Hip-Hop In Germany

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Hip-Hop In Germany

from The Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine #46 (April/May 1996)
by Boris Heimberger

When I went to the States for the first time in 1986 I would say I was the typical European kid. I was a MOD and Ska and New Wave music was the hype. I went to a record shop while I was out there and bought some promo copies of Sugarhill records with a lot of Grandmaster Flash on it. I had read some stuff on hip-hop but had never heard of Melle Mel. Then I went to a Whodini concert and guess who was the special guest that night, Run DMC… who at that time had not discovered Adidas yet.

Hip-Hop in Germany has a similar beginning like in the US. Although strongly influenced by overseas records and movies like Wild Style, it turned and flowed in a different direction caused by a different enviroment. Graffiti and breakdancing came out big but it only lasted for one summer. But hip-hop survived in the underground with people still bombing trains and rap jams at special clubs. At that time we did not have MTV or anything comparable in Europe – but with it’s start about three years ago hip-hop broke thru to get more popular and our own industry started to grow. The German equivalent of MTV’s Yo Raps is VIVA’s Freestyle which presents a comfortable mixture of US, GB and German Hip-Hop. Low budget bands sit together on the interview couch with the Beastie Boys and a crew of VJs travel around the country to make updates.

Special clubs that play 100% hip-hop are rare. In Hamburg you will find all those special clubs clubs in the Red Light district around the Reeperbahn, which is very famous not only for their prostitutes but also for the highest density of bars, music clubs, and discos. Due to the amount of sex and crime in that area it is not a beneficial enviroment. But the advantage of no limit opening hours makes it to be the most famous area of all of Europe. Famous clubs are The Mojo (more jazz oriented), Molotow (hardcore), and The Powerhouse which is separated in two parts – one for jungle music and one for hip-hop. The Powerhouse is the most favorite for US rappers who are touring and/or hanging out after a show. Last summer I met Ice T and his Body Count Crew as well as House of Pain at The Powerhouse. There are also a lot of jams all over the city where German DJs mainly play native music intermixed with live acts. Breaking is not very big in the clubs except for The Powerhouse and I have to admit that I do not know any breakers because most of those guys are from the suburbs. Live acts always depend on the season – which is Spring to Fall. Last summer we had a open air concert featuring Ice Cube and Gang Starr that was a highlight. Unfortunately the Amerikkkas Most Wanted Tour, featuring Ice T, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy was cancelled. Word had it that it was cancelled due to a management problem, same thing happened with the Warren G concert. We’ll see what happen this year.

Like the clubs there are not any pure hip-hop radio stations, but almost everyday hip-hop dj’s have their hours to play rap music. The good thing is that there is no censorship here. Example: Everday you can hear 20 Fingers original ‘Short Dick Man‘ on the radio.

Like in the states the US Rap Music market is very big and you can find everything in the big mall record shops including local independent German releases. But shops like Zardoz in Altona normally have the brand new releases first, that’s where I found the ‘Bomb Hip-Hop Compilation‘ on compact disc. The relation of import and domestic right now is 70% import to 30% domestic right now, but domestic is increasing rapidly. CD’s have practically taken over the market out here and cassettes are almost out and are just used for black copies. I think they keep a little bit of vinyl alive for the DJs to scratch with and sample. It’s hard to describe the scene in detail because even in the city of Hamburg different styles occur due to ethnic and musical background. Germany is full of immigrants from Turkey, former Yugoslavia and of course Africa. Consequently everyones rappin’ in the lanquage that he or she prefers. Due to a grand hardcore community, rock influences in German hip-hop are much stronger than in the states.

Graffiti artists like Hesh and Daim actually earn enough money from their art to live from and other groups like Fantastische Vier (fantastic four) are mega-stars. If you meet Miro (alias sprayer Mesh, alias rapper Masquerade) you might have the impression that you have just met a lazy bum (but this probably comes from his yugoslavian background) but once he starts working his creativity of music and graffiti it definitely makes him to be the GM of his hood Altona.

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The History of Hip Hop (1985 Reprint)

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The History of Hip Hop
by Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook (reprint from 1985-The Power of Rap)

Nowadays if you ask most people to give a definition of “rap”, they’re likely to state that it’s the reciting of rhymes to the best of music. It’s a form of expression that finds its roots embedded deep within ancient African culture and oral tradition. Throughout history here in America there has always been some form of verbal acrobatics or jousting involving rhymes within the Afro-American community. Signifying, testifying, Shining of the Titanic, the Dozens, school yard rhymes, prison ‘jail house’ rhymes and double Dutch jump rope‘ rhymes are some of the names and ways that various forms of rap have manifested

Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70’s, a Jamaican dj known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY’s West Bronx. Here, he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren’t into reggae at the time. Thus Kool Herc adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day’s popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.

In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to acknowledge people who were in attendance at a party. These early raps featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; ‘Yo this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the house‘. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and slogans.

As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-‘Davey D is in the house/An he’ll turn it out without a doubt.’ It wasn’t long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes. Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was not yet known as ‘rap’ but called ‘emceeing‘. With regards to Kool Herc, as he progressed, he eventually turned his attention to the complexities of deejaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane’s dj) handle the microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids.

Rap caught on because it offered young urban New Yorkers a chance to freely express themselves. This was basically the same reason why any of the aforementioned verbal/rhyme games manifested themselves in the past. More importantly, it was an art form accessible to anyone. One didn’t need a lot of money or expensive resources to rhyme. One didn’t have to invest in lessons, or anything like that. Rapping was a verbal skill that could be practiced and honed to perfection at almost anytime.

Rap also became popular because it offered unlimited challenges. There were no real set rules, except to be original and to rhyme on time to the beat of music. Anything was possible. One could make up a rap about the man in the moon or how good his dj was. The ultimate goal was to be perceived as being ‘def (good) by one’s peers. The fact that the praises and positive affirmations a rapper received were on par with any other urban hero (sports star, tough guy, comedian, etc.) was another drawing card.

Finally, rap, because of its inclusive aspects, allowed one to accurately and efficiently inject their personality. If you were laid back, you could rap at a slow pace. If you were hyperactive or a type-A, you could rap at a fast pace. No two people rapped the same, even when reciting the same rhyme. There were many people who would try and emulate someone’s style, but even that was indicative of a particular personality.

Rap continues to be popular among today’s urban youth for the same reasons it was a draw in the early days: it is still an accessible form of self expression capable of eliciting positive affirmation from one’s peers. Because rap has evolved to become such a big business, it has given many the false illusion of being a quick escape from the harshness of inner city life. There are many kids out there under the belief that all they need to do is write a few ‘fresh’ (good) rhymes and they’re off to the good life.

Now, up to this point, all this needs to be understood with regards to Hip Hop. Throughout history, music originating from America’s Black communities has always had an accompanying subculture reflective of the political, social and economic conditions of the time. Rap is no different.

Hip hop is the culture from which rap emerged. Initially it consisted of four main elements; graffiti art, break dancing, deejay (cuttin’ and scratching) and emceeing (rapping). Hip hop is a lifestyle with its own language, style of dress, music and mind set that is continuously evolving. Nowadays because break dancing and graffiti aren’t as prominent the words ‘rap’ and ‘hip hop’ have been used interchangeably. However it should be noted that all aspects of hip hop culture still exists. They’ve just evolved onto new levels.

Hip hop continues to be a direct response to an older generation’s rejection of the values and needs of young people. Initially all of hip hop’s major facets were forms of self expression. The driving force behind all these activities was people’s desire to be seen and heard. Hip hop came about because of some major format changes that took place within Black radio during the early 70’s. Prior to hip hop, black radio stations played an important role in the community be being a musical and cultural preserver or griot (story teller). It reflected the customs and values of the day in particular communities. It set the tone and created the climate for which people governed their lives as this was a primary source of information and enjoyment. This was particularly true for young people. Interestingly enough, the importance of Black radio and the role djs played within the African American community has been the topic of numerous speeches from some very prominent individuals.

For example in August of ’67, Martin Luther King Jr addressed the Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters. Here he delivered an eloquent speech in which he let it be known that Black radio djs played an intricate part in helping keep the Civil Rights Movement alive. He noted that while television and newspapers were popular and often times more effective mediums, they rarely languaged themselves so that Black folks could relate to them. He basically said Black folks were checking for the radio as their primary source of information.

In August of 1980 Minister Farrakhon echoed those thoughts when he addressed a body of Black radio djs and programmers at the Jack The Rapper Convention. He warned them to be careful about what they let on the airwaves because of its impact. He got deep and spoke about the radio stations being instruments of mind control and how big companies were going out of their way to hire ‘undignified’ ‘foul’ and ‘dirty’ djs who were no longer being conveyers of good information to the community. To paraphrase him, Farrakhon noted that there was a fear of a dignified djs coming on the airwaves and spreading that dignity to the people he reached. Hence the role radio was playing was beginning to shift…Black radio djs were moving away from being the griots.. Black radio was no longer languaging itself so that both a young and older generation could define and hear themselves reflected in this medium.

Author Nelson George talks extensively about this in his book ‘The Death Of Rhythm And Blues‘. He documented how NY’s Black radio station began to position themselves so they would appeal to a more affluent, older and to a large degree, whiter audience. He pointed out how young people found themselves being excluded especially when bubble gum and Europeanized versions of disco music began to hit the air waves. To many, this style of music lacked soul and to a large degree sounded too formulated and mechanical.

In a recent interview hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa spoke at length how NY began to lose its connection with funk music during this that time. He noted that established rock acts doing generic sounding disco tunes found a home on black radio. Acts like Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones were cited as examples.

Meanwhile Black artists like James Brown and George Clinton were for the most part unheard on the airwaves. Even the gospel-like soulful disco as defined by the ‘Philly sound’ found itself losing ground. While the stereotype depicted a lot of long haired suburban white kids yelling the infamous slogan ‘disco sucks’, there were large number of young inner city brothers and sisters who were in perfect agreement. With all this happening a void was created and hip hop filled it… Point blank, hip hop was a direct response to the watered down, Europeanized, disco music that permeated the airwaves..

FYI around the same time hip hop was birthed, House music was evolving among the brothers in Chicago, GoGo music was emerging among the brothers in Washington DC and Black folks in California were getting deep into the funk. If you ask me, it was all a response to disco.

In the early days of hip hop, there were break dance crews who went around challenging each other. Many of these participants were former gang members who found a new activity. Bambataa’s Universal Zulu Nation was one such group. As the scene grew, block parties became popular. It was interesting to note that the music being played during these gigs was stuff not being played on radio. Here James Brown, Sly & Family Stone, Gil Scott Heron and even the Last Poets found a home. Hence a younger generation began building off a musical tradition abandoned by its elders.

Break beats picked up in popularity as emcees sought to rap longer at these parties. It wasn’t long before rappers became the ONLY vocal feature at these parties. A microphone and two turntables was all one used in the beginning. With the exception of some break dancers the overwhelming majority of attendees stood around the roped off area and listened carefully to the emcee. A rapper sought to express himself while executing keen lyrical agility. This was defined by one’s rhyme style, one’s ability to rhyme on beat and the use of clever word play and metaphors.

In the early days rappers flowed on the mic continuously for hours at a time..non stop. Most of the rhymes were pre-written but it was a cardinal sin to recite off a piece of paper at a jam. The early rappers started off just giving shout outs and chants and later incorporated small limricks. Later the rhymes became more elaborate, with choruses like ‘Yes Yes Y’all, Or ‘One Two Y’all To The Beat Y’all being used whenever an emcee needed to gather his wind or think of new rhymes. Most emcess rhymed on a four count as opposed to some of the complex patterns one hears today. However, early rappers took great pains to accomplish the art of showmanship. There was no grabbing of the crotch and pancing around the stage.

Pioneering rapper Mele-Mel in a recent interview pointed out how he and other acts spent long hours reheasing both their rhymes and routines. The name of the game was to get props for rockin’ the house. That meant being entertaining. Remember back in the late 70s early 80s, artists weren’t doing one or two songs and leaving, they were on the mic all night long with folks just standing around watching. Folks had to come with it or be forever dissed.

Before the first rap records were put out (Fat Back Band‘s King Tem III’ and Sugar Hill Gang‘s ‘Rapper Delight’), hip hop culture had gone through several stages. By the late 70’s it seemed like many facets of hip hop would play itself out. Rap for so many people had lost its novelty. For those who were considered the best of the bunch; Afrika Bambaataa, Chief Rocker Busy Bee, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four (yes initially there were only 4), Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic Romantic Five, Funky Four Plus One More, Crash Crew, Master Don Committee to name a few had reached a pinnacle and were looking for the next plateau. Many of these groups had moved from the ‘two turntables and a microphone stage’ of their career to what many would today consider hype routines. For example all the aforementioned groups had routines where they harmonized. At first folks would do rhymes to the tune of some popular song.

The tune to ‘Gilligan’s Island‘ was often used. Or as was the case with the Cold Crush Brothers, the ‘Cats In the Cradle‘ was used in one of their more popular routines. As this ‘flavor of the month’ caught hold, the groups began to develop more elaborate routines. Most notable was GM Flash’s’ Flash Is to The Beat Box‘. All this proceeded ‘harmonizing/hip hop acts like Bel Biv DeVoe by at least 15 years.

The introduction of rap records in the early 80s put a new meaning on hip hop. It also provided participants a new incentive for folks to get busy. Rap records inspired hip hoppers to take it to another level because they now had the opportunity to let the whole world hear their tales. It also offered a possible escape from the ghetto…. But that’s another story..we’ll tell it next time.

written by Dave ‘Davey D’ Cook
c 1985

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DJ Eddie Cheeba & DJ Hollywood-The Disco Side of Hip Hop

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DJ Eddie Cheeba & DJ Hollywood-The Disco Side of Hip Hop

Cheeba, Cheeba Y’all!
“Let’s take a trip,
Back into the past,
When the rappers had no records
And the deejays were fast.
When the great Kool Herc lead the Hevalo pack,
And Hollywood and Cheba rocked the Diplomat…”

‘AJ Is Cool’ by Kurtis Blow

 

Cheeba, Cheeba Y’all: Original House Rocker Eddie Cheba

By Mark Skillz
MarkSkillz@aol.com

http://hiphop101a.blogspot.com/2007/09/cheeba-cheeba-yall.html

T

he Fishtail Bar in the Bay Watch Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is right out back over looking the beach. Dozens of families are crowded in several swimming pools trying to beat the heat. Overhead the sound system is playing the dancehall reggae classic ‘Level the Vibes’ by Half Pint. On the surface it appears to be the most unlikely place to meet a former ghetto celeb and rap innovator. But then again it is.

Decked out in a white and green short set with matching jersey, is a middle-aged man that many would find likable. His easy-going personality mixed with his affable charm makes him the kind of guy you’d want to share a drink and swap stories with. But it’s the stories that this man with droopy eyes and a raspy voice would tell that could make you look at him cross-eyed while sipping your Long Island Iced Tea. That is unless you’re up on your hip-hop history.

Way before the bling era and rappers rubbing shoulders with the likes of Donald Trump and Paris Hilton in the Hamptons, and definitely before multi-million dollar deals, ring tones, clothing lines and sneaker endorsements, rap was the music of ghetto Black New York. That means you didn’t hear it too far beyond the infamous five boroughs.

Almost jumping out of his seat he says to me, “Most guys back then, only got $175 or $150 with a sound system to play a gig. You know what I’m sayin’? We got $500 for an hour – without a sound system.” All the while he’s tapping me on the shoulder in between sips of a Heineken. “And you’d be happy that you got that hour!” He says to me with the cockiness of a used car salesman. “We’d do one hour over here, jump in our cars and head out to Queens or Hempstead, Long Island and do an hour out there.”

That was in 1977 when the cost of living was different and so was the cost of the best deejay in New York.

Ladies and Gentlemen: meet, Eddie Cheba, who along with Mele Mel, Cowboy, Creole, Coke La Rock, Timmy Tim and DJ Hollywood is one of the founding fathers of rap.

In his day Cheba was a legend. At hot night clubbing spots like Small’s Paradise, Charles Gallery, Hotel Diplomat and Club 371, Cheba would shout into the mic: “Who makes it sweeter?” And the crowd of hundreds would shout back “Cheba, Cheba, Cheba!

He is credited with creating the old school rhyme: “It’s on and on and on on and on like the hot butter on the what?” And if you were in the club and ‘in the know’, you knew to holler back: “Popcorn!” “We had a book of ’em”, he told me in reference to the call and response tactics that he and his friend, partner and sometime rival, DJ Hollywood came up with.

The call and response style (back then called ‘house rockin‘) that MC’s/DJ’s like Busy Bee, Kid Capri, Doug E Fresh, Kurtis Blow and Biz Markie are notorious for can be traced back to the smooth style of guys like Lovebug Starski, DJ Hollywood and Eddie Cheba.

On this day Eddie is in an upbeat mood because Tuff City Records is re-releasing the only recording Eddie ever did, a disco rap work out called ‘Looking Good (Shake Your Body)‘. A song which was originally recorded for Tree Line Records in 1980, and was backed by the owners of Club 371, it will be a part of an old school rap compilation.

Cheba’s raspy- voiced, call and response style made a special impact out in Long Island, with some college kids that called themselves ‘Spectrum Sound‘, the group would later be known as Public Enemy.

“Eddie Cheba was as important to hip-hop/rap as Ike Turner was to rock n roll”, Chuck D front man for Public Enemy informed me, “nowhere does he get his due credit for spreading it from the BX to [make it more] accessible [to] heads [outside of Harlem and the Bronx]. Cheba and Hollywood simply infiltrated the over 18 college adult bracket that simply hated on the art form. They put a bowtie on hip-hop at that time to get it through. Cheba commanded the audience with voice and a great sense of timing. These cats used rap to set up records like no other. His synergy with Easy G his deejay was simply… telepathic.”

“Now mind you”, says an emphatic Kurtis Blow, a rap pioneer in his own right, ‘let’s not get it twisted okay: Cheba was before DJ Hollywood. On that side of the family tree we have Pete DJ Jones who was the first real disco street deejay with emcee’s JJ Disco the King, KC the Prince of Soul and JT Hollywood – these guys were just announcers…the next level was the crowd response which was Eddie Cheba’s thing, he was the master of the crowd response. He had routines, he had girls – the Cheba Girls, he had little routines and he did it with a little rhythm ya know: ‘Throw your hands in the air, everybody now, we don’t need no music, come on y’all say it, so just clap your hands everybody and everybody body clap your hands! If you’re not too skinny or not too fat everybody say and ya know that!” Eddie was mad sick with the crowd response he was a master!”

As I think back on other names that rung out loud on the streets back then I ask Eddie about:

Ron Plummer: “Awww man, Plummer gave Pete Jones hell with those refrigerator sized speakers.”

Maboya: “He used to play reggae. He was one of the first ones out there to play reggae. At that time rap and reggae were not accepted – you’d play that stuff and people would turn around and look at you.”

The Smith Brothers: “They were older than us, they had an older clientele, but their sound system was good.”

But it’s the name DJ Hollywood that Cheba’s name is almost synonymous with. For many their names are almost linked together like Salt and Pepper, Butch and Sundance or Martin and Lewis. Can’t have one without the other. They were Uptown royalty when Cam’ Ron and Jim Jones were in Pampers.

Back Like Cadillac’s and Brim Hats

Edward Sturgis was born and raised in Harlem, New York’s Douglas Projects, home to such alums as Kenny Smith, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and fellow deejay Reggie Wells. Originally a music major Eddie got involved with funk and soul bands, but soon grew tired of the instability that goes with being in a group. He soon found that his love for music could be expressed another way: with turntables and records.

“My sister’s boyfriend Thomas was one of the first people I ever saw really mix music in a smooth way. I mean he knew how to keep the beat going, you know what I mean?” Eddie says to me while taking a drag off of his cigarette. “I said to myself ‘I wanna do that!”

Soon the Brandice High School student was spending hours a day practicing on his turntables. “I was completely locked into it. My girlfriend, who is my wife now, a date for us back then was, her sitting on my bed reading her books while I practiced.”

By 1974 he got so good at spinning records that he was able to quit his job at Bankers Trust and really concentrate on deejaying, “The money was flowing in.” He says to me with a sly smile.

On the way down the path to being a ghetto celeb he played in Uptown’s hottest spots: Charles Gallery, Hotel Diplomat (which on some nights attracted a white audience and was called LeJardin) and Wilt’s Small’s Paradise. “In 1972 when Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali at the Garden, he came to Small’s Paradise after the fight to hang out. I have a picture of me and him at Small’s.”

The Sound Systems in the Park

At the same time that Eddie was perfecting his craft in Harlem there was a whole other scene jumping off in the Bronx. This crowd was younger, rougher and rowdier.

“There were two different crowds”, says Kurtis Blow, who’s classic recording ‘The Breaks’ was the second 12′ inch record to be certified gold. “Grandmaster Flash calls them the shoe people and the sneaker people.”

Blow, a Harlem native, is a student of both the R&B style of guys like Pete Jones and Hollywood and the hardcore b-boy approach of the Kool Herc followers. In fact with his deep, booming bass voice and crisp enunciation Kurtis’ style was the perfect blend between Harlem’s smooth R&B chic and Bronx b-boy cool.

At the parties that guys like Eddie, Grandmaster Flowers, Pete DJ Jones, the Disco Twins and the Smith Brothers would play at, songs like ‘Do it Anyway You Wanna‘, “I Got My Mind Made Up‘, ‘All Night Thing‘, ‘Pipeline‘ and ‘Soul Makossa‘ would rock crowds of hundreds of the 21 and over crowd. Men came to the party wearing dress shoes, suits and slacks and women wore dresses.

Kool Herc, Flash, Breakout, Kool DJ AJ, Disco King Mario, Bambaataa and others rocked the teenage b-boy crowds. Their crowds would come in packs of 15 to 20 strong, wearing sneakers, jeans, hats and silver chains. They couldn’t wait to hear their favorite deejay play obscurities like ‘Give it to Me‘, ‘Champ‘, ‘Mardi Gras‘, ‘Synthetic Substitution‘, ‘Hit or Miss‘ and many other unknown records that were worshipped by this cult following.

The slight exception was in Harlem at the Renaissance Ballroom, or the ‘Renny‘ as it was called, where a promoter named Willie Gums had a thing called the ‘Rolls Royce Movement‘, “That was Lovebug Starski’s thing right there”, says Kurtis Blow. “It was the Sapphire Crew: Donald Dee and B Fats that was their thing. That was hip-hop with class. They were young people but they got dressed up for these parties. I think D.J. Hollywood might’ve played there once.”

“Kool Herc and them played in the park. We were blessed to be able to play in clubs,” Eddie says to me. “If you think about it anybody could play in a park; little kids were in the park. There was no money playing in parks. Either the cops was coming to tell you to turn it down or they were gonna unplug you from the light pole or there was gonna be a shootout or something. I played in clubs where people drank champagne and came to have fun. Besides, the park was dangerous”, Eddie says to me while looking from side to side. “You got five niggas over there drinkin’ talkin’ ’bout fuckin’ you up. Would you wanna be there?”

The Man With The Golden Voice

Before anyone could claim the title of King of New York, there was the original ‘King of Rap’: DJ Hollywood. On the streets of New York in the 70’s, Wood (as he is sometimes called) was the quintessential man. He was the first deejay to play multiple spots in one night and collect a fee of $500 per appearance. According to Cheba, “Hollywood would call ahead to Club 371 [after playing at other spots around the city] and say, “I’m on my way, have my envelope ready.”

He was a rap star before there were any records. The history of the mixtape game can be traced back to him. He used to sell 8 track tapes of his mixes for ten or fifteen bucks a pop way back in 1972. He sang, he rapped, he did vocal impressions and crowd participation. On the rap tip in the 70’s no one could touch him.

“Hollywood was ‘all city’ he could play anywhere he wanted in the city back then”, says Kurtis Blow. “Hollywood, had a golden voice, he had a round and fat voice, he had tonality, tonality almost like a singer – he had singing routines where he would sing, “Got a word from the wise, just to tranquilize, your mind your body and soul. We got a brand new rhythm now, and we’re gonna let it take control. Come on y’all let’s do it. Let’s do it’… that was Hollywood, he was the master at the crowd response but his voice…” Kurtis pauses excitedly looking for the right words and when he finds them he says, ‘his voice was golden like a God almost – that’s why I wanted to be an MC!”

“If you went out to a club – you had to go to Club 371 to hear this cat. Hollywood was the talk of the town”, an animated Kurtis Blow says to me. “Everybody was losing their minds, he had skits like ‘Throw your hands in the air, and wave ’em like ya just don’t care. And if you got on clean underwear, somebody say ‘Oh yeah!’ And the crowd would shout back: Oh yeah! Hollywood had the golden voice, the chants the rhythm. The first rhythmic rhymes I ever heard …a cat say during the hip-hop days – we’re talking about the ’70’s. I’m not talking about the ’60’s or anything before that because rap has been around for a long time. We’re talking about the first rhymes that I ever heard DJ Hollywood say were:

 

“I’m bonnified, I’m celitified and I’m qualified to do,
I say anything your heart can stand,
It all depends on you.
I’m listed in the yellow pages,
All around the world,
I got 21 years experience with loving sweet young girls…”

During an early morning phone interview Hollywood related the story of his discovery to me. “One day in 1975, I was at home playing records, and one of the records I pulled out was the “Black Moses” album. It was not popular at the time. So, there I was listening to this album, and I put on a song called “Good Love 69969”. Isaac Hayes was singing this part that went “I’m listed in the yellow pages, all around the world; I got 30 years experience in loving sweet young girls.” That record stopped me dead in my tracks. You see, before that record I had been doing nursery rhymes. But after that record: I was doing rhymes. And not only was I doing rhymes but I was talking about love. This was another level.”

In a reflective mood the one time King of Rap recalled the next events.”I thought to myself, what if I take what he’s doing and put it with this? What would I get? I got fame, that’s what I got. I got more famous than I could ever imagine. Everybody bit that rhyme. I would go to jams and people would be saying that rhyme, and none of them, not one of them, knew where it came from. It blew my mind.”

“I knew of Hollywood cause we were both from Harlem.” Eddie remembers. “Back in the day when Hollywood would play at the Apollo Theatre the marquee would say: “The Spinners, Black Ivory, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and D.J. Hollywood”. He was that large.”

But Eddie wanted the spot light too.

“I was sitting in my room one day when I came up with my rhyme. I wrote it out in a notebook it went.

About a while ago and I want you to know, just who you been listening to. Just listen to me now, while I tell you how, who I am, and what I do. I’m 5’9 and a half, bow legged as you ever wanna see. Just look up on the stage baby doll, I’m talking about little old me. It’s Cheba girl and I’m so glad that you came around. So we can spend some time together maybe even mess around.

Very quickly, like Hollywood’s rap, Eddie’s rap was eagerly consumed by other deejays, whom very soon, had no knowledge of the raps origin either. ASCAP and BMI were not looking for rappers back then, and rappers were no more aware of ASCAP and BMI then they were about words like ‘publishing’, ‘writing credit’, ‘points’ and ‘royalties’. This was before records.

“Before Club 371 I was playing at a spot called “A Bunch of Grapes” this was on the East side of 125th St. You see back then, the only people that were hip to my shit were the hustlers that went to the after hours spots. That’s where my rep started at was with the hustlers.” Said DJ Hollywood.

Every other rapper today fantasizes about knowing or being somehow connected with a notorious gangster, back in the day – Nicky Barnes was that gangster. Wood played for some of the most notorious figures of the ’70’s and ’80’s, chief among them was Guy Fisher. It was Fisher who owned and operated the Apollo Theatre as a legitimate front. It was at the Apollo that Hollywood gained his rep for providing entertainment between acts for some of the biggest stars of the era, and often times he overshadowed them.

Guy Fisher was no stranger to the hip-hop set back then. Many an old timer tell stories of the days when Fisher, Bats Ross and other members of Nicky Barnes’ old crew would frequent hip-hop spots like the Hevalo and check out Kool Herc and Coke La Rock.

At the very mention of Fisher’s name Eddie becomes visibly uncomfortable. “Yes, Wood worked for Guy Fisher and them, those were Nicky Barnes’ people. I didn’t want to have anything to do with those people.” He tells me. “Yeah sure, we did parties for them, but that was it! They were nice guys outside of their business, but I didn’t want to play for them that much.”

“Why is that?” I ask.

“Because see, Hollywood might show up to Club 371 at two, three o’clock in the morning. Sometimes he didn’t show up at all. You couldn’t do that kind of shit with people like that because they would come and get you – and throw you in a bag or something.”

Havin’ Fun at Club 371

Sometime in 1978 a group of gentlemen called the Ten Good Guys wanted to expand their Bronx disco. It was called Club 371. They got DJ Hollywood to play there after seeing the impact of what he was doing in 1975 at the club ‘A Bunch Of Grapes’. Hollywood had been playing at 371 for at least three years before the owners decided to expand the club.

“Hollywood was packing em in, they had lines around the corner. They built a part two, which was called the ‘House of Glass’. They talked to Reggie Wells and we made a deal and they came to get me.”

It was at Club 371 that Eddie Cheba would meet Hollywood.

“It was Hollywood and his deejay Junebug downstairs and me, Reggie Wells and my deejay EZ Gee upstairs. I’m telling you, we had them people running up and down those steps all night long.” Eddie recalls. “My deejay EZ Gee played with me when it was time for me to rap, [that’s when] he’d take over. I used to rent out a loft so that we could practice our routines. God sent EZ Gee to me.”

“371 was one of the greatest clubs of all time in the Bronx, New York, it was the first black owned club in New York to gross over a million dollars in one year and this was back in 1979, when they charged six or seven dollars to get in the door.” Eddie asserts. “They cleared a million dollars at the door – not to say how much they cleared under the table. This was one of the greatest clubs of all time: Eddie Cheba, Reggie Wells, Junebug and DJ Hollywood at Club 371 that’s where all the fame and fortune came from.”

“Everybody came to Club 371”, Hollywood recalls, “If you came in from out of town, people would be like, you gotta go here – it was like no other!”

Any old time Club 371 regular will tell you that the original chant that Big Bank Hank from the Sugar Hill Gang used in ‘Rapper’s Delight’ went: “Hotel/Motel/Holiday Inn, if you don’t tell then I won’t tell, but I know where you been!” 98.7 KISS-FM mix master Reggie Wells told me the origin of the chant had something to do with the Courtesy in New Jersey and people sneaking around after the club let out.

The club did so well that the owners went to great lengths to take care of their deejays. Reggie Wells remembers the money being so good at 371 that “all of the deejays had caddy’s back then.”

“Hollywood needed a car and didn’t have a license, so they bought him a Caddy and got him a license by sliding somebody at the DMV some money.” Eddie laughs while recalling the time. “They really took care of us.”

Reflecting on his heyday Eddie told me, “I had everything I shopped at AJ Lester’s. I was walked into any club in the city – I always got in free. Champagne? I got bottles of it wherever I went. If I walked down 125th St. in Harlem, people would see me and walk up to me and want to shake my hand or ask me for an autograph. If I had someplace to go I called a car service [Godfather’s, Touch of Class and OJ’s] and they would be there to pick me up. I’d say wait here until I’m done and they would. I used to sell my tapes for $20 a pop. People would be reserving tapes weeks in advance. Godfather’s and OJ’s and them used to sell my tapes. They would have a customer in a car and would be playing my stuff, the customer would be like ‘Who’s that?’ They’d say that’s Eddie Cheba. I was one of the top deejays in the city.

Like Butch and Sundance

“Me and Hollywood became really good friends. We worked together as well, but we were also friends. We used to go to after hour’s spots all over the city together and sit, drink and talk into early in the morning. We were close man.” Eddie said to me.

Soon a partnership was born. “At one point they were called DJ-Eddie-Hollywood-Cheba”, laughs Kurtis Blow.

“Let me tell you how large I got.” Eddie says as he leans back in his seat and exhales a cloud of cigarette smoke above his head. “One night we were playing in Queens at the La Chalet on Hillside Ave. Anyway, these brothers were outside shooting at each other. I mean it was a real shootout. Me and my crew, the Cheeba Crew, pulled up when all of this is going on. We were like, ‘Shit, we ain’t getting’ out of the car!’ Somebody went inside and got on the mike and said, ‘Yo y’all stop all that shit. Eddie Cheba is outside right now and he says he ain’t coming in until y’all stop that shit.” Well, the next thing we know, they drop their guns and go inside.” Eddie says to me with an amazed look on his face, “these niggas stopped shooting at each other because they wanted to hear us play.”

The partnership of Hollywood and Cheba made them the two most popular Black deejays in the city. And the best paid. “Hollywood had no problem asking for whatever he wanted.” Eddie remembers. “He could be really arrogant. He had no problem at all blowing people off. I mean Wood was really arrogant. When we first started to play together, I was afraid to ask for more money. Wood would say ‘Say you want $500.” I’d be like, “I don’t know.” Wood would say that he was getting $500, so I’d go in there and say I wanted $500 too.”

As close as the two were they didn’t play everywhere together. Eddie played in midtown clubs such as the Pegasus, Captain Nemo’s, Nell Gwynn’s, Leviticus, the Tunnel, Cork and the Bottle and the Executive Suite. But it was at Charles Gallery that Eddie started to earn his rep.

“Charles Gallery was on some other shit”, Hollywood recalls, “Those guys in there were announcers, they would get on the mike and announce the next record and shit like that. I came in there with my rappin’ – they never heard anything like it before – they threw me out of there!”

Kurtis Blow described the Charles Huggins owned Charles Gallery as a classy spot for the 21 and over crowd. Men and women were dressed to the nines. Kurtis – and his then manager Russell Simmons first saw Eddie doing his thing there on a night called ‘Wild Wild Wednesday’s‘.

But Hollywood didn’t like those kinds of clubs. Nor did he like ghetto type clubs such as Disco Fever. “The Fever was a fuckin’ drug store”, Eddie shot back, “you could get anything you wanted at the Fever. Drugs were all over the place. Hollywood did not play the Fever – and he was arrogant about it too.” Eddie says while taking a drag off of his cigarette. “We used to say, ‘Yo Wood, you need to play the Fever.’ He would brush it off and say, ‘them niggas ain’t my kind of crowd.” Hollywood’s crowd were places that catered to an older black clientele such as the many clubs in the Bronx, Harlem and Queens.

“Me on the other hand I liked playing anywhere.” Eddie tells me.

It was while playing in clubs in Queens that Hollywood and Cheba would bump into an eager young promoter that called himself Russell Rush. “Every time we played in Queens in some place like… the Fantasia, Russell would be right outside waiting for us. He was a big fan of ours. He used to beg me, he’d be like “Yo Cheba, I’m throwing a party at so and so place, could you stop by and do a little something?” Hollywood would be very arrogant and would say things like ‘tell that nigga to go away’. I couldn’t do that. I’d say ‘Russell; I’m a little too expensive for what you’re trying to do. I’ll see what I can do.’ I couldn’t blow people off like Wood could.”

Out in Long Island, Hollywood and Cheba were the rap equivalent of the Beatles. According to Chuck D, “In 1979 the whole cowboy look was in [cowboy hats and boots] and Hollywood and Cheba pimped that!”

..at-brown-225.gif” width=200 align=right border=0>One night Eddie bought Furious Five lead MC Mele Mel with him to play a gig in Roosevelt. “When he brought Mele Mel with him it was like two voices from heaven,” Chuck D says, “back then, if you didn’t have a good voice you couldn’t ‘cut through inferior sound systems. These cats were flawless. Hearing them sold me on hip-hop as being a wonderful thing for my life.”

“The night I took Mele Mel with me, out to Long Island, I dunno, he was more reserved than usual. I had to give the nigga the mike and say, “here do your thing.” I knew the nigga was bad as a motherfucker. This was just before their record ‘Superrappin’ came out.” Said Eddie.

It was also during this time that he was introduced to a young man who was trying to make a name for himself on the rap scene.

“DJ Hollywood had a ‘disco son’ named DJ Smalls, we figured a way for me get my name out there was if I was the disco son of Eddie Cheba.” Said Kurtis Blow. Although Kurtis, who would later be known as the ‘King of Rap’, would see his own career eclipse that of both Hollywood and Eddie Cheba’s, is to this day still clearly a devoted fan.

At it’s root hip-hop is a competitive art form whether its MC’s going head to head on the mike, or deejay’s crossing swords on turntables, “I was the one that did all of the battling.” Cheba tells me, “Hollywood would not battle anybody. I battled everybody. I didn’t give a fuck. Wood was not into battling. The only person he battled was Woody Wood from Queens. And me and Lovebug Starski had to push him to battle that nigga to do it.”

“Why’s that?” I ask.

“Because that nigga was stealing everything that Wood was doing. Not only did he sound like Wood, but also he got his name from him and all of his rhymes too. I told him ‘Fuck that shit, you got to battle that nigga.’ The way Woody Wood was stealing from Hollywood was a damn shame.”

In any other business imitation is considered to be a form of flattery, but in the rap game even as far back as 1976, it was almost the equivalent of stealing a brother’s hubcaps.

“At one time there were about thirty to forty me’s out there”, Hollywood says to me sounding almost as irritated today about it as he was thirty years ago. “Everybody was saying the rhymes and when it would come time to say my name – they would take mine out and put theirs in. Woody Wood was one of them people.”

“So you battled him?” I asked.

“Yeah, I stepped on him too”, Wood said as confidently as Muhammad Ali in 1975, “at that time there wasn’t nobody that could get wit’ me. I was top dog back then. I had control of everything.”

The battle took place at the Hotel Diplomat, “It wasn’t really what you would call a battle”, Wood interjects, “He did his thing first and then I did mine. No one could beat me with the crowd response thing. Woody Wood was an imitator, his voice, his rhymes he did his pronunciations just like me.”

“We were on top.” Eddie says coolly, “I had battled everyone. But as much as Wood didn’t like to battle he’d always tell me: “Eddie, whatever you do: Never battle me.”

“I thought to myself, ‘What kind of shit is that for him to say?’ I had my own ego too you know. Little did I know…”

One night the two friends went head to head in a sound clash.

“I pulled out all stops this night at the Parkside Plaza. It was a battle for the title.” Eddie remembers. “Wood’s title was on the line. Wood did his thing, but even his people weren’t really feeling him on this night. And then I went on. I rocked the hell outta them people. At the end of the battle even Wood’s people were cheering for me, you know like his main man Captain Jack and all of them people. It took 45 minutes for the judges to make a decision. And they came back and gave the trophy to Hollywood. And that’s when it hit me: No wonder he said to never battle him, it was because he had it set up for him to win regardless. Hell, the trophy already had his name inscribed on it!”

“Nah, nah, nah, nah, it didn’t quite go down like that, Mark”, Hollywood tells me in between laughing.

“You see, it’s like this I was the top dog, couldn’t nobody touch me back then. Eddie did all of the battles. One night he kept going on and on saying, ‘I’m the king battler’ and this and that. He must’ve forgot who I was. He made that happen.” Wood said to me.
“Made what happen?” I ask.
“Yo man, he wouldn’t listen. The shit was already done. I didn’t know it was done. I told him, “Ok, but whatever you do never battle me. He wouldn’t listen.”

What Hollywood meant by it being ‘done’ was that at the time he got major love from all of the promoters back then, these were people that for many years had made good money from billing Hollywood all over the city. It was in their interest for Wood to emerge as the winner in any battle. Hollywood remembers the crowd response that night being about even, but to this day swears that he had no knowledge of the fix being in.

One Night at the Jamaica Armory

One day in October 1979 Eddie and his peers heard the sound that would forever alter the course of their lives: ‘Rapper’s Delight.’

“Hollywood and Starski, you would always hear them say ‘hip-hop-da-hippit-da-hibbit-to-da-hip-hip-a-hop ya don’t stop’ and shit like that, they started it. I heard the song on the radio. I was mad when I first heard it. These people came from out of nowhere. We didn’t have the vision to see that records were the next level.” Eddie said as he thinks back to the time. ‘We were making so much money from deejaying that making records just wasn’t our thing. We couldn’t see it.”

What he didn’t know was that the first person that Sylvia Robinson approached to record ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was Lovebug Starski. Then she went to DJ Hollywood to see about he and Eddie making the record.

“One night and this was after ‘Rapper’s Delight’ had long been out and making money, Hollywood and I were at an after hours spot called ‘Poppa Dee’s‘ in Harlem. It was on 130th between 7th and Lenox Ave. I mean this was an exclusive spot. Only the hustlers could get in there – people with money. Anyway, so there we are drinking and talking and shit at like 3 o’clock in the morning when Hollywood turns to me and says, “Yeah man, she wanted me and you to do that record, but I turned her down.”

“I must’ve looked at him and said, ‘what record are you talking about?”

He said, “Yeah, Sylvia wanted us to do Rapper’s Delight first.” I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to knock him out of his seat. If I had done that record do you know what my life would be like today?”

‘Rapper’s Delight’ changed the direction of the rap movement forever. The days of guys running sections of the city or dominating the club scene were over. All you needed was a record to make a name.

It isn’t a stretch to believe that the Robinson’s wanted Hollywood and Cheba for their landmark recording, especially when you consider that both of the groundbreaking rap recordings The Fatback Band‘s (a group for whom Hollywood used to open for at the Apollo Theatre) ‘King Tim III (Personality Jock)‘ and the Sugar Hill Gang‘s ‘Rapper’s Delight‘ stylistically bore a serious resemblance to Hollywood and Cheba. Although Big Bank Hank got his rhymes from Grandmaster Caz his delivery was much closer to Hollywood’s than the Cold Crush Brothers lead MC.

One night at the Jamaica, Queens Armory the best deejays and emcees of that time got together for a jam. In some ways it was the end of an era. To this day cassette tapes of that night still circulate the streets. It was a star-studded affair; on the bill were DJ Divine and the Infinity Machine, Grandmaster Flash and his MC’s Mele Mel and Kurtis Blow, Lovebug Starski, DJ Hollywood, DJ Smalls, Eddie Cheba and DJ Easy Gee.

“…Like Earl the Pearl has got the moves, ya see Cheba Cheba has got the groove. Now ya heard the best and you’re ready to go, with the baddest deejay of all disco…”

Easy Gee bought in MFSB‘s classic ‘Love is the Message‘, cued up from the point where the sax and violins are building up to the point of climax. This was a record that guys like Hollywood, Eddie Cheba, Kool Kyle and many others knew well. It was a staple of their act. In some ways it was the main part. This was the song that showcased their skills the best. They could do their crowd participation thing, free style rhymes and party chants; all of it came together best over that song.

“Get ready now you might’ve heard on WBLS tomorrow night we gonna take the sugar out the hill at Harlem World. Sugar Hill and Eddie Cheba tomorrow night. But first we have some unfinished business to take care of right here in Jamaica…we’re gonna rundown a few of the things that we know we made famous…”

As the sax squealed and the organist rocked Eddie went into one of the many routines that made him a legend at that time.

“Go down go down go down go down, owww, go down… Get up close on the freak and shake like Jones is at its peak. Ya say who makes it sweeter? (Cheba, Cheba, Cheba)…You don’t care if I’m the one – cause all you wanna do is have some fun…”

At least for that one night it didn’t matter if there was a record selling in stores all over the country because it was the guys on the stage that night that were the real stars. It could almost be said that ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was what changed the relationship between deejay and MC. For years it was the deejays that the crowds of thousands came out to see, now because the MC’s rap could be heard on a record, the balance of power was about to change.

One by one each crew went up onstage at the Armory that night and showcased for the crowd in Queens the reasons that they were better than any group of upstarts, especially ones from across the Hudson. These guys were the originators of a new phenomenon; they were kings of a sub-culture in a time of innocence. Every empire has its time in the sun, but the sun sets on every kingdom.

Welcome Home

As we walk outside to the front of the hotel, Eddie tells me some funny stories about the club Disco Fever. If only I could print those stories. We sit on the steps and talk some more while I wait on my ride.

“I rocked the shit out of the Sugar Hill Gang that night at Harlem World”, he told me. “I pulled out all stops, I made it difficult for them to come .. me. All they had was that one record – I had books and books of rhymes – they couldn’t fuck with me.”

In the mid-80’s to everyone’s surprise hip-hop started its ascent to becoming a dominant force in music. But Eddie was nowhere to be found.

“France was some shit”, he tells me “I was the man over there.”

Sometime in the early 80’s while he was the resident deejay at the club Broadway International, Eddie got the call that would change his life. He went over to France to compete in deejay competitions and spin at clubs. Judging by his descriptions of the clubs and the audiences it sounds like he spun for the jet set crowd. “These people drove Ferrari’s and wore tuxedo’s and expensive jewelry”, he said. All together he stayed in France for eight years.

“I was a New York deejay in Paris. I was a rare commodity over there. They were so far behind what we were doing over here – I beat all of them. I did TV commercials, I spun at the biggest clubs in the country.” Eddie says, “I was a celebrity. I lived in a nice house and drove a custom made Mercedes Benz.”

“So why did you leave?” I ask him.

“Because”, he says as he frowns up his face, “I got bored over there. My daughter was growing up not knowing any of my family. I had done everything I could over there. I won the world competition; I spun at some of the chicest clubs. I got tired of it all.”

But coming back home to New York was not easy. Everything had changed. “Hollywood was over”, Eddie said looking out at the clouds, “he was on 8th Avenue messing up. Kurtis was over, he was in L.A.; Club 371 was over. Just about all of the clubs that I had spun at were over. And rap was different. I couldn’t relate to it anymore. I had been in France, I wore French clothes, and I had been living in a nice house. I couldn’t relate anymore.”

As my wife pulls up we say our good byes. I give him CD’s of the Queens Armory Jam in 1979 and mix tapes from the boat rides that he, Hollywood and Lovebug Starski had done together in the late 90’s.

“Eddie”, I ask him, “one more thing, did you know that JB Moore and Rocky Ford wanted you to do the Christmas Rappin’ record?”

“Yeah, I heard about that”, he says to me with a touch of regret. “If I had done that record do you have any idea what my life would be like right now?”

Not that the man is starving: he owns a funeral business as well as a limousine and deejay service. By no means is the man hard up for a dollar. But who among us couldn’t use a nice little royalty check every now and then?

Eddie Cheba wants to send a special shout and a big fat ‘I love you’ to all of the fans that supported him from 1972 until this day. He can be reached at EYMUSIC21@aol.com. Special thanks to Van Silk, Kurtis Blow, Chuck D, Dianne, Reggie Wells

and DJ Hollywood.

This feature originally ran in Wax Poetics please contact author for permission to use any part of this story.