I’m thrilled to have written my third cover story in a row for Wax Poetics Japan. This issue (#35!) is immensely focused on the rap’s first royal collective, The Juice Crew. The photos are amazing, with deep pieces on Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, Kool G Rap, and other stalwarts. You can peruse parts of the issue and purchase it HERE .
Since it’s for WPJ, it (obviously) reads in Japanese, but my dudes at Wax Po here in the US were gracious enough to post the original English translation on their site. Take a look at Rap’s clown prince and his deep history, followed by a Q&A sourced from a series of interviews I did with Biz a few years back. READ IT HERE.
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: Big Daddy Kane, biz markie, juice crew, Kool G Rap, wax poetics
* Published concurrently on www.waxpoetics.com
* ‘G Rap’ Image By Kori Thompson
G Rap’s early career was a minefield of shifty fictions anchored in large by a dizzying cadence and attention to detail. And while these early years were fleeting, they, like any true pioneers’ work, set the framework for younger cats to explore. Wu-Tang, Jay-Z, Nas, and Biggie were all spawned from G Rap, later citing his delivery and Mafioso street narratives as immensely impactful and of influence.
I spoke in depth with G Rap for Wax Poetics issue 58, touching on ballyhooed history and other watershed moments during his immensely rich upstart. But there’s so much more to his story, so many colorful characters that came and went in an era where Biz Markie had entirely long beatboxing routines and Big Daddy Kane rapped while doing vigorous dance numbers— all of it under the guidance of rap’s first super producer, the venerable Marley Marl. It was a showcase of fun and well roundedness that underscored the Juice Crew’s heyday.
To this day, the trajectory of his career and its catalogue has been a point of reference for so many, and here’s the rest of our interview, bookended by opulent moments of his storied rise. Says G rap: “I just had crazy confidence in myself. I knew that skill-wise, especially back then, I was an elite. I was untouchable.”
Even though most fixate on those first early records of yours, you’ve had a lot of artistic output since. What are you up to these days?
I’m working on a screenplay. I’m transitioning from rapper back to just writer and am working on concepts for short films. Some of the themes are taken from my old albums. I’m gonna start shooting short films of all these song concepts I’ve had through the years. I can’t wait to get in the field and just put art out there again.
Perhaps one of your well known is “Road To The Riches”. The video itself is remarkable. Talk about working with director Fab Five Freddy.
I was no older than twenty at that point even though I looked thirteen [laughs]. It was directed by [Fab Five] Freddy who I think did an excellent job. He’s from that element, he’s from the streets. He’s definitely a fan of hip-hop and captured what we were going for.
That song was taken from my real life experiences. I wasn’t literally sweeping floors for dimes but if you consider the minimum wage then, I was basically working for dimes [laughs]. It was just my life and things that were going on around me. I mentioned John Gotti because it was the topic of the times. Any part of the violence that I wrote about were things I saw, even if I didn’t directly participate in all of it. I mean, right before the video shoot, this Jamaican cat I knew shot this dude in my neighborhood. Later, the dude ended up killing the Jamaican cat. These were real life things and experiences that I took in.
Let’s talk about the Juice Crew explore that history a bit. How was it working with Marley Marl? He was already known and you were actually the newcomer to the crew.
He’s that dude! Needless to say, he’s one of the first, most innovative producers in the game. Marley was the first one where people knew him equally as much as the vocalist. His name stood out as much as Kane or Biz. It was like he set the format without rapping on anything. Everything he did was behind the scenes. He was in a skit and a video, which was cool since he was already so big and should’ve made himself more identifiable. Then (Dr.) Dre and RZA kind of became what Marley laid out— the dude in the studio that made everything happen and known to the listener.
How close were you guys as a unit? Did Marley keep things tight or were you really more or less affiliates? Continue reading
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: biz markie, Bob james, Creed taylor, CTI, Quincy Jones
(I did this one a couple years back and at the time, Bob had me send him the story so he could plug it on his own site (which then, wasn’t yet up and running). Bob’s site went live last week and to my pleasant surprise, we’re getting a lot of traffic as a result. The piece covers perhaps his most important works (albums One, Two, and Three) in addition to his deep history with CTI and his subsequent connection to hip-hop. Here is my in-depth 3-piece article on Bob James, re-posted given the sudden surge of relevance. – DM)
Originally published for Wax Poetics
“I’m flattered to be a part of hip-hop’s history,” says Bob James nonchalantly. “But I believe we’re still at the beginning of understanding how young people make music.”
Bob James’s career developed during a time when radio ruled, records sold, and Roberta Flack had the country’s number one song. Things were different then. Popular music was changing, and over in New York, kids were priming themselves for a burgeoning hip-hop scene. James was thirty-five by 1974 and had just released his first solo album on CTI Records. His subsequent projects for the label were both commercially successful LPs and unsung flops. Regardless of units sold, it was those very records that would lay the foundational sound for some of hip-hop’s most coveted records. It was those kids in New York who initially took James’s music and adapted it for themselves to use and the world to see.
James’s first three CTI releases—One, Two, and Three—are amongst the most sampled records ever. And if we’re truly beginning to grasp how younger generations make music, it’s safe to assume that James’s catalogue is a resource that’ll be continually sifted through and sampled from.
In this three-part interview, he talks in-depth regarding details of his career: The first part of the interview touches on colorful names that are intermingled with his history, its development and legacy. Next, he reflects back on his first three CTI releases, breaking down the most sampled songs on each album. In the interview’s final component, Bob James explains the process of sample requests throughout the years, its affect on him, and why he’s “flattered to be a part of hip-hop’s history.”
I. Quincy, Creed, and the Biz:
What role did Quincy Jones have in developing your career? Continue reading
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: biz markie, cold chillin, juice crew, marley marl
Foreword by Cutso
Hip-Hop does not create renaissance men (or women) anymore. And we can’t really count rappers who have dropped TJ Maxx-bound clothing lines, flavored beverages (soft and hard), TV shows, shoe horns, whatever side-hustles many rappers have undertaken to over-saturate the market on all fronts. Biz Markie did not rely on any of that.
In a time when Hip-Hop was young and cutting-edge, and before it lost grip of its roots, Biz Markie was an all-out entertainer: a successful hit maker both over and underground, an active DJ, a well-schooled record collector, and a mic-soaking beatboxer. He supposedly has an absurd toy collection, as he claims in the Hip-Hop factoid book Ego Trip’s Big Book of Rap Lists. He was also the comic relief character of one of the greatest posses the rap game has ever known: The Juice Crew.
Who could forget his earth-shattering rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” (in which he donned a Hendrix-style dashiki, blowout wig and lefty white Stratocaster) to open the festivities at the Tibetan Freedom Concert? The best part about that particular performance was his inability to play a single note on the guitar. Rather, he substituted shredding for belting “raow raows” belligerently . In that performance, the Biz kept true to the principles of his ground-breaking single “Make The Music With Your Mouth“.
His rendition of Elton John’s classic “Benny and the Jets” (recorded with his chums the Beastie Boys) is also a fine cut of pure, raw, off-the-cuff entertainment. He manages to pull off a gut-busting performance, without knowing a majority of the song’s lyrics.
Nowadays, he moonlights as a venue-packing DJ, and preserves the art of beatboxing as a segment host on Nick Jr.’s children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba, where he teaches viewers how to make music with THEIR mouths.
As the Hip-Hop game awaits its next true all-around entertainer, the Biz stands alone in his own class. With Biz Markie, it is ALWAYS that kind of party. Keep a close watch on your mashed potatoes…
“Lemme Tell You A Story Of My Situation…”
What was the first hip-hop related thing you ever did Biz?
Beatboxing. I mean, I was a kid and that was just the first thing I took up when it came to hip-hop. I didn’t think about, I just sorta did it, ya know?