1/31/19

Rakim Honored at 50th Annual Wyandanch Day


Stevie Blass in the cut?
Last year, Rakim was honored at the 50th Annual Wyandanch Family Day. In recognition of his contributions to hip-hop and the community, Rakim received a Legacy Award and had his name placed on the town's "Wyandanch Welcomes You" sign. Also present at the event were Eric B., Alvin Toney (the producer/manager who introduced Eric B. to Rakim), Eugene "Groovy Groove" Allen, Darryl "Chill" Mitchell and many others. In addition to the award ceremony and other regular festivities, the day featured performances by Groove B. Chill, Das EFX and Nice & Smooth.

Below you'll find a number of photos from the day (several courtesy of Dre's House TV), some videos posted by DJ Maniack, and finally an interview with Rakim by Brittany Marie.

With Daryl "MC Chilly Dawg" Mitchell

With Alvin Toney
With Eric B

1/30/19

Kool Moe Dee & T La Rock - My Melody Freestyle
(Live @ Latin Quarter)

Backstage at the Def Jam II Tour, 1987
Returning to Sunday's topic of legendary MCs rocking over Rakim beats, and picking up the Awesome Two thread from Monday's post, we arrive next at a live peformance by Kool Moe Dee and his partner in rhyme T La Rock at the world-famous Latin Quarter. This recording, featuring the two MCs trading verses over the "My Melody" instrumental, was played on the Awesome Two show on November 2, 1986, so presumably the performance took place sometime earlier in the year.

Kool Moe Dee graded his fellow hip-hop
artists in the liner notes of 1987's
How Ya Like Me Now. Note the misspelling
of Rakim as Rakhim.
Perhaps what's most notable about this recording is how it connects two rappers — Kool Moe Dee and Rakim — both known for changing the guard in the way they revolutionized rapping. Though closer examination typically reveals that such "revolutions" were really evolutions that happened gradually rather than overnight, Kool Moe Dee's legendary battle against Busy Bee is generally considered a touchstone moment, as is the recording of the Eric B. Is President/My Melody single. No matter how you look at it, most would agree Kool Moe Dee pushed the envelope in terms of lyrics and delivery, and Rakim would push it even further.

And if you really want to get into it, one could make the argument that T La Rock not only served as a sort of evolutionary bridge between the revolutionary rhyme styles of Kool Moe Dee and Rakim, but also pushed the envelope in an entirely different direction that would soon thereafter be picked up by Kool Keith and Ultramagnetic MCs whose experimental raps basically launched an entire subgenre. However, that's a whole different story.

Below, stream Kool Moe Dee and T La Rock performing over "My Melody" at the Latin Quarter, as well as the full Awesome Two broadcast from November 2, 1986, during which this performance aired. And please forgive the feedback that occurs in both recordings, along with the fact that they end abruptly when the tape cuts off; of course, if you have a better recording, I would be more than happy to share!

1/28/19

Early Eric B. & Rakim Interview with Awesome Two (July 27, 1986)

A supposed 7" test pressing of Eric B. Is President / Check Out My Melody
For those who haven't yet heard, today is Rakim's 51st birthday. Each year, Long Island Rap Blog celebrates the occasion with a week's coverage dedicated to the God MC. Picking up from yesterday's topics of early radio appearances and interviews, today's post features what might be Rakim's earliest on-air interview. This occurred July 27, 1986 on the 105.9 WHBI Awesome Two show with hosts Special K and Teddy Tedd. The discussion played out over the "My Melody" instrumental and provided listeners a pretty straightforward introduction to Eric B. and Rakim.

One point that stands out is the repeated reference to an imposter Rakim who might have called in during a prior show or otherwise crossed paths with the Awesome Two. It's unclear exactly whom or what they're talking about, but it could be a call-in that was uploaded to YouTube just last year, in which someone claiming to be Rakim refers to "Eric B. Is President" as "I Came In the Door" and forgets the name of the radio show, both of which call the speaker's true identity into question. The best part, though, is when the fake Rakim is asked who broke "My Melody" in NY, with the DJ of course expecting to hear "Awesome Two" or the the radio station call letters, but instead the reply comes back, "I did," a remark that is referenced toward the tail-end of the actual interview. Stream both appearances below, along with the full July 27, 1986 broadcast, which features a number of classic cuts from the likes of Steady B, T La Rock and others.



1/27/19

DJ Run - My Melody Freestyle

Eric B, Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay and Rakim
Our fifth annual Rakim week begins now. Last summer, Stretch & Bobbito interviewed Rakim for NPR. In reminiscing about the first time they heard the MC, Stretch recalled hearing the "My Melody" instrumental on Mr. Magic's Rap Attack on WBLS 107.5, except it wasn't Rakim rapping over the beat — it was DJ Run of Run-DMC. "He put that beat on and Run just does a destruction," Stretch remembered. Below stream Run's 'destructive' My Melody freestyle (starts at 4:20), as well as Rakim's S&B interview from last year.

Rome Streetz - EastNYRadio Freestyles

Rome Streetz swung through PF Cuttin's EastNYRadio show earlier this month for an interview and a couple freestyle sessions. You can also hear three tracks from Rome's latest project, Noise Kandy 2. which is availalbe on mp3 or limited-edition CD along with the first installment.

The real treat, though, is hearing him get busy over Roc Marciano's "Tek to a Mac" instrumental. Pretty much every bar is quotable.

Stream the whole broadcast below, or jump ahead to the interview, the first freestyle (over a Wu-Tang instro) or the second (over Roc).

1/21/19

Spectrum - NBC / Funky Revolution (Post #500)

Anyone who's done their homework on Public Enemy knows that the group's origins lie with Spectrum, a Long Island DJ crew which later rebranded itself as Spectrum City. The crew originally consisted of brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee, who would go on to found the Bomb Squad, and Richard Griffin, who would become Professor Griff of Public Enemy security/dance troupe the S1Ws. Chuck D (then Chuckie D) linked up with Spectrum around 1979 and helped the crew land a Saturday-night radio show called the Spectrum Mixx Show on WBAU in the early '80s.

Eventually, the group began making music of its own, and in 1984, as Spectrum City, they released the Lies / Check Out the Radio single on the Vanguard label. This 12" vinyl also featured rapper Aaron Allen aka Butch Cassidy, who was like Chuck's hypeman before Flavor Flav. (Although Flav, then known as MC DJ Flavor, was in the picture at that time as well, he wasn't on this single.) You can read about all of this and much more in biographer Russell Myrie's Don't Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin': The Authorized Story of Public Enemy, which I can't possibly recommend highly enough for anyone interested in the history of Long Island hip-hop.

However, what you won't read about in that biography (and will find little information about anywhere else, really) are two acetate recordings Spectrum did before they became Spectrum City: NBC and Funky Revolution. These releases were plated and mastered by the Sunshine Sound label, which did a number of acetates for disco and early rap projects from 1974-1982. Though Myrie's book mentions Spectrum putting out mixtapes around this time, it never mentions any acetate recordings. That being said, Keith Shocklee may have alluded to these when, in a 2017 interview with the Conversations with Bianca website, he said: "Most of the stuff we’d make in my mom’s basement, it’s called an acetate of a song. We had to mic the drummer and a bass player, it was so primitive. We recorded it all on to a 2-track tape, in one take."

NBC and Funky Revolution do fit the bill in terms of fidelity, but there seem to be more than just drums, bass and vocals on the records, as you'll hear. "NBC" features that network's familiar three-tone chimes as a sort of refrain for the group's funky jam session, along with some additional electronic noises that theoretically could just be harnesseed feedback or another kind of recording trick, if not a synth or other instrument. Regardless, one might say the free-form electro sounds foreshadow the dissonance that would be the Bomb Squad's calling card in later years. And though there are very few vocals on "NBC," Chuck D's distinct voice is immediately recognizable in the intro. The same goes for "Funky Revolution," on which Chuck kicks things off at the :25 mark, with "Check it out, you ready to funk, Butch?" to which Cassidy responds, "Hey, you know that, homeboy." From there, someone intones, "How about The Wizard?" to which Chuck adds "K-Jee 2-3," spelling out Keith Shocklee's old DJ handle, The Wizard K-Jee. After this, Chuck and Butch sing along with the record, calling out dance moves such as the moonwalk while referencing tunes like Edwin Starr's "War (What Is It Good For)." If this sounds totally unlike the hard-hitting Public Enemy we know and love, it's important to remember that this record comes from the days when Spectrum was primarily a party group and hip-hop was still very new, so Long Island listeners were much more accustomed to funk than rap. Nevertheless, at the 7:44 mark of "Funky Revolution," you begin to hear some vocals that are closer to rapping than singing. The anti-disco, pro-funk rally is a far cry from Public Enemy, but it's them.

The rest that can be said about these cuts comes from the Discogs listings and Anthony Meijer, the person responsible for uploading the tracks to Soundcloud. He says, "Someone posted these acetates on ebay years ago (pre 2008 I think), way before everyone jumped on acetates and test pressings." The seller who auctioned off these acetates provided no info other than the names of the records, so Meijer is left guessing like the rest of us. One thing is certain, though: as two of the only four known songs released on record by Spectrum (City), these jams represent crtically important primary sources in the history of Public Enemy and by exension, Long Island hip-hop. To that point,  they certainly pre-date the earliest songs posted on this website heretofore and could in fact be among the first examples of rap recordings by a Long Island artist (I'm yet to find anything else pre-1984; Chuck D joined Spectrum in '79, and Sunshine Sound closed down in 1982, so these records would have to be from sometime between those years). Therefore, though I don't own the records, I am honored to be able to bring them to you with this, our 500th post.


A special thanks to Anthony Meijer for uploading these acetates to Soundcloud and for telling me how he came across them, and to everyone who has visited this website, shared a link to it, or commented on a post. Your continued interest, support and engagement are all deeply appreciated.