RAHIEM INTERVIEW

 

JAYQUAN : Peace , Its an honor . .....what year did you start emceeing , who influenced you & who was the first Emcee that you saw / heard ?

 

RAHIEM : The first people I heard were the 3 Emcees - Mele Mel , Kid Creole & Cowboy . I heard them in '76 but I didn't see them until '77. My influence is someone who is not even known in Hip Hop . I originally was a singer , and I was in a group with Christopher Williams . We used to sing in the hallways of Truman High School on a daily basis and we had a nice following . There was this guy who called himself Jazzy Joe - his name was Joe Goodwin , he was from the valley , and he would walk around the halls saying these little nursery rhymes. Every chic in the school was sweating Joe and asking him to rhyme . That was my inspiration . I knew that I could write better rhymes , so I challenged him to a battle one day ; and took him out. That got me a pretty good reputation at school. I started Emceeing around '77.

 

JQ : What was the name of the group with you and Christopher Williams ?

 

RA : I can't recall us ever having a name. We just got together and sang. At one point he was imitating me .I told him he would do a lot better imitating someone who is currently popular , and wait till they fall off ; then do your thing. He chose to imitate Teddy Pendergrass.

 

JQ : You were originally in the Funky 4....how did you join up with them?

 

RA : Before the Funky 4 I was in a group called the Masterplan 2 & Phase One Crew - it consisted of myself , Aaron Johnson (who was down with D.ST) , Divine , CJ & Cris. We did mostly house parties at CJs house.I honed my Emcee abilities there. My name at the time was Crazy T - which stood for Todd , my middle name . I used to hand out with this guy who was my mentor - he taught me how to sing , and different things about music , his name is Rahiem Leblanc. He is from the group G.Q. They used to do block parties all around the Bronx , and their bass player Sabu was from my block . I would stand at the ropes and just stare into Rahiems mouth and suck up every bit of technique that I could. Thats where I got the name Rahiem , and I promised him that if I ever had a son I would name him after him. The name stuck with me , because people always saw me hanging around him. I was like his student - and the name stuck . Then Aaron changed his name to Shahiem. funkfly.jpg (37521 bytes)Shahiem came to me and said that Dj Baron lived on his block and he was holding auditions for an Emcee , because Keith Keith , Sha Rock & KK Rockwell were more like Breakouts Emcees because they never said Barons name. When I went to the community center where the auditions were , it was actually a battle between Bros Disco(Breakout & Baron) and a group called the Little Bros. from Co - Op City - they were Dj Aaron & Dj Leo .  The little bros were on when I walked into the party , Angel Dust permeated the air ; the walls were sweating because the place was jammed packed. The Little Bros set up was Peavey columns , and it seemed like they were rockin the joint....everybody was enjoying the music that they were playing . Sha Rock & KK were on the stage standing around , and Breakout got on the tables. His sound system was massive. I had never seen a sound system like this before , and the only ones equal at the time were Infinity Machine from Queens , Disco Twins also from Queens , Kool Herc and Disco King Mario. I remember Breakouts tweeters were on two ropes spanning the width of the room, held up by 2 horns on tripods on either side of the room . Breakout was listening to the headphones cueing up a record...he picked up the mic and said "Little Bros - the highs in your eyes" he turned up the music and all you heard were the tweeters . The volume of those alone interferred with the Little Bros system. Then Breakout said "feel the horns" and it sounded like a 30 piece marching band was in the spot. After that he said "feel the bass" and then it was over ...then when Baron got on he handed me a mic and I said some stuff , and they didn't want me to put the mic down. From that night on I was down.

 

JQ : How did you go from Funky to Furious ?

 

RA : Well , I pretty much jumped ship . I wanted to be down with the winning team. We battled the Furious 4 by the Webster Ave PAL. We had been rehearsing our dance steps and routines the night of the battle.We were up and coming , but Furious was the most popular crew at the time. Because of that we expected them to go on after us , they went first and pulled out all the stops...they danced , sang songs and did all that we planned to do. I don't know if thats the reason that we abandoned our initial plan , never the less we abandoned it. When we went on KK Rockwell had this look like what are we gonna do , I remember being very annoyed , I didn't know what they were gonna do , but I knew I was gonna do my thing . When I got on I didn't get off until the party was over. I was looking into the crowd and the Furious 4 were cheering me on. They had attended our shows before , and each time Ness & Mel expressed accolades .After that night Ness & Mel started to come around my block & one of my neighbors - M&M (God bless the dead) , was a Dj and he hired Furious 4 to perform at Forest House community center . He asked me if I would perform , and I agreed , and he put my name on the flyer . I was doing it as a freebie , we never discussed money. That night I got on first and then Furious performed. After that they asked me to do something with them . I did and after the show I went back stage to tell them what a pleasure it was to rock with them. They asked me how much money I wanted ; and said none it was just a pleasure to rock on the same stage as y'all. They said "you're just as good as any of us , we will split the money 5 ways".  We split it 5 ways and I been rockin with them since. When they changed the name to Furious 5 Flash was doing a party at Harlem World. We were going through some fighting with Flash and our ex manager Ray Chandler , because basically Flash got taken care of and we didn't . I went to Harlem World and told Flash that I was the 5th member & that the new name was Furious 5 , and he was like no way. I said wait till you see the fellas and ask them. That night at Forest House Ray Chandler & the Casanovas tried to come in and strong arm and take the money. So Ray & the Casanovas already knew and Flash didn't. I guess Flashes biggest issue was splitting the money up one more way. It worked itself out eventually.

 

JQ : Did you do a lot of performances with Funky , and how long were you with them ?

 

RA : I was with them about a year - I got in Furious the Summer of 1978. We performed all over New York..

 

JQ : Did you feel when you signed with Enjoy that you were gonna blow up similar to Sugarhill Gang ?

 

RA : Well we kinda felt that , but in listening to Rappers Delight the formula for succsess was a song that was a hit record prior. In my mind our effort on SuperRappin wasn't as strong because only true Hip Hoppers were familiar with "7 Minutes Of Funk".Out side of New York we had no way to gauge how well our record was doing . It only took us down the Eastern Seaboard down as far as the Carolinas .

 

JQ : Why were there 2 versions ?

 

RA : That was like the first remix...he (Bobby Robinson) was just trying to get the most out of it , and expand the life of the song.

 

JQ : What was your experience with Sugarhill Records before the Message..was it good ?

 

RA : No.....there were internal squabbles right after Freedom. Sylvia Robinson did have vision and insight. We didn't have a stylist at the time , and as far as an image we just went off of what we thought looked good. There was a time when she was trying to get me to wear a Turban , on our very first tour . I wore it for like 3 shows and didn't like it ; so I took it off. She had a really big problem with that , she was trying to create an image because my name was Rahiem she thought I should wear it. I was dead set against it. Creole was like " Mrs Rob said you gotta wear it so you gotta put on the fuckin' Turban". Im like I don't give a shit if Jesus said it ; im not wearing it. Mel was like he has to go on stage like that , if he isnt comfortable he shouldn't wear it . So when Mel co- signed for me it stuck , so she had a problem with me since then.

 

JQ : Those guys from G.Q. were 5 percenters ; were you ever 5 % ?

 

RA : Yes my name was Amar.

 

JQ : What was your favorite Furious 5 release on the Sugarhill Label ?

 

RA : Actually I really didn't like our records much. I went through the motions 'cus I was part of the group - "Freedom" was Ok...I did like "It's Nasty". The Message was good...anything prior to " Its Nasty" I didn't like."Scorpio" was hot. I liked the "Message" of course it was a good song , but I like the affect that it had...it solidified us. So did everything after that ; with the exception of "White Lines" . It was done as the group was breaking up. I was still on the song as far as the singing part. On the Message I was the one who recited Mels verse.." a child is born " for Sylvia and suggested to use it for that song. Originally my voice was on the Message doing Ed Fletchers ( Duke Bootee ) parts. For "New York New York" we were in the studio , but we didn't contribute anything....that was Sylvias call. Same with "Message 2 Survival" . Spoonie G wrote that song to get out of his contract.

 

JQ : How was it that the Message was just Mel & Duke , but the Message Lp was such a group effort ?

 

RA : We didn't start on the Message album until a year after the Message was out. It was done backwards. We didnt have the chance to go in and record material for an album prior to or in the process of making the Message. We had more succsess with singles that albums. The Message Lp could have been succsessful if it had been ready to go 8 weeks after the Message was released.

 

JQ : Do you think that Sugarhill records could have lasted longer if they had adapted the musical style that Run Dmc and that next school era was bringing?

 

RA : I think that the approach that Sugarhill took to promote an artist was wrong. They promoted one artist at a time , they didnt allow the artists to be artists. They dictated their interpretation of what the artform that we created was supposed to be. Run Dmc ....all of the Emcees from my era ....well I can certainly understand how Run Dmc represents the changing of the guard. But the main problem that Emcees from my era have with them is that they simplified Emceeing to its lowest common denominator , which caused everyone in every genre and racial and etchnic background to think that they too can be an emcee. Because it doesn't take a scholar to say " dum ditty dum ditty ditty dum dum" . We had a problem with them initially. And we dressed the way we did because it was an honor to be onstage , and when you were on stage you were other than yourself.  We wanted to give you something to see as well as hear...it was just the spectacle of it all. Eddie Murphy hung out with us for like a week , and he got our designers number and here comes Eddie with the leather suits.

 

JQ : What was your honest opinion the first time that you heard "Rappers Delight " ?

 

RA : I was mad because Hank used a part of the   rhyme that made me popular in the Bronx.."I hemp the demp the ladies pimp"...thats the first rhyme I ever wrote. I was pissed and wanted to know who he was. When I saw him I knew where I knew him from....he was the bouncer at the door of the Sparkle.

 

JQ : Was there ever any static with the 2 groups (Sugarhill & Furious) ?

 

RA : Well there couldn't be but so much because we were labelmates . What ever static there was was smothered by the fact that we toured together . My feeling was we know they are not real Emcees , they know it , but the public doesn't ; so every chance that we get to perform on the same stage , the same night we gonna bust they ass !! The audience is gonna know who the real Emcees are.

 

JQ : Was that you singing on "Flash To The Beat" long version on Sugarhill , and why do you think that song didn't do better ? 

 

RA : Yes that was me . It was never really looked at on our part as a song . That was a spontaneous call. We happened to be in the studio one night ....and it was a song based on Flash playing the Beat Box....so why did Sylvia make the beat ? Sylvia Robinson actually made the beat on the Sugarhill version. Why didn't she let that man do his thing...he didn't have anything to do with the writing of the lyrics on any songs - or the production , even though ideas for music came from records that he spun at our parties - why not let that man shine ?....She was a dictator !

 

JQ : Did you have a lot of creative control ?

 

RA : Not really .....she listened to Mel , and maybe some stuff that I sang for her  , but not really. 

 

JQ : Is it true that you guys clowned the Message at first ?

 

RA : Oh yeah....The track that you hear is not what was presented to us . It was originally some ol' conga drums , jungle sounding track....like some spoken word Last Poets shit . We was like that doesnt represent us....after Duke Bootee recut the track we felt more comfortable . We felt that we had to do Scorpio , 'cus Planet Rock was so big . The Message 2 had that same feel . But the Message did for us all that Sylvia said that it would. That is the only good thing I have to say....she called that one.

 

 

JQ : Did you have any idea that "Wheels Of Steel" and "The Message" were as groundbreaking around the country and the world ?

 

RA : With Wheels Of Steel it didn't register until we got overseas - when Flash did it they went crazy. With the Message it was almost the same....Helsinki Finland , Oslow Norway....they knew all the words and didn't speak English !!!

 

JQ : It was obvious that Mel & Scorp were very close , were there any other friendships in the group?

 

RA : Actually me & Cowboy were real close....we were always roommates when we travelled.

 

JQ :  I have heard that Cowboy was like the thug or tough guy in the group.....like if a promoter didn't pay you Cowboy would handle it...is that true?

 

RA : Yeah , Cowboy was the enforcer , in fact at one point I was callin' him 12 and 0 'cus I never saw him have a fight with somebody and not knock them the fuck out ! Thats my word..he wasnt a big dude , he just hit hard . He was left handed .

 

JQ : How did your routines come about , did any one particular person make them up?

 

RA : It varied , I remember me & Mel made Flash To The Beat walking through Cratona park , just on some freestyle shit , we then decided that we would do it at our next show , which we did.

 

JQ : To your knowledge how did Mel get the name Grandmaster ?

 

RA : A judge decided that Grandmaster was not a name , but a title given to someone who is the best at whatever their field is. Thats why Mel was able to use that.

 

JQ : Where did La von , Larry Love and Mr Broadway come from after the group split ?

 

RA : La Von was a friend of mines , I cant say that it was my idea to have him in the group , but I did expose him to Flash. Flash wanted Larry Love & Broadway in the group. I said that Broadway wasn't an Emcee , and that he had no place in the group , he was garbage . Flash said " he has the look "  - me & Creole were like what the fuck is the look? flashs5.jpg (17196 bytes)Larry Love was Broadways friend who was a dancer so it was like a package deal. Me & Creole named Broadway , because at first he was calling himself Pow Wow. We were like you are way out of order with that...somebody has that name...did you ever hear Planet Rock ? ! We were like we met you at Broadway International , you are always at Broadway International , from now on you are Mr Broadway !

 

JQ : How was it with Mel being in one group and his brother in another ?

 

RA : From day one Mel & Creole were close about certain things , probably 2 things and one was their mother . But they were not close at all...like night and day. Mel is a social person , always running hismouth. Creole is social too , but just in his circles. Creole is very introverted and argumentative. Mel is not argumentative , but he is a Taurus the bull - he is head strong. You can laugh and joke with Mel , he is not tight assed , Creole is tight assed  , you cant joke with him , you have to talk to him a certain way. Because of that he sorta alienated himself from his brother and the group.

 

JQ : Was there any static between the 2 factions ?

 

RA : No because we were never in the same place at the same time . It was really no need if you had one version of the group , you had the one that mattered to you at the time.

 

JQ : What is your overall feeling on the Elektra side of the group that you were part of ?

 

RA : Well I didn't feel like every member should be on every song. Just because some songs are more itricate that others . Like Broadway on " You Know What Time It Is " if you listen , I mocked Rakim on that. Me & Eric B had a run in at the Roof Top.....he was upset about it and we had some words . But , Broadway didn't belong on the song. La Von wrote Broadways verse , but you can tell which one is him...he didn't ride the beat well. Im not on no ego shit , if you can cut it , you can cut it , Broadway just didn't.

 

JQ : What was the atmosphere at the Sugarhill label , was it like family ?

 

RA : It was family because whenever a group was recording Sylvia called everybody to reinact the whole party vibe that you hear on the songs. Like on 8th Wonder ...by that time Sylvia realised that one thing that made Furious unique was our ad libs and trills that we do in between words and sentences . She wanted to recapture that energy on every song. So by 8th Wonder she had us in the studio on every song.

 

JQ : It always sounded like there was a Spanish cat on your songs.

 

RA : Thats was me like at the start of its Nasty , I was talking Spanish.  I just have a lot of characters and I would be saying stupid stuff and Sylvia wanted to keep it.

 

JQ : What made you do 2 different first verses to Its Nasty ?

 

RA : At the time one was just more provacative. One was a little risque for the time , and we wanted radio to play it.

 

JQ : For the reunion Lp " On The Strength " was there a real reunited vibe or just more business ?

 

RA : I can speak for me & maybe Mel...I remember when we first discussed getting back together. We all agreed that we made much more money together than apart and the parade was passing us by . We could be mad at each other and be marginally succsessful apart or extremely succsessful together.

 

JQ : What did you think of Mels faction when the split occured ?

 

RA : We laughed at their group as im sure they did ours , when we looked at their version it looked like it was put together in desperation. I wanted to get back to Hip Hop on our side but Flash wanted to be musical.

 

JQ : Yeah I wished that you made more songs like " Freelance " .

 

RA : That was one of my ideas.

 

JQ : I want you to rate the following Emcees from 1-10 10 being highest .

 

Caz - 7

Mele Mel - 9

Moe Dee - 8

Lil Rodney C - 4

Dota Rock - 6

Whipper Whip - 6

Busy Bee - 7

Kid Creole - 5

JDL - 6

LL Cool J - 8

Special K - 7

Keith Cowboy - 6

Spoonie G - 8

Scorpio - 4

Kurtis Blow - 4

Run - 7

Dmc - 5

T La Rock - 8

Nas - 9 ( just lyrically - the new cats don't really stress showmanship)

Biggie - 8

Jay Z - 10

Eminem - 10 ( He is the king of rap right now )

 

JQ : Thanks for your time .....

 

 

2002 jayquan dot com / 5 Mic Media   As told to JayQuan on 7/16/02

No part may be reproduced  or copied without authors consent

Special thanks to Grandmaster Caz

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