feeling great, brother.
your MySpace profile, you have a quote that says, "As a young man
in the Bronx not socially accepted and with no resources, I found a platform
in which I could express myself I found my voice, I found hip-hop."
What does that quote mean to you?
That was before the elements were even formed. I wasn't accepted socially.
I was basically an outcast. Until hip-hop started to form itself, we didn't
have a platform. We're the children of the '60's. We weren't old enough
to be conscious enough to know of the benefits of that revolution. I was
old enough to actually embrace something and I was blessed for it to be
you know the power of hip-hop at the time?
I did, we'd all be moguls! We were children engulfed by a movement. That's
why hip-hop is a revolution that became a culture that became a way of
life. We knew it was something special. It was something that dominated
us and it was something that became a vehicle for us in all shapes and
forms. My first exposure to hip-hop was graf. The defiance of the graffiti
artist captured my attention. That was before I met Kool Herc and saw
two turntables and a mixer. Grandmaster Caz and I are first generation
pioneers and forefathers of its history.
did you do in graffiti?
all tagged. I'm starting to find out now that all the pioneers at one
time or another participated in every element. I wrote. It was no big
deal. It was my first inauguration into the culture and into doing something
that was against the grain. When I met Caz, we met as b-boys and we used
to go to Kool Herc's parties as b-boys. We fell in love with the whole
movement and just took the initiative and took it to the next level. That
was the building blocks. In those days, it was all about the DJ. We're
talking '75, '76. The first exposure of the DJ was Kool Herc and Coke
la Rock, followed by Bam, Islam, Jazzy Jay, Flash, Breakout and Baron,
Disco King Mario, AJ and Love Bug. Then there was Mean Gene, Grandwizard
Theodore and guys like Caz and myself. You have a few other brothers too.
DJ'ing was all about the neighborhood and all about repping. It started
out by just playing a record straight out without any kind of set format.
Playing the breakbeats and emphasizing the breakbeats for the b-boys.
Then came trickery and that was Flash and Theodore and everybody else
after that. We're talking about belt drive turntables with cardboard cutouts.
The technology obviously was not what it is now. We had to put pennies
on the needle to keep it on the groove. The fader on the mixer went up
and down instead of being a cross fader. There's been a whole evolutionary
process of the DJ.
important was that element of rebellion to you at that point in your life?
had just come out of a gang era. At one point or another, I would say
80% of the pioneers were gang members at one time. I myself was a gang
member. Years before we were just adversaries and then we came together.
Bambaataa brought the sense of community to hip-hop. He brought the sense
of motherland and love and respect and unity to hip-hop. That was my first
experience with Bam. I met him for the first time in '76. He greeted me
by saying "Peace." I had never had anybody greet me in that
way. From that point on, I found out through various conversations and
through years of building with the brothers of the Zulu Nation that we're
all part of a bigger picture. And that this was part of my connection
to my ancestry.
you know, I'm the first ever Latino DJ. I had my share of problems. They
came not from the other brothers but from my own so-called community of
Latinos who banished me in one way or another because of what we had just
come out of. I guess you could call it the segregation period where blacks
and Latinos weren't mixing it up. When I started in this hip-hop thing,
it was predominantly black. I received a lot of backlash from my own people.
They called me "traitor" and they called me "nigger lover."
It was just ignorance on their part and an overall lack of education.
come from an abusive background. My father was an alcoholic and he was
totally absent from my life. I learned about being a man in the streets
of the Bronx. It nurtured me and educated me and shaped me into who I
any point did you think about leaving hip-hop because of the backlash
Never. My personality is not coded that way. My hard drive doesn't recognize
that. I dance to a different tune. Not to be vulgar, but I just didn't
give a fuck. I always had that raw element in me. To grow up in the South
Bronx, you had to have made your bones at one point or another in your
life to be respected. It was about street cred and I definitely possessed
that. Grandmaster Caz, who is my lifelong brother, went through my first
initiation in hip-hop with me. He's the opposite. I don't think I can
ever remember or even know of him being involved in a fistfight. He taught
me the power of words. I actually learned that from him. I attribute that
to him. When you're the partner of the greatest MC to ever live, you have
to absorb something.
heard you and Caz were brought together because you lost your fathers
around the same time.
Our relationship goes way beyond hip-hop. Our relationship is bonded by
a true brotherly love. I was going through a rough period and he was going
through a rough period and we were introduced together by a mutual friend,
which is a blessing. I guess he recognized that we were going through
the same problems and we could work it out together. It was magic. It
was like the yin and the yang mixing together. The rest is in the history
you become a DJ team shortly after meeting?
were a DJ team for many years. Before he went and formed the Cold Crush
Brothers, it was about the DJ. Our job now is to educate the younger heads
to where this came from. A lot of this came from a conscious mindset.
I read stories all the time and I don't know where people get their facts
of where hip-hop came from. This came from the streets. The true essence
of hip-hop is still underground. You can go to any grassroots element
party and still experience a real party where people in their 40's are
enjoying themselves. This is about brotherly love and empowerment. You
wouldn't know that now because hip-hop is going through a phase where
one element is showcased and that's the mic.
mic is a strong thing but it's also a destructive weapon. When you use
it to degrade our women and limit their role, not only in hip-hop but
also life in general. The misogynistic views of women in society, it's
crazy. I don't know how many steps have been taken backwards, and it's
not being recognized. I have a problem with that.
do you blame for the message of hip-hop being twisted? Do you look towards
the media, younger artists not knowing their history or the fans?
to blame. This is an art form and when money comes into play in an art
form, the art form is immediately compromised. It's already a contradiction
when you put money in an art form. What can you say? There's misinformation
and people are using it for their own vehicle to make money. It's big
business now. Hip-hop is not in its educational phase. I frequent underground
shows and events and I still support hip-hop thirty years later. I still
love its essence but I have a special situation.
made a career outside of hip-hop. In 1979 I made a conscious decision
to go to school and pursue a professional career. What I do for a living
has nothing to do with hip-hop, but it's great for me. I can maintain
a lifestyle for my family and myself. In that frame of mind, I have a
unique position where I don't have to compromise myself for hip-hop because
I don't eat off it. It just keeps my perspective pure. If you have to
eat off it, at one point in your life, it would have to be compromised
unless you are really a starving artist. You would have to bow down at
one point because this is a monster right now.
hip-hop ever disgust you to the point where you wanted to leave?
went through my phases where I physically didn't support hip-hop. It went
through its real jigaboo stage, if you can call it that. Something happened
to me about seven years ago. I was afflicted with cancer. I went through
the surgery, the chemo and all of the recovery. I was faced with a sense
of mortality. I was faced with a decision to leave my legacy behind or
to do everything in my power to make sure our stories are told from our
voices, from our mouths, from us.
took the initiative and leant myself out to more organizations. I did
that and I was lucky with that. Three years ago, when I thought everything
was great, I was hit with cancer again. I'm a two-time cancer survivor.
Then anger set in. I knew enough wasn't done and I could do more. I needed
to do my part to keep the machine moving in the direction it is now.
think a lot of people think the pioneers are bitter today. A lot of them
are, but there are ways to channel that and use it to your advantage.
I was angry at life and I was angry with what I thought I did right and
I was angry at what I thought was being done wrong. It became an obsession.
I've always been a writer. During my second bout with cancer, I wrote
so many things down and I didn't realize it at the time, but I was a poet.
The real hip-hop heads know who we are, but in the poetry world, nobody
knows who we are. As a pioneer, I decided to engage in the spoken word
movement, and surprisingly, they embraced me. That's what I do now. I
educate and reiterate all that is pure and all that is elemental in hip-hop
through spoken word.
that going for you?
going fantastic. I've been so many places and touched so many lives. It's
unbelievable. I've slammed at events and left people walking away saying
"I never knew this is where hip-hop came from." I'm building
alliances with poets and this is my new platform. This is how I stay current.
I stay current through poetry. I've also been doing my own events and
I've been blessed to be surrounded by all the pioneers from back in the
day. We just got Bambaataa honored by the city of New York. We had an
event for him and we had so many great poets come through. Immortal Technique
came through. I build with so many dope young poets now. If we can bridge
this gap, it was all worth it. If we can somehow touch these young heads
and keep them on point and keep them in tune with the true manifesto of
hip-hop, then it's a job well done.
the older generation really care about teaching the younger generation?
do. There's a movement going on and it seems to me that it's similar to
what I went through thirty years ago. I'm involved in a movement of young
heads and young MC's and poets that are just as gung-ho as we were. I
am actually living my second life in hip-hop through spoken word and that's
a great thing.
are your plans for your poetry?
building with a lot of the young MC's and we've been approached about
doing a compilation CD. I'm involved in a project now called Turntable
Timmy which is geared to educate children about hip-hop. I'm in the middle
of a book now. I've been involved in numerous documentaries. I want to
take some supplies out to Cuba and funds out there. We are having the
first hip-hop tribute at the Apollo Theater it kicks off in November.
I'm also producing poetry slams, which I'm working on with an incredible,
Latino-based group called El Grito de Poetas. It never stops.
doing the B-Boy Massacre with my boy Rob from B-Boy NYC who came here
from Cali a couple of years ago and aligned himself with us. It's great.
We got all the pioneers supporting him. It's a dope thing. It's dope to
go into these events and see hip-hop in it's true form. You have a lot
of places where they're still keeping it pure. We need that. We have KRS-One
with the Temple of Hip-Hop and we got Kurtis Blow doing the Church of
Hip-Hop in Harlem. Caz is doing the Hush tours. It's become a powerful
movement. We've got tons and tons of people working behind the scenes.
It's something that's going to ultimately hit the masses. People are just
inundated with the wrong message and nobody's telling them to turn away
from the tube and that it's the wrong message. They tell you that you
have to obtain a certain level of wealth and degrade women in a certain
way to attain a certain status. It's just a false dream. It's the tyranny
of capitalism exposed at its worst. There is so much you can make of that.
If you turn away, you have the pure form of hip-hop. Hip-hop can't be
marketed. Hip-hop is something meant to be felt. Hip-hop is ancestral.
Hip-hop is not something you can sit in a corporate boardroom and talk
about with a bunch of fucking corporate assholes. You can do that but
it has no backbone and no structure.
can an outsider tell what's real and what's not?
is rap. That's a root off of hip-hop. The other basic elements are DJ'ing,
graffiti, breakdancing and knowledge of self. Rapping is the most widely
marketed element and it's being used against its own people. There is
no real message today. The days of KRS-One, Rakim and Public Enemy are
basically over. It's up to the younger generation to be revolutionary
and think outside the box. It's up to them. Our responsibility as the
forefathers of this culture is to bridge the gap. Hip-hop was built by
blessings. If Kool Herc went to your jam in the '70's, that gave you credibility.
If he nodded his head, he gave you credibility. It's the same way with
Bambaataa. This thing is about respect. This thing is about passing on
something. This is what I'm doing through the spoken word movement.
also credited as the inventor of the mixplate. Can you first define what
a mixplate is?
and I used to go to high school together. Caz used to record all our battles
and all our jams. I guess that was the first form of marketing it because
used to sell the tapes at the lunch room in high school, one day a geek
approached us and he said, What you guys are doing is cool, but you can
put that on a record. We said, That would be nice. The dude tells us there's
a recording studio down the street. We were trying to think outside the
box. We always did shit like that, we once took a girlfriend of mine and
had her do some scratches at some clubs and we named her DJ Pambaataa.
It was more like a draw and a sideshow. Caz was a very outgoing guy. I
met him like that. He's an accomplished showman. Me, on the other hand,
I am a more hard-nosed revolutionary. I kept it with the b-boys and dug
for the break beats. So we went back to Caz's crib and combined a pause
tape, which was basically playing the tape, pausing it, and playing it
again. We did a couple of them and threw in some sound effects, sound
bytes and breakbeats and made the first ever hip-hop dub plate.
the time, DJ'ing was about what you saw in front of your eyes. If you
saw Grandwizard Theodore DJ'ing, that was in front of your face. We incorporated
a whole jam in our recording. Everybody lost his or her mind when we did
that. They couldn't believe the record was doing all of that by itself.
That was a cool thing. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line we lost
the plate but a lot of other DJ's caught on and I guess it was the first
form of mixed records. It was the first form of capturing what was going
on in a jam on wax. People think about Sugarhill Gang but we were thinking
outside of the box years before that. That was some popcorn shit anyway.
Enough's said about that.
it ever frustrate you that The Sugarhill Gang and Run-DMC are considered
to be the first groups to really make an impact?
to downplay any of their contributions, but The Sugarhill Gang was just
in the right place at the right time. Somebody said they were going to
put what those kids were doing on wax, but why didn't they use one of
us? If they had taken someone from a legitimate crew, we wouldn't even
be talking about it. Hip-hop was first exposed to the masses and it was
these guys. This was the masses' first taste. We all knew each other and
we all knew who was doing what and we didn't know those guys. Hip-hop
was concentrated in the Bronx and to have some cats from across the bridge
on the radio and using Caz's lyrics
everybody thought Caz was getting
paid, but we all know by now that that's not the case.
you get the respect you deserve today?
be honest with you, I'm beyond that. I'm not narcissistic or egotistic
like that. I know in my heart what I did. If it weren't for the documentation
and the flyers and the photos and history, people would be quick to write
out people and rewrite the history in their favor. There are people who
have the economical manpower to do that. But they can't because somewhere
along the lines, we were conscious enough to hang onto the flyers. I was
conscious enough to hang onto my flyers. Plus we all know each other.
Where do you know people who have known each other for thirty years and
are still friends? I still run into Bam. I see Bam once a month at the
Federation meetings. We have an organization to preserve this culture.
Caz and I are always in contact. I live right down the block from Tony
Tone. I've known these guys all my life. When people want to write about
hip-hop, why don't they go right to the source? They make these award
shows and all that. This is another problem I have. The pioneers are here.
No one knows more about the history than us. We lived this shit. To have
someone try to talk it for us, it's totally a slap in our face. That's
another problem I have right there.
also a problem with the current artists. There's a lot of misinformation
right now. There are pioneers that are broke, homeless and destitute.
Is it right for a guy who paved the way for a trillion dollar industry
to be mopping the floor and have no health insurance? Not even dental
care? Nothing to fall back on? Come on, man. That's a fucking travesty
right there. These current artists can't even speak on the facts. I don't
want to put people on blast, but that's the realization of this. They're
eating off a game that's not even reaching its potential. A lot of these
organizations, clothing lines and media, all those sources that eat off
this culture, if they would employ just one pioneer, their organization
would take a huge turn. These brothers are the epitome of it and they're
still living it. They're still contributing. They're just not contributing
on a massive scale because their voices are being suppressed. My fucking
voice is not suppressed.
got to make you feel good there are outlets out here, like The Originators
clothing line, who pay homage to the culture.
Adam Bach (CEO of The Originators) approached me, he had a vision. He
approached me through Charlie Chase. Charlie Chase gave him my contact
number. This was before he even printed his first t-shirt. I fell in love
with the concept. I said, You know what, man? This is about education
and that's what I'm about. Anything that's out there to educate the heads,
I'll support it and I'll even do it for free. That's how strong I feel
about it. I do a lot of things for no money. I have a 24 hour/7 day a
week job. I work. I have a job-job, and then I do hip-hop. I don't sleep.
There are so many elements out there and they're trying to strip us of
everything that's the essence of this game. Our job is never done. The
Originators is the first clothing company to honor the pioneers. And it's
about the history because there are a lot of apparel lines that have no
history behind it. This line has living, breathing historians behind it.
I just came back from Vegas a couple of weeks ago and it was crazy. I
was there for Magic. It was like a family reunion. Everybody was there.
All my people were there. They all just descended on Vegas and it was
a 24 hour a day brainstorm session. It was networking at its quickest
was not about gear. We are the living product. I'll talk to anybody. I'm
one of the most humble motherfuckers you could meet. Just imagine a world
without hip-hop. Do you know what hip-hop has done for our people? Its
significance? It could never be explained. Who knows where we would be
right now? I know how we were on the first day. We were assed out. Even
though it took a turn for the worst, it's still here. It's still a form
for people to eat. It still has that presence and gathering of a collective
of people. It's still ours. Negative or not, hip-hop is still something
that belongs to the people.
does it feel being called a hip-hop pioneer?
crazy. I'll be honest with you. It's something that is priceless. I take
it for that. Hip-hop was always something that was bigger than us. It's
always going to be here. It's outlasted a lot of music genres and it has
built so many bridges for our people. I feel honored. I feel truly blessed
to have been a part of this collective group. That's where my poetry comes
from. That's where my signature poetry piece, "The Land Before the
Rhyme," came from. That's why I wrote "The Land Before the Rhyme."
I've written many pieces after that, but "The Land Before the Rhyme"
epitomizes what hip-hop means to me.
your poetry book coming?
going great. We just accepted a deal and I'm collecting material from
numerous artists. It's not your typical book. I don't want to give away
the whole format. I'm not trying to say in any way that I'm the ultimate
authority on hip-hop. It's just my voice through hip-hop and what hip-hop
means to me. There's so many things that we'll be here forever talking
about it. I have a life's work that I'm going to try to concentrate into
a book. I'm truly blessed to even have that on my lap. I'm really excited
you and Caz still DJ together?
just DJ'd the other day at Rufus King Park in Queens for The Tools of
War. That's a fantastic organization. Everybody from Jazzy Jay to Charlie
Chase to DJ Red Alert to Caz is invited every year to go and spin at these
parks. I had the pleasure to actually DJ a set with Lord Finesse and Caz.
It was pretty dope. Hip-hop is about the people. It's about the lives
you touch that ultimately touch you back.
you pay attention to the new Latino DJ's and MC's today?
been here since the conception. That's a huge problem in the storyline
of hip-hop. A lot of people are amazed when they talk about me or Charlie
Chase. They don't know that we go back to the first day. This is a collective
effort from a group of people. This is about black and brown people building
be honest with you. This new genre of reggaeton is a positive thing but
it's also a negative thing. It's a merger of Caribbean music and breakbeats
and it's a good thing, but beyond that, it's missing a lot of structure
and a message. It's sort of along the lines of what's being done by brothers
in hip-hop. A problem I have that I'm trying to correct is the lack of
education these brothers have. When I meet them, they're kind of amazed
that we've been here since day one. Their conception is "We're Latinos
and we're here now and we're making noise and we're being recognized and
that's what's up." That's cool to be proud of your people. There
is no one prouder than the Latino people. We live and die for passion
and we carry our pride on our shoulders.
problem is when you go too far with that, separation comes in. That's
where things get muddled. That's when I have a problem with it. There
should be no separation there. Black and brown, that's who built it. Brothers
like myself, Charlie Chase, Whipper Whip, Rubie Dee, Crazy Legs, the list
goes on and on. I'm the first Latino DJ and a proven battle style DJ and
a dominant force within the evolution of the craft. But that wasn't anything
when compared to what Charlie Chase did. He took the Cold Crush brothers
around the world to Japan. He made it global. We made it so Latino kids
could say, "I can do this. I can be a rapper. I can be a writer."
It's an evolutionary process. Let me tell you. What's happening now is
that attitude is missing. They're saying, "Yo, it's about Latinos."
Listen, man, when you're talking about that, you're talking about separation.
We can't have that. We have enough problems in hip-hop. We can't bring
those problems into it because then this thing is never going to get fixed.
there too much separation in hip-hop today?
are too many genres. There are too many branches. You have people on some
pimp shit. You have some people on the fake thug studio shit. Then you
have some people who are on some other stuff, and just over all bullshit.
There are too many messages being portrayed. Then you have those who are
too materialistic where they drive nothing but Bentleys and only date
models and they live on Rodeo Drive. Yeah right. Fake ass motherfuckers,
you have kids that are being raised motherless and fatherless and they
have nobody to look up to. The TV is the babysitter. The video games are
the babysitter. That's some other destructive shit. That's a form of desensitizing
the children. Where's the structure? Where are the stories of inspiration?
We have real problems within our community and these brothers have this
whole huge platform and this is what they do. No one wants to be original.
No one wants to take a pay cut because it's all about money. But what
are you going to do for your people?
do you see hip-hop going? Do you see light coming back to the DJ, writers
lot of shows actually showcase the DJ now, even if it's just him scratching
a beat before the poet goes on. It's just the same old song. Once this
thing hit wax and once these corporate devils got a hold of it, they said,
"Spit this" and that was that. The graffiti element is the least
exposed element of the art and it's the first element!
you still write?
an artist. I have an easel in my house and I sketch once in awhile. I
was just with Tracy 168 the other day. Once you're a part of this, it's
just something that's encoded in you forever. I'm 45 years-old and I must
have heard "Apache" 300 million times and every time I hear
it, I want to go break dance. It's something that's instinctive. I could
never get tired of it. I keep peace with it. I see people emceeing on
my way to work and I'll listen. I see street dancers and I'll stop and
admire them. Sometimes I'll look outside the whole realm and I'm proud
I could be a part of this. It motivates me to know that I was somewhat
responsible for this and we need to take control at some level. That's
why I'm doing what I'm doing now. I spit poetry and the spoken word scene
is an uncompromised right now. Maybe it will be one day. Every time I
go to a poetry joint, I go home and I can't sleep. You still relive those
words. The poets wake something up inside of you. It's so profound. It's
about life. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about. It's about
message do you want to give to everybody?
leave you with some words
am the prodigal son, and I was born on holy ground, yes its true I come
But I am the product of many
and I am no one and no one is me, then again I am all that can ever be.
You see the streets sang to me sweet urban lullabies,
I am the product of kings and queens Mayan Aztec tiaino dreams
That never die, I am that spicy version of your American apple pie.
I am a product of uprisings revolutionary movements and my ancestor's
If you choose to swim in these waters,
Be ready to die! Cause you might have too,
Something's in this life are just worth that much............
Walk with me
As I decipher these scriptures
Struggles of my time
The land before the rhyme
Structured in the mind
No need for the nine
This complex life of mine
1975 The movement has arrived
Funny, of this no one can speak
A subject all to deep
A childhood that seems lost
Never had the means to floss
Abandoned by this cause
How would I surmised
To this my only prize
No ends could be made
For the price we would pay
No time for a nap
Cause this is about to go down
The boogie down was burning
My people yearning
Just to get a piece of the pie
My minds eye
Is as big as the sky
So who's to blame
For the circumstances aimed
At the unspoken names
Pawns to the game
This shit remains the same
The city with no fate
A place to escape
183rd, oh you never heard
Now that was the place to be
To see poetic street warriors
Childhood dreams of mine
An art form divine
A land before the rhyme
We wired our system to a Lamppost
Dj battles for Years to boast
The stage was set
Here comes the test
The chosen ones to be so blessed
Two turntables above my chest
The mixer cued to do the rest
This would be the Weapon of choice
This music speaks it is our voice
The beauty of it all to be
This life we leave for you to see
For things that were just what they seemed
We knew of who we were to be
But lived for more than what we dreamed
For what you sow you reap
A junkie for a beat
In the parks I creep
The perfect scratch I seek
We ruled these fucking streets
A pioneer you say
From way back in the day
No royalties to pay
No riches came our way
No faking the funk
As the base would thump
The treble got me high
My revolution has arrived
No cheddar no bling
Guided by knowledge
No need for the cream
So tell me now
Can you answer this riddle?
Never have so few
Done so much for so little
We spit you out to chance
In a b-boy stance
Never to realize
What would be the prize
Who would have known
Industry now owned
Globally world known
Our baby full grown
And. although the legend goes
We birthed this flow
But who the fuck are we
Call me the mixer
For the mixer is me
I rock the speakers
And the speaker is me
You seek the teacher
The teacher is me
I am Hip-Hop
And Hip-hop is me
DJ DISCO WIZ