Aaron Allen is like a best kept secret in Hip Hop. As one of the first Mc’s in long Island to make a rap record he scored early as Butch Cassidy. He was also Chuck D’s rhyming partner in a pre Public Enemy mobile D.J. unit called Spectrum City. Along with Chuck D he recorded Check Out The Radio on Vanguard records in 1984. In addition to acting as Tupac Shakur’s bodyguard during his stint with Digital Underground he was part of the mid 90s rap group 5ive-0 and he has also worn the title of entrepreneur as the mind behind Hip Hop’s first candy venture. Its my pleasure to chop it up with Butch Cassidy - JayQuan
Where were you born and raised and who were your musical influences growing up?
I was born & raised in Harlem in 1959, and I was influenced by James Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, The Bar Kays, Slave and this guy named Little Dion. He danced just like James Brown.
What was your introduction to Hip Hop?
In around 1973 I remember my brother coming home from a college party. He said that there was a guy named D.J. Plummer who was playing music and he would stop the music, and tell the crowd to clap their hands and throw their hands in the air. My brother had never seen anything like that. That was our first introduction to seeing somebody M.C. and control a crowd like that. My brother was named C.A. The DJ. I have to speak on my brother because he was a huge influence on Hip Hop culture, especially how people check the mic. Back in the days people would say “testing 1,2 testing 1,2”. My brother was the first to say “mic check 1,2,. He coined that phrase. He was the first.
This was in Harlem?
No, I was only in Harlem for 3 years. This was in Roosevelt Long Island. My brother was C.A. The D.J. and me and my other brother Craig were called The Heavyweights Of Funk. I Dj’d a little bit, but I always had a deep MC type of voice since I was young. My brother C.A. was around on the era of Hank Shocklee and a group called Spectrum. Spectrum was a group of Djs at Roosevelt Youth Center. It was called WRYC Spectrum. So it was Hank Shocklee, my brother Carl Allen, Krandu Newton, a brother named Jerry and Ujamia Allen. That was the start of Spectrum City at the Roosevelt Youth Center.
So was Spectrum City a mobile DJ organization?
Spectrum started with a couple of Dj's at the youth center. It wasn’t really mobile yet. Later on Hank Shocklee adopted the name and added City. It became Spectrum City and we became mobile. I was with my brother C.A The DJ, Chuck was with Spectrum City before I joined. At the time everybody wanted to be a rapper, everybody wanted the mic. Me and Chuck knew each other and Chuck was very nerdy. He wore big bi focals, he was very quiet and wasn’t into dressing. I remember going to Adelphi University, for Thursday Night Throwdown and the place would be packed. Spectrum was Djing one night and I wanted to grab the mic, bad. There were some other cats on the mic and they were only ok. This is the night I got down with Spectrum City – Chuck asked what my name was. I used to wear a cowboy hat and I said “I go by the Outlaw Of Funk”, Chuck said “nah, im gonna call you Butch Cassidy”. I grabbed the mic and did this intro where I was mimicking Bootsy (Collins) then I did my rhyme and the crowd went crazy. The next day Chuck, Hank & Keith (Shocklee) listened to the tape and they got to my part and said “he’s nice who is this”. Chuck said his name is Aaron they call him Chip. The Shocklees said get him on the phone! We talked, had a meeting and that’s how I became a member of Spectrum City.
So was there anyone else Emceeing in Spectrum City at that time?
Before I joined it was only Chuck. Once I joined Chuck & I became the dynamic duo. We would go back & forth then we met Mr. Bill and we got on the radio station called WBAU. It was the Spectrum Super Mix Hour. I did my first record in ’84 as Butch Cassidy’s Funk Bunch and Chuck wrote the lyrics for me.
And that was Dj’s Birthday?
Right, with Chuck and Charles Casseus that made Breakin’ In Space. Then me and Chuck came out with Lies and Check Out The Radio on Vanguard.
Ok, I remember Twilight 22 that did Electric Kingdom were on Vanguard. Do you have any idea how that deal came about.
I remember that Tim Olphie had something to do with that deal. I wasn’t as involved with the label side, but I remember Tim Olphie brought us to Vanguard. But I also had a record on Profile Records……
Yeah, Do The Whop?
Yeah, so you already know. You do your history….
Not many rap records got by me bro.
Wow, I remember Chuck and Hank coming to the crib and telling me that the Whop dance
was so popular that they could get me a deal on Profile. So yeah, I was on the same label as Run DMC. I only did a few shows off that record. I did it in D.C. and at Roseland and that was real nice. That was huge, and after that I got hooked up with a group called 5-0.
Yeah, I remember when the Source magazine had advertisements for the album, and people thought that you cats were really rapping police officers.
We didn’t really want that name, we were called the Interrogators at first, but Chuck said lets make it a little deeper. Since everybody was portraying themselves as criminals and gangsters, he thought that Hip Hop needed someone to police these people, so we went with 5-0….. We toured with Public Enemy, Ice T and Tupac. When it came to rockin’ the crowd and the stage show, PE had us by just a little bit.
But I'm like the lost member of Spectrum – no one really knows about Butch Cassidy. I was the first MC in Long Island to have a record deal. Flavor was a roadie when we did Check Out The Radio and Lies. People think that it’s Hank Shocklee or Flavor rappin’ on that record, but it’s me. Chuck was always the better rapper. We both had deep voices. He was a bit nerdy but could rap his ass off. I was slim and looked like Eddie Murphy. I could dance my ass off, pull the girls and I would stand on top of the speakers and rock the mic holding up the P Funk sign, wearing boots that lit up.
How long were you and Chuck rhyming together in Spectrum City before Lies and The Radio dropped?
That dropped in ‘ 84 and we got together in about ’80, so about 4 years. Then we moved into this studio called 510 Franklin. That’s a landmark for a lotta rappers, but that was Spectrum City Studios. But me and Chuck were best friends, that was my boy. I’d go to his house in Roosevelt everyday and his Dad would say “hey, hows it goin’ yeah Chuck is upstairs”. And his room was always filthy because he collected baseball cards, comic books and everything.
How did Flavor get in? Was the radio show his intro to Spectrum?
Flavor was originally a roadie. He carried our equipment, then we let him do some guest rapping at Spectrum City shows. Later Mr. Bill gave him his own show. It was Flavor Flav & The Flavotrons. He always admired stuff that I did. I had Butch Cassidy & The Funk Bunch and he had Flavor & The Flavortrons.
A lotta these names I heard on Knowledge Me by Original Concept. Like Chuckie D, Mr. Bill (Bill Stephney), Spectrum City,Butch Cassidy etc.
That entire song is a conversation that had with K Gee (The Wizard K Gee aka Keith Shockley). T Money from Original Concept took what I said word for word and made it into a song. I was on the N41 bus to Hempstead and that whole story is mine. I got no credit for that.
How did your affiliation with Spectrum end? Was it just the natural transition to Public Enemy?
No it wasn’t. I’ve always been the protector of the group. I was always into martial arts and that’s what I do today. In fact, I was surprised that I wasn’t chosen to be an S1W. But we were running this club called The Entourage back in the mid 80’s. Hank Shocklee doesn’t drink, but one night he decided to and he was a little tipsy. I had a date that was supposed to meet me at the club and Hank wouldn’t let her in. Chuck approached me and told me what was happening and I confronted Hank. He said “you better get your girl in check” basically. My date was crying because she had left the venue, and Hank wouldn’t let her back in. The next day I went to the studio and we all had these cubicles with our names on them, and I saw that my name was stripped off of mine. Keith said that his brother didn’t want me in the group anymore because I tried to fight him over a girl. That’s how I got kicked out of the group.
At one point Hank had also excluded Keith from the group, and we were both gone. Let’s rewind: I was the one who brought Terminator (X) to meet Chuck and K Jee. Norman (Terminator X) was really shy. I heard him on a mix tape and thought that he was nice, so I brought him in. I did a lot that I didn’t get credit for.
I saw online that you had created this Public Enemy candy. It looked pretty official too…
Yes, in the late 80s there were these rims called star rims that were very popular in urban neighborhoods. Kids knew more about those rims than they did reading, writing and history. At that point I knew that I wanted to educate these kids. I was an Eddie Murphy impersonator and I did a little bit of comedy and I was looking at the microphone. I got the idea to patent this microphone that had candy in the base, and a microphone on the top with positive messages in it. The flavors would be red for love, green for hope etc. The idea was that the kids wouldn’t ask for the flavor, they would say instead “I want love, I want hope” etc etc.
That’s dope bro.
Yeah, I wanted them to speak these words of power. On the candy wrapper there were inspiring words like “you can be whatever you wanna be” stuff like that. I was able to partner with some people in the candy business, and because I was affiliated with Chuck, they suggested that I use the his likeness. Chuck agreed to it, and even recorded some positive messages, so we incorporated audio with his voice into the microphone. When you pushed the button, you heard Chuck’s voice saying things like “love your parents”. There were 9 different messages and 3 different microphones. Chuck wasn’t able to support it, and I couldn’t do it alone so it’s like he gave me a nice new Cadillac with no engine.
You’ve done a lot. Weren’t you Tupac’s bodyguard at one point?
Yes, we were on tour with Digital Underground in Atlanta I think, and Shock G was in the hotel lobby playing piano. I befriended Tupac who was a dancer with them at the time. The Sex Packets album was out around this time. Tupac had this skit that he did explaining what Set Packets were. I was asking him about the meaning of Sex Packets and he said that when astronauts go into space, instead of masturbating they take pills to have an orgasm. Anyway…a few weeks later after I had a few conversations with Pac he went off to film Nothing But Trouble with Chevy Chase.
I became Chuck’s bodyguard because once someone from the crowd got onstage during the middle of the show. I picked him up with one arm and took him off the stage. The FOI (Fruit Of Islam) yoked him up after that. Chuck and the S1Ws couldn’t believe how strong I was because this guy was much bigger than I was. I became on stage security with one of Flav’s cousins after that. But as far as Pac, Digital Underground used to hump these blow up dolls on stage. Back then you could get locked up in certain states for imitating sexual acts. Once Pac was back from filming, he was about to be handcuffed right after one of their shows backstage. He said “Aaron you gotta help me man, I can’t get arrested”. I said “we can’t go either way from the stage, we need to go through the crowd”. I had to use a one inch punch to navigate Pac through the crowd, because even though he wasn’t famous yet, he was still a rapper. So I was clearing the way through the crowd for Pac and that’s how I became his personal body guard for that tour. Pac was a cool dude bro, and I’m fortunate to say that I knew him. He wasn’t a gangster like he would later be portrayed.
You spoke earlier about being called the Interrogators before 5-0. Tell me more about that.
Remember Professor Griff’s group after he got kicked out of PE?
Yes the Last Asiatic Disciples?
Right! There was a brother named B- Wyze in that group who rapped with me as the Interrogators. Chuck liked us and he signed us and we changed the name. That was the birth of 5-0. We were signed to Itchiban Records in Atlanta. It was a dope concept . I like acronyms, and I wanted to call the groups COPS – Correcting Our People’s Situation. But once we got together as a group we really had a dope stage show. At the time only Public Enemy matched our energy on stage.
You have an incredible story brother. What are you doing today?
Im still very heavy into the martial arts, and I teach martial arts and self defense. I am a Grandmaster with 47 years of training.
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