DYNAMITE - A BRONX TALE
Where were you born & raised and what music did you gravitate to as a youth?
I was born in the old Lincoln Hospital in 1960 in The South Bronx Fox Ave. My parents later moved to 141st Willis Ave, but I spent my formative years on 165th Boston Rd and later on 181st as well as 196th in The Grand Concourse. The fact that I moved to the West side of The Bronx from the South Bronx would play a pivotal part in my place in Hip Hop.
My Father was a numbers runner and if you follow those street numbers you can actually chart his progression because as he got richer and richer he kept moving his family further and further Uptown. Compared to most households you can probably say we were well off. There were always piles of money on our kitchen table where my Father took his action Pops kept a new Caddy every year.
My childhood was no different than any other cat who grew up during that era. We grew up a little bit faster because we had to. Our surroundings dictated what we were to become early on in life. I grew up through two drug epidemics first came Heroin in the sixties and seventies and next Cocaine and Crack in the eighties but I’m getting a little ahead of myself I’ll touch more on that aspect of my life later. The Music that shaped me was various; of course I grew up on Motown because that’s what was mostly played on Boston Road. During that time in the Sixties, Boston Road was a throughway of speak easies and night clubs.
I grew up at 1038 Boston Road, at 1155 Boston Road. The Blue Morocco was the premiere night spot along that Boston Road corridor. This is like 1966. It catered to a who’s who of uptown elite and celebrities that stole off to the Bronx for a little privacy among industry friends. Joe Robinson Sr. had brought the place and turned it into a hot spot for established acts. The location was everything, surrounded by the other establishment of its day like the famous Freddie’s Jazz Club, The Royal Mansion, The Boston Road Ballroom where James Brown performed and 845 Prospect Ave. The Blue Morocco carved its own little niche. Everyone rubbed shoulders there. From the likes of Malcolm X to the great Muhammad Ali. Famous gangsters of the era like Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes. Jazz Musicians like Monk came through to hit on the Puerto Rican waitresses. It was nothing to catch Sam and Dave, Sylvia, Ike Turner and a who’s who of up and coming talent like The Moments all performing there. Joe Robinson had everyone fall through.
Mr. Rob banked Numbers back then, so it also served as his meet up spot for all the number runners. My father and Joe Robinson had a mutual respect for each other and ran in the same circles of Harlem and Bronx hustlers. My father would park his Eldorado right out front that bitch and as a kid I would dance like James Brown out front for money, while I waited for my Dad. I was heavily influenced by Michael Jackson so much so that I joined a singing group which consisted of Luv Bug Starski as the lead singer. This is 1971 Cowboy had just moved on Boston Road We all attended P.S 146 and myself and Luv Bug (Kevin Smith) were always in competition. It was funny because the week of the talent show he got into trouble and Mr. Finger wouldn’t let him perform. I ended up singing lead and stole the whole performance. He was mad at that. I miss Starski
From there I graduated to JHS 22 where I studied Tenor Saxophone under the tutelage of the renowned Jazz Trombonist Mr. Dick Griffin who taught at our School. From there I attended Samuel Gompers High School, It was there I first remember seeing Flash but he was still Joseph. I wouldn’t meet him until much later on. I don’t know, as a kid I just always gravitated to the stage. I performed for an audience every chance I got. School, family get togethers, sidewalks…... Anywhere….. In High School I continued playing in the school orchestra under Mr. Barry Domfort who was a great influence on my life. It was he who steered me to The Jazz Mobile Workshop where I continued my studies under the great Jazz Saxophonist Frank Foster.
By then my taste had changed to The Brecker Brothers, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Dexter Wansel of course Herbie Hancock and Grover Washington Jr. I was growing musically and didn’t really vibe wit kids my age. I was in Harlem smoking reefer with Jazz musicians twice my age. From there I joined Premiere Odyssey: A collective of extremely talented Funk musicians all hailing from The Bx. I was already a showman and known for throwing my horn from side to side while playing, a style I borrowed from K.C and The Sunshine Band. By 1975 at the age of 15 I was already a well rounded Jazz And Funk musician making money playing gigs all over the city.
When/where did you first witness what would later be called Hip Hop?
As I stated my family moved from Boston Road in The South Bronx to 181st in The Grand Concourse this was 1974. So I made new friends, mostly a bunch a B Boys and petty thieves that kept telling me about this cat Kool Herc. Guys like The Legendary B Boys Slick Watts, James Bond, Ace La Rock and Vinny Vin. All these cats were already attending Kool Herc parties and they all had these cool ass names so it was then that I re invented myself as well. I been Dynamite ever since .
By now I had fallen in with Miles Boys - two Boosters who lived in my building. Preacher lived in this building too but that’s another story. The Miles Brothers taught me how to shoplift from the stores that lined The Concourse and Fordham Rd. We were banned from Alexander’s and Sears. They had our picture hanging in the security booth. The more daring of the two would wear old sneakers into a shoe store try on a new pair and just run out the store. We would then sell our goods in our hood along Burnside Ave.
One particular evening we ran into Slick Watts and he was going to The Hevalo which was right around the corner from my house on Burnside and Jerome so we tagged along. It was kids up in this spot from all over The Bronx. This is 1975. Cats like Eldorado Mike and Chip from The Nine had mastered the Hustle. People think that at those early parties it was constantly breaking, but nah everybody was doing The Hustle. Coke La Rock was playing shit like Van McCoy, Eddie Kendricks Body Talk. Marvin Gaye T Plays it Cool, and then Herc got on and played Dennis Coffey Scorpio and that’s when Niggas started Breakdancing. The Twins seemed to just attack out of nowhere. They just ran up on all the other B Boys gathered in the circle This was followed by Sex Machine - a lot of James Brown. James Bond was dusting off Niggas Ace La Rock vs James Bond. This went on back and forth. It was real.
Is there any truth to what Flash has said about Herc’s transitions being off, and having the dance floor in disarray?
Disarray? Nah I didn’t see that. He wasn’t using a cue at first. I don’t think Herc even had two copies of records at that point. He played with reckless abandon. Just throwing records on. There was no cohesiveness yet to what he was doing. None of that mattered to us. I tell you what. I bet his system wasn’t in disarray. That Herculord sound system was deafening even then. And this was a small club he only bought maybe two massive speakers and some Peavey Columns all powered by this Macintosh Amp. But he brought all his shit wit him when he played outside - speakers stacked.
You could hear his system for five city blocks in either direction. Easily. There were no Emcees yet. Just Coke saying fly phrases, like “jammin wit the jamming, servin wit the servers” and Clark Kent periodically dissing any B Boy he felt like. It was all very Kool. I mean come on. It’s Kool Herc and The Herculords, the rawness of it all was part of the attraction. Watching him trudge on. None of his missteps mattered back then because it was all brand new. His selection of beats and the order at which they kept coming at you kept you fixated more on the music and less on his technique. The crowd sure didn’t notice. No one paid attention to technique until Flash came along.
I remember Casanova Fly, Whipper Whip And DJ Wiz Tony Crush at some of these parties as well. Caz lived right around the corner from me. So now I’m in wit these niggas. It’s Westside all day. Niggas from that side of The Bronx usually came from good family, they was just bad for no reason. We would steal shit all day and sell it and then at night get fly and call a fleet of Godfather Cabs. Wherever Kool Herc was playing we all went there. The Executive Playhouse was like our spot though. What you gotta understand, is Niggas that was down wit Herc like that were the Fly Kids. We rode around in chauffeured OJ’s. The regular kids at school wasn’t doing none a this shit. They was bus pass Niggas. I remember I always wanted my Lees to hang off my ass just like Eldorado Mikes. We were trend setters, all the little hustlers, the boosters, the 3 card kids, jostlers, fly girls, dustheads and stick up kids all partied wit Kool Herc. It was something new and hip and organically from The Bronx. Kool Herc reined Supreme from 1975- 77. These kids was getting money and loved flossin’ at Kool Herc parties
The term B Boy was originally a term for The Boys from The Bronx. As far as musically and what we were listening to, our whole style was different than everything else going on in the city at that time. With Herc it became less and less about Disco and more emphasis on Break Beats, OJ Cabs and Fly Fashion. Herc would bring his system to The South Bronx as well. His parties at the notorious Clairmont Center On 169th Street in Washington Ave. (the area simply called The Nine) on the edge of Clairmont Projects were spectacular events if you can picture that in the middle of the projects. At this time Herc had no competition. He had a monopoly on something new but once unleashed he couldn’t keep it to himself.
The next guy was Smokey. His parties began to have a Kool Herc feel to them as well. But his was a very short run and he wasn’t on the scene long. I was just leaving a Smokey block party the night of the ‘77 Blackout that was the last I heard of him. He joined the military. By 1976 relying heavily on Kool Herc’s emphasis on the Break Beats Flash had already begun mastering his quick mix theory and by the next summer all the fly kids started hoppin’ in they OJ’s and goin to Flash parties
I’ve noticed that I see your name on early flyers with Cooleone. Who was Coolone and who/what inspired you to Emcee?
I met Cooleone (Barry Chalmers) in 1974, he was the bass player for Premiere Odyssey and my best friend at the time. He became a big influence on me somewhat like an older brother. It was he who inspired me to go to City College because he went there. By 1976 the band had broken up as clubs were now gravitating to the DJ format. So Cooleone began constructing this massive DJ set up we dubbed The Eliminator. It was all powered by a Phase Linear Amp and a few rag tag speakers. Based on the records I heard Kool Herc playing I begun to seriously start collecting Break Beats while Cooleone concentrated on Disco. I befriended this kid Elroy at Downstairs Records. Here’s a story for you. This little kid who worked at this record store is responsible for actually discovering half of the Break Beats we use today. He was Flash Herc and Bams main connect. A 15 year old who works in a record store hidden in a subway station. That’s Hip Hop…..
Okay where was I It was myself Cooleone and a kid from Webster Projects named Diamond D. We were all basically DJ’s who rhymed a little. We slowly began building a reputation playing weddings and get togethers at The Savoy and various ballrooms, but we didn’t get to play any Hip Hop as we catered to a much older crowd. We were off in The Catskills playing ski trips It was at this period I began studying cats like Reggie Wells, Eddie Cheba and of course Hollywood. We began hanging at Clubs like 371, Broadway International, and it was all strictly Disco until I started going to Flash parties wit Cowboy and that’s when I brought an Echo Chamber and decided to Emcee. My cadence changed from mocking Eddie Cheba to more what Cowboy, Mel and Creole were doing.
We started doing more Block Parties now along Webster Ave in Butler Housing Projects. This is summer of ‘77. We got a nice system and Creole & Cowboy would occasionally get on the mic at these early park jams because now Cooleone is playing Hip Hop Beats. By ’78 we were an established act playing regular gigs for adults as well as playing on the undercard at all the Hip Hop spots. We played Sparkle, Webster P.A.L, The T Connection and The Audubon. You see my flyers. Dem flyers don’t lie. We’re now basically playing the same venues as Herc and Flash. But what really got everyone’s attention were the customized mixtapes I was selling to the OJ Godfather and Community Cab drivers. Those tapes solidified my reputation in the streets. Even if you never came to my parties everyone heard me on those tapes
Unfortunately it was to be short lived because myself and Diamond D got implicated in a murder we didn’t have anything to do with. We were running with a crew of stick up kids from Webster at the time. I was questioned and released soon after my Fathers lawyer walked in, but Diamond D was charged and was sent to Rikers Island for a little over a year before he was found not guilty. But the damage was already done. Myself and Cooleone continued as a duo until I discovered he was keeping a bigger share of our profits and not disclosing that to me. So I packed up my records and went dolo. I had a huge ego by then. Cooleone brought all the equipment. When I look at it now he probably did deserve a bigger taste and I should not have broke that up. That was my career over there.
It was during this period I became a free agent. I was jumping on all mics. I threw a birthday party and gave Hollywood 750.00 to come through for an hour just so I could get on the mic wit him. I still got that picture too. I rocked wit Kool Herc on occasion as well as Bambaataa ( who owns probably the only tape remaining of me rocking in Bronx River). I got a gig Djing at a Gay club on University Ave which was adjacent to Community Cabs. This was perfect for me and a great marketing tool because now I’m selling more mixtapes than anybody and that’s what really cemented my rep because everybody knew who I was and that allowed me to Emcee at all the top Hip Hop events. But It’s fucked up that Cooleone, Diamond D and I couldn’t stay together because I have no doubt we would’ve been Run DMC before Run DMC. We were that good.
Why did you stop rhyming?
It was a mixture of a few things, mostly though I got into the streets heavy. Once I began selling drugs I more or less grew outta that phase. I was too cool to be selling mixtapes, I had ounces and by the time I got down with The Furious there was no need for a sixth Emcee so I was relegated to the bench only to be seen or heard on occasion. But I was gonna get out on that stage one way or another so I started to improvise roles for myself. Most notably The Hype man position and many others. I did want to record but there were other opportunities I was in position to take advantage of. Although I did reprise my role as 3 Card Rooster Head Red on Mele Mel’s remake of Hustlers Convention. I’m still an avid songwriter though. I wrote Runs verse on Here We Go, co wrote Rahiem’s album and only solo release on the Juice soundtrack Does Your Man Know About Me. So my pen game still strong. I bet I can even pen a hit or a Rhyme right now in mumble Rap. Izzy Izzy Izzy Busy Busy Busy.
How did you come about writing Run’s Here We Go verse? I believe that he used it on Hollis Crew as well.
They did a show in South Carolina, and I went up to his room and rhymed for him. He dug it, so I gave it to him.
I know that you were best friends with Cowboy growing up. Were you at any of those early parties where he started grabbing the mic. Did you witness his skills before he started to display them publicly?
Yeah he was my best friend and definitely mentored me as far as the Emcee thing. We met when we was 10. He would steal my Hot Wheels and shit, growing up he was always banging out beats on somebody’s car hood. To be totally honest though our friendship grew because he could get shit from me. I had drugs and money and we was like two peas in a pod so he got whatever he wanted outta me Cowboy kept a small circle of friends.
Dude was funny how he chose who was going to be his friends. Me and Rich were drug dealers so we always kept money and drugs he could extort us for. Rich ended up going to jail Tub an One Double O each had a car and drove for OJ so they drove him around for free. Vince was his man because they just so much alike. You had to have something. I would always give him money and Coke and in return when he went on tour he would return the favor by not only paying me back but helping me re up too. Im sittin’ here laughing at the shit now but I can honestly say though had he not taken me on the road with him I would not be the person I am today. I was already investigated in one homicide and would be dead or in jail now. I had way too much shit goin’ on. He literally saved my life.
At those early Flash jams you could see early the star quality about him. He had a stage presence about him the rest of the guys didn’t. I mean eventually they all learned it and commanded the stage differently but wit CB it came naturally. He wasn’t the greatest lyricist but the way he handled his self on that stage said a mouthful. He had this loving personality that everyone gravitated to. He was a modern day Simon Says. The audience loved him early on. I mean the man could literally make a whole club freeze in place. From coining the term Hip Hop to the crowd participation. He was writing the book on emceeing right before our eyes I saw all of that early on. As talented as Flash was Cowboy and The Furious is what made the difference between Flash and the other DJ’s of that era.
Did you personally know Flash or any of the other Mc’s in the Furious growing up?
We all grew up in the same neighborhood, but no those were Cowboy’s friends. I developed my own relationship with each of them hanging out with them at their parties and more so when I came to work for them. When they needed shit I gave it to em or got whatever they needed done. I have a reputation for getting shit done. They in turn saw I was good for business more than any friendship we have. ‘Cause sometimes with friends like The Furious you don’t need enemies. And Flash once he inherited my vast record collection he had no use for me anymore. I only hung wit Mel and Scorp on occasion. I’ve worked with Rahiem on his stuff and I’m cool and in contact with Creole. But I love them all dearly regardless of however they feel about me or whatever bad business we may have had. I am my brothers keeper I remember once Mel was cursing out everybody on the bus and said “If I fire y’all Niggas today the only one a y’all gone be shit is Dynamite”. I do know they forget sometimes that I’m a grown ass man and not that kid that worked for them 40 years ago. Do I like working for my friends? I don’t. I do it to help them I’ve always worked for myself and I’m very independent. I don’t think they see that.
I see that you have a large collection of pictures from Hip Hop’s infancy. One in particular stuck out to me – the one of you with Bambaataa. What’s your early association with Bam?
Thanks. I kept a camera handy. I mean even cats from Bronx River heard my tapes while riding in those OJ’s. I kept hearing the name. Bambaataa so I started attending his parties in Bronx River Center. I initially struck up a friendship wit Pow Wow and that lead to me getting on the mic at a celebration Bambaataa had for Kool Herc. I don’t know it must’ve been something in the air that night because I went the fuck off. Creole had this Hustler Convention cadence that he would do with the echo chamber to the song Bra by Cymande. I just wrote my own lyrics to that. I definitely remember a lot of ooohs and awwwws Bambaataa still has that tape. At that time Bambaataa was a God like figure who was always surrounded by an army. He always respected my art and we became friends
Is it true that one had to know someone in Bronx River to enter and party unscathed?
That was the Bronx period. Anytime you dared to venture into another nigga Projects that’s on yo ass. You better be ready I’ll tell you that. Bronx River Projects was a very dangerous place. Not to be fucked wit. So yeah a lot a muthafuckas couldn’t just come up in Bronx River. Before the Zulu Nation it was all about Black Spades Spider and The Gestapo and The Bronx River Organization. I was Kool wit all that. They my brothers Shout Mr Biggs too.
I hear the name Disco King Mario a lot, but I never hear much other than that he had a massive system. Was he an actual DJ? Did he blend? scratch?
Unfortunately that’s the only part of Bronx history I never associated with, mind you it was for no other reason than I didn’t have to travel to the East Bronx to hear Hip Hop I was already in two hotbeds The South Bronx and The West side those Cats came to us. But I do know he was well respected because you heard his name and knew who he was. Chuck City. I heard he gave Bambaataa his start but again I don’t do hearsay, It just helps to spread myth. And it also had to do with turf. I didn’t have no business in those projects
As one who attended Herc parties, what was the climate like? Was it one of stick up kids like I’ve heard about at the Black Door, or was it all fun and dancing?
I mean again it was The Bronx. It was dangerous at those parties. You could really get stuck up for your chain. That happened all the time The difference was Herc was a respected dude so niggas knew better. He did his own security and the Gangsters at Herc parties was his guys and they actually was there to dance. But them Black Door Parties? Shit. My gun would be hidden right outside somewhere. The Casanova’s were hired to be security but that all depended on what kind of day they was having. Cats would have Niggas hemmed up in the bathroom. Some niggas gettin robbed after the party. Fuck it let’s just stick up a whole party and mind you that’s just one set. The Boston Road Crew would come to Flash parties specifically to rob Niggas. So yeah flashy cats who always wore gold chains were always targeted. I could back mine up. It was like a pack of wolves. Somebody was always getting shot. You really had to be respected or feared to be left alone. Like these Rappers today couldn’t come to a Flash party wit all those diamonds on. Shotgun Rob would have walked into the V.I.P like “Omar comin”and stripped Drake and his security butt ass Naked.
Lol…How did you get hired to work for the Furious 5, and what was your job?
It was already like I was working for them anyway because I was always with them. But they must’ve discussed it among themselves before telling me. I was on my corner Boston Road and Cauldwell Ave selling dust when Cowboy and Tub pulled up looking for me. Cowboy got out the car and told me they needed me to go to North Carolina for a show at Carraways Amusement Park. The next day on the tour bus they informed me that I would be going on the road with them permanently. I was ecstatic to say the least. But I was like what the fuck is a Roadie? I found out it was the opposite of a grug dealer. Mele Mel was adamant that I was no longer allowed to sell drugs and would literally drive pass Boston Road to see if I was out there. Of course I still sold drugs I just had my other friends do it for me. (Snickers) I had to get that money mang. You know how hard it is to keep a block on lock?
My job was basically to do whatever was needed. Carrying luggage. Setting up equipment Go get food and fuck all the groupies I could, which was easy rooming wit Cowboy. Scorpio was a pain in the ass because he had the most shit and always insisted on taking the weights everywhere. And if you didn’t do something to his specifications he would gladly fine me and the other roadies 100.00. After a couple of years of learning the road and running through road managers Mrs. Rob promoted me to road manager. From there I became the groups personal manager booking agent and business partner.
How was Sylvia Robinson as a person/employer?
I adored Mrs. Rob and I miss her dearly. It was she who saw something in me I had not seen in myself yet. She took an immediate liking to me. She wasn’t gonna let me just come up to Sugar Hill and hang out wit The Furious. I’d be outside playing basketball wit Scoochie and Leland her two youngest and she would poke her head out the front door of the studio and say, “Cmere Dynamite. What are you doing”? Go upstairs in Marketing and Promotion and answer the phones or go back in Distribution and help ship records. I would go get lunch for her and Mr. Ron Isley who kept an office at Sugar Hill. Sometimes that meant going all the way to Harlem from Jersey.
I can definitely relate to that episode when Puffy sent his interns to Brooklyn for cheesecake. She was grooming me, I learned so much about this business directly from her. I could always expect her phone calls almost daily to go over the itinerary for the day and she would stay on the phone with my mother talking for about five minutes before my mother handed me the phone I became the point man for the group. As opposed to her dealing with 6 people she made me her guy and I didn’t want to disappoint her. My internship at Sugar Hill prepared me for life not only in this business, but life period I had no problems wit The Robinson’s. At the end of every day either her or Joey would give me 100.00 sometimes both of them. Whatever problems she had with Grandmaster Flash and The Furious 5 I tried to stay neutral cause I wasn’t gonna win picking sides. Shit I loved both my jobs.
Was Joe Robinson (Sr.) a menacing figure like many say?
Yes. You know he once broke Frankie Crocker’s Arm right.
Wow, that I haven’t heard - Your photo album suggests that you were a Fever regular. Paint a picture of a weekend night at the Disco Fever.
It was almost like The Black Door. Gangsters Paradise would have been a more appropriate name. I made a lotta money in that back room. It was an open air drug market back there. And if we wanted to keep making money we basically had to police ourselves so it was basically divided between two crews. The Boston Road Crew and The Boys From Seven O 170th in College Ave. We quietly ran the distribution back there and kept the peace Bamm Bamm brokered that. He was head of security and a former War Lord for The Black Spades so he was the perfect guy for the job. He was a made guy and respected by everyone.
One night these two Niggas from Brooklyn came back there and didn’t notice G Man from Seven O sizing they asses up. He told me Dynamite close the door and don’t let nobody in so I did as I was told cause this nigga was a Tyrant. He pulled out his gun and pistol whipped and robbed them right there on the spot. Some beef from Jail, we carried they asses down the back fire escape. Another night I’m outside selling Dust cause my agreement was I couldn’t sell Dust in the club only Coke so we standing out front and Bamm had to put this one fool out. If you know Bamm Bamm you know this guy is really diplomatic. He’d rather talk you down then fuck you up but the choice was yours. As Bamm is putting dude in a Cab he pulls out a knife and stabs Bamm. We was on that fool so fast Im sure he didn’t have time or thought to regret that move. It seems like everyone outside that night dragged his ass out that cab and stomped him into a coma. Luckily Bamm survived.
On another occasion I’m in the bathroom selling dust to this dude when he snatches the Crown Royal bag I kept all the dust in. I’m not ‘bout to lose two bundles to this fool so we goin’ at it. During the melee my gun slides down my pants leg and as we still fighting security comes in the bathroom to separate us. They holding me and let this fool dash out the club wit 20 bags of my work! Of course Sal pitches a bitch because for one. I’m not supposed to be selling Dust in the Club and two I'm supposed to check my gun at the door. So I get kicked out The Fever. Juice Card revoked. That was worst than going to jail. Longest year of my life. Finally Cowboy convinces Sal to let me back in for his Birthday party.
But outside of all that Ra Ra shit. The Fever was a Mecca. Sal had an All Star line up. Where else could you go to hear Grandmaster Flash spin on a Tuesday night? Luv Bug Starski on Wednesday? Junebug Disco Bee Starchild Sweet G Hollywood. The Gong Show. The Swimsuit Contest. It was a different theme every night. And the women were gorgeous. People came there from all over the city. Fat Cat, Pappy Mason from Queens. Frank Lucas. All of Harlem. It was the place to be seen. Mrs Rob basically signed Grandmaster Flash and The Furious 5 there. I would be there 7 days a week, you’d a thought I worked there. I mean I did, but it was off the books. (Snickers)
Did you notice any hostility towards groups like Sequence and The Sugar Hill Gang from the New York artists at Sugar Hill?
I mean it’s Emcees. They like boxers. They’ll smile wit each other and be cordial but given a chance they’d try and take each other’s heads off. We loved Sequence I’m sure Mercedes Ladies didn’t like them. They weren’t from The Bronx so they really had to earn they respect and they did. Them girls worked yo. Nobody liked The Gang. Lol. Who the hell are these guys? Nobodies ever heard a dem. Hey he’s using Caz rhymes!! And they ripped off Cowboy too in the intro! That’s just some of the shit you heard.
One time Scorp and Master Gee was arguing about Master Gee’s girlfriend who was Mrs. Rob’s niece and the receptionist. Master Gee must’ve hauled off and snuck a good one in. Scorp hops in his Mercedes and drives all the way cross the bridge back to my house in The Bronx. I go downstairs and get in the car and he’s hauling ass back to Jersey. We get to Sugar Hill and he goes in the trunk and pulls out a bat and goes charging into the studio where he finds the unsuspecting Master Gee.... Lmao.
Was Cowboy really the physical enforcer of the Furious, that kept the street elements away from the group?
The Casanova’s did that. For his group he was. And just so there’s no confusion Dynamite handled his own beef. Ask about me. We would get into little scraps on the road. But everybody fought. Now what Cowboy was to the group was it’s built in system of checks and balances. He kept certain group members egos in check. Physically when he had to. Throughout the years as hard as they’ve tried they can never stay together without Cowboy. He was the glue that held that act together.
I’ve heard from various group members that the Furious stage show was so tight because they studied groups like Cameo. Ed Fletcher (Duke Bootee) said that the Furious was the first group that he saw use the entire stage. What do you see as a secret to the stage presence?
Me. lol. I say that jokingly but I would like to think I brought the Broadway aspect to our show. The Furious Five were at one time as tight as the Temptations. They kept a tight regiment when it came to their stage show. They never toured with other rappers in the beginning. That etiquette came from touring with some of the premiere acts of that time. The Commodores, The Ojays, The Gap Band, The Barkays, Zapp, Rick James and Cameo especially. Cameo did everything in unison, they were one and the same on stage. From the fly Cameosis entry. To the syncopated hand claps. The way they all froze in unison. They took a little of all that away from Cameo. I loved how animated Rodger Troutman and Zapp were on stage and I borrowed from that.
The same way New Edition would huddle on the side of the stage every night and watch our show on their first tour, The Furious did that with Cameo. And we would add something every night. If it worked we kept doing it. A lot of people have never actually seen our show when the group was together. It was compared to a Broadway play with set changes like dice games and 3 card monty. We tried to really capture New York and bring that atmosphere to your town.
The highlight of the show to me had to be the cop scene for its timing. Again credit to Mrs. Rob. The Message had just been released and we were playing Nassau Coliseum. Mrs Rob said Dynamite I want you and the Spanish guy (June Bug) to dress up like cops and go on stage during that piece at the end. After that night I wanted to keep on doing it because I got to come out on stage. But instead of coming out at the end, I’m gonna interrupt the show with some lame excuse before you do The Message leaving the crowd thinking that we were out of time and weren’t going to perform the song. You could hear the crowds disappointment, when out of nowhere me and Mel would get into a shoving match. Don’t Push Me. Don’t Push Me Man. Why. Cause I’m Close To The Edge!!!! Then perform the song. Standing O every night.
They say that imitation is the biggest form of flattery so on the Cold Blooded Tour with Rick James I was definitely left flattered. After being on tour for the first few weeks Rick was insistent on cutting a song with The Furious, so on an off day Scorpio, Rahiem and Mel flew up to Buffalo and recorded Pimp The Simp. Once back on tour Rick adds the song to his set. At the end of the song this pimp comes running on stage and gets into a tussle with Rick James exactly like my cop part. I saw Public Enemy do the same thing to a Klu Klux Klan character. Two coincidences? I don’t know.
I was constantly complimenting every song with a new character. I was The coke guy in White Lines. I played a 3 card monty character in New York New York I was The Darth Vader at the beginning of the show that rose through the fog to introduce Flash. And then I would put on a leather suit and go in the audience and bag a bad one. I was changing clothes at least 4 times a night! It’s Dynamite. The hardest working man in show business. I literally invented that Hype man position. I was trying to keep up wit Jerome from The Time. I was a little Bobby Byrd, I was Bundini Brown screaming Mel’s arrival. The Champ Is Here!! I was all those things to the show.
Did you foresee the elements that eventually led to the downfall of GMF & F5?
Had a front row seat. You could first sense animosity when Mrs. Rob started messing with the formula that had gotten them this far. Outside of The Adventures on The Wheels of Steel Flash wasn’t allowed in on any of the production and up until that point he was the leader of the group. So he saw not only his role being diminished but his leadership as well. Then bringing in Duke Bootee. The Furious didn’t need or want another vocalist. But The Message went on to become this huge hit. So now you didn’t have a foot to stand on because Mrs. Robinson was right about a song none of you wanted to perform in the first place.
From there it just became the Mele Mel show which really put a fork in it. To be totally honest Mele Mel would have and still would rather be a solo artist. But he was attached to The Furious by the hip and as hard as he tried he couldn’t shake they asses. When the group decided to leave Sugar Hill it was Mel who broke rank first and went back and recorded White Lines without them. But the most telling reason was probably all The cocaine, because it clouded people’s judgement. Paranoia sets in and then everybody goes to Hell. It was the eighties. We all had a little habit back then. But some members had huge ones. Richard Pryor, Rick James habits and once freebasing came into the equation forget about it. People started missing shows. Picture David Ruffin in that Temptations movie when he was getting high for days and had no clue the show was the night before. From there Cowboy went to jail but he had stopped coming to shows before that. Jail was the best thing to happen to him. He needed that time to get his head right.
So a combination of all these things lead to the inevitable breakup of the group. And we’ve seen this story before as with all great groups. The history of artistic teams is the history of coming together for great creative contribution and then separation. You can’t get around that. It’s happened time and time again. The reason I went with Mel was because Cowboy called me during the holdout and made the decision for both of us. I do know the fact that they were getting ready to do Beat Street played a role in his decision and he had two families to support. And as for myself it was just more opportunities for me with Sugar Hill. Now I was officially a group member. I replaced Flash as the DJ. The reason I suspect he really don’t like my ass to this day.
I wouldn’t like me either. He thinks I went around telling people I was Grandmaster Flash but that never happened. I was always DJ Dynamite and let people know that. I mean the show must go on. You left.
What made you start collecting Police hats from the UK, and how many do you own?
Just from playing the police in The Message. Any country we visited I tried to make my outfits authentic to that region. And in that process I started collecting Military and Police hats. I still have a few, but unfortunately most of them were destroyed by one of my nephews who I totally despise, he took a liking to wearing them.
I noticed that you have a plaque for Does Your Man Know About Me. What was your role in that Rahiem song from the Juice soundtrack?
Actually my first and only Gold Plaque. It’s Platinum now so I’m owed another one. Timing is everything. I had been out of town doing my thing after I left the group in '85. I had resorted back to my old ways and was killing it out of town on Greyhound. Unfortunately indictments started coming down and I wasn’t about to hang around to see if my name was on one. So I returned to NY. I had been in contact with Ra who had just signed with Hank Shocklee’s S.O.U.L/ MCA imprint. I submitted a song and everybody loved it, so I was brought on by Hank as an Associate Producer to help Rahiem finish his album. I co-wrote the whole project.
Let me say this. If Rahiem’s album would have dropped it would have been game over. It banged from intro to end. The fact that outside that single the actual album never saw the light of day was partly because of Rahiem’s pendant for a being a perfectionist and missing release dates and mostly for some unflattering comments he made about Mrs. Rob that her sons took very personally. Right before his album was set to drop Joey Robinson sent a cease and desist order to MCA (Hank Shocklee’s parent company). Joey still had paperwork on Rahiem and that shelved that. I worked a whole year on that project.
When I had a discussion with Joey about it later, he told me Rahiem will never work in this business again and if I was fuckin’ wit him neither would I. So you definitely have to watch the bridges you burn in this business and what you say about people. The reason Rahiem is not working with Mel and Scorp right now is because of shit he said about them. Rahiem is a good dude. The most talented person in the group. But you can’t let your emotions dictate how you deal with people. And that’s just advice not criticism So there’s a lesson to be learned there. But he don’t give a fuck.
I’ve seen pics of you and Russell Simmons, what’s the association?
We went to City College together where we became get high buddies. I took him to 371 and introduced him to Flash and he would come up to the BX and hang with me at The Disco Fever. In turn, I attended his parties at the Hotel Diplomat with Kurtis Blow, Hollywood and Eddie Cheeba. I actually got Run into the Fever when he was the D.J. for Kurtis and was told to wait in the limo because he was too young. I was going with Kurt to a show that he had in Jersey, so I came downstairs and got him out of the limo and into The Fever. When they formed Run DMC the Furious 5 wouldn’t speak to them, but I would always kick it with them. I was cool with Rush, and Jam Master Jay was dating my cousin in Queens, so I was always cool with them even though the acts couldn’t stand each other. They are like family to me.
Why wouldn’t the Furious speak to Run DMC?
They never socialized with other Emcees like that. They looked at all Emcees as inferior to them, and that dated back to the Bronx with The L Brothers, Funky 4, & Caz and them. But they just never liked Run DMC, and they knew that they were lyrically the better act, and were probably jealous of their rise in sales, while they were tied up in court. Then in interviews Run DMC would go out of their way to bash how the Furious dressed. The final straw had to be after the split when Flash’s faction got into a heated argument with Run DMC on the Fresh Fest tour, and Creole went after Run with a bat. I mean it was Run DMC who took the Furious 5's title as the greatest rap group, and I doubt that would have happened if they stayed in tact at Sugar Hill. Run DMC just came along at Flash & The Furious 5’s down slide due to the business.