Ruby Dee of The Jr. L- Brothers, L- Brothers, Fantastic Five and Fantastic Freaks.

Fall of 2006

By Troy L. Smith

 

All right my brother thank you for your time. First question always, where were you born and raised?

 

I 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.

 

(Troy starts laughing.) Ah man, what the Grant Projects?

 

I don’t know what they were called but it was right there by the train station, 3170 Broadway.

 

That’s the Grant Houses!

 

The apartment I lived at was 21H!

 

Like 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.

 

When you looked out side of my window you could see Palisades Amusement park.

 

Exactly, 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.

 

I 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.

 

Oh yeah?

 

Yes 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.

 

Why did they kick you out?

 

Being 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……

 

….you was a little bully?

 

No, no! At that time I could con you out of all your clothes and its two degrees out side, and raining!

 

I got you.

 

I 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.

 

So you knew Busy before he was an emcee?

 

Yes 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.

 

What was the music you were listening to before you got into Hip Hop music?

 

I 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.

 

What were some of clubs you were going to at that time?

 

Well there was Studio 54; they were doing a lot of Salsa. There was a place called Barney Goo Goo’s.

 

Damn, one of the brothers from around the way named Kenny was often called Barney Goo Goo!

 

Yeah, 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 the making.

 

How old were you hanging out in these clubs? You had to be very young hanging out at this time!

 

Yes but I always liked to hang out with older people.

 

Right I was and still am to this day the same way.

 

I 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 anybody.

 

Right, that was how you fitted in with the old timers.

 

I 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.

 

You weren’t an emcee yet, you started late as an emcee?

 

Right!

 

What made you cross over to the Black music to be an emcee?

 

Because of me living in Davidson projects I became head of the tenet patrol.

 

At 17 years old?

 

Yes, 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.

 

O.K. 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?

 

Exactly!

 

At the same time music would be played in there at different hours.

 

Right, 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.

Like 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!

 

(We both start to laugh.)

 

I 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!

 

Kurtis 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.

 

What position were you playing?

 

I use to be a catcher in hard ball and softball. I then became a center fielder but I didn’t like it.

 

You would rather be a catcher squatting like that on the regular?

 

Yes I was cool behind the plate because as a catcher you controlled the game.

 

Well you are right about that.

 

You 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 that baseball.

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.

 

So you did this all in one day?

 

Yeah and he said cool. He left his number with me. The party didn’t happen until two months later.

 

So how were the brothers treating you in the parks those early days before you got on?

 

When 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.

 

I 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.”

 

See. To be honest with you I could never say a black man has ever did anything wrong to me.

 

Right, I got you.

 

It 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!

 

I 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.

 

Well 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.   

  

I understand. What made you appreciate or gravitate to hip hop music?

 

The 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.

 

I never heard of the Brothers Bass.

 

I 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. From hanging out I learned a lot of Kevin and Rob’s rhymes which weren’t that many at that time.

 

Right.

 

One 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.

 

(We both start laughing.)

 

Gene and them were shock, they were like “check you out, you are pretty good!”

 

So what made you turn your back to say the rhymes?

 

I 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.

 

Damn that’s good, what position did you go out for?

 

Shortstop!

 

How long did you stay there?

 

I did the four and graduated.

 

You did the 4 years?

 

Yeah.

 

Yes, that’s my man! Did you get drafted by any pro teams?

 

No, I was too short.

 

Right I remember you telling me that.

 

In 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!

 

Right of the Kansas City Royals and he had his man Frank White over at 2nd base and George Brett at 3rd.

 

Right.

 

What was your major in school?

 

Business Administration.

 

Sounds good, did Busy Bee actually bring you into the L- Brothers?

 

Busy 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.

 

But by this time you already knew these dudes right.

 

Yes 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.

 

So are y’all on any flyers as the Jr. L- Brothers?

 

Yes we were. They were legitimate parties but on a lower scale.

 

What does that mean?

 

When 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.

 

Is it safe to say that Busy Bee vouched for you to be an L- Brother?

 

No, 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.

 

Those were Kev’s exact words, “you are going to listen to what the F--- I tell you.”

 

(Ruby 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.

When 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.

 

What were your feelings on that?

 

Well 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.

 

Where did your name come from?

 

I think it was Kevin. Before that I was called D.J. Ruby- O, when I was running with the Jr. L- Brothers.

 

So you were called D.J. Ruby- O but you never D.J.ed?

 

Right, I had a shirt with the name D.J. Ruby- O, but I knew nothing about D.J.ing.

 

Was Busy Bee down with the L- Brothers the same time you were?

 

Yes, but not for long. 

 

Once you became a member of the Crew how did you look at the other groups?

 

I 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.

 

Hold up I thought Herc was known for having the most powerful system?

 

No 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 Eliminators Push.

 

What about Flash and the Furious 4?

 

At 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.

 

So was your grand mother a nun at the school or something?

 

No 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 died.

 

So she wasn’t nun but she…

 

…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.

 

Right he was of the Casanova’s.

 

Right 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 Five entourage.

 

I got you. Let me ask you something, were the Nine security tougher then the Casanova’s?

 

I 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.

 

Hold 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 time?

 

No the Dixie is right down the block from Davidson projects, so that was like part of the hang out!

 

So let me ask you something, is the Dixie also the Black Door, just a name change over the years?

 

….(a 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!

 

So at the Dixie the parties were called the Black Door Production.

 

It might have been the Dixie, but on the flyers it would always say Black Door Productions.

 

o.k. (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.) 

 

I 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.

 

So what do you remember that night being at a Flash party?

 

Well 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-!

 

(We both start laughing.)

 

From 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---.”

 

Would they bring trouble to you from time to time, try and stick you up? Did they know who you were?

 

No, no…but they knew who I was through me being Ruben, not Ruby Dee!

 

So you were just starting out when you seen Flash and them.

 

Right.

 

 

Busy Bee told me that they used to stomp the Furious and everybody else when they would go against people back then!

 

This 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.

 

I heard about them numerous times.

 

There 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!”

 

You 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!

 

Well 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.

 

So do you think he might have been auditioning?

 

I 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.

 

What about Mr. Ness aka Scorpio?

 

Eddie 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.

 

That’s right.

 

Cowboy 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.

 

You are exactly right. What was your relationship with the Cold Crush?

 

I 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 that.

 

(We both start laughing.)

 

You know A.D. was taller then me!

 

Right.

 

It 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.

 

That’s 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.

 

That would be no to the Spanish, and yes to the light skin black man.

 

Did you know Whip was Spanish soon as you met him?

 

No, 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 Spanish.

 

Webster Avenue is where you met the mother of your daughter Sheneka, correct?

 

That is correct, I hung out over there and I met Terry who is the mother of my oldest daughter.

 

Is Terry Black or Spanish?

 

She 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! 

 

What was it like living with your Spanish family and your culture growing up, and now hanging out and living in a black culture?

 

My 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.

 

Sorry to hear that. Were you the only one in your family that hung out with black people?

 

No, 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.

 

So how did your mother feel about your babies’ mother, was there a connection?

 

Some 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.

 

How did your girl’s family feel about you being Spanish?

 

They 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!

 

Was this because you were still dealing with the shyness of the stage?

 

I 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 the Bronx.

 

Let 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?

 

That’s 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.

 

Damn isn’t that something, they were able to fill it up all by them selves!

 

I 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!

 

(We both start laughing.)

 

I 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.

 

That’s right.

 

So 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!

 

Say word!

 

That 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.

 

Hold up, how was that invented?

 

I 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.

 

 

What does Va Ya mean?

 

It 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. 

 

What was the deal with Whip and Dot?

 

Well 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.

 

I 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?

 

O.k. 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.

 

What!

 

We 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.

 

Damn, ya’ll had to spit $1100 amongst 6 of ya’ll?

 

Yeah 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.

 

So ya’ll didn’t negotiate this contract before ya’ll left?

 

I guess not.

 

And Kev was taking care of the business end of this?

 

It 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.”

 

He just happened to be walking and dropped that jewel on you!

 

Exactly, 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 where.

 

What about those fans and girls, how were they treating ya’ll?

 

Oh 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.

 

It would be jam packed in Harlem World and T- Connection as well, why would that be a big thing over there to you?

 

Well 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.

 

Now 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!

 

I really don’t remember that guy.

 

So you don’t know him at all.

 

I 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 personally.

 

During those wild days of living did you have to spend time in Spofford or Rikers Island back in the days?

 

No, I was a good boy. (Ruby Dee starts laughing.)

 

You were a good boy!? After you were a wild boy you became a good boy!

 

I 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 did.

 

What about all the fights you said you had hand to hand?

 

Yeah but that was just part of growing up living in the Bronx! That was a part of nature.

 

Alright so what was it like once you and the Fantastic got strong walking the streets of the Bronx?

 

Everybody 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!

 

I didn’t know they had another brother other then Claudio!

 

They got one more but I can’t remember his name at the moment.

 

 So ya’ll use to give out flyers, all six of ya’ll at the same time?

 

We 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 school.”

 

Right.

 

From there we would hit the car, because Dota Rock had a car.

 

Yeah Dot told me that, he said he was Chef or Cook.

 

He had a Cordoba. We would get in that car and hit all the schools like Evander, Aviation and other schools.

 

While 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 school.

 

No, 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!

 

Do you remember any other Spanish emcees or D.J.s back then?

 

Charlie Chase, Disco Wiz….

 

Disco Wiz was Caz D.J. right?

 

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.

 

Did you ever have Spanish rhymes?

 

Yeah 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.

 

I don’t remember hearing about Fantastic battling Funky 4! How did that come about?

 

Well 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.

 

This 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 each member.

 

o.k. 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.

 

O.k. lets start with Whipper Whip!

 

Well 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 Webster avenue

 

You said you had a dog!

 

Yeah it was a guard dog. I used to be in the lobby and have a dog.

 

What!

 

Yeah 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.

 

Yeah I seen that picture in the Yes Yes Ya’ll book.

 

Right 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 under it.

 

Damn that is a lot of flyers!

 

We used to go to his house to practice. We only went to his house, Kevin or Kevie Rockwell when he got down.

 

Why the crew never went to Theodore’s house?

 

Well 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 practicing!

 

To this day I still don’t understand how the crew left Gene when he put every thing together!

 

We 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.

 

Alright why would ya’ll cut Gene off but put Kev Rockwell down?

 

Kevie 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.

 

None of you guys like that record. I am surprised.

 

Hell no, I really had a problem with the music that was used.

 

Well who put it together?  

 

The 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.)

 

I did not dislike the song, but I didn’t think it was your best work.

 

You are right. We went in there and 20 minutes later we came out and it was recorded.

 

Back to Rob and Kev!

 

Those 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!

 

Hold up you couldn’t say cat around a dog.

 

Man 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.

 

So your relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Strong was good? (Kev and Rob’s mother.)

 

Yes 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.

We 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.

 

What was the beef between you and the Cold Crush?

 

To 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 out.”

 

Right, I didn’t think about that.

 

Dot 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.

 

Do you remember anything Kev might have said out of respect to the Cold Crush?

 

Oh yeah, F--- THEM N------!

 

(We both start laughing.)

 

F--- 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 laughing.)

 

Kev 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.

 

Man 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.

 

Well 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.

 

Let’s 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 name.

 

I understand you coming from the Bronx and all those killings David Berkowitz AKA Son of Sam was committing up there.

 

Crazy 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.

 

Real small world!

 

So now the Cold Crush came on first and when I seen them I was like oh s--- Dick Tracy.

 

You say that because the suits and the toy machine guns!

 

Exactly, 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.

 

I don’t understand how they could look good and silly.

 

It was those dam hats and fake shot guns or machine guns were silly. We had tuxedoes on and they had on Woolworths .

 

Hold up you trying to say they had the cheap suits on?

 

That’s 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.

 

You really enjoyed the Cold Crush?

 

Oh 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.

 

I 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.)

 

Right 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.

 

Damn a napkin and a token!

 

Yeah 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.

 

Ruby Dee I want to thank you for your time.

 

No problem Troy thank you.

 

I want to thank Ruby Dee for getting in contact with me so we could do this story.

Peace to all of you.

Praise God and God bless you.

My two sons’ Shemar and Troy Jr.

© 2007 Troy L. Smith / JayQuan Dot Com

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