Download here: http://www.mediafire.com/view/cleumv9now7fdx0/lr_epk3.pdf
Now my next interview features one of the illest writers I know! East 3! East 3 resides on the beautiful island of Hawaii, and has definitely left his mark in hip hop culture globally. Not only is he a true inspiration to me as a hip hop head, but also as a person. East has been passionate about hip hop culture for nearly 30 years. You might be familiar with his work with Thud Rumble or even his legendary flyer designs for the Rock Steady anniversaries… (just to name a few). In this interview, East breaks down why you shouldn’t use the word “graffiti”, the importance of being a culturalist, the importance of being a student, honoring your ancestors, etc. East is simply a man that stays true to carrying on tradition…
Lean Rock: You mentioned to me before that the first time you got the chance to visit the mecca of hip hop (NYC) was in 1994… How important was this trip to your life and career?
East: My trip to NYC in 1994 was a pivotal point in my life and career. That trip was the precise moment I began to feel the emotional attachment to the culture and started to live Hip Hop verses just doing Hip Hop. Being raised on Oahu, Hawaii (in the early 80’s) gave us very little exposure to the culture and we as a scene had to improvise and fill in the blanks. In NYC I had the privilege of being exposed to many ideals, historical viewpoints (from Bronx River Projects to Delancy ST) and experienced what I would consider the last years of the way Hip Hop once was. The Rock Steady Crew Anniversary (held at 98th & Amsterdam) was my primary reason for going to NYC and I helped celebrate their 17th Anniversary by creating the artwork for the anniversary which was used for the collectable t-shirts design and flyer ads. After the 1994 trip I went to NYC frequently and continued to build my knowledge and contribute to RSC Anniversaries. It was an honor because I got my blessings from Doze Green to be his successor at Rock Steady Park to carry on tradition. I could go on and on, lets just say I learned a lot and experienced so much! Learning is a constant and free flowing experience! Always a Student – Master Culture.
Lean Rock: You state that the legendary Phase2 (P2) is your mentor. It must be an honor for you to have someone like that mentoring you. Could you give us a little history behind your relationship with him?
East: Yes, Phase2 is a Big Brother to me. He has been my mentor since 88’ as well as one of my family. I consider him much more than my Art/Writing mentor, more like a life coach that has guided me through good times and adversity. He is the most humble & private person I know. P2 does not seek fame and his creativity and love for the arts comes from passion and desire & never driven by his ego (a rare breed). P2 has shared so many perspectives about the Writing Culture and Hip Hop and I am grateful and honored to know I am going to be able to contribute to his ‘Living Legacy’ thru his teachings.
Lean Rock: Can you breakdown why we shouldn’t call writing or aerosol art “graffiti” aka the ‘g’ word?
East: It’s a simple answer, its fact. If you ask any pioneer from the early 70’s like Coco 144, Riff 170 or Phase2 (to name a few) they will all tell you that the origin term for the art form is Writing and not ‘g’. It also make perfect sense because when you are painting letters you are literally ‘writing’ your name not ‘Gr@ff!t!’ your name. The ‘g’ word was labeled by the authorities in the late 70’s to give the art form a name that had best described a criminal act. Soon to follow the ‘g’ movement was the media, (wack) promoters and art galleries who adopted the language and heavily influenced the active Writing scene through publicity and opportunities such as art gallery shows, tours & movies/documentaries. In the documentary “Style Wars”, you will see the transitional & pivotal point of the younger generation of Writers (of the late 70’s early 80’s) labeling themselves as ‘G’ Writers and combining the 2 words together. Within the documentary, pay attention to how the galleries had influenced the artist’s perception and ideals towards the art form.
“We didn’t call ourselves Gr@ff!tt! Artists, society called us that” _Rammellzee.
Since the 80’s the internet, hash tags, key words for search engines and meta-tags has made the ‘g’ word the standard online for searching the art form and has continued the mislabeling of the arts. There is hope, people like Paulskeee (Mighty4) & Lean Rock who are campaigning to restore the true language of the art form within this era.
It boggles my mind when I think of how other Hip Hop cultural words such as Bboy & Emcee were so quickly corrected (without question) as the true cultural name verse the media influenced versions break dancers and Rappers. My question to the reader, who does this culture belong to? The media, opportunists and capitalist or the people who belong to it and love it?
Lean Rock: When did you know you wanted to be in this culture for the rest of your life?
East: I would have to say my biggest influence was picking up the book ‘HIP HOP’ by Steve Hagar in 1984 and seeing the culture as a whole. Especially 2 pages within that book where I first seen Phase2’s “Evolution of Style” where he show cased the numerous styles of progression and innovation that he contributed to Writing. That set it off for me. However, in reflection, Steve Hagar’s book does mislabel the arts within the culture but as stated earlier, living in Hawaii (in the 80’s) gave us very little options. I’m glad I made numerous journeys’ to the Hip Hop Mecca (NYC) and learned thru my fam Phase2.
Lean Rock: I don’t really know much about Hawaii’s hip hop history, but it would be nice to know more. Could you give us some insight on who were some of the pinnacle figures to lay things out over there?
East: Man, that’s gunna require a book not paragraphs lol, I’ll share a general timeline and save the specifics for a video interview some day. Hawaii Hip Hop started with Locking and Poppin in the late 70’s. In 1983 I started to see Writers throwing up tags and in early 1984 the Bboy scene started to emerge. In 86’ was when most of the scene started to die out and freestyle dancing was popular. There was a resurgence of dancing came back in 88 when the culture created music and dance moves that were considered social and everyone could participate in. Writing came back heavy in 90’ and the bboy scene resurfaced around 92’. Since then our scene has sustained its self and carries on from generation to generation. I do encourage the scene to go to NYC to learn, observe and witness the pioneers and the energy of the South Bronx before its too late so they can pass down the same knowledge I have acquired for future Hawaii generations. Every year that goes by more and more pioneers become our Ancestors (Rest in Peace).
Lean Rock: It seems as though writing has kind of died down in my city over the past 10 years. Have you seen any growth or decline in the Hawaiian writing scene over the past 10 years?
East: I think it safe to say that the Writing scene everywhere comes and goes in waves. I think this happens because every scene at some point of its peak is hit hard with a crackdown and task forces that divide and conquer the scene. In Hawaii the scene has slowed to almost a halt approximately every 5-7yrs. Here’s the break down, there are 2 kinds of goals/purposes in Writing, cats who want to get up and go all city (rocking tags, bubbles and quick pieces) and on the other side of the coin cats who want to put up quality work and elevate the art form. I believe ‘why’ we do what we do has changed from the original reason that cats started this movement, if Writing has been adopted into Hip Hop culture then it’s ideal to focus on the elevation of the art verses the replication should be considered by the artist and the Hip Hop scene as a whole. Phase2 always tells me “getting up, we been there done that…whats next, how far can you take rocking a fly piece”. Imagine this, Bboys (of today) with no development and refinement of style & dancing to the beat or only rocking back spins to shoulder rolls and no air flairs and one move power combos, Emcees still rocking cadences and rhyme patterns of the 80’s and Djs who only play the same songs from back in the day and do simple stabs and Herbie Hancock scratches….Every other part of culture has changed….something to think about.
Lean Rock: Could you give us some insight about the Polynesian and Eastern influences on your writing?
East: I believe if the art is to grow it has to retain some of its foundational elements and combine it with different perspectives and cultural approaches. My name ‘East3’ is all about that progression. I made the name to represent The Eastern (Asian) Hemisphere as a whole. I also have a branding in which use and Japanese/Chinese character and fuse it with a 3 as my logo. I do not just focus on my heritage, I love culture and I am a ‘Culturalist’. I have an interest in every culture around the globe and beyond. Currently I’m developing styles that go beyond the English 26 letter structure and using different languages, numerology and symbolism to create the new ish. For example, if you check out Arabic calligraphy (and how they fuse words into animals, characters and different shapes) you don’t have to understand it for you to instantaneously know it took skill and it’s amazing! Doap is doap…think outside the box and elevate the mind. So the next time you see a complex piece/burner admire it as a whole and don’t discredit it cause you cant read it. That’s how Hip Hop started and that’s how it will progress and evolve.
Lean Rock: If you weren’t into writing as much as you were, what other element would have you been a serious practitioner of? But if you were a bboy, mc, or dj at one time… could you give us some history?
East: Im glad you asked this question! I once was a Bboy & DJ as well as a writer. I was dancing back in the 80’s and practiced heavily with the RSC Hawaii chapter in the 90’s. In fact, I learned how to ‘Rock’ and I taught the steps and count to Hawaii RSC in 96’. Through the years of dancing and playing basketball I torn both meniscus in my knees and had to retire. My Dj career was short lived but during the years of 96-02 I had collected over 1000 records and spun at several clubs around the island chain as well as trained under Dj Qbert while he resided in Hawaii. I did this because I loved the culture as a whole. My Dj ambitions slowed down when I realized that my hours of dedication towards my art was being split by my passion to mix, scratch and juggle beats so I went back to concentrating on what I loved the most. Venturing so deeply into Dancing and Dj’n allowed me to feel the soul of the elements which now transfers through my artwork. Not many Writers walk that path.
Lean Rock: You have recently got involved with the Mighty 4 Arts Foundation. How important are programs like these for the future of hip-hop and why?
East: Hip Hop has to be sustainable in order for it to be in a non-compromising
position. Mighty4 is a great vehicle to carry on the spirit and legacy of the
culture by becoming a self sustaining entity and not relying on corporate influences/direction or concerned with profit margins and especially commercializing the event to relate to the masses. Mighty 4 will keep the integrity of the culture and pass it down to the next generation to replicate and sustain themselves doing what the love verse what they have to do to earn a living. Its all about the youth.
Lean Rock: It seems like Thud Rumble keeps you busy with work. How is it working with them?
East: I been designing for Qbert and Thud Rumble since the early 2000’s and every Project presents a new challenge in which I embrace. No project is ever the same and the team at Thud Rumble and Qbert give me total creative control which allows me to create some of my best work. I like working with Qbert on project because he is my mentor as well and we are both taking a spiritual journey that translates in the records, music and art. Peep the Super Seal 4D art in the gallery of this interview.
Lean Rock: Evolve in style, but honor your ancestors. How important do you think this statement is?
East: Evolving is a state of mind. Its usually coincides with all parts of your life because it’s a process and a journey that never ends. As Bruce Lee would say “its formless like water”, evolving is constant and fluid. You gotta have an open mind to expand it. For most, ones Hip Hop career will first be inspired by striving to be the best and your motivation drives from ones ego. After 2-3 decades you start to realize that your reason for continuing becomes passion based for your artistry & opens up more avenues for evolvement. I am at a place now where I am no longer the creator of my art work and I give all praise and appreciation to my Ancestors for allowing me to channel this gift through me verses taking credit for the art on a physical or mental level. I was enlightened and humbled by a special friend and Shaman Liv Wheeler(www.ancestorbridge.com) about connecting to my Ancestors and how the art that channels through me can heal and bring light. Liv is very special and unlike any Shaman I have encountered. As I have been blessed to be guided by Phase2, Liv is also blessed being guided by an extremely special West African Shaman named Malidoma Some. Our storys have similarities because Liv has also visited her mentor in West Africa and paid her homage to her spirit guide in Africa numerous times.
Lean Rock: It seems as though many of the younger heads including myself need to work on getting a nice handstyle. How do you feel about the lost art of “handstyle” in hip hop?
East: This is the short version of the history (as told to me) of the Handstyle and how it extends to other element/practitioners within Hip Hop outside of the Writers. Writing was the first element that surfaced within the culture. Many Bboys/Bgirls, Dj’s, Emcee’s were Writers first before they got into the other elements that surfaced after Writing. That’s why many of the pioneers emphasize having a nice handstyle. It makes perfect sense to develop a nice handstyle because it’s the visual identity of your character. I believe it authenticates the passion one has for the culture 360 degrees.
Lean Rock: Could you talk about some of your up & coming projects?
East: I am currently working on a limited special release from Qbert and Thud Rumble. This album is called Super Seal 5 and will be ground breaking for all Dj and collectors. I am also getting ready to do some traveling projects with Mighty4 In 2013. I have several West coast fashion brands I will be collaborating with as well as launching 2 clothing brands. There’s a lot more so check me out on www.east-3.com for updates.
Lean Rock: Any last shout outs or any last words you want to say to the people?
East: Stay positive and humble. Always a Student and never a master….
Be sure to follow up with East 3 on these sites:
Facebook: East San
Fatlace.com blog contributor
themasterculture.com blog contributor
With years of hard work, and plenty of dues paid, Roxrite has accomplished an endeavor most bboys have only dreamed about: becoming a Red Bull BC One Champion. Rox has been in the game for over 15 years, and in that time has become one of the few to remain consistent. Nonetheless he is one of the most respected in the game. Rox is known as the general and the scientist amongst the homies, and his track record proves it. When it comes to bboy competitions, there may not be anyone more accomplished and as strategic as him. Rox truly carries on tradition, as he’s also part of the legendary Renegade Rockers. Even though he is one of the most accomplished bboys in history, he remains as one of the most humble I know.
Lean: I remember the first time I met you in person; it was at Freestyle Session 8 on the Queen Mary. Renegades were killing it! I truly appreciated the style you guys had. All of you guys were hitting some crazy ass freezes and transitions. I hadn’t fully developed my style yet, but my style was very similar to yours and D-Rock’s style. As years passed by, I got the opportunity to travel to different continents and build with you more. I have been in the game for a long time, but I always learn something new around you. I totally embrace the friendship amongst you and the rest of the Squadron fam.
Lean: How was it growing up in the scene in the Bay Area? How were the jams when you first started attending them?
Rox: Well I actually grew up outside the city, a little over an hour north of the city. I’m going to start off there, when I first started coming up this was the only place I could battle which was only at parties and dances. I was too young to go to the city for events. I can say it was a secluded scene with influence obviously from the city and crews like Style Elements and Renegades. Overall though coming up in the North Bay was dope, you had a very competitive environment. No one really knew each other too well so it kept that spirit alive. I also remember that practices were very private. Each crew had their own space so crews didn’t practice at the same spots because you didn’t want them to know what you had. You wanted to come out and surprise them. Once learning some history of the bay and the crews that came out of there I felt like we had big shoes to fill and a heavy torch to carry… Side Walk Breakers, Renegades, Style Elements, and Rock Force. It just always preserved a place for creativity in the art of bboyin. BBoys had to be well rounded to hold themselves up in the scene there. You had to have some original concepts to stand out all while keeping it within bboyin. It was dope coming up in the bay. No place like it.
Lean: Your first crew was Sub-4, could you give us a brief history behind Sub-4?
Rox: Yea SUB-4 is the first crew I got down with. My first mentor Ground Level started it in 93. Ground Level was put on by Sha 1, who taught him a lot of things about bboying. He got involved with the Zulu Nation that same year so he had that Hip Hop mentality of preserving the culture. It stood for Straight Up BBoys 4 Elements of Hip Hop. It had a lot of clout where I was growing up. That was the crew that had the illest cats. They had that street cred. I got down with them through battling in 96. I battled one of their top guys and took him out. Then I battled the whole crew basically by myself they smoked me. That’s how we ended up linking up. From there the crew grew even more. At one point we had up to 16 members, not only bboys we also had DJ’s, writers/artists, and MCs. We were all pretty young except for Ground, he was little older so he kept us focused. We started making noise in Cali in 98 going to events outside our area and battling. Up until about 2000 when people’s priorities changed.
Lean: How did you become part of the Renegades? What does it mean to you to be a part of the legendary Renegades legacy?
Rox: I got down with Renegades through Politix and Wicket. They had seen me at events in the bay. At Bboy summit 2000, Politix saw me battle 2 guys by myself and after that he approached me about getting down. I had said no at first because I was just focusing on my crew Sub 4. For a few months I didn’t see him by mid-year my crew wasn’t as active as I wanted to be. Paul and I stayed in touch and eventually I linked up with them and started reppin’ the crew. To me it’s an honor to be a part of such legendary crew. I mean they’ve been around since the 80s and back then they had some hard hitters. Then you have the 90s generation with Jazzy J, Wicket, Sway, Manny Styles. I mean the list goes on. To be apart of that is major and on top of it to rep for a crew that’s from the same area I grew up at. Even doper!
Lean: I heard you were training with Ken Swift, could you explain how that was and what that meant to you?
Rox: Actually I never really got the full opportunity to train with Swift. Ever since I met him in 99 he was always very open to giving me pointers. I always took his pointers to heart and applied them to my dancing. I would hit him up through email for advice and he was always kind enough to get back to me and drop gems. Honestly it was just an honor to even have him get me tips. Such an inspiration.
Lean: When you decided to make bboyin your fulltime job, did you have a bunch of gigs lined up or was it something you just decided to do at a certain moment? Did your family support your decision?
Rox: Well actually I had a job until 2008. Before that I could of actually stopped working a job but I liked having a job and dancing. My job was easy so it was fun doing both. In 2008 I decided to finally give my full time to bboyin since it was something I felt I had always got held back on a bit, with school in my teens and then with work into my 20s. So in 2008 I decided to go full time on bboyin. I moved to Richmond and started off there. My family supported after they saw me traveling and making some money from it. Which was before I quit my job. When I decided to go fulltime at that point they had an idea on what I was doing so they weren’t as concerned as when I was younger.
Lean: Could you give some insight to the younger bboys about consistency?
Rox: Consistency is very important in bboyin. I think every legend in the game has remained pretty consistent in their approach, teaching and philosophies. This will always keep you true to who you are. It will show how well you keep up with your craft, in anything in life, even outside of bboyin. Throughout your career being consistent will help your longevity.
Lean: What do you love most about your traveling experiences?
Rox: I love traveling the world, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and learning about their way of living. It’s like being educated about the world but hands on lessons.
Lean: Do you try to make it an effort to be a tourist when you go to different countries or is it strictly business?
Rox: I actually like being a tourist, haha I like taking pics and all that shit. You gotta enjoy it create memories that will last a lifetime. You will learn a lot of things from being a tourist.
Lean: Everyone talks about how Youtube has been the gift and curse of bboyin, but I remember it was a similar thing when peeps had their hands on VHS tapes. The scene is just bigger these days and more universal. Would you agree or no?
Rox: In one sense yea but in another no, the scene is bigger which is a whole new thing and it’s a good thing though. The thing that I feel was better with VHS is that not everyone got the same tapes. Some yea, some made it everywhere some didn’t. Some remained a mystery or a story that you could only imagine of seeing. With Youtube everything is there, I mean everything so in that sense I feel like it looses some aura to the stories that some of us grew up on. In a way it keeps that element of surprise in our culture dull. It’s almost like it’s taken for granted. Back then when you were handed a tape it wasn’t to copy people’s moves, it was for you to learn something about a style to understand what was dope and what wasn’t. That’s why cats had to develop some kind of style or move they can call their own. That’s a reason why I feel each region had their own style, because the knowledge was local not a universal internet that packages a bboy to be able to look dope. Before you had to understand the game to be dope. I can see how it does carry some similarities though for sure.
Lean: How far away are you from your 100 competition wins?
Rox: Right now I am 23 away! Gotta step it up! hahaha
Lean: I think for most of us it’s nearly impossible to retire from dancing, but do you think you will ever retire from competing?
Rox: Yea I don’t think I’ll ever stop bboyin, but I will retire from competition for sure just don’t know when.
Lean: I’m not sure how true it is, but I have heard you tell people not to take your workshop multiple times? If this is true, could you break down why?
Rox: Haha naw! I have told people not to if they feel it’s the same one they took the last time or if they feel they already developed some of the stuff I taught. I actually have 3 different types of workshops I teach for different levels of bboyin. Depends how developed people are in my class.
Lean: I feel like most of the times when I have won battles or competitions, I was just having fun. Do you think this is the best approach for battling? What is your approach?
Rox: Yea, you definitely still have to enjoy what you are doing so having fun is a good thing when battling. For me it is fun but I still take it serious not to the point where I’m gonna be an asshole but to where I’m having fun going at it with people. It sometimes feels like an aggressive experience though.
Lean: Not many know but your favorite music to break to is Latin Funk. Could you explain why and the significance of it with your ethnical background?
Rox: Yea it is actually and the reason is because of the music I grew up hearing my parents play. We’re Mexican so they bumped all kinds of Latin music… Cumbia, Salsa, you name it. I like the beats and instruments they use. It’s a thing of relation. That’s what I can relate to the most because of my background and how I grew up. Attending parties and hearing music there made me want to dance. So when I hear them at jams it’s dope to me. It connects with me.
Lean: What was the first thing that went through your mind when you won the BC One?
Rox: I was like, I did it, I finally did it! It was a feeling of excitement; it just felt incredible I felt like I won the super bowl. Haha I mean being a kid and always being into sports and watching football, basketball, baseball and all that… it felt like this was that stage for what we do. So it was something amazing.
Lean: Now that you won Red Bull BC One, do you plan on defending the title?
Rox: That’s something I have to think about haha I would love to, but we’ll see how I’m feeling in the next year!
Lean: Any last shout outs?
Rox: Shout out to my girl, my family, my boy Sauce, Kid David, Renegades, Biggest & Baddest, my SUB 4 homies, Red Bull BC One Allstars, and everyone else that are down with me! And thanks to you Lean for doing this interview and always being a real cat! Thanks man!
Lean: One love my brotha!
Be sure to check out Roxrite on these sites:
Red Bull Bc One Page: http://www.redbullbcone.com/roxrite
Staying On Track with DJ Kon!
Kon of the legendary duo Kon & Amir has some of the heaviest crates in the game. The Kon & Amir’s series of mixes entitled “On Track”, are undoubtedly iconic in the crate-digging world. The “On Track” mixes are known for having countless unknown original Hip-Hop samples, and obscure gems from overseas. There were a few others that had made mixes like this, but Kon & Amir’s “On Track” series seems to be the most prominent of all. If you’re a music lover, I highly suggest listening or even copping them. These mixes educate your mind and your ears. The “Off Track” series Kon & Amir released is not so far off either. Kon & Amir have also released a compilation entitled “Kings of Diggin’”, alongside the legendary DJ Muro of Japan on BBE a few years back. You could say the work on the compilation nearly proves that. Beyond collecting vinyl, Kon is one of the most passionate people about music that I know of. He is definitely a local hero to my hometown of Boston. I mean he has been part of Boston’s Hip-Hop community for nearly 30 years, and has preserved the development of it as a true culturist. Most people know him as just a DJ, but he has history as a writer, music producer, and bboy.
Lean: People usually say quality over quantity, but your collection is quality with quantity. I’m not going to ask you how many records you have, because that’s just lame. I seen it and I know you have some serious gems in there. The minute you step in your crib you got to make sure you’re not stepping on anything valuable. You have blessed people on nearly every continent with your passion for music. This is what life is about… it really doesn’t get much better than that! Educating the minds and ears of many. I’m sure you know I have told people about the story about when I first came to your crib, and how that was basically the breaking point for me to get more into beat digging. Whatever break my dad and I asked you about, you had or you had some obscure cover of the break that we never heard before. That was the first time I had heard or seen the Niagara “S/T” LP, De Wolfe Library “Hard Hitter” LP, United 8 “Getting Uptown (To Get Down)” 45, That Unknown “Pistol” 45 (which I just recently discovered on this “Jazz Moves with Ron Daniels”LP), and Cindy Rodriguez “What You Need Is My Love” 12’. This had to be about 8 years ago, but I can pretty much remember like it was yesterday. That being said, I wanted to share and ask some questions about your history….
Lean: In your earliest memory what was the first record you fell in love with?
Kon: The first song that I remember would be Jefferson Airplane’s “Miracles”. A song with such a haunting melody, this is going back to when I was around 3 or 4, which most will think is bs that I can remember that far back but… it’s really the truth. The first physical records I fell in love with, one of them would be Electric Light Orchestras LP titled “El Dorado”. The cover has a close up of Dorothy’s shiny red shoes and the wicked witches green hands, from the Wizard of Oz. The music on that LP is incredible, climatic strings, and full of amazing songwriting. To digest and absorb music with such depth is the best thing for a 4 year old…. get ‘em going young, I know this is part of the reason why later in life I searched further than what was just on the radio.
Lean: I know you mentioned before that your mother (R.I.P) was heavily into the music, but was your mother (R.I.P) heavily into collecting vinyl?
Kon: My mother put me up on to so much music. When Chic first came out in 77′ we went to the record store and bought it. I vividly remember that LP being played beginning to end on full volume. “Dance, Dance, Dance” (yowsah yowsah yowsah) would get me so amped. Also, when the B-52’s first LP came out… that blew my mind, I hadn’t heard anything like “Rock Lobster” or “Planet Claire” yet. The Pretenders & the Talking Heads were my favorites as well. My mother was about 25 at the time, she stood about 5ft’ and drove a brown 1972 Lincoln Continental (a pimps ride!) with the 8 tracks playing. Those were some of the best times of my life!
Lean: You have pretty much been through the thick and thin of Hip-Hop culture. We all know Hip-Hop culture started in NYC, but from your own personal experiences when did you see it surface in Boston?
Kon: I’d say around 79’ with roller-skating, back then I was always going to NYC as a kid, because I have family there. But it really was booming in the early 80s here. I’d see your father’s crew, the Floor Lords down at the Aquarium and various other spots… I would see Tron, and Cisco doing windmills with leg weights on. Anybody from Boston who was into bboying or Hip-Hop culture at that time looked up to them, and wanted to be down. They were hometown legends. Thinking back to these times… what awesome memories… things were pure, and we didn’t know what was to become of any of this, we just knew we loved it.
Lean: You started writing before you got into djing. What was the correlation of that? Was it Hip-Hop that got you into djing or was it just your love for music? Who were the guys that you were running around with back in the days?
Kon: Both my parents could draw, so I was always into that. Going to NYC started all that for me. Riding the subway blew my mind. I was bit by the bug. My love for music got me into djing, I was always playing records but just not in the context of two turntables and a mixer, which came later. When I saw Wildstyle… the scene where Grand Master Flash was in the kitchen… it all clicked! I said to myself, so this is what you’re supposed to do with all these records. The writers I was running with were Chronic who was in TAA (The Allied Artists) they were an all Latino crew, and to me by far had the most prolific styles aside from Click and Maze at the time. Also Tale, Sick, sometimes Mass, Jayroc, Start, Net, Gun, Bones, Chip, man… the list is long and this was 85’,86’… Boston’s golden years!
Lean: Not many know…. but you were a bboy at one time, how did that come about?
Kon: Yeah, I was so into it… I guess for me, it grew out of roller-skating. Again, I would see crews like the Floor Lords and a few others getting down, for me there was a real magic in the air. I wish I could still bboy today, now I just sit back and watch yall do it…always puts a smile on my face.
Lean: Was there any DJs from Boston back in the 80’s that were collecting breaks that may have inspired you?
Kon: Well, there was DJ Jesse McGee ( I may have spelled it wrong ) he was incredible! Jesse was this white dude from Cambridge who just dominated. He was on the radio and I would learn from listening to his mixes… at the time, he was doing innovative things… mixing & cutting up David Bowie’s “Young Americans” with Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid in Full”. He was then murdered after some guys tried robbing him on the subway. I was shocked, and saddened. DJ T-Clark was also killing it, DJ M&M, Ninja B, and DJ Shame were really into breaks and vinyl. There were a few DJs from Boston that were really dope that never got the shine outside of home.
Lean: What intrigued you into exploring music that people weren’t up on yet? When did you notice the whole beat digging thing become an underground phenomenon in Hip-Hop culture? (Private/indie label releases, international releases, obscure promo releases, etc.)
Kon: My passion for music itself did that. Pops was a drummer, and I started drumming around 4. All the variations and rhythms within music had me hooked. I would listen to a Rolling Stones record and wonder why the snare sounds different then it does on say on a Led Zeppelin or Stevie Wonder record. So that right there… is what making records is all about. Studio production techniques, which at the time I didn’t really know too much about yet. It was about 86’, when I noticed rap music changing with samples. I heard Ultramagnetic MCs “Ego Tripping”, and was like WTF! What, who and how did they get these drums to sound like this. Later we all found out it was Melvin Bliss “Synthetic Substitution”. Then in the late 80s and early 90s it all just blew up. There have always been record collectors, but this new breed of diggers grew around that time.
Lean: If I’m right you met Amir at Biscuithead Records nearly 15 years ago, but when did you guys actually decide to partner up?
Kon: Yup, we just discovered we had similar friends, and loved music…. It was in 1996 when we decided to just make a tape kind of like DJ Shame did… for ourselves really.
Lean: What was the inspiration behind the whole “On Track” mix series you guys put out?
Kon: Well, rap music at the time, was all sample based. We knew a lot of the sources and wanted to put them to tape. The earlier “On Track” joints weren’t even really about mixing or blending… more so about theme.
Lean: Who the hell came up with the name “Uncle Junior’s Friday Fish Fry” compilation you guys came out with? Haha! Who had more say on which records were making the compilation?
Kon: That was the label’s doing. Both Amir and I split songs, but I programmed and mixed that cd live… It was just 2 turntables recording directly into a stand alone cd burner.
Lean: You sent me your “Pop In Trans-Euro Express” mix awhile back, a mix full of obscure European joints. It’s a lot easier getting the Euro records online nowadays, but what was the process of getting your hands on these records back in the days? (I know getting doubles of some of these records must have been a b*tch back then!)
Kon: Well, luckily for us we had a few friends that were from Paris. The homie Roman aka “Lord Funk” and Aldo. They both worked at A1 in NYC at the that time. These 2 dudes knew all the heat. I learned a lot from them, as did many others. Aldo found out I was into disco, and then things got even crazier.
Lean: Some of us have heard the stories of you and Amir going to some basement that was probably toxic to your health, Amir finding crack vials in record sleeves, and Amir finding naked pics of people in record sleeves… but could you share another crazy story of digging with us?
Kon: I don’t really have any spectacular story… ha! The best being the sewage flood in storage units. Mask and gloves for about 8 hours, my hands got all soggy and were like prunes from the rubber gloves.
Lean: You have some history of with music production on Rawkus Records (one of the few Hip Hop indie labels that made quite the run for some years)… Could you give us some brief history about your music production career?
Kon: Well, the 1st record I ever did along with this other guy named “Supe” was for a J- Treds track called “Praise Due”, and that was on Bobbito’s “Fondle em” label. Then I did the Ripshop 12″ on Rawkus. I grew tired of trying to place beats with rappers… and rap music fell the fuck off…. so I stopped producing. I’m back now though, better than ever!
Lean: To many you are an encyclopedia of beats. I’m not sure if I’m bugging or not but I remember we were all in LA maybe 7 years ago…. and you were telling my dad that Kanye was trying to get some samples off of you. Do you get a lot of producers that hit you up for samples?
Kon: Well, Kanye couldn’t remember what he sampled. So I got a call from Mr. Porter from Detroit, asking me if I could find out. Then I got a call from Capitol records… and so on. I did send CDs to Dr. Dre and was getting checks from Aftermath. That didn’t sit well with me, because I was getting a flat fee. If Dre used a sample that went on to be a classic…. I was getting nothing. So I stopped doing that.
Lean: You got to perform alongside the legendary Bernard Purdie a few years back, could you explain the experience of that?
Kon: WOW! I had dinner with him as well. The Red Bull guys were supposed to interview him, but compared to me… didn’t know shit about him. I picked his brain throughout dinner. He loved it, telling his stories… and boy does he have some. Experiences like this is what it’s all about for me. I was so geeked, onstage filming him! None of it was rehearsed, we just went in.
Lean: Who would be the next musician you would want to collab with?
Kon: Man, like in dream world…. Chaka, Grace Jones, Alicia Myers, Charlie Wilson, I could go on…. on the rap tip.. Mf Doom, Ghost. Not many for rap though.
Lean: Everyone disses Serato, but you have proved that it can be dope based on how you use it. I think you were the one that put me on to game with the re-edits and multi-tracks of joints you would think it’s impossible of getting your hands on. What are your thoughts on this?
Kon: I think there are too many politicians in the game. Fuck them. Real recognize fake. Who cares what medium I choose to play my music from. It’s a DJ’s skill set and taste that matters. Music is meant to be shared and spread to as many as possible. We are messengers, period. The music and sounds that are blasting out the speakers into the air… nobody owns except the actual musicians. You may own the little piece of plastic it’s recorded onto… and that’s it. Fools need to stop trippin’. I’m not caught up in the hype… I know I still buy vinyl and it’s the coolest medium to store music on, nothing can beat it… the feel, the smell, the labels and so on…BUT I can’t take vinyl with me when I die. Now the sounds that have fed and nourished my soul…. I take with me everywhere I go, and I can take with me to the grave or where ever I end up when my physical shell can no longer take it… the music itself is staying with me forever.
Lean: I’m not sure if you knew about it… but your “Kings of Diggin’” compilation has ended up in the possession of many bboy DJs. I know your side had more disco joints on it, but I have heard a many heads rock out that Master Story Teller “Pay Pay Pay” at jams. On Muro’s side, I have heard a lot of heads play out the Seguida “Mambo Rock” joint. Did you know that this compilation would have an impact on the bboy scene?
Kon: I had no idea. I really didn’t know how to approach it, my biggest contribution was the Matt Cassell jam. I’m glad bboys dig it.
Lean: You were really sick for a while, and people from all over the globe were doing benefits for you. Even DJ Spinna managed to put a benefit together for you at Santos Party House (NYC) with some of the best DJs in the world on the wheels. How did this make you feel, and did this change your aspect on life?
Kon: I had a near death situation. In the blink of an eye… my life was turned upside down. It was a private matter at first, then the word got out. When all these people around the world, people who I knew and didn’t know came together like that, it was unbelievable. I cried. Deeply moved. Humbled. So many people get sick and nobody cares… I felt like, damn… I’m nobody, look at all the love I’m getting. I believe it helped me fight, and get back on my feet. Overall, it made me think about the things in life that really matter… I mean I could barely breath, so taking a breath meant so much. It affirmed what I already knew… don’t stop doing what you’re passionate about and when doing so, don’t care what people have to say about it. There are no rules. I can never repay those who supported me. I wish I could, my way is just to keep doing what I was doing to begin with I guess.
Lean: It seems like people love using the whole Kon & Amir thing on ebay to rack up record prices. What are your thoughts?
Kon: The hype factor on ebay…. I don’t care really about it. If they make some $ using my name, what can I do. It’s business for them. If anything, give me a record they have stock on… let me do work with it, and help blow it up.
Lean: You get to travel the world, and I have been lucky enough to catch you in different cities across the globe. What do you feel the Boston nightlife needs to make it as good or even better than the nightlife in NYC, SF, or let’s say Austin?
Kon: Boston will always be wack. It’s a joke! Nothing will save nightlife club culture in this town. There is nothing I can suggest that will make it better. Promoters here don’t book DJs that they like, they book only from a place of how much $ they will make. As for the live band scene, it’s totally different… it kicks ass here.
Lean: I know you collect kicks as well as many other things… Aside from records, what is the most valuable thing you have in your collection (doesn’t have to be the most expensive thing)?
Kon: My original letterhead invite from West End Records typed in 1977. Pre Paradise Garage, where its stated “Paradise Garage is about to take over NYC with its sound system”. They had no idea what Larry Levan would go on to do…. for music and DJ culture. Larry was one of the first, and a key figure into making the DJ go on to being what you see today.
Lean: I remember you telling me that one of the records you it took you years to find was the Stark Reality joint. Now that you have had it for a while, would you ever consider selling it or trading it (if you haven’t)?
Lean: You have your Kon & The Gang album coming out, in which you worked with some incredible local musicians. The “Sunlight” 12’ was just recently released… is this really something you see yourself working on more in the future?
Kon: Yes, I love the combo of sample-based and session players style of production. We can’t attain the sounds and technique used from the records we sample… so much goes into that, how it’s mic’ed eq’ued mixed, etc… Session players give you unlimited options and when you put the combo together…. to get your vision across… it’s the best for me.
Listen to it below!
Purchase the 12’ here: http://www.turntablelab.com/the-wall/0/30/91890.html
Lean: Even though some people proclaim you as a “King of Digging”, I have heard you say that you are not a king… but a student of music and life. What message do you have for the youth of Hip-Hop culture?
Kon: Yeah, I’m the King Of Nothing >> King Of Nonsense. There are no kings of digging. When you think you know it all, you find out you don’t. I’m always learning, and passing along info. Guys like yourself are now repping this culture… the youtube generation doesn’t always get it… which is a shame because the internet is powerful to learn history from. We must always look to our past in order to move forward. It’s important to know who you may have got a piece of your style from, without even knowing it. Trace the roots. Life runs in cycles, kids need to know what they think is fresh and new, really isn’t. It’s just a new form of it. Each one, teach one.
Lean: Any last words?
Kon: Peace to all who support and keep the dream alive.
Lean: Thanks Kon!
Be sure to follow Kon on twitter
In the crates with Breakbeat Lou!
Breakbeat Lou along with his partner Lenny Roberts (R.I.P) have made a major contribution to the hip hop culture, being the founders of the legendary Ultimate Breaks and Beats compilation (in which every Hip Hop DJ should have in their collection). The Ultimate Breaks & Beats is a music compilation originally released on vinyl that consists of many of the breakbeat and unknown breakbeat anthems that Bambatta as well as many other djs used to rock out for the bboys back in the day. The UBB compilations are filled with bboy anthems such as Incredible Bongo Band “Apache”, Liquid Liquid “Cavern”, and Bobby Byrd “I Know You Got Soul”. These compilations have provided millions with the knowledge of the foundation of hip-hop music. Basically you could call the Ultimate Breaks & Beats the music bible of Hip Hop. Before being named the Ultimate Breaks and Beats, it was known as Octopus Breaks. Many recognize the octopus character on the early UBB record covers as a hip-hop icon itself. After a few years, they decided to change the name from Octopus Breaks to Ultimate Breaks & Beats to make their company more legitimate for production purposes. Not many know, but Lou and Lenny were also responsible for releasing 12″ records called Fusion Beats! Based on the same concept of UBB, they released a different breakbeats by different artist on both sides of the records. Not only has UBB been a major contribution to the DJs, but also to music producers. I think most people would agree that Lou and Lenny’s contributions have been a staple for music production in nearly all genres of music as well. Well enough said, here is the interview!
Lean: First and foremost, it is an honor for you to do this interview with me. To many and myself you are a “Breakbeat God”. Definitely an influence to millions, and most people don’t even know it. Anyways… I know it was a normal thing when your were growing up to have these park jams or block parties in your neighborhood (with DJs and bboys doing their thing).. but do you remember the first park jam or party you attended where you witnessed what we know as Hip Hop now? What really gravitated you to this culture?
Breakbeat Lou: WOW!!! It had to be like 1973.. I was at Webster Park on 188th St right off Fordham Rd in the Bronx with the Paradise Crew. This happened like right after Herc rocked at 1520. Now as far as what gravitated me to the culture, I think any true hip-hop head will tell you it was just part of our life at that time living in the hood. Most of the youth in my hood were into graffiti and the music was always a part of the streets. We had block parties and house parties going all the time… So you already know bboys would be dancing and battling at the parties. I wouldn’t battle too much, but I used to break! Eventually with time I got into deejaying and buying records.
Lean: I wasn’t thought of or even an idea at the time, but I always heard that it was very difficult to just go to different blocks in NYC. Did you actually get the chance to go to different areas of the Bronx or different boroughs to check out different park jams?
Lou: Mos Def! I would mainly go to jams in the Bronx and Manhattan though. In my hood, Grandmaster Caz and of course Herc at Sedgwick were the dudes!
Lean: We both come from Latino families, and I think we can both agree that we love the sound of percussion. What was your first initial reaction to when you heard someone rocking out a “breakbeat” for the first time?
Lou: When I first heard the breakbeat my reaction to was to dance. I was a b-boy before anything you know.
Lean: Since you were a bboy before you got into deejaying, who were some of the influential bboys in your area? Who was your favorite dj to get down to?
Lou: Well in my area we had Jimmy Dee, (Co-founder of the Rock Steady Crew), Jimmy Lee (original member of the Rock Steady Crew), and Batch of TBB. Now, the DJ that always rocked for the b-boys in my hood was Grandmaster Casanova Fly.
Lean: Technology has obviously improved over the years. When did you get your first set up, and what equipment did you use? How was it practicing on your equipment back then compared to practicing with a new Rane Mixer and newer Technics 1200 model?
Lou: I used the technics SL-1100 & the Bozak CMA-10-2DL which were the ones that the crew had. In 1980, my brother-in-law bought me my own set, which were the technics slb-101 and a numark dm-500. Your mixing skills had to be on point because you had very little pitch control. In addition, you had to know how to throw the records in because the slb-101 belt drive would drag if you didn’t know what you were doing.
(Picture of Breakbeat Lou with his DJ set up in 1981)
Lean: As you were coming up, did you feel a lot of pressure being a Latino DJ in the hip-hop community? As far as Latino DJs in the Hip Hop community back then, were you influenced by Charlie Chase and Disco Wiz?
Lou: Yes, because most of us Latinos were b-boys, and many of us Latinos wanted to gain the respect. We really had to have our game on right. So I got into deejaying too. Wiz and Chase were the dudes that I most definitely looked up to… but there was also less famous Latino DJs in my area doing their thing. We had dudes like DJ Quick and DJ Cisco, just to name a few.
Lean: I’m sure there were many signature bboy anthems that you heard at every park jam or party, but which DJ’s really influenced the selection of UBB? Are there any breakbeats on the compilation that you or Lenny (R.I.P) put on UBB that may have not been played by any djs at that time?
Lou: No. Our vision and goal for the UBB was to reintroduce the new generation of DJs to the foundation of the culture they were becoming a part of. On the B-Boy tip we did not introduce anything new, it was more on the soul and funk side that we did.
Lean: You mentioned to me before that you would go all around the city and New Jersey to find records. What were some of your favorite spots to go digging at back in the days?
Lou: WOW!!! In the Bronx there was M&M (LBM) Records, Harmony Music (which is still around and has been there since 1958), Downstairs, Music factory (on 42nd St), Crazy Eddie’s, Brad Records (which was the ones that put out Catch the Beat by T-Ski Valley). In Jersey, there was Sound Express, Record City, Eclipse Records, and the Wiz just to name a few. If you really wanted to get dusty… we would go digging at the Salvation Army!!!!
Lean: It’s tough to find any gems in the dollar bins these days. I guess it’s tough to find gems anywhere though lol I still go out of my way to hit any spots there are records, because you just never know! I was just wondering what was the average cost for a record back then?
Lou: Well, back in the days, the 12” were usually $2.99 and the 7” were $0.59. It’s not bad when you look at it now but we didn’t get money like that back then. Even those prices were difficult at times.
Lean: I loved looking at the artwork on the UBB record sleeves, and I always wondered how you guys came up with some of the ideas for the covers. What was the significance behind the different characters or themes you guys would chose for your record sleeves?
Lou: Our crew was in tune with the culture, and with each other. Kevin Harris was the man behind the artwork. He was Danny Dan the BeatMan’s (founder of Dusty Fingers) boy, and Beatman was the one that referred him to us. Kevin had some dope art to begin with, and he was a true hip-hop head! All we did was fine-tune some of his skills to reflect the UBB style!!
Lean: Since we are talking about the UBB artwork, I noticed on the 20th UBB volume record sleeve… the legendary Music Factory. Could you explain the importance of the Music Factory record store in Time Square?
Lou: Stanley Patzer was the main buyer/sales person at Music Factory. He was good friends with Lenny, he was the dude that we vibed with to compile the first 9 volumes of UBB. Stanley knew his records and was that dude that knew the music that was driving hip-hop.
(Ultimate Breaks & Beats – Volume 20 Cover)
Lean: Now for people that don’t know… the pressings of 45s (7 inch records) are usually louder than pressings on a 12”. There are 45s of songs or versions of songs that may have never been released on a 12”. They can tend to be harder to find then a 12”. They are also more difficult to play out then a 12” too. There are a lot of people that are heavily into collecting 45s, like yourself (well I know you collect every form vinyl). Just out of curiosity though, did you really see a lot of DJs cutting up 45s back in the days? If so, who?
Lou: As far as my memory serves me, it was mainly LPs and 12” singles. We mainly rocked 7” when it was the only format we could afford. I can’t really remember anyone that just rocked 45s though.
Lean: The gap between the different elements in our culture is more prominent than ever. The younger generation doesn’t embrace the culture as whole like you your generation did. Most djs don’t know much about bboying, most writers don’t know much about djing, and most mcs don’t know much about bboys. What are your thoughts on this?
Lou: I think it’s very simple.. When you are truly a Hip-Hop head you have knowledge of all aspects. If you don’t know much about the culture.. then you really ain’t Hip-Hop…let the chips fall where they may.
Lean: I know a lot of older cats like to give the younger DJs a hard time these days… rightfully so! What advice or solutions can you offer to the younger generation of DJs coming up?
Lou: If you label yourself a DJ please make sure your about your CRAFT, not just about the money… and please, please, please own some vinyl or at least owned some vinyl at one time or just spin vinyl before you call yourself a DJ!!!!
Lean: If we wanted to hear you spin somewhere in NYC, where would we go?
Lou: Due to my schedule I can’t commit to any residency but I rock once a month. I have a night at CAMRADAS in East Harlem on 116th and 1st Ave with my dude Sucio Smash.
Lean: Every now and then I get a chance to watch your Ustream channel ultimatebreaksandbeats.com, Scratch’s website scratchvision.com, and the Beat Junkies Ustream channel ustream.tv/channel/beat-junkie-radio. I have to say you guys are doing beautiful things, and provide the best education a dj can get. I wish more people did watch you guys. I guess it will only get better though!
Lean: Any last words or shout outs?
Lou: On the real I would like to thank God for the gift of music, the skills and knowledge to do what I do! My wife of 23 years, my three children, the late Lenny Roberts, the late Chep Nunez, the late Scott LaRock, and late Paul C. Definitely a shout to Eddie B. Swift, DJ Clear, and Kenny Dope for putting the bug back in my life to resurface. Special shoutouts to Boogie Blind, DJ Dummy, DJ Scratch, DJ Spinna, Lord Finesse, Sucio Smash, Rich Medina, Byze One, Rhettmatic, JRocc, Babu, Shorkut, Bobbito Garcia, G-Bo the Pro, DP-One, Lean Rock, Paulskee, Cros 1, Clark Kent, Da Beatminerz, Cosmo Baker, QuestLove, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Skeme Richards, Supreme Larock, King Otto, Destoyer and so many others!
Lean: Thanks again Lou! One love!
Be sure to follow Breakbeat Lou on Twitter.
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