Dee of The Jr. L-
Brothers, L- Brothers,
Troy L. Smith
right my brother thank you for your time. First question always, where
were you born and raised?
was born in Puerto Rico. A place called Rio Piedras, or Stone River. I
moved to New York when I was 5 years old. When we got to New York, we
moved to Harlem on 125th street and Broadway.
starts laughing.) Ah man, what the Grant Projects?
don’t know what they were called but it was right there by the train
station, 3170 Broadway.
the Grant Houses!
apartment I lived at was 21H!
always, a small world. Tito, Crazy Eddie of the Fearless Four, my man
Troy Benjamin a known graffiti artist
that tagged T.B. and Moe Dee (Kool Moe Dee’s mother moved in
later on in the very early 90’s.) lived in the next building 3150. O.C.
was across the street, up on Claremont Avenue. Peso and Mike Cee was a
block away in Manhattanville projects.
you looked out side of my window you could see Palisades Amusement park.
you were very close to the Hudson River with the view you had. Its
amazing because a lot of guys were originally from Harlem and later
moved to the Bronx such as Kevie Kev, Master Rob, T- Ski Valley and Busy
Bee as well as others.
lived there for a few years and then moved to the Bronx on 869 Stebbins
Avenue, on 163rd street. Today it is called Reverend James A
Polite Street. I was close to Prospect Avenue the number 2 train line.
There was a school close by called P.S. 60. I stayed there until I went
to the 8th grade. I was bought up by my Grandmother, when she
moved back to Puerto Rico I went with her. I was a genius with the
English language but when I went back to P.R., mostly because of my poor
Spanish I was called a New York Rican, or New yorican.
even though I was born in Puerto Rico, I had the New York attitude. I
only lasted two years there because they kicked me out of school, so I
went back to New York.
did they kick you out?
as I was a New York kid they were constantly picking on me. I wasn’t
the nicest guy either! I didn’t do anything crazy but……
was a little bully?
no! At that time I could con you out of all your clothes and its two
degrees out side, and raining!
was that slick talking…any time you tried to talk back I already had
something else planned to have you off guard and spinning. They really
didn’t like that too much. By 1977 I moved back to the Bronx - Home
Street, the projects were called Davidson projects. That’s where I met
Busy Bee. Actually I was there first and then he later moved in. My
parents moved in there when it first opened up. They started from the
top floors and worked their way down. We lived on the 7th
floor and Busy lived on the 6th floor.
you knew Busy before he was an emcee?
way before that! He was just a kid, he wasn’t even thinking about
that. I am 46 and he will be 44 because his birthday is coming up soon.
was the music you were listening to before you got into Hip Hop music?
am a Salsa man. I was listening to Gran Combo. They call them the
University of Salsa! I would also listen to the Fania All Stars. I also
can dance Salsa. I used to have a big JVC box and play my Salsa music
and dance by my self. I would practice by my self. I didn’t need a
partner because I knew exactly how to turn, where the hands went. This
would be in the parks.
were some of clubs you were going to at that time?
there was Studio 54; they were doing a lot of Salsa. There was a place
called Barney Goo Goo’s.
one of the brothers from around the way named Kenny was often called
Barney Goo Goo!
and right across the street were places called EL Corso. I think those
places were some place around 86th street. They were Bands
that were just starting up but they were
great. You look at them now and
it’s like they turned into the Beatles or something, which is how good
they became. I had no idea I was watching and listening to history in
old were you hanging out in these clubs? You had to be very young
hanging out at this time!
but I always liked to hang out with older people.
I was and still am to this day the same way.
was able to fit in with an older crowd; I knew how to shut up. I knew
how to shut the hell up and listen and enjoy, and not say a word to
that was how you fitted in with the old timers.
would say “hey how are you doing” and be chill after that. When the
music started it was show time. And they liked the way you danced so
they definitely let you hang out. That was how people got to first know
me was through dancing. I also used to play the congas. I was like 17,
18. When I was in Puerto Rico they would have these teenage nights out.
You would pay three dollars and jam all night with the bands at
different clubs like the Aquario which was on old San Juan Street. This
was in the capital of Puerto Rico. When you go to Puerto Rico you first
go to San Juan then you go to all the other spots in P.R. But San Juan
is where the Airplanes land when you get there.
weren’t an emcee yet, you started late as an emcee?
made you cross over to the Black music to be an emcee?
of me living in Davidson projects I became head of the tenet patrol.
17 years old?
at seventeen years old! Mr. Davis ran it and he was the boss but I had
the keys and I was in charge when he wasn’t there.
so ya’ll have something like what we have over here. The children that
live in the neighborhood come inside the community room, which is on the
first floor, to do their home work, arts and crafts, watch t.v. and just
stay out of the streets and trouble?
the same time music would be played in there at different hours.
one day Elrod Hendricks of the Baltimore Orioles was coming by. It was
like a get together, a party and Mr. Davis was a friend of Elrod
Hendricks. So he was stopping by. I was taken back being as I was a big
baseball fan. At the time I didn’t know anything about a D.J. or big
time party, but I felt we could put a record player in there and charge
everybody a dollar.
I said I was a big baseball fan and when I was growing up we used to
play soft ball in Saint Mary’s park. One day on the way back from
playing baseball these guys were playing music and I was like check this
out. So I went in there. There was about 12 of us, but the guys didn’t
want to go in there. They were like oh man there is a lot of black guys
in there. I was like man we are just going over there to listen to some
music….don’t look at nobody!
both start to laugh.)
saw the crowd, I liked the music, but I never heard music like that
before. There was no emcee; it was just A.J. and Love Bug Star Ski, and
another cat name June Bug.
June Bug from the Fever, damn I didn’t know he was getting around like that!
Blow was out there also. This was around 1978, 79. I know it was around
this time because it was just before Thurman Munson of the New York
Yankees died. I was in like 4 different baseball leagues at the same
time. I used to run from one game to another.
position were you playing?
use to be a catcher in hard ball and softball. I then became a center
fielder but I didn’t like it.
would rather be a catcher squatting like that on the regular?
I was cool behind the plate because as a catcher you controlled the
Well you are right about that.
call the pitch and the game, you are the man. As a good a catcher I was,
I was just as good as a pitcher. I was like a superstar when it came to
One day coming from one of those baseball games that was when I met A.J. because of that music being played in the park that day. I got up close to the ropes and watched. Every time he would look I would smile like o.k. cool. Then he spoke, and when he spoke I said hey listen I live over here and we want to give a party in the community center, and we can charge maybe three dollars a piece, and you split the profit with us. I said we will book the place and you bring the equipment, and we will go 50/ 50.
you did this all in one day?
and he said cool. He left his number with me. The party didn’t happen
until two months later.
how were the brothers treating you in the parks those early days before
you got on?
I was growing up people would say watch out for the white guy! Watch out
for the Black guy! Watch out for all these other races. I had to watch
out for my own people.
hear you kid, my man Raymond Toomer told me one day, “the White Man?!
S--- No white man ever treated me as bad as some of our closest black
brothers have treated me.”
To be honest with you I could never say a black man has ever did
anything wrong to me.
I got you.
was always somebody else, because you figure a Puerto Rican will say I
am going to give you my confidence easier because you are my own race
and you speak Spanish, so we are like yeah and then you got me!
remember as a child growing up watching the television show Hollywood
Squares with my mother and the question was what race is the most loving
race? The survey said the Puerto Rican nationality showed the most love
toward each other than any other nationality.
to be honest with you the language is very romantic when you are trying
to get with a girl. I don’t care what you say in English but when you
say it in Spanish is just sounds so beautiful.
understand. What made you appreciate or gravitate to hip hop music?
music was something different! It was louder, and more people were
involved it seemed. One day I was given a flyer to go to 18 Park. The L-
Brothers and The Brothers Bass were going to be there.
never heard of the Brothers Bass.
can’t remember who they were at the moment. But they ran with the L-
Brothers and Flash at this time. I would just stand there and watch and
say to my self “wow look at them.” They used to also play over on
Union Avenue at this Park called 23 over there by Morris High School.
That was close to were I lived. Being as A.J. was taking a long time to
get at me to perform; I went over to Mean Gene and gave him the same
proposal. He agreed, and it was good. The next time they would have
their party I went and helped out. I asked can I help and they said sure. They
next time they seen me they asked if I would like to come to their
party, I said sure and they let me in free. This party was at the
Sparkle. To be honest Kevin and Rob were the first Emcee’s I ever
seen. They were pretty good, and I would go to all their little hooky
parties at place like Rock City that they would also call Duck City,
which was over there on 169th street and Prospect. Also there
was another spot which was a store on 169th street and Union
Avenue. Little Rodney Cee lived around the corner from it. Little Rodney
Cee’s brother and his partner Wayne kind of ran the place, so they
would play music in there. I used to hang out there too because it was a
block away from my house.
day the two of them were down south at their Aunt or Grand mother’s
house. Gene and Theodore had a party while Kev and Rob were down South.
Being as I was cool with Gene he let me go behind the ropes. I never
used to touch anything but I seen the mic and I said “hey let me get
that mic.” I sat down with my back to the crowd. I then started to say
their rhymes! Unless you were standing next to me you had no idea where
the rhymes were coming from.
both start laughing.)
and them were shock, they were like “check you out, you are pretty
what made you turn your back to say the rhymes?
was embarrassed! I didn’t want any one to know it was me on the mic, I
did it with out asking for permission. I just grabbed the mic while
Claudio was D.j.ing. I said Claudio is on the Go, and then I started
saying Rob and Kev’s rhymes, but I didn’t use their names. I became
friends with Kev and he was a youngster to me, at least at that time. He
was pretty smooth with his thing. He had all the girls. From there I
started to go to all of their parties. Then one day I bumped into Busy
Bee and he told me he was a rapper. I would see him on the Bus that he
rode to and from school, as I would be going to and from work. He would
have his loose leaf book, and on it, it would say Star Ski. I asked him
what that was that all about and he said that’s my name because I am a
rapper. I was like that sounds cool.
At that time I had dropped out of Monroe high school, started
working. I later went and got my G.E.D. from there I got a scholarship
to play baseball at the University Of Michigan State.
that’s good, what position did you go out for?
long did you stay there?
did the four and graduated.
did the 4 years?
that’s my man! Did you get drafted by any pro teams?
I was too short.
I remember you telling me that.
order for you to be a shortstop you have to be pretty tall. Those line
shots that are hit are needed for a 6’2 person to grab. I have to do a
tremendous play to catch that ball. At that time the shortest baseball
player at 5’9 was Freddie Patek!
of the Kansas City Royals and he had his man Frank White over at 2nd
base and George Brett at 3rd.
was your major in school?
good, did Busy Bee actually bring you into the L- Brothers?
Bee asked me one day to come with him to his L- Brother rehearsal. They
were all there. Claudio, Gene, Theodore and the emcee’s.
by this time you already knew these dudes right.
and no, I didn’t really know them like that! Not where I can just go
to your practice. I just knew them on the strength of them giving me a
flyer and the day of the party when I came through they wouldn’t
charge me. That was it. I got on the mic only once with Gene and them.
That was how I got on with the Jr. L- Brothers. This guy name Butchie
who was a wonderful guy, him and his brother Michael G. they were also
D.J.’s as well as body guards or security for the L- Brothers. So I
rocked with them for awhile and they would bring their equipment over to
this boxing gym on 166th and Tinton Avenue. How did we get
the name Jr. L- Brothers I have no idea. This other guy used to rock
with us his name was Sugar Bear and he was an emcee.
are y’all on any flyers as the Jr. L- Brothers?
we were. They were legitimate parties but on a lower scale.
does that mean?
the L- Brothers threw a party it would be at say the Sparkle and it
would be jammed packed. Opposed to us throwing our jams at places like
Davidson community center. When we would throw a block party we might
get a couple of hundred people. When the L- Brothers would throw one
they would get like 800 people.
it safe to say that Busy Bee vouched for you to be an L- Brother?
it was a coincidence that we were together. I went to the L- Brothers
practice but I first got down with Butchie Gee and them. I have to say
if it wasn’t for me seeing D.J. A.J. I would not have been a rapper at
all. With the L- Brothers that was Gene’s thing. Their manager at the
time was a Jamaican guy named Trevor, you hear it in the rhyme. “And
Trevor is our manager and were down with the L- Brothers crew!”
One day I was in front of Theodore’s house 168th
street and Boston Road. I was just hanging out on the stoop. If I
wasn’t playing baseball, that was the place to be. Mean Gene came up
to me and said “hey come over here, I want to talk to you.” He took
me down the hill to Webster Avenue. Kev and Rob were standing by the
stoop. They take me up the stairs to this weed spot that everybody used
to cop weed from. You would knock on the door and some one would look
through the peep hole and you would pass 5 or 3 dollars through. You
would wait a minute and a nickel or tray bag would come through. You had
to know these people to be able to get weed from them, and I was known
by hanging out with the L- Brothers. Plus I was becoming pretty popular
with the softball and the music. In my neck of the woods I was the man.
The first thing Kev said to me when we stepped inside was “you are
going to listen to what the F--- I tell you.” He let me know that he
was the man. Rob said we are going to put you down with a real crew.
were Kev’s exact words, “you are going to listen to what the F--- I
Dee laughs.) Yeah that was probably word for word what he said pretty
much in a nut shell. But that was said in a nice way, it wasn’t
sarcastic or threatening! If I thought it was disrespectful they would
have had to tag team me, because I was also one of those type of dudes
you can’t tell me nothing. I was 19 years old 187lb.s and I was one of
those dudes that was not having it, and I hit first.
I got up there they were sitting on top of the speakers. I was a little
scared because I was like this is the weed spot, and with all these
black dudes they are going to lynch me. It was hang a Puerto Rican day
today. I don’t know. I was like whoa! They were all there, Theodore,
Gene, Kev, Rob and Busy Bee. It wasn’t a try out, Kevin and Rob just
came out and said you are down.
were your feelings on that?
at the time I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was just proud to
be there! I did feel like now I can get some of my people in the party.
did your name come from?
think it was Kevin. Before that I was called D.J. Ruby- O, when I was
running with the Jr. L- Brothers.
you were called D.J. Ruby- O but you never D.J.ed?
I had a shirt with the name D.J. Ruby- O, but I knew nothing about
Busy Bee down with the L- Brothers the same time you were?
but not for long.
you became a member of the Crew how did you look at the other groups?
didn’t know any one else except Kool Herc, Clark Kent and the
Herculords. That was an awesome sight just to watch Kool Herc and his
Crew. In fact I remember going against them. We would say “Eliminators
Push”! That was our saying when ever we turned on our system to the
max. That was the name of our speaker’s brand name. I remember we had
one speaker it was so big that that would be the only one able to fit in
the van all by it self. It was that big, it was humongous. So we would
say Eliminators Push! And we would drown them out.
up I thought Herc was known for having the most powerful system?
you are right his system was awesome. He had lights and strobes and stop
lights man that s--- was awesome. I remember being on the stage on my
side with our equipment and looking at his equipment. He sounded good;
our systems were facing each other so I walked to their side of the gym
floor. We were facing each other. Then all of the sudden I hear Kev say
about Flash and the Furious 4?
the time I didn’t really know about them. I was not into that music. I
was only with these guys. What ever they did I did. I didn’t wander
off. The first time I saw those guys before Rahiem and Ness, was at the
Dixie Club. Flash and Mean Gene was arguing about something. Danny, aka
Kid Creole, and I used to go to school together at P.S. 60, he was in my
third grade class. Mrs. Glasseano was our teacher. He was in my 3-1
class. When he got into the conversation I said to my self “damn he
must be somebody because he spoke out of turn, and got right into their
conversation’. But he and I were friends as Danny and Ruben. I had not
seen him since elementary days. When I said what’s up to him after all
those years it took a minute before he recognized me, but he then said
“yes I remember you used to fight a lot!” As far as I know Creole is
older then Mel and their sister wrote poetry. I knew about her and her
poetry because we would have those types of talent shows in the
auditorium and she would do her thing and I would do the Spanish thing
to dancing. Creole also remembered my Grand Mother that was a nun.
was your grand mother a nun at the school or something?
she wasn’t a nun. She had a promise that she made, that she would wear
this nun outfit and carry rosary if her son would make it back alive
from Vietnam, and he did. She wore that for the rest of her life until
she wasn’t nun but she…
wasn’t a nun but very much in the church. She was the one that raised
me; it was never grandma but mommy! So I said to my self o.k. there is a
crew called Flash and the Furious 5 with Ray Chandler and the Black Door
production. As well as somebody named Tiny.
he was of the Casanova’s.
and they were thugs. But I had thorough brothers running with us, called
the Wilkins’s. We were a Spanish crew, and we were less in numbers. It
might have been total 12 of us. We didn’t mess with any one but no one
wanted to mess with us. It was like 3 brothers who owned the last name.
But there were others, guys like Armondo, Squeaker, Louie Lou and
others. I was Puerto Rican so you know I am going to run with them. I
wasn’t a thug; I always had my head on my shoulders properly. I was
down for what ever, but I wasn’t quick to wild out. We were off of
Webster Avenue. The Nine Crew was also close by also. My Wilkins crew
used to tease me from time to time saying you are always with those
Moreno’s, the black guys. That was like the L- Brothers, Fantastic
got you. Let me ask you something, were the Nine security tougher then
really can’t say yes or no. but I do know the Casanova’s had a whole
lot more, maybe a couple hundred more. But the Casanova’s never came
down Webster Avenue looking for beef with the Nine Boys. Back to Flash
and the Furious. When I seen them at the Dixie after that argument it
was unbelievable, it was a different kind of party.
up, when you got to the Dixie were you and Kev and the rest going to
perform with Flash and them, and were you were seeing them for the first
the Dixie is right down the block from Davidson projects, so that was
like part of the hang out!
let me ask you something, is the Dixie also the Black Door, just a name
change over the years?
short pause.) I don’t know if that was the Black Door, but I know that
most of the parties given there at that time, other then when we played
there was always called Black Door Productions party!
at the Dixie the parties were called the Black Door Production.
might have been the Dixie, but on the flyers it would always say Black
(I later called Busy Bee to try get more clarity on this. He said there
was a basement where Flash use to rock and the door leading to the space
where he played music was black. So people would say Flash is rocking
over there at the Black Door. It was like a basement space that a Super
of a building might live in as he took care of the building. In the book
Yes Yes Y’all, in Flash’s own words he said the Black Door was the
size of probably four bathrooms! The place was able to hold up to 100
people. Ray Chandler, Flash’s manager, owned the place. The place was
located in the South Bronx on Prospect Avenue at 809 Southern Boulevard.
On the advice of D.J. A.J., he suggested to Chandler to hire Phase 2 a
graffiti artist to make the flyers for up and coming parties. Phase 2
asked what are we going to call the production. That there became the
birth of Black Door Productions.)
used to see Danny and his brother along with this bowlegged guy! I used
to think he was real cool because Cowboy was originally a B- Boy. Rest
in Peace. But he used to be B- Boying and I used to say he is going to
break his legs. He was great at what he did but he was bowlegged and he
looked different, and I used to say check him out.
what do you remember that night being at a Flash party?
it was different from our parties! It was more hoodlums there to me. It
wasn’t really my type of crowd because it was very new once again.
Then I heard that M-e-l-e- M-e-l-!
both start laughing.)
the top of the World Trade to the depths of Hell! Creole was rocking on
that echo chamber it was really legendary just like you heard other
people talk about or wrote about. They were different I really liked
those guys the way they performed.
But I didn’t like the atmosphere. When I went to the door I
paid and I would walk through and it would be just a different
atmosphere! I would just say “ah s---.”
they bring trouble to you from time to time, try and stick you up? Did
they know who you were?
no…but they knew who I was through me being Ruben, not Ruby Dee!
you were just starting out when you seen Flash and them.
Bee told me that they used to stomp the Furious and everybody else when
they would go against people back then!
was before I came around I remember them battling three d.j.s back then
at the Sparkle. I remember them going against Able and Bear.
heard about them numerous times.
was a record called Disco Airlines. The break beat went “Dun dun dun
duna.” And Kevie Kev said when ever Able or Bears mother throws a fart
her panties go “Dun dun dun duna!”
bugged out kid. (We both start laughing.) So what was your relationship
with the different Furious 5 members? I asked this because it has been
said over the years that the Furious took a liking to ya’ll, and
looked at ya’ll like little brothers of theirs!
I am the oldest of the Fantastic 5, in fact only Cowboy I think is older
then me. But me and Guy AKA Rahiem were real cool. He and I were
friends. I remember when he broke up with the Funky 4 him coming down to
Duck City (a club during that time.) we were all on the mic along with
him. I don’t know if he was auditioning, he was just there. But he
never got down.
do you think he might have been auditioning?
don’t know, he was just there, and me and him were always friends. I
used to always say where is Guy at. He used to live over there on 167th
street somewhere. I remember I used to go over there and hang out with
him, and he used to always be singing. Cowboy was from over there by
Morris High school. Which was a little bit a way’s from Davidson
projects. So I knew him. Mel and I were, I want to say never friends. We
were cool but we were not buddies, we didn’t hang out.
about Mr. Ness aka Scorpio?
used to be a B- Boy, him and Cowboy used to hang out. They were pretty
cool. When they made that record Super Rapping we were real close with
them. I remember hanging out with them and they had these mini bikes. I
remember riding on the back of Cowboys bike going over to this Cheba
spot. Weed spot I should say. We called it Cheba back then.
used to say I got the Cheba you got the Boo (Bam Boo was used to roll up
marijuana.) everybody knows what I am about to do, so lets get straight
to the point, come and lets roll ourselves a joint. Cowboy used to have
this Disco voice, he made the crowd live. I can’t say lyrically he was
on Mel’s level, but he could party. He used to rock the party.
are exactly right. What was your relationship with the Cold Crush?
remember meeting Charlie Chase for the first time. They were over there
by 184th street by Jane Adams high school and the Bronx Zoo
area, and I was going to see them for the first time. That was also when
I first met Whipper Whip and Dota Rock who were also there. I became
friends with Charlie instantaneously, being as he was also Puerto Rican.
Also remember going over to the Grand Concourse to watch him practice.
Going over to his house is how I met Caz. Caz has always been a good
brother to me. K.G. was great; he was a good dude too. A.D. and I used
to always square off. He used to tell me “you too little!” I used to
tell him don’t let this Guppy bite you. I used to always tell him
both start laughing.)
know A.D. was taller then me!
was always just talk; it was never an all out argument. We were
Fantastic and we were good, and by that time I knew I was good. I know I
was not the best one in the group, I don’t think so. You might ask
some people and they might say yes because of my style, but I don’t
think so. But I bought a different element. I had input on everything.
But I had that different element of Spanish. I was the first. Maybe Whip
was out before I was.
what I wanted to ask you. Was it recognized that Whip was Spanish, or
did everyone think that he was a light skinned black man.
would be no to the Spanish, and yes to the light skin black man.
you know Whip was Spanish soon as you met him?
not until he got down with us. Then he spoke Spanish to me and when I
went to his house his mother called him Hymen, Jaime, or James in
Avenue is where you met the mother of your daughter Sheneka, correct?
is correct, I hung out over there and I met Terry who is the mother of
my oldest daughter.
Terry Black or Spanish?
is black. Terry Claiborne is her name. We are no longer together today,
but through our daughter we have a grandson who was born the same day as
me and my man Kevie Kev, January 22!
was it like living with your Spanish family and your culture growing up,
and now hanging out and living in a black culture?
mother never interfered in what ever we did. That is me and my brothers.
It was 7 of us. 6 brothers and one sister, I am in the middle. A sister
and two brothers older, and three brothers younger, also I am a twin. My
twin brother died when we were babies! His name was Renee.
to hear that. Were you the only one in your family that hung out with
my younger brother did also. We lived in the Bronx so it was nothing but
Black and Spanish people. So when in Rome be like the Romans.
how did your mother feel about your babies’ mother, was there a
what, but it was some what strange in away. I remember the first time I
bought her to my mothers house, my mother seen that she was pregnant and
looked at me and said is that your baby! That was it. I used to
disappear from my mother’s house for three, four days at a time, and
be at her house. I would party and practice with the fellas and stay at
her house. As long as I called my mother every day to let her know I was
at my girls house and I was cool my mother was cool with it.
did your girl’s family feel about you being Spanish?
loved it. I remember the first time I met my girl I was like man she is
beautiful. We were doing a party at the Ecstasy Garage. We were on stage
and I was emceeing on the mic. Whenever I rapped I would pick a person
in the crowd or a point and focus on that person or point through my
whole rhyme. To the person they might feel I was looking at them but I
was looking right through you!
this because you were still dealing with the shyness of the stage?
guess! Yeah maybe, but it got better. But that was how I met my
daughter’s mother at a party. But
I am going to tell you, the first time I really hit the hip hop world
and people really knew about me was at the P.A. L. on Webster Avenue in
me ask you this for a moment. During the early days ya’ll didn’t
really play with any one else, just ya’ll by your self?
right we didn’t need any one else. It’s just like when Flash and
them played, they didn’t need any one else that night.
isn’t that something, they were able to fill it up all by them selves!
knew about the fame and how big it was getting but this was really just
something I did as a hobby but it started to get good and I started to
make money. The first party I did at the P.A.L. I made $87! They gave me
87 one dollar bills. Whooooooa!
both start laughing.)
think at that time minimum wage was $2.75 to $3.35 an hour at that time.
What I made that night was what some cats was getting in a whole week.
I remember them giving me $87 in singles in the bathroom. I remember
thinking I know they screwing me over by giving me a whole pack of ones
so I don’t say anything, but that’s cool! (Ruby in a serious voice
then says) Maybe I am wrong, maybe that did not go down like that. I
just remember when we were in the bathroom when they paid me and I was
like “look at these marenos, these black guys giving me all these ones
to make it look like a big knot.” I thought about that. I am not going
to deny it. I said “look at these mother f------! It’s cool (Ruby
Dee is laughing now.) keep jerking me.” But I found out we were all
getting paid equally later on. In the beginning, and I am just using a
number, say if Kev and Rob got a hundred dollars for the show I would
get eighty dollars!
was just for a couple of shows but after awhile I was like “hey when
we were first doing parties it was all black crowds, but now you got all
these Puerto Rican people coming to see me, they are not coming to see
ya’ll or just ya’ll!” To shift gears for a minute, I remember
saying “Va Ya!” And Kev said “Puerto Rico!” they said “Ho”!
That’s how that was invented.
up, how was that invented?
remember at the P.A. L. saying “a Va Ya! Everybody!” This was to the
Spanish people. Everybody said “Va Ya,” and Kevin shouted “Puerto
Rico and the crowd said Ho”! (Ruby Dee is laughing as he says this in
amusement.) This was done before Busy told you about him and Master Rob.
does Va Ya mean?
means Cool! You did me a favor so you are cool! You made a good play in
baseball, Va Ya! That means you made a cool play. If you explain
something to me and I understood I will then say oh o.k. Va Ya! I
remember Kev saying Puerto Rico that night and it was done again later
on. But that night was the first time, me and Kev talk about that today.
In fact in the movie Wild Style I was the one that thought up we should
come down the back of the Amphitheater as an entrance, because we were
stuck on how we
were going to make a good entrance. Kev was
the one who said I should come down through the crowd first and
everybody in the crew followed.
was the deal with Whip and Dot?
when they came on the scene they actually had to try out. Kevin gave
them the try out. I don’t know if they were already going to be down
and Kev was just putting them through the motions. But he put them down.
have to switch lanes for a minute where did that rhyme come from
“I’m Ruby Dee and I am Puerto Rican you might think I am Black by
the way I’m speaking.” How
did you put that together?
one day we were on tour. Sugar Hill Gang asked us to do a tour with
them. The Funky 4 couldn’t go. They asked us to do a tour with them
and act like we are the Funky 4.
said No! We went on the strength of our show. We had a great show. Flash
and them rocked but we were the cool out kings. We were fresher then all
of them, and no one dressed like us, we were better dressers. So like I
said we were on tour with them and the Sequence Girls were also there
along with Spoonie Gee as well as the Furious 5. We met at Mrs.
Robinson’s house and took the tour bus from right there. We were on
tour for about a month. We went to Savannah Georgia, to play at the
Scope Center. We also played in Virginia and Washington D.C.
They hit us with the per diem money everyday for our food and
they also paid for the hotel and cabs. We didn’t get paid until we got
back. We only did three shows. We got about $1100 to split.
ya’ll had to spit $1100 amongst 6 of ya’ll?
I remember Theodore going in there and coming back with the money. But I
had money, I remember saving all of my per diem. But I remember him
coming out with the $1100 and we said “wow! My turn!” but it was
nobody else’s turn because that was it. We split it right there and
that was it. We felt we got jerked.
I remember them having 25,000 people at the Scope Center and it
was like $25 a ticket. I remember there being a discrepancy or
altercation with Big Bank Hank because he was running that part with
somebody else. And we were always the first group to come on.
ya’ll didn’t negotiate this contract before ya’ll left?
Kev was taking care of the business end of this?
was Theodore and Kev, more Theodore at the time. I think if it was Kevin
that would not have happened. Either we would not have gotten paid or it
would have been a whole lot more. But back to the lyrics, while on tour
me and Spoonie were already friends because him and my brother went to
the same high school. My younger brother told me about Spoonie when his
first record came out. While we were on the tour bus I said “Ruby Dee
is my name and I am Puerto Rican….and Spoonie Gee said you might think
you’re Black by the way you’re speaking.” I was like whoa! So I
says “Ruby Dee’s my name and I am a Puerto Rican you might think I
am Black by the way I am speaking, slick very handsome with a lot of
curls that’s the reason why I attract a lot of the sweet fly girls.”
He just gave like a verse then I like added the rest to it. You might
think I am Black by the way I am speaking came from Spoonie Gee. I was
rhyming on my bunk bed on the bus and he walked by and side “you might
think you’re Black by the way you’re speaking.”
just happened to be walking and dropped that jewel on you!
I just looked him and said o.k. by the end of the night I had a full
fledge rhyme. The next show it was on! We had a good time hanging out on
that tour. They would stay up late, I would go to sleep though. I
remember us being out there on the 4th of July and Mr. Ness
shooting off fire works, and the rockets going into some bushes and
starting a fire. They told me about it the next day because I went to
sleep before it happen. This was in between Georgia and Virginia some
about those fans and girls, how were they treating ya’ll?
man it was awesome. I never was in that top position where you want me
and I am giving my autograph to people. It was just over whelming. Girls
would be every where. Some would be pulling at my hair trying to pull a
lock out. I am going to be honest with you I remember one time being on
stage on that tour and I froze. I looked around and seeing all those
people and whoa! I forced my self to say “somebody say yeah!” and
then I went into the routine.
would be jam packed in Harlem World and T- Connection as well, why would
that be a big thing over there to you?
I don’t know exactly how many people filled up Harlem World but there
was damn sure more people at those place’s we played on the road. The
Scope Center circled you. As if you were at Madison Square Garden. When
we started we came out of this tube and smoke was coming out of it. So
when I came out of the tube the crowd went berserk and I was like once
again whoa! I had already seen what the place looked like empty,
earlier, because we had to go for sound check. But when I seen the place
with all these people it was bigger than life for me at that time.
do you remember Tito of the Fearless Four, because I asked him who made
up “I am Puerto Rican you might think I am black by the way I am
speaking” because I also had a tape of him saying those same lyrics.
He says he was first!
really don’t remember that guy.
you don’t know him at all.
think I do, even Whip had bought that to me, Dot and Busy’s attention.
But I don’t remember him. I remember Fearless Four but not him
those wild days of living did you have to spend time in Spofford or
Rikers Island back in the days?
I was a good boy. (Ruby Dee starts laughing.)
were a good boy!? After you were a wild boy you became a good boy!
was a good boy, but when I was a wild boy I don’t mean like doing
treacherous things, but wild being wild. Let’s go over there and order
a pizza and run with it. That’s about the worst thing I ever did.
(Ruby Dee starts laughing again.) That was about the worst thing I ever
about all the fights you said you had hand to hand?
but that was just part of growing up living in the Bronx! That was a
part of nature.
so what was it like once you and the Fantastic got strong walking the
streets of the Bronx?
knew us. If they saw us together they knew something was up. People
would come to us. When we were on the streets 80 percent of the time we
were giving out flyers. Plus we played a lot of basketball together
because Kevin was real good. Dot had game as well. But I was always into
the softball, and me and Busy Bee played a lot of baseball together.
Theodore hung out with me a lot. Theodore’s brother Lawrence had a big
dog name Zesus, and me and Theodore use to walk him from time to time!
didn’t know they had another brother other then Claudio!
got one more but I can’t remember his name at the moment.
ya’ll use to give out flyers, all six of ya’ll at the same time?
did but most of the time it would be say me, Theodore and Whip or Rob at
say Jane Adams high school. “Ya’ll three go hit Roosevelt high
there we would hit the car, because Dota Rock had a car.
Dot told me that, he said he was Chef or Cook.
had a Cordoba. We would get in that car and hit all the schools like
Evander, Aviation and other schools.
say Kev and Rob were in school would you sneak into their school and
hang out with them and do routines in the hall ways and cafeteria with
them? I ask you that because the Fearless Four used to do it in King
High school and Moe and Special K would do it in Norman Thomas high
because Rob and Kev went to Morris High school, and I just so happened
to live right around Morris High school, and you couldn’t just go into
that school unless you went there! I am sure people have tried and got
away with it, but I never tried it. Well a few times I did try and I got
caught, and that was it for me!
you remember any other Spanish emcees or D.J.s back then?
Chase, Disco Wiz….
Wiz was Caz D.J. right?
he was Puerto Rican. I really don’t remember any one else. Whip was
probably out before me, but I got the credit of being the first Puerto
Rican. When I got on stage you knew I was Puerto Rican! I talked Spanish
on the mic.
you ever have Spanish rhymes?
we had one routine when we battled the Funky 4 at the Audubon Ballroom.
We all had our own rhyme to say when it was your turn. When it was my
turn I said in Spanish Ruby Dee the romantic and Kev said hold up and
one by one Dot, Whip and Rob said hold up! Hold Up, Hold Up, Hold Up!
Ruby Dee, Ruby Dee, Ruby Dee Ruby Dee this is not Puerto Rico this is
America. Boom then I bust into Fantastic Romantic Five, and the whole
crew would then come in.
don’t remember hearing about Fantastic battling Funky 4! How did that
that was the first time I seen Sha- Rock and I thought she was awesome
as an emcee. I still feel that there isn’t a woman out there that can
touch her, at least back in those days. But it was one of those emcee
contests, and we won. Rahiem wasn’t with them by this time.
is going to get a little personal and get us fans a little bit inside of
the family of the Fantastic Five. Tell me about your relationship with
but I am going to tell you I don’t know how everybody got along with
each other, but I got along well with each member well.
lets start with Whipper Whip!
Whip used to live over on 184th street and I think Grand
Avenue or the Grand Concourse. There was like a rated X theater over
there. I can’t remember the name of the theater but there was also a
hat store over there. I would always go over to the hat store and when I
ever I went there I would call Whip up and say I am over here and we
would meet and hang out and smoke a spliff or something. With Dot I used
to go to his house. I used to be a security guard with a dog over there
where he lived at. Over at the those projects on 183rd and
said you had a dog!
it was a guard dog. I used to be in the lobby and have a dog.
and across the street from where I was working was a place called
“Your Spot.” The P.A.L. was also over there. So Dot lived over there
and I used to go over to his house. His mother was a beautiful person,
real cool. He had a tall brother with glasses and a sister. When you
went in Dot’s room he had a room full of flyers. Every party we ever
did Dot took and covered his wall with flyers.
I seen that picture in the Yes Yes Ya’ll book.
and he would have flyers on every inch of his room; you would not see
any piece of a wall. If you picked up a flyer there was another flyer
that is a lot of flyers!
used to go to his house to practice. We only went to his house, Kevin or
Kevie Rockwell when he got down.
the crew never went to Theodore’s house?
at first we did when we were L- Brothers, but not when we became
Fantastic. Once we became Fantastic we became more serious and we put
more thought into routines. We didn’t want Gene and Claudio to see
what we were doing, in fact we didn’t want any one seeing us
this day I still don’t understand how the crew left Gene when he put
every thing together!
didn’t need three D.J.s, only one! It was too much money to be split.
Also being as it was his equipment he had to get more. When we did the
split and took Theodore with us we didn’t have any equipment for
awhile. I don’t remember taking records any where unless it was some
where special. Gene was still my friend but when it came to Fantastic
business it was only about Fantastic.
why would ya’ll cut Gene off but put Kev Rockwell down?
Kev Rockwell was a friend of Master Rob. He used to just hang out. One
day he said he had his own house and we could come over to practice
because he also had his own equipment. We would go over there to
practice and the next thing I knew he was down. We all kind of agreed to
mutually put him down. Not for nothing Gene was a hell of a fighter. He
didn’t care who he put his dukes up to. Tall cats might have had a
little bit of heart to go against him but dudes his height had no chance
when he put his knuckles on them. He was good at that, and I think he
was older than me. Which meant he was older than all of us. I know this
is going away from the subject but have to bring up that. I also
remember making that knuckle head record Fresh out the Pack.
of you guys like that record. I am surprised.
no, I really had a problem with the music that was used.
who put it together?
studio was some where on 125th street. I think it was called
Johnny Souls record shop. I remember Bobby Robinson’s Enjoy records
was a couple blocks over to the west side. The studio was in back of the
store. When I got there, they had a band with a drummer, key board
player and somebody else. I don’t recall practicing for it. But we did
have new rhymes for it. When the session started homeboy was rocking
those drums, but when that keyboard came in it turned us all off. His
sound that came out reminded me of Ring my Bell by Anita Ward. The sound
was bull s---. (Ruby Dee starts laughing.)
did not dislike the song, but I didn’t think it was your best work.
are right. We went in there and 20 minutes later we came out and it was
to Rob and Kev!
were my boys (Ruby Dee starts laughing!) what can I tell you! What I do
remember was Buster. Buster was their dog. When you went to their house
watch out, because that dog was trained to get busy. If you went into
the living room stay in the living room. He wouldn’t come in the
living room if you was in the there, but don’t step out unannounced
because he would be in the hallway watching you like Cujo or Damien’s
dog. The craziest thing in the world was you couldn’t say cat!
up you couldn’t say cat around a dog.
that dog would go crazy. He would run to every window looking for a cat.
After awhile we were able to move a little but more easier but you still
had to have Kev or Rob with you if you wanted to go to the kitchen or
another room. Still years after going I still would not try him. One
time he tried to bite me. I just got finished talking to Rob and I went
to go pet Buster and he growled and snapped at me. Rob was like damn he
almost got you.
your relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Strong was good? (Kev and Rob’s
Mrs. Barbara was very good to me and she was always there. Mr. Strong
was always at work or in the room. I met him and we were cool and
everything. But Mrs. Strong was always around. Mr. Strong was about his
business and every one knew who they were. I remember Kev had a rhyme
that he would say along with a Michael Jackson song. At first I thought
it was just a rhyme and I thought it was cool the way he ended it with
the words and my name is Kevin Strong. But I then found out that was his
real last name. It still was hot how he did it. I used to hang out with
Kev and Rob a lot. Theodore used to hang to. But out of all of them
Theodore was the only one to stay the night at my house. My father wasa
preacher, so whenever they would give those bus trips to this place
called Holy Oak Mountain Park in Massachusetts. Like Hershey Park and
others I used to always take Theodore with me. I probably was closer to
Theodore than any one else in the group. Then it was Kevin and Rob.
did a lot of things together as a unit but Christmas and New Years I
would be with my family. Especially New Years, my mother said you can
party all you want but before the New Year comes in have your self here
in this house. Then instantly once the ball dropped I was out the house
getting back to the party with my crew. The whole Fantastic Five would
hang out and go to the movies down in Times Square. I remember going to
the Art Theater over on Southern Boulevard up in the Bronx, they later
changed it to a triple X Movie Theater and then there was the one over
on the Grand Concourse. We never had to pay because we always knew
somebody. So we might go through a back door or side door. It was always
just us. No homeboy, girl or brother, Just the Fantastic Five! A lot of
people came and went that was cool with us, but Kevie Rockwell was the
only one that really stayed on with us. He was a real cool brother and
he could dress. Plus he was a nice looking dude. So he fit our look or
what we were portraying. But I am going to tell you when we did parties
I didn’t do too much of that Disco Fever with them, because I was more
into saving my money then hanging out and getting high. I am not going
to say I was an angel but come Sunday morning I was on the baseball
field with a pocket full of money.
was the beef between you and the Cold Crush?
be honest with you that was really Kevin and them. No matter what I was
down with Fantastic but that would be them beefing all the time. I
wasn’t really into the arguing with you on the street. But let me tell
you before that battle with Cold Crush we practiced long and hard. We
changed a lot of the rhymes on routines. That “Dota Rock are you ready
to win the G” was originally “Dota Rock are you ready to turn it
I didn’t think about that.
came up with that. The night of the battle we met at Kev and Rob’s
house. We got to the party in a Touch of Class car service. It was just
like the O.J. cab service but because the Furious Five used that we
chose Touch of Class! I believe the code was triple 9 when you call them
up. I knew we were going to win. Of course I am biased because I am with
Fantastic but we were ready. That was the first time the whole show was
totally planned. Before that we pretty much freestyled everything, even
though we had routines.
you remember anything Kev might have said out of respect to the Cold
yeah, F--- THEM N------!
both start laughing.)
THEM N------, Kevin ain’t respect nobody! And so that was our attitude
as well. I might say hi to you and Kev would be like what the hell you
saying something to him for. I would be like o.k. (Ruby Dee is
is off the hook. Let me tell you something I did a story with Kev and he
said some things that I couldn’t write. When I started talking about
the Moe versus Busy Bee story he said some stuff that I never heard any
one dare to say before, and I couldn’t write it.
I read that story you and your man JayQuan did with Moe. Let me tell you
Moe was prepared with his rhymes when he went at Busy.
you aren’t the only one that has said that, almost the whole Bronx has
said he didn’t do it off the top of his head.
go back to the battle with Cold Crush. When we got to Harlem World it
was packed inside and crowded with people on line out side. I told my
man Charlie Rock of the Harlem World Crew to let my brother and my
homeboy in. I snatched them off the line and they came in with me.
Nothing personal but I didn’t like Charlie Rocks man Son of Sam’s
understand you coming from the Bronx and all those killings David
Berkowitz AKA Son of Sam was committing up there.
thing is Berkowitz was our mail man. I used to see him all the time. He
used to work at the 163rd street post office.
now the Cold Crush came on first and when I seen them I was like oh s---
say that because the suits and the toy machine guns!
they did the same thing Double Trouble did. That s--- was wack! To me
they looked silly but they also looked good because they were uniformed.
don’t understand how
they could look good and silly.
was those dam hats and fake shot guns or machine guns were silly. We had
tuxedoes on and they had on Woolworths .
up you trying to say they had the cheap suits on?
what it looked like to me. But when they did that opening routine “We
don’t need no tuxedoes, because all we want to do is dog Kev, Dot,
Master Rob, Whip and Ruby Dee like we always do!” That s--- was fly.
(Ruby Dee starts laughing.) I was with my group so I didn’t really
show my emotions like I was digging it but inside I was like that s---
was dope. I always thought they were good.
really enjoyed the Cold Crush?
yeah, I had all the confidence in the world we were going to eat them
up, but I liked their show always. Caz was the man over there. If you
heard 10 minutes of rhyming, 8 minutes came from Caz. Their down fall in
the battle was they only did a few new things; everything else was just
a regular show for them. I didn’t understand it because they were
battling us and they were the ones that called us out. I knew we were
going to tear their ass up. In fact we didn’t stay watching them to
the end. Kevin said something like let’s get away from these wack
asses before it becomes contagious, or they f--- us up! They looked
pretty good but they didn’t look strong enough to beat us. If they
would have kept it going with the “We don’t need know Tuxedoes”
stuff then maybe they would have had us.
do remember hearing them say for the first time “we don’t say
Fantastic no more” when they did a rhyme about all the groups and then
later Caz did a rhyme about Kev and Rob and their different flavor
British Walkers. (Caz later told me he didn’t finish the rhyme because
felt tight that night.)
and they just didn’t have enough to beat us. We had to go back to the
dressing room because we had to change out of our clothes into our
tuxes. We had that down to a science getting in and out of those
tuxedoes. While we were changing and waiting we were going over our
show. We were asking each other “what are you going say when this
happens or that!” My input was the entrance had to be a crowd stealer.
We made up “my mic sound right check one!” I said from the moment we
step on the stage everything we do has to be apart of the show.
So when we came out every person he pointed to he threw sparkles
at, and that person would freeze. When he got to Whip he threw the
sparkles and Whip did the split. When Kev went to him and touched Whip,
Whip got up like a robot. Whip was like a black belt in karate, so he
was real loose. Whip was a skinny dude but you did not want to mess with
him! He used to walk the streets by him self all the time and I used to
tell him you better be careful out there. He would throw that kick way
over my head and I would say I’ll shoot the s--- out of you. We always
joked like that. Now Kev had it in his mind if we won we had to rub it
in. We were all thinking of ways to rub it in and I suggested we throw
napkins or handkerchiefs at them at the end if we won. Kev said yeah
this is what we are going to do. His mother got us some handkerchiefs
and Kev said we are going to throw this at them a long with a token.
a napkin and a token!
so they can take the train back. We didn’t go that far. We just gave
them the napkins. But we were going to throw the token because they
didn’t have any money so how were they going to get home? When the
judge pointed to Cold Crush the crowd went wild but when they pointed at
us the crowd went so wild it sounded like it was coming out of the
speakers. We knew we won. Oops napkin time. We kind of tossed the
napkins at them, but the look on their face was of devastation. More or
less because of the loss, not the napkins. Even though I am sure that
pissed them off.
Dee I want to thank you for your time.
problem Troy thank you.
want to thank Ruby Dee for getting in contact with me so we could do
to all of you.
God and God bless you.
© 2007 Troy L. Smith / JayQuan Dot Com