Kevie Kev the captain of the L- Brothers, Leader of the Fantastic Four and Five M.C.s and a member once of the Furious Five M.C.s, also a solo artist for Sugar Hill Records.
By Troy L. Smith Spring 2005
Where were you born and
In Harlem, 112th street.
Oh, in Harlem?
Yeah, 7th avenue
How old were you when you
moved to the Bronx?
I was about 8 or 9 when I moved to the south Bronx. Where hip hop started! On Boston road.
Who was the first D.J. you
The first D.J. I heard was Herc.
At the P.A.L. on 183rd street and Webster avenue.
The first m.c. you heard
on the mic was one of Herc’s boy’s?
No, no, they wasn’t really m.c.ing, they just use to talk on the mic. The first m.c.’s I saw was Creole and Mele Mel.
So what about Coke La
Rock, did he also just talk on the mic?
Yeah he used to talk on the mic, little slurs or what ever, but he was like the strong arm to Herc’s crew. He was like the voice unheard, you know what I am saying, the low. That’s my man.
As far as an m.c., did he get down like ya’ll did, because I have a lot of people that ask me about Coke La Rock?
No, it’s different, it was totally different. If we used to try to rhyme, he used to just talk.
Like a real m.c., a master of ceremony.
What made you want to
start doing this?
I used to go to the Flash parties and see it go down. I used to go to school with Theodore, Theodore was in my class in third grade. His team was Mean Gene and Claudio, they had a system, and me and Theodore are real close. They asked me did I know how to m.c & I told them yes I can do it. So we went to this place on Boston road, on 168th street called the AR track 2. It was a house party, it was the first night I m.c.ed. I did good that night so they put me down. I was the first rapper in the L- Brothers.
So you were practicing
before this night came?
No, I just went off the top of my head, because it wasn’t about practicing. It wasn’t about writing. It was just….
It was just a feeling!
Yeah, it was a feeling. Just going with your vibe, your adlibs.
What about Rob, how did he
He was my brother. We were called the L- Brothers, Mean Jean and them were brothers, I figure I put my brother on. We named the crew the L- Brothers because we were the love brothers. We were all brothers.
Oh it’s the Love brothers, that’s what the L stands for.
I thought it was the Livingston thing.
That’s their last name, but it was more less like the Love brothers and s---.
The love that ya’ll had all for each other being close and stuff.
Rob is a year older than
you or a year younger?
Two year’s older.
Since you was down Rob
wanted to be down, or you asked him to be down?
I asked him if he wanted to be down. Since I was the captain, I hired my brother.
Hold up Kev you became the captain even though you were the youngest and it wasn’t even your crew from the beginning ?
But I was the first as far as the m.c.s.
So how long were you
rocking by your self before Rob got on?
Good month and a half, to two months. Than I put my brother down.
How did Busy Bee get on
Busy got on because he used to go to school with me, like junior high school. Him and my brother hooked up first, because they were real close. Rob came to me and said yo I got this kid that wants to be down with us. I was real shy at that time about that, because I didn’t want to really put anybody else in the group. But I said the hell with it, let me give him a try out. He tried out, did good, so I hired him.
Did you hear about him
No! Busy wasn’t in no groups or nothing like that. For all I know he might have tried it before, but this was his first chance of doing it the way we was doing it.
Since you was there when
this all began, who was first between Funky and Furious?
Grand Master Flash and the Three m.c.s were before Furious, we came after, then came Funky 4.
Oh ya’ll were before
I thought it was the other way around
Who was the first m.c., Mel or Cowboy?
Good question, but I really don’t know or remember.
How did this battle come between L- Brothers and Kool Herc and his Herculiods?
There was this kid name La Brew, that was down with them. He had a big mouth, he used to talk a lot of sh--. We use to hear about n----- that wanted to battle, but we never feared nobody because we had the dope system, plus we had the toughest d.j.s at the time. They was from the west side of the Bronx we were from the south side. We decided, lets have a battle. The crowd followed us.
So y’all went on their turf to battle?
I got the tape (56), I heard you dissing one or all of them.
I was like what ever, “turn your systems down, y’all don’t want to battle.” What ever.
So how did the battle go
down? y’all ripped them because I don’t have the whole show?
Oh definitely, we ripped them n------ yo. I think we did that at the Galaxy 2000.
So what arsenal did they have other than Kool Herc?
Right, it was Timmy Tim, Clark Kent, Coke La Rock and La Brew.
It was over before it
There was also a female m.c. in your group?
How long did she last?
A year or two. But I let Busy go before she left. When Busy left I hired Ruby Dee.
You bought Ruby in?
I bought everybody in because I was the first rapper, I had the right.
So how did you know about Ruby Dee, did Busy tell you about Ruby?
No. Ruby Dee used to help carry our equipment, and be around us a lot. He wanted to be down, and being that he was so close to me, and he used to help out, we gave him a shot. We also felt it would be something the people never had before, a Spanish rapper. We were the first one to bring a Spanish rapper into the game.
What was the real reason
Busy Bee left, was it a conflict between ya’ll two?
No! I fired him….
(We both start laughing)
…..the n----- used to run around on too many n------ equipment. He was at every party, everybody’s jam and he wanted to get on the mic, when we had this little contract where you couldn’t get on nobody else’s system. So when he started running around with Jazzy Dee and all these n------ what ever, I got tired of it. So I fired him.
What was his response?
There was nothing he could say.
No, I understand that, but I figured he might say “I don’t want to leave or can you give me one more chance, or something?”
He probably wanted to stay but it was over. So I put Ruby Dee down. It was me, Rob and Ruby Dee, and we had Smiley and this girl name Little Lee.
I didn’t know that, how
long did she last?
For awhile, because she came out of the Black Door production crowd. She was down, she was around for awhile. But with us, she lasted a year or two years.
So you had both female
m.c.s at the same time?
Who were the L- Sisters, them?
Nah, that was just some girls that used to hang out with us, Jazzy Dee, Renee, it was a few of them. We had a L- Sister posse.
So they was just some
girls from around the way, they weren’t m.c.s?
Right, the only girl Emcees at that time was Mercedes Ladies.
What about Sisters Disco, were they the same as the L- Sisters?
They was something like that. Brothers Disco had the Sisters Disco who were from the Funky 4
So they were all just like an entourage or something?
Yeah, that’s all it was.
I read in June issue of Source magazine that D.J. A.J. was a member of your crew for a minute, was this true, because I don’t remember this, nor have I ever heard any one talking about this?
Nah, he ran with Flash and them for a minute with that Black Door Entertainment. But he never was down with us as a group.
How long did it take before y’all started doing routines?
Routines didn’t start coming till 1979.
By this time y’all were Fantastic 4 or still L- Brothers?
Fantastic 5, by that time we became 5. It was me, Rob and Ruby Dee after I cut Busy off. The girls were gone, so I hired Whip and Dot.
O.K. for a minute y’all
was Fantastic 4, right?
Right, it was only a minute.
Yeah, I heard y’all as Fan 4 on that live convention album (tape 57). So how did Whip and Dot get on?
Whip and Dot was from Webster Avenue area, by the Blue Lagoon, with Caz and them. We was dope, a lot of cats wanted to be down with us, you know what I am saying. They actually started playing for Mean Gene and Claudio, when we left Gene and them.
That is what I needed to know, they was actually down with the L- Brothers while y’all were doing Fantastic?
Can you remember the year?
Just before 79
So how did they transform over from Mean Gene, over to y’all?
Well the rap groups were changing, the amount of people on the crew was changing. So we had like the fantastic four, funky four, furious four all that kind of s---. So we wanted to change to five, we just wanted to make it a cipher. My brother told me about Dot and Whip. I wasn’t looking, I always felt satisfied. They were Salt and Pepper first, ever. I gave them a try out, they did pretty well so I hired them.
Was there anybody else trying out?
No! just them.
Why did y’all separate
from Mean Gene and Claudio?
I don’t know it was just the time. I really don’t know, but we had 3 d.j.s and we only needed 1.
Then home boy got on with
Where did he come from?
He was a friend of Theodore and my brother, Kev was a real Kool brother. When Kev got with the group we have moved up to the 80’s now, by the time Kev got with the group I was almost down with the Furious 5.
Which is during the time
of Wild style, or after it.
Yes. 81 or 82.
What club was your home turf? What club is where ya’ll always rocked? Ecstasy Garage?
The Sparkle! We owned it.
Yes, we were in there so much, the owner just gave it to us. We used to stay there sometimes over night. That was like our house. The Sparkle was on Mount Eden and Jerome. We used to rock the 3rd avenue Ballroom a lot as well. We used to rock out of an apartment as well, doing hooky parties as well as weekend parties before we became Fantastic. We would have the equipment right in there rocking. But the Sparkle was home base. We also played a lot at a place on 169th street and Prospect avenue called Rock City. We changed it to Duck City, because the ceiling was so low. In the late seventy’s, right around the time Sugar Hill Gangs record came out, we rocked at a spot called “Over the Dover,” which was over a movie theater.
So what was it like going to school after rocking a show the night before, or that weekend that passed?
It was dope, the people in my school supported us. They always wanted to know when we would be rocking again. We didn’t get no free pass from the Teachers or Principal, but they respected what we were doing, they even let us put on shows in there. I went to Junior high school 158 and later Morris High school. Morris high school is where we did the shows.
How old were you when you
got down with L- Brothers?
Did you go all the way up to 12th grade?
left in the eleventh grade, music took me out of school.
How did you feel about the
Moe Dee, Busy Bee battle?
It was corny! Moe Dee was wack,
(Troy starts laughing in shock)
Moe Dee was wack, because we felt that anytime you could talk about somebody the way he talked about Busy, he had to have worshipped Busy, then what he really showed the crowd.
Ah dam kid, this the first time I heard it this way.
This is real though, because I was there and I know. Rappers didn’t talk about other rappers like that. Even if they had a battle it was supposed to be between mic skills, the D.J. and what ever! It wasn’t suppose to be no type of disrespect, because if a n----- would have disrespected me like that I would have bought the real drama back at a n-----!
Word, that’s real. He lost all respect for the ni----. You know what I am saying. He was talking about him like he was nobody, and that was Busy fault. If he was still down with us nobody would have came at him like that. They came at him like that because he was a solo cat running around acting wild, so we named him Busy, because he stayed Busy.
(Troy starts laughing)
His name was Starski, he took Love Bug name.
Yeah how the hell did that happen, I don’t understand that?
I don’t know, the n----- was crazy that’s why we named him Busy, because he was so dam Busy….Well Master Rob is the one that named him Busy Bee. Before that his name was Lil Starski. That was why his name got changed, because we wasn’t into that taking a n----- name s---. Yo, we was tight with Busy for about a year on that. But that battle that Moe did was wack. You want to hear a real battle, check us and Cold Crush at Harlem World. No disrespecting nobody……..
…..Hold up kid, slow
down for a minute now. (Troy is laughing) You called the Cold Crush bums
in your routine at the battle between them.
Yeah, no doubt. Some n------ was fresh with the gear, some weren’t.
So did ya’ll ever say anything to Moe or Busy about the battle?
No we just let it rock. Busy just got his ass tore up, it wasn’t suppose to go down like that.
It was very irregular, in fact it was one of the most high post set of lyrics to go against a rapper until the 90’s when Tupac did his dis record on Biggie Smalls and Bad boy records. I said dam this reminds me some what of the Moe, Busy battle, just because it was totally out of bounds in hip hop.
Was there anybody else you wanted to battle or was supposed to battle other than the Cold Crush.
We was going to battle the Furious, we wanted to battle anybody that felt they were top notch, because we knew we had it going on and all that. Believe me we wasn’t soupped. We was pretty good.
Y’all got props.
The only thing that really made the Furious better than us or people thought, was they were out before us. But by the time we did our history we was tight and we was ready for anything. They never wanted it to happen. Flash and them was scared. They knew Theodore was up and coming, and we was going to do some s---. One thing about Fantastic, we put flavor in the game. We put dressing in the game, looking good in the game, dance steps into the game. We put a lot of stuff in there, so we was ready to battle anybody. We was confident. Furious was not ready to put that on their schedule. I heard the Furious battled the Cold Crush or some stupid s--- like that.
No, they didn’t battle them until the 90’s.
But they wouldn’t battle us ever.
What about Crash Crew, I heard y’all was supposed to battle them also?
They didn’t want it. I really don’t know how that went down, might have been because they was from Harlem and we were from the Bronx. I really don’t know.
Ya’ll used to be up
there at the Ecstasy Garage a lot. Was there times you and Master Rob
would go against Caz and J.D.L.?
Ya’ll pretty cool now, today?
Caz and I are like brothers now. People bug out now just to see the way we are now, we so close now. People thought that because we battled we hated each other. It wasn’t nothing like that. We told them we was going to get in their ass, and they didn’t believe it. So we got in their ass. I heard they cried over that. Literally had tears coming out of their eyes, because they lost. They really thought they could beat us. They tried that Moe Dee s---, a little lines about us or what ever but it wasn’t enough.
I ain’t going to front kid, Cold Crush is my favorite crew.
I got you.
But, I have to give props to Fantastic that night, because ya’ll had totally new routines.
So I gave it to ya’ll, no other choice. But ya’ll knew off the top ya’ll was going to beat these cats?
That’s right! We had no types of fear, lets give these n----- what they want. They want to play under the same roof with us, come at us, than lets do it, do it big. So we got into the tuxedo’s, we practiced everyday at my house.
How were Fantastic allowed to go second?
They wanted to battle us. We didn’t want to battle them. We wasn’t worried about them. They was trying to take what we had.
What pushed ya’ll to
We wanted to look good. Whether it be Tuxedo’s, A.J. Lester gear, or Mock Necks, Lee’s and British Walkers, or Playboys. (Type of Shoes). If you remember in their rhymes they talked about us having British Walkers in every flavor, and we had stuck up behavior. (Troy starts laughing) They was corny, they was on some real bulls---. (Kev starts laughing)
I hear you.
We just want to come off, have a night to remember.
How much was your mother involved, because I used to hear story’s about her to being a part of ya’ll and hip hop?
My mother was a big part of it. (whew) my mother was the first mother to get involved with our music. She was moral support, financially, what ever, she was there. She used to come to some of the shows, but not too many because it was dangerous back then, a lot of guns used to go pop. Our whole history of hip hop, guns were going off.
There were fights going on right in the middle of shows going on?
Of course, right in the middle of us performing cats were getting shot. We seen it all, before these new school cats seen it, with they bulls---.
What about with any other
groups or crews (Funky 4, Treacherous three.)?
No, but cats used to want to come and test. There was this crew from Webster Projects here in the Bronx, where this dude came out and his name was also Kevie Kev! I was the first Kevie Kev to every touch the game. So we had a little discrepancy with them about that. We used to step to them and tell him he had to change his name.
What was the name of the crew, and was the Nine Boys backing him up since they were also from Webster projects?
I don’t remember the name but the Nine was not backing them like that, the Nine was cool with us.
So who was your strength?
From The Nine Crew, The Wilkins….
The Wilkins? I never heard of them.
Yeah they was an all Spanish crew. Louie Lou, Armando and my man Squeaky, and there was a lot of cats from Webster that was cool with us. Like Big Blue, Frank Nitti.
What about Casanova’s
Casanova came about, but Zulu was from the Bronx river area, they wasn’t on Boston Road side. The Casanova’s came from Patterson Projects (143rd street Morris avenue area by Lincoln Hospital). But they was closer with Furious Five, because they were running with Ray Chandler, so they were never our security. We also had the Boogaloo crew for a little while when we were in the T- Connection. Other then that we did our selves, out in the world by our selves, and hoped that people respected us for the work that we did do.
Did you know Mel and Creole before Furious Five started?
Yeah, because before rapping started, there was this club called the 845 club……..the Furious had a group in there before they was called the Furious or 3 m.c.s. It was Mel, Creole and their sister and another kid name Derrick. They were called the Black, Bold and Beautiful, and this wasn’t hip hop this was singing! It was me and my brother Rob, my cousin Darren and my man Eugene. We were called the Deflections, and we sang songs like “Walking in the Rain”, “There’s no me with out you”. We were R&B singers. My father was the leader of The Intruders.
Yeah, see I always had the music in my heart. I knew how to dress, that is why I dressed us. I knew all this before I touched the mic to m.c.. So it wasn’t nothing for me to come on the scene, because I already had it in my blood.
I got you, showmanship.
Yes, so like I said about the Furious and them, as Black, Bold and Beautiful, we had beat them in this contest. We won the whole thing so they knew of us as music people, but not for hip hop yet.
Hip hop hadn’t even started yet?
Right, not yet.
So ya’ll was like 11, 12, like some Jackson 5, or something.
Right. So I been doing it for a long time.
So why did you leave Fantastic to go to Furious?
Well to be honest with you I never really left them, I worked with Furious because I wanted to travel. I had enough of the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. I wanted to get some of Texas, Alabama, Virginia and Pittsburgh and all that. So that’s why I got down with Furious. I didn’t think about jumping ship on my own, they had a little discrepancy with Creole, because of personnel reasons. So they came and got me and asked me if I would be down with them. So I asked my crew how they felt about it, because this is what I wanted. They were against it.
Yeah Dot told me they were all hurt, caught off guard.
Yeah, I didn’t mean to hurt them, I wanted to get out there and travel and what ever. So I did, and did well with the Furious ,which showed my versatility, because I had to be a whole different cat to be down with them.
I had to change everything because they had their way of doing things. So I blended in with them, traveled with them. Stayed with them for about two years. From 1982, to 1984.
How many records did you
do with them?
Just one, that “Flash to the beat.” But through out all of that, I was still coming in and being down with Fantastic and doing shows with them, and leaving back out and being with the Furious.
Did you ever try and get
Fantastic signed to Sugar Hill, being as you was inside now?
Yeah, I tried, but at the time they was stuck on the Furious and all those other groups they had, they was on some real bull s---. That’s why I was really only able to squeeze out one record as a solo act, as Water Bed Kev.
Right, now why did that only last for one record, because that was a cool record, that you did?
Sugar Hill was real funny, they was amped on me doing it, and they liked the song, but there was so many discrepancies and back stabbing going on over there, that I only got one record going on out the deal, but I was prepared to do other songs. I had other ideas and things I wanted to do, but it just didn’t happen because of all the problems over there. They used to have a lot of problems with Furious all the time. But I did do “White Lines” with Mele Mel!
I didn’t know that. What part did you play on the record?
I did the chorus with Mel, you know, the Freeze, the Rock, the Blow, all that s---. We as Fantastic did a joint with Terminator X.
I remember that, you and Cold Crush together. But why did the crew do just one record together, the “Fresh out the Pack” cut? Why didn’t ya’ll produce more albums?
Johnny Soul our manager, who helped us put the record together, died.
Sorry to hear that, I heard he was a real good dude. I heard he even had a tour bus for the group.
To be honest with you I never got on that bus….
….I missed it. I was always on the road with Furious Five, when ever Fantastic was on it. When ever I would come home, they be like “yo we was on the bus yesterday, such and such happen”. I be like “word, well I was on the bus with 12 beds, a microwave oven and bathrooms and sheep skin interior, you know.”
(we both start laughing)
So it was all good.
How did you and the crew get on that Wild Style movie?
Charlie Ahearn, the producer used to hang around Busy Bee and Fab 5 Freddy, and they used to come to all our party’s. He used to ask us could he go out with us and take pictures around the area of the neighborhood. We let him hangout, today those are the pictures you see in the different books. So from that, he came up with the idea to do the movie, we wanted to take time out to practice, but he said he wanted it raw like that. That is why it seems so plain……
…no but it is still
really good just the way it is.
But it seemed so plain, compared to what’s out there today. It was really a 1,2,3, performance.
So how did you and the Cold Crush deal with each other on the set?
We was cool! Like I said the only time we had beef was in the clubs. It was never in the streets.
(Troy starts laughing) so y’all had beef a few times?
Not much, we wasn’t the toughest ni----- out there, but we was the type of n------ that wasn’t having it. Like you said, I came from Harlem, I was born totally different from cats from the Bronx, we wasn’t feeling all that bull----, what ever, what ever. If it would have got tight it would have been real.
So did you have fights
with any of these cats from any of the other groups, or solo m.c.s? I am
not just talking about Cold Crush?
Cats had arguments, but not no physical s---.
Why did you not take that Wild Style tour out of the country, to Japan?
They was trying to jerk us, and I knew it. I mean it would have been nice to go on the trip. But 12 hours on a plane, f--- that! We could have been killed, also, flying 12 hours for these n------ and they want to give us some bulls--- money. I told my group y’all want to go y’all can go, I am not going. If they would have said they was going to raise the money I would have thought about it.
So how do you feel about the movie it self?
Well I didn’t like the movie when I first seen it, because I knew the cuts that were made before the movie came out. I didn’t see a lot of things that I thought I would see.
So you are saying that there are a lot of things that are missing?
There is a part in the movie that I hate the most, is when we are in the Dixie club, when we first come on you hear the routine “Were Fantastic, Five m.c.s” soon as that comes on Dot goes “I told you from the start”. Right there I knew it was wrong because I am number one and Dot is number two, so they cut my first rhyme. So I didn’t appreciate that when I seen it in the theater. I never said nothing, because I figured it was probably edited and done already. I have to say, it is, what it is.
Yeah it is a classic today.
Yes it is. It is a classic forever, it was the first rap movie ever.
Were you ever asked, or did you want to be on any other movies about hip hop?
Well we wanted to do “Beat Street,” with Harry Belafonte and them, but there was jealousy, and n------ was cutting throats, and telling them not to put us in because we were in Wild Style.
So who was cutting throats
Furious, other cats.
…..cause we had a lot of haters! We was some handsome cats.
So what about Krush Groove?
We didn’t get a chance to know about it. Anything having to do with Russell and them and what ever, was some secret s---.
(Troy starts laughing)
No n----- could really find out about it. Yo in time some time this year in the 2005, me and the crew are going to have a big reunion.
Alright kid thank you for being so very straight up! Thank you very much.
Okay, peace my brother.
Peace and blessings,
praise God and God bless you family.
Troy L. Smith from HARLEM.
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