DJ for the radio stations WRKS 98.7 KISS F.M., Hot 97, and Power 105.1
By Troy L. Smith Winter of 2006
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Harlem, on 112th street between 8th avenue and Manhattan Avenue. A year later we moved over to 234 west 111th street. I was bouncing back and forth in my childhood to Colonial Projects, which is behind Polo Grounds project, on 155th street and 8th avenue.
Right, right. You still have family over there right?
Yes one of my older brothers is still up there.
Your parent s weren’t raised here?
No, my mother is from Antigua, and on my father’s side who’s Creole. His last name is French.
How did you get exposed to hip hop in the early days?
I went to Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. I went to I.S. 10 Junior High School in Harlem when it first opened, we called it the Dime. But hip hop had not started just yet, not until I got to high school. When I was in Clinton there was this guy that used to tell me and all the Manhattan guys about Herc, Herc, Herc. So we decided one evening to go up to the Bronx. We went to this club called the Twilight Zone; I think it was up on Jerome Avenue. When I first got there it looked like a condemned building, it looked kind of suspect. But when we got closer we heard noise and we got closer there were people on the stairs hanging out like everything was o.k. So we put our guard down a little something. We went upstairs and it’s about 3 or 4 dollars to get inside. When we get inside I notice that nobody is dressed up, just a few were. I guess at that time those would have been considered the fly girls or fly guys because they stood out looking all dapper. When I stepped to the back I had no idea that I would be stepping to the area where the DJ was playing. It was basically the first time I seen a brother rocking two turntables like that. Do you want me to break down what type of turntables he was rocking?
First person I saw was a big tall brother muscular, husky with fair skin. The other one was real dark skin with big side burns.
Do you remember either one of these two guy’s names?
I didn’t know their names at first; I was noticing the fair skin brother rocking the turntables. The turntables were Pioneer PL15’s. He was using a Sony mic mixer as mixer. His system was a Shure P.A. system. It was a Shure Amplifier with P.A. column speakers. That is what I seen in front of me. Connected to it was the mic mixer from the mic mixer to the turntables. In the middle of the mic mixer was a big knob. He was playing stuff that was different then what you would regularly hear.
What were you listening to in Harlem that you were vibing with before you went to the Bronx that night?
Well I was digging mostly what you were hearing on radio. We are talking the early to mid seventy’s, 74, 75. So we were listening to the funk hits, the early Disco records.
Did you hear Hollywood or Flowers before you went up to the Bronx that night?
So there was nobody you really heard but Hank Span and those other guys?
Right, but the only person that was really dominating was Frankie Crocker. The people who influenced me at the time were Crocker and Ken Spider Webb.
Damn Ken Spider Webb has been around for a long time.
Right, Ken Spider Webb was doing the mornings; I don’t remember who did the after noons, because I was in school at the time. Later on after we came out of school you would hear Crocker from 4pm to 8pm.
Crocker was banging the joints. Besides that when I wasn’t listening to WBLS I was listening to WWRL. Between Hank Span, Eddie O’Jay and Jerry Bledsoe, those were the cats I was listening to on the radio. Before I got to the Bronx I was also heading downtown. I was going to different places down town, like on a Thursday after work or a late night Friday. I am not supposed to be in these spots but I am able to get up in there. I was like 16, 17 years old. The first spot I used to go into was Nell Gwen’s. Nell Gwen’s used to be on the corner of 42nd street and Park Avenue, it was across the street from Grand Central station. I think it used to be a restaurant during the day and a club at night. When I got there that was when I heard the beginning of full disco sound, right along with radio records. The DJs that were in there at that time was the Together Brothers that were from Brooklyn. Different DJs took turns every week. I always bounced down there to hear those DJ’s. Also Pete D.J. Jones, then there was the first female DJ I ever heard name Becky D.J. Jones. Who was Pete’s girl at the time. Also Grand Master Flowers played down there.
What about Maboya?
I never really heard of him, but I did catch Plummer and DJ Charisma.
What about Levan?
No I never went to the Garage on his night. I have been there on a Friday but not on a Saturday. Levan I think was part of the deep disco and High Energy, like places like Studio 54 or something similar to that, then you had the spots like Nell Gwen, Hotel Diplomat and Superstar Cafeteria. These were like the three main spots around 42nd street area. Besides that you had a place called the River Boat, you had another club called Pippins, also another club called Leviticus. These spots were for quote unquote black dapper, sophisticated audience. Here it is when you think about Levan you think about the cats like Larry Patterson, Kenny Carpenter and Bruce Forrest and them. They were more towards that gay audience. That’s why I say it’s a separation there.
Your man Kool Kyle the Star Child told me it was two types of disco being played also. That Euro Disco with say for instance Kraftwerk and then your man at 371 would play that Ring my Bell by Anita Ward type disco.
Right, see what it is, is it would be separated. Cats that lived in the Bronx and Harlem that didn’t feel like going all the way down town also didn’t feel like paying all that money, would stay up town and go to 371. The people that came out of 371 were rest in peace June Bug, Hollywood, Reggie Wells and Eddie Cheba. I have to tell you the God’s honest truth, I never stepped in there one time in my life!
Word, why not?
Well I was always with quote unquote the grime side. The grimy side is what we are going to talk about later on.
The reason why I say that is because you would still go to those same types of clubs like 371 downtown.
Yes you are right, but that was because that was what was introduced to me in the beginning. So at that time I was playing both sides of the music. So now with the grime side I would go to Herc’s parties at the Twilight Zone, he later started rocking at the Hevalo. By the time he started rocking at the Hevalo you had to be dressed!
My man and Caz told me about the days when cats would shoe paint their sneakers black to get in the Hevalo because no sneakers were allowed.
Not only that, but this is the time when brothers started hustling, making a little bit of money selling nickel bags, tray bags and loose joints. If you were with the big boys then you were bumping off the quarters. If you know what I am talking about!
Of course, quarters of dope!
Right, doing that. The cats coming up town to the Hevalo were guys like Bat, Guy Fisher all those players.
They were rolling up in there. You had to be dapper, these were the days when you step your game up, and you are wearing the Courterfields, your wearing the Gabberdeen pants.
Shopping at Leighton’s, A.J. Lester’s or Mr. Tony’s on 125th street.
Right and you’re wearing your knits or you’re Blyes and your Al Packer’s. Your wearing your British Walkers or your Play Boys, and if you step up, you wearing your Gators or half Gators.
Also you will have
either your Gold or Silver medallion on. That was stepping from
What about Charles Gallery, before that place caught on fire and they shut it down?
Charles Gallery did have something going on back then that I didn’t know about until later. My older brother used to hang out at all the spots in Harlem. He played in the Rucker league under Mr. Rucker. He used to be down with the whole circle of people that used to go to all the spots, such as Big Wilt’s Smalls Paradise, Charles Gallery, Baby Grand, 22 West, etc. These were all the spots that were in Harlem at the time. So Charles Gallery was right on 125th street and 8th avenue next to the old Army and Navy store.
That’s Right, in fact a couple of stores away from Randy’s Place, and Vets clothing and sneaker store.
Exactly, you said it better then me. I wanted to be like my brother so much that I used to be across the street and watching. (Troy starts laughing.) I learned later on that guys like Eddie Cheba and Hollywood started rocking these spots. But I would never step into them. To be honest I wasn’t really influenced by the D.J, but I was influenced by the vibe of the party. You really just wanted to be on the scene at that time to party with the people that were there.
The Hevalo is where they stepped up their game. A little bit after the Hevalo, they stepped it up by taking it down to the Executive Play House. That was where Herc went to after that. He commanded the whole Jerome Avenue that was his. To be honest he was also commanding all the parties at the high schools.
At first he was rocking over on University and all around there, I had no idea until recently he was also killing it on Jerome avenue!
I really didn’t know anything about him until I caught him on Jerome, and then started hearing about the work he had put in over on the West side of the Bronx.
So lets go into the part were you say Coke La Rock was the first emcee that you heard rhyme!
He was the first person I ever heard and saw through my eyes.
I had to think that also because Herc and his Herculords were first, before the Furious 3 emcees. Although I heard Cowboy was running around doing his thing solo before he even got on with Flash.
Well I know he was Flash’s first emcee, but to my eyes Coke was first on the mic before anybody. Coke used to say his rhymes and once in a while I would see Herc get on and say something on the mic but it was mostly Coke.
So would you say he was that Disco emcee, or was he really trying to put some rhymes together?
I would say it was simple rhymes here and there. Cowboy and them first came on the scene they were also doing simple rhymes. Jack and Jill went up the Hill, Jill took a Chill Pill.
Everybody had that little joint.
While they were doing their thing I would watch the crowd and notice certain cats with their footwork. That’s when I started learning about cats like the Nigger Twins, Eldorado Mike! This guy name Sha Sha, who was the best one out of everybody.
I never hear them talk about this guy I always hear about the Nigger Twins.
They were very popular, but Sha Sha was the best out of everybody. Then you had my man Trixie. I can’t remember his brothers’ name right now. But they all would hang out over by Jerome Avenue, in Herc’s parties. Any where else Herc went, club to club they was right there with Herc. I started to also get to know all of Hercs D.J.s, such as little Timmy. Then there was the original Clark Kent, as well as Black Jack. Then the Imperial J.C.
Yeah I didn’t know how good J.C. was until I recently did his story.
Yeah he was and still is nice.
How did you first run into Flash?
I used to be close with this guy named Sidney Robinson. Sid and I were real close and he used to live over there on Longwood and Hewitt Avenue, by Prospect Avenue. Me and Sid were close because I was in this Upper Bound program.
You talking about the College bound program over at Columbia University?
Similar, but his one was at Fordham University in the Bronx. I know Columbia was PPD also. We used to play against them in basketball in the summer. Sid and I got close at Clinton High, so I started going around his way. This kid I knew that lived across the street from Sid had some fine girls that hung out in the basement of his home where he played the drums for a band. So I would hang out with them from time to time. This guy one day came from the house next door and asked does anybody know how to fix the cone of a speaker. We all said no, and he was mad because he was trying to fix it. I did not know until later on that that guy was Flash. He might have had his first child by the girl that lived next door to my friend.
One day somebody pulled my coat about him rocking at this club on Garrison Avenue, a block or two from Hunts Point Avenue. It was right next to a cab stand. That was the first time I got to hear Cowboy.
He was the only emcee for Flash at this time?
Right. After that then I started hearing about Flash rocking at the Black Door.
So you used to come from where you lived at in Harlem, which was the Colonial projects at the time, to the Bronx!
Well the reason why was because I went to Clinton High were I got close with everybody. Then when I got to Fordham and its program, I started staying on the campus, during my junior and senior year. So I got to build a lot of relationships with cats from the Bronx. I also started seeing a young lady over there on the Grand Concourse and 149th street. With all these people that I was meeting in the Bronx, and they always talking about the parties, so I started going. So there would be a group of us going over to the Black Door. Then you had A.J. and his partner Kenny Gee doing parties at the Moore House projects. This place was located over there on 149th street and Jackson Avenue. It was between those two spots that we were going back and forth whenever they were having something.
I started learning about the L- Brothers when they started doing parties at the Boys Club over on Fox street.
All that time you were being a spectator, never touching the turntables yet?
Right, not yet but kind of, sort of. But I am going to let you know when. Also there was Love Bug. He was rocking with A.J. and Kenny Gee. He also rocked with Smokey and the Smokatrons.
He also played with Pete D.J. Jones!
Right, Love Bug was a floater. His claim to fame was he knew how to play for the grimy as well as the Disco crowd. He could flip it either way. At the time they were going to Smokey parties, him and Love Bug used to D.J. at Burger King during the evening.
Right I heard about that Burger King Disco.
Right, it was over by Prospect Avenue. I went in there a couple of times. Now during the time I was on campus is when I started thinking I wanted to become a D.J. I have to say Herc is who influenced me. It was me and my room mate Roosevelt Smith who came from Melrose projects, combined our stereo systems together. Us trying to be creative we hooked up two turntables to the receiver, crossed one to the phono, and the other to the auxiliary. We would let the record play out of course, but we would then click it from phono to auxiliary, and back and forth to the next record. We ended up doing a party on the campus, which I considered my very first party.
I got you.
I was doing a little bit of record collecting and gathering records from my older brother, who had all the records. I ended up going to college. I did a year and a half at Hampton. When I would come back I started hearing more and more about Flash and the other popular D.J.s, which just influenced me more to want to be apart of this D.J. thing. I started working down in the garment district on 35th street between 7th and 8th avenue. I started saving up my money; little by little I started getting my own set. The first set I ever had was a pair of Technics 1800’s, and a Clubmen 1,1 mixer. That was the model number one. After every payday I wasn’t thinking about getting dressed, I was going around the corner to two stores, Rock and Soul and Discomat. They were right there on 35th street and I was picking up the latest 12 inches of disco and R@B and Funk and what ever else.
During this time I moved from the Colonial projects, back down to where my parents lived which was on 113th street and 7th avenue. I hooked up my equipment right in my room and just stayed in there and practiced and learned the art every day and night. I got close with another brother by the name of Tyrone Mckivor, he was also from up in the Bronx. He went to Clinton and the Upper Bound program also. We tried to hook up together on this thing but he was somewhat inconsistent during those times. We had plans to go and rock at this park on 188th street and Webster Avenue. I don’t remember the date but he wasn’t on point, which upset me so I ended up doing the jam by myself. I took every little bit of equipment I had and put it inside a cab and went up there and did it by myself.
So who was holding you down while you were doing this party? I say that because you know cats was always talking about how other brothers were getting their set taken!
I was fortunate because it was people in the neighborhood that I already knew. So when they saw me dragging my stuff in, they started helping me by saying “yo, you D.J.?” “I didn’t know.” “Let me help you.” They helped me get it out of the cab, and bought it in to the park. They got me hooked up to the lamp in the park. They pulled out the long wooden table for me that you would use for the picnic tables.
I just started D.J.ing
How long did you do your thing that day?
All day, through the evening. Say 3p.m to maybe 10 p.m.
All by yourself?
He never came.
Did anybody else around that day D.j. for you?
It was all me. Everybody was shocked, they were like “we didn’t know.” The people from down on 149th street came up to support me. In fact now that it is coming to me I also rocked at a school down there on 149th street by myself. There was another cat named Bruce Moore who was doing his thing during that time, that came from that area but he never took it further.More and more I started doing my thing and getting known. At this time my cousin is starting to be influenced by me.
Exactly, my cousin and aunt and the rest of them were living up on a 151st and Amsterdam Avenue.
Over there by the Battle Grounds!
Right. Jazzy and my man Sid were going to the same Church as well as Teddy Riley. This was Reverend Coalfields church on 136th between Lenox and 7th avenue. I forgot the name of the church. Jazzy was already influenced with music because he played the drums. While he was playing the drums at the church Teddy was playing the organ. I didn’t go to the church but I was always amongst all of them. When Jazzy seen I was more and more D.Jing he started coming over to the house, I started showing him the fundamentals of what to do D.Jing. Just like you show a person how to play basketball is how I showed him how to D.J. During this time Jazzy and my aunt and them moved to the Bronx, they moved to Bronx River. By that time my aunt and uncle bought Jazzy a little set. A pair of turntables, technics 210’s, and I think he had the same mixer as I. He started collecting records. We used to always go down town to the village to collect records together. We would be down there all day digging and looking. Jazzy started doing his thing up in his house and somebody pulled (rest in peace) Disco King Mario’s coat about Jazzy. They told Mario about Jazzy and his little record collection and suggested that he might want to put him on. Mario at the time was known for having a sound system, but he didn’t have any turntables or any real records. But he had the sound system. He used to always go and battle Bam at the j.h.s. 123. That’s another spot I used to go to.
Disco King Mario came to my cousin, and asked did I he want to get on? Jazzy said yes he would love to get on. It was something new and exciting and he got on. The bad thing is Mario started jerking Jazzy and started jerking him by using him for his records and turntables but not paying him. Meanwhile Bam already had his D.J.s, Zambo and Sinbad.
Are you taking about he same Sinbad from the T- Connection that use to rock with Kool Kyle?
No, this was another guy but one of them left Bam. Bam is hearing a lot about Jazzy and wondering who this kid, playing with Mario is. Somebody told him it’s a new kid that just moved into the projects. He said “he just moved into the projects, so what is he doing over there?” (Troy starts laughing.) See Mario was from Sound View Projects.
Some body steps over to my cousin and says Bam wants to see you. They met and Bam asked him did he want to get down. Zambo stepped off so it was Sinbad and Jazzy. Me and Jazzy were doing our own thing on the side, and he one day said I got a couple of guys that want to emcee for us. They were from Sound View and we called them the Jazzy 3. That was little Sundance, Charlie Chew and Master Bee. While we were doing this, Jazzy would be talking to Bam and always saying my cousin my cousin my cousin! As I started coming to the parties Bam asked me one day would I like to be down. I said sure I would love to get down with ya’ll. They bought me in. That was like in 1979. Now with the Jazzy 3, Charlie Chew quit and went into the service. Little Sundance (Red says the word little to separate Sundance from the Big Son Dance that used to break dance and wasn’t no joke with the knuckle game.) and Master Bee stuck around. Bam liked Sundance so he put him on as a Soul Sonic Force emcee. Mind you Bam already had an army of emcees.
Well who was that army at that time?
The people under Soul Sonic were Mr. Biggs, who was with Bam from the very beginning. So you had Pow wow, Sundance, Biggs, Ice, Lisa Lee, Hutch Hutch. Then there was Master Ice that was little Sundance’s brother. Mr. Freeze and Master Bee, Charlie Rock.
No, Malibu wasn’t officially down. He was down with Love Squid. Malibu came from Edenwald projects. They were from another division of Zulu. The three D.J.s became Bam, Jazzy and me after Sinbad stepped off. The branch off of us was the Funk Machine with Africa Islam, Donald Dee and Kid Vicious. A girl named Nae Nae was also down with Funk Machine. D.St. was a branch off also, he had the Infinity Emcee’s. He was up in Mount Vernon. That was big Shyheem. There was another brother running with them who later got on with the R&B group in the 80’s called Entouch. He was the light skinned one. He was one of D.St.’s emcees.
When you first got down with Bam and a little before that, how were you dealing with the crime going around hip hop and the Bronx? Who I am referring to is the stick up kids, Billy bad asses, wanna be killers and actual killers? I know you Zulu brothers were untouchable because you were with Bam but everybody doesn’t follow protocol .
I think what was fortunate on my behalf is I am cool with everybody, and got along with everybody. Everybody knew who I was. I had trouble but it never escalated to anything big. Even if I was at those Flash parties I knew people. I knew the all the Casanova dudes. I got along with them until they started bugging when Peanut got killed. Allegedly Joe Kidd killed him over there by I.S. 167. Over there by West Tremont during a party. I was almost caught in the middle of that because Joe Kidd was down with the Boston Road crew and he was also down with some cats that I was cool with. My man Lance from Clinton High was cool with him. When I got down with Bam I was leaving that whole scene of Flash and A.J. parties.
It was crazy because I never forget the first time ever Bam and Flash played together at Bronx River. Casanova’s always followed Flash to his parties. So when they saw me they were bugging. Tiny steps over to Bam and starts talking to him. I remember Bam saying to me later on “They were asking about you, watch those guys.” I always kept my eyes open. On a whole they would try and test me but not to the fullest. They would test me just to see how far they could go. But I was just the happy go lucky brother cool with everybody. I never tried to come around with no screw face, walking around like I got to prove something.
Even though you have an army of Zulu cats behind you?
Right, I just was never going around like that. But when they tried me I stood stern and didn’t flinch.
So once and a while you didn’t have to slap nobody?
I never had to go there. Also at that time I was focusing on having my son. This was 1980; I got down with Bam in 79. Although I am D.J.ing I am now working down in the Wall Street area. It was a Purchasing and Management company. I was more less an assistant to a broker and worked the mailroom. It was down on 11 Park Place.
With you D.Jing strong now how did this affect your girl and family, you not going to college any longer because of the D.J.ing? Seeing as they really didn’t see Hip Hop going anywhere.
It’s funny you say that, when I started D.J.ing in the house, rest in peace my father, he use to say cut that s--- down. My mother used to say, God bless her also, used to say I rather he be in the house than in the street. He used to mumble about that, but he used to deal with it.
Now you living right in the block with all the big hustlers right out side over there on 112th street and 113th street, you didn’t get pulled in trying to bump off the Quarters and dimes (Heroine.) in 116th street for a minute as well?
I did my thing for a minute!
So you were around Underwood, Headache, Fat Steve, Bat and them?
I knew all of them cats. There was one time were I had to solve a situation. During the time I was in the Upper Bound program at Fordham University, there used to be a basketball tournament behind the Colonial projects called the C.Y.A. Bat, Cisco and their crew from 116th street had a team out there. So they had a game this day and some trouble breaks out in the game, and there is a shooting. People from the projects knew I had family down town. People from downtown knew I lived up in the projects. Some how some way both sides got a hold of me and said “yo man you got to solve this.”
You had to be the mediator.
I was like yo what do you mean. They said you know this person and that person. Now mind you I am like a nobody to them at that time. I am like whats little old me going to do? “Yo, you have to talk to this guy and that guy.” I finally got to talk to one of each and they got to talk to somebody else. It had to get squashed. Remember the school that used to be on 135th street called Harlem Prep? It was on the downtown side. It’s a church there now. (D.J. Imperial J.C.’s Church.) That was the meeting place, because it was over a basketball game and more violence was going to happen if they didn’t solve this.
So who was this Small Paul and them from uptown that was going against Headache and them?
Damn you knew them names huh? (Red starts laughing.) Nah it wasn’t Small and them it was more of the cats from the projects. Paul and them mostly stayed in their lane. But Paul did marry a woman from my projects.
Ah man Paul was off the hook.
No doubt but they mostly stayed in their circle, him, Pimp Kid and a couple others, they stayed in their circle.
Why did you choose Clinton High school over say Martin Luther King or Louis D. Brandeis high schools downtown?
I was influenced by the history of Clinton’s sports.
Right, right I forgot. It was also known for its academics, as well as some good actors like John Barrymore I believe, and writers such as James Baldwin.
Right and some cats pulled my coat to come up there and play ball.
Now how did you get that name Red Alert?
From my man name Dennis who lived on the Grand Concourse. I was good when it came to playing ball.
Were you better then Easy A.D. from the Cold Crush, because I often heard from different brothers that A.D. was nice back in the day.
I never played against him, nor did I see him play. But I know that we are not that far apart in age, although I might be older. But I was known for playing ball. My man Dennis used to always tease me and say Red Alert, Red Alert! This was because I was skinny, frail with a big ole red afro. But I was fast on my feet. It was like I was the signal, I was fast and alert. So that name stuck on to me, and being as I got along with everybody the put the cool to it. Kool D.J. Red Alert.
What position did you play?
Swing man, guard and forward.
So which group did you mainly D.J for between the Cosmic Force, Soul Sonic and Jazzy 5?
More Jazzy 5
But you did D.J. for the other groups that I just spoke of?
Well Easy L. G. had Cosmic Force, and me and Jazzy Jay always had the Jazzy 3 that later turned to the Jazzy 5. But when it came to the Soul Sonic Force, Bam took a little bit of everybody from the group. I told you how many was in the group so he would break it down. He would take Lisa Lee away from the Soul Sonic Force and get Ikey Cee and Ice Ice from Throgs Neck, and put them together and make the Cosmic Force.
Actually what I heard was she was originally down with Soul Sonic and was supposed to be going to the studio to cut a record with Soul Sonic but she came the wrong day and came on the day that Cosmic was cutting their record. So Bam said you might as well stay there and she cut the record with Cosmic and stayed a Cosmic emcee!
That I don’t know, and it may be true because I wasn’t there!
Other than Bam and Herc, who else did you look up to?
Flash, but to be honest with you I respected a lot of them. I looked up to Flash; I was looking up to see how nice Theodore was.
Was there a favorite one that you had, where you said I am going to sit back and watch and listen to this brother here do his thing on the turntables?
Theodore. Also Jazzy, because there were many times I wouldn’t even touch the turntables. I would just sit there and pass him the records and enjoy the vibe that he was creating.
Did you ever have any battles?
Did anybody ever try to bring it to you?
Alright I am going to ask you this and this is going to change the era now. When Harlem World opened did that change Hip Hop? Meaning the shows before Harlem World at say T- Connection or Savoy etc. were 6 to 8 hours long, just one group would rock that night at that spot. Once Harlem World started doing its thing with hip hop cats were rocking from 15 minutes to half an hour with their best routines sets. Did that kind of change hip hop? Meaning people were now coming down to Harlem World because all these groups coming in were now putting on their best performances for 15 plus minutes.
I think what it was was the people that were starting to rock down at Harlem World were more about showmanship. It became the development of showmanship, because when you think of groups like the Treacherous Three, Master Don and the Def Committee, Crash Crew, Fearless Four and even Disco Four as well as Johnny Wa and Rayvon. Their style of rapping and presenting their selves was much different then the style up in the Bronx.
And why do you say that.
They I feel were influenced by the style of the legendary D.J. Hollywood. He was more like the party rocking style. Here it is the cats in the Bronx were more with the grind. The grind was more get on the mic and deliver. Hollywood would get the party participation thing going on. I think the groups that I just mentioned; he had them generate the party participation along with their rhymes and routines. This style also helped influence Flash and them, later on. I think that is what that was later on. That’s why you saw more of a showmanship at Harlem World, were you had to prove your point.
Alright I hear what you are saying but still even Hollywood up at 371, although you said you never been there, he would be there all night. Once they got to Harlem
World people would condense their shows. Like it would really become a real show. Say for example the Cold Crush would do routines in the beginning then as the night goes on they just play records and rhyme, crack jokes and talk about up coming parties and then end off with routines. That would be a whole 90 minute tape. I have early Funky 4 and Furious 5 tapes just like that.
I think at that time, that I can recall it was a host of some many different acts that were on the bill.
At Harlem World?
At Harlem World. What it was was you had various people promoting parties, and they would bring a little bit of everybody in there for that night. If you look at those old flyers you will see how many different groups of people that was on there. So you can’t have that one group rocking that whole night.
That’s what I am saying. Say in the T- Connection or Bronx River ya’ll just have your own groups performing.
That was more like a freestyle.
But that was like one, maybe two or three groups the whole night.
Like I said if Bam was to rock T- Connection, Bronx River or any spot, once again Africa Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay, Red Alert and Soul Sonic Force. So during this time every body was just getting on the turntables and cutting, and emcee’s just taking turns getting up there and rocking the microphone. As it came to places like Harlem World, these people started becoming more of routines. It became more routines and concepts. Then you had people like A.J., he was coming down there promoting a lot of his parties. Mandiplite also started promoting a lot of parties. My man Vansilk at the time was known as R.C. He was promoting a lot of parties. They would promote these parties and put on the bill as many cats as they could to draw the crowd.
A lot of those groups didn’t show up that was on the flyer.
Some did, some didn’t.
A lot did, but not every last one that he had on the flyer showed.
Well when you asked me why all these different guys didn’t have these long sets is because there were a lot of groups coming at the time. See because you had a place like Harlem World that was the staple of all spots in Harlem. As an emcee or a group you wanted to be there. You wanted to be apart of that, you wanted to say “yeah I rocked Harlem World.” All the other spots around there like Randy’s Place, Celebrity club or Renaissance; they were like “what ever, its all good.” But Harlem World was the staple.
Yeah, a big deal!
Yes, big thing.
How many times did you play Harlem World? I ask that because I know Soul Sonic didn’t really get in there that much. Pow Wow told me that, but ya’ll have played in there.
We have, me personally a few times. I have done it dolo because everybody knew I was from downtown. They used to always say that’s that n----- Red down with Zulu but he lives down here. So they show me respect because I was from down here in Harlem. They let me get on the turntables and play some records.
So much is starting to change towards the end of Harlem World days. How did you get to Roxy’s after you walked away from Harlem World, and people are slowly trending down town away from Harlem?
What started that, a little bit came from the recording field. When all the hip hop groups started doing recordings. We also were starting to get in depth with the records as well once we did Zulu Throw Down. Bam had got close with Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy. Tom Silverman knew people who would step to Bam to book parties. I don’t know how this happened but Bam got introduced to this woman name Ritzah Blue. She was known to promote parties downtown. She would invite Bam to come down and play in various spots.
So in the beginning who was ya’ll on the card with?
It was weird (Troy starts laughing.) because it would be like hip hop meets new wave and punk rock. You would see the cats from uptown dressed as they are partying with girls wearing Moe hawks or their hair dyed. They also would have these different spikes and stuff all around them. We be like “yo Bam what the hell you bring us down to? We always used to be asking him what the hell you got us into. But we were being exposed to a whole new thing. This was towards the beginning of 1982 when we started seeing this. So as we were being exposed to this we would play at places like Negrils. From Negrils we went to Danceteria. From there we ended up going to the Roxy. With the help of records such as Planet Rock which dropped around the same time we stepped into the Roxy. It opened doors for us, because you know how that record did.
It was definitely the blaze.
So now people are looking at us closer. At this time Bam, Islam and Jazzy are doing a lot of the D.J.ing. I did not play as much as them. They played most of the time, but the doors were opening. Before you knew it Roxy was becoming the main stream club. There were times we were averaging 3500 people every Friday night. Also at this time Bam started associating with the Rock Steady Crew. He bought them in. As he bought them it opened doors for them as well. They then started doing films and etc.
Were the cats from the Bronx coming all the way down town to hang out?
Many people were coming down.
Were those same beefs at the Black Door and Bronx River etc. going on down there?
People from the Black Door were a whole different crowd compared to what we had at our parties, because that was Flash and them people.
What I mean is the fights, the violence, and the viciousness.
Well we kind of moved away from that, but because of the Rock Steady Crew we now had beef with this Latin gang called the Ball Buster’s.
I was getting ready to say that. The Ball Busters, La Familia, The Syndicate.
That is what they were involved with, which was a whole different new chain.
Did it involve ya’ll?
It involved us, but not directly.
Well even before ya’ll got down town to Roxy, we was catching beef with them Ball Busters when I was in Junior High School 43. I mean that was a lot of their turf because they were only blocks away from us. But for some reason, from time to time when they bought beef to us Zulu would pop up out of nowhere and hold us down. (Before the Stick Up Mob held it down along with Cigar Mob.)And we way on the west side of Harlem.
Well Zulu was every where, and so they started looking out for Rock Steady.
So who were some of the groups ya’ll were playing with?
Talking Heads, Devo, Nena Hoggin, Bow Wow Wow. These were like alternative new wave groups. By 1983 Islam got him self involved with this radio show on WHBI, called Zulu Beats. As he developed this show, I started coming down there to be with him. The Zulu Beats show used to come on after Gill Baileys Caribbean show. We did this on a Wednesday night. See Magic started all this. He started all the way back in 1980.
Right when hip hop records first started coming out.
Then after that you had the Worlds Famous Supreme Team Show. After that you had people like Jerry Blood Rock.
Jerry Blood Rock, I don’t remember that!
Oh yeah, he was doing his thing also on the hip hop.
Where was he from?
He was from Jersey. Later on you had Special K and Donald B. they were the original Awesome Two. Then Donald B. had a fall out with K, so he bought his cousin in. They would say the Awesome Two featuring the Ohh Child Teddy Ted. Then after Donald B. left it was just them two. They were doing their thing on the weekends, while we were doing our thing on the week day on Wednesday. I think what it was was Islam hooked up a deal with a guy name Steve Hager who was the manager at the Roxy at the time. Islam had the gift for gab, so he talked Hager into putting up the money to be on the radio. You had to pay for your spot and that was an independent radio station. So Islam was like if you do this then we can advertise Roxy. WHBI wasn’t far from home. It was on 80th street and Riverside drive.
All that time I thought it was up in Jersey or something like that.
The antenna is in Jersey, but the station was on 80th street and Riverside Drive in the basement. So I used to come down there and help Islam and I would bring a tape from one of the shows. That was another thing people knew me for I was taping all the Zulu parties. So I would play a different tape every week. After Rock Steady got successful because of the movie Wild Style, they along with Islam went on tour.
Are you talking about that tour with Fab 5 Freddy, Cold Crush, Charlie Ahearn and the rest that went to Japan?
Yes, so when they stepped off Islam told me to take over the show.
Damn, good move there.
So I started taking over the show. But Islam was still considered the man out of all of us at the Roxy. So going on into that summer the program director Barry Mayo approached Bam, saying listen here we have an interest in incorporating a mix show with hip hop on the radio. This was while Magic was doing his thing on the radio as well. He came on in 1982 with WBLS.
This was 1983 when they stepped to Bam; they let him know that they were interested in Islam. They asked for Islam to come down several times. Islam would miss the appointments. So they asked who was the next person Bam had?
What was the reason Islam wouldn’t show up? Did he have a cavalier attitude; was he hanging out too much?
That I can’t tell you, because I have no idea. So the next person they asked was my cousin Jazzy. Jazzy went and did it for a couple months. After that he quit. The reason was he wasn’t getting any money for it. But he was getting a lot of exposure. So Mayo came to me next.
So when you say not getting paid, do you mean very little money or no money at all?
Damn, so why would they do that, ask you to come down to work but don’t pay you? They thought that was enough pay just being exposed?
Put it this way, the name of the game is you have to pay your dues!
I got you.
Now there was this guy Michael Hailey who used to work for MCA records. He was a brother in law of the Master B. of the Jazzy 5. He said to Master B. what’s up with your man Red Alert; he might have an interest in doing this show. He was also close to Barry Mayo. So when they came to me asking I told them hell yeah I will do it.
So when they first bought me in it started with tapes. It wasn’t live. I used to be on from 11 at night to 2 in the morning. I would just make mixes on these tapes. Not like what I was doing on the Zulu shows. Also I didn’t have a reel to reel. I couldn’t afford that. So what they said was make these tapes and then bring them in, so I had to make three sixty minute tapes, because I was on for three hours. What they would do is take the tapes and pass them over to Tony Humphries. Tony Humphries would take the tapes and transfer the tapes to the reel to reel. This was because they were playing the reel to reels on the air. What I was doing was paying attention to what other people were doing in their mixes. Not only what Jazzy had done or what Marly did, but what other guys did in the past, namely the Disco D.J.s. a lot of people forgot that there was a lot of Disco D.J.s before hip hop d.j.s.
So I always used to listen to people like Larry Patterson, Ted Curry, and Sergio Munsabar. I mean the list is long. These were mostly live broadcasts from a club or just straight up mixes. So what I had learned also on behalf of Bam, by all the different types of music we played in the Roxy, I would play R&B, Disco, Dance music. Quote unquote hip hop sounds and some rap records all mixed together. So I started in October in 1983. I did it for three months with no pay.
It was all good for you.
It was all good for me because I was gaining exposure, I started getting gigs.
So it really didn’t take any time out from your life because you could easily make the tapes at your house and be doing something else right as your tape was being played.
Right and at the same time I had my J.O.B.! That’s why I said it’s paying dues.
Was somebody saying your name over the air for you, while your tapes were being played?
Yes, “Red Alert is on the mix doing the live master mix.” You know you getting those plugs from a major radio.
I was on every other week. It would be me and the next week it would be Tony Humphries. A little bit after me they bought in the Latin Rascals. After them they bought in Chuck Chill Out. So I did it for three months every other week with no pay. When it got to 1984 I got see my first check which was $100, every other week. But here it is I am doing gigs in clubs for like 2 and $300. Which I thought was good for me at that time.
Doing what you like.
Right, doing what I like and getting paid for it, and building from there! From there I started to do my own recordings. I met a brother at WHBI while doing Zulu Beats by the name Vincent Davis. He came down with the record 2, 3, break, which was on Vintertainment Records. That was how I really met Chuck Chill Out, because he did that cut Hip Hop on Wax, Volume one. Vincent Davis came to me and asked me would I like to do the same thing like Chuck? I said sure. So I went and did a recording called Hip Hop on Wax Volume 2. I also did some scratching for a record by Tommy Boy.
By the end of 1984 the Roxanne, Roxanne era began. When the Roxanne era started a young lady by the name of Sparky Dee came along and made a record defending U.T.F.O. going after Shante’, called Sparky’s turn. Now mind you all during this time when I first started being involved more with KISS, I was going down to Russell Simmons office hanging out with him. Russell Simmons used to have an office on 26th street and Broadway.
What made you go over there?
He invited me.
How long did you know him before he invited you?
I met Russell in a club, I think it was Danceteria. When I met him he let me know that he was the manager of RunDmc. Also Kurtis Blow, Spyder D, Jimmy Spicer etc. So he said when ever you feel free come on down. I felt delighted so I took it upon my self to start going down there. So I was chillin with him and got to meet Steve Salem (Rest in peace.) who was representing Full Force. Full Force also was behind the music of U.T.F.O.
Full Force also had Lisa Lisa, right?
Right. By me coming down to Russell’s office I got my hands on a lot of product first. That was why I was getting credit for a breaking a lot of records. I was the first person to break Roxanne Roxanne.
O.K. I didn’t know that. Was that the very first record you broke that became popular?
I think my very first record I broke was T- La Rocks “It’s Yours.”
Who bought it to you? Was it Special K?
No, either Jazzy or Rick Rubin at the time. Then there were records like “I need a beat.” I also was getting all the early RunDmc records.
At this time Mr. Magic wouldn’t break these records?
I wouldn’t say that, but Magic was the person who was always trying to be the trend setter, which he was. He was getting the records before anybody. But a fresh new breed was coming in. That was when I came along.
I would have to say you put KISS on the map as far as this Hip Hop thing is concerned.
You are right, but Magic kind of helped me also. See first he used to try and dis my cousin Jazzy!
Yeah, see you have to remember Magic got to BLS through WHBI. He was the only man in town on major radio. But by the time when KISS started having hip hop incorporated in the mixes, and having people like my cousin Jazzy, Magic was dissing. Saying who is this guy? I forgot what he was calling Jazzy. By the time I started doing mixes I heard he started dissing me also. He would say things like who is this guy, I heard he got red hair looking like Woody Wood Pecker.
He was like is his name Red Alert or Red Dirt? Yeah we will call him Red Dirt!
Let me ask you this. You were making your bones way back when hip hop first started, where did Magic come from that he was able to get on WHBI?
I am going to tell you how he made his mark. First he was known as Lucky, I did my homework on him. (We both start laughing.) He was known as D.J. Lucky, he used to work in the stereo shop down on Chambers street called AST. He must have had the gift for gab. He probably said “I found this radio station were you can buy air time.” “Let me get on and we can advertise the store on the station.” He bought his time and he was the first one to play rap records before anybody else.
I always wondered where he came from.
That is how he broke through. He gained his momentum through that era so WBLS could notice him and bring him to major radio.
I bought that up because I can’t believe he would call you and Jazzy names like that when you guys made your bones in this hip hop thing long before he ever did. Have you ever seen him D.J.?
No I haven’t. but you have to realize that for a person to take it to that magnitude from no where to some where, he felt like he was the God of that format.
I understand what you’re saying in that instance.
You have to understand even though we were vets; we were stepping into something totally new when it came to the radio industry. See Magic was already here, at least before us. So he is looking at Jazzy and me as “who are these cats,” “I am the king when it comes to rap shows on radio.”
I feel what you are saying. How long did it take before you and him finally met, did ya’ll break bread together and become cool?
Well what had happened was, when I heard so much about how he was dissing me, I remember one day coming to the station and stepping right to Barry Mayo my boss and program director and said yo man I keep hearing this dude Magic is dissing me. As I am telling Mayo all frustrated, he is standing there laughing as I am talking. As he is laughing I am getting madder and madder, because I am thinking he is laughing at me. So I ask him why are you laughing at me. He closes his office door and says “sit down.” He says I respect that you are mad, the reason why I am laughing is you have to learn something, while that man is spending time dissing you, he is advertising you. Think about it, instead of spending time talking about his show, he is spending time talking about you. What he is doing is his own listeners are going to start leaving his show just to hear who you are. So take it in hand that he maybe dissing you, but he is advertising you.
I still had that anger in me, but I had to go into a deep deep thought to my self. So I had to start to learn how to swallow my pride, and let his dissing game go. It was like I was getting two disses in a sense. Number one when people see me in the streets they would say “yo man that guy Magic is dissing you.” Then there were even times when cats would say to me in the streets “I am better then you,” “I know I could do better then you on the turntables if they was to give me a shot.” I had to ignore them. So I had to learn how to swallow them both, Magic and the streets.
Six months go by and I finally met Magic in person in the basement in Danceateria. It was one of those nights I will never forget. One of those jams was going on and Larry Smith the producer of Whodini, Rundmc and so many other groups, was down there with us. So Magic is down there and Larry. When I come down there Larry sees me and says “yo Magic I want you to meet a good friend of mine.” He says “Magic this is Red Alert, Red Alert this is Magic.” When Magic turns around Larry points his finger at him and says “he is busting your ass.” (Troy starts laughing.) Magic opens his mouth to say something, I am about to open my mouth and say something, but then I shut up. He is arguing with Larry about why he is better, mind you Larry is laughing. As I shut up I just backed off and I walked back up stairs.
He kept up the disrespectful remarks. I started playing this record by an independent group which was called “Get Smart”, off the television show “Get Smart”. They didn’t like Magic because of his mouth; I guess he must have dissed them as well, because he was really known for dissing people’s records. So they come to me and said we got something for you to play just for Magic. They did this mix saying “you ain’t fresh, you ain’t fresh. Sorry mister Magic.” So I started playing it a lot and I got the feed back that it was getting the best of him. He really hated it.
For a minute Magic got cut off of WBLS and he went back to WHBI doing Sunday nights. When Roxanne Roxanne came out Marley Marl came back with the answer record by Shante. They played it for the first time on WHBI and got a hell of a response which in turn gave more popularity to Mr. Magic. Which lead to Mr. Magic being called back to WBLS.
I hear you.
In turn Sparky Dee answers that record. Another reason why I spoke about Russell Simmons and why I used to hang down there so much is he also used to manager Spyder Dee. Spyder Dee used to go with Sparky Dee.
O.K., that’s D.J. Divines man. Jayquan interviewed him as well.
Right. So being as Spyder was going with Sparky he encouraged her to do this answer record. So Spyder comes back to the office while I am there and says “yo I got this new cut that we just put together that’s the answer to Shante.” They played it right there, as I listened to it, we all starting giving it props. Cats were ohhing and ahhhing. So Russell with his management mind was like “yo we could get something going here.” “We can start getting her shows and what ever else.” She turns around and says “yo but I am not prepared nor do I have a D.J..” She blew my mind because she turns right around toward me and says “do you want to be my D.J. Red?” I said “o.k. no problem”. That’s how that became. I d.j.ed for Sparky for 2 years. The strange thing is we never practiced. We would go to the place and do a twenty minute show. She would always tell me in advance what particular records she wanted and we would rock it. We were like traveling almost every weekend.
I got a tape of you and her at Roxy’s (182.) and she took the song from Millie Jackson’s F--- you symphony.
That’s right that was part of the routine.
She kind of shocked me because it was a pretty vicious hit towards Shante who was in the crowd? How deep were those wars between the two of them?
Well the crazy thing about it was when they finally got to meet each other not too many words were said between them. If fact we were booked together so much out of town with them that they became cool with each other. Now as I think more about it smiling to my self, the person that tried to challenge me on the road was MC Shan. When we used to be on the road it would be me and Sparky and her road manager & brother named Donald Broadnax and sometimes Spyder Dee. When Shante was rolling with us sometimes she would have Shan, Biz Markie or Marley Marl. Fly Ty who was running with Prism records which later turned to Cold Chillin records was always there and he was mostly my roommate when we were on the road. We were pretty cool with each other. Back to Shan, the first time me and him were on the road he was trying to size me up. As he was trying to size me up looking at me up and down I would look back at him and just smile. I knew what he wanted me to do, which was respond. But I paid him no mind. He tried but it didn’t go far.
I remember back then of hanging in the Roxy, if I wasn’t playing in the Roxy I was hanging in there till 5 or 6 in the morning, go home pick up my bags head to the airport for a 7:00 am flight that we would have. It was like a routine for me, we were always on the go. We were rocking all up and down the east coast.
These jobs were all through Russell Simmons?
Yes, we received a lot of bookings through Russell.
So was Marley also running with Russell?
No, but who ever booked us wanted Shante also. We were often on the same bill. But we played with a lot of other groups also. Guys like Divine Sounds, Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic 3. Then there would be Klymaxx, Ready for the World.
Damn you played with some good groups!
Hip hop wasn’t holding up on it’s on yet. So they used to combine hip hop with R@B. After the Roxanne thing slowed down BDP came into focus. Scott La Rock and I were already good friends. I knew him back in the days when he used to rock Broadway International. We were real cool, and he used to always talk about how he was trying to find a way to break into the business. When him and KRS1 made this record Success is the Word. They called them selves 24:16, and they were on Sleeping Bag records.
What was that 24:16 suppose to mean?
I don’t know? Mr. Magic played the record and dissed it so bad that Sleeping Bag dropped the record. So now him and Chris are mad, furious. Some how they came across these guys that owned Rock Candy records. Through Rock Candy records
Scott incorporated Boogie Down Productions. When Shan made that record called the Bridge they made the record South Bronx. So back in the days at the Latin Quarters they used to have this thing called Celebrity Tuesday’s. The Awesome two used to rock this along with this other guy name Raul who was the house D.J. he was a big heavy set Latin guy. Scott came up in there with the acetate, looked at Raul and said I want you to play this. He put that on and when we heard that we went bananas.
Off the first play they were jumping?
Yes, they went bananas! I am talking bananas.
Scott and Chris really went back to the lab after that first one!
Yes, Raul didn’t even let it go to the end, he turned it off got on the mic and said this is so hot I got to play this again. We were going crazy. After he finish playing it, Scott took the acetate, that is a plate and took it and handed it right to me and said this is for you.
(Troy starts laughing.)
Let me go back for a minute and come right back to this Bridge thing. 1983 to 1986 I was making the tapes for the radio station then after that I started going live. What happened was Barry Mayo moved up to General Manager, his man Tony Q became program director. As Tony Q got sick, and before he left for a leave of absence he did something I didn’t understand, he let Tony Humphries go. With this he bought in Fred Buggs. Buggs was now the music director. By this time it was me and Chuck Chill Out. We use to alternate on Saturdays for the 11pm to 2am. So Buggs and Mayo were really listening, because they asked us questions like “how come y’all don’t do the same type of style like the Latin Rascals.” See the Latin Rascals were known for doing the editing with the special effects and other stuff. So we explained to Mayo and Buggs that the reason why we don’t do it like that is because the same way how they hear us on the radio, they expect to hear us like that in the club. If they see that is not the same like on radio then they feel you are a fake.
We made the tapes like we were playing in the clubs.
So they said this is what they are going to do. We are going to split you two up, and bring you down from 11 to 2 in the morning to 9pm to midnight against Magic.
(Troy starts laughing.)
He said I want you Chuck to do Fridays and Red I want you to do Saturdays. So as I started doing live, that’s when I got that acetate from Scott La Rock. I will never forget when I did this move. When I played the Bridge, and it came to the chorus line “the bridge, the bri the bri the Bridge.” That’s when I slapped in the words “South Bronx, South South Bronx.”
(Troy starts laughing.)
And what I did was make one sound louder then the other. So it over crowded. That was the introduction and it caused a stir.
As it caused a stir Shan made a record called Kill that Noise. So when Shan did that Scott asked me to come down to Power play Studio. When I started going live in the radio studio Bugsy used to tell me get on the microphone. I said for what, because I was nervous as hell. I was never known for talking, I was just into the mixing part. I said I don’t talk he said you are going to talk now. As I started talking I started thinking of all types of things to say. I had this drop that was on behalf of me and my man Pow Wow. There was a cartoon that used to come on with this chicken, and I forgot the name of the cartoon but every time he would do something he would always say “Yes.” (Red is making a dramatic sound of yes like his trade mark Yes.) So I took that Yes and stretched it yeeeeeeees. I made that as a drop. Every time they would play my tapes they would drop that on there. So when I started talking on the microphone I started dropping that yes down.
How did Pow Wow have something to do with this?
When me and Pow Wow use to run together in the early days of Zulu we used to always joke about that cartoon. We used to always be around people and say Yes.
That is a funny n----- there, you can’t help but like that dude.
Pow Wow yeah he is nuts, he used to always say Yes, Yes. (Remember Red is saying it in a dramatic way and he is funny with it.) So I took that and started saying Yeeeeeees. So when Scott bought me down to the studio he said I want you to listen to this. It was the Bridge is over. When that chorus came up he said you know when you saying that thing you say on the radio Yeeeeeees? I want you to go in there and do it on this part. So when I went in I did it on the first take. I believe when I did that that was when I became a member of Boogie Down Productions from there on.
So did that Duck Alert come in because of that?
I am going to tell you about that. Later on Scott got killed, and the next year Chris went and made that album Necessary, and asked for me to be more indepth with them. I got there and did Jimmy which was the answer to Jim Browski and anything else. The album was done in 1987, 1988 and we went on Tour.
Did you D.J. for Chris?
No, D. Nice D.J.ed for us. I was the hype man. I was something like Flavor Flav to Chuck D, not as crazy but similar. During that time Sammy Bee of the Jungle Brothers was taking my place doing the mixes on the radio. In fact a little bit of every body got a piece, some times it was Sammy, some times it was Mase of De La Soul……
You was cool with that, why would you break out from the radio to do that?
Well I had an opportunity to be on the road.
So you think that was more profitable to be on the road then in the station?
It was a challenge for me as far as far as the next stage of exposure for myself. I already had exposure with Sparky but now its more indepth and to the next level with the group Boogie Down Productions. After the Bridge was over, and the other stuff, people started looking at me as a member of Boogie Down.
Yeah I was kind of shocked because I have a video with y’all out there with Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh, Eric B and Rakim.
That’s the Dope Jam Tour. I am going to tell you the bill. First Ice T, after him then Biz Markie. Then we came on, then Moe Dee. Then Doug and Eric B and Rakim ended it. We did 53 cities that summer.
Who put that together?
I don’t remember but it was very successful.
So ya’ll all ran together for 2 months?
Yeah we left at the end of May and came back at the end of August.
Everybody was peace?
Man we had some great times. Before I left while I was rocking at Latin Quarters, I had Jungle Brothers as up and coming. During the time they were in High School my nephew Mike G used to always come to me and saying yo man we want to make a record. I used to say I don’t think ya’ll are ready. Then there was Tony D the D.J. for the group Bad Boys that made the record, “Inspector Gadget.” He told me one day that he had a recording studio in his house. He said whenever I was ready we could come over and put in some work; it was cool. I started thinking about it and I asked my nephew if he thought they were ready now? Of course he said yes. They were in their senior year in high school. They went to Murry Bertrum high school, him and Africa. By 1988 when I was leaving for the road I asked Sammy did he want to take over for me! He said sure, I found out later a little bit of everybody from Native Tongues was in there. Some times Sammy was on the turn tables, Mike, Mase, Pos, Q- Tip, and Ali Shaheed even got down. The thing about it is everybody in each group all D.J.ed, and my boss was cool with it. At that time Jungle Brothers name was building up.
Right and it was bringing more listeners.
Right as well as people thinking they were part of my camp. This is also the time when they encouraged Craig G to make Duck Alert, which came during the summer when I was on the road. That’s also during the time when Poet made that record dissing KRS1.
Right but Poet also tried to dis Justice,
And Justice had to go out there with the shotgun looking for Poet and your man Shan had to intercept. Of course Poet and Justice are cool today.
Right, well you know how that goes. Well we come off tour and I hear I got a dis record, and Poet is dissing Chris. This was my retaliation, when I came back and got back on the radio that first Saturday, I got on the microphone and said for the people who dissed me during the time I was gone, this is for you. Baby Chris who is known as Chris Lighty of Violator records, who is also one of the original members of the Violators, he was in the studio with me. I slowed down the dub side of My Prerogative by Bobby Brown and slowed down the part were he says “Why you want to talk about me. Tell me.” At the end of that sentence I played Duck Alert. Chris looked at me bugging saying “how you going to play this record dissing your self.” Then after that there was a promo that Chris made that I played. Which was about who is down with us, who is not down with us and then it would say regardless I am still number one. Then I would bring in the remix of still number one. When I bought in that remix of “Still number one” that shut everything down. It was like saying that record finished the whole entire Juice Crew. That was it, it defeated the purpose.
Right, but before that what was you hearing from them. Was their anything extra coming from them or their camp?
So it was really just coming through Magic’s radio show.
So now when it came to the Self Destruction video, did you and Marley have some type of beef or something? That’s why you and him are standing there together and Doug E. Fresh is in the middle, and it looks as though ya’ll are trying to end this beef?
I never ever had beef with Marley.
One of the brothers from Oldschoolhiphop.com wanted me to ask you about that. I found it interesting my self once he broke it down.
We never had a problem; if anything we had a bunch of Howard Cousells amongst us gassing it up. But when ever we seen each other we never thought anything of it.
Ya’ll were always cool that’s good.
We never had much to say but we were still cool.
So how was it working on that set for Self Destruction and how did you get called in?
It was real cool and because of my affiliation with KRS1, I knew ever thing that was going on. And so I just came right on in and we just did it. I guess because of the scene at the Grave site and they see me and Marly together people were like oh s--- them two together it’s like a big thing.
And you say it wasn’t anything!
Right, it wasn’t. We never, ever had any beef.
During that time Self Destruction came months after Down with Us?
That was going into 89.
The Bridge wars were pretty much over by that time?
Pretty much so.
Did it ever become a time were you and Magic became cool? Hold before you answer that did you ever use to listen to his show when all that B.S. was going on?
I know you had to do your show as well; maybe you might have recorded it or heard recordings of it.
I heard some of it.
What were your feelings about his show?
I still had the anger in side me, but I just didn’t show it. But I always had the anger in the back of my mind but I remember what Barry Mayo said let him advertise. I think we got cool when they let him go. Marley Marl started doing the show by himself. First they let Magic go from BLS and then they later let Chuck go on KISS, and that was because he wasn’t holding it down they way they wanted him to. So I seen Magic one night at a club up in the Bronx called the Castle.
Your man Kid Capri’s old spot where he used to rock!
Yeah that was alike a big start off for Capri before he came down town.
Hold up didn’t he go from the Roof Top to the Castle?
Not really, it’s just that they would let him get on at the Roof Top a couple of times, but that wasn’t his night.
Oh man I thought he was strictly rocking in there. Like Bruce had it one night and he had it the other night.
Naw, naw that was strictly Bruce’s house.
The reason why I say that is because he had so many tapes out on the streets.
Yeah, from his home.
Damn you learn something every day. I remember the first night I heard about him selling them on the streets. It was about 1 in the morning on a hot summer night and my man Fat Bub said yo that kid Kid Capri from the Roof Top is further down 125th street selling those tapes for $10, and they hot. I was always stuck on who was first to sell those type of tapes him or Brucie Bee.
Well really it was between Star Child and Brucie Bee.
Well I knew Star Child was doing his thing out of the Love Nest, but to be honest Star Child s joints were cool, but Brucie Bee had that real cool voice with his.
You right but it is between Brucie and Star Child for mix tapes. I will definitely vouch for that. But with Kid Capri he was rocking up there in the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx across the bridge from the Marble Hill area. So he was always local for them. He slowly started coming downtown to various spots. Brucie and Star Child would let him get a shot, and get on the turntables for at least a 15 to 20 minute set. Star Child would let him rock like that at the S and S club.
The S and S was crazy.
Capri built him self up and went home and started making his own tapes, and then selling them on the streets. But Brucie was making his tapes from the club as well as from home.
I didn’t know that. I thought Brucie was strictly from the club as well.
So back to the Castle, I seen Magic one night and he wasn’t in the business at the time, and the rumor mill had him hanging out too much. Our conversation was more or less him talking about him missing the business and the recognition, and I just mostly listened and then we said peace to each other and went our way. I haven’t seen him since.
Did you ever give WBLS a shot?
I never have been there.
So now you are heading over to Hot 97.
What happened is Sammy is no longer my back up D.J., Funk Master Flex is now my back up D.J. …Flex came in through Chuck Chillout. He first used to rock at a place called Home Base. This was a young crowd party spot. Flex and I got close through a misunderstand between me, him and Chuck Chill Out. In fact we got closer once I explained to him me and Chucks problem. So when Flex was getting let go from WBLS, I let go of Sammy because he was not holding it down like I wanted him to either. So I let Flex hold it down for me while I was out of town on business, by me doing this Flex built up his name. So now as his name is building the people at HOT 97 are getting interested in him. So he came to me and said he had to be honest with me because I gave him a shot. He said these people over at Hot 97 are interested in him, and would I be cool with him going over there. I said well it can hurt you and help you. See at that time Hot 97 was still a Dance radio station, playing that free style dance music, more towards the Latin and Italian crowds.
They were trying something new with the hip hop, because they weren’t touching hip hop before he got on. So I told him all the best to you. That was 1993 when he stepped over there. At that time Bugsy was on the air over there also. The new program director Steve Smith came in, he saw what Flex was doing on the weekends and said he wanted to try something different and he wanted to put Flex on through the whole week 10pm to midnight, instead of just the weekend. He asked Flex if he could do it, Flex said sure and that took him to a new horizon. If you think about it Hot 97 is built around Flex.
I was thinking that. He is the King over there.
Right like Babe Ruth built Yankee Stadium. So HOT 97 is building strong. Remember I said I was the newest breed to Magic when I was coming along, now Flex is. I then learned the people that owned HOT 97 were ready to buy KISS FM. As they were ready to buy KISS they were also going to change the format of KISS. I didn’t know about this until later but they were going to take our contracts, me Tony Humphries and Wendy Williams to HOT 97. Now mind you I had put in 11 years at KISS FM, I have never been to any other station. I said I am going down with the ship because I was a die hard KISS person. They got me in the office and offered me a contract to go over to HOT 97 but I told them no. They asked me if I was sure.
This was during the time when they was taking all hip hop off and was ready to go all the way with the Soul and R&B?
No, they were taking the entire hip hop off by the end of 94. I went all the way to the last week end when they were taking hip hop off. Then that Monday, they called me in the office and asked me could I come over to HOT 97. I said no, I can’t I am going down with the ship. I was stubborn; I was a die hard KISS person.
So you were ready to be unemployed and not do any more music, and I am talking about unemployed in the radio business?
You know what my life was at KISS!
I understand, your going to be a Yankee for the rest of your life, you not going to play for the Mets.
Right, so I was like that. But not knowing the word was going all over the industry that I did not want to go over to HOT. I am telling you the God honest truth. The top executives in this business that would not give you the time of the day, got on that phone to reach me at home or though my beeper and read my ass, saying what the f--- is wrong with you? Are you crazy they would say?
Like who, give me some names?
Guys like Hank Caldwell, Moe Austin, Russell Simmons, and Sylvia Rhome’s, Ed Eckstein. They cursed me out. Here it is I was with my girl who is now my wife. I stayed out for about a week. I talked to her, my mother and a few other people. I thought deeply about it after so many people got on my case about it. I then came to the conclusion to reconsider. So when I called Steve Smith the director over there and let him know I was going to take the offer he said great we have a slot for you. I said already, he said yeah, we been had a spot for you, we was just waiting on you. When I got there Wendy Williams was already there. They put me on at five o’clock. I started the five o’clock Free Ride.
Did you and Wendy hit it off from the very beginning?
I already knew how she got down from over at KISS so it was nothing new at HOT. She was already causing problems over at KISS in fact she raised a lot of hell over there. So we never had no problems with each other because we were cool with each other. After about a year or so of me doing the five o’clock Free Ride they called me into the office and asked me to replace the guy doing noon’s old school, who was Glenn Fisher. He was doing old school but he still had some Dance music mixed in there. He was kind of out of pocket of what the station became. What I heard and I didn’t know at that time, but a lot of people were trying to get this spot. Such as Mr. Cee, Marley Marl such and such. So they bought me down and asked me how I felt about doing noon and 5pm.
Both instead of one?
Right, so they said we will increase your pay and you will get double exposure. I said o.k.
So how did you feel about Star and Buck Wild once they got on?
I just tuned them out.
I am not trying to be controversial but I have to very honest and say that there were many times they were very entertaining to listen to. But then there were times when I thought it was very disrespectful to women and children, and so I had to push it to the side and in fact I just had to stop listening to it. I am not going to front there are times I want to listen but it can anger the hell out of you if you are not careful. So I just don’t listen at all.
I really don’t have anything for them; it is the same thing for Wendy Williams. People would always ask me every day in the streets angrily what’s up with this and what up with that with Wendy. I say I have nothing to do with that. They are like well you work with her! I say yeah but that doesn’t mean I have to be part of what she does, or say.
How long did you rock with HOT 97?
I rocked with them for 7 years.
It seems like KISS was more yours then HOT 97. I say that because it seemed like it got too complicated over there. I am referring to the drama.
Yeah you right, for the 11 years I was at KISS that was a family home type thing for me. From an intern to a General Manager, there was love through thick and thin. The people from HOT 97 seemed to have a chip on their shoulder and not have the respect for the new people that came over from KISS. So when I came over there I felt the airy feeling right off the top. Mind you the program director that hired me just came over there from another station in Arizona. He had it in his mind to change it into what it is today. But the people that were there before him and me had this antisocial way of being. Me and the new program director that took his spot, a woman, never got a long. I also learned later that she never respected any one that been in the game for awhile. She gave me, Wendy and Bugsy a hard time. She couldn’t give Flex a hard time because everything was built around him. Now the funny thing about Mr. Magic he was already over there before I got to HOT. He had the Sunday night showcase.
So he beat you to HOT?
Yes he was over there before me. So I seen him and then Marley and then it got real cool we were all joined together.
Damn, that’s damn near a 360 Degree.
Also I don’t know if you remember but while I was at HOT there was a Sprite commercial with me, Chris, Shan and Magic that we did together.
I forgot about that one because they did so many. Did you ask or promote that they let the Furious 5 come on the station to have shows for them selves?
No I didn’t have anything to do with that. That was their open mic thing on Sunday.
I got a few of those shows with Flex and Mel and the boys as well as Theodore and Dot and other brothers. I thought you might have pushed that!
No, that was going on before I got there. See in 1994 a lot of things were being created over there around Flex. They bought in Mrs. Jones, Ed and Dre and a lot of other people. Little by little they just kept coming on. Mr. Cee was already over there, they also put Fat Man Scoop in, and they just kept adding people in.
So what made you break out?
It was differences between management. They went around the back end and talked to my lawyer and gave me a deal. They asked if I would let go of the 5pm slot and just do the noon spot or go back to KISS.
That is what I was going to ask you. Did you ever have problems just doing R&B?
Nah. I was always open minded to everything.
But they didn’t want to give you that spot to just spin R&B before you first left KISS to do Hot 97? Or you didn’t really want that?
Well when they first went to Classic Soul there weren’t any mixes! Only time they asked me to do a mix is when there was a tribute to Roger Troutman. Remember Troutman used to do the weekends.
So when he got killed they asked me to do the mix and that was the first time I did something for KISS in some years. See I was under contract to the company that owned both stations. They also own CD101. February 2001 I stepped away for three months. Then I came back to KISS. They had a big presentation party for me. I wasn’t totally happy so my man Ken Spellman approached me and told me about Satellite radio. I took his offer and started doing Sirius Satellite for about a year. By 2002 the start of Power 105 radio came. I was still at KISS and doing Satellite. Some of my homies were telling me I should try and get over there to Power. But I said can’t I am under contract. I later learned that I had a two year contract with one year, and a one year option. I waited till the end of September and that made a full year that I was with KISS. I stopped right there, and when I did I shocked everybody. They was like what is the matter. I said I just don’t want to be here any more. They thought they had me on a non compete clause. There is a non compete clause that has you where if you are under contract after the contract expires for some people its 3 to 6 months you are not allowed to go to any competitive station.
How they heck were they able to do something like that?
That’s the business, that’s how it is in the radio business. It’s like that every where.
How are you going to make money then? How you going to feed your family? I am just saying if the situation was real tough as that. Do you have to go to another state?
It has to be like that. See a lot of people don’t understand how shrewd the business is. See they don’t think about you, they think about with in their company. Number one, if I have a strong following the advertisers and sponsors want to advertise the time that you are on. If you get up and leave and go to another station all the advertisers and sponsors are going to follow you. Your original company is going to lose money because they not going to see that money any longer. So what they want to do is freeze you to see if they can lower your standards. One thing I learned about this city, if they don’t hear you for a while……
(Troy starts laughing.) Out of sight, out of mind!
Exactly! But the good thing on my behalf I learned to show strong presence, not just through radio but I was visible through the streets, clubs and amongst people. So I was always like a self promoted person. I was always on the scene. So Hot thought they had me behind a barrel saying I still owed them a year but my lawyer let them know they slipped. So my lawyer got in contact with Clear Channel that ran Power 105. Steve Smith was already getting at my lawyer because he was running Power and he wanted me. Steve Smith got the lawyers from Clear Channel to work in my behalf and he got that whole decision reversed in my favor. I sat out 3 months but I still did satellite radio. I came to Power 2003 on Martin Luther King’s birthday.
How did you handle that payola situation? As far as cats coming at you saying play my record and I will hit you with dough.
I had learned through the older cats in the business, people like Bugsy and many others that said let me tell you something, if you want to be pimped go ahead and go for that nonsense. Because that’s all you doing is being pimped. They said I know the money looks good but it ain’t worth it. Then they started bringing up the stories about what happened to Frankie Crocker. To be honest I always had a reputation for not receiving any money as well I had a reputation that no matter if the record doesn’t sound good I ain’t playing it.
What records have you played that you thought were hits and they became duds?
It is quite a few, its hard to remember how many. But there are quite a few that people credit me for breaking also.
Everything is not going to make it.
So how did this work out you giving to the children in the schools.
An old friend of mine, by the name Greg Ellis. He works for a school district up in the Bronx.
Are you talking about Greg from the Polo Grounds?
That’s my man, one of the coolest brothers in the world. He is the father of my little niece.
Well me and Greg have known each other for a long time, one day he asked me to come to a school up in the Bronx. When I came up there and he seen the response, he said yo man do you feel like doing this a little bit more often? I said sure not a problem. We first started doing this in 1990.
So what is the actual curriculum? How do you do it?
It would be me and another brother. Greg would set up with different schools and tell them we have some one to talk to the kids but we don’t want to let them know who it is.
I like that.
So what it is is the first person would talk to them and then after he finishes his words he then says I have a special guest, some body from the radio station, etc, etc, etc. then when they bring me out they go bananas. The reason why we did it that way is because if we would tell people ahead of time that we are coming the anticipation is so strong that when I finally get on the stage and start talking they start yawning. That’s because they are thinking entertainment, meaning because I am coming from radio I am going to play some music.
So what are some of the things you talk about with them?
We talk about school, home, life skills, opportunities and potentials. Also talk about the drugs, a little bit of everything.
How long do your seminars last?
About 45 minutes.
Do you ever bring in any celebrities?
No, but the only one I ever bought was Crazy Sam.
Damn Crazy Sam of the Grant Projects!
He came to quite a few of them with us.
He gets up there and speaks?
Yes he talks and they love him. They remember seeing him on nervous Thursdays on Video music Box. But the reason why we didn’t bring other big name stars was because we knew that they did not know what to say to them, meaning they weren’t prepared. All they really wanted to do was promote their music. Cats have come to me wanting to be down but I had to tell them this is to talk to the children. They still would ask could they do a little routine for them. So I would have to separate my self from them.
How long have you been doing this?
Me and Greg have been doing this now for 15 years.
Damn, 15 years?
We don’t just do schools but we have done jails. I have been on Rikers Island several times.
Talk about it.
I did Spofford several times. (Children’s home for delinquents.) I have done drug rehabilitations, hospitals. I would do elementary and jr. high but never high school. In high school they want to challenge you more. I have their attention more in the lower grades.
That is some real deep stuff. How did get you on with the United Nations?
The United Nations bought me in to be the ambassador of good will. This happened when they looked in to my back ground and track record for the things I have contributed and done. That was a great feeling.
Thank you Red for a great story and giving me the time.
No problem Troy. Peace.
Brother Red Alert is rocking today on Power 105.1 Old School at Noon and Sirius Satellite on the Boom Box channel 34.
I want to thank my men’s and them, D.J. Divine and Greg Hope for setting me up to do this story.
Also want to thank the web site OLDSCHOOLHIPHOP.Com some of the coolest knowledgeable people in the world of hip hop.
Peace Troy L. from HARLEM
With my two sons Shemar and Troy Jr.
Praise God and God bless you.
© 2006 Troy L. Smith No part may be reproduced without authors consent.
© 2006 Troy L. Smith No part may be reproduced without authors consent.