Interview With JoeY Kane Exclusive Photographer for Cold Crush

 

          CAZ                   JOEY          L.A. SUNSHINE

 

         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.

 

  What year 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.

 

Are you originally  from the Bronx ?

 

Yeah 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.

 

  J.D.L 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)..

 

  Jay , 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 fun period.

 

  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 great show.

 

 Wh 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?

 

I 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 home base?

 

  Harlem 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.

 

Harlem 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 supermarket.

 

  You mentioned tapemaster earlier – what kind of equipment was he recording with.

 

Tapemaster 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?

 

  Well im 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 mic.

 

  How 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?

 

  All the 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 just exploitation.

 

  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.

 

JOE CONZO

BIO

 

Back 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. Strapped 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 photographers”.  But 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 history.

 

-James “Koe” Rodriguez

 

 

 

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