Rakim: The Early Years (As Told By Those Present)

The following "oral history" is actually a compilation of statements made by DJ Belal (of Groove B Chill), Freddie "DJ Kaos" Cox (of Too Poetic), Sid "S.I.D." Reynolds (of Sid & B-Tonn and Crimedanch Cartel) and John "Oxygen" Everette. The majority of these were taken from interviews conducted by Jesse Serwer and posted to his blog, which though now defunct is preserved in the Internet Archive. The three pieces not taken from Serwer's site come from other blogs and a DJ Belal Facebook post. The exact URLs referenced here are listed below. None of the original words have been altered by Long Island Rap Blog in any way, with the exception of some minor deletions and grammar/spelling corrections.

The Kid Wizard

DJ Belal: I met a 12-year-old kid called William Pop Griffin, yes the Kid Splash, the Kid Wizard Rakim, the God Rakim. This dude sounded so good at 12 rapping most MCs could not even come close NOWHERE. So I stopped rhyming…

DJ Kaos: Wyandanch used to be one big…everyone was interchanging, this one’s down with this one, that one’s down with that one. At one point we had a group where Rakim was in it … with him and these guys G-Stro, Grandmaster Chas, Teddy Ted. I think it was the Almighty Force?

DJ Belal: Before I started deejaying, back in ‘83, I used to be an MC in a crew called the Almighty 5 MCs. That was my first crew. But I couldn’t MC, really. I tried doing my little rhyming thing but they were so good. Rakim was in there.

DJ Kaos: We had slight beef back in the day over a name. ‘Cause I was Wiz MC and Rakim used to be the Kid Wizard.

DJ Belal: When I say he was a child prodigy, he was a child prodigy. He didn’t act his age. We called him “Pop” because he always acted older.

The Love Brothers

DJ Belal: Ra was in another group called the Love Brothers that was a carbon copy of the Cold Crush Brothers. They’d do their routines at my man Snake’s house. We was all bouncing from house to house, where our parents would let us rock at.

DJ Kaos: He wasn’t a biter but when he was with Love Brothers, he used to say, “The L baby the L,” and I’d say, “You got that from DLB in the Fearless Four.” I was always that one criticizing. If you did it wrong, I’m gonna tell you.

S.I.D.: Rakim was a part of the Love Brothers with these guys Rashan, Snake and Cool Breeze and G-Stro.

DJ Belal: …Love brother #1 Snake L, Love Brother # 2 Ron Drew, Love Brother #3 The Kid Wizard Rakim, Love Brother #4 MC Blade, and Canard Brown at the rope as security ready to punch somebody in the face if they passed that rope.

With the Wyandanch High School Band


Wyandanch High School Band

DJ Belal: Ra used to play baritone sax in the Wyandanch High School Band. I played the bass drum. The producer Nate Tinsley, too, we all was in that band together. Our band director was from Southern University so he taught us their stuff that was unprecedented for Long Island. Ra’s brother used to be one of the band teachers. We just called him Mr. Griffin, I think his name was Ronnie? Ra’s other brother, Stevie Blast, played the keyboards on most of Paid in Full.

The Talent Show Tape 

Oxygen: The Wyandanch High joint. Belal brought Biz to my house one night, and all Biz wanted to see was my tapes. He took this one box, dumped the tapes out on the bed, sat on the floor and he was like, “I got this, I got this,” and then he saw the Wyandanch one. He has the master copy. My copy’s pretty clean but he’s got the one that I want. I just want a copy, Biz. That’s one of the historic area documents.

DJ Belal: The classes of 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983 my class, 1984, 1985, 1986 the party crew that set us off, 1987, 1988. These classes remember what hip hop was foreal and gave us the fuel to keep going. A special shout out To Wyandanch High School for letting us rock at the parties and the talent shows there where this tape was made.

Oxygen: It was at that show [Biz] introduced a live version of [“Make the Music with Your Mouth Biz”] before the single even dropped. Instead of TJ Swan on the chorus and the beat that made it to the final version, this performance featured a much more raw beat that sounded to me like Synsonic drums. The chorus was actually this vocoder voice finessed similar to the way the Fearless Four used it on “F-4000.″ Classic! It’s hard to believe that was over twenty-five years ago now that I reflect back on it.

DJ Belal: Biz use to do the beatbox in front of  Wyandanch High School and Chill & Rakim be rapping in the front. We made the high school a house party and they didn't even know it.

The 7 MCs

DJ Belal: He was saying, “I take 7 MC’s put ‘em all in a line” when he was 13...

I remember being in Brentwood at a little house party [years later] and Smitty’s group, the Rock Squad came down. From Wyandanch, it was just me and Ra and some people who weren’t MCs. And Ra tore them up by himself. He did the whole “Seven MCs in a line” routine then. The look on they face was priceless because it was 7 of them.

Wyandanch Day

DJ Belal: On Wyandanch Day, we had different crews, one and three or four DJs all rocking at the same time, all night on the basketball court, the tennis courts. It’s nowhere near what it used to be. If you were able to get out there in the park and show your skills, you was the man. LL used to be behind the rope trying to get on. He never touched that microphone. You had to be elite to get on. You couldn’t just come out of the blue.

S.I.D.: I used to set up my equipment in the park when I was 10 or 11. I was known as the littlest DJ around the hood.

DJ Belal: I was right there playing on the basketball court when it happened. I remember [Kid 'N Play] coming out, and it only took one bottle to fly. If you wasn’t nice, and came with that corniness, you would get stoned. And that’s what happened. How you got good back then was playing in hostile environments. As a DJ, I had to be better than Cool Breeze or anybody else out here. I just happened to get lucky and was rocking with the best dudes out of Wyandanch, and that made me look even better. That's why the parties popped off. People knew Ra and Chill would be there.

With S.I.D.

S.I.D.: We had Rakim kicking that futuristic shit that the world went crazy over back then. The God was just so lyrically in tune with the mind. Kid ‘N Play was rapping happy and dancing, kind of where we at now, but Rakim was like, “We gotta go a little deeper than this. We got Gods and Earths out here in Wyandanch, we got knowledge, righteousness, serious shit.” The mentality we had was you can’t come out here with no bullshit. I think with Kid ‘N Play, they were supposed to represent Queens but it was like, “Nah, we on this shit out here.” I think they got a reality check. Rakim changed the whole scene. You had to be spitting something deep. Like how we be pissed off right now with the lyrical content today? It was the same then. Rakim made every rapper step up.

Oxygen: [Wyandanch] didn’t like [North Babylon]. I guess because we went to school with white people they felt we thought we were better, and there’d be a lot of beef. A lot of them coming to our area and starting fights and leaving. But when it came to hip-hop, those barriers were broken. Wyandanch Day was always a beautiful thing. We were allowed to go in Wyandanch. When it came to hip-hop, there was no neighborhood beef but when it came to neighborhood parties, it was always a problem.

Wyandanch House Parties

DJ Belal: Wyandanch back then was like a baby Harlem in a sense because we was giving the livest parties. We grew up hearing these old school DJs like Pleasure and Maniack. When they started dying down, we took over. Now from 1984-1987, that was the time when we all had some of the best times in our HOUSE PARTY ASS LIVES. Let me set the scene for you. Me, Chill E Dawg, Groovy Groove, Rakim, Biz, Nate and Speedy Speed at every house party, backyard party, high school party, High School Talent show in the Wyandanch High School lunchroom, every Wyandanch Day AND MY BASEMENT.

I asked my mother if I could do a party in the basement for some new equipment and she said OK. You would pay a dollar, and it would be like no lie everybody in the basement jamming, no drinking mostly, and no weed smoking at all. Mom wasn't having that either. The walls was sweating AND YOU COULD HEAR A PIN DROP WHEN RAKIM OPENED HIS MOUTH AND EVERYBODY INCLUDING ERIC B IN THE CORNER LISTENING SAID, “WHAT THE HELL HE SAY?”

With Daryl Mitchell (seated) and DJ Belal (last on right)


HeRBaN LyRiX said...

Great read, thanks for putting it together & sharing it. Much appreciated!!!


$bin♦ said...

No doubt, thanks for reading!

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