Sonntag, 19. Januar 2020

                                Interview with DJ EZ Mike (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)



                                                    
DJ EZ MIKE
                                          conducted by Sir Norin Rad (The Intruders / Germany)



SIR NORIN RAD:"From which part of the Bronx are you originally?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"I'm originally from the South Bronx. I grew up on...well the main street that we normally talk about is Hoe Avenue, Faile Street and Bryant Avenue off of Southern Boulevard by Aldus Street. That's where I originally grew up at. This is the heart of the South Bronx where there is the police station......they made a movie about it called "Fort Apache"..which is the police station,  the original police station by Simpson Street."

SIR NORIN RAD:"How did you get involved with B-Boying?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Well, I always danced. We just did it in my neighbourhood at little house parties but then I would go to a Kool Herc party and I would witness people breakdancing. But the form of B-Boy I was and the type of breakdancing I was doing was different from what you see today. The dance changed as the years went on. We didn't do windmills on the floor because we didn't dirty our clothes. We dressed very nice. So it had a lot to do with hand movements, facial gestures and footwork. I guess they call it Up-Rocking today."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So that means at that time the dance involved a lot of finesse and funkyness and you had to shine through your personality?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Exactly! You had to have your own aura about yourself, your smoothness and your classiness with it. One of the main differences between then and now is you had to dance to the whole song. It was no two moves and then go standing to the side. If the record was ten minutes long you had to dance ten minutes and save your best moves for the break part."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Songs like "Get Ready" by The Rare Earth or "Listen To Me" by Baby Huey that were really long."

DJ EZ MIKE:"Very long songs! Very long songs! And you had to dance to the whole song....throughout the whole song you had to add some nice moves but as I said you saved your best moves for the break."

SIR NORIN RAD:"To what kind of Kool Herc party did you go? Was it in a club like the Twilight Zone, The Hevalo or The Executive Playhouse? Or was it outside?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"It was in a park and then it was inside of a school, in the gym part of a school. But at first it was the park, outside...."
    
SIR NORIN RAD:"Were you impressed by what you saw at Kool Herc's parties? Like his B-Boys goin' off?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Well, I went there to burn somebody. I wasn't impressed with nobody else. I thought I was the best. It was me, this guy named Mean Gene who is Grandwizard Theodore's brother, this dude named Profile a.k.a. Black Jerry...his name was Jerry, another guy by the name of Bumpy Face Melvin. So we had a little crew already. We were neighbourhood dancers but we went to that party. We went there to show our stuff."  

B-Boy / DJ Mean Gene


SIR NORIN RAD:"So Black Jerry is the same person as Profile?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Exactly! Same person! And look at his name PROFILE.... that speaks for itself about the way we danced because he was really our lead dancer. He was so smooth and his name was Profile. So how do you profile? If you look at the word "profile" how do you do that? He did it dancing. I already knew how to dance but he had profile with his dance!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Where was Profile from?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Black Jerry/Profile...he lived in the South Bronx but over by Forest Projects. Over in that area...like not exactly in the projects but that area."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So you are saying that you had a little crew back then consisting of you, Profile, Bumpy Face Melvin, Mean Gene ......"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Yes, also before he became Grandmaster Flash.....Flash!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Oh shit!"

DJ EZ MIKE:"You know that's my best friend, right?"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Yes! Did your crew have a specific name or did you just go out and attend parties together?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"We would attend parties together and dance. We would rehearse dance steps, routines....We didn't have a name, we really didn't have a name. We just was dancers who loved dancing."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Were you already called EZ Mike back then when you were a B-Boy?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"No, they used to call me Black Mike." 

SIR NORIN RAD:"What about Flash? Did he have a B-Boy name?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Flash! His name was Flash!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"What kind of clothes did you wear back then? I guess you wore Cortefiel coats, Playboy shoes, Overlaps, Italian knits......" 

DJ EZ MIKE:"Exactly! So you didn't dirty that up. That was very expensive clothing back then. We didn't wear sneakers and jeans. So again when you go back to the word PROFILE it kinda speaks for itself and the way we danced. And you gotta remember it's all similar to.....if you notice the B-Boys that came later on they dressed accordigly to the way they danced. You know, the Shelltoe Adidas, the jeans......We dressed accordingly to our time, to the way we danced and they did the same according to theirs."  

SIR NORIN RAD:"So would you say that your era of B-Boying was the one from 1972-74?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Exactly! That's the correct time frame because I danced until I turned 16 which was in 1974." 

SIR NORIN RAD:"How would you describe Bumpy Face Melvin's dancing style?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Oh my God! I would have to say he was Profile number 2. I would have to say that! Like he was so smooth with his dance moves. Him and Black Jerry/ Profile they were very talented dancers with their footwork, their hand movement.....I would have to give Melvin that. He was great!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Where did you draw your inspiration from as far as dancing is concerned? Did it come from watching James Brown, the Nicholas Brothers and Soul Train?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"I woul have to attribute my style of dancing to James Brown because I always danced like James Brown when I was eight and nine years old. So I always liked the idea of dancing. I used to imitate James Brown when I was a kid and people would pay me to do it."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So by the time B-Boying started evolving into a dance that was done mainly on the floor you transitioned into DJing is that correct?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Correct because we weren't as athletic like that. The way some of these guys started doing it.....jumping through smoke rings and doing backflips and stuff like that. We were doing it like.....like I said... PROFILE...we took to that style of dancing. By the time the dance started changing we were like, "Ok, that's a bit much!" A guy that I was battling did a backflip and when he did the backflip he kicked me in my face!!  It was an accident but how you get kicked in your face dancing? I didn't understand that. It was almost like dancing became a hazard."

SIR NORIN RAD:"When you and Bumpy Face Melvin and them were practicing together back then did you also practice routines or did you rather focus on your own individual moves?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"No, we had routines! If you look at Kid & Play when they do that thing back to back and their foot hit each other...we was doing that back then in 1972!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"The late Phase 2 (RIP) mentioned that in the early 1970ies there were clubs like The Tunnel or The Puzzle in the BX  were cats would be dancing at. I also read that Kool Herc went to these clubs before he started DJing himself. Would you go there as well?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"You see those clubs.....you gotta remember, they didn't have clubs like that where you could go to in 1971, 1972 when you were just 13, 14 years old. We had nowhere to go...no clubs because we were too young to get in...... not until the DJ stuff really kicked off. Then, you know, we started being able to go in clubs and DJ. Most clubs served alcohol and we were underage. We would go to Walton High School gym, JHS 123 gym....stuff like that."  

SIR NORIN RAD:"So what were some of the venues that you would go to where people would be dancing against each other?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"James Monroe High School, JHS 123, Roosevelt High School, Stevenson High School...quite a few high schools." 

SIR NORIN RAD:"I'm impressed! So at all these high schools there would be parties were B-Boys danced back in the early 1970ies?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Correct. That's correct to say!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"I have been told that during the early days of B-Boying battles wouldn't go down like they do nowadays. Cats would dance with their opponent right in front of them. So they would be dancing at the same time and react to each other's moves unlike today where B-Boys jump into a circle, do their moves, get out and have their opponent responding to them subsequently. Is that something you experienced as well on your side of the Bronx?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Yes, exactly! He can't stand there and watch you! He had to be doing his stuff. You had to have footwork, facial expressions, hand gestures and you can't do that by yourself!!!  You're battling somebody! Every now and then depending on what you do you get a "Uuuuuuh!!!" from the crowd and you don't wanna get too many "Uuuuhs" by what your opponent does because if they say "Uuuuuh!" that much based on what he does you're losing!  And again it was very important to dance to the whole song because you could lose the battle if you're getting too tired before the break......you couldn't perform your signature moves then. So if your energy is gone and mine is still there I'll beat you! So we would dance ten minutes straight....off of one song! You can't stop! You had to have calmer moves to reserve energy  for the break but every now and then you had to explode."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So what were some of the songs that you would dance to back then?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"James Brown, Baby Huey....It was a couple of James Brown songs though....."Give It Up Or Turn It A Loose"..."Sex Machine". I used to do the Hustle, too. So I didn't just breakdance I did the Hustle as well. "Trans- Europe Express"...that was later on..I used to do the Hustle to that. The thing about "Listen To Me" by Baby Huey was your footwork had to match what was going on in that song......like the beat and the horns and every detail of it. You got to remember when I was breakdancing there was no cutting (by the DJ) going on. They just put the record on and let it play."

James Brown - Sex Machine (contains the legendary B-Boy Song "Give It Up Or Turn It A Loose"  OG Copy Norin Rad's Stash)

SIR NORIN RAD:"DJing was totally different.There was no backspin at that time......."

DJ EZ MIKE:"Flash invented that, you know what I'm saying! You had to dance from the beginning of the song to the end. Flash came along and made it possible for you to lose your mind for 10 minutes 'cause he kept the breakbeat going."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So what made you pick up DJing after you had stopped B-Boying?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Flash made me pick it up. I would have never DJed if it wasn't for Flash. He taught me everything I know about DJing. Flash wanted to understand why is it that I have to wait for the breakbeat to lose my mind? So for two or three years he was missing in action. That's my best friend and we were together everyday. All of a sudden he stopped coming out. And all of the time he was in the house, perfecting the backspin and extending the breakbeat. Once he got it together.....I slept at his house that night and he woke me up at like 4 o'clock in the morning to show me what he had done and I'm the first one to witness what he invented.  Then he started teaching me how to do it. Now, even though he taught me how to do it...in the house I was incredible..in front of people I was too nervous, I couldn't do it. So people like Theodore came out before me but I was already doing it. So it took time until Flash finally said,"Okay, you're ready!" And I came out and I became like a full-fledged partner. Even before the group started (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five) me and Flash were together. There was no group (of MCs) when we started DJing. It was me and Flash, my best friend." 

August 18th, 1979: Grandmaster Flash, Disco Bee, DJ EZ Mike & The Furious Five are rocking at the legendary Webster P.A.L. in the Bronx


SIR NORIN RAD:"Did you perceive Flash's invention as something that would forever change Hiphop when he first showed it to you that night?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"No. In all actuality I got mad that he woke me up to show me that stuff. I'm like, "Are you serious?!!?" Then I went back to bed.... No, he left me first! He was like,"I'm going to bed!" I'm standing there like,"Ok, I'm not trying to understand what you just did! I'm not impressed! I don't know what's going on here. Whatever, man...I'm going back to bed, too!" I didn't grasp that every DJ on the planet earth would start putting their hand on the record. I don't care what you do with a turntable if you put on your hand on the record it's because of Flash being the first one to do it."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So it was only through his invention of the backspin that MCs later on would have continuous beats to rhyme over?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Exactly, and sometimes people misinterpret when we say,"Flash created rapping." People misinterpret that! The song the people would rap over, you couldn't say it over the part where there was lyrics. You had to wait for the break and say your little nursery rhymes. What Flash did allowed you to write a ten-minute-rhyme cause he gave you an extended beat to rap over. So by him developing that people had the opportunity now to write rhymes."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Some of his MCs namely Melle Mel and Mr. Ness were B-Boys before they picked up the microphone, is that correct?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Exactly, me and Mel used to battle each other before he started rapping. I battled Mel quite a few times. His footwork was superb! When I battled him he gave me a run for my money because his footwork was better than mine. He had great, great footwork! We danced against each other in a rec room around 1973/74. Mr. Ness used to breakdance as well but he never danced against me. I personally think I was that much better than him. That wouldn't have been a battle. That would have been unfair. "

DJ EZ Mike and Melle Mel (The Furious Five)
   


SIR NORIN RAD:"How did the crowd react when Flash showed his backspin technique in public for the first time?"


DJ EZ MIKE:"They were enthusiastic and confused. People did not dance to the break at first. They wanted to know how did he get the break going as long. So everybody that came to the party, they came to stand and watch. So it took a while before they started dancing again. At first they were mesmerized and confused and wondering,"How is he doing it?"

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was the umbrella term for your whole crew?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"You mean for the Hiphop group?"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Yes, DJs and MCs..."
DJ EZ MIKE:"First it was just DJ Flash, not Grandmaster, it was just Flash. Cowboy used to rap on the mic at the block parties here and there. Then when he got Melle Mel and Kid Creole it became Grandmaster Flash & The 3 MCs. Then he got Mr. Ness and it became Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Four. Then he got Rahiem and it became Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. Even though it was Grandmaster Flash, DJ Disco Bee and DJ EZ Mike, the name of the group was Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five."

June 6th, 1980: Grandmaster Flash,  Disco Bee, DJ EZ Mike & The Furious Five are rocking at the Ecstasy Garage in the BX


SIR NORIN RAD:"What was your function as a DJ when you played with Flash? What kind of music did you play?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Well, I would play any song that Flash did not have in his line-up. You can't play a song twice! So Flash's segment was of all the number one top b-boy songs. Any other song like Cheryl Lynn's  "Got To Be Real" I would tear that up and as I got better I could step in and cut with Flash on his major songs. We would go around the turntable catching the beat. "1,2,3,4 hit it!" By the time it goes "4, hit it!" Flash would move out the way and I would spin back the record and catch it, then spin back the other record and catch it. When I moved out the way Disco Bee would spin back the record and catch it and we would go around the turntables like that. "

SIR NORIN RAD:"Would you go record shopping with Flash?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Ok, I'm a DJ that mimicked Flash. I don't know shit about records! The only thing I know about songs is what Flash taught me. Flash would go by hisself. Every now and then I'd go with him but I just did that to be with him. As far as picking out records, listening to them one by one, being in a record store for seven hours looking for beats that was Flash's baby. I don't know how he could do it I never had the patience for it but he would just go through 1000 records.....one by one...it may have twelve songs on one album...he would pick up that needle and go through all twelve songs at the record store!!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"So he was like real patient and had a deep passion for breakbeats?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Oh my god! It was unbelievable! He would buy some albums, we'd go home, he' play them and then break them because it wasn't what he was looking for. Threw them away."

SIR NORIN RAD:"How many crates of beats did your crew have at the height of its career?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"I would say thirty. You gotta remember you had to have your crates lined up in a way that they are like an orchestra. An orchestra starts off in one area but as they are playing it's building up. So your crates are lined up like they are starting off smooth and then you go up, then you bring it down again to a cool level. Now the next time you're going up....oh my god..you better go up all the way because the party is starting at 6 o'clock and it's not ending till 3 o'clock in the morning! How do you do that? So I need to play interesting records on the cool out tip, interesting records on the slow tip and then interesting records for the rest of the night."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So that means you had to plan in advance and arrange your crates accordingly so that you were able to cover each segment of the party? Like setting the atmosphere when the people came in, getting them into a certain groove and then speeding it up with the heavy breakbeats before you cooled it down?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Right. So now you have to remember...who are you DJing for? For yourself or the people?"

SIR NORIN RAD:"The people."

DJ EZ MIKE:"Right. So now I'm DJing for the people. My plan is to start off with crate number three. Half way in crate number three nobody is on the dancefloor, so I'm jumping to crate number nine. Crate number just got deaded! Now I'm going to crate number nine 'cause I gotta get this party started. So you may have your arrangement but based on the reaction you're getting you may have to change that."

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was Disco Bee's role when he was DJing with you and Flash?" 

DJ EZ MIKE:"Ok, Disco Bee knew records! So whatever Flash needed Bee knew exactly what crate it was in. He would find that shit in no time. But he can also DJ. He wasn't one of the best DJs but he could DJ."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Did your crew also have a record boy?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"That was my role. I was a record boy. Record boy / DJ / labourer..... (laughs) One thing is for sure Flash wouldn't carry no records because his hands were too valuable. He didn't carry crates and if you're a DJ you shouldn't carry none either. You should never carry equipment! Not the speakers, not the amps, nothing.....Because if I hurt my hands it's not too much of a deal.....the crowd came to see Flash. So if I hurt my hands it's okay, if Flash hurts his hands it's really not okay."

SIR NORIN RAD:"That's a really interesting point."

DJ EZ MIKE:"Yeah, because if you got a splinter in your finger that's gonna affect your skills on the turntable. Protect your hands, man! Your hands is your livelihood! Your hands and your ears are your livelihood. "

SIR NORIN RAD:"I feel that the role of the record boy is generally underappreciated by  today's Hiphop community. From what I have come to understand it took a special kind of skill to pass the right kind of records at the right time to your DJ. That was very important because the DJ had to always keep the crowd dancing. Nowadays technology has basically made the record boy become obsolete because most DJs rock with laptops now. Thus, an integral part of the element of DJing and of Hiphop as a whole has been destroyed."

DJ EZ MIKE:"On that note I wanna add this: I'm not against technology but if you didn't have the right touch back then you couldn't DJ because different records had different grooves. So there are some songs that you can spin the record back and the grooves are so deep the needle will stay where it belongs, but then they got those records where the grooves aren't that deep. If you didn't touch it light enough and spin it back light enough the needles goes in the wrong place! The needle would jump out of pocket! They don't worry abot that no more! You had to have a skill set, you had to develop a skill set! You gotta be able to say,"Okay, no matter what record I put on I can spin it back properly!" Let's say Flash was DJing all night, the record might jump twice and that's incredible right there! Two times???? That's incredible!! You gotta remember you're also getting tired when you're DJing and you gotta be able to keep that same skill set! No matter what!" 

SIR NORIN RAD:"So that means you couldn't get yourself some Pink Champale or Colt 45 while you were DJing?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"No, you had to do your job. You better had nothing to drink on stage around the records. Period. Or around the amps, or around the speakers. You can't have no liquids up there."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Would you share your song titles with other DJs who came up to you and asked you about them? That's a common thing in Germany nowadays....."

DJ EZ MIKE:"Are you kidding me????? HELL NO!!!! Like what kind of question is that for a DJ to ask??? You don't give NOBODY your motherfucking song titles!!!! GO FIND IT!!!! You gotta remember your records is what makes your party better than the next guy's. That's why it is important to always shop, take your time, go through each album because someone else might find that beat before you. Don't be a biter! Try your best to make them wanna find out what you got!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Listening to these old tapes I noticed that Flash always cut up "Take Me To The Mardi Gras". Did he introduce thas beat to Hiphop?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"Yes, that was him. That was Flash's song! He found that one!  (hums the sound of the bells of that song) He would cut it with "Apache". He was killing it! I have to say there are a lot of DJs that are incredible at what they do but I never see nobody do what Flash did with two turntables. You know the slipmat? Flash invented that! He went to the store and bought felt, cut the felt around the record, spraystarched it with starch and then played it. The cue! Before Flash invented the cue there were knobs. It wasn't a switcher to click over. You had to turn the knob one way and the other knob the other way. That took too long for Flash to get back to the record before the break came in...the break went off! So he invented the cue inside of a cheap Gemini mixer. It allowed him to have that speed he needed."

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was the name of your soundsytem?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"The Gladiator! We had a mean soundsystem back then!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Would you like to give shout outs at the end of this interview?"

DJ EZ MIKE:"First of all I'd like to shout you out! I'd like to shout out my boy Norin Rad and the Intruders Crew! The most important shoutout that I wanna give is to my best friend, Grandmaster Flash!"


 

   

 

       `

Samstag, 7. Dezember 2019

                                                Interview with B-Boy Kusa (The Zulu Masters)


                                                                       
Kusa (The Zulu Masters)


                                                             
conducted by Sir Norin Rad (The Intruders / Germany)


SIR NORIN RAD:"From which part of the Bronx are you originally?"

KUSA:"Bronx, New York. Bronx River Houses. Born and raised!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was your first encounter with B-Boying?"

KUSA:"Okay, my first encounter...I was like 12, maybe 13....I wasn't really a Zulu King yet but they was throwing a jam in the center of Bronx River and they was playing the music and the Black Spades was there! I was looking around and they was dancing crazy! I always liked the music so I was hooked to the music already. When I saw them doing their thing and all that I said, "Yo, what am I getting myself into?" but at the same time as I said I liked the music so that's what drew me to it."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Do you recall which songs were played at that party in Bronx River Center?"

KUSA:"James Brown! A lot of James Brown....."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Give It up Or Turnit A Loose?"

KUSA:"Yeah and they had this joint which used to be like, "Soul Power!!!"  and the Black Spades always used to chant "Spade Power!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"What did the dance look like which the Black Spades were doing? I guess there weren't doing any floor moves?"

KUSA:"No, they were doing something with their feet and their hands.....it was like real deep and I was standing there like,"What am I getting myself into?" I mean they was doing their thing but it wasn't to the floor. It was no B-Boying!" 

SIR NORIN RAD:"Were they doing something like burning each other? Using certain hand gestures and facial expressions to intimidate their opponents on the dance floor?"

KUSA:"That was when B-Boying started coming in! Cause like you had a person that was breaking against you and they would take of  your head, throw it up and get a bat and swing it and it would look like they'd hit your head out of the ball park."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Ok, but you're saying that's not what the Black Spades were doing, right?"

KUSA:"No, no, no!!!! It was like a thing where they would be stomping with their heavy boots. They would wear a Levi's denim jacket with cut off sleeves with their gang sign colors on their back..."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Who was DJing at that party?"

KUSA:"Bambaataa was playing the music." 

SIR NORIN RAD:"So what happened after that party? What were your next steps towards becoming a B-Boy?"

KUSA:"Right after that it seemed like they left so fast....the Spades...I'm not saying they left but it seemed  like the wind blew in and they was gone, you know!? So then we started breakdancing...doing the floor thing....we used to dance wherever Bam used to play for people. 
We started breakdancing there and then we named ourselves the Zulu Kings. So he used to like pay us maybe 5$ and we would take that money and go to White Castle. You know, things like that. Then what happened was we started getting nicer and then talent shows started coming. Monroe, Stevenson, all around...now we wanted to get in the talent shows so we started performing there...doing our steps to "Apache" by The Incredible Bongo Band....we did our routines all that....and we used to win all the time. I mean, we never lost a talent show! When we used to  perform at these talent shows as soon as they said, "The Zulu Kings!!!" everybody left their seat, ran to the front, nobody was in their seat!!! Nobody!"

SIR NORIN RAD: Did the Zulu Masters / Kings have a specific practice spot?"

KUSA:"Yes, upstairs in the center in Bronx River. The community center. At that time when we was young the community center was open to us. We had no problems getting rooms or whatever. We would practice our routines there but we also practiced our individual moves at home, you know?"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Would you have a boom box with you?"

KUSA:"It was a record player because we had the albums."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Where did you get your name from?"

KUSA:"Afrika Bambaataa gave us our names."

SIR NORIN RAD:"What does "Kusa" stand for?"

KUSA:"It means "Superior King"."

SIR NORIN RAD:"From where did you know the other Zulu Kings?"
 
KUSA:"We grew up together. Zambu lived in my building. Yeah, he grew up in my building! I lived on the 7th floor, Zambu lived on the 5th floor.  Ahmed lived on the 8th floor. Aziz lived on the 12th floor. Shaka lived across from us in 1595. I also grew up with Beaver. He was always nasty! That was my man!!!! He was just one year younger than me. His brother Poo Poo, I hung with Poo Poo, too. Me and him was tight all the time! Beaver was never defeated by anyone!!! He was undefeated!! Undefeated!!! I mean I have never seen nobody with footwork like that in my life!!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Did you go to other areas and challenge the B-Boys over there as Zulu Kings?"

KUSA:"We was nice so we didn't have to do that. We just did our own thing. We went to other places and we danced over there but it wasn't really like a challenge thing because nobody really wanted to challenge us. But there were a lot of battles going on back then."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Who were the most outstanding B-Boys in those areas next to Bronx River......like in Monroe or Castle Hill?"

KUSA:"There was B-Boys in every projects!!!! Chipper and them.....those guys I remember. They were from Monroe. They also had a guy named Worm....he used to B-Boy. He was nasty!!" 

SIR NORIN RAD:"Afrika Zambu told me that in the beginning you called yourselves Zulu Masters. Why did you change that later on to Zulu Kings?"

KUSA:"I think we agreed that we didn't like that name so we changed it real quick. I don't even think we ever wore Zulu Masters on our shirts."  

SIR NORIN RAD:"Do you recall who recruited you for the Zulu Masters/ Kings?"

KUSA:"Man, I don't know if it was Bam but I think he was because he was the one who came up with the name "ZULU". So it has to be him if anything."

SIR NORIN RAD:"I have heard that a gentleman by the name of Poochie Turner who was very nice when it came to dancing was a huge influence on all of the original Zulu Masters/Kings. How important was he for your development as a B-Boy? Did he show you the ropes?"

KUSA:"Yes, him and Zambu but he had his own moves. He was a huge influence on all of us. He lived in my building and he was down in our era. He was real nasty! His favourite record was "Give It Up Turnit A Loose". 

SIR NORIN RAD:"When you are referring to footwork what exactly do you mean? Are you talking about doing certain movements with your feet while being in a crouching position on the floor?"

KUSA:"Yes, because there was no spinning on your head and things like that. We didn't do that!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"So footwork was very important in your era?"

KUSA:"Yes, it was! But I had a famous move they called the Jelly Roll. I would roll over and then flop on the floor."

SIR NORIN RAD:"How would you describe your own footwork style?"

KUSA:"Smooth and funky! I wasn't fast like Beaver. Beaver was something else....I mean I never saw anything like that in my life, man!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"What do you remember about the relationship of the Zulu Kings with the B-Boys of the Shaka Zulus? Wade, the founder of the Shaka Zulus, told me that he once auditioned to become a member of the Zulu Kings but you rejected him and so he became very upset and he went and formed his own crew which was called the Shaka Zulus. Bambaataa gave him his blessings to do that..."

KUSA:"Wade!! That's my man! (laughs heavily) He was down with us but we already had our main five (Shaka, Zambu, Aziz, Ahmed and Kusa). Later on I started to get out of it. I was getting a little older...you know, how people say they retire but nobody retires from that. Beaver came and he took my spot. Beaver came and he performed I think twice with the Zulu Kings at talent shows.  After that we (the original five Zulu Kings) got older. Things started fading from the B-Boy thing. Everything started to be like a laid back thing...cool....you know like you get a new wardrobe...you get fresh...you go to the party and chill listening to the music."

SIR NORIN RAD:"But do you remember the day when Wade was told that he didn't make it?"

KUSA:"Yes, I do but it wasn't a thing that he didn't make it. Wade was swift with his feet! Wade was nasty! He had is crew.....him, Popeye and some others that I can't remember. A couple of brothers and they was nasty!!!! But it was a thing that we had our main five already. We had already established that we were the Zulu Kings who were doing shows. Nobody else could get that name. So Wade and them became Shaka Zulus. It wasn't a thing that we didn't want him in. It was just a thing that we were already established with our name!"

Wade (The Shaka Zulus) & Kusa (The Zulu Masters)


SIR NORIN RAD:"I see. Do you also recall Wade's B-Boy partner Angel? A Puerto Rican B-Boy?"

KUSA:"Angel....Yes, I do. I think he was from Bronxdale."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Ok, there is a flyer from 1977 advertising a battle between the Zulu Kings and the Shaka Zulus at JHS 123..........."

KUSA:"Yeah, I remember that day!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"And I have heard that five Zulu Kings went against like 15 or 20 Shaka Zulus. Were you present at that battle?"

KUSA:"Yes I was!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Please describe how that battle went down!"

KUSA:"I'm gonna tell you it was like a real strong battle for maybe an hour!!! One hour! Strong! But to me it was like that it started as a battle but afterwards it was like we are all down together! So let's just rock and tear it up! You know, after a while it wasn't a battle no more it became like, "We are partying together! Let's just do our thing!" 

SIR NORIN RAD:"Who won that battle? Wade feels like his Shaka Zulus took you out that day!"

KUSA:"Okay, now you gotta remember it was five of us against fifteen of them. So if you got fifteen guys trying to tear up five people you're really coming at us!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"And I guess that whole thing took place on concrete?"

KUSA:"There was no cardboard...none of that. It was strictly on concrete floor....your knuckles got scraped up, you maybe fell...scratch your elbows...like I said everything was to the ground and fancy footwork! At that battle you had these two girls from Bronxdale...Reeta and Dee Dee..they were sisters.....one of them has passed....but they was nasty!!!!!  I never saw any B-Girls as nasty as them in my life!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Were they Shaka Zulus?"

KUSA:"No, they were just neighbourhood people (they were actually down with Mario's Chuck City Crew) but you know when you were in that circle we were all family, you understand??"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Who was DJing at that party?"

KUSA:"At 123? That was Bam.....and I think Disco King Mario...he had one side and Bam had the other. If I'm not mistaken because it also could have been just Bam. 123 was really Mario's spot after a while."

May 27th, 1977: The Zulu Kings battle the Shaka Zulus at JHS 123


SIR NORIN RAD:"Do you recall whether Mario had any B-Boys back then?"

KUSA:"Yes, they had B-Boys, they had Sterl, Cleamont....they had a couple of them. I can't get all their names but I know Sterl. Sterl was Dee Dee and Reeta's brother. He was nasty with his feet, too!!! Nasty!! Nasty!!"


B-Girl Dee Dee and her brother B-Boy Sterl (The Chuck City Crew/ Bronxdale)
 
SIR NORIN RAD:"Is it true that it was dangerous for B-Boys from outside of Bronx River to come to Bambaataa's parties back then? Like if they didn't behave accordingly they would get beaten up and have their sneakers and their silver medaillon taken from them?"


KUSA:"(chuckles) Well, I'm gonna say now that you're talking about this.....we were all in the same circle. It was like a thing...DON'T MESS UP IN BRONX RIVER!!....you know what I'm saying? Bam used to have packed parties but after a while we became real strong...Bronx River...and a lot of people they usually got their ass whipped! Like if it's packed up in there and you acted up you got it! And that's how these parties started dying down because people were scared to go there because there was always something jumping off! And it wasn't a thing that people were robbing and stealing it was a thing that once you got beat up they might take your stuff, too. That's how it was......"

SIR NORIN RAD:"So I guess it was always safer to know somebody from Bronx River if you wanted to go there?"

KUSA:"Exactly! A lot of things were happening! Don't get me wrong! You had this brother named Spider. I don't know how you wanna put it but he held it down when it came down to armour, you know what I'm saying? And you had a brother named Crazy Mike.  He was nasty with his hands. He had the handspeed, Spider had the armour game. Spider had a crew called the Gestapos. You had D.J., a couple of them they were Gestapo."

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was the function of the Gestapos? Were they security or were they B-Boys?"

KUSA:"They wasn't B-Boys. Nah!!! They was just down! They was from Bronx River and if you could say they were security but ain't nobody was messing with Bronx River! Nobody!!! Nooobody! Nobody came through there and if they did, they tried they never succeeded!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"When and how did all these other Zulu Kings join your ranks? I mean those that came in after the first five original members....like Pow Wow and Marcus Rockwell?"  

KUSA:"Pow Wow was already down with us. Pow Wow was down! He brought Marcus from his side. They was nasty, too! Pow Wow was nasty with his feet! Pow Wow was definetely nasty!!!! You gotta remember the Zulu Kings were first! Before even the Zulu Nation was formed! So many people wanted to be down with the Zulu Kings! That's why Bambaataa created the Zulu Nation."

Marcus Rockwell & Pow Wow (The Zulu Kings)


SIR NORIN RAD:"What was that part of the dance called that was done on top before you got down on the floor? Did you call it Top Rock or Up Rock?"

KUSA:"That thing was like a freestyle thing before you got to the floor. I don't really remember the names that you've just said. It was like a freestyle thing. You'd just do a little dance, get yourself ready before you drop, you know? It was like a freestyle thing."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Back in your era it was actually very important to match the beat with your dancing, right? Today there is a lot of incredible acrobatics involved but to me it oftentimes seems as if the soul and funkyness is missing."

KUSA:"It was totally different then. We really felt it back then, you know what I'm saying. The vibe that you see now is....(chuckles)....don't get me wrong..I watch some of the new stuff...especially the Chinese guys...they're nasty with the acrobatics but it is just not the same. The original flavour is gone! It's gone, man! But it has to be that way because eveything changes its course. "

SIR NORIN RAD:"So what were your top five B-Boy beats to go off to back then?"

KUSA:"The number one record is "Apache" by The Incredible Bongo Band, then you got James Brown...... "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose". Then you got "It's Just Begun"  by The Jimmy Castor Bunch...then you may have "Funky Music Is The Thing" by The Dynamic Corvettes and you had another one that I liked....it was "Listen To Me" by Baby Huey. The breakbeat on it was incredible!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"I love that song, too! The way it starts out kind of slow and then gradually becomes faster.......the break at the end of it.......the whole atmosphere....."

KUSA:"That's a mean joint right there! Certain songs when they used to play them back then and you would listen to them......they would get to you!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"So back then when you were partying in JHS 123 or in Bronx River those beats would move your soul?"

KUSA:"Yes they did! That's what kept me coming! The beats! And most of these records were right in your momma's house. They were right there!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"What kind of clothing would the Zulu Kings wear? Did you wear sweaters with your crew's name on it? "

KUSA:"At that time we didn't have sweatshirts. We had a T-Shirt that had "Zulu Kings" on it. Maybe one had a t-shirt with silver letters...then we had a shirt with blue or black letters. We mostly wore Lee and 69ers. Then Adidas came out a little later."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So Pro-Keds were like the B-Boys' footwear of choice back then?"

KUSA:"Yeah!! The 69ers....Maybe a little Converses, too. But Pro-Keds was definetely number one!"

Pro-Keds 69ers (from Sir Norin Rad's Sneaker collection)
  
SIR NORIN RAD:"Busy Bee Starski mentioned in that book "Yes, Yes, Y'all!" by Jim Fricke (page 52) that when he came to Bronx River for the first time cats over there were rocking ski jackets, ski hats and ski goggles. What do you remember about this?"

KUSA:"Yeah!! We had a thing called a one piece ski suit or you had a ski jacket and you wore ski goggles...like when it snowed. That was definitely a style back then. Definitely!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"And people danced in this kind of clothes?"

KUSA:"Well, some of us did but it wasn't a heavy snow suit. Later on I stopped messing with that after I had stopped breaking and then I just started dressing fresh. That came from going to a party every Friday and Saturday. Every Friday and Saturday we had a party to go to! So you can't wear the same clothes all the time. You gotta find something new. After a while it became like a style thing, you know? Like who could rock the flyest gear? Who looked better? Not who looked better but how you looked, your appearance. It was an appearance thing. You couldn't come in there sloppy!!! Nobody really in those parties came sloppy.  They was fresh! There was no bummy thing about that!!!!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"So you would cop stuff like the Italian knits, the Alpaca sweaters, the Playboys, the British Walkers, right? Would you shop at A.J. Lester's?"

KUSA:"We had a place called Jew Man's. A.J. Lester's was a little step up. Jew Man's started getting stuff like that. Then we had another spot on Freeman street called Sneaker King.. That's were we brought our stuff from 'cause we made a lot of deals with Jew Man's."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Would you wear Kangols?"

KUSA:"I wasn't a Kangol person. We was more into getting a hair cut, putting stuff in your hair to make it shine. Me and Poo Poo and my man Charles a.k.a. Rock we stayed fresh. It was a couple of us, man. It became a thing in the late 1970ies that we laid back now. Rock Steady and them came into the game then. B-Boys started doing headspins and stuff like that. We wasn't getting dirty and sweaty no more. It was a thing where we would just fall back, mingling with girls." 

SIR NORIN RAD:"Which locations would you go to in order to party after you had stopped B-Boying?"

KUSA:"We would go to the T-Connection, the Fever......then of course we would still always party in Bronx River. In the summer time there would be multiple jams." 

SIR NORIN RAD:"When did you first notice Puerto Rican B-Boys entering the scene? Were there any notable Puerto Rican B-Boys that you remember from Bronx River? I mean Angel from Bronxdale who was down with the Shaka Zulus was obviously a Puerto Rican B-Boy?"

KUSA:"Angel was like a black Puerto Rican at that time 'cause if you look at Angel he didn't look Spanish. Now the Spanish came when Rock Steady and them came (late 1970ies)....at least in my eyes! But we had one brother named Peter Garcia...he was from Bronx River....he was Little Zambu. He was nasty with his feet,too!!! God bless the dead! Nasty!!!! Nasty!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Which building was he from?"

KUSA:"Little Zambu was from 1440. There was no trouble between Blacks and Puerto Ricans in Bronx River. At that time it was love. That was it. Only outsiders who came there and acted up got in trouble. I say it like this, Bam didn't want it like that. We were like brothers. "

SIR NORIN RAD:"How would you rate each of the original 5 Zulu Masters / Kings?"

KUSA:"When we started we was just so free with it.  Each member had his own different style. We was like a dance group...we was nasty when the parties came. We would form a circle and we would just do our thing. That's how it was! All this other stuff came later. Aziz was nasty, Shaka......all of us. We was nice! But like I said once Beaver came and I started watching him.....I don't know this boy had like rubberband legs.....Beaver was soo advanced!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"So when Beaver entered the scene he changed the whole game of breaking? Do you recall a battle between him and Lil Boy Keith in Bronx River?"

KUSA:"Yeah, it was over when Beaver came! He took it to another level. I mean it was difficult to see his feet. That's how fast he was moving. Lil Boy Keith never took out Beaver. It wasn't like that. Lil Boy Keith was nasty, I'm telling you! But Beaver dominated to me. Lil Boy Keith is my man but Beaver was on a different level. Keith and Marcus....they were nasty! I give them that. Probably many people think there a was a battle but as I said it was a thing that we all just got in there. By that time I had stopped already. Everybody just did their thing, you know what I'm saying?  Beaver was never defeated just like he said in his interview!"

Beaver (The Little Zulu Kings)

SIR NORIN RAD:"Which role played the Hustle dance at those parties in Bronx River back then?"

KUSA:"Hustling was in there. Hustling was with the B-Boy thing. That's when the DJs would play certain things and you had a brother named Boyo! God bless the dead! I mean the way he hustled.....the girls used to wait on line to hustle with him! He was so nasty!! He could dance with two girls at the same time! Spin one arm and then another one would come. They would be waiting 'cause he was so smooth with it! He was from Bronx River....he lived in 1609....and he was Spanish....Boyo was Puerto Rican."

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was your relationship with the Crazy 8 Zulus from Monroe? DJ Afrika Issac and DJ Afrika Little Khayan?"

KUSA:"That's my peoples, man!! Damn, how you know all of this stuff?!? They was down, they had their little set. You gotta remember I used to DJ, too! I remember when we were young DJs and we were playing in the old center and it was four rooms. I played in one, Lil Khayan and Issac played in another room.....I forgot the other crews that played in there. It was four DJs going on and my room was the most crowded and Issac their room was also very crowded. The other two in the back I can't remember but they had no crowd."

DJ Afrika Issac and DJ Afrika Little Khayan (The Crazy 8)


SIR NORIN RAD:"What made you start DJing? Did Afrika Zambu teach you?"

KUSA:"Well, you know I'd say yes and no because I started doing my little thing, too, with the cutting and scratching but Zambu definitely had an influence because we used to go to his mom's house. We used his mom's stereo and I would take my mom's stereo and  bring it downstairs. At that time we didn't have a mixer we just turned the knob up and down. That's when it was starting." 

SIR NORIN RAD:"I have been told that Afrika Zambu was Afrika Bambaataa's first DJ partner along with a gentleman by the name of DJ Sinbad.

KUSA:"Yes, Sinbad was the soundman. He actually DJed a little bit, too."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Then later on Afrika Islam and DJ Jazzy Jay replaced them, right? They adapted to that new style of DJing which involved the backspin that had been invented by Grandmaster Flash....."

KUSA:"Exactly! And Grandwizard Theodore!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Would you like to give shout outs at the end of this interview?"

KUSA:"I would like to shout out my family! Brent, Bolo, Bert, Joey Crack, Timmy, TB, Mike, Rock, Tony Rome and the rest of my brothers and sisters from Bronx River."







Sonntag, 3. November 2019

                           Interview with MC Roger K (The T.N.T. Disco Crew / The Jazzy 3 MCs)

 
Roger K (The T.N.T. Disco Crew / The Jazzy 3 MCs)


                                  conducted by Sir Norin Rad (The Intruders / Germany)


SIR NORIN RAD:"From which part of the Boogie Down Bronx are you originally?"

ROGER K:"Well I'm originally from.....and always still from... 225th street & Laconia Avenue. This is an area known as Edenwald Projects. It is a very well known projects throughout the entire state of New York. It is very urban, very inner city with all of the problems and things that come with it. I in fact lived in a building 1155....East 225th street ...between Laconia and Schieffelin."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Where and when did your first encounter with Hiphop take place?"

ROGER K:" My very first time that I heard anything about Hiphop was from a DJ called Kool Herc. Very big guy, tall, red beard, very well known in the Hiphop community. He is what I looked up to. He really didn't have any MCs at that time. There were people who would just come up who knew him and asked to take the mic and they would just freestyle or whatever it was at that time. And then shortly after that other crews began to form like The Brothers Disco and I was very influenced by them and later on we...The T.N.T Disco Crew....we used to open up for them and in very big venues. And so we became well-known and they saw how well we performed so we opened up for them at a lot of places. That's how we met Grandmaster Flash and Grandwizard Theodore and so on and so forth."

SIR NORIN RAD:"So in terms of your major influence in MCing it was the MCs of the The Funky Four ( MC squad of The Brothers Disco)?"

ROGER K:"Oh, yes! Definetely! I mean they were such a big influence on myself and the Jazzy 3 MCs and our DJs because first of all we all knew each other. When you grew up in Edenwald you were well-known just for growing up there. It was a place where if they didn't know you or if you weren't known by someone who lived there you would not come into. And it's still that way to this day! It's crazy! The Brothers Disco would come to Edenwald and perform there and you know back in the days they had the ropes up so that you couldn't come to where the MCs and DJs were and since we were known we were able to come under the ropes and listening to them. They were a huge influence, a huge influence!!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Do you recall which MC of the Funky Four specifically influenced you to become a MC yourself?"

ROGER K:"Well, because at the time your rhymes were very important but the way you sounded on the mic...your voice..that's what drew people. MC Sha Rock...who happens to be a female...when she picked up the mic and when she rocked the mic....I mean, I seen people who never ever had even heard anyone on the mic....they would come. I saw parents come from grocery stores with their children just walk up to see what was going on just because of the melodic sound of her voice!  She was awesome! After her I would say MC Keith Keith and MC Rahiem. They were very instrumental, very instrumental. And then the way I would see DJ Breakout mix the records and DJ Baron...and those were favourite records like "Apache" and "Good Times". Then when I heard that and when I saw how the crowd would hear the music....they would just be like lifted with joy!!! And then the MCs would come on and they would just level everyone! There would be just total elation!!!! It was something to be seen!"  

SIR NORIN RAD:"Oh, man!! You picture it very well!"

ROGER K:"I have to tell you I got goose bumps right now just from you helping me relive that! It was awesome and it will forever be a part of my life, forever!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"That took place in the late 1970ies, right? Like 1978, 1979?"

ROGER K:"Oh yes, around 1978 but prior to that I was listening to DJ Kool Herc and MCing wasn't really popular at that time. DJs would come out and they would play the music. People would come out and they would barbecue and they would just have a good time. Outdoors it was hot, no one wanted to be in the house.  So you would hear this music with these big speakers echoing throughout the projects and you'd just be drawn to it. I mean, we as a people are always drawn to music. It's just within us. And then as we heard this music....some of our favourite songs and some of our favourite parts of these songs (the breakbeats) being played over and over again...you'd say,"How does this person do that?" and you'd get to the ropes and you'd see this man with these two turntables..at the time Technics...and you'd say,"Mmmh, that's how he keeps playing my favourite part of the song without any interuption!" It was awesome! It was awesome!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Having spoken to a lot of the original B-Boys I know that there was a time in Hiphop before there were any MCs, when the jams were all about the DJs and the B-Boys and B-Girls and legendary songs like "Apache", "Scorpio","It's Just Begun", "Yellow Sunshine" had them dancing....."

ROGER K:"Yeah, you named them correctly! Especially "Apache"! When it would come on and you would hear that ( hums the melody of "Apache") and you'd hear the beat and then the drums came in and you would see the B-Boy just go off!!! Crowds would form around them...circles....I mean way before MCs...circles and they would go off! I mean the acrobatics and the physicality of it all! And you were just drawn to watch them, listening to your favourite songs and then later on as the MCs were introduced to Hiphop they would be saying stuff like, "Yeah, I see you Kenny Boy!" This and that! Whoever their favourite B-Boy was."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Let's go back for a minute to how T.N.T. Disco was formed. What did TNT  stand for? ?"

ROGER K:"Tommy and Tony. Tommy was our manager...God rest him...he passed away. They formed it. Timmy Tim was one of the original DJs and later on we got DJ Shevin and he was amazing. People said he was better than DJ Flash and DJ Theodore. Other crews tried to steal him from us, you know? They really encouraged him they said, "You can make so much money!" This and that! But he stayed loyal!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Is DJ Shevin the same person as DJ Shevy Shev? I have seen both DJ names on TNT Disco Flyers."

ROGER K:"Yes, that's him. His real name is Shevin. I went to junior high school with this guy."


May 12th, 1978: DJ Shevin & DJ Timmy Tim (TNT Productions at that time) rocking at Edenwald Center

SIR NORIN RAD:"So DJ Timmy Tim and DJ Shevy Shev were the DJs of TNT Disco when you joined that crew?"

ROGER K:"Very true. Later on Shevy Shev I believe he went on to school, to further his education. So he didn't have time for DJing between his studies and, you know, we would always have to party late and we would travel and we didn't have people to carry our speakers. So not only were we MCs, we were sort of  government mules. We had to help with the speakers on and off the van, set them up and so we learnt those things. Shevy Shev wanted to pursue his further education so his time was limited. Yes, they were our first DJs until later when DJ Shevy Shev left DJ Gary G had gotten a sort of an audition and he ripped it up and he became our DJ along with DJ Timmy Tim."

SIR NORIN RAD:"And Gary G was Timmy Tim's record boy before that, correct?"

ROGER K:"You really did your homework! Yes he was, he was Timmy Tim's record boy!  And as a matter of fact had it not been for DJ Gary G I wouldn't have become a part of TNT Disco. Gary G had heard me because he lived in a building that was connected to mine and we were also childhood friends.We grew up together. So I knew that he DJed and that he was the record boy of DJ Timmy Tim. He heard me one time as he was practicing in his house. He said, "I'm gonna DJ for TNT! Watch, watch! One day I'm gonna replace Timmy Tim!" I said, "Maybe you will, maybe you won't." I wasn't even a MC at that time really. I started...without a mic..I started MCing and he heard my voice and he was like, "Roger K, your voice!!!" because as I said back then the voice was very important because it drew the people to you. Back then you could understand what we said unlike today where you cannot understand what many rappers are saying... for whatever reason. At that time you wanted to hear the person's rhymes but also the voice. Gary G said, "Man, listen! I'm gonna tell Tommy Tom about you!" So they were needing another MC and Tommy Tom lived directly across the street from me in one of the private houses and I went over there one day and I MCed and when I started to MC I saw them clapping their hands, dancing, saying, "Oh, my!" This and that!  Just from the sound of the  voice because a lot of the voices back then were deep like bass but when I would come on I'd be like,"Yes, yes y'all! And to the beat y'all! And you don't stop! You keep on!!!" (uses a higher pitched voice) They was like,"Uuuh!" and I didn't even start rhyming but the sound of the voice and the octave of the voice moved them. So Tommy Tom said, "Yo, you come back tomorrow!" And then I rocked at my first jam with them, from then on I became part of the TNT Disco Crew!" 

SIR NORIN RAD:"So Tommy Tom was your manager?"

ROGER K:"He was the manager, he was the one who sort of got our equipment."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Who were the other two MCs of the Jazzy 3?"

ROGER K:"Kid Ice and Gangster Bee."

SIR NORIN RAD:"When did they join the T.N.T Disco Crew?"

ROGER K:"Well, Kid Ice was before me and Gangster B had actually probably joined TNT Disco maybe three to six months before me."

SIR NORIN RAD:"In which year were the Jazzy 3 MCs added to the T.N.T. Disco Crew?"

ROGER K:"Well, we started in 1979 and continued into the early 1980s but the DJs of the TNT Disco Crew had started well before that."

SIR NORIN RAD:"I have been told that many DJs in the Northeast Bronx initially started out as Disco DJs and then later on adapted to the Hiphop style of DJing as it had been created by Kool DJ Herc and as it was taken to the next level by Grandmaster Flash and others. Does that also apply to the DJs of the T.N.T. Disco Crew?"

ROGER K:"I would say it applies to the T.N.T. Disco Crew but we refused to change our name because disco was the thing that started it. You know when you have a strong foundation and then you build upon that you don't wanna toss away your foundation because the rest of it will fall. So although the disco style of DJing started being pushed in the back there would be many times when we would mix in soul music and made it into something that we would call Hiphop music today. The records were records, there was no such thing as rap records at the time. There was not even one rap record made!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"When people nowadays talk about Hiphop music I often ask them, "What exactly do you mean by that?" because without the great music genres of Funk, Soul, Jazz, Rock etc. the DJs back then would have had no source to draw their beats from to rock for the B-Boys and then for the MCs. There is no Hiphop music independent of those aforementioned  music genres and the beats to be found therein."

ROGER K:"Yes, and to expand on that thought, brother Norin, look at Aerosmith's "Walk This Way"! We were playing that in the 1970ies looong before Run-D.M.C. had ever heard of it and there was a group called Kraftwerk.....I'll never forget....we used to love to rock over this record..it was called "Transeurope Express" (hums the melody of this song).  And we would just rock!!!!! Once we heard it we got goose bumps. We were almost fighting for the mic! "Let me rock to this!" There was no such thing as Hiphop records! We were taking things from James Brown, we were taking things from all different genres and made them Hiphop."
 
SIR NORIN RAD:"Even that B-Boy anthem "The Mexican" by Babe Ruth is basically a rock song."

ROGER K:"Are you kidding me? (laughs) Yes it is! And we used to love to rock over that! I mean the funky part of any song no matter what genre it was from, no matter who made it...it's not a discriminatory thing. That's what I love about music it transcends ethnicity, it transcends  age, it transcends gender...it's a universal language and when you find something like that which can connect people and draw people together how can it not be good, my brother?"

SIR NORIN RAD:"How would the rehearsals of the Jazzy 3 MCs go down and where would they take place?"

ROGER K:"We would go of course to Tommy Tom's house as I said he lived across the street  from me, directly across from the housing projects and we would have a certain time and we would meet there three times a week. If you were not there you would be fined because we would get paid for all the shows that we did. So if you didn't show up you would get fined because he knew how important it was to rehearse.  So we would go there and bounce rhymes off of each other and we'd ask each other, "How does this sound when we rock on this?" Then we'd be like, "Let's start doing some routines!" and we would say,"Look at this move!" Look at that move!" 'cause you gotta remember now not only are we MCing, we're also trying to take the attention away from the B-Boys because the B-Boys was there before we started MCing. So the  people would form around the B-Boys. Now they would come and wanna listen to us as soon as we started dancing and as we started pointing out the crowd and said something like,"Yo, Bernie Bee is in the house! Koolin' out! Check, check him out!" People would hear their names and they would say,"Uh, that's me!" and they'd feel pride. And so we formed our routines and they were simple routines, you know? It was just something that was gelling together but we would always practice three times a week. We couldn't wait for the next jam to come! We couldn't wait because we wanted to try these new routines. Then we had battles against other DJs and MCs and we took first place so many times! God bless Tommy Tom, he had most of our trophies...I don't know where they are. We won 6-foot-trophies, 5-foot-trophies...most of the times we took first place, a couple of times we took second. We really flourished! As I said had certain things not occured which I don't know specifically what they were...we could have made it really far but it began with the death of Tommy Tom..once he had passed away.. being that he was our manager..things started to become loose. He was a strong link to us and then when his link was severed then the crew became preoccupied with other things 'cause they saw that the ship was not going to sail as well as it would and we went our separate ways."     


August 24th, 1979: TNT Disco competes in a DJ/MC battle at the legendary Webster P.A.L.

SIR NORIN RAD:"So rehearsing three times a week was an integral part of your life back then?"

ROGER K:"Oh yes!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"How long did one rehearsal last?"

ROGER K:"It was so funny. We may say that we gonna rehearse for three or four hours but once we got that music in our soul and once we got together and once we started rocking and started creating sometimes these rehearsals would last five, six, seven hours. Tommy Tom's mother would say,"Listen! It's getting late! We do have neighbours! You gotta cut that off!" But the neighbours were outside rocking to our music, they didn't want us to stop. (laughs) We may originally wanted to do a three hour rehearsal but we couldn't really put a time on it 'cause once we got into it.....you know, time always passes very fast when you're having fun and we had fun!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Was there a DJ with you when you did these rehearsals?"

ROGER K:"Of course! DJ Shevy Shev and DJ Timmy Tim they had to be there otherwise they would be fined just like we would be fined. When it was rehearsal time you had better been there! You're part of the crew, you better be there! This is rehearsal for us. There is nobody that is going to stand in for us when we get to have our jam, when we have to rock the mic or rock the turntables. We have to do that! If we have to do that we have to practice to do that! And you know, the only way you get better is by repeating something over and over again. Practice makes perfect and we were damn near perfect in my opinion."

SIR NORIN RAD:"True original MCing also involved how you looked and how you presented yourself when you were rocking the mic, didn't it?"

ROGER K:"Yes, that was very important! It was very important to dress fly and we didn't have to have matching outfits at the time, you know? We just dressed fly. Our personality shone through when we had our Lees on, the bell-bottom Lees with the Pro-Keds 69ers or the Pumas, when we wore knit shirts or mocknecks. It was very important to look good because first of all we were trying to look good for ourselves but we were also impressing the people, especially the ladies. The guys were checking out our gear as well. Then our choreographies were also real nice. So it was like a show. Everybody didn't have money to go out, you know? But you could go to the park or you could go and spend 2$ and come to the gym and have a good time. It was a party! I'll never forget..it was 2$, 3,50$ and to look at the prices to enter a club today is ridiculous. You don't even get half the entertainment that we gave you!!!! We gave you a show!!!  It was almost like coming to a concert. As I said you paid 2$ or 3,50$ or you would pay nothing. You would go to the park and you would see two or three DJs perform with their MCs and everything. It was so nice you didn't want to leave. Even when we were packing up we still had to leave one turntable playing!!! Just so that they let us pack up! And then we would say something like, "Okay we thank you for coming out everybody! We love y'all!" They would scream and they would not want to leave. They would not want to leave! It was amazing!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Did the Jazzy 3 MCs also have such routines like the Funky 4 or the Cold Crush 4 had which featured the melodies of popular songs?"

ROGER K:"Yes, of course! We even made up our own melodies. I wish that I had MC Kid Ice and MC Gangster Bee with us. I mean we would take popular melodies, have variations of popular melodies and there was one where the DJ would hold the record and in the beginning we'd sing, "This T-N-T and we're the Jazzy Three and another one of us who got the best cuts is DJ Gary G!!!!!!! So come on everybody and put your hands up in the air and come to the front and do us a favor so we know that you care!!!! T-N-T we are the best y'all!!! I can't believe I remember that."

SIR NORIN RAD:"Damn! You have an incredibly nice voice I must say!"

ROGER K:"And we made that up!!! We made that up!!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"Could you please describe which specific role each MC of the Jazzy 3 had back then within your MC squad?"

ROGER K:"I would ultimately say that Kid Ice had the most advanced rap style. He was very intense with the words and his creativity. Kid Ice was unmatched when it came to having rhymes. I mean he had books and books full of rhymes! He had so many rhymes he would even say, "Roger K I wrote this rhyme but it don't sound good with me. This would be perfect for your voice!" So Kid Ice with the words and everything was nice. He was the man!  They would give me rhymes because they knew I had a voice and they saw that the crowd liked my voice. Certain rhymes that I came up with Kid Ice would tweak.  He would say, "Do it this way, Roger K!"And then I would and it would be successful. Gangster Bee would be the one who would  hype up the crowd,"Come on, y'all!!!! Put your hands up! Come on y'all, let's go!!!!" And he also had his own rap style and he was good but he was the one who would hype up the crowd, "Come on y'all! Roger K is in the house!" Then I would come on and it was weird because I remember coming on and I was always nervous, no matter how many times we performed I was always nervous and then when I would come on after the first couple of words I would hear the crowd screaming and that just hyped me up. Then I was on! I was nervous no more. Initially, you're getting ready. Like,"Come on!" You're hearing your compadres, your co-rockers rock the mic and you're hearing the crowd rocking.... happy to hear them. So you're wondering in the background,  "God! I'm up next!" You know? And then when you get on and they say,"Yo Roger K! Don't stop! Just put on your mic when you ready to rock!" Then I would get on and the crowd would go crazy. I just instantly lost my nervousness cause I was over the question, "Am I gonna please these people? Am I gonna give them what they want?" So yeah, Kid Ice was the one with the rhymes, Gangster Bee was definetely our hype man like Flavor Flav but he also rhymed, I had the outstanding voice and then our performances just made it come to a paramount."


April 3rd, 1980: T.N.T. Disco is rocking at the legendary T-Connection in the Bronx along with the Brothers Disco and DJ Sinbad & Kool Kyle The Starchild 
SIR NORIN RAD:"Who was the DJ that was playing the beats for you when you were performing as the Jazzy 3? I have noticed that from 1980 onwards it's mainly DJ Gary G who is listed on these original flyers with you."

ROGER K:"That's correct because as I said DJ Shevy Shev had gone back to school so he didn't have much time but he was never dismissed from the crew. Whenever he would show up we would want him to get on. As time went on he left New York for a little bit to further his studies and then it was just DJ Timmy Tim and DJ Gary G and Gary G became better than Timmy Tim. He just became better. I mean practice makes perfect. Timmy Tim was a wonderful DJ but he left practice. Gary G was hungry, he wanted it he would practice all the time...no matter what it was he would practice. So when I came by his window and I'd hear him practice when I'd be coming home from work...part time job or whatever...I would run up the stairs and get on the mic. We had crowds forming downstairs underneath his window! They would  approach us later on, "Yo, we heard you practice!!" This and that!! "What was that rhyme that you said about Adam and Eve???" So we were like, "Wow, they were really listening!" But Gary G was hungry and when you're hungry you gonna eat. So he took over! Excellent DJ!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"What are your Top 5 Beats from back then?"

ROGER K:"Oh Top 5...I know that "Apache" (by the Incredible Bongo Band) is definetely one. "Frisco Disco" by Eastside Connection is two. "Transeurope Express" by Kraftwerk is three. Number four is that song "Paradise is very nice....." ("Shangri La" by La Pregunta). To this day if I hear them I don't even care if there's a mic next to me I gonna rock!!! Number five is "Good Times" (by Chic) Ohh!!! You put on "Good Times" and if somebody is on the mic I'm gonna take it from him!" 

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was the main stomping ground of The T.N.T. Disco Crew?"

ROGER K:"Every part of Edenwald especially because when we rocked in the centers.....the Edenwald Center and Baychester Center we would have to share whatever we brought in. And then it was a limited amount of space. So when we would rock there we would be doing it because we would be getting paid but it could only hold legally a certain amount of people. So I would say that the Edenwald Center and Baychester Center and the surrounding schools like John Philip Sousa Junior High School they were good as far as lucrativity, as far as getting paid but as far as me seeing the crowds of people.....cause it really wasn't about the money, it was about seeing the people run through the gates of the parks to see and hear us rock and come to the front of our ropes and look at us. It was the parks! For me it was the parks. I can't speak for Gangster Bee and Kid Ice but for me it was the parks. Of course I could use an extra dollar but for me that wasn't my satisfaction. My satisfaction was when we would be in the parks."


October 31st, 1980: The T.N.T. Disco is rocking at Sousa JHS 

SIR NORIN RAD:"Which parks in Edenwald would you rock at?"

ROGER K:"112 park near my elementary school...where I went to elementary school and of course graduated and there's a big baseball field out there and we would rock that park. Oh, another one was The Valley Park near Haffen pool. That's where DJ Breakout and them used to rock at as well."

SIR NORIN RAD:"I have heard a lot about The Valley. Many legendary B-Boy and DJ/MC Battles took place there. How did these original DJ /MC battles go down back in the days? It was about showcasing your skills, wasn't it?"

ROGER K:"Yes, it was! It was about who made the crowd more enthused! We wouldn't talk about your mother, we wouldn't talk about your girl, we were talking about us, about our skills and the crowd. We would talk about , "We make the ladies jump and we can rock better than you!" It wasn't personal. It was about talent. In order to make myself look good I don't have to make you look bad or offend you. I just have to be the best person that I could be and that's how it was. It wasn't about trying to disrespect each other. The talent could prove who we are and where we come from."  

SIR NORIN RAD:"What was your relationship with the other legendary DJ/MC crews from the Northeast Bronx besides The Brothers Disco? Like The Touch Of Class Disco Crew, The P.T. Disco Crew, The Music Masters or The C.B. Crew?"

ROGER K:"Touch Of Class they were very cool. We loved all the crews that were doing what we did. We would go to see Tricky Tee's crew (The C.B. Crew) like whenever they booked Edenwald Center. We'd go and show them support and at the same time you wanted know what your competition was doing. That makes you better. If your competition is doing something that is making the crowd jump and has everybody rocking, you wanna know how you can bring your game up! So it's always good to go and listen to your competition but at the same time we loved these brothers! We came from the same areas! We came from the same hoods, you know? Tricky Tee and I went to elementary school together, junior high school together and then high school everybody went their separate way. That's my brother for life."

SIR NORIN RAD:"What kind of place was Baychester Center?"

ROGER K:"It was small, it was sort of quiet. It was right across the street from Edenwald Projects. We couldn't book it as much because there were more Caucasian (white) people at the time, it was more conservative so we would have to end the party really early. Edenwald Projects was Edenwald Projects! You know, you would end the party maybe 3 o' clock in the morning, maybe 4 o'clock..that was the latest. Baychester Center..if we rented it out we had to start like 4, 5 o'clock in the afternoon and we would have to end the party at maybe 12 or 1 o'clock. Come on, we just started rocking at that time!! We were just getting warmed up!"

SIR NORIN RAD:"So you're saying that you and your crewmates were rocking for like 6,7 hours straight?"


ROGER K:"Of course!!! Of course we would! Listen, as many records are in that crate we gonna rock them! We wanted the people to have a good time! And when we were outside we wouldn't stop until the cops came by and told us to stop! We started setting up our equipment in the park around 5.30 or 6 o'clock...something like that...we sometimes wouldn't get out of that park before 3 or 4 O'clock in the morning. The cops would come around and they would look if the crowd would be getting too big or if some people started to act crazy because sometimes people would be like, "Yo, you looking at my girl?????" and then somebody might pull out a gun...BLOW!!....one gunshot... people would be getting trampled because the park was so crowded. So that's why the cops would tell us, "Listen, you have to stop now before it's getting crazy!" But we rocked...6 hours is nothing....are you kidding me?? That's why I said you don't go to concerts today for 6 hours! That's almost like a full-time job!!! It would come to the point where we had to freestyle....usually we would write all of our rhymes and we wouldn't be reading them but we had them committed to memory. So we would be rocking and I would go literally through maybe two or three of my entire rhyme books and then we just had to freestyle. We would look into the crowd and we had to come off the top of our head. To us it was like a job!! We wanted to deliver a good time to the people that came to see us and not one person is going to leave there unsatisfied! Not one person!!"


SIR NORIN RAD:"That's really amazing!!"

ROGER K:"Yeah, because nowadays,you know, a lot of them are just here for the dollar. They made their records, they made their money so some of them don't even want to perform for an hour. Nah man, it wasn't about that!!! Cause we was partying with the crowd, we stayed there until we were told to leave and that was never unless it was by the police. To this day I still feel the same way. I went to a Chris Brown concert. Yes, Chris Brown rocked the concert, yes he did!  But he had like 4, 5 other performers with him and the concert was maybe 3 hours. I paid like 200 $ and change for the ticket and the concert was like 3 hours. Back then the people paid almost nothing and we rocked for six to seven hours!" 

February 27th, 1981: The T.N.T. Disco Crew is rocking at the legendary T-Connection along with DJ Jazzy Jay & The Jazzy Five



 

                                Interview with DJ EZ Mike (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)                                    ...