Da Henchmen – The Ill Cyde Vaults 1993-1995
How does a record from 1993, made by a crew of relatively unknown artists, that received very little airplay or exposure when it was released happen to sell for around $1000 only 15 years later? The simple answer is – I have no idea. But it does! Enter, Da Henchmen.
There is a fascinating history to this project that we only began to understand once we started to scratch the surface. An in-depth interview will follow, but Da Henchmen were brought together by B-Boy, producer and joint label owner of Ill Cyde Recs The Tic aka Tic Master aka Ernesto Morales and his partner James Morgan aka Real, Brooklynite and brother of Saturday Night Live stand-up comedian Tracy Morgan. But for the moment, lets focus on Tic, better known to his friends as Nes.
Nes started out as a second generation B-Boy dancer in the early 1980’s. His story is one that takes in Hip Hop music from its infancy through to its dominance of the music industry and as a vital part of NY and ultimately wordwide popular culture. He was a member of early B-Boying crews with Rock Steady Crew founder JoJo and legendary B-Boys Alien Ness and Track 2; as a dancer he was managed by Scott La Rock and with KRS ONE they used to perform shows in NYC prior to the conception of the legendary Criminal Minded LP; he travelled the world with Ringling Brothers and Barnum circus in the mid 1980’s as part of a break dancing act; he was a (short-lived) member of the 5% Nation; he produced an old school track for Busy Bee; this cat, on his own, is a lost chapter in the history of Hip Hop culture – AND he is one of the most humble characters you would ever have the pleasure of meeting. Next week we’re gonna drop an interview that delves into the extraordinarily fascinating life of Mr Ernesto Morales. But for now, let’s focus on the project at hand. And what a project!!!
Da Henchmen were made up of a bunch of different MC’s hailing from all corners of NYC. They appeared around 1993 and 1994 as support act in NYC club venues for the likes of Doug E fresh, King Sun and Frankie Cutlass among others. They released an extended EP called ‘Beware: Lyricly Dangerous’ and a 12″ ‘Watcha Gonna Do’ in 1994 both on Ill Cyde Records, which was set up solely to push the group. Contrary to mythology, there was no third single – but there was a different crew from NYC called Da Henchmen! Another overlooked fact was that two of the members, Ray Boogie and True Da Grynch (aka The Evil Twins) featured on Frankie Cutlass’ huge Hip Hop club hit ‘Puerto Rico’ where they shout out Da Henchmen in their rhymes. Apart from these minor nuggets of information, as well as the status of both their releases as hugely desirable Indy Holy Grails, very little is known about this grimy,underground Hip Hop crew from NYC. Chopped Herring Records hopes to change that….
Musically, we have picked 3 previously released (though incredibly hard to find) joints from the 2 records released on Ill Cyde and we have been lucky enough to have chosen 3 more unreleased bombs from the vaults of Tic. ‘Brooklyn Bastards’ is from the 1993 ‘Beware: Lyricly Dangerous’ sessions. ‘Basket Case’, an homage to b-ball and it’s comparison to the art of rhyming, was recorded around the time of the 2nd single in 1994 and ‘I want it All’ was recorded by Frado (the Beat Man) in 1995 right at the end of the group’s short lifespan. So there you have it, a six track EP full of flava and a crazy dope interview to follow. Keep peepin YO!
feat. Mental Flex, Brick The Juggernaut, Garders, Big Jam & True Da Grynch
A2 Brooklyn Bastards
feat . Naughty Shorty, A-Minner & Wild Juvenile
A3 Live Wire
feat. A-Minner , Naughty Shorty & Wild Juvenile
feat. Big Jam
B2 Basket Case
feat. True Da Grynch & Murda One
B3 I Want It All
feat. Brick The Juggernaut & Garders
A2,A3 & B1 recorded in 1993. A1 & B2 recorded in 1994. B3 recorded in 1995.A1 & B1 recorded at Projam Studios. A2,A3,B1,B2 & B3 recorded at Data Base Studios.
An interview with producer and co-owner of Ill Cyde Recs, Nes aka Ernesto Morales aka Tic.
Where did you grow up man?
I grew up in the Bronx, Davidson Ave.
Were you in or aware of any of the street gangs when you were growing up?
I was with the 5% percent Nation. I was a God. Back in Davidson Avenue, right on 176th St, there’s some long steps that lead to Jerome Avenue, near the 4 train. They used to meet and have rallies there. I guess I became a product of the environment. The 5% percent nation, Zulu Nation, Ball Busters (Dominican gang) and the motor cycle gangs were out there – Savage Nomads and a few others. Davidson Avenue on 176th St was big with the Peace Gods. The truth is, I was never into them like that, it was just all my friends from the neighbourhood were down so I was down. But I was a true B-Boy from the start. I remember my very first dance crew called the Crazy Breakers. We used to break at this place in Fordham Road call the Church. We used to meet there and hang out and do our thing. There were other crews there originally, like The Chief Rockers (a nice Ecuadorian Crew) and a few others. But there there was this kid named Little Alex the last member of New York City Breakers, he got to performed for the President of the United States. But I stayed really down low. But I was there and was known back then. I did my thing with all of them except Rock Steady ( evil enemies), may Buck Four and Kuriaki rest in peace. My partner at one time was Alien Ness – an incredible dancer.
So I heard you used to be managed by Scott la Rock? What’s the story with that?
My boy Frank, Darren and I went to the same high school and somehow either Darren or Frank got hooked up with Scott not sure how (it’s a long time ago!) , but he became our manager for a bit and we started doing shows in colleges. It was in Vermont. Scott ended up living in front of my boy Frank’s place in Washington Ave off Webster, about the time KRS-One was staying in the shelter home. This was the early 80s, our high school years. We did a lot of college shows with Scott around the time that they were working on music. Frank, actually played a part in getting him the apartment in the Bronx. Some how Scott got the job at the shelter and the rest is History. I met one of the greatest MC’s in rap History. When the music thing was popping with BDP, Frank and I continued dancing without Scott. Then BDP blew up.
What happened to you after the Scott la Rock period?
We [the dancers] came across an ad in a paper that said Ringling Brothers And Barnum Circus were looking for a break dancing act for a major tour So we auditioned and we got the job! We went on a major tour for over 2 years. We performed in every major state and every major city in the US. After the US we hit Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) and spent 6 months there. Man it was THE best time. In this group we had this kid called Darren Henson who went on to become a famous dancer and choreographer. Another dude, Freddy Correa became a back up dancer to the late Selena. My boy Frank stayed in Japan after the tour and ended up becoming a popular dancer out there.
Were you in a crew before that?
Now before the circus, back in the early 80’s – I think the circus tour was in 85 or 86 ,something like that – I was in a group call the Floor Lords. I was taught how to dance by a B-Boy called JOJO, an original Rock Steady Crew member, along with Track Two, Whiteboy speedy, this kid named Mango and Jojo’s brother Mike. One good story i could tell you out of many was when The Floor Lords had a battle with Rock Steady Crew (Crazy Legs, Buck Four, Kuriaki and the rest of them) in a famous Roller Skating rink called Skate Key near Allerton Ave in the Bronx, which was very popular back in the days. We were the rising stars and they were the famous Rock Steady crew. Before we even got into the battle some how we got into a verbal thing, things got heated and a fight broke out and my boy Charlie from my group got punched in the mouth. I’m not sure who did it, but my boy Charlie had the biggest lips around anyway, after the punch, them lips looked 3 times the size and we were laughing for days!!! It’s funny what you remember. After the Floor Lords I got down with another crew call the American Crew or American Breakers can’t remember but that crew was made out of JOJO, Track 2 and Mr Wiggles’ younger brother Danny. With this crew we did tons of shows.
How did you first meet Jojo?
Jojo was a friend of my cousin, we lived in the same neighborhood. My cousin used to take me to his house and I used to see them breaking and I was like, damn i can’t believe these dudes are doing this!!! At the time i remember Mango being the nicest out the crew…
Where did you get the name TIC?
TIC was actually my break dancing name and it was the style of Electric
Boogie i was really good at, Ticking.
How did you make the transition from dancing into production…?
While i was on tour [with the circus] my boy Akani was a singer and a dope producer. I started watchin him and learning from him. When we got back from touring 2 and a half years later, breaking was already almost dead – I think that was like 88 or 89. So i continued trying to make beats. My family moved to 179th ST. and Burnside Avenue. There i hook up with my boy Dj Tony Tone (man he was one of the most popular DJ’s at that time). Bought my first toy sampler, like a Casio with no output jack , just a toy sampler but i made wonders with this shit. I actually became popular again cause i was the only kid in the neighborhood doing beats. From there i got a job at a music distribution company called Buds Distribution. My man Tariq hook me with the job, (DATABASE STUDIO) and shit just fell in place for me. Man, my life’s been beautiful, almost planned perfectly. One of the owners there his name is Dave Wallis , I credit him a lot with how my life turned out after Breaking. He actually lent me a lot of the money to buy my first MPC and my first real mixing board (Promix).
Who are your main influences in terms of production?
DJ premier, Pete Rock, Marley Marl, practically all the producers from the Golden Hip Hop Era.
Who did you look up to when you were coming up in the music biz?
Of course the first artist that i did music for, Main One. At the time he was label mates with late great Guru and Large Professor, so I got to chill with them at the label (Wild Pitch Records). Also my boy Frado the Beatman, man this kid had the sickest beats. He was the one that kept me in the studio. But
I’ve been around for a very long time. I did a record for old school pioneer Busy Bee. I did a joint for him call the Bart Dance [off the 1992 album ‘Thank God for Busy Bee’]. It was some funny shit!! Diamond D produced a lot of that album, I used to see him up in the studio. But it was my boy Main One who really believed in me. At the time he was signed to Select Records and he was like, your ass is giving me a beat. I Need a Ticnology beat for the album – I was kind of scared at first , but he pushed me and I ended up doing one joint for the album. After that we continue working together, so I ended up doing a
lot of beats with him. So because of him I got to with Smooth Da Hustler, his brother Trigga Da Gambler, Chino Xl and O.C. So shout out go to my brother Main One and DJ Tony Tone..
When and how did you find out about the demand for the Henchmen material on wax? cause the first record is one of the most ‘valuable’ and hard to find indy joints of the period……
I’m not going to front or lie about this, I think it was from you. You actually put me up on it. I mean I read the messages and the way people felt about it on YouTube but that [the fact that it was goin for loot] came from you. I was totally surprised and overwhelmed that this many years later one on my joints is considered a classic and real rap heads are feeling this. Man, it really feels great and I feel bless. This is my Legacy right here… and thank you for bring it back to life…
How did you hook up with ALL the MC’s?
My partner in the project, Real [James Morgan] found all the ones from Brooklyn (Tank, Murder one, Short Fuze and True da Grynch). I brought in Big Jam, Garders, Brick and Mental Flex.
So, how old was Wild Juvenile?
Wild Juvenile was 13 at the time.
Why did they split up?
They split for a few reasons. Real at the time decided to move to Ohio and the Brooklyn crew felt that without him it was just different. All the MC’s from Brooklyn were closer to him due to the fact that he brought them in and they were from the same projects – Thompkins Projects in Brooklyn. After a few
songs the guys were really eager to sign to a major and they started feeling that we were not doing a good enough job any more. That’s when Real decided to make that move to Ohio. Everybody went their own way. Brick died from a heart attack, Wild juvenile got killed, Naughty Shorty killed somebody, now he’s doing i think 25 to life and A-minor started acting. He did a video for Jay Z playing Jay-Z as a young kid. Murder One moved, not sure where. Big Jam went and did some bodyguard work for Tracy Morgan and did some bouncing work. Tracy was from my neighborhood, even though he grew up in Brooklyn. Actually that’s how we met Real, cause of Tracy. So Tracy Morgan actually played a big role on bringing the Henchmen together…
How old are you now?
42 years and my life is a very good one; I did things that people to this day don’t believe and those that were there tell me that all the time. I travelled and witnessed a lot of things. I’m like a Hip Hop Forest Gump, hahahahah. There’s so many things that i lived through. But keep one thing in mind – success comes in different ways, fame, money, material things, but my success came in family. Been with my wife 20 years, 2 beautiful kids and a lot of wisdom to share…
The first question cats always ask about Phase n Rhythm is simply “What the fuck ever happened to Phase n Rhythm?” And then comes the barrage of follow-up questions: “Why are there only two 12”s ?” , “What went on with the Tommy Boy deal?”, “Where are the demos”, “How many of those ‘WARNING- The contents of this record are extremely DOPE’ stickers were made?” and “Where can I get one?”. Chopped Herring Records will attempt to scratch your Golden Era itch, but bear in mind, while some info exists, some facts have been lost over the quarter of a century since the release of their debut record in 1987, so we may just make stuff up. OK, so “Let’s go back…way back…back into time…”
Phase, named after legendary writer and all-round Hip Hop hero Phase 2 and Rhythm aka Den Love, DJ and beat maker Denson Rosser, like many great Hip Hop crews met at school in New York, in their case the Hillcrest High School in South Jamaica, Queens. They both grew up in the Queens Village area of Queens, a 2 minute walk from 80s Hip Hop Mecca, Hollis, Queens. They witnessed Run DMC rockin’ local park jams and were surrounded by Hip Hop legends from a very early age. They would cut school to dig at Downstairs Records in Manhattan and when Rhythm tried to explain to his dad WHY he was out of school looking for rare records to cut and sample, he received little sympathy or understanding – “Looking for breaks to sample? What the hell is sampling and what the hell are BREAKS???”
By the age of 16 the two boys had some tracks written. ‘Hyperactive’, ‘Brainfood’ and ‘The Force of the Matrix’. They took them to a local studio in Queens Village run by a cat called Afro Errol. Errol was the type of studio owner who watched the clock and was all about the fee and somewhat less about the art. After several sessions the boys decided that their compositions sounded wackadack at Errol’s and they looked for an alternative spot to record at. After a local block party in Queens, Rhythm got his break, no pun intended. Some cats saw him DJ and wanted him to come down to the studio to scratch on a track. He was invited to 12/12 Studio and it was there where he met legendary producer Paul C (R.I.P.). Together with Paul the boys recorded 3 tracks, 2 of which would appear on the debut single on Funky Tune Recs. The label was formally set up by their cousin because the boys were too young to get a business license and the address written on the label for Funky Tune Records was Rhythm’s parents’ address. They took odd jobs here and there to raise enough money to get the record pressed up and Rhythm’s cousin drove them all over NYC dropping records off in stores on consignment. They really had no idea what they were doing, they were just freestyling the whole thing. When they received the test pressings Phase was crazy pissed at how his vocals sounded – the DAT machine at the plant must’ve been broken cause it was running several bpms too fast and Phase complained that he sounded like a goddamn chipmunk on the track. But they just went along with it – At 16 they were mad excited to get their tracks on wax and out there.
From this one 12” single a series events took place that would see them speeding up the music industry ladder at a rapid pace and a year later they found themselves in a record deal with Tommy Boy. Tommy Boy A&R Kevin Maxwell had heard the ‘Hyperactive’ joint being played in Downstairs Records and was influential in setting the ball rolling. They had had opportunities to get signed right after the Hyperactive 12” dropped, but they planned to wait until they were 18 years old so that they could make their own decisions and wouldn’t have to take even more orders from their parents!! Soon after they signed with Tommy Boy they began to be represented by Patrick Moxey who famously managed Gang Starr and owned a bunch of clubs in NYC all named after candy bars – Mars, Milky Way, Twix – I made the Twix one up. Their relationship with Moxey lasted only a few months before they were picked up by music industry mogul Lyor Cohen’s Rush Management. There were differences of opinion between Tommy Boy and Lyor Cohen and the deal became untenable after Lyor came down to Tommy Boy for a meeting and reputedly, in a very heated discussion, called A&R head Monica Lynch a ‘bitch’. The boys were caught in the middle of the feud and their relationship with their label swiftly turned sour. They contacted an attorney to get them out of the deal – a deal that was limited to only one release, the very dope ‘Swollen Pockets’. After the Tommy Boy fiasco Phase n Rhythm parted ways. Phase formed the group Broken English Klick and was signed to Wild Pitch Records and Rhythm after being introduced to Chuck D by Lyor worked on a small project with one of his artists and soon after disappeared from the music scene for many years. He resurfaced in the early 2000s producing some tracks for Scaramanga and now runs his own studio called Digital Damage in Chesapeake, VA.
Just before they signed the deal with Tommy Boy in 1989 there was a flood in Rhythm’s basement where they recorded all their tracks and a bunch of copies of the first 12” (200 or so!!) were destroyed, as well as a healthy chunk of Rhythm’s record collection and most importantly the reels of all the tracks they were working on for the Tommy Boy album. Everything was lost!! The only thing that remains are the 2 DATS we have used for this vinyl release. After 25 years in the vaults, surviving record deals, floods, bad management, bad pressings and bad DAT machines we present ‘Phase n Rhythm – The Force of the Matrix EP’ which includes recordings from the original studio DAT’s of ‘Hyperactive’ and ‘Brainfood’ at their ORIGINAL BPM as well as ‘The Force of the Matrix’ which has never been leaked or heard outside of the boys themselves. Also included are the dub versions of ‘Matrix’ and ‘Hyperactive’ as well as the acapella of ‘Hyperactive’ which appears on the now grail-ish debut single on Funky Tune Records aka Rhythm’s mom’s spot! ENJOY….
A1 The Force of the Matrix
A3 The Force of the Matrix
B2 Hyperactive (Dub)
You know the Herring – he doesn’t like to swim too far from the shore or too far from Queens and this story takes place at one end of the Queensborough (aka the 59th Street) Bridge that crosses the highly polluted East River (no place for healthy fish!) in Queens. If you know your Hip Hop geography you will know that boxed in by the bridge, Vernon Blvd and 21st Street is Queensbridge Housing Projects – a glamorous neighbourhood if you wanna see it like that, but to most cats who grew up there it was a hard place to live. A bunch of young cats, ranging from 14 to late teens would hang out and hustle by the corner of Vernon and 41st Avenue near the park. These young’uns were born into rhyming, being from the same buildings as Queens’ Hip Hop legends Nas, Mobb Deep, Tragedy and Marley Marl. A local music industry head and Hip Hop fan known as True Force saw some potential in this natural grouping of raw talent and he took one cat (Sham) and his brother (Third Surgeon) as well as the older Killah Sha (in his late teens) into a studio to record. Nothing came from that first session but the result of the second session was the track “’96 Phenomenon”. The third session they recorded “Time 2 Shine” and then following that a flood of tracks were written.
True force became a father figure to the boys, in some cases feeding and clothing them. Some of the parents gave their permission to him to work with their sons, some were suffering from addictions and didn’t care and some were just pleased their kids were doing something. The boys were making money hustling on the streets, selling drugs and gettin into different crimes, so while they aimed for some music industry success they were surviving. They formed a solid unit under the Killa Kidz banner and under True Force’s guidance, worked towards getting a deal. They got some way through the process with Polygram/Def Jam and Mercury, but the overriding feeling was that young cats called Killa Kidz talking about drugs and gunplay was too dangerous a thing to invest in. They were making some headway with Polygram but the label heads changed mid-way and none of the incoming execs wanted to take a risk on the boys. At the time the rappers were getting used by some notable artists as guests – Baby Sham, part of the Flipmode Squad got a guest feature on Busta Rhymes “When Disaster Strikes”, Sha guested on tracks by Tragedy Khadafi and Psycho Child with Sha (under the moniker Prince A.D) were the title MC’s on the Chuck Chillout produced “Lyrical Flava”. They kept together as a crew and never toned down their style and although asked many times by majors, never changed their name.
The project looked destined to run independently. So, funded by True Force (who quite often put his rent check into pot), they pressed up some vinyl, hit up NYC record stores and sold the wax on consignment. They got some solid support from (ex-Queensbridge resident) Marley Marl, who broke the single on the radio, leading to support from other NY DJ’s. They built up a little momentum, but labels were still reluctant to sign a group called Killa Kidz. After some time went past without a serious offer they went into phase 2 of Killa Kidz……
A1 Time 2 Shine
A3 Streets is Real
B1 ’96 Phenomenon
B2 Feel Slugs
B3 City of Panic
Killa Kidz is Prince A.D., Superb, Baby Sham, Psycho Child, Third Surgeon, Superb & Mr Ruc aka the Jackal.
All tracks produced by Prince A.D. All scratches by Prince A.D.
Executive Producer: True Force.
Recorded between 1996 & 1997 at Ready or Not Studios, NYC.
Killa Kidz appear courtesy of Young Life Records.
ZIGG ZAGG – TOUCH DA SUN 1992-1992 EP PT2
The date is December 1990. The scene is a nightclub in Columbia, South Carolina called FAME. DJ Eclipse was spinning, and an up-and-coming Hip Hop producer by the name of Mighty Maestro was home for the holidays.
Maestro had been making a name for himself in New York City producing records for the likes of Lakim Shabazz and Grandmaster Caz. He was an in-house producer for Tuff City Records and had recently appeared in an episode of BET’s Rap City to support the release of Lakim’s second album “The Lost Tribe of Shabazz”. At the club that night, a local emcee by the name of Sun Magnetic recognized Maestro from that appearance and introduced himself to the producer. The two cats got to talking shop and exchanged numbers. Sun’s passion for the art form made an impression on Maestro, but since Maestro was only in town for a few more days, there wasn’t much time to take it further. So, to keep things moving, Maestro introduced Sun to DJ Eclipse.
Some months later, Maestro and Eclipse were talking on the phone. Eclipse mentioned that he and Sun had actually hooked up to work on some tracks. Eclipse was impressed with his skills as an emcee and played some of their demos over the phone. Both producers agreed that Sun had potential but still needed some development.
Maestro would go on to work on tracks for the Flavor Unit, YZ and his own “Nickel Bag of Breaks” EP. He had a brief encounter with Leaders of the New School and did some ghost production on the track “Movie Scene” for the Fu-Schnickens. It was on another visit to South Carolina in 1992 that Maestro hooked up with a former associate, Mike Allen, who was forming a production company in the area at the time. Maestro’s affiliation with The Fu-schnickens project wasn’t progressing as he had hoped, and his production deal with Tuff City was starting to feel a bit confining.
Maestro needed some rest.
What was meant to be a brief hiatus from the New York grind turned out to be a homecoming of sorts. Enticed by the allure of unlimited studio resources and access to first class musicians and other talent, Maestro decided to fall back and merge with his new found partner in crime, Mike Allen. Mike built a studio in his garage that would eventually become ground zero for the Zigg Zagg project. Maestro still had a few obligations to Tuff City, including finishing his breakbeat album. He offered DJ Eclipse a spot on the record. Eclipse contributed the track called “Moonshine”. It would be DJ Eclipse’s first production on wax. Maestro also wanted to feature an emcee on the project. It was at this time that he asked Eclipse about Sun Magnetic. Maestro hadn’t seen Sun since they met at the club in 1990, but he remembered that Eclipse had co-signed for him. Soon after, they all started hanging out together. Maestro then offered Sun a spot on his breakbeat album. The track that Sun and Maestro recorded was called “Check The Wreck”. It was the first vocal recorded in Mike Allen’s new studio.
After that initial session, Maestro, went into lab mode and finished off the track. The beat was another flip of the Fatback Band’s “Got To Learn How To Dance”. Sun came in and one-take-jaked his vocals. His presence as an emcee was undeniable. When Mike Allen heard the final version of what Maestro had just produced, he was immediately stopped dead in his tracks. At that point, both Maestro and Mike started reconsidering whether “Check The Wreck” should be wasted on a Tuff City breakbeat record—the answer was an emphatic…NO! It was clear, from that point, that Sun Magnetic was ready for prime time, but he needed a full and proper demo.
MORE TO COME.
A1 Touch Da Sun
A3 Da Prognosis
B1 Don’t Front Da Flava
B2 Y=Self feat. Shaquan
B3 Da Man Upstairs
Produced by Mighty Maestro.
Track B1 co-produced by DJ Eclipse.
All tracks recorded between 1992-1994.
ZIGG ZAGG – TOUCH DA SUN 1992-1994 PART 1 (Part 2 dropped before Part 1)
Here’s a re-cap and the story of what happened next……
The date is December 1990. The scene is a nightclub in Columbia, South Carolina called FAME. DJ Eclipse was spinning, and an up-and-coming Hip Hop producer by the name of Mighty Maestro was home for the holidays. Maestro had been making a name for himself in NYC producing records for the likes of Lakim Shabazz and Grandmaster Caz. He was the in-house producer for Tuff City Records at the time and had recently appeared on BET’s Rap City with Lakim Shabazz in support of the release of Lakim’s second album, “The Lost Tribe of Shabazz”.
A local emcee by the name of Sun Magnetic was also at the club that night. He recognized Maestro from his TV appearance and introduced himself. They talked shop for a bit. Sun explained to Maestro that he was trying to make a demo and needed to link up with someone who could help him out. Maestro was only in town for a few more days so there wasn’t much he could do for him at the time. But on the strength of that conversation, Maestro introduced Sun to DJ Eclipse.
Some months later after his initial encounter with Sun, Maestro was talking to Eclipse on the phone. Eclipse mentioned that he and Sun had hooked up and had begun working on some tracks. Eclipse was impressed with his skills as an emcee and played a few of their demos to Maestro. They both agreed that even though he still needed some development—Sun Magnetic had potential.
Maestro would go on to do remixes for the Flavor Unit, YZ and other Tuff City projects including his “Nickel Bag of Breaks” EP. He had a brief encounter with Leaders of the New School and did some ghost production on the track “Movie Scene” for The Fu-Schnickens debut album.
It was on another visit to South Carolina in 1992 that Maestro ran into a former colleague, Mike Allen, a local R&B producer who was forming a production company in Columbia. Maestro had worked with Mike on a few projects about five years earlier. Mike was a good scout of raw talent and had kept up with Maestro’s career up to that point.
By this time, however, the situation in New York had been stagnating. Maestro’s affiliation with The Fu-schnickens wasn’t working out as expected, and his production deal with Tuff City was coming to an end. Mike convinced Maestro to return to Columbia and join him in his new venture. They merged and set up shop in Mike’s garage in what would become the headquarters and studio of Mike’s new production company, MKA Major.
Maestro was still working on his “Nickel Bag Of Breaks” record for Tuff City. With two tracks left to complete, he offered Eclipse a spot on the record. “Moonshine” would be DJ Eclipse’s first production on vinyl. For the other spot, Maestro wanted to feature an emcee so he asked Eclipse about Sun Magnetic. Maestro hadn’t seen Sun since they first met at FAME back in 1990, but he knew that Sun and Eclipse were still working together. Once Sun and Maestro got reacquainted, Maestro asked Sun if he wanted to be a guest on his album. Sun was down with it. What they recorded was the song “Check The Wreck”. It was the first track recorded in Mike Allen’s new studio, and ground zero for what was to come.
Sun Magnetic’s presence as an emcee was undeniable. In just one take he dominated the track that Maestro made. It was clear right away that “Check The Wreck” was more than just a guest track, and Sun Magnetic was more than just a guest—he was the total package. Sun Magnetic was ready to claim his spot as Hip Hop’s newest resident.
Over a period of weeks, Maestro and Eclipse began crafting Sun’s first demo. They recorded two new tracks and re-recorded a couple of older songs from Sun’s earlier sessions with Eclipse. Most notably, “Don’t Front Da Flava”. A total of five tracks made the cut for that initial demo.
In 1992, digital recording was just coming into its own. It was mostly available at major studios for major artists with major budgets. “Sound Tools” had just made the transition to “Pro Tools” and the ADAT craze was about a year or so away. Maestro did all his production on the Macintosh using the AKAI S-950 and MOTU’s Performer (Digital Performer hadn’t come out yet). The 45 King recommended this setup to Maestro three years earlier. It was the same setup they both used at Airwave Sound, the studio where much of Tuff City’s music had been recorded. Mike Allen purchased the newer AKAI S-1100 with maxed out RAM and the Syquest external drive with the 4MB cartridge. Combined, they had an abundant amount of sampling time. Initially they were tracking vocals using a Fostex 1/4″ 8-track recorder. It was a decent machine, but Maestro had something more ambitious in mind. With all this sampling time at his disposal, it seemed like a waste not to put it to good use.
DAT was the established standard for recording 2 track masters. Mike had the Panasonic SV-3700 which most of the studios were using back then. It occurred to Maestro that instead of tracking vocals to the Fostex, he could record ZIGG ZAGG directly to the 2-track DAT recorder. After that, he would sample each vocal take into the S-1100, trim the samples into manageable chunks, trigger the vocal samples via MIDI, and sequence them in Performer. Recording this way was a bit more cumbersome, and it had its limitations, but it worked, and the quality was better than what came out of the Fostex.
As the final touches were being put on the project, the emcee known as Sun Magnetic God Allah, would change his name and become—ZIGG ZAGG.
The origin of the name ZIGG ZAGG comes from the letter Z or ZIG ZAG ZIG from The Supreme Alphabet of the Nation of Gods and Earths. ZIG ZAG ZIG represents the path from knowledge to wisdom to understanding. Each song from TOUCH DA SUN is a direct manifestation of that path.
With demos in hand, Maestro and Mike Allen began aggressively shopping the project. They hit up the “Jack The Rapper” convention in Atlanta and soon made their way to New York. Through Maestro’s connections, they met with the likes of Jive, Columbia, Wild Pitch, Chemistry, and other labels. One of the labels they visited was Select Records. They met briefly with Fred Munao, the label President, who Maestro knew from a few years back. Fred did not listen to the demo right then, but he took note of the packaging and photos and was impressed. They left him a packet. A week or so later, Maestro received a call from the head of A & R at Select. Apparently they were impressed with more than just the packaging. They wanted to sign ZIGG ZAGG.
Mike Allen negotiated the contract and within a few weeks, an album deal was done. ZIGG ZAGG was officially part of the Select Records roster. “Don’t Front Da Flava” was the track that the label was most excited about. They were going to release it right away as a single. But, as fate would have it, the rapper Paris released “The Days of Old” which included the sample “Mysterious Vibes” by The Blackbyrds. It was the same sample that was the basis for “Don’t Front Da Flava”. Keep in mind, this was 1992. The Hip Hop code of ethics was still intact. Paris got his joint out first. And even though lyrically “Don’t Front Da Flava” was a completely different song, musically, the similarities were apparent. At the label, the wind was completely blown out of the sails at Select. Apparently, they placed all their bets on “Don’t Front Da Flava” being the launch pad for ZIGG ZAGG. They weren’t interested in riding the coattails of Paris—or doing much else. As a result, ZIGG ZAGG was dropped from Select Records.
On the heels of the Select Records debacle, the team’s foundation was shaken up again by the departure of DJ Eclipse. Eclipse was working at a local record store in Columbia called Sounds Familiar. He was friends with T-Ray, another producer from the area who had also moved to New York. T-Ray was blowing up having just finished working on MC Serch’s solo album. It was during the promo tour for that album that Serch came through Columbia for an in store promotion at Sounds Familiar. T-Ray had mentioned Eclipse to Serch and suggested that they link up. As the story goes, Eclipse and Serch hit it off immediately. So much so that Serch invited Eclipse to joined him alongside DJ Riz to perform on The Arsenio Hall Show.
The chips were falling into place for DJ Eclipse. Serch would soon become a VP at Wild Pitch Records. He offered Eclipse a job at the label, which for Eclipse, was an offer he couldn’t refuse. When Eclipse broke the news that he was going to make the move to New York, Maestro and Mike tried to make a case for Eclipse to cast his lot with them. But, they didn’t have anything sure or tangible to convince him to stay. On his good sense and instincts, Eclipse saw his shot and he took it. In regards to Eclipse and the contributions he would go on to make in Hip Hop, it is not an understatement to say—the rest was history.
Down but not out, Maestro and ZIGG ZAGG remained undeterred and committed as ever to press forward. They went back into the lab to record new material. This time the strategy was to balance out the demo so that each song could stand on its own. The original demo was well made, but the songs themselves were raw. From an A & R perspective it didn’t paint the complete picture of who ZIGG ZAGG was as an artist. With the exception of “Don’t Front Da Flava”, there wasn’t much label bait to attract a mountain climber who plays an electric guitar.
Maestro and ZIGG ZAGG were not going to make the same mistake twice.
A2 All About Da Balls
A3 Maintain Ya Rep
B1 In Ya Mind
B3 Pick Any Tip feat. Ness Boogie and Mighty Maestro
Produced by Mighty Maestro
So let’s travel a few hours by car North East of NYC. Worcester, Massachusetts apart from being a rip-off of a city in the West Midlands, was home to both aspiring MC Larry Ansah aka L the Head Toucha and DJ, producer, digger and all round Hip Hop junkie DJ Shame. Shame had been spinning since 1984 when he copped his first pair of decks (Technics SLQ200x) at the age of 16. There had always been music and records around him at home. His dad played the keys and his grandfather was a trumpet player and both paid the bills with their skills. After hearing “Rappers Delight” at a local roller rink in the early 1980’s he knew he wanted to create Hip Hop music. He copped the Korg Super Drums drum machine in 1986 and with his updated deck set up (he graduated to the trad 1200’s 6 months after getting the SLQ’s) he began to put his ideas down.
In 1990 he started to get involved with college radio after his boy Jamieson Grillo, who had a show on WRBB at Northeastern University, invited him to spin. He would end up working on the show for 5 years during which time he ran into a plethora of dope Hip Hop artists. Tribe, Serch, Showbiz & A.G. and Black Sheep all blessed the WRBB show but when local Boston act Ed O.G. and Da Bulldogs came by the show to promote the “I Got To Have It” single in 1990, it would ultimately lead to the formation of the production crew the Vinyl Reanimators. Several weeks after they appeared on the show, Shame linked up with the group again and they took him to their producer Joe Mansfield’s crib to hang out. The two hit it off straight away through a mutual passion for beatmaking and digging and they started working on a couple of projects together. The final member of the three man VA crew, Sean C moved from Cape Cod to Boston around 1993. Shame had met Sean at Jamieson’s crib in NYC around ’91 and as with Joe Manfield, had found a bunch of stuff in common >> Dope records + Hip Hop music!!
Shame got his first taste of having his own production on wax in 1992 after winning a Tim Dog remix competition that Ruffhouse had set up to promote the “Bronx Nigga” single. He entered his remix, won first place and received a Numark dual CD player as well as getting his remix on wax (which is now a tough piece to find yo!). His next production on vinyl, credited as Shame, but under the Vinyl Reanimators banner, was Scientifik’s “Jungles Of Da East” joint in 1994. It was just before the Scientifik joint dropped that the Vinyl Reanimators formed. All three dudes, realising their individual talents, combined their skills and teamed up to create a production team. They went on to produce and do remix work for The B.U.M.S., Raw Produce, Virtuoso as well as “releasing” a whole load of “remix” white labels!!
In Worcester, during the mid 90s, a group of cats would hang out at Shame’s spot, smokin, drinking and freestyling over instrumentals and breaks that he’d cut up on the decks. One time, Shame’s boy, a local beatmaker called Diamond T (no relation) brought with him an 18 year old MC who he’d been making some beats for. This cat L sounded nice, if a little Buckshot-esque! It wasn’t for a year or so that the rapper and Shame hooked up on a music tip and the “Too Complex” single was recorded. L recorded several tracks with the VA crew and 6 of these previously unreleased joints appear on this record for your listening pleasure. This dude shoulda definitely blown up at that time and this project, if released off the back of the “Too Complex” joint would have surely caused a devastating tsunami on the underground Hip Hop scene. Better late that never. So here it is……..SPLASH
A1 It’s All Over
A3 Dead Man
B1 Sesame Street Hood
B2 Shady Niggaz
B3 All In Together Now
All tracks produced by Vinyl Reanimators 1997-1998.
Other than paying taxes, there is probably nothing more “real” than a 16 year old New Yorker’s unfiltered (creatively-speaking not effect-wise) passion for funk AND Hip Hop music, translated into sample choices, drum patterns and battle rhymes via the EMU SP-1200 and a dope selection of break beat records.
Jay Mumford aka J-Zone aka Mr Bomb aka Infinite the Paranoid Genius aka many other pseudonyms (that we don’t have space for at our current domain), attended Mamaroneck High School, 10 minutes north of the Bronx in Westchester County, in the early 1990’s.
Jay: “I was a bass player all through childhood and I used to buy old funk records to play bass to. I’d try to mimic the basslines and learn by ear. Eventually when I started watching Yo! MTV Raps in 1989, I recognized the samples from records I had. I couldn’t find a band to play funk with because funk wasn’t popular at the time, so I started making beats because I could do it on my own and not depend on anyone. My biggest influences were the Mecca and the Soul Brother album, all the old Mark the 45 King records on Tuff City like Lakim Shabazz Pure Righteousness and all those beat albums he did, Showbiz from DITC, the first Cypress Hill album and the Public Enemy stuff.”
At the age of 15, realising that the piece of musical equipment he most needed in order to emulate one of his favourite albums ( Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “Mecca and the Soul Brother”) was the EMU SP-1200, he took the job of custodian at his old junior high school and for 2 summers, from 1991-1992 he saved up the huge sum of $2,000 and copped a limited edition SP from Manny’s Music in Midtown Manhattan in November of 1992. Self-taught and applying the musical knowledge gleaned from years as BOTH an upright and electric bass player in BOTH his high school orchestra and jazz band, he began to lay down his first Hip Hop recordings. Only a year after purchasing his SP, he would hand over $30 an hour to record (in one-take and straight to cassette) at Clockwork Studios in Mamaroneck, NY. Having been exposed to a lot of ill jazz though his dad’s record collection, he had developed an ear for breaks and riffs he wanted to sample and most of these early demo recordings utilised samples from his dad’s pieces. Between you and me, the first joint he ever sampled was “Overdog” by Keef Hartley Band and was taken from his dad’s copy of the LP.
Jay: “I got that record from my dad. I put the Fuzzy Haskins drum loop over it.”
This cat wasn’t chasing after girls as a teenager. He was sampling Keef Hartley records, saving up for expensive pieces of recording equipment, hiring studios and taking jobs at his junior high school. This is not the story of a gang banger, of a drug dealer nor a pimp – in case you thought it might be!?. It wasn’t until 3 years after laying down these early demos that Jay picked up a mic again and graced the world with his debut release, as J-Zone, “Music For Tu Madre” (a Herring favourite from the day it dropped in 1998). Included on this brand new vinyl release, other than the1993 demos, is the previously unavailable (on vinyl) joint from Tu Madre “Wifey Dearest” which only featured on the cassette version of the release. We hit up Jay in early 2004 for a quote for the “Three Sinister SYllables” cover and dude graciously listened, digested, discussed the content and threw us a sweet quote that we used for the cover of the CD. Nearly 10 years later we have the pleasure of announcing that the 2nd release in October 2013 will be the J-Zone – The 1993 Demos EP. Peep J-Zone’s site: GoVillainGo for more Zonisms, his critically acclaimed and incredibly entertaining book “Root for the Villain”, plus his brand new album “Peter Pan Syndrome”.
A1 It’s the Bomb
A2 Bomb Tekneek
A3 Yours Truly
B1 New and Improved
B2 Checkmate Remix
B3 Russian Roulette Remix
B4 Wifey Dearest [Bonus Track]
“[He] kicks that “other reality” that most other rappers overlook: the flip side to the gangster realm – the reality that we’re killing each other” Rap Pages, Oct ’93
Chris Davis aka Smooth Criminal came up in a neighbourhood of South Dallas, Texas called Rose Terrace which was also known as Bonton Projects. Heavily inspired by MC’s like Rakim, KRS-One and Chuck D, he began writing raps at the tender age of 14. In fact, he RECORDED his first track in a pro studio in Dallas at 14 years old….
By 16 he was a mature artist! Chris attended high school at Lincoln Humanities/Communications Magnate and found himself, more often than not, in the Radio/Television department, learning about camera work, lighting and the like. In order to inspire the students, famous musicians, actors and directors were invited to the school to speak to the kids and to instill some passion or foster passion for the entertainment business and employment in general. Chris would meet lots of celebrities and would make it his business to introduce himself. One time, a local artist management company owner came to the school and Chris managed to obtain the dude’s digits and followed up on it shortly after. After calling the number, he discovered that the guy from “African Supporters of a New Style” aka A.S.O.N.E had give him his younger brother’s number.
Chris got to be friends with that dude, who was more his age and was later introduced to the owner once again, as a talented local MC, lyricist and friend of the family. Around the same time, he got together with his crew, the Disciples of Injustice which included himself, producer Kres-X and MC Lo-Key. They would put on parties in Dallas in the Deep Ellum area and in some cases funded by their management company, would book big Hip Hop artists from NYC to perform at their parties. For example Biggie played at one of their shows before he blew, as did L.O.N.S., Onyx, and Eazy E and when they did, Smooth Criminal was the support act. This was all happening at the age of 16. and in the same year, he recorded the Straight Lynching project (known then as the Shank EP) with the backing of A.S.O.N.E. They pressed around 500-1000 cassettes which were mostly destroyed in an unfortunate flood in a basement where they were being held in storage. There was no vinyl other than a handful (we are told btwn 5-8) of test pressings. The cassette copies that survived were placed in the hands of press and industry heads and through the music and his local rep, the team received some offers from some majors – notably Virgin, but nothing substantial materialised.
He changed his name to U.P.T.I.G.H.T. in 1993 when Next Plateau Records were about to sue over an artist they were working with with the same name and later went on to work and write for among others, Dr Dre and The D.O.C. Now, 20 years later, Chopped Herring Records have released the 5 track EP along with an unreleased joint from 1997. Check the production sound on this project – this ish sounds more like it was recorded in the North East rather than the South – which will please most of our hardcore fan base!!! ha
A1 Something To Hip
A2 Know The Lik
A3 Straight Lynching
B1 Shank Down
B2 Jah Jah Give Me Knowledge
B3 Holla At Me
All songs written by Chris “Up-Tight” Davis.
All songs produced by DJ Kres X apart from “Shank down” and
“Holla At Me” produced by Chris”Up-tight” Davis.
All tracks recorded 1993 except for B3 recorded 1997.
CeStyle of TOTAL PACK
PARKHOUSE MUSIC 1995-1998 EP
CeStyle, then just known as Corey, grew up in an especially musical family. His father was the songwriter and musician Larry Banks and his mother sung in her husband’s band “The Pleasures” and also recorded and performed with Larry in “Lawrence & Jaibi”. The Banks’ found further fame years after their careers ended, due to the resurrgence of their works through the “Northern Soul” scene in the UK and specifically due to the compilations of Dave Godin. The family house at 202 Street & 100th Ave in Queens Village, saw the likes of Clive Davis and Burt Bacharach visit and a very young Corey would be surrounded by classic Jazz and Soul artists before he could even walk. As you would expect, music was always in the air, as was the music business. Larry had a production deal with RCA and wrote songs that would later be sung by Elvis and The Moody Blues. During his career he got “ripped off” on a number of ocassions, so a hesitance to work with majors or even labels pur se was ingrained in Corey at a very early age. He would, later in his career, be dropped from two big labels with his recordings being shelved…
At the age of 12, after a fight during art class while attending I.S 192 Elementary School, Corey was punished by being made to attend singing class. He was told to sit by the piano and sing so that the teacher could discover his forte. He began to sing and instead of being chosen as suprano or alto, he was told that he would be a solist. He hated this new role, but his dad ran with it. Every day after school he would return home to find that his dad had penned him a new song to sing. However, his musical passion was genuinely ignited during maths lessons. The kid behind him in class would spend the whole lesson writing rhymes. Corey would look round and see the kid highlighting “long words” in a big dictionary on the table and attempting to squeeze them into his rhymes. This fascinated him. After class one day, he said to the kid “Teach me how to rhyme”. The reply was a very mature and informed one: “Either you can or you can’t – it’s already inside you or not. Look, go home tonight and try to write a rhyme and we’ll see if it’s good and maybe I can help you”. That night Corey wrote four pages of rhymes. He took them to school the next day to show the kid. His response was “You NICE!”.
He formed a crew while at Benjamin N Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens, called “High Tech Crew” and took the (as he now claims, corny) name of Core-Sants – the Core was his graf tag and the Sants was a play on the new Burger King Croissants sandwich! [I actually thought that was pretty DOPE!! haha]. It would change to CeStyle soon after and his next crew was formed, known as “Hollis Spies” which included cats like Eguan, Self Lord and Bill Skills among many others. It was this crew that morphed into Total Pack. The dudes would rhyme over beat tapes at block parties and house parties and got themselves a name locally. Their neighbourhood was RIFE for Hip Hop. Corey’s earliest memories of Hip Hop music were his elder brother’s Treacherous 3 and Coldcrush tapes, but he was personally hit hard by the bug after returning from Summer Camp in 1983 and being exposed to Run DMC’s “Sucker MC’s”. Here was the hottest Hip Hop group in the world talking about his local area, Hollis, Queens. It had a profound affect on him.
Corey was a regular kid, hanging around in the streets, selling this and that. He was noticed by a local beatmaker/producer called Darryl Crush who had a little studio round the way. Crush saw that Corey was getting up to no good and invited him over to his studio to check his gear and foster a passion for the music. He told him he could come round whenever he wanted and even if he wasn’t home, to just knock at the door and his mum would let him in to work – but to stay off the streets!! Crush owned a Roland S-10 and a 4-Track, among other boards and desks and Corey had his first experience of production there.
He met his soon-to-be partner playing basketball in Jamaica Park. After the ball game Corey pulled out a tape of beats and played it in a boom box while cats dropped rhymes. One of the fellas was nice with it. Kamal was from Tennessee and was up in the North East now and again to stay with his aunt. The two rappers had a noticeably fresh rapport on the mic and soon formed a rap duo – again named Total Pack. Corey would use the name throughout his early career as an artist, in multiple different group and solo set-ups. Kamal frequented a lot of the clubs in the city whereas Corey would mainly be in the street or local house parties, so Kamal brought with him a series of contacts. One of these, Bobbito Garcia, had a radio show (!). They had two demo routines recorded, one entitled “Catch Wreck” and the other “Represent” and Bobbito would play them on his Tech Nine show and the group off the back of the spins, got a little NY love.
The next stage in their career occured one Sunday morning. Corey was stood in his grandma’s kitchen doing the dishes in his pjamas. A friend knocked at the door and was like “Yo Corey, they are filming a K-Solo video up on Hillside – let’s check it out NOW”. So, still in his PJ top, he rushed out the house to peep the scene. His friend knew Solo a little and asked him to listen to Corey rap and K-Solo was duly impressed. They rushed off to get Kamal and when they returned Erick and Parrish were there, so they peformed their routines for none other than EPMD. Next they were introduced to EPMD’s manager Sandy Griffin who got them a meeting with Faith Newman (who signed Nas) at Columbia. They performed their routine over some breakbeats and Faith got them a meeting with her boss Dave Kahn. Based on that meeting they signed a 10 album deal, so the story goes, the only major label deal signed without a demo since Janis Joplin. As far as management they had some issues with Sandy Griffin and signed a management deal with MC Serch who Corey had run into several years before while doing a radio freestyle.
They went into the studio with Charlie Morotta for the first time as a crew. Remember they had never really recorded any songs, just a series of rhymes over used beats and breakbeats – they got the deal off the back of their rhyming, not songwriting skills. Around this time Nas had just signed to Columbia and the label were focusing on Illmatic. The boys had a solid NY/Tri Boro Buzz but that was it, so they were really starting from scratch. When they got into the studio they found that they weren’t gelling well together. There was a lot of friction between the two and they had different ideas about how to write. One track that just featured Corey on it, called “Verbal Assault” was played to Faith Newman who loved it and was ready to have that as the first release – but Corey was concerned that it was just a solo track – so he left it back and continued to write with Kamal. That turned out to be a fatal mistake! They submitted a new track with both MC’s on it and she hated it. They had a production meeting lined up the following
week with Trackmasters but it was cancelled at the last minute and shortly afterwards they were dropped. The 10 album deal didn’t even see a single released – but several of those tracks from the Columbia deal are on 2″ reels which are in the process of being recovered – more soon…
Through Serch, Corey got himself a solo deal with Wild Pitch, again using the name Total Pack. Again his music was put on the back-burner while Stu Fine concentrated on the N-Tyce project which had amassed sales of 100,000 in the south alone. At this time Corey continued to shop deals with the new material, but every label he talked to had just spoken to Fine and didn’t wanna work. In the end, the Wild Pitch material was shelved as the company moved more into distribution deals. Several tracks have leaked on to the net in recent years but Chopped Herring is pleased to announce that they are being dropped on vinyl for the very first time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the crew. Also included are two tracks from around 1998 “Beyond Limits” + “We Comin (Remix)”. Peep it yo:
A2 Fine Print
A3 Parkhouse Music feat. Eguan
B1 N.B.A. (No Biting Allowed) (Demo Version)
B2 Beyond Limits feat. A Fect
B3 We Comin (Remix) feat. Self Lord, A Fect & Eguan (Korp Dynasty)
All tracks produced by CeStyle aka Corey Drumz for #IKEBoy Music
Group LLC except B3 produced by Charlie Morotta. All tracks
written by Corey Banks/BMI except B2, written by Corey Banks/BMI
and Alden Moses/BMI and B3 Written by Corey Banks/BMI, Marcus
Hayes, Alden Moses/BMI & Eric Green/BMI.
What do Dave Chapelle, Luther Vandross, Eddie Murphy’s brother, Kool G Rap and Akinyele all have in common? Read on…
Bound E! Hunters consists of MC and producer Con Rock Hard and MC Pay Juan. Both cats are now now in their mid 40’s and experienced Hip Hop’s evolution from the get-go. They had both found themselves in the Lefrak City/Corona neighbourhood of Queens in the late 70’s after moving from, in Rock’s case Long Island and in Pay’s case Hollis. Their induction into Hip Hop came through older cats sharing their knowledge. For Rock, Bronx cats coming down to Queens showing off their new found skills and for Pay, local Hollis heads. At one time, Rock was actually at school with Kool G Rap (just known as Abdul back then) in Flushing (John Bowne High School) who exposed him to the freshest styles of the day. G Rap would rap about shit that kids his age shouldn’t know anything about – Rock was amazed by his content, vocab and rhyming concepts. He also ran into Akinyele (a few years his junior) on a daily basis, who lived in the The Sherwood Village Co-Ops and would battle him, winning every bout (although I’ve been told AK MAY not agree!!). At the age of 16 Rock was taken up to the Bronx by an older cousin, to an after hours spot owned by a friend’s dad on 110th Street and Central Park West. It was here where he saw one of his first live rap performances, by Doug E Fresh – that was a highly influential night for Rock. His passion for writing however came from school not from the street. He cites his 5th grade English teacher as his primary influence. It was in English class that he learned the beauty of poetry and the satisfaction of writing rhymes. He remembers the first time he wrote a rhyme and recited it to someone – his dad. He had written a particularly vulgar rhyme, referencing his (then imaginary) sexual prowess – his dad was suitably disgusted. But it was in these early days he was exploring his desire to perform and perform his own creations – this made him happy.
Pay’s motivations were slightly different. His desire to talk through his rhymes emanated from his upbringing. There was a lot of tension and drama both at home and at school growing up and his parents eventually divorced when he was quite young. The son of a Puerto Rican NYC detective who had served in Korea and a black mother who worked for the social security, Pedro’s upbringing was hard. Apart from the constant fights at home, his mixed ethnicity led to bullying at school. Although his first rap influences were the likes of Treacherous Three, Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel, it was when he was exposed to Public Enemy and KRS-One that he began to relate in a way that led him to write and later recite his rhymes in public. It was the unbridled lust for intelligence in KRS and the unapologetic anger of Chuck D that resonated with him. He was a relatively shy boy at school. He was surrounded by talented would-be MC’s and this, compounded with the racism he faced on a regular basis, led to him keeping his lyrical creations to himself. But as soon as he heard groups like Public Enemy shouting out their message he was filled with confidence and was encouraged to share his voice. Hip Hop was therapy to the young Pay Juan and gave him the tools he needed to develop his personality and begin his life journey. He has been forever grateful.
The two MC’s met one day in a studio through a mutual associate, a smooth R&B style rapper called Debonair Suave. Deb was on a kind of Father MC type tip. He was all about baggin honies and his raps echoed that sentiment!! Pay had known Deb a little from his neighbourhood in Queens. The two had played ball together for years on a local b-ball court and at that time were recording some tracks together. He remembers one particular day walkin’ through Washington Square Park (a famed venue for scorin whatever you needed to score) and runnin into Eddie Murphy’s brother, a member of the group K-9 Posse. He remembers havin some beef with some dudes that day and his motivation for that evening’s studio session was the day’s events. Deb had brought along another producer he knew through Deb’s DJ, DJ Asiatic (then known as DJ G-Glove) . That other rapper was Rock. The two rappers hit it off immediately. In fact they saw more in common with each other than either did with Deb. The two were on more of a conscious, righteous tip – if “honies” where brought up in the lyrics of their raps it was gonna be to make a social comment or used as a device to raise the issue of racism or sexual health, rather than a shallow, superficial rhyme. It was obvious to both cats that they should work together.
NOTE FROM ROCK: NOTE: I was producing all of Debs tracks back then. Pay & Deb didn’t know I MC’d at this time because they were older than me and we never crossed paths in LeFrak. Also, Debonair Suave, Pay Juan and Myself actually formed a group called “Exsell Control”. We recorded a few songs together, with Deb & Pay being the MC’s and me as the producer. Duntori & Co. were managing us at this time. When the Exsell Control decided to disband because of creative differences, Debonair Suave became a solo artist and Pay and Rock gave birth to the BOUND E! HUNTERS. Duntori & Co. continued to manage both acts for awhile.
Their friendship began with music – they recorded on the regular for many years – they lived in the studio. They honed their crafts to an almost obsessive level. They built up a solid body of work over a few years and like Rock’s group Exsell Control, they were represented by Duntori & Company who provided artist development and stage choreography for the likes of Heavy D, Janet Jackson & Luther Vandross among others. When the Dunn Sisters received a sizeable fee from a big project they were working on, the funds were earmarked for the Bound E! Hunters’ video, single and ultimately to shop them around to labels. They retained the services of one Kevin Powell who was at the time a music video director. Powell gained prominence in 1992 for appearing in the first series of MTV’s The Real World, one of the first shows in the Reality TV genre. He went on to be an accomplished poet, poltical activist and journalist and around 93/94 he was directing music videos. He brought in a young comedian friend of his, one Dave Chappelle, to appear in the video which Chappelle went on to reference in an episode of his own TV show. Armed with a professional video, a vinyl 12” and a whole bunch of demos tracks they went in search of a deal. Rock & Pay also brought in another talented rapper from the west coast to work with them called Cypher Born. Cypher was a white rapper in the vein of B Real who spat gore/horror movie-influenced raps. As soon as the boys met him they invited him to collaborate on a track and soon after asked him to be part of the group.
Cypher was fast becoming a bigger part of the group. Being the only white rapper, he stuck out and the feedback from shopping the deal, much to the bemusement of Pay and Rock, was that Cypher should be pushed to the front and our two boys, the founders of the group were being encouraged to be his cohorts. BET was shooting a feature on Dunt0ri and the management company saw this spot as a good opportunity to push the group. They all got ready for their big chance (which was basically a segment of the interview) to raise some profile. It was only afterwards, when it was aired, they saw that the only sections that were kept after editing were those containing Cypher Born. Following on from this, having spent a lot of their energies pushing Bound E! Hunters in their original format, Duntori began to listen to the feedback they were receiving and strongly suggested Cypher become the group’s main focal point. This was too much for these straight-talking and enlightened artists. They always swore they would never bow to any outside pressure and Cypher was asked to leave the group. The departure was amicable and in truth was something that Pay and Rock found was the last resort. Rock told me it was a real shame as Cypher’s ONLY crime was that he was dope. But they would not let management turn the group into something that it was not – a manufactured rap group. That was the antithesis of everything they believed in as individuals and was the direct opposite of the lyrical content of all their tracks.
Even now, many years later, they believe they had no choice but to resist outside forces. Perhaps they would’ve found that elusive deal had they listened to the business people, perhaps they would’ve spent the following decades recording and perhaps they would’ve been able to survive in the music business. But they have zero regrets. They lived together, they met their wives while living together, they had children at the same time and they worked together at a prestiguous NYC hotel. They grew up and became successful individuals outside of the music business, but it was the music that allowed them to do it. The shy young Pay Juan, given a voice through Hip Hop, used the skills he’d learned as a performing MC to give him the strength to become a Union Representative – speaking for people who did not have a voice. One comment Pay Juan made seems to adequately sum up this little known Hip Hop group from the 90’s who only had one single, a video and a whole lot of truth to impart: “Do the right thing when no one’s looking”. Let us introduce to you Bound E! Hunters…..
A1 Who the Fuck’s in Charge
A2 One Step & A Rhyme
A3 Da Huntaz
B1 Huntin’ Grounds
B2 You Can Smell It
B3 Break it Down
All tracks produced by Con Rock Hard. A1-A3 written by Pay Juan.
B1 & B3 written by Pay Juan and Con Rock Hard.
B2 written by Pay Juan, Con Rock Hard & Cypher Born.
All tracks recorded at Power Perks Studios 1994.
All tracks mixed by Brian Perkins.