Just got word this morning that yesterday one of the key architects and pillars for West Coast Hip Hop passed away.. We’re talking about Roger Clayton aka Mr Prinze of the pioneering legendary crew Uncle Jamms Army. This is the 4th pioneering figure the West Coast has lost in the past few years. It was just last week folks buried Danny ‘Fut’ James who ran the influential Impact Record pool dating back to 1982. We lost Michael Mixxing Moore and Skeeter Rabbit within a month of each other 2 years ago. We also lost Mixmaster Spade. Here in the Bay we just lost Mr Fantastic aka Melvin to a heart attack. It’s a shame that these important figures were never honored before their passing outside of LA.
Losing Clayton is major. It like losing one of NY’s main architects for this culture. It would be like NY losing Afrika Bambaataa.. Not only did Clayton and Uncle Jamms Army bring a unique West Coast sound and style to the game, because they were also party promoters who did those legendary dances at the LA Sports Arena, they were also responsible for turning LA folks onto the emerging rap from NY..They used to also bring out acts like Run DMC, Kurtis Blow and LL Cool J to name a few..
One of the things I think has never truly been appreciated and acknowledged about West Coast Hip Hop was the Mobile DJ Culture that was its cornerstone.. Many like to think that folks out here picked up the game from New York. Such is not the case. Cats were hustling and doing jams with massive sound systems all throughout the 70s.. from LA to the Bay it was not usual to see DJ crews with comic book cartoon like names. In the case of Uncle Jamms Army they were inspired by Parliament and George Clinton.. Their roots were funk music and the crew included legendary folks like Bobcat, Egyptian Lover, DJ Pooh. Battle Cat, Joe Coooly, Chris the Glove, Alonzo Williams and the groups only female member Silky D. Before Uncle Jamms Army there was an earlier crew formed in 1978 called Unique Dreams Entertainment which included Clayton and childhood friend Gid Martin.
These cats early one were known for rocking 4 turntables at a time and mixing records flawlessly while executing what eventually became known as LA’s fast scratch. Uncle Jamms army proceeded the Beat Junkies, KDAY Mixmasters and other better known West Coast DJ Crews.. These were the architects.
As Clayton’s partner Egyptian Lover once explained to me, they had been listening to Prince, Kraftwerk and Parliament and that’s what got them off and running.. Later on they came upon what was cracking in New York and naturally incorporated it and upheld it..The fact that Uncle Jamms Army was able to pull off these massive parties from all over a gang infested city and keep the peace needs to be celebrated the same way we look at the early Kool Herc and Bambaataa parties as being able to do the same thing..
The fact that Clayton and Fut died within a month of each other should not be lost of folks.. Fut with his record pool was main reason folks in LA introduced to music from all over.. Fut was the supplier, Clayton was the presenter.They will be missed..