Thursday, January 24, 2008


Steven Hager is probably not the first name that comes to mind when you think of old school hip hop and I'll admit that I didn't even know who dude was until I read this interview with him on Jayquan's The Foundation website. Hager was the written equivalent to Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper. In a perfect world, Hager's classic Village Voice article on the roots of hip hop would be revered by every wannabe MC and DJ just like every aspiring toy sleeps with copies of Subway Art and Spraycan Art under their pillows during their formative years. Another mind blowing read is Hager's essay here about how his movie script for a film entitled "The Perfect Beat" was scraped of all it's realistic griminess and polished up into the the squeaky clean flick we all know as "Beat Street".

Hager's book
Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Breakdancing, Rap Music and Graffiti (St. Martin's Press, 1984) is unfortunately out of print (WHY??), but you should definitely pick up his other book, Adventures in the Counterculture: From Hip Hop to High Times (High Times Books, 2002), which reprints the aforementioned early 80's Village Voice article where he was the first to use the phrase "hip hop" in print. Hager goes back, way back, back to the Bronx in 1955 and traces the formation of hip hop from it's earliest squeaks, scrawls and pops up until the release of "The Message". Although his hip hop piece only makes up 55 pages of 247 page book, this thing is a must own (shit, you can cop it used on Amazon for under $1!). Just ask Jeff Chang who refers to it as one of the two foundational texts on hip hop (along with Toop's Rap Attack). The rest of the book is filled with some other great essays - how an ex-junkie becomes one of the world's top marijuana seed dealers, the story of seriously mentally ill cop who shoots a man at point blank range for transporting a few plants, the conspiracies surrounding JFK's assassination and the ATF's failure at Waco, TX. and a lengthy history of CBGB's and the punk, no wave and art scenes surrounding it. Ill shit. My only complaint is that the original publication dates or sources of these articles are not listed anywhere.
When I was reading Hager's article the one thing that really struck me is how much emphasis he put on the gang lifestyle that predated hip hop. Other hip hop books tell you that Bam was in the Black Spades and eventually formed the Zulu Nation and act like that's all you need to know. Hager delves much deeper into the gang aspect and shows that long before the term "gangsta rap" even existed, gangsterism was the lost 5th element of hip hop. It reminded me of a book I read early last year by cult sci-fi author Harlan Ellison entitled Memos From Purgatory (1961, Jove/HBJ) which is based on Ellison's own experience joining a gang in Redhook, Brooklyn in 1954. Ellison assumed the name "Cheech" Beldone and infiltrated a gang called The Barons. While it really has no relation to hip hop at all, Ellison's book is a realistic portrayal of teenage gang initiation, recreation and warfare. Back then it was all about switchblades, razors and homemade zip guns. Though the Barons were a gang made up of mainly white kids, when reading Hager's article I couldn't help but draw parallels between the two based on what both groups of kids went through.

No music this time. Go read a fucking book!

Thursday, January 17, 2008


In 1996 when BBO Enterprises advised us all to invest in heavy metals, I'm sure they had no idea that 10 years later the very piece of wax that contained this financial wisdom would end up becoming a nice investment IN itself. At least according to this guy.

See, ever since I first heard BBO's "Pose A Threat" on DJ S&S and Craig G's "Niggaz Don't Give A Fuck" mixtape it's become one of those records that consistently eludes me. I picked the tape up at a short lived record shop that used to be on Market St. near 6th in SF (anyone remember the name of that joint?). They had a small selection of wax but the main draw for me was the bulging binder on the counter crammed full of NY mixtape covers and tracklistings. It was the only place in the Bay I knew of at the time where you could find all the latest Tapekings related releases. Of course, they were all bootlegs and the cover of my copy of NDGAF looks like it was copied on a fax machine, but it was awesome to have all the tapes I read about classifieds in the Source right there at my fingertips for $10 a shot. It was through all the 5th generation tape hiss that I discovered BBO Niggaz' (as they are listed on the tape) "Pose A Threat" which was the only song on the tape I was unfamiliar with at the time. The beat was like the retarded son of a Rza and Havoc production complete with ear piercing strings, a random female voice sample and textbook Mobb drumms. Just the type of shit I've always been a sucker for. While I'm not sure who all the MC's are, the flows are decent and follow in the foot steps of that late 90's money, thugs agenda.

I'm sure very few copies made it out to the West Coast and most if not all of those came by way of record pools for college radio. In fact, I did find an old playlist for a 1996 Beni B show where he drops the cut in question. There's no listing for this record on and the few times I've checked for it on the eBay machine the only copy I've seen is from that Dutch gou....uh, dealer. I haven't even heard any of the other tracks and I'm thinking since this track is tucked in at the end of the B-side it has to be the grimiest of the three.

I'm sure everyone has these ridiculous grails where even though your not putting a ton of effort into it, the chase has been too long and unfulfilled. Why do I want this record so bad? Because it's an obscure piece of late 90's grime that puts me one step closer to completing the puzzle or because it's just been so damn hard for me to find? Sometimes it's best that tracks like these remain stuck to magnetic tape, buried in hiss, surrounded by obnoxious DJ drops or college radio station ID's. It just feels better that way.

B.B.O. Enterprises "Pose A Threat" (excerpt from DJ S&S' "Niggaz Don't Give A Fuck" mixtape)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


January 20 marks the live debut of Luke Sick and myself's new group, Grand Invincible. If you're local, come on out. If you're not, check the Myspace page for a taste of some tracks off our forthcoming debut album "Ask the Dust". Imagine Paul C and Godfather Don smoking black grass on Breakbeat Lenny's front stoop. Traditional hip hop shit from back when it was all about the sampling and having dope drums. We're currently wrapping up our 2nd album "Cold Hand In The Dice Game" and have already started laying down the schematics for the 3rd one. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


by Luke Sick

I bought this record when I was a senior in high school. I drove down to Star records in San Jose in my sister's white VW Rabbit convertible, getting laughed at and 808 bass-ed the fuck out by what seemed like a tank division of Mazda and Nissan mini-trucks with 60-series tires, gold spoke wheels, Virgen de Guadalupe airbrush hoods, and hydraulics that always seemed to be creeping around patrolling Capitol and McKee in those days. I think MC Twist's "I Like It Loud" was the jam most of them were boomin'. I didn't give a fuck though, Cue's hadn't opened yet and I wasn't hip to Soul Disco (Bobby G's) in SF, so Star was the only vein I could cut to get spurts of raw hip hop lifeblood. I had to go, corny ass Rabbit or not. Shit, back then I would've walked through Nickerson Gardens with purple shoelaces on sippin' grape Crush in a Vikings Starter to get my records. It was that serious. The cover with the nerdy looking fat guy and the dark dude dressed in a teal sport-coat like Crockett from Miami Vice didn't throw me off, because back then (before the Melle Mel, Cool J, 50 Cent man-scaping image became a requirement) fools could look like scientific mutants and that almost insured the listener that they'd bring the unadulterated funk equation.

Bottom line, odd-looking people are funky and worth the most respect. Anybody, peeped the Propmaster Red Alert lately? While we're on radio hosts, Stretch Armstrong is a preying mantis humanoid motherfucker. You ever think maybe his boy Zev Love X has a decent reason for wearing the iron mask? And, I wasn't even gonna say Biz…but I did.

Large Professor's black-rimmed, general-issue "birth control" specs made him look like he should be bustin' raps with the Omega Mus, Booger Presley, and Lamar, but he was hardcore science, because his craft was honed as a pupil of a studio-rat "white guy who knew records and made dope beats" a.k.a. Paul "Inventor of the Chop" C and a legendary brother in his own right named CJ Moore at a little place in Jamaica, Queens called 1212.

We love everything that ever came out of 1212—from Mikey D. and L.A. Posse to Ultra's "Critical Beatdown" to Superlover Cee and Casanova Rud to Uptown's "Dope on Plastic" to Stezo's "Crazy Noise" to Percee P to Son of Bazerk—just to name a few. Those are the records we look for in the thrift stores and at record swaps. And hip hop music made since, inspired and influenced by the sound honed by Paul and CJ at 1212 and the way it was produced, is what we're mostly feeling.

Paul C

Paul C laid down Phase N' Rhythm's debut "Brainfood" b/w "Hyperactive" (sampling Tommy Roe's "Sweet Pea") single for the group's own label, Funky Tune Records (which would change to a production company when the duo got signed to a single deal at Tommy Boy). Paul's untimely murder at the age of 24 left his friends at 1212 confused and melancholy. Phase N' Rhythm vanished after CJ Moore "appeared on" (which back in those days could mean "mixed" or even "fully produced") their lone Tommy Boy single, "Swollen Pockets."

Phase N' Rhythm - Swollen Pockets / Hook-N-Sling
Label: Tommy Boy Music
Format: Vinyl, 12"
Released: 1990


Appearance - CJ Moore , Phase N' Rhythm
Producer - Phase N' Rhythm
Produced by The Immortal hands of Phase N' Rhythm for Funky Tune Productions
Mix chefs: Phase N' Rhythm and C.J. Moore at 1212 Kitchens

"Swollen Pockets" written by J. Jasmin, D. Rosser, Isaac Hayes, David Porter. Published by T-Boy Music / Funky Tune Publishing (ASCAP) / Promo Music (BMI)

"Hook-N-Sling" written by J. Jasmin, D. Rosser, Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff. Published by T-Boy Music / Funky Tune Publishing (ASCAP) / Assorted Music (BMI)

In memory of Paul C.

A2. Swollen Pockets (Duck Sauce Instrumental) (3:24)
B1. Hook-N-Sling (1/2 Fried Chicken Vocal) (3:14)
B2. Hook-N-Sling (Soy Sauce Instrumental) (3:10)
B3. Hook-N-Sling (Chop Stick Apella) (2:36)

"Swollen Pockets" utilizes Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming" (Atlantic, 1966), a song written by Stax songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter who are surprisingly, in a time of no sampling laws, credited as songwriters for "Swollen Pockets" but their publishing is not listed, so we can assume they never saw a dime from Tommy Boy. Eighties movies kids will probably recognize "Hold On, I'm Coming" from the opening car chase scene in "Blues Brothers." It blasts out of Elwood and Jake's police auction bought squad car's after-market 8-track player. It is also said that Sam & Dave were the group the Blues Brothers were based on. The "Immortal hands" of the "mix chefs" in 1212's "kitchen" attack the loop and chop it with so much velocity that you forget that Phase snatched his cable signal from "Plug Tunin'" and just rock to the beauty that comes from technological limitations in the hands of expert innovators. The great Golden Era theme of getting sweated for your flyness is given a fresh twist as Phase informs us that he's "chillin' in Green Acres" and the TDK in the deck must contain the latest mix down from 1212 because he's got the "sound system blastin' as usual."

Although the title would have us thinking different, Phase N' Rhythm's "Hook-N-Sling" does not use the famous New Orleans funkateer Eddie Bo's "Hook and Sling Pt. 1 and 2". Instead,"Hook-N-Sling" is concocted out of Wilson Pickett's "Get Me Back OnTime, Engine Number 9" written by Philly rock and soul gods Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff which makes sense that it was used by Brotherly Love hip-hoppers DJ Miz for "Ain't U Freshco?" and Cool C for "Get Loose Now," and more famously by LL Cool J in "The Bristol Hotel," and NWA in "Straight Outta Compton" as well as "Approach To Danger." But, put all those versions up against "Hook-N-Sling" and guess who gets "Engine 9" chuggin' down the track the hardest? 1212 wins every time. Rhythm "(Denny, you) do[es] the cuts and the scratches" throughout the 12" and the instrumentals and "Chop Stick Apella" are gems as well. As far as Phase goes, my dunny MC Conceit from SF, who just won the My Space/G-Unit Records rap video contest, says "dude was like Special Ed meets De La meets like JVC," and adds, "Ohh yeah let's not forget he's got a lil Chubb Rock in the last verse." However you trace the influences, the flow is best summed up by an acapella drop that occurs about 52 seconds into the onslaught (soon to be cut up in a Grand Invincible joint): "Lyrics get dropped like napalm!"

CJ Moore myspace:

Dave Tompkins Paul C article from Big Daddy: or