New York New York big city of dreams
And everything in New York ain’t always what it seems
You might get fooled if you come from out of town
But I’m down by law and I know my way around, too much
too much, too many people, too much
— a ha hah
Too much, too many people, too much, rrrrrrrah!
The music Mecca of Manhattan is probably the most influential borough of them all, so much so that many of us just take it for granted. Even though we all know hip hop started in Da Bronx, (See Da Bronx – Hip Hop’s Garden Of Eden http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5713074/da_bronx_hip_hops_garden_of_eden.html?cat=33)
but Manhattan is the place the other borough’s come together. Where each year many migrate in search of their 15 minutes of fame. It’s the home of the major television stations, the major record companies, the hottest clubs, hip-hop magazines, MTV and BET, the Rucker Basketball games, Madison Square Garden and The New York Knicks, the major radio stations as well as many college and underground stations, even 88HIPHOP, the first internet radio show, came from New York, NY.
WELCOME TO NEW YORK CITY
THE HOME OF 9/11, THE PLACE OF THE LOST TOWERS
WE STILL BANGING, WE NEVER LOST POWER
Hip Hop or the music business couldn’t fully function without the influences and contributions of many from money makin’ Manhattan or the Big Apple itself for that matter.
WE ARE KNOWN AS EMCEES, WE ALWAYS AIM TO PLEASE…
…WE TURN PARTYS OUT
The 212 area code, especially Harlem was always known for rhymespitters and rappers from day one, who introduced us to their new rap language, like MC Spoonie Gee, The Treacherous 3 (Kool Moe Dee is on many hip hop heads’ greatest lyricists list), The Crash Crew, Fearless Four, T La Rock, Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock, Lord Finesse, and who can forget the worlds greatest entertainer Doug E Fresh, who still has one of the hottest stage shows and who even the Kings Of Rock, RUN DMC have always hated to go on stage after him ’cause of how he rocks the crowd according to both Run and the late great Jam Master Jam before his untimely demise.
“I gotta throw on some reggae or something for like a half hour to calm the crowd down after Dougie gets off the stage before we go,” Jay told me when I interviewed him for the Crown Royal album.
CLAP YA HANDS EVERYBODY, IF YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES
I’M KURTIS BLOW AND I WANT YOU TO KNOW
THAT THESE ARE THE BREAKS
No discussion of early hip-hop or Manhattan influence in hip-hop would be complete without mentioning Kurtis Blow, who was the first rap artist signed to and have an album released on a major label (Mercury Records). He was instrumental in bringing rap from the underground to the masses.Blow’s second single, The Breaks, in 1980 was certified gold. Kurtis Blow was the first to appear on national television, performing The Breaks on Soul Train in October 1980. The Harlem emcee will be remembered in history as one of hip-hop’s most influential pioneers. With Russell Simmons as his manager and Russell’s younger brother Joey, who was once called ‘son of Kurtis Blow’ and later became Run of Run DMC, working the turntables.
In 1979, Blow recorded Christmas Rapping, (the first hip hop Christmas record that still gets airplay to this day around that time or year) a classic single that helped land him a contract with Mercury Records. He was an inspiration to Run D.M.C., Whodini, and many other emcees, who emerged in the early ’80s
Kurtis Blow became one of the first rappers to infiltrate mainstream television, appearing in commercials for Sprite in 1986 and writing segments for the soap opera One Life to Live in 1991-92. Kurtis Blow, an ordained minister is still paving the way. He is now one of the artist leading the charge in the Holy Hip Hop Movement now with the birth of his Hip-Hop Church which started in Hood A.M.E. Zion Church in Harlem, with many locations in the country including the Bay Area where he now lives.
Many Harlem heads claim, Biz Markie as their own. I not sure if the Diabolical One was born in Harlem or not but I do know wherever he laid his mic was his home, and heads from several areas in the Empire State claim him. Newer artists like Mase, Big L (RIP), Cam‘ Ron, and Mc Gruff (formerly known as The Children of The Corn in their early days) each on their own and collectively held it down on the mic.
Artists like Havoc and Prodigy (Mobb Deep), Prince Poetry and Pharoahe Monch (Organized Konfusion), Kwame, Mr. Complex and Percee P among others all honed their skillz on the M.I.C. in the hallowed halls of Manhattan High School of Art and Design. We can’t forget the DJ’s like Ron G (the youngest DJ in charge), the drama king Kay Slay, DJ S&S and many others masters of the wheels of steel, who have been holding it down on the mixtape circuit and party scene for years.
The Beatie Boys, 3 punk rock looking white kids who were discovered by Rick Rubin and signed to Def Jam Recordings and created some incredible hip hop music, were born and bred in Manahattan. Speaking of Rick Rubin, Def Jam was started by him and Russel Simmons out of his dorm from in New York University – NYU. Manahttan was also the home of TommyBoy, Profile, Sleepin Bag and many other early hip-hop record companies. The Big Apple was also home of some of the early music conferences like the New Music Seminar, where everyone came to be discovered, learn how to get in the industry and make a name for themselves. Conference like the CMJ still give underground hip-hop a place to learn and be heard!
Harlem was also the birthplace of Hip Hop record executives Dame Dash (CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records), Sean P. Diddy Combs (CEO of Bad Boy Records, who later moved to Mt. Vernon), and Andre Harrell (former Pres. of Def Jam, owner of Uptown Records and former chief executive of Motown Records) who started out as a rapper in the group, Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde. Radio promoter, turn radio personality and recording artist, Fatman Scoop is also from Harlem.
THIS IS SOMETHING FOR THE RADIO…
Before we had radio on the commercial stations like WBLS, 98.7 Kiss Fm, WKTU, Hot 97 and now Power 105 in the NYC, we had the underground station WHBI 105.9 FM. Home of Mr. Magic, The Awesome Two, The Supreme Team, Afrika Islam (Son Of Bambaataa), Kevin Keith & The Dirty Dozen, the Half Pint/ DNA Show and others. WHBI was an underground station, where you paid $75 an hour for your timeslot.
Mr. Magic, the first DJ to ever host a rap radio show anywhere, had 2 hours from 2:00- 4:00 AM Saturday night/ Sunday morning from 1979-1981. Sometime later Magic caught the attention of WBLS’ top jock the chief rocker, Frankie Crocker and in 1982, NYC had its first commercial rap radio show, The Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack Show. Magic who was later nicknamed Sir Juice, along with his DJ Marley Marl started one of the first and one of the tightest hip-hop clicks, crews or posses, The Juice Crew. When we heard the Grover Washington’s Jr’s instrumental jazz classic, Mr. Magic and then the words Mr. Mr. Magic Magic Super Super Blast Blast, we knew it was about to go down. No matter where you were and what you was doin’ ya had had radio tuned to WBLS.
We also can’t forget the important of the college radio stations like WKCR at Columbia University, where Stretch Armstrong and Bobitto help introduce many artists. Bobitto continued with the show a few years after Stretch went on to bigger and better things, Or WNYU at New York University, where P Fine and Livio G used to hold it down and Eclipse and DJ Riz now brings the newest and hottest underground each week. G Man and the Underground Railroad Radio Show crew on underground station, WBAI have also been holding it down for years on Saturday nights from midnight to 2am. Last but not least their was City College’s station WHCR where Kurtis Blow used to be the program director back in 1976. The college and underground stations used to play all the new joints you might not hear on Rap Attack on BLS or Red Alert’s show on Kiss Fm.
Manhattan was always the place where DJs from all over used to troop to get the jams. DJs troop to NYC to cop their vinyl at record stores like Fat Beats, Downstairs Records, Rock N Soul and The Sound Library just to name a few.
If you were a New York artist or wanted New York to feel you, you’ve always had to hold it down in one of NYC’s legendary clubs like Union Square, Homebase, The Red Parrot, Latin Quarters, The Tunnel, The Palladium and Speed just to name a few. Back in the days emcees proved they had skillz at Harlem World on 129 Lenox Ave & 116th St. (the club not the rap group started by Mase) and Randy’s Place, while many were dissed and dismissed if they couldn’t rock the crowd at the world famous Apollo Theater. Manhattan allowed the other boroughs a sort of neutral ground to party and see their favorite hip-hop artists.
While these are just a few of the examples of Manhattan’s importance and influence in Hip Hop, there were many others that contributed, paved the way and represented NYC, that weren’t mention due to space restrictions. You are not forgotten. I concentrated more on the old school aspect here, because if we don’t know, remember and document our history, someone outside the Hip-Hop nation will document it for us, and all we know where that leaves us, lost and confused.