Rahiem Shabazz: Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself
By Guest Writer Rahiem Shabazz
I wanted to pen a thoughtful piece on my journey during the earlier days of hip-hop up until now. It wasn't until I started writing that I realize my roots run deep and I can trace it back not only from the early days of hip-hop but to it's founding father or as I often hear him referred to as "The GodFather of Hip-Hop", Afrika Bambatta himself.
My first experience with hip-hop was back in the late 70's when I was living in the ghetto enclaves of the Bronx. My legal guardian at the time owned a Record Store on East Tremont. He brought home King Tim the 3rd record by a group called "The Fatback", when vinyl albums and 45 was still in use. CD's were not heard of nor thought of. I remember it to this day; it had a green and white label.
My fascination with this new found sound called hip-hop began on that day with that one single record. Eventually, I moved to the West Farm section of the Bronx where hip-hop music played daily. Being too young to attend the nightly park jams I was relegated to being a listener and spectator from my windowpane. It was during these listening sessions that I started recording them on Cassette tape.
One day while playing with a group of friends 5 strange looking guys exited the elevator. One of them was my friend Andre's brother. And he was carrying a big boom box on his shoulder. They began to slap us all five and inspired us to rap for them. After we said our little nursery rhymes, they played their latest studio recording for our listening enjoyment. We were amazed. The 5 strange looking individuals were Rahiem, Melle Mel, Cowboy, Mr. Ness, Kid Creole and Grand Master Flash. The Original Furious Five MC'S.
It wasn't until the next day when I let Andre hold my cassette recorder that I learned they were the Furious Five MC's. From that day on I was a fan and I got all the newly released singles and album courtesy of Rahiem. He would fondly joke with me that I stole his name. I boldly tell him "that's my name I was born with it and your name is Guy Williams". He would laugh and say "keep that between us".
After several years, I moved to Theriot Avenue and attended P.S. 100 and I.S. 131 respectively. I lived directly across the street from P.S.100. This is where I first heard the sounds of "The Mighty Zulu Nation. My brother Shams became a member of the Tragic Force MC's and the youngest member to ever perform at the Zulu Nation. He was well known in the Bronx River, which lead him to becoming friends with Afrika Bambatta. Being that my brother was so young Bam had to get special permission from my parents so Shams could travel and perform. I remember the first day Bam, appeared at my door, it was on Thanksgiving. He left such a good impression on my parents he was invited over every year and it became a tradition for several years to follow.
I was really into the rapping aspect of hip-hop and wasn't too much concerned with the DJ until I went to a local DJ competition that my brother Jazzy Joe was a participant in. Days leading up to the battle he broke his arm. It was a wide spread rumor it was intentional so he could forfeit the battle. To everyone's surprise he showed up and won 1st place. He took everybody by surprise because he had a cast on but his skills and techniques did not falter but only got better as he took the spotlight.
Having one brother as the youngest MC to perform at the Zulu Nation Anniversary and another brother outdoing the DJ'ing competition in my neighborhood. I was looked upon as one who would follow in their path. So I begged my brother Shams to travel with him to his shows. I remember going with him to the Latin Quarter's and witnessing KRS-1, Rakim and X-Clan perform on stage. One day, my brother had to sneak me in "The World". I was upstairs in VIP with Melle Mel and Run DMC. I accompanied him to a few Zulu Nation Anniversaries and watched him perform on stage with Cold Crush, Jazzy Five MC's and Soul Sonic Force.
During the Reagan-Bush era, I became affiliated with the 5% Nation of Gods And Earths. It was at this time the Black Nationalist Movement was on the rise ushering in the wave for conscious rap. Black people felt disenfranchised and were looking for change. I rapped about knowledge of self along the lines of Rakim, Brand Nubian, and KRS-1. It was during this time that I was introduced to Ol' Dirty Bastard by a mutual friend named Lord Sincere Allah. Being that we were all members of the 5% we hung out daily.
At this time I was part owner of a health food store across the street from Lincoln project in Harlem. There was never a day you could walk in there and I wasn't free styling or writing rhymes. Ol' Dirty would come by and kick it with me. During this time he was working on the "Protect Your Neck Single". I had a large Ad on Amino Acid pills that read, "First things first, protect your health". That one liner is the opening to the now classic "Protect your Neck" single.
"First things first man you fucking with the worse" then he went on to incorporate some of the 5% teachings into his rhyme about the doctors sticking pins in the babies heads. Since we would build on today's mathematics while drinking beer and smoking blunts all day it was only natural that our lyrics reflected our state of mind.
Back then all the members of the 5% who were affiliated with the industry stuck together and tried to put one another on. So a brother by the name of Lamel invited me to his show on WHCR 93.1 FM (City College Station) as a guest. He gave me the last 5 minutes to free-style and I went off the radar wit it. Calls were still coming in while exiting the studio. As we rode downtown I listen on the radio as people kept calling asking for more. It was then that I became a frequent guest that would free-style with the likes of The Four Winds; Percy-P; Black Moon, and Common. Lamel was instrumental in me appearing on Bobbito and Stretch Armstrong Show over at City College. It was there that I won an on the air free-style contest. I later appeared live on the show and free-styled with Cypress Hill when they made their first appearance in New York City.
I remember vividly the day I met Lord Fitness, we both appeared on a Public Access Channel show called "The Ron Alexander Show". I was there promoting my brother Shams independently released record and he was promoting his record on Wild Pitch. After the filming of the show we engaged in a conversation outside that lead to us free-styling. I remember him telling me he was going to sign a deal worth $125,000 with Giant/Warner Brother and that he was now managed by Ice-T under Rhyme Syndicate Management.
From that day forward I started taking rap more seriously and pursued it as a career. I was being managed by a sistah name Cindy Russell from Hartford, Connecticut during that time. While being signed to her management company I produced a 3-Song demo and was offered a deal with Wild Pitch Records. The deal was garbage and I was well advised by management, industry affiliates and several lawyers not to sign.
I continued to rhyme as I seen several of my childhood friends and associates reach stardom. The first was Greg Nice from "Nice and Smooth" who were signed to Sleeping Bag Records and then eventually Def Jam. We were classmates at C.S. 145 on Teller Avenue in the Bronx. Our affiliation started from being graffiti artists. I used the tag name PERA ONE and he was known as NINE. My friend Buck Wild whom I known from my graffiti days as well went on to produce songs for Gang Star, Lord Fitness, Biggie and Fat Joe. Shell Rumble made his debut by guest appearing on Lord Fitness' album. My brother Shams became a producer and produced Tim-Dog's album that was released by Roughhouse/Columbia.
Ol'Dirty signed a solo deal with Elektra and recorded several albums with Wu-Tang, before signing a deal with Roc-A-Fella Records. Unfortunately, ODB died last year in November, which brought shock to the entire hip-hop community. I remember going to a show with him and he got booed only to turn around before departing to tell the crowd "fuck it I still love yall anyway". . . He loved them then and he loves them now. Which is the reason Common stood boldly on stage and rapped "Why we had to lose ODB to the Lord, he was supposed to be on stage rockin' the Vibe Awards".
I then became introduced to Keith Murray while he was incarcerated. Throughout, his 3 years of trials and tribulation I became a close comrade having severed 6 years myself, I knew the on going struggle first hand. I began to educate him in the teachings of the 5%. He became known as King Magnetic. Keith Murray is home from prison and is now signed to Def Jam and his career is taking off as expected.
During the Clinton era things got a little bit better for Black folks and we began to floss. Also, keep in mind the drug era was at its highest level. Street corner hustlers to the middleman were making money. My lyrics changed to what is now coined "Bling-Bling" and the champagne lifestyle. By now I was living the life and well connected in the streets dealing drugs. I eventually, relocated my drug operation to Binghamton, New York. As expected, I got incarcerated and sentenced to a 4 to 8-year bid. Knowing, that my time to reach stardom in the rap came had expired once I was released I started writing about hip-hop culture.
Since writing, I traveled the world extensively and was welcomed into the inner sanctuary of the industry where I emerged myself into the world of journalism, where I covered a who's who in the entertainment industry. Lately, I have been busying myself with screenwriting. I just finished my first movie "The Sun Will Rise", a novel titled "Love On Lay-Away" and book on my life, where I reintroduces the readers to the early days of hip-hop and my early childhood leading up to becoming one of the industry's most sought after journalists. So this is my introduction into hip-hop culture.
Check out Rahiem Shabazzs Websitehttp://www.geocities.com/rahiemshabazz
Make Music for the Solution--By Any Means Necessary!!
Guest Editorial by Maj Toure
"By any means necessary!" This is the now-legendary quote embedded in every revolutionary's conscious and or subconscious mind from the mouth of our great freedom fighter, now-ancestor, Malcolm X. Politicians, civilians, Uncle Toms, leaders, followers, and any person within earshot of Brother Malcolm's electrifying speeches have uttered this phrase. Malcolm's words verbalized African liberation, empowerment, political upheaval, and the destruction of the oppression of African people both in America and abroad. But has everyone understood and taken heed to these most valuable words? Is everyone using whatever tools they have at their disposal to bring the necessary change?
The hip-hop community (which is a multi-billion-dollar global business) has the opportunity to take advantage of their said Constitutional right to freedom of speech. But lately these "freedoms" seem to exist primarily for the blatant disrespect of African women and the overvaluation of a devaluating U.S. dollar. This disturbing behavior has been detrimental not only to the local African community, but has tainted the outlook of many youths in various parts of the world. Through the manipulative mass media, they have painted a picture with this music and its videos to say, "This is the [African- ] American way, and all blacks in America behave this way because it is in their best interest."
But it must be said that hip-hop was not created with such negative undertones. It began in the most oppressed sectors of the African community where our conditions created an urgent need for militant self-expression. Some hip-hop historians say it originated in the Bronx, N.Y., however the first recorded hip-hop song was actually produced by a Philadelphia group called the Fat Back Band when hired DJ King Tim III first flipped lyrics on the B side of "You're My Candy Sweet" in 1979.
Even though this early group merely grazed over African life in the seventies and eighties, more well-known songs such as Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" did begin to hint at the pains and frustrations that a hip hop outlet opened up for expression. Dancing, singing, and poetic verse can not only display hardships, but also the different options for shaking off social and financial burdens.
The easiest ways to spread these new options is to look to our ancestors for guidance. For it was Africans who coded messages through dance in order to perfect our forms of self-defense. Martial arts, which were prohibited by the slave masters, were shifted into seemingly non-threatening dance configurations to be passed off as exercise. This form of exercise evolved into the graceful self-defense technique known today as capoeira.
Another example of positively embedded messages were the songs and the use of artwork that helped to transport runaway Africans during the years of the Underground Railroad. Quilts often indicated safe houses with symbolic designs in the windows hung in plain view. In code the designs told the runaways where to go. Also on these trips, unknown to slave-owning whites, Africans would sing "Wade in the Water" out loud to hiding runaways. This meant sit in the water for a while to rest because it would wash away their scent and cause the bloodhounds not to follow them.
Even under the harsh conditions of enslavement, our ancestors used expression and communication as revolutionary tools to resist white domination. It would serve the nation and the world better if we took a lesson from our elders and took the opportunity to utilize the potential of music as our own medium for change.
Aticle about Maj Toure in the Philadelphia Weekly:Prophet and Loss
Review - C.L. Smooth: AMERICAN ME
Review by Guest Writer Rahiem Shabazz
Long before it was prevalent for todayís posturing rappers, who fabricate stories of lavish living with boastful dreams of killing innocent citizens and rivalries, there existed a dynamic duo dubbed ďMecca & The Soul BrotherĒ. Hailing from a small suburbia area [Mount Vernon] located on the outskirts of the place that gave birth to hip-hop [Bronx], the dynamic duo known as C.L. Smooth and Pete Rock left a lasting imprint on the culture of hip-hop. Churning out hits that were critically acclaimed for their uniqueness and cleverness, a marriage was made in hip-hop that does not exist today. Pete Rockís production acumen was highly praised along side of his partner in rhyme [C.L. Smooth] who possessed a distinctive flow matched with a perfect delivery.
Classical songs such as They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)
, a tribute song packed with emotions that havenít been duplicated up to this day, showed the conscientious of the lyrical rhyme slayer C.L. Smooth. After successfully releasing three albums the soul-tight brothers departed ways leaving die-hard fans in a frenzy for the signature horn loops of Pete and the verbal play of the Smooth one. While Pete Rock went on to become a much in demand producer, industry insiders and fans alike wonder the fate of C.L. Smooth.
Fast forward to a decade later, C.L. is ready to give back what the game is missing by releasing his first EP in a decade as a solo artist with out the "Boy Wonder" Pete Rock, titled AMERICAN ME
on Shaman Work Recordings. Initially released as a mixtape heater, Multi Bar of Fury
is a 'woofer blower' single that will permeate through the air waves into the homes of C.L. Smooth loyalists while leaving jeeps rattling from his hometown of Mount Vernon to the far reaches of California. I Canít Help It
keeps C.L. Smooth on a winning streak, bringing back old fans while garnering the attention of those who are novice to one of hip-hopís legend. The song finds the Mount Vernon native spitting it like heís getting it, "Iím with the hood study/ good and right up in the cutty/ Sit real pretty/ but the shit can get ugly/ with no love for me you people think Iím made out of money/ The illest niggas are under my thumb like puddy/"
. Production on this standout track is courtesy of in-house producer Mike Loe.When Itís Warm Outside
is an irresistible radio friendly song produced by Arsonist (Heat Makers) that everyoneísí favorite drunken uncle will be blasting at the family barbeque. The Smooth one sets the tempo letting todayís pro tool rappers know that heís not far removed from the scene. In fact he is back to claim his position, rightfully so with the one line shot warner, "Simple wife-beater bounciní off the tennis sneaker/ CL is that trend setter born leader/"
No rapper has taken a 10 year sabbatical only to return better than ever in an industry that shuns ole' heads and pioneers, but C.L. Smooth may be the exception to this unwritten rule. AMERICAN ME
is sure to be a classic album delivered with lyrical merits, tight production and substantial story lines.
Official site: Shaman Work Recordings