Charlie Rock of “The Harlem World Crew” and Harlem World. With Troy L. Smith
Fall of 2003
For those who do not know Charlie Rock, he was an M.C. for the Harlem World Crew. He also helped promote for Harlem World, as well as bartend, custodial, construction and did security. I have been looking for Charlie rock for about two years to get his story. And boy did he give me a story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Troy L. When was the very first time you walked into Harlem World?
Charlie Rock The fall of 1978 I had just graduated from Martin Luther King high school. I believe Harlem World just opened up a couple months earlier. I was staying down on 114th st. and 7th ave. one of my friends had told me that a club had opened right up the street and it was real good club. I said “word”. So we got dressed that night and went.
Troy L. At that time were they just spinning Disco?
Charlie Rock : Yes, just Disco, and all the pimps and players were hanging out there. The guy that owned Harlem World was big time on the streets of the Mid South.
Troy L. Was this a white guy?
Charlie Rock No! This was a large black guy. We called him “Fat man”. He passed away a while ago.
Troy L. Was he cool people?
Charlie Rock He was a strange individual. One minute he was straight up gangster, and the next minute, he showed a beautiful heart. Who ever worked at the place, he kind of took them under his wing. If he thought you were in trouble, he’d be like “You can come and work at the club if you’re in trouble, but you have to work the club.” That was our main focus, to work the club, because the club didn’t have money. The club was in the red for years. He was the first to open it up. A couple other guys from around Harlem also got down and invested some money with him. Some were politicians and some were street cats. The thing about “Fat Man” was that he was a “Master of people.” He could talk a dude into bathing himself in gasoline and stepping into a fire, and tell them that they were freezing cold, and they’d believe him. He really couldn’t read or write, but he knew how to handle people. He was really a genius in his own way.
Troy L. So why was the club always in the red?
Charlie Rock Well the club was a very big place, and there was not really enough start up capital to do what was really needed to allow the club to properly make money. We did everything that was done in that club, construction, painting, promoting, DJing, etc…, the crew did it all. When the club first opened up it was in its infancy. It wasn’t complete. The lower level wasn’t open yet, nor the third floor. Just the main floor was open.
Troy L. The Balcony was the third floor right?
Charlie Rock No. The third floor was all by it self. It was like a V.I.P. section. There on that floor was the very first time I’d seen those big video television screens.
Troy L. So by this time he was no longer in the red?
Charlie Rock He stayed in the red up until just before it closed. Around 1985, he made an announcement that we were out of the red, and were finally going to make some money, because he didn’t owe any one any longer. But at the same time, a lot of entities did not want us there. The Muslims who were across the street from us were trying to get us out of there just about everyday. We also were in an area where there was like nine or ten church’s. There were also a couple public schools close by as well. So we were zoned improperly. If you can remember, the official full name on the outside marquee was not Harlem World Disco, but the proper name was Harlem World Cultural and Entertainment Complex. It had to be like that because that was our loophole to stay in the community. We could not list ourselves as a nightclub because of the way we were zoned. By the way, Troy, nobody called it by its full proper name, it was just to damn long. So eventually the spot became know all over as “The World.”
Troy L. So were they doing anything pertaining to cultural awareness?
Charlie Rock They tried to play it off but not really. But when you got politicians in your pocket they will tell you how to get around it. We never really had a liquor license but we were able to sell liquor. We had a politician that was able to get us temporary liquor license every weekend. So we never had an actual liquor license.
Troy L. So was the construction done on the third floor?
Charlie Rock Yes over the years 78 and 79 it got completed by us. Randy, Kool D, Son of Sam, me, and all the other guys that worked there as a staff, like Reynard, Bernard, Johnnie, Heavy, and ‘Trick-a-punch Rob” (affectionately named by Sam & me, because he was the main bartender, and he always tried to pulled the ladies by giving away the fruit punch that he was supposed to be selling.), and others help out in the daytime. Fat Man had money for materials but not to hire laborers. So we did it all.
Troy L. So y'all were being paid for this type of work right?
Charlie Rock Hell No!
Troy L. So what made you stick around brother? Because the parties were blazing?
Charlie Rock They were indeed blazing. But it was more than that, I was 19 or 20 years old, I wasn’t a street child, and my parents were very strict. They emphasized school all the time. So when I got into the club thing, I didn’t know anything about clubbing. I didn’t know anything about hanging out at parties, so I guess I just got caught up in all the mystique of it all.
Troy L. Excuse me, excuse me. That is kind of hard to believe, because you were a funny brother, the way you were snapping on people in the crowd.
Charlie Rock I learned all that from being around the guys I was working there with. If you wanted to say that I was a nerd, I was a nerd. Because I was all about school, and my parents just didn’t let me hang out. That might have been one of the reason’s I left home when I was 16 years old, I just couldn’t take it any more. See I had eight brothers and sisters and when I went to hang out in the park or anywhere, I had to take at least two or three of the younger ones with me.
Troy L. Where were you born and raised?
Charlie Rock I was born in Durham North Carolina but raised here in Harlem on 116thst. Between 7th and 8th ave.
Troy L. So you grow up seeing brothers hustling hard over there?
Charlie Rock Yes. Then we moved to 117th st. between 7th Ave. and Lenox. I went to elementary school P.S. 76 over on 122nd st.
Troy L. Right over there by Hale House.
Charlie rock Right. Then I was sent to Junior High school I.S. 44, downtown on 77th street (Columbus & Amsterdam Ave.), after going to Wadliegh JHS on 114th St. for about 1 week.
Troy L. So tell me why would you not leave Harlem World under those terrible money conditions?
Charlie Rock I know I went away from the question, but I was leading up to it. The reason I didn’t leave was because it was exciting to me. It was a new environment. Also, more importantly, I had nowhere to go. At that time I was staying at my best friend’s house while I finished High School. I then tried to do a year at Bronx Community College, majoring in Elementary Education, but I stopped because I was so unfocused because I felt like I didn’t really have anything going for me. So my friend’s parents said we were trying to help you because you were going to school, now you are not doing anything, so we can’t let you stay here anymore. So when I got to Harlem World I found out that there were other guys like me who had nowhere to stay. I just started hanging around and never left. Believe it are not, at that time, we were all sleeping inside the club. So that was like a place where I lived from 1979 to 1985. All of us did. That was not just a place we worked, but also lived. The whole third floor was not only a lounge, but the entire wall circumference area was a lot of little rooms that were once offices. They had been converted into like dorm rooms. Nobody really knew this except our closest friends, the girls we slayed, and a couple of the top hip hop boys like maybe Caz, Love Bug Starski, Jeckyll & Hyde, and Busy Bee. There was only a hand full that knew. And they knew, only because they were like the underground superstars, so we allowed them behind the scenes on the third floor where others didn’t get to go. We did not care if they knew because Harlem World was the place to be at that time. Some of them actually thought it was kind of cool, because come Friday night when we turn on the lights, our living room was a whole night club. There were a lot of virginities lost on those nights upstairs at Harlem World.
Troy L. Who was the first D.J. rocking during that time?
Charlie Rock The main D.J. at that time was Teddy Dee. He paid for most of the D.J. equipment that was there during that time. Music was really his passion.
Troy L. Did you start as an M.C? Or a D.J.?
Charlie Rock I started in as an M.C., but really the real truth is when I first started I couldn’t M.C. or D.J. They kind of took me in as the young black guy that was different from most of the other guys there. You know; well spoken, and well read. I did a little bit of anything that was needed to be done.
Troy L. So how did the crew get started?
Charlie Rock Son of Sam was already M.C.ing, D.J.ing and carrying the crates with Teddy D. Randy and Kool D where the main house D.J.s, but Teddy would come in and get on when ever he was ready and do his set and then break out. Kool D never really was a rapper, but he was a real Master of Ceremonies that knew how to talk a lot of slick s---. He was slim, and considered to be a very good-looking brother by most of the ladies. He had a little gift for gab. (Although, when you really took time out to actually listen to some of things that he would say, you might find yourself wondering “what the hell does that mean?” (Laughing). Randy and
Kool D was long time friends from The Tinton Avenue projects up in the Bronx. Teddy D and Son of Sam both took a liking to me, and took me under their wing. That’s when I started writing rhymes and practicing the M.C thing. I always wrote poems and stuff, but never those like n------ were doing on the streets. It was Son of Sam that schooled me on that stuff. Eventually we started rocking the mike while DJ Randy and Kool D hit the “wheels of steel.” I guess it was just fate that brought us together, because we became tight, and stayed together as HWC until the club closed.
Troy L. What do Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde have to do with the Harlem World Crew?
Charlie Rock Jeckyll and Hyde where signed to the Harlem World label. This was Fat Man’s label called Rojac and Taystar Records.
Troy L. Where did Fat Man get that?
Charlie Rock From what I understand, that was his old record label Fat Man originally had out in Detroit. He and his boys were big time out there, so when ever we needed some extra money, they would leave for about two or three weeks, and some how when they came back they had pockets full of dough. I guess they had a record label down there and it was defunct, so he tried to revive it by doing the hip-hop thing up here. See people don’t understand we actually gave Sylvia Robinson of Sugar Hill Records the idea to put hip-hop on record.
Troy L. Why is that?
Charlie Rock We were working on a recording with the Harlem World Crew before Sugar Hill Gang came out. That was Sam, me, and Jeckyll and Hyde. That is how we originally became the Harlem World crew on record. For some reason Fat Man liked Jeckyll and Hyde, and Kool D couldn’t really rap. So Fat Man put Sam and me together with Jeckyll and Hyde. The name of the record was called Rappers Convention. I am trying to find a copy of that record today. I’ve seen it listed on catalogs on websites in the UK along with the other records produce by the label.
Anyway, one night at Harlem world, we were having a birthday party for Sylvia Robinson, who was once a recording artist herself. Her big hit was called “Pillow Talk”. The crew was up on stage rapping and Sylvia Robinson was sitting in a balcony directly in front of the stage with Fatman. As Fatman began to divulge to her that we were in the studio, and that he felt this was the perfect time to put this Hip Hop thing on wax, Ms. Robinson was taking it all in. A very short time later she released “Rapper’s Delight” with the Sugar Hill Gang. She beat us out of the box, but the record was dope! It will always be a legendary classic. DJs are still rocking the house with that joint today.
Troy L. So how did the Harlem World Crew record do? Did it sell in the stores?
Charlie Rock A little bit. It sold some units, but what they did was put it in One Stop record distributor stores. Are you familiar with the One Stop?
Troy L. No.
Charlie Rock One Stops are like consignment record distributor shops. Say you have a record, but don’t have a distribution deal. What you do is you take your plates to these One Stop record shops. What they do is they put them into record stores on what they call consignment. In other words, I give you twenty five records, at the end of a week or two, I come back and ask you how many did you sell, based on your sells, you owe me this much money kind of a thing. It sold some units, not big units, but it sold and we never saw any of that money. Fat Man sent this guy out on the road to shop the record, but he didn’t do that well, and he was always calling up for travel expense money. People kind of liked the record because it was new, but we never did like it. We were trying to tell Fat Man “listen you need to use these beats that they’re using in the streets and the clubs right now. But he wasn’t trying to hear us. He had his own agenda.
Troy L. So what type of beats was he using, a live band?
Charlie Rock Yep. Come on, man! He forced us to use the old corny live band bull crap. We told him, “listen, that’s not what’s happening now. We need to come correct, and sample these cuts off of these records. But he wouldn’t do it.
Troy L. I wonder why he wouldn’t listen to y’all since y’all were in it, and knew what was going on?
Charlie Rock Because he was an “Old School” type of guy. Much older. He was like in his late fifties. He didn’t think that we knew anything, and he had a record company in the past back in Detroit. In fact, when we signed the contract we didn’t even know what we where signing. We just signed the contract because it was a thrill to be able to go into the studio and make a record. When I tried to take time to read the contract, Fat Man was like “Man, sign the damn paper, or we can put someone else in your place.” I didn’t want to take the chance of missing out, so I went ahead and signed.
Troy L. So what gave y’all the idea to make a record, since no one else came up with a record yet?
Charlie Rock That’s what I am trying to tell you, Fat Man was definitely a visionary! He had the vision of the club Harlem World. Did you know that it was one of the first few clubs in all of New York to have a lighted dance floor? The club was very plush. Chandeliers, thick, wall to wall, gold shag carpeting, Mirrored walls, and a, one of a kind, one hundred foot lightning bolt shaped bar. It was definitely plush, and that was his vision. To create a super gigantic plush environment for people to come and enjoy themselves. Other records that he did along with Jeckyll & Hyde, Love Bug Starski, and Lady Smiley had much better beats, but still they didn’t really hit on nothing. Sam and I really didn’t like the fact that Fat Man never gave us a chance to rock our own joint.
Troy L. So did the brothers keep it nice and neat before it closed down? Or by the time it closed down did it start looking shabby in there?
Charlie Rock We tried to keep it up, but by the time we closed down, it wasn’t as great as when we first started out. Especially once we started packing in the Eddie Cheba, and DJ Hollywood crowds, with the “Wild, Wild Wednesdays” and “Terrible Tuesdays” joints. Then you had all the big hip hop “MC Battles”.
Troy L. So what happened on Tuesdays and Wednesdays?
Charlie Rock D.J. Hollywood would come in on Wednesdays for “Wild, Wild Wednesdays” parties. It was like three dollars or five dollars, something like that.
Troy L. For a Disco night?
Charlie Rock Right, a Disco night. Man, we used to pack’em in. I’m talking wall-to-wall packed! Sometimes it would be so packed that we literally had to close the front gate down, because we couldn’t get any more people in! “Terrible Tuesday” belonged to Eddie Cheba, and that was the same way. We had our own joints happening on Fridays and Saturdays. Plus any night that was a holiday we had some type of Hip-Hop show going on.
Troy L. So Sundays and Mondays the place was closed?
Charlie Rock No, not all the time. at one point we had a Kiddy Disco running on Sunday’s
Troy L. What was the "Kiddy Disco", and the age group attended?
Charlie Rock It was like a “bring your kids in” from the ages of 2 to 12. Son of Sam and I ran that by ourselves on Sunday afternoon’s. Believe me, It was real funny! People from the neighborhood would come in and drop their kids off and then come back like three or four hours later to pick them up. To tell the truth, I really enjoyed the Kiddie disco, because always I loved to see the little kids dancing and having a good time. We sold sodas, chips, and franks and played music. We would always pocket a couple of dollars from the door so afterwards we could go downtown to Times Square to watch some Kung Fu flicks (laughing),and eat some KFC.
Troy L. So y'all never had a camera or projector filming these shows or events?
Charlie Rock Man, No. But you don’t know how badly I wish we had.
Troy L. So was Ronnie Green aka Captain Rock down with yall?
Charlie Rock Captain Rock? No, He was Jekyll & Hyde’s main DJ for a while. But He was a good friend of the crew. Ronnie Green was real cool people.
Troy L. Ronnie Green said Jeckyll and Hyde was the real Harlem World Crew.
Charlie Rock I guess that was his own perception. Jeckyll and Hyde came from that same place over there by D.J. Spivey, Cookie, and all those other guys.
Troy L. Shomberg Plaza or project?
Charlie Rock Yep, somewhere over on the eastside. They came from over there, and they just so happened to get on the Harlem World record label. The people were feeling their more sophisticated hip hop style for a minute. That was around 1982, I think. From the record label stand point, they were down. But as far as the club was concerned, they were not the Harlem World Crew. Ronnie Green played in the club sometimes, but he never really DJ for us either. DJ Randy and Kool D were our main DJs, and occasionally another DJ named DJ Double. I’m going to tell you something else, those guys from Mean Machine, you know that group that had that Spanish rhyme on their record. They used to carry record crates for us before their record came out. They were down with Harlem World from the beginning doing construction work. They were our homeboys and all that. Later on, they left Harlem World and had their own spot up there in the Bronx by the Bruckner and 138th st. Hey, let me tell you something very few people know. The biggest record Mean Machine ever recorded had mostly all of Son of Sam’s lyrics! Except the Spanish part of course. They came in Harlem World one day and said “we are going to do this record and we want some of your lyrics”. Sam said, “Ok. I don’t care what ever. The next thing we know they have a big hit record and traveling around the world.
Troy L. Same thing pretty much like Caz and Big Bank Hank?
Charlie Rock Right. Same thing happened to CAZ with Big Bank Hank, same thing with Mean Machine. Sam didn’t get a dime for his lyrics, because we didn’t know any better. When we heard the song for the first time, we were like “oh wow”, “damn, Sam, that’s mostly all your stuff on that record!” (Except the Spanish part).
Troy L. So why did Harlem World close?
Charlie Rock It was financial and political reasons that made it close. When it came to the money, Fat Man wasn’t doing the street stuff as big as he was before , so he really didn’t have the money to support the club any longer. A lot of the politicians that were involved eventually stepped away. I guess they just stopped believing in it. Also there was the pressure from the social community. The churches, local school board, and what not.
Troy L. It had nothing to do with the music as for as everybody going downtown?
Charlie Rock Yes and No. Other big clubs in the city started catching on to the Hip-Hop thing. Once clubs like the Roxy, Fun House, or the big skating rinks like Skate Key, figured out that they can do the same thing also, they then started to capitalize on it.
Troy L. What was the last big show you did in there?
Charlie Rock Wow, that’s kind of hard for me to remember right now. It’s been awhile. It may have been some type of Hip-Hop show. But we still had the R&B shows in between. so we had groups like Atlantic Star, Blue Magic, and Jerry Butler come through. We also had Arthur Prysock, GQ, and a local group called Jahmila, that featured a very young Teddy Riley on keyboards, and Keith Sweat on vocals. Let’s see, who else I remember (pausing for a moment to think). We also had some big Reggae acts like Mighty Sparrow, and Yellow Man. Oh yeah, we even had Eartha Kitt in there for a whole week!
Troy L. Eartha Kitt!!!
Charlie Rock Yeah, Eartha Kitt!!! (Laughing). Yep, that was probably one of the funniest, weirdest shows we ever had in there. It was Eartha Kitt and Love Bug Starski on the same show! I wish I had a copy of one of the flyers to send to you. That whole thing was Fat Man’s idea. We said, Fat Man you got to be out of your mind, who in the hell is going to come see Eartha Kitt and Love Bug Starski together? Of course it did horrible. The only good thing to come out of that show is we got to meet a legend (referring to Eartha Kitt). That’s right; we got to spend time with “CAT WOMAN” from the “BATMAN” TV show. It was unique in that sense and kind of a great honor for me. I loved that show. We also had New Edition; Harlem World was the first club they performed in when they came to New York City. We also had The Force MDs.
Troy L. So when New Edition performed, it would be like an R&B night or Cold Crush or some other Hip-Hop group was on the card as well?
Charlie Rock No, when they had New Edition there, it was like just us, the house DJ type thing. We just spun records and rocked the mic by ourselves. It was a mostly a dance night. But brothers and sisters were packing it in that night for New Edition. We became real cool with those guys when they first came in that night. They were really young, and just happy to have a hit record.
Troy L. That was during those “Candy Girl” days, huh?
Charlie Rock Yes. I remember they had some “Candy Girl dancers” come out first on the stage before New Edition. So everybody thought that we were trying to pull a fast one. The crowd was on the verge of going buck wild! Screaming “that ain’t no New Edition!” So we had to turn off the music and tell the dancer’s to stop and let on the boys get on stage. M.C. Smiley was also down but she was down with the record label part. Love Bug Starski also did a recoding with the label.
Troy L. What was the real story behind the Moe Dee battle with Busy Bee? Was it set up?
Charlie Rock No, no, no. That was a straight up battle, Man! None of our battles were set up. Not one was planned or scripted. The way they happened, was the real deal. At one point, Ray Chandler had actually wanted to bring the different crews together. He would say “listen, Man. Y’all got all this rivalry stuff going on and you take this to heart. But, y’all are not looking at the big picture. You can carry this thing on for many shows and we can make this money!” But these crews were like “no. later for that trying to pretend and act like we mad at each other. This sh-- is real!” Those fellas had a lot of pride. It was all about the street rep in the Hip Hop game. But at least the brothers kept most of their battles behind the mic, and they were not out killing each other like these foolish cats are today. Man, Crews used to battle for equipment and all that.
Troy L. Who used to battle for equipment?
Charlie Rock One of the dudes from Treacherous Three challenged us to a battle for our equipment once.
Troy L. Who gassed that up?
Charlie Rock That lil dude with the big mouth. L.A. Sunshine. L.A. was always running his mouth, bragging about how nice his crew was.
Troy L. L.A. said he had a lot of love you guys.
Charlie Rock Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was a good man. But you know, L.A. he was always talking about they were the best crew out there period. They lived up there by you. By the Grant, up on the hill, right?
Troy L. Right.
Charlie Rock So Sam and I used to go into the different neighborhoods giving out flyers. One day we ran into them by the J.H.S. 43 swimming pool around 127th street and Amsterdam Ave in Harlem. Right there in between Grant and Manhattan Ville Projects. We handed L.A. Sunshine a flyer, and he says “Y’all them dudes from the Harlem World Crew, y’all want to battle?” At first we just kinda laughed the whole thing off, because we didn’t know who this kid was getting all loud and stuff. “The hell with that. We the best crew out here. Y’all want to battle?” he asked again. We were like “whatever, if you want to battle, come to the club.” We told him that they could come down to the club whenever and we could battle. But it never went on, because Fat Man wanted to promote it as a big show. Fat Man said “it isn’t going down like that. Y'all just not going to battle for free! Let’s put it on a flyer and charge money for the show.”
Troy L. Now who do you think is the best m.c. Between Moe Dee, Mele Mel, and Caz?
Charlie Rock That’s a strong question…boy that’s a rough one. I’ve seen all three perform many times, and I like all of them so that is a real hard question to answer. But if I had to give an answer, I’d have to go with Moe Dee. He has always been one of my favorites. Besides that, I got to know him a little better than I knew the other two, and Moe is just simply a very cool, down to earth brother, with a vicious mic. Caz is real cool also. I don’t know Mel that well at all though. One thing I can say about all three of those cats though is that they always walked like they were superstars. Even before the records and all that hit, they were definitely the kings of the streets.
Troy L. That night of the first battle with Moe and Busy how could you say it was a draw.
Charlie Rock That was Fat Man’s doing. He told us to say that we were not going to judge this now; y’all are going to have to come back and see Moe Dee go head up with Busy Bee for the crown, from that night the word got on the street just by word of mouth that there was going to be a big battle. The buzz was all over the streets in NYC. When we put out the flyer it just got really crazy. All we heard as we would walk the streets was kids talking about the Moe & Busy battle that was coming up. We knew way ahead of time that this was going to be a sold out night.
Troy L. So it was jam packed the night of the battle?
Charlie Rock Hell yeah! It took a life of its own. Busy really got crushed. Moe was definitely a better M.C. then Busy. As a matter of fact Moe Dee was better than just about anybody on the solo tip. Busy was more of a crowd mover. He got his style from Love Bug Starski. Moe was a pure M.C. When he said that rhyme about “…put that ba diddy ba bull--- on hold.” the house exploded. It was real ugly for Busy that night. That was a famous tape. You could not imagine how many of those tapes we sold on the streets.
Troy L. I wrote about that. I said if that tape had been on wax it would have went platinum.
Charlie Rock Oh yes, easily. Maybe even double. We made and sold so many of those tapes! We had recorded that show live to a high quality reel to reel, so it sounded really clear. I think that was another reason that it sold so well. We stayed up late at night just making tapes, and the next day just walk around Harlem saying “Yo, we got the battle, we got the battle.” Selling the tapes at about $10 a pop, ($20 to the street scramblers). In the early eighties that was a lot of money for a tape. Both of those battles between Moe and Busy were monumental. When it came to MC Crews, Fantastic Romantic and Cold Crush were like Jackson 5 one and two. When they had their battle they had the whole night to themselves. There was no one else on the flyer. That was something very rare to happen. There was a time when they were all on one show with all the other wannabe MCs, battling to see who the best was. We used to have open-ended M.C. and crew contests where any one could get in, (sometimes we asked for a small fee, like $5 per man to get down). Sometimes, there would be hundreds of them. There would be so many trying to battle, and make a name for themselves. But there was just no way that we could get everybody on.
Troy L. A bunch of no name rappers too?
Charlie Rock Right. We tried to get as many on as we could though. We also let a couple of really wack ones get on, just so Son of Sam and I could snap on them. (laughing loudly). That helped to keep that tension down when we got the crowd laughing like crazy.
Troy L. What about Johnny Wa and Rayvon?
Charlie Rock Johnny Wa and Rayvon were by all means two of the best at what they did (Charlie starts doing their melodic lyrics) “well it’s ah, E E man, and he’s ah, rockin’ on, and then the beat don’t stop until the, break of da –awn.” you remember all those don’t guys don’t you, Chip-Roy, House slinger, Wee-Wee, Shoe Shine, Cookie and the rest of them?
Troy L. I did a lil something about them it isn’t completed yet.
Charlie Rock Man, some of those guys had some really crazy nick names! Sam and I used to stay up nights repeating those shout outs, and laughing like hell. I think it was Cookie’s father who used to be down with Sung Song productions. They worked with getting the Michael Jackson concerts to the garden and stuff like that.
Troy L. Now why is it that Rayvon wasn’t at the Busy Moe Battle with Johnny Wa?
Charlie Rock What I think it was with Rayvon and them is that they were doing their thing out on the street too. So they was kind of like “we show up when we show up. We don’t really care.” I think they kind of did it for fun more then anything else. They were already very well known in the neighborhood locally. People knew of them, but overall, not as much for parties as the Cold Crush, Treacherous, Busy Bee or Fantastic. Those guys were people who tried to make a living out of it. Rayvon and Johnny Wa, I don’t think they were really trying to make a living out of Hip-Hop. But that’s just my opinion. They weren’t trying to stand around in line with a whole bunch of people and battle. They were just like “if you put us on, you put us on. But we ain’t waiting around with how bunch of n------ wasting our time.” When Rayvon started that singing thing, that would blow up the spot! He really did have a decent voice. The Disco Four made a big hit off of that Rayvon melody. They just changed the words up.
Troy L. Rayvon and Johnny Wa were also labeled as notorious.
Charlie Rock Sure they were some Notorious street N------. But they were real cool with us. The one thing everybody had for Harlem World was respect. Man, they had beefs, and there were a few shootout’s inside there. But nobody ever got shot inside the club. Most of the shootouts were outside and came from us having to chase some knucklehead n------ to the #2 train back to Brooklyn. Back in the day, some Brooklyn kids just came to the parties to start trouble. This comes from experience, Brooklyn n------ are the worst motherf------ in the world. (Laughing) I’m telling you when it comes to the Hip-Hop scene. We used to have regular Brooklyn cats come up to Harlem World from out of the train station and we would spot them immediately. Because it was like a job to them. They never came inside to party, they always came with there crews ready to snatch peoples chain’s, take there Cazal’s frames, or take some poor kid’s sheep skin or leather coat & sneakers that they just got for their birthday or Christmas or something like that.
Troy L. Right inside of the club?
Charlie Rock No, Never inside “The World”, but maybe right outside, around the corner, or kids getting off the trains. Nobody liked them Brooklyn n------.
Troy L. Did y'all have problems in the bathrooms?
Charlie Rock No. Really the way our crew ran on the inside, we really didn’t have so much trouble on the inside.
Troy L. So who did the security for y'all?
Charlie Rock We pretty much did our own security. We used to have one or two under cover off duty officers. Sam and I had a little hook up with a crew. I don’t know if you ever heard of this crew called the Shack crew.
Troy L. Yeah they used to sell dust over on 118th st.
Charlie Rock Those were our boys ; so we really didn’t have too many problems because we had a trade off with them. “We let y'all into the club, y'all got cart blanch, anything break out y'all know what to do!” everybody knew that, and you know how the Shack crew was! They kind of left us alone.
Troy L. Yeah I remember hearing Busy Bee give a shout out to the Shack Crew on the tapes.
Troy L. Do you remember what shows were real hot real big and jumpin? Say like the Treacherous 3 2nd anniversary?
Charlie Rock That show was big! The Cold Crush Anniversary’s were big, Fantastic anniversary was big. I also have to mention the Force MCs out of Staten Island. Sam and I discovered them on the Staten Island ferry one day while we were going over there to give out some flyers. They were performing their singing-like rap on the boat for money. We invited them to come to “The World” on our next party. Those guys really rocked it with their style. They took theme song melodies from old television shows like Gilligan’s island and added their own words to them. It was different and they could really sing.
Troy L. I don’t have any of those shows, on tape; I would love to hear them.
Charlie Rock I think Busy Bee’s birthday party was big too. Doug had big shows in there too. You know Doug learned his trade in there.
Troy L. Yes, I remember when he first started he called himself Dougie Doug or Dougie Dee.
Charlie Rock Man, they used to boo Doug off the stage all the time. Until he came up with that Human beat box thing. The he became the man.
Troy L. What!
Charlie Rock Dougie was mad corny when he first started.
Troy L. But once he got to vinyl he killed it. Blazin. His early days I wasn’t feeling.
Charlie Rock After every show, Doug would come sit next to me and say “yo Rock what did I do wrong”? Doug will tell you this the next time you see him. Then I remember when Doug got his first big applause, and I don’t remember his whole rap but this was the time when Dougie decided he wasn’t going to go out and try and say straight rhymes like everybody else. This was the time when he decided he was going to become a crowd motivator and he was going to do the human beat box stuff. He came out and we announced “Doug E. Fresh” and everybody was like yeah o.k., alright Dougie again. So Dougie says, “all right everybody are you ready”? “Now here’s what I want y’all to do”, “Just bang your head on the wall, everybody, just bang your head on the wall!”
Troy L. Yeah, I remember that tape that was the M.C. Convention the crowd started laughing with him.
Charlie Rock He broke out with the human beat box stuff and from that day on it was on for Dougie. I don’t know if Doug ever told you this, you need to ask him when you get the chance who penned his name the way it is now. Doug E. Fresh with the period after the “E”. Which is like a sir name. That was my idea! One day we were giving a college party, and I was always down for Dougie, so I was like no matter what I can do to help Dougie I would do to help him. One day when we were preparing for this college party, he asked could he get on the show. So I was like, “sure, man, we would put you down on the party cause you got the beat box thing going, but then I said, “you know what, Doug. These are college students and we can’t really have you on this flyer with your name spelled like it is.” I was the one designing the flyer at that time. I was thinking this is a more mature crowd, they are a little bit older than the regular hip-hop crowd. So I need to make his name a little bit more mature looking. That’s when I dropped the “I” and made the “E” capital and put “Fresh” to make it look like it was a sir name. As opposed to a corny Hip-Hop name. I guess he liked it so much that he has kept it that way to this day. Now check out Larry Love, you remember Larry Love?
Troy L. Yes, later Furious 5!
Charlie Rock Yes, Larry Love didn’t really rap, he was known for his Electric Boogie skills. They just happened to make a theme song after him for his dancing. Larry used to be in there. Him and another little guy named Supreme from Brooklyn were probably the best guys with this electric boogie that I had ever seen.
Troy L. What about Loose Bruce?
Charlie Rock Loose Bruce was nice too! But he wasn’t as good as Supreme. But I’m glad you brought Bruce up, he was another one that was real good. But that little skinny kid, Supreme out of Brooklyn… this kid looked like he was literally floating across the floor.
Troy L. With Loose Bruce, were y’all paying him for a minute? Because I remember seeing his name on a flyer.
Charlie Rock No we never paid him. I’m going to tell you the God honest truth and you can write this. It was just the nature of Hip-Hop back in the day, guys wanted to be paid. Guys like the Cold Crush, Fantastic and the Treach 3 and all those guys wanted to be paid when they worked at Harlem World. And we really felt that they should be paid, but it was Fat Man that wasn’t really about paying none of these young dudes. He liked them, but he didn’t really have much respect for them. Some of the main groups got paid what they asked for, some of the time. But for the most part, he wasn’t about to pay them the $1,500 stuff they were asking for. So I am not going to front a lot of times they got jerked. They all knew the deal about Fat Man, so they took what they could get.
Troy L. So did Fat Man ever slap any of these big time M.C.s?
Charlie Rock (light laughter) oh man….I don’t know, I don’t know! It may have happened. Fat Man had some strong arm guys named O.C. and Blue. They were two big, loyal guys. They might have slapped a lot of mother-------. But truthfully, I can’t recall any incident like that when I was present.
Troy L. See all these years I was thinking DJ Randy ran the place.
Charlie Rock No, Randy was the D.J.
Troy L. I know. I know that now.
Charlie Rock He was the D.J., Promoter, and anything else guy, just like the rest of us. He didn’t run anything but that DJ Booth, none of us did. It might have appeared that he or any one of us was in control. Because when the club doors opened, we were the people that you saw. But behind the scene, we really didn’t have any say about anything that went on. We would suggest things, and Fat Man would have the final say on what was going to happen. Everyone who got any money got it through Fat Man. Unless another promoter, say Ray Chandler or Disco Dave would come in and do a promotion. Then they cut a deal with Fat Man and the promoter was then responsible for paying the entertainers off. Mandiplite was more known for the flyers he did for Harlem World than promoting. Armstrong used to do a lot of parties with us also. Even the promoters got jerked, except for someone like Ray Chandler. He wasn’t having it. A Promoter might bring in 3000 people; Fat Man will say y’all only bought in 1500 or so. Much later on, Fat Man started allowing us to put the shows, so then the guys would get paid from us and that would be the money Fat Man gave us. Randy was usually the one with the money because he was older then us by about 4 or 5 years.
Troy L. How did you and Son of Sam get so close?
Charlie Rock The reason why we stuck so close together was because we were probably the only ones in there that didn’t get high on something. We never smoked, drank, didn’t do drugs, didn’t do anything. A whole lot of the other people got caught up in the freebasing, they got caught up in the cocaine and the reefer, and the drinking and all that stuff. But Sam and I kept each other strong. We liked the Ladies, basketball, and Kung Fu flicks !!
Troy L. So it was like a psychiatric ward up in there in the V.I.P. section?
Charlie Rock Man, it was crazy! There was times when the owner and other guys on the staff (which we also called the Harlem World Crew, even though they were separate from HWC the hip hop crew) would stay locked up in rooms getting high for four or five days at a time, just freebasing or whatever. All you would see was a “Runner” coming out the room to re-up. There was times when they had girls up in there also. I know for a fact that orgies and gang bangs were in effect. When they finally came out of the room, the girls’ business would be broadcasted all over the club. I won’t repeat those things here, but there is definitely a whole lot of Harlem World that your website probably isn’t ready for. It’s damn near a movie in itself. But somehow we managed to hold it down for a good little while, even with all the craziness. One good thing I can say about the crew is that we all stuck together. I guess that’s why not too many people tried to mess with us on the outside. Because they realized that if you f----- with one, you f----- with all. That was The Fat Man philosophy, and we all followed it. So we never had any real serious stuff go down with us. One or two tried, but they most certainly didn’t have a win.
Troy L. So you and the rest of the guys were like “Rock Stars”?
Charlie Rock Yes, that’s literally the way it was! Most people don’t understand the real history of Hip-Hop and the power of it from back in the day. See also in the late 70’s early 80’s all you had to do was be down with a crew. If a brother wanted to get with a girl, all he had to do was say, “yo, man, can I carry your crates or stand behind the ropes. We all know about the famous ropes D.J.s used in the parks. All you had to do was be lucky enough to be let on the right side of the ropes, and you were good! Crews like Grand Master Flash & the Furious, the Cold Crush Brothers, Fantastic Romantic, and Treacherous Three were underground street Superstars, long before these people today who pull these big crowds for their shows. Back in the day, Flash and them used to pull huge crowds just by word of mouth! All you had to do was spread the word by saying, “Yo, Cold Crush is going to be here and so and so.” Most of the time you didn’t have to put out a flyer, the flyer was like extra promotion power. The word got around so fast, through word of mouth, that by the time you turned around, you got 4 or 5000 people at your club door. The nice thing about Harlem World was it was one of the few clubs that was able to hold that 4 or 5000 people. Plus it Was safer than most other places because it had lots of exits in case some s--- broke out. There was the backstage door, a side door, also the main front entrance had two large double doors, and directly to the left of those was a side door which had some stairs that lead directly to the third floor. This door was used as the main entrance during non-show days (Note: The Harlem World building was originally a Woolworth’s department store. Today It still stands as a Conway clothing store).
Troy L. Now what was the worst group that performed there?
Charlie Rock Oh, Man. There was sooooo many really wack, busted groups that came through our doors; I can’t remember any one specifically by name because I really didn’t waste any brain cells on that type of thing.
Troy L. Well how about as far as the popular ones are concerned. Can you recall a crew that did such a terrible show that they got booed off the stage or somebody threw a chair at them or something?
Charlie Rock None of the really popular ones ever really got booed. But I do recall one very funny incident that occurred with the Fantastic. At one of the battles, The Fantastic showed up in these white tuxedos, which they had worn on several big shows before. On this night, when they stepped out on the stage, you heard a large section of guys yell out in unity “OH NO, NOT THOSE SAME TUXEDOS!!!” The place was packed, and the laughter was earsplitting. Fantastic had a very embarrassed look on their faces, and I don’t think they ever wore those white tuxedos again. Other than that,you had a lot of no name groups that came on and got booed, but not any of the popular guys.
Troy L. What were the best shows?
Charlie Rock Mostly the Anniversaries and the Battles. Also the terrible Tuesdays with Eddie Cheba were off the hook. I’m going to tell you something, Harlem World didn’t start out as a Hip-Hop club, and It was never supposed to be. It just evolved into that because Hip Hop was generating big cash on a consistent basis. Harlem World started out as a chic disco spot. Its original concept was to grow it to be on the same level as the Cotton Club or Celebrity Club from back in the day. In its early days, we had big time street cats coming in on a regular basis spending thousands of dollars at a time. $10,000 dollars was not an uncommon amount to be spent.
Troy L. $10,000 buying what?
Charlie Rock On special private Birthday parties, buying crazy bottles of Champagne, and drinks, tipping the waiters or waitresses $100 dollar bills.
Troy L. Were they shooting dice in there?
Charlie Rock Dice, what ever!
Troy L. So Fat Man was allowing dice games in there.
Charlie Rock It’s not that he allowed it officially, but whatever it was going on in there, went on. Lots of times the parties were closed to the public. They were private, So yes, they had dice games, but in the back by the bathrooms. Not just out in the open.
Troy L. So security would let this go on.
Charlie Rock Yes, because that was the instructions. The instructions were don’t f--- with these n------. Don’t get them mad. Don’t go in there and tell them “you can’t do that.” “What”! These were not the kind of people you told “you can’t do…” You know what I’m saying? Besides, nothing really came out of it, because they just came to have a good time. And they spent a lot of money. Also, at that type of party we weren’t trying to do the Hip Hop thing so much. At those types of parties, you had to become a real M.C., (A Master of Ceremony’s). You had to flip into the Eddie Cheba, Hollywood type of mode. When we weren’t doing that, we were working the bar; we flipped into the waiter mode. Working the bar and serving these guys drinks you can get a $50 or $100 tip. For Sam and me that was sneakers and movie money.
Troy L. Is that were you met your wife?
Charlie Rock No, no, no. I met my wife in College. This is a funny story. When Harlem World closed in 1985, I walked to 116th st. and Lenox ave. and the joint was closed tight, that’s when I realized that it was really over for good, and I would never walk back into those doors. That’s when it really hit me, damn, what do I do now? I had not finished college, cause I had only did one year. I had not worked anywhere else for the last 5 or 6 years; I didn’t have any type of resume. Man, I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself! What I decided to do was buy all the major newspapers. The New York Post, the Daily News and the Times. I opened the help wanted section and I said to myself, “what ever job skill is in the most demand, that’s what I’m going back to school to learn! That was 85, 86 when the first P.C.s came out.
Troy L. Oh, computer technology.
Charlie Rock Exactly! I went to Monroe College up there on Fordham Road in the Bronx. I graduated with honors, and received my Associates degree in Computer Science in about a year and a half. From there I worked at IBM for a while, Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of New York, for more 10 years. After that, it was major insurance company, and now one of the oldest Pediatric medicine colleges in the country.
Troy L. Good for you my brother!
Charlie Rock Thanks, Troy. I had a great time sharing a wonderful, life altering portion of my life with you. Many people have asked me if I had the opportunity would I change anything about that portion of my life. I have to honestly so “No”, because without those experiences, I wouldn’t be the strong man that I am today. Peace.
Troy L. I very much would like to thank you, Charlie Rock, for giving me and the fans who love this hip-hop that we do, the info that only you can give us about Harlem World. Because you actually lived it! Thank you once again and to my man Jayquan this all could not have happened without you and The Foundation peace
Troy L. Smith From Harlem the Grant Projects. Peace and Blessings to you and your family.