups were changing members....Busy Bee was down with Fantastic & Cold Crush for a minute , Caz & JDL were doin they thing....Rahiem left Funky and went to Furious (5). No crews were formed at this time....the only actual crews were Furious and Funky .

So who was the first person you ever saw Emcee...and who influenced you ?

LRC : The first person I ever saw Emcee was Keith Cowboy . He was a crowd motivator....he was mostly doin chants . The person that made me say that I can do this is Melle Mel....he really influenced me . Kid Creole was an early Emcee too . Hollywood and Starski and all those cats will tell you that they were first . They are right to an extent , but there were two classes of Hip Hop at the time...Disco & then the hard B Boys that used breakbeats . Hollywood and them were Disco Djs. Also Mel & Creole were the first Emcees to do back & forth rhyming.

What made the Funky 4 Break up....and when did you officially break up ?

LRC : We broke up May 9 1981 . See Wild Style was gonna originally be a documentary on the Funky . Fab 5 Freddy used to hang around in Soho....and he knew all the art people...he was down with Debbie Harry ( Blondie ). He used to play Hip Hop tapes....and she heard a tape of us and was interested....she hooked us up with the Saturday Night Live show....we were the first ever Hip Hop crew on national TV . Well she wanted us to tour with them...but we couldnt as long as we were signed to Sugarhill . She had a good lawyer that could get us out of our contract....but we all had to sign.....no one was willing to sign but me & KK....that was the birth of Double Trouble.

So on Wild Style when yall are on the stoop and you say "they tried to hold us back , from fortune & fame"....was that the other members that you were speaking of ?

LRC : That was directed at anybody who stood in our way.....record labels....whoever . See people misunderstood the message we were sending . When we came out at the Ampitheatre with guns and suits it was directed at the industry....it wasnt " gangsta rap" . Then two years later you saw Run Dmc on the " Rock Box " video looking just like us , except their jackets were leather . Many crews that came after us took something from us .

Along those lines how do you feel about the Sprite commercial with Nas & AZ ?

LRC : We are in court with Sprite now....and we are taking Nas & AZ to court also.

Did Funky 4 record anything for Sugarhill other than " That's The Joint " ?

LRC : That's all that me & KK recorded with them...after we left they did " Do You Wanna Rock ", " King Heroin " , " Superstars " , " Square Biz " and " The Mexican ". They just called themselves Funky 4...they dropped the Plus One.

Its always been my belief that the Sugarhill label would have survived longer if they moved more into the drum machine era......by 1983 people were into the stripped down sound . But Sugarhill was still using a band....the band was dope....but the sound was kinda out dated. Do you agree ?

LRC : No.....what Sugarhill was trying to do was create an original sound that would be identified with them.....like what Motown did.....and it worked . Till this day if you put on a record on that label you know its them .

Yeah they played some stuff better than the original bands that made them....like " Freedom " , " Disco Dream " ...and " Thats The Joint "....that sounded better than Taste Of Honeys version.

LRC : Thats right.....and they are getting back together... im gonna do some stuff with them.

I read that you dated Angie B from Sequence....who of course is Angie Stone now.

LRC : Thats my ex wife ; we have a 17 year old daughter together...we are the first Hip Hop couple. ....I see some magazines say that Treach and Pepa were the first.... thats not true.

SHA ROCK How was the experience on Enjoy records ?

LRC : Not bad actually ...he just didnt promote us properly....he just was into Hip Hop just to see what he could get out of it .

Ok....I noticed that you and KK went back to Enjoy as the Deuce 2 .

LRC : Oh yeah we did are you ready . We couldnt use the name Double Trouble anymore... Stevie Ray Vaughn had the rights to it . We had a song on Capitol called " Think About It" . We didnt stay there long...it was hard making the transition from working with bands to drum machines .

What do you think of current Rap ?

LRC : Its too negative . I dont like the subject matter . I like some voices and some music....like Jay Z , Jadakiss and Nas...they all have good voices and beats....but i dont like what any of them talk about.

What is Rodney C up to today ?

LRC : I helped to organize what we call Safe Night Talent Search . Its an outlet for youth to express themselves in a positive , non violent environment . Today youth don't have many options as far as music ...there is no balance....either you listen to what's out there or nothing at all . I have been involved in sitting up 6 safe night sites .

Keep me posted on that....its good to hear cats doing something positive . Will the Funky 4 ever get back together ? Do you all still talk ?

LRC : We talk periodically.....but there isnt much chance of a reunion....some people would have to change....every time we try to get together there are differences that keep us from doing it .

At what point did you know that Hip Hop was gonna be around for some time ?

LRC : When we first formed Double Trouble we were rehearsing at a friends house. There was a kid there maybe 10 or so ....when we got up to go to another room he was repeating word for word what we did ....in that little time he could repeat it. I knew at that point that it wasn't going anywhere .

Lastly were there any rivalries between Funky and other crews....any battles ?

LRC : There were no crews....they literally hadnt formed ...by 81 when we did " That's The Joint " Cold Crush , Fantastic....all them were just forming . Emcees were scared to death of us . We put out a flyer around Christmas time calling out Emcees.....it even had a little ryhme on it inviting them to battle us .

You schooled me to some facts....good luck with the Safe Night project.

LRC : One.





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DS & FL VOL. 25: T-KID 170

The Dynamic Hamza 21®

Hip Hop since 1982.

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