Interview with Joey Kane AKA Joe Conzo
Joey Kane ,
now known as Joe Conzo was the official , exclusive photographer for the
Cold Crush Bros. & later the Treacherous 3. He traveled with and
photographed the Cold Crush at almost all of their shows from the late
70s till the mid 80s. Most of the photos of the Cold Crush that you see
in recent Hip Hop publications were taken by Joey ; but never properly
credited…..this is his story.
did you get into photography & what got you into it ?
I got into photography in junior high school. I was the photographer for
the year book in junior high and this was ‘76 or ’77.
Aside from the school stuff what was
some of the first stuff you shot ? Was it Hip Hop ?
Na , it was family photos , people on the block
& stuff like that. As I progressed I got into basic wedding
pictures , but I didn’t get really serious until high school.
you originally from the
born and raised in the South Bronx .
How did you
get involved with the Cold Crush ?
I went to South Bronx high with A.D. and Tony Tone. I used to photograph
the basketball games & A.D. was a big basketball player at the time.
He invited me to take some pictures of them performing one night , and
from there its history.
mentioned that you worked with the Treacherous 3 also .
Yeah , cuz there was an alliance which was Cold Crush , Treach 3 ,
Fearless 4 and others , so I got introduced to them by Cold Crush . To
make a name for yourself back then you had to do these battles at Bronx
River and other spots. Zulu nation was also down with the alliance , and
I got introduced to Bam the same way.
In your archives of pictures , which
I hear is large……(interrupts)..
, I been like a kid in the candy store the last couple of weeks. The
computer is like the dark room of the 21st century , and I
can take my negatives now and print pics with no darkroom. It brings
tears to my eyes almost to look at these pictures from a time when
everything was so new and innocent and fresh. There are some guys who
are no longer with us on these pictures also.
So you have a scanner that
scans your negatives?
Yes I went and bought a film scanner , and it scans negatives and
slides. I can scan and bring them up on my computer and
manipulate and touch them up however I want. It’s awesome . I
have pictures from Wild Style , the basketball scene and other scenes
that you never see in the movie. If you look at the Dixie scene you will
see me there with my big fro taking pictures. To look back now at the
guys –100 pounds lighter is something. I have pictures of Run Dmc
opening up for Cold Crush getting booed.
What was the
climate in the jams as far as violence?
It depended on where you were at the time. The Cold Crush would go down
to Soho to the Mud Club , in the Village and it was cool . If you went
to Bronx River projects it was a whole different scene. Overall it was a
So you never felt
vulnerable as this guy in a jam with a camera ?
Never. I can recall
times at Harlem World where there were shootouts downstairs , but there
were shootouts everywhere. Overall it was a fun place to be , go meet
girls , get your groove on – listen to some great music and see a
at was your role as far as the photos
on the flyers?
Hip Hop at the time was very underground – no radio or tv exposure ,
no nothing. The only way we had to get anything out through the
underground was tape master who taped every show. Buddy Esquire was a
local kid from the Bronx who was into graphic art. A week before a show
we would get Buddy to design a flyer , and we would pass them out at all
the high schools. We took it a step further by adding pictures. Now you
had a face to add to the name . So if you couldn’t make if from
Brooklyn to the Bronx to see a show , you had a tape and a flyer of
these guys that you’ve been hearing so much about. Buddy and I were
the catylyst for these guys
being known in Jersey , Conneticut etc.
So you had
access backstage and the whole 9 ?
Oh yeah , I was just lookin’ at pics Of Bam 200lbs lighter
, Red Alert lookin’ like a teenager , and they are all watching
Charlie Chase Dj. The pictures tell a story and I didn’t know that I
was recording history at the time.
So you were at
almost every Cold Crush show?
would say every one from ’79 – ’85. All the boatrides , roller
rinks ,Disco Fever , Skate Key , Hunts Point Palace , T Connection. My
first photo of them performing was at T – Connection.
What was the Cold Crush’s
World . There was a spot on Webster ave called Your Spot that not too
many people speak of because they don’t remember , Disco Fever and
Harlem World. The South Bronx really belonged to the Cold Crush. Flash
and them used to give us respect , but on one level they walked around
like we were beneath them , ‘
cus they just made a record. We tore ‘em up every jam that we went to.
World was 2 stories. You had upstairs with the dressing room and lounge
and downstairs with the bar and stage. Cold Crush & Treach were
upstairs and chillin’ drinkin’ and all you heard was BANG BANG BANG
& people runnin’. L.A. Sunshine pulls out this long ass .22 almost
bigger than him saying “fuck that shit , nobody is getting up here
“. Harlem world was so big – if im not mistaken its now a
mentioned tapemaster earlier – what kind of equipment was he recording
was this fat Puerto Rican kid who went around with a dual tape machine
with 2 jacks , that he plugged directly into the system wherever he was.
So his tapes were clear. The ones that circulated the streets weren’t
clear because they were copied so many times. Then you had the kids who
came in the jam with a box and recorded that way. I was on one side with
my bag of cameras and tapemaster was on the other with his tape deck and
that was the crew. Tony’s 2 brothers KK and King as security Money Ray
(R.I.P.) and his partner Kenny and that was it.
As far as I know the Cold
Crush were defeated once and that was by Fantastic. How do you feel
since you were right there . Did the CC4 really lose?
gonna be a bit biased , but – Cold Crush was the first group to bring
a smoke machine on stage , I remember going down to the village and
renting this big ass smoke machine and dragging it back to Harlem World
. Cold Crush would actually rise from the floor through the smoke. They
had 3 piece pin stripped suits with machine guns…nobody was doing
anything like that.
What was the
difference between Manhattan & the Bronx as far as style?
I would say the Bronx was a bit more flashy and about showmanship. I
remember seeing Cold Cush slap hands and twist each other around in
their routines. In the other boroughs you didn’t
see that ….it might be 4 guys with matching suits , but they
didn’t have a routine. I seen them harmonize with 2
mics between the 4 of them , and it sounds like they all have a
important was the sound system to the show?
The bigger the system the better the show. Tony had all of the latest
gadgets from reverb machines to whatever. Tony wasn’t much for
scratching and all that , he was more like the backup Dj – equipment
was his thing.
Whats up with the Yes Yes
Y’all book…are those a lot of your pics in their?
Cold Crush pics in there are mine. Charlie Ahearn (Wild Style director)
would always tell people back in the days “if you want pictures this
is the guy to go to”. Now he wont look me in my face. Jim Fricke
(author of Yes Yes Y’all) told me that if he had known me earlier his
book would have been a lot better. They had a whole page on Buddy
Esquire and the flyers….where is the other part ? It’s
What are you doing today?
I have been in the medical field about 15 years…..im a paramedic and I
work for the New York City fire department.
in the 70’s, Joe Conzo’s pictures were part of Hip-Hop.
30 years later, they’re part of Hip-Hop history.
Born February 6, 1963 and raised on the tough streets of the
South Bronx, Joe was definitely at the right place at the right time.
with a camera 24/7 during the late 70's and early 80's, he intimately
captured the birth of Hip-Hop music and a culture that would forever
change the world. Having
gone to school with some of the pillars of Hip-Hop such as The Cold
Crush Brothers, Joe was never too far from a classic shot.
He would go on to be the Crush’s exclusive photographer and
record some of the most candid and exhilarating moments of the
pioneering rap group to date. Those
photos and many others would soon grace industry flyers and posters
raising the bar on Hip-Hop marketing and promotion.
In addition to the Cold Crush, he documented other legendary rap
groups like the Treacherous 3 and Fantastic 5 in famed venues such as
The T-Connection, Harlem World, Ecstasy Garage and The Roxy.
Many luminaries, like Kool Moe Dee of the Treacherous 3 and
Rahiem of the Furious 5 consider Joe to be “one of the first Hip-Hop
Joe’s photographic contributions to urban culture didn’t stop at
Hip-Hop. Being the grandson of the late "Hell lady of the
Bronx" Dr. Evelina Antonetty and son to the ‘confidant and
historian’ of late "King of Latin Music" Tito Puente, had
its perks. Joe Conzo, Sr.,
gave his son access to some of the most influential names in the world
of Latin Music. Salsa greats like Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz
and Johnny Pacheco were brilliantly shot by Joe as they shaped the face
of Latin Music. Today, Joe
is an 11-year veteran of the New York City Fire Dept., working as an EMT
and presently rediscovering his love of photography.
Joe’s work has appeared on VH1, in publications such as VIBE,
The Source, Hip-Hop Connection (Europe), Urban Hitz
(Australia), the books Hip Hop Immortals, Yes, Yes, Y’all
and featured at
the prestigious “Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture” in
New York. Conzo
concedes, “Photography has changed so much. No more darkrooms, no more
chemicals, nothing but computers and digital cameras”.
Joe might’ve made way for new technology and advanced hardware,
but I guess that isn’t too bad when you’ve already made
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