|DJ B-Ward (Rockwell Inc.)|
conducted by Sir Norin Rad (The Intruders / Germany)
SIR NORIN RAD:"From which part of the Bronx are you originally?"
DJ B-WARD:"Marble Hill Projects."
SIR NORIN RAD:"That's on the westside of the Bronx, right?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, by Kennedy High School, right by the bridge going into Manhattan."
SIR NORIN RAD:"How did you get into Hiphop? Were you a B-Boy once?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, yeah I used to breakdance. That's where it started from.......from going to different clubs breakdancing. I never paid attention to who was actually playing the music because they only played the music we was like doing the B-Boy dance to. Then after that I started getting into DJing. You know, you like the music and you start playing the music yourself. I wind up finding my own beats back then. They sounded good so I put them into my music. That's how that went on. But when I started DJing I didn't know too many other DJs. I went to Afrika Bambaataa from the Zulu Nation and then when I was in school there was a guy named (Lovebug) Starski and also (Kool DJ ) AJ. AJ and Starksi....They used to do parties at Harlem Prep and The Renaissance but they had their own style. Everybody had their own style, you know? After a while everybody had a crew of three, four MCs and that's how I wind up doing the same. When they see you playing the music everybody wants to come in. I kept saying, "If they sound good bring'em in!" So I had a lot of MCs, maybe seven or eight but I couldn't really have everybody join the crew because they were too many. You don't wanna overflow it, just a certain amount of people so it looks proper. So I had to narrow it down to maybe three or four MCs. That's when I saw Flash coming around and when he was doing it I did a party with him also at the Ecstasy Garage. And then there were a few other guys..... Theodore....they called them The L-Brothers. Then I met one guy Kevie Kev (Rockwell)......he is still DJing now....I brought him in and he started rocking with me and we had good times. "
|June 6th, 1980: The Rockwell Crew is rocking at the legendary Ecstasy Garage in the BX along with Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five|
SIR NORIN RAD:"What were some of the venues that you used to go to in order to dance when you were still a B-Boy? Would you go places like The Hevalo?"
DJ B-WARD:"The Hevalo....yeah I used to go there and dance also. A lot of guys.....Sasa was there, The Ni**er Twins, Clark Kent was there......a lot of good dancers that I know of were dancing there. After a while the younger guys started coming in and they started doing all this acrobatic stuff. That's when it got too far for me. (chuckles)"
SIR NORIN RAD:"What did the dance look like when you were doing it? I guess you were still dancing mainly on top?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, mainly on top. We might go down and do a flip but not like spinning on our heads. Nah, none of that. That came later on. I have seen young guys doing that. Nah, we would do things like The Pop-Up, The Robot.....something nice with the feet. Swinging the feet around and then fall down a certain way. Like that, you know? But not really the way the kids are flipping now. They're acrobatics now, you know?!"
SIR NORIN RAD:"Did you have a specific B-Boy name?"
DJ B-WARD:"B-Ward they would call me. That was like my name as that. They would call me that, that would be short for Brian Warden. So they called me B-Ward. When I played football, when I played sports I wouldn't have the full name, I would have B-Ward on the shirt."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Did other B-Boys accompany you to these parties?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, I went with a few friends, we would go.....but the ones I would go with they wasn't B-Boys like me, they was just going to the party, you know? At that time it was all about breakdancing for me, I was a B-Boy. Everybody would say, "Go off! Go off!" They always wanted me to dance 'cause they knew that's what I was doing at that time but they wasn't breakdancing. I grew up in the projects so you can imagine how many people I knew. Twelve buildings...so I knew everybody. When we would go to the parties we would go maybe nine, ten guys strong and out of them maybe one other guy was breakdancing but not so much, you know?! One guy I remember was CB (MC of the Rockwell Inc. Crew). He would breakdance now and then. A lot of times he would start it off for me. He would say, "I'mma start the party off!" He would start breaking and then I would follow behind."
SIR NORIN RAD:"So during which years were you active as a B-Boy? 1975 to 1977?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, it were no MCs then. No MCs at all. I didn't hear no raps then. Nobody was rapping then it was just the music playing."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Okay, and when exactly did you start DJing? 1977/78?"
DJ B-WARD:"Around '78....around that time. I was like in and out of high school. At the end of high school I was trying to play my music. So yeah it was around that time."
|May 2nd, 1980: Rockwell Inc. performs at Randy's Place in Harlem along with The Shining Stars|
SIR NORIN RAD:"Please describe the process through which you build up your soundsystem and your record collection! I guess it involved a lot of money that had to be spent?"
DJ B-WARD:" Oh, the record collection....... you just accumulate it. You buy records little by little as the money comes in and it's the same with the speakers and the rest of the equipment. You do a party here and make some money and use it to build up your sound system. When I was doing it Kevie Kev had equipment, too. He came along, he had stuff so we put everything together and that made it more and as you go along you buy as you go along. If you feel you need to do something to make your performance better you do that. We put lights, bright lights to entertain the people. You maybe wanna buy that little ball that when the light hits it, it has these spots on the floor. You wanna surprise 'em, so you do what you have to do. It costs money, it's not free but you have to sacrifice like anything else when you want something."
SIR NORIN RAD:"I see. Who came up with the name Rockwell Inc.?"
DJ B-WARD:"I'd say my friend CB...Clarence....one of the MCs that was down with me. He came up with the name, "Let's call it Rockwell!" And Suzette was there and one guy named Darren.....Crazy Dee and one other MC was with us.... I don't remember his name right now but anyway CB came up with the name....Rockwell Incorporation and from there we just kept the name."
|MC CB of the Rockwell Inc. Crew|
SIR NORIN RAD:"What was the main stomping ground of your group?"
DJ B-WARD:"Well, we would rock in Marble Hill Park every chance we can get, when they allowed us to because that's where we grew up at. So we would just bring our equipment out, plug it in a lightpole and play our music. Marble Hill Park...it's one side of the projects with nine buildings, on the other side it's two and that's where the big park is. It was like a baseball field and there is a church right there.....St. Stephen's Church. That's the park where we would always set up in because it's so much room. So if a lot of people came they had the room to dance or whatever they needed to do and you have a lot of fences, a lot of people would climb up on the fences to see what we were doing."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Were there ever any incidents where people would try to stick you up for your equipment in the park?"
DJ B-WARD:"No, we didn't have problems like that because the people I was with.....I grew up in the projects... a lot of the guys that came with us they were crazy anyway so they made sure nobody bothered us. We had nobody robbing us. Nah!"
SIR NORIN RAD:"Please describe how the MCs of your crew were recruited! Did CB pick them or did they have to audition in front of you?"
DJ B-WARD:"Well, CB was the closest one to me. We always hung out. Like I told you when we were breakdancing he was the only one that was breakdancing with me. He was more with me than anything. He was always there so everytime I was playing my music he was rapping. He didn't have to audition to become a part of the crew because he was already down with me."
SIR NORIN RAD:"I have been told by that your MC squad also had a female MC by the name of Lady Suzette who was the best female MC of the West Bronx."
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, she used to MC, she would come by and MC. She was good, she grew up with us also. She lived in like a building next to mine."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Ok, so besides CB, Crazy Dee and Lady Suzette you also had Lil Dee and Kool Dee in your crew. How did they join Rockwell Inc.?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, I remember them. They came in, they rapped. Like I told you at that time I was looking for good MCs, people that could really do their thing and at that time I ran into Lil Dee and I said, "Come to the house! I wanna hear you rapping, let me see what you got!" And he rapped. I said, "Whenever I play you're coming with me!" He would do rehearsals with us and that's how he got in, you know? I brought him in because I liked the way he was rapping and everybody else liked him, too. So nobody had no conflicts, we all was good."
|November 7th, 1980: The Rockwell Inc. Crew is rocking at John F. Kennedy High School along with DJ Red Ski (RIP) and DJ Prince|
SIR NORIN RAD:"You also had one MC by the name of Ronnie Ron that died very young, is that correct?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, he passed away but he wasn't really in the group, he just lived in my building. He was more on a solo tip. He would rap but he would rap with anybody, you know? By him being close to me in the same building I said, "Come on, let's do our thing!" You know?! And a couple of times he would come down and we would rock. We would do different parks together.....Cedar Park. We would go out there, set up and we would rock. The crowd would be there, when I finished rocking I looked up and I'd see everybody all around and I'd be like, "Wow!!!""
|DJ Kevie Keve Rockwell & MC Ronnie Ron (RIP)|
SIR NORIN RAD:"So who exactly were the MCs of Rockwell Inc.? CB, Lady Suzette, Lil Dee, Kool Dee...."
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, and Crazy Dee, he was with me. That was my crew right there but Ron he was like a freelancer. He would do parties here, parties there but not really with us."
|MC Crazy Dee (Rockwell Inc.)|
SIR NORIN RAD:"Okay, from what I have been told so far in the very beginning of Hiphop DJs used to play the whole song and so of course the B-Boys danced to the song in its entirety. They would really go off though when the breakpart of the record set in......"
DJ B-WARD:"That's true."
SIR NORIN RAD:"As time progressed Kool Herc would mix the breakpart of one song with the breakpart of another song......like Clark Kent said Herc would mix "Apache" with "Scorpio" and then take it back to "Apache" until one day he presented Herc with the second copy of "Apache" so he could keep that beat going."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Still Herc and them weren't able to cut up the breaks in such a precise way as Flash would do later on after he had introduced various groundbreaking techniques to Hiphop. So my question is how did you become acquainted with the technique of the backspin? Was that shown to you by someone?"
DJ B-WARD:"I used to do pause button tapes with my man RC La Rock before I got myself two turntables. These pause button tapes are the same thing as if you put two turntables. You are trying to keep that beat going. That thing that came on my own, you know? That just came natural."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Could you please explain what a pause button tape is?"
DJ B-WARD:" A pause button tape...you would have the music play on a turntable and you would only tape the beatpart of the song and before the song came back in you would pause it. Then you would spin the record back to the part where there is only the beat and you would tape it again and then you would pause it again. Then at the end you would have just only that beat playing on your tape, you wouldn't hear no singer none of that. So this was just like cutting up records, you know? This would be the same as two turntables and a mixer...the beat just keeps on going. That's how that came along. That's how I started."
SIR NORIN RAD:"So from producing these pause button tapes you were already familiar with the technique of spinning back records to the point where the beat sets in?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah. When you're young you experiment on different things and that's how that came along."
SIR NORIN RAD:"How much time would go into practicing your DJing?"
DJ B-WARD:"All the time!!!! All the time!!! As soon as school was out..... right to the music! I would come to my house, they (the Rockwell Inc. MCs) would play the music. I'm trying to do my own but the equipment was in my house so they would come and they wanted to rehearse. So I was like, "Let me finish my own then I can help you and rock with you."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Nice!"
DJ B-WARD:"And from there I'm rocking and rocking and that's it!!! All day long, all night long!! Hour after hour!! At daytime I would think about beats in my head that I wanted to cut up to make something out it. That was the life at that time!! (excited) We would go to a place called Downstairs Records. One guy.... he worked there....one young man and I would say, "You got any new beats here??" So he would pull out a couple of records,"Check this out!" Boom! Then I would be, "Yeah, that was good! Somebody can rap to that!" And from there that's what we would do.....go searching for different records. Wherever we could find beats we would go."
|From left to right: DJ B-Ward (Rockwell Inc.) and DJ Charles|
SIR NORIN RAD:"Could you please explain to the younger cats out here why DJs back then where so secretive about their beats?"
DJ B-WARD:"You wanted to save your good beats...... no one should hear them until you played them. Of course! That's your performance right there! You wanna provide everybody with the best beats only and at the same time you wanna come up with something new and that's how that have to go!!! You have to hide your certain songs. So when you perform you gonna say, "I'mma come out with this!" Especially if you're battling...you have to prepare for that."
SIR NORIN RAD:"So which precautions did you take against other DJs finding out about the titles of the beats you were playing?"
DJ B-WARD:"I would cross out the title with a marker and then a lot of times I would put an arrow where my certain beats is at. This way I knew where it's at, you know? Yeah, I would mark the records because I didn't want nobody to see what I was playing."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Which other methods besides going to different record stores did you use in order to acquire new beats?"
DJ B-WARD:"Well, my parents always listened to music and a few records I did take from them (laughs) and then I had to buy another copy of that record, sometimes even two because every now and then one would be so old it would skip so I had to get two of the same."
SIR NORIN RAD:"This is something that will never cease to amaze me. I'm talking about the fact that back then DJs couldn't just download their beats from the internet as many do today but really had to search for them plus they always needed double copies."
DJ B-WARD:"You had to! You had to go to a lot of different record stores and look and hope they had it. I remember back in the day I was going to this store, to that store hoping they had it. And this one didn't have it I said,"Let me check this store. Let me check one more store." And then you might find it at one store that had it in an old collection. Maybe for 1$! (laughs) You might find it there sometimes. But yeah you're looking for a record and you find it in a supermarket. They're selling the album and it's there on a rack maybe for 1$ or at that time 1.99$. Yeah!"
SIR NORIN RAD:"Did you have a record boy back then? Someone that would hand you the records and also put them away when you were done with cutting up them up?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, yeah! A lot of times the MCs would help me with that. A lot of times before I would perform I would make sure I had my records set up already. Eight or nine records ready to play......in order..... in line, you know? What's gonna go first, what's gonna go second..I already had that planned, you know? And a lot of times when I had to put back my records I needed somebody to put them back in order so I wouldn't lose track. While you're DJing you wanna see the crowd and if they're not moving to this you gotta find something else that they move to. You know, you had to rotate. I had about six crates of records, you know a lot of records. We had trunks full of records!"
SIR NORIN RAD:"How would you divide up the time on the turntables between DJ Kevie Kev Rockwell and you? Who was in charge of what? Who would DJ for the MCs?"
DJ B-WARD:"Well, we both were because if one gets tired the other one has to come on. A lot of times you're rocking and you don't wanna stay on the turntables because you wanna get a drink or something. Sometimes you need to walk around the crowd to say hello to your friends. Then you go back and do your thing. You don't wanna be on the turntables the whole night long. That's where it came in that I needed help, you know?"
SIR NORIN RAD:"I see. I have been told by many people that you were one of the few DJs back then who actually managed to catch even those beats that only lasted for about 4 seconds. How did you do that?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, I would pick up the needle and catch it right away. Theodore used to that also."
SIR NORIN RAD:"Amazing! Did you also mark the beats on your records with stickers?"
DJ B-WARD:"Yeah, I would put a little mark where the beat was, yeah! So when I was switching records this helped me to find the break right away but when you are cutting up beats everyday you catch it anyway because you know it."
SIR NORIN RAD:"I've noticed that Rockwell Inc. used to perform quite often at a spot called The Promenade. Could you please describe this place?"
DJ B-WARD:"That's where I met Derrick Miller (aka DJ Mr. Dee) and them. The Cold Crushers (not to be confused with the Cold Crush Brothers)....they used to rock down there. It was a big hall in the basement of a building. The name of that building was The Promenade. You would go down to the basement...M3 or M4...I don't remember...it's been a while....but there used to be a lot of space and we would decorate it and make it look like a club down there and we would charge people to come in. We played a lot at the Promenade and when it was warm during the summer we would rock outside and then the rest of the parties we would do wherever the people asked us to rock. The Renaissance Ballroom, The Skate Key...wherever they wanted us to rock we would go."
SIR NORIN RAD:"What kind of relationship did you have with the Cold Crushers back then?"
DJ B-WARD:"We did some parties together at The Promenade. We became good friends because we lived in the same neighbourhood. We went to the same school, we all went along and matter of fact I remember Derrick (DJ Mr. Dee of the Cold Crushers) I asked him to do my flyers after a while because he did really good flyers. He had one guy....Dayton...I forgot his name his..but he used to make flyers for the Cold Crushers and I said, "Yo, get this guy to make some flyers for me!" I liked his flyers and he finally helped me out."
SIR NORIN RAD:"There is this one flyer which announces a battle between your crew and The People's Choice from Harlem. What do you recall about this battle? Who won?"
DJ B-WARD:"I would leave that up to the crowd. All I know is when I'm rocking, I'm rocking the best I can! The crowd later on they would discuss these battles like, "You did good! You really turned it out" or "The other crew was good, too. It was a tie!" This and that....We just did what we had to do. But yeah I remember TPC they were from 149 Street (in Harlem) I think. We would battle them now and then."
|June 29th, 1979: Rockwell Inc. battles The People Choice at The Promenade|
DJ B-WARD:"Well, it's hard to tell because there were so many different beats that were nice. I couldn't tell you that right now. There was just so many beats...hundreds if not more."
SIR NORIN RAD:"DJ Kid Capri mentioned you as a huge inspiration of his. What do you remember about him?"
DJ B-WARD:"Well, Kid Capri.....he came up. I remember Kid Capri because I used to be up on Kingsbridge where he lived at. I used to go with a girl on his block and she had a brother and he was close to her brother. I would always see Kid Capri, he was always on the block. He also used to come to a lot of the parties but you know at that time when I was doing parties I would see him but when the crowd comes and you're behind the ropes and the crowd is on the other side you really don't know who's who because it's so many people. So you really lose track unless someone yells out your name and then you look and then you realize but other than that you don't know who's who. But I remember Kid Capri, he was very young and I remember when he started playing music and then he blew up! But at the time he was blowing up I was going out, you know?"
SIR NORIN RAD:"Would you like to give some shoutouts at the end of this interview?"
DJ B-WARD:"Well I wanna give a shoutout to DJ Kevie Kev. He is still doing his thing. A big shout out to Kid Capri because we all go way back. I grew up with these guys. I'd like to give a shoutout to the whole crew...CB...everybody...Suzette.....Larry...all of them and everybody that was with me."