Honors, like many things in Hip-Hop, can be powerful if done right. Like
BET's Rap City and Hot97, VH1's 3 year-old show is widely known throughout
the bowels of Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop Honors sets itself apart from other hip-hop
programming by "celebrating the music's legends." The "legends"
were honored this year by a brief interview recounting their importance
to hip-hop and younger, arguably more popular artists performing one or
two of their classic songs before the honoree took the stage to show what
got them there.
always been confusion hovering over the award show as there is no clear
definition as to what makes a "legend." Is a legend someone
who sold a lot of records during a short amount of time or left an unprecedented
mark on what we know today as Hip-Hop culture? In VH1's case, it appears
to be a little of both, as the line between honorees and potential honorees
has more zig-zags than Hammer Pants.
to be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 25 years have to have
passed from your debut record. In order to get your mug on a U.S. postage
stamp, you have to be dead. VH1 certainly doesn't want to wait 25 years
since a debut album (or longer) to honor a legend, as that would mean
MC Lyte, who was honored this year, would not be eligible until 2013.
While receiving a Hip-Hop Honor is in no way an induction into the Hip-Hop
Hall of Fame, which thankfully does not exist, following the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame's guidelines, the Wu-Tang Clan, another recent honoree,
would not be eligible as a group until 2018. "They figure that by
the time they induct Wu-Tang, nobody's going to give a fuck," pioneer
Tony Tone of the Cold Crush Brothers says. "They figure our fans
don't represent Hip-Hop the way rock and roll fans still represent rock
and roll. They figure this is a hit or miss right now."
As Tony Tone
bluntly put it, "This came too soon."
that the foundation must be built before you put a hot tub upstairs does
not apply to Hip-Hop Honors. What VH1 is telling us is that flashbacks
to the old school like trendy gold rope chains and windsuits are cool
in small quantities, much like their honoring of hip-hop's true pioneers.
It seems as though we have a Hip-Hop culture that occasionally pays homage
to the old school, not necessarily pioneers, by mixing in a song from
1989 through 1994 during a mixshow or shouting out Rakim in a verse or
interview. To many, artists like Rakim are "pioneers." "A
20 year-old lie to an 18 year-old kid is truth because you don't know
better," graffiti pioneer Tracy 168 says. While it can not be argued
that artists like Rakim broke important ground in hip-hop and made great
contributions to stimulate the culture to growing into what it is known
for today, they should not be considered pioneers.
definition of "pioneer" may change, depending on one's knowledge
of Hip-Hop and age. "The true pioneers are ones who broke the ground
for the whole movement like Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash,
Grandwizard Theodore, Grandmixer DXT, Charlie Chase and the Cold Crush.
People like that I consider to be the true pioneers," states the
Original Jazzy Jay before explaining how he looks at those that came a
little later. "KRS breaks down different topics and he's a pioneer
in the sense that he's keeping the true form alive and he believes in
doing it for real. He's not all about the money. He's about the culture.
He's a pioneer in his own right."
Hip-Hop Honors took place in 2004. DJ Kool Herc, KRS-One, Public Enemy,
the Rocksteady Crew, Run-DMC, the Sugarhill Gang and Tupac Shakur were
honored. The 2005 honorees included Big Daddy Kane, Grandmaster Flash
and the Furious Five, Ice-T, LL Cool J, Notorious B.I.G., Salt-N-Pepa
and the film Boyz N the Hood. Following DJ Jazzy Jay's logic, out of these
honorees, it can be argued that the only pioneers honored were DJ Kool
Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Rocksteady Crew and
pioneers nor diehard fans expect VH1 to honor Hip-Hop's legends chronologically
by their contributions, but many pioneers feel disrespected by the selections
VH1 is making. As Joe Conzo, a pioneer in Hip-Hop photography, stated,
"With the exception of Bambaataa, there is such a void and so many
people that should have been honored before the Ice Cube's and MC Lyte's
and Eazy-E's. God bless them. They've made contributions to the genre
of Hip-Hop, but there are so many others."
gets further and further from the elements and from the culture of Hip-Hop
and the fundamentals of Hip-Hop," adds Tony Tone. "It's what
it is. It's a television show and they feel they have to glamour it up
and they feel they need to make it very, very Hollywood to get the viewers
to tune in."
took it kind of Hollywood this year," agrees Jazzy Jay.
Disco Wiz is not as diplomatic. "Don't start off one year honoring
four pioneers, then three and then one," he says. "The only
thing you're telling me is that you're phasing us out."
VH1 may not
just be phasing out Hip-Hop's pioneers on stage. This has not been the
first time pioneers have had problems with getting into the event, but
this year may have reached the tipping point. "We're all standing
outside with our fingers up our asses waiting to get in. We shouldn't
have to go through this," Joe Conzo says. "If they're doing
something in the true essence of Hip-Hop, the first people you should
take care of besides the honorees are the pioneers."
not all pioneers got the memo that they weren't welcome anymore. "This
year was real crazy," begins Jazzy Jay. "They told DXT, 'We
know who you are. The reason you didn't get any passes is because you
weren't invited. How are you going to have a Hip-Hop Honors and not invite
us? The first couple of years they were begging all of the pioneers to
be there and be in place so it could add credibility to their function.
This year you had people like Kurtis Blow, who should not have a problem
at all, outside waiting to get in. Then you're watching somebody's intern
from the office walk in with a laminate like they're being honored and
they have clout. I thought that was an atrocity to see that happen. I
had to leave people outside and tell them (VH1), 'You have people outside.
You need to take care of them.' They said, 'We're trying.' I said, 'Don't
try. Get these brothers and sisters in.' Sometimes the security goes overboard
but it is what it is. It's like they're at this higher level now and they
don't need us."
five weeks I was getting emails about the tickets," explains DJ Disco
Wiz. "They were telling me to go to a certain place to pick up my
credentials. They said I was on the guest list and I had the red carpet
credentials. The list was huge and there were a lot of people on there.
I show up with my wife and Immortal Technique and we go upstairs and we
were basically laughed at. The person told us that we were not on the
list and whoever put the list out was fraudulent. I told them, 'Listen,
I'm not only an artist, I'm also a pioneer. Even if there were problems,
I'm supposed to have a ticket.' I told them to get that fixed. If anybody
there had a faint idea of who we were, we wouldn't even be talking about
it now. They told me there was some sort of breakdown. We were treated
like bums and party crashers. It wasn't only myself. I found a whole bunch
of artists behind the barricade. I was irate. I lost it. This is three
years running and we're not supposed to be treated like this. If you can't
get this right one time a year, then this is bullshit and you shouldn't
even be putting these shows together."
was treated no better. After standing on the sidewalk outside the venue,
an employee of VH1 asked him to move. "I said, 'I'll walk where I
want,' he recounts. "Then I told the guy, 'You're in my world, motherfucker.
Hip-Hop belongs in my life. You're in my world now.'"
Tone and fellow Cold Crush Brother Easy A.D. didn't have ticket issues,
but that didn't mean they had no problems. As Easy A.D. was walking the
red carpet, gossip queen Wendy Williams barraged him with questions such
as "How many grandkids do you have?" "I remember back in
the day when she was begging us for an interview," says Tony Tone.
"Now that she feels like she's made it, she's asking us stupid questions
like that, trying to embarrass us. You got the Hip-Hop Honors disrespecting
us and then you have Wendy Williams disrespecting us."
understands how Easy A.D. must have felt. "They make you feel like
shit and you should not feel like shit when you're supposed to feel great
from being honored," he says. "They're so fake. They read scripts.
They don't even talk their own words. When you start being a rapper, you
start reading off of cue cards. You lose something. Imagine them saying
what they really felt. Forget it. That's not what it's about. Hip-Hop
is an experience from the heart like jazz music. It's a moment from the
The red carpet
was as far as Joe Conzo could get with his photography equipment, despite
his impressive body of work. Besides shooting for Retina, one of the largest
music photo agencies in the world, Conzo contributed almost 75% of the
photographs used in the 2004 Hip-Hop Honors. Calls from Conzo and Retina
for an all-access pass at this year's event went unreturned. "I'm
not going to lie. I got paid and I got paid good [for the 2004 show],"
says Conzo. "But for me to beg, borrow and steal to get in and shoot
the event? Give me a break." In the true spirit of Hip-Hop, Conzo
figured out a way to get in with his equipment, despite lacking proper
other pioneers know better than to expect there to be real heads in the
VIP, as corporate sponsorships always outweigh accomplishments. "If
you go upstairs to whatever part of the venue you're at, there are people
there that aren't even a part of Hip-Hop," explains Conzo. "They're
investors and people that just want to be seen with other people."
168, the originator of the term "Wild Style," seconds Conzo's
observation. "The guy who's running the whole thing, the guy that
actually put this thing together, I ran into his son and he's wearing
a hat with my name on it, 'Wild Style,'" he says. "I'm laughing
because he has no clue what he's wearing and I'm waiting in line and he's
acting like he's important and everybody's talking to him."
interviewed for this story are not holding their breath waiting for VH1
to recognize them. "I'm not waiting," explains Tony Tone. "If
they call me and say they're honoring Cold Crush, it's like, Ok, we're
getting honored. We'll go out there and do a Cold Crush show. We're doing
it for our people, not VH1. Even when they do honor the Cold Crush Brothers,
they're still going to fuck up a whole lot of other shit."
Wiz cares even less about an award. "Fuck them and fuck whoever fucking
runs that place," he exclaims. "If they didn't know who I was
then, they're going to know who the fuck I am now. Believe me, those motherfuckers
are going to feel us. I'm going to rally my brothers and sisters. We have
a lot of outlets. All these people are misinformed on Hip-Hop history
and culture and where Hip-Hop comes from. We're at war with these fucking
VH1 has yet
to honor any writers, and that's fine by Tracy 168. "The real heroes
are unsung," he explains. "When they tell me they accept me
as a graffiti writer, fuck that. They won't give awards out to any writers
because they didn't finish lying yet and I'm not dead. The real writers,
you don't even know them. The only writers that you hear about are fake
fucks. All those guys are real peanut. Most writers that are real won't
take shit from no one. In other words, we're free. In order to be a real
artist, you have to be free. You draw from your soul. You can't be told
what to do. That takes away the whole fucking thing of art."
Tone, "I'm not looking for VH1 or MTV to do nothing for me."
pioneers are looking for is respect. There has been a lot of criticism
throughout the hip-hop community of the Wu-Tang Clan receiving an honor
before groups like A Tribe Called Quest and EPMD as well as the Sugarhill
Gang being honored at all. As the honorees are decided by VH1, we must
look at the show's producers to possibly gain more insight as to why more
pioneers are not honored.
Horvitz is the director of Hip-Hop Honors. He has done all three Honors
as well as the Academy Awards and Macy's 4th of July Spectacular. As expected,
Horvitz is well-accomplished but does not have a deep history in Hip-Hop.
Jac Benson and Lee Rolantz served as executive producers. Benson goes
back to the Yo! MTV Raps days as producer. He also as served as producer
for MTV's Music for Life concert. Rolantz specializes more in music specials
on television, having produced specials on Bruce Springsteen and Shania
Twain, among others.
two co-executive producers, Fab 5 Freddy and Nelson George. While VH1
does not release who has input on who is honored, we can assume that Fab
5 Freddy and Nelson George have a lot of say. Fab 5 Freddy started out
as a writer and became famous for hosting Yo! MTV Raps while Nelson George
has authored many books, co-wrote the films Strictly Business and CB4
and wrote for The Chris Rock Show.
Nelson George nor Fab 5 Freddy were back there with us," explains
Tony Tone. "They wasn't in our parties. We didn't know them like
that. That's what's wrong. They're not the right people to be consulting
on something where you're supposed to be honoring Hip-Hop because they're
not really Hip-Hop."
could have definitely made better choices," adds Jazzy Jay. "I'm
not mad at either one of those brothers. Nelson George calls himself a
"Hip-Hop historian." I've never seen him where we were, like
T-Connection, Bronx River Park or Sparkle. In order for you to call yourself
a hip-hop historian, you would have to have lived it like we did or be
one of those diehard fans. He doesn't want to go head-to-head with me
or Herc because he knows we could pull his card. We know the deal. We
didn't just read it in a book or had somebody tell us a story. They (VH1)
should have come to somebody of our magnitude who knows the real truth.
Not the made-up truths like Russell Simmons is where Hip-Hop culture started.
When you start talking nonsense like that, the pioneers know he's not
talking from the truth. He's talking like that because somebody's paying
him to. These guys are always trying to rewrite history. 'We were the
first to do this
' I know I was there and I know what my whole involvement
in this culture is. I know the contributions I had and I know the contributions
of others. I know more or less all of that because I have lived this."
many recognize Fab 5 Freddy as the host of Yo! MTV Raps, some pioneers
see him differently. "There are too many different sides to the brother,"
says DJ Disco Wiz. "I think some people are just giving him too much
credit. The real pioneers should be a part of this show. It's bringing
in crazy revenue and why are we not a part of this? Not only are we not
a part of this, but we can't even get in the door."
blame VH1 because these people are telling them that they know enough
to tell them the story, and we're telling them that they don't know enough
to tell them the story," adds Tony Tone.
from the pioneers to 12 year-old kids can see that Hip-Hop is a business.
What members outside of Hip-Hop fail to see, however, is how the business
dilutes the essence of hip-hop. To some, Jay-Z doing Budweiser ads symbolizes
just how far Hip-Hop has come while others are disgusted that Jay would
even consider, much less agree, to promoting the product. That being said,
we can approach the Hip-Hop Honors from two perspectives. We can either
be grateful VH1 gives some of Hip-Hop's early participants two hours a
year to shine or we can say "F this, we don't need an award show."
of where any of us stand on this issue, we should never expect a major
corporation to care about Hip-Hop. DJ Disco Wiz certainly does not. "They
don't know shit about music," he says of VH1. "They only know
what the eggheads tell them. They don't have no real consultants in there.
They don't have anybody in there who can talk to them. Every show and
every documentary they put together, it's all bullshit. It's all misinformed.
They ran that five-day series on Hip-Hop history and they dedicated one
hour to the 70's and everything else was dedicated to the bullshit and
the rivalries. This shit was built on fucking love and unity and respect
and inspiration. If you want to be talking about all this bullshit and
materialism, that's what everybody else is doing. They want to act like
they're doing something different, but we know the truth."
is looking at it from a business standpoint and the pioneers are looking
at it from a respect standpoint," explains Tony Tone. "They're
not trying to disrespect, but everybody feels like they're not getting
respected. You have to think if you are an individual feeling like you're
not being respected, then there are a lot of other individuals feeling
like that. They can't pamper all of us. They're trying to do the best
for all of us. They're trying to pamper the ones who are bringing in the
money for them. So yeah, Ludacris is going to get pampered and Ice Cube
is going to get pampered. Being this is a situation where everybody is
getting rich off of us, yeah, we should be getting pampered, but you can't
expect that of them."
can change, the pioneers have to unite. They don't all have to be on the
same page, but it would certainly help if they at least read from the
there was more unity in the community of Hip-Hop and within the pioneers,
VH1 would not be able to pull off what they have the past three years,
explains Joe Conzo. "They even gave Bambaataa a hard time as to who
he could invite."
Wiz contemplates a boycott for the 2007 Hip-Hop Honors, Tony Tone insists
he will continue to go for the networking. There has also been talk of
the pioneers organizing their own award show. A quicker, more feasible
solution may be to improve the Hip-Hop Honors first.
of all, you need to employ some of the pioneers who could serve as consultants,"
Disco Wiz suggests. "We have organizations that we're trying to get
off the ground like Rocksteady, Zulu Nation and the Federation. We're
trying to preserve Hip-Hop culture. I'm willing to build with them but
we have to start from ground zero. You can't keep on trying to pick us
off one by one. That may work individually, but that won't work for the
I was [behind the doors talking about who should be honored], I would
be doing it differently," states Joe Conzo. "I would be focusing
more on the pioneers and maybe one or two newer people. We'll just have
to wait and see who gets honored next year. If things continue as they
are, we'll boycott it. The show will still go on, but it will be even
less credible than it has been."
168 said it best. "The moral of the story is that these people don't