JayQuan : Peace , its an honor .
Who was the first person you heard Emcee ; and what year did you start ?
Moe Dee : Dj Hollywood , actually
Luv Bug Starski first , then Hollywood . And I started in 1977 .
JQ : What was the political climate
on the Hip Hop scene before records were made ?
MD : My perspective is a lil
different 'cus im from Manhattan . It was really crackin in the Bronx on a level that
we didn't know about which is why we heard Luvbug first . Hollywood would come to
the Appollo and Luvbug would come to the Renaissance on 137th & 7th ave. We heard them
say slogans ; like the first time Flash & them came to the Audobon Ballroom we heard
people yell " Zulu Gestapo " and we didnt know what it was . In Manhattan , and
its true on some level till this day ; its a whole different mentality from the Bronx ,
Brooklyn & Queens , which I didnt know at the time - because you basically just know
your neighborhood .
Nicky Barnes era was booming and just ending at the same time , and we were looking at the
drug dealers on one hand ; but the music scene wasnt that prominent in Manhattan. We would
get dressed up and go to the hotel Diplomat and parties were a version of the Dj/Emcee. It
wasnt that political . Some of the free lunch programs were still goin' on - based on the
last leg of the Black Panther Party . As far as Hip Hop Manhattan was after the Bronx .
Brooklyn had Dj Flowers & people like that ; but we never went to Brooklyn , so we
didnt hear about him until after the fact .
JQ : At the point between the
Treacherous 3 forming and Sugarhill / Enjoy releasing records who did the T 3 see as a
threat lyrically - specifically you , did anyone pose a threat to you ?
KMD : Nah , we didnt look at it as
a threat at the time . A lot of that energy came from the Furious 5 , in fact they weren't
even the Furious 5 yet . T3 didnt become a group until ' 78 and originally it was me L.A.
& Spoonie G . Spoonie left because he made a record in ' 79 and I replaced him
with Special K . K went to my school , I had already met him through the fast rhymes . So
there was no atmosphere of threat , more trying to fit in & get a handle of what
was going on . It really wasnt until ' 78 that Flash & The Furious 4 formed - Rahiem
wasnt down yet . I remember when it was just the three Emcees and then Flash put Mr Ness
down. I remember the night Flash premiered the backspin . That was when I knew that I was
gonna take this seriously & do it for the rest of my life . Until that time I wrote
rhymes , but it was more like Hollywood & Starski with the crowd participation
and call & response. I wasnt really taking it seriously....they would bring music
& set up in the park & I would get on and do a little something . But that night
at the Audobon I went to see Starski...but they would double bill it - they had Flash from
10 - 12 and Starski from 12 - 2 ; then Flash from 2- 4 and Starski from 4 - 6 . At that
time Starski was the headliner at the Audobon ; and the hottest thing as far as the club
was concerned . He & Hollywood were the # 1 & 2 at the time . Until Flash came to
Manhattan (this is some more friction between Manhattan & the Bronx) it wasn't that
Flash wasnt valid ; but when he came it opened him up to the domination of the whole
situation ' cuz we were still lookin at Starski & Hollywood as the top dogs . We heard
about Flash and Herc but as far as New York went we didnt see them we didnt know what they
were doing ; and nobody is rockin parties like Luvbug - so he is the top dog.
The Audobon was the first time you
had the fusion of Manhattan comin to see Luvbug & Bronx comin to see Flash .
I'll never forget Starski was about to get off and Creole was telling him to turn his
music off - like arrogantly . He was like " its time for Grandmaster
!! " . I was annoyed like who is this kid tellin Starski to get off - hes got a lot
of nerve !! Finally Starski said arrogantly " we gonna take a break now , but we will
be right back " - basically like we're just killin time 'cuz they're on the bill -
makin a lil slap at them . I was in the front row and they turned the lights out . Creole
starts this long intro over this echo chamber ...it was the first time i'd ever heard that
. I call Creole the original hype man . Flavor Flav is the Grandson of him ( I do the
blood line on Hip Hop ) . But he did the greatest show on Earth type of intro like
aaaaarrrrreeee yyyooouuu rrreeaaddyyyyyy , and Flash dropped the bells - Mardis Gras . And in Manhattan we listened to
Michael Jackson and whatever club record was out , and the Dj would rhyme over that . We
didnt get into a lot of breaks besides Jam On The Groove , stuff like that . Starski had
just finished doing a routine over a Michael Jackson beat , and when Flash threw on the
bells ; the Bronx crowd knew what was up ; they went crazy , and the Manhattan crowd
couldnt deny that somethin was happening that was different . I was shocked 'cuz not
only did they intro Flash and he came in on beat , the spotlight hits Cowboy who was
sittin in a chair , he just started spellin his name out....it was the hottest shit that
i'd heard at that point. " The C-O-W-B-O-Y the man is bad , that you cant deny
". As simple as that was , nobody was doin it that way . Then he passed the mic to
Mele Mel and it was the first time I heard metaphor . Mel did a metaphor & I said this
is how I want to do this . Thats why I say that Melle Mel is the prototype of what
everybody is doin today .
JQ : Its good to hear someone admit
that . Most Emcees today respect Rakim , but Ra says that his style camefrom you &
Mele Mel .
KMD : The blood line is Me , Mel
& Caz - the trinity , then KRS One , Rakim & Kane then Biggie , Nas &
Jay Z. Even further you can go Caz - Kane - Jay Z .....they all had street flavor ; then
Mel - KRS - Biggie...they had the social thing (even Biggie with the story telling was
social) , then the cerebral side was myself - Rakim - Nas . Then you have more levels -
theres always 3 masters , a superstar & an underground . So for our era the super star
was Kurtis Blow - me , Mel & Caz were the masters and Spoonie Gee was
underground . The next tier is Rakim , Kane & KRS as the masters and LL Cool J
is the superstar - the underground is T La Rock . Biggie, Nas and Jay Z are the
masters - Tupac is the star ; and its funny because sometimes the superstar gets into a
battle with the Emcee . I always said that Tupac was the bigger Emcee because of his
stardom and diversity , but Biggie was the more pure Emcee. Also in Rakims era was Kool G
Rap . But back to ' 77 ...it wasnt a climate of any real competition yet , until I
started makin noise with the fast rhymes . The way the streets were then ,
people would get tapes or come see you , and the attention switched from the Dj to the
Emcee ; people were comin' to hear the rhymes . Mele Mel was the first one to have that
solid reputation...in fact the whole group did but Mel was like the standout ; like he was
the dominating force . When we became Treacherous 3 about two years into it ; there was
little talk of " I heard this kid named Moe Dee ".....I didnt even know that people were doing that
kind of seperation - like they were picking me out in the group . LA was a party Emcee ,
Special K was like a metaphor rhymer also , and I guess because my voice was deeper and I
rhymed first - people just made the association . I didnt know at the time that the energy
that I was giving off was like a battle Emcee . I was always talking about what I could
and would do , and you would always make rhymes about the competion even though we werent
thinking about competition . We heard later through the grapevine that we were being
compared to the Furious 5 , and because of that we were getting feedback that they were
saying that we werent all that , that we were copying them...blah blah blah. On some level
that was true because we were patterning a lot of what we did after what they did ;
the object was to never bite . We would never bite their rhymes or style , just invent
within that . Because Furious 5 was the prototype that was what we did . To take it one
step further the Funky 4 dont get a lot of credit for being the first to do the Temptation
style rhymes and break lines up between each other. They more defined what we did than
Furious , so the competition element didnt really kick in until like ' 80 . There was no
real threats ; if anything I was being touted as a threat to Mels throne . And at the same
time Furious made a record - Supperrappin , then we made New Rap Langauge then
Furious made Freedom and we made Heartbeat ; so it looked liked everytime they made
something hot , we did too so the comparison was always there .
As we got into the record zone the
Cold Crush started taking over the streets and Caz was the dominant Emcee there so he
started being seen in the same light as me and Mel . Thats how the original trinity formed
. When we met Cold Crush we were surprised at how good we all got along ' cus by '80 you
thought that everybody had an ax to grind or were against each other , so we met
them and saw how cool everything went and we've been like brothers ever since. So the only
competition at the time would have been Furious ; we were ready to battle and all of that
, but for me I always respected excellence . Once we got into an argument at Sugarhill
records with Furious , and just because of how my personality is I said " listen yall
got one Emcee , if we battle its gon' be me & Mel - K can take two of yall - L.A. will
take on two of y'all because you're weak ". I just wanted to insult them on the
deepest level . I said " Cowboy & Scorpio I haven't heard a whole rhyme between
the two of you - L.A. can demolish you , Rahiem & Creole...Rahiem got a little bit of
skill....Creole I've been hearin the same shit since '77 so K can out do you. Mel is a
poet but he don't know how to battle - you're gonna get crushed" !! I think
that it hit home , because they were so angry that they wanted to fight and everything - I
was like lets just do it !! I always brought a different analysis to the equation....even
with the battles...I would take a person and break down their weaknesses and put it in
rhyme form and a lot of Emcees dont know - there is a humor element to battle , an insult
element , a truth element , and you can even add a spiritual , or Afrocentric element like
KRS does . When you put those all together it makes you multidimensional , and a lot of
Emcees think that its just sayin the hottest shit to make the crowd react , when there is
so much more. Thats why the best battle Emcees in the history of the game are : KRS
, Big Daddy Kane , Caz & myself . I see some new guys with potential , but the
environment that we are in now doesn't allow them to fully show their wit . Like Nas &
Jay Z - it was refreshing on one hand to see it , but it wasn't like the old battles. Nas
just did the truth thing on him , and that just shocked the people , but there is a
certain level of lyrical wit that I miss in the battle .
JQ : Yeah Jay came back at him with
the "condoms on your baby seat" thing...the humor .
KMD : Thats when I knew that Nas
had gotten to Jay - Z pyschologically , his response sounded like an emotional rush .
Almost like Tyson trying to prove that he can come back & beat Holyfield a second time
and he bit his ear . Its not like Jay Z cant rhyme , but people have specialties . Jay Z s
specialty is street flavor and hustler game , but to battle someone like Nas you have to
step it up a notch . I always said that the reason LL can never win a battle is because he
talks so much about himself , that he cant talk about anything else . He used his charisma
, energy and vocabulary - which is basically a combination of my style , T la Rock &
Run but in battling its more . Like when I hit him with the Ls ( lower level , lackluster
etc) it wasnt just insulting , but it had poetic value to it .
JQ : What was your honest feeling
the first time that you heard Rappers Delight ?
KMD : I thought that the
skill level was straight corny . But the fact that Hip Hop was getting play ...it put it
on a nationwide level . It was like ok...now we can go and make records....because we
werent thinking quite on that level yet . It was mixed emotions - on one hand its good and
on the other its like this aint even an authentic group . I've always approached things
analiticaly and I have to say that there is no reason to attack them for being in the
right place at the right time . So I never dissed Sugarhill Gang till this day....Mel took
the opposite approach . When Furious got the deal on Enjoy he had rhymes saying "we
dont pop no Sugarhill shit". Mel is the most outspoken in the history of the game . I
can appreciate that on one side , but we have to remember that the system is designed
corruptly , and works against us , so you cant convict those who can benefit from the
system , because its not neccesarily their fault . Now if you pop shit then yeah...thats
where my battle with LL came ....he felt like nothing that came before him mattered , and
that his money could validate that . Whodini, Fat Boys..none of them ever popped that .
Thats why my biggest problems were with LL & Run .
JQ : How did the fast rhyme style
from New Rap Language come about ?
KMD : Actually I was sittin on the
toilet writing rhymes - which is a place that I write a lot . If I take it back to
thegenesis I would have to say that it came from a Kid Creole rhyme . He was saying
something like " Mele Mel my flesh & blood is busy bee in the joint ". I was
like why didnt he keep that going like a flurry . So I just added on.
JQ : Did you have any idea that it
would be so influential ?
KMD : I did know that it was
something that no one was doing at the time - I thought it would f*ck people up. People
started saying - oh yeah Moe Dee the guy with the fast rhymes . A lot of Emcees don't know
that you write rhymes in the same cadence that you speak combined with the way that you
breathe . Some Emcees , LL especially you could hear gasping for breath . To me the whole
point of being cool was to be smooth ; and Rakim heightened the smooth level . I heard
Eric B is President and I was like ok he is cool but when I heard the flipside ; My Melody
I had to pull over. I literally could feel that a new sherrif was in town .
JQ : Do you think that the
Sugarhill label could have been more succsessful if they moved forward sooner as far as
production and stripping down the music like Run Dmc did ?
KMD : I think that Sugarhill had
the self destruct template in place . They didn't take it serious and they weren't
building careers . Russell Simmons to his credit was the first to say that if the r&b
acts have a video , my acts need a video - we need daytime airplay not just nighttime.
Sugarhill never took that approach. They were very arrogant and cocky and they thought
that anything they put ot would work . Sylvia had gotten fat from Sugarhill
Grandmaster Flash. The Message had blown up and they werent passionate about it .
They would just send in the musicians and say play this....it came out ok for what it was
but no real production was happening , even though Sylvia would put her name on as
producer . We did " Whip It " one way and she called us later and said that she
wanted us to hear something. She had added Phillipe Wynne from the Spinners !! We
just looked at each other and she was tellin us " Flash & them didnt want to do
the Message, but I know what im talkin about - you have to take it to the next level"
. She was arrogant with it instead of passionate about it . She told me to go in
there and do some of those fast rhymes at the top - im like thats kinda played ; its' 82
i've been doin that shit since ' 78 !!!
JQ : Musically did you have any
creative control ?
KMD : We had all creative control
but no support . We came out with Action at the same time that Run Dmc did Sucker Mcs . I
loved Action but Sucker Mcs was sonically more powerful . Action was not as powerful as I
wanted it to be . It originally was supposed to be a combination of the breakbeat from
Action and ESG's UFO , but when the group played it they just couldn't capture the sound .