A Day in the Bronx: Remembering the Black Spades & Their Connection to Hip Hop

Karate Charlie & Bam Bam

Karate Charlie & Bam Bam

The notorious Black Spades was once the largest and most feared gang in New York City. Hailing from the Bronx, the Spades had as their warlord, Hip Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. They were the precursors to Hip Hop.. We caught up with many of the members including original leader Bam Bam who gave Bambaataa his name. We spoke with Hip Hop legend Popmaster Fabel who is finishing up a documentary on early gang culture called ‘The Apache line’. We also hear from Karate Charlie who was the President of the Ghetto Brothers which was another large street organization highlighted in Jeff Chang’s book ‘Cant Stop Wont Stop’..


We talk with Hip Hop legend Popmaster Fabel who talks to us about the important role early gang culture played in bringing Hip Hop to life. We also talk about how pop culture is exploiting gang life and leading people astray. Fabel explained that early Hip Hop got people out of the gangs.. Today’s rap music gets people into them..

We hear an impassioned Bam Bam, original leader of the Black Spades speaking to young gang bangers in New York, Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings etc and explaining the direction they should really be taking.. powerful words..


Popmaster Fabel

Popmaster Fabel

At the 40th Anniversary of the Black Spades we see Bam Bam, original leader of the Black Spades re-uniting and talking with Karate Charlie of the Ghetto brothers. They talk about how the two gangs merged together to stop the Hells Angels from coming into the Bronx.

We chop it up with Popmaster Fabel about his new documentary The Apache Line from gangs to Hip Hop.. We also talk to him about the current move to try and pit Black against Brown.. Fabel gives a history of why that happens and talks about how the gangs came together.

We also speak with Karate Charlie who is featured in Fabel’s documentary about the legacy of the Ghetto Brothers. He talks about how the Black Spades the Ghetto Brothers united and became a family. He also talked about how they protected the community against the police… Charlie also explains how he taught martial arts throughout the community and had Ghetto Brothers patrol the subway years before the Guardian Angels under Curtis Sliwa came into being..


Charlie Rock Original Zulu King

Charlie Rock Original Zulu King

We caught up with original B-Boy and Zulu Charlie Rock who hails from the 22cd division of the Black Spades up on Gun Hill road in the Bronx.. He talks about how the Black Spades evolved and became the Zulu Nation..He talks about Disco King Mario and the founding Spade chapters at Bronxdale Housing project which was known as Chuck City…

He also talks about how the early gangs were organized and became targets to corrupt police.. He talks about how three members, Wildman, Soulski and Meathead Ron were murdered by police. He noted that because the Black Spades were organized many of them were targeted by the police who tried to break them up and shrink their numbers…

Charlie Rock also talks about how New York was segregated and runs down all the racial unrest and white gangs the Black Spades and later Zulu Nation had to fight.. He talks about the Golden Guineas and the Ministers up in Parkchester.. He talks about the White Assassins and the White Angels..

Rock also explained how the police used to work in concert with some of these white gangs to try and defeat the Black Spades which was the largest gang in NY.. He talks about how the police hung him over a rooftop and threatened to kill him..


Pioneers Step Out to Honor Disco King Mario

Disco King Mario

Disco King Mario

This Saturday [August 18th] Hip Hop’s pioneers will be coming out in full force to pay tribute to the memory of one of its legendary DJs who passed away a few years back-Disco King Mario. We often hear about the achievements of people like Bambaataa, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, but very little is said about some of the other pioneers who also laid down much of the foundation we now call Hip Hop. Cats like Pete DJ Jones, Grand Wizard Theodore, the late DJ Flowers and of course Mario were key architects.

Disco King Mario never released no records. He didn’t produce no major rap stars. I’m not even sure if he ever toured around the world once Hip Hop became known world wide. However, for those of us who were around back in the beginning days of the 70s, Disco King Mario who lived upstairs from my man DJ Paradise of X-Clan over in the Bronxdale Housing projects, was a household name. He was known for throwing some of Hip Hop’s best jams and keeping the party going. He was staple in early Hip Hop whose name and his crew Chuck Chuck City was mentioned on many of the early tapes. One of Mario’s unwritten contributions was how he gave Afrika Bambaattaa a helping hand. He used loan Bam his dj equipment. Later on Bam would face Mario in his first official DJ battle. Back in the early days it was Disco King Mario who was at the top of heap and the man to beat

Today its hard for people to understand the significance of the DJ. When Hip Hop first began it wasn’t the rapper who was in charge. It was the DJ. It was the DJ came to symbolized the African drummer. It was the DJ who kept the pace and set the tone. It was the DJ who rocked the crowd and was the supreme personality who garnered the spot light. Everyone else including the rappers were secondary. Cats from all over came to your party based upon who was deejaying. Hence when Disco King Mario‘s name was mentioned cats came from all over because he was the man. He was the type of cat who simply had that magic and command of the crowd. Sadly he passed away before his time, unknown to many of today’s bling bling artists who benefit from the culture he helped laid down.

Chuck Chuck City flyerIf you happen to be in New York, you may see a flyer being circulated around that is reminiscent of the old school flyers from back in the days. ‘By Popular demand DJ Cool Clyde, Lightnin Lance, The Nasty Cuzins, Quiet Az Kept Present their first annual Old School Reunion & Picnic’. It lets you know that the celebration for Disco King Mario is taking place Saturday August 18th at Rosedale ‘Big Park’ in the Bronx. The Big Park itself is legendary. When I was a kid living on Croes Avenue, we were absolutely forbidden to go across the street to the Big Park. That was because the Big Park was where many of many of the early Black Spades used to hang out. The Spades at that time were the largest and most notorious gang at that time. They eventually evolved to become The Mighty Zulu Nation. As for the Big Park, it eventually became the place where Disco King Mario would eventually throw many of his early gigs.

This Saturday, there will be performances by the Cold Crush Brothers, DJ Charlie Chase, DJ Tony Tone, The Crash Crew, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Jazzy Jay, The Soul Sonic Force, Kool Herc and the Herculords, Jazzy 5, Prince Ikey C, Kool DJ AJ and Busy Bee Starsky. Also on point will be Grand Master DST, Chuck Chillout, DJ Red Alert, Mr Magic and Grandmaster Flash. This is an event not to miss. More importantly Disco King Mario is a man not to forget! For more info holla at my man Big Jeff at 917-644-3233 or Cool Clyde at 917-954-9049