Founding Fathers: Before The Bronx

History

is always up for debate. For instance, DJ Kool Herc, the Godfather of Hip-Hop, officially “started” Hip-Hop culture that

fateful evening he DJ’d his sister’s birthday party

in The Bronx in 1973, right? While those details are generally accepted as gospel,

there are DJ’s in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, contemporaries of Herc, that

would beg to differ.

 

Enter

Hasan Pore and Ron “Amen-Ra” Lawrence. The childhood

friends grew up in Queens, jamming in its parks and pretty much oblivious to

whatever parties were going down in the BX. “We need to tell our version, to

let them exactly know what was going on in other boroughs as well,” says

Lawrence, one of Bad Boys original Hitmen producers

and a member of the group 2 Kings In a Cypher with Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie.

Together, Pore and Lawrence have created a documentary called Founding Fathers, with the goal of

shedding light on Hip-Hop’s too often forgotten originators.

 

“We’re

not trying to discredit the Bronx,” emphasized Pore before adding, “there’s

just another story.” So no, Pore and Lawrence are not looking to smear the

legacy of one Kool Herc.

What they do want is for proper credit to be given to more individuals worthy

of the label “pioneer.”

 

Sounds

fair.  Here is what they had to say.

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AllHipHop.com: What sparked the idea to

do this project?

Hasan Pore: We were just sitting down and

talking about the dates that are out there as far as the history with Kool Herc. And we just went back

and realized that in ’74, the same thing was going on in our neighborhoods and

actually was going on before ’74. You know we just started putting our dates

together and really realized, “Wait a minute, we really were jamming in

the parks prior to ’74.”

 

So

we started getting in contact with a lot of DJs in our neighborhoods and

started talking to these guys and they were basically like, “Yeah we were

definitely doing it prior to ’74,” and they never knew of anyone else from

the Bronx doing it ‘til later on.

 

Ron “Amen-Ra” Lawrence: Hasan and I—we grew up together. I knew Hasan since I was 7 or 8 years old. So as we were growing

up, we took our experiences into the music game. So you know I started off as

the MC, DJ, and then went on into producing. Coming from various boroughs,

everybody had heroes. So cats from the Bronx came out, they were the ones to

take it to move up to the next level. So when they looked to their heroes, they

pointed to Kool Herc.

 

So

you know, me coming out the game, and Hasan, being

successful in the game we point to our heroes. Just being that the lights

wasn’t shining in Queens first, we never got to tell

our story first. So that’s one of the reasons we went back to say, “You

know what, we need to tell our version, to let them exactly know what  was going

on in other boroughs as well.” Because as they’re concerned,

it never existed, because they didn’t know about it.

AllHipHop.com: Now who are some of

those heroes of yours?

Amen-Ra: You have Newsounds,

you have Disco Twins, you have King Charles,

you have Grand Master Flowers…

Hasan: Dance Master. Infinity Machine.

 

Amen-Ra: Heating Machine. But if you

ask anybody in Queens, they’ll tell you, “Hey this is what i knew growing up.” They didn’t know about Kool Herc, because they wasn’t in the Bronx.

Hasan: The way the clip looks it looks as if

we’re going at the Bronx [but] we’re not going at the Bronx in no fashion.

We’re basically just telling our history. And it just so happens that the

history that’s being told out there is that it started in the Bronx in ’74.

 

We’re

not coming out trying to diss anybody or anything,

it’s just that if you know the way history is written, it’s just people are gonna comment and you know it’s just gonna-like

Ron said, we’re just putting it out telling our history of what we see when we

were growing up and what we see playing in the parks. We all heard of these

guys, you know [Grandmaster] Flash and all these guys but it was just a little

later.

 

Back

then, it’s not like today where you just travel all

over New York. When you lived in Queens, you stayed in Queens, you lived in the

Bronx, you stayed in the Bronx. You might have

traveled because you had family in another borough or something, but the

culture you grew up in was basically where you lived.

 

AllHipHop.com: So in Founding Fathers y’all covered

pioneering DJs from Queens & Brooklyn, anywhere else?

Hasan: No. Honestly when me

and Ron talked about doing this, we were just really doing the Queens

theme. But after we talked to these guys, they told us about people that were

in the circle of DJs, and that’s how we ended up going to Brooklyn. And then we

ended up going to the Bronx because you know we got Pete DJ Jones, he’s from

the Bronx.

 

The

story is not just we’re saying that Hip-Hop didn’t start in the Bronx, we’re

just saying it pre-dates the 1974 ‘cause Pete DJ Jones, this guys in his 60s

and he was playing music in the Bronx in the late ’60s.

Amen-Ra: This is where it gets

separated because you got cats like [DJ] Hollywood who we got as well. But the

problem with that is it’s kind of separated because they kind of start with Kool Herc and they leave out the

cats before them because they try to say,

“These cats were Disco DJs, so we’re gonna start

with Kool Herc,” you

know what I mean? So what that does is kind of exed

those guys out. It kind of ex’s out Hollywood’s legacy as well.

 

If

you look back, the Disco didn’t even exist, it was just all about playing what

was hot. A lot of these cats were digging in the crates,

they were finding the jewels. That became a major

problem because none of that stuff existed. I mean the word “Hip-Hop”

didn’t even exist at that time. It was just that whatever they thought was hot,

when they heard the break part of a record, that’s just what was going on.

Everybody had two turntables and a mixer, they was doing they thing.

AllHipHop.com: No pun intended, but

would you say that is when the break happens? Because from what I’ve read and

speaking to people names like  DJ Jones and Hollywood get mentioned as “precursors”

but that it was Herc, Bambaataa

and Flash that were heavy into the breakbeats.

Amen-Ra: Well they got it from them!

Hasan: Let me answer this one. Like Ron said

we’re talking before the Disco era. There was no word for Disco, that word

wasn’t even invented yet. And these guys started playing music even before the

mixer was invented. So they had to learn to go record to record, and you’re

talking about playing with 45s. So they had to extend the records. So they were

playing the intros, the 4-bars or whatever, the little break part—they

was doing that.

 

All

the records that Herc, Flash and all these guys were

using, those records weren’t “Hip-Hop” records. You’re talking about from Jazz,

to Rock, or to whatever. And then people put a title on it. “Mardi Gras” [Bob

James “Take Me to the Mardi Gras”] is probably one of the biggest break beats, that’s a Jazz record. So who determined that was a Hip-Hop

record? That title came later, that title came in the ’80s.

Amen-Ra: And even after the Disco era

came in, I mean I don’t know why these guys are ashamed of the Disco era, but

Hip-Hop had such an impact before it was even Hip-Hop. Disco had such an impact

on that scene that 90 percent of those break beats, were Disco records. You

know what I’m saying. I mean I can go down a list. I mean there’s “Frisco

Disco”, there’s “I Can’t Stop,” the “Freedom” record

which Flash and em’ put out, then you had “Good

Times” [Chic] which was “Rapper’s Delight”, you had “8th

Wonder.” I mean all those records, that was the

time.

 

Flash’s

right hand man was Disco (Beat), they partied at the

Disco Fever you know. Kurtis Blow says “Rapping

to the Disco beat!” on “Super Rappin’,” which was part of the “Good Times” Disco

record.

Hasan: You had the Crash Crew in Harlem,

Disco Dave…

Amen-Ra: Disco Dave and Disco Mike.

Everything was Disco this, Disco that. They tried to separate it like it didn’t

exist. And you can’t do that because that was a sign of that

times. 

Hasan: Just like back in the day, before it

was named Hip-Hop, it started from something, it morphed into something else,

but it had its seed somewhere. You know someone didn’t come out of no where and

just start saying “Oh I’m gonna start cuttin’ and scratchin’.”

 

AllHipHop.com: No doubt, everything is

in different stages.

Amen-Ra: The thing is, like Herc, Flowers…they may have not been cuttin’

and stratchin’ but the whole idea of playing in the

parks with the systems, and if you prefer to say mixin’

back-in-forth- or switchin’ back-in-forth—it

existed. Cats would say, “Well it wasn’t Hip-Hop because they weren’t cuttin’ and scratchin’ and they

weren’t spinning on their backs. So therefore it wasn’t Hip-Hop.” But you can’t

say that.

Hasan: Yeah because it wasn’t even called

Hip-Hop back then. You know we’re just jammin’,

listening in the parks. That’s all it was. Kool Herc, I was told his history is that he was the first one,

he didn’t cut, he didn’t scratch, he didn’t do none of

that; he just played records. So is that Hip-Hop just because you’re playing

records in the park? If people want to take that stance- even if they want to

include that and say, “Ok that was Disco”, you can’t include it. The

whole idea if taking your equipment to the park and playing music, that’s where

the whole thing came from—playing music in the parks. When you grew up,

everybody wanted to have two turntables and a mixer. That was the culture back

in the ’70s.

Amen-Ra: I think the difference was in

Queens and in Brooklyn, there was more emphasis on the

sound systems. Up in the Bronx, they had sound systems but they didn’t compare

to what Queens and Brooklyn had.

 

AllHipHop.com: How so?

Amen-Ra: When they saw Kool Herc’s stuff, or they saw

someone else for that matter, it looked monstrous to them, you know, it looked

ridiculous. But when it came to Queen, the stuff didn’t compare. It was a whole

other level.

 

AllHipHop.com: As far as features or how

loud it could get?

Amen-Ra: It had a lot to oi with the quality and the amount of money spent on the

equipment.

Hasan: It’s like you having someone outside

playing music with the house system. Then someone comes with a professional

sound system, and these guys were playing with the professional sound systems.

These guys played in clubs back then. They brought their professional sound

system to the club.

Like

when Flash came to Queens, he didn’t have a sound system. Whenever he played,

and I’m talking about indoors, he would play on someone else’s sound system, he

didn’t have a system.

Amen-Ra: He may have had one, but it

wasn’t a powerful to the point that…

Hasan: That’s what I’m saying. When I say

system, I’m not talking about no house jam, I’m

talking about a real system. He didn’t have that. When he played in different

places indoors, he never came to Queens with his own sound system. He came and

he played on King Charles, Infinity Machine, the Disco Twins—he played on

their systems. And then when he played on their systems, it was a whole

different thing because they were using real studio quality mixers; not the cheap mixers, not the cheap turntables, none of

that.

 

Amen-Ra: Yeah. And they had the Disco

Twin Sound System. Disco Twins played a big part later on in the game,

especially for like Bronx parties and stuff. So if it wasn’t sound systems you

heard in the club, they were using the Twin’s stuff whether it was in the

Superstar Cafeteria or whatever.

 

AllHipHop.com: For these DJs covered in

the Founding Fathers documentary what

were the crowd’s demographics like compared to like say Herc

or Bambaataa? I ask because been noted they had more

of the youth following them because in the example of DJ Jones, he was playing

in clubs where teenagers couldn’t get in.

 

Amen-Ra: When you talk in the parks,

you’re talking youth.

 

Hasan: Also remember that if you were 7, 8

years old and you lived a couple of blocks from the park, and you just heard

that bass, you just heard the music. Maybe you couldn’t stay for the whole

thing, but you went to see what was going on. And that was the scene, Everyone was just partying and if you were the young buck,

you was probably standing in front of the turntables behind the rope looking at

the guy like, “What is he doing?” Like I said, that was the seed that

was planted, that was what made everybody want to become a DJ.

 

Amen-Ra: If you look at the history the

way things evolved, eventually the sound systems took the backside because it

became deemphasized [in favor of] the turntable. And then when the scale of the

turntable became popular…the MC always assisted the DJ. But when the record

deal came into play, guess what? The DJ took a backseat. The

DJ wasn’t the star anymore, it was about the MC.

So everything evolves into the next stage.

 

AllHipHop.com: So Founding Fathers,

when can people finally get to see the entire documentary?

Hasan: We’re getting ready to put a website

up. I want to get you some clips so you know where you can get it on your site and we

can start getting this thing moving.

AllHipHop.com: When did y’all start creating this

project?

Hasan: The project started about three years

ago.

AllHipHop.com: Did you have any difficulties

trying to track down some of these cats, or was everybody forthcoming?

Hasan: I mean it was difficult trying to get

in contact with some of the people, but once we told them what we were doing,

they were basically like “It should have been done a long time ago.”

Like a lot of people- you know a lot of these DJs, they felt like they were

never a part of the history, and they know that they are. So they’re looking at

this like it’s about time and people are going to know.

 

When

we talk about Herc, Flash and all these guys, they

know these guys. They played with them. It’s just that they were never a part

of the history. No one ever mentioned them. So it’s not like someone’s

mentioning names that nobody knows or anything. As far as Brooklyn and Queens,

if you’re over 35, you’ve heard of these dudes.

 

AllHipHop.com: Have ya’ll tried to

reach out to Herc or Flash to hear what they had to

say?

Hasan: Naw,

the reason we didn’t is because their story is already told. So it didn’t make

sense. Everybody knew their history already and this is not their story.

Amen-Ra: And let me say this too, my

brother [Dance Master] was a DJ, so he was my influence growing up as a kid. He

had a Richard Long sound system. Now Richard Long was like the man who put all

the sound systems in the major clubs in New York City. The Garage, Studio 54, I

mean that’s just to name a few. My brother was like the first to come out with

the console. That was like the turntable coffin to the streets. They hadn’t

even seen that before. This became a street thing because the Disco Twins took

the torch to the next level because when the Disco Twins saw my brother’s

system, he introduced him to the whole Richard Long thing, and then he took the

whole console thing and moved it around the rest of New York City. So that was

a big deal because that’s a part of Hip-Hop.

 

That

console…I mean every DJ that had turntables and a mixer, had a console now.

Whether it’s a CD turntable, whatever it is right now it’s in the console. One

time Richard Long had to have the patent for that because he owned it. Then you

had cats from Manhattan, DJ Hollywood the cat that they don’t even want to

involve him in, and this is the cat that came up with the, “Let me hear

you say ho,” “Throw ya hands in the air,

and wave them like you just care,” every MC points at that. How are you

going to try and say that that ain’t

Hip-Hop?

Hasan: Getting back to Richard Long, you’re

dealing with a guy who built sound systems for these clubs that ‘til this day,

people that used to go to The Garage, The Studio 54, you still don’t hear the

sound that you heard back then. You know you had DJs like Ron’s brother Dance

Master-he had the same system that was in those clubs. He had a mobile system,

so you have to imagine having that type of equipment in the park that you can

hear 10 blocks away, you can hear the bass. So when you talk about Hip-Hop the

culture, they say the music, DJ’ing, rapping, breakdancing, graffiti…that culture is a lot of other

things intertwined in that because people that were playing music in those

days, they became sound engineers, and what have you. So it’s not only what you

see as far as the entertainment in the entertainment world. People marked into

different types of employment.

 

AllHipHop.com: Any final comments?

Hasan: I just want to emphasize that we’re

not trying to discredit the Bronx, there’s just another story.

Amen-Ra: I think everybody should look

forward to this because it’s going to be an educational piece and I think that

it will work well everywhere because it’s going to be useful information that a

lot of cats never really knew. So whether it be for like the school systems or

the younger generation, even the older generation from different states and

countries who always knew about the foundation, here’s another story as well.

Here’s another perspective that you never heard about.

 

We

know the Bronx’s story, but remember there’s five

boroughs to New York City. These MCs, DJ’s, whatever you want to call it back

then, when it came to they jammin’- even when they

stayed in their own boroughs, at times they had to come to Manhattan to do

certain things. Manhattan was where you did your shopping, where you did your

partying, or what have you. Even if you wanted to buy equipment, everyone had

to meet up at a central focal point and that was Manhattan. So you know a lot

of things just kind of branched off that whole interaction.

Hasan: Everybody else made money off of this

music except the people that invented it, even back then Cerwin-Vega

was a small company. If it wasn’t for that street day, the DJs that we’re

talking about-you know I’m not going to say there wasn’t going to be an

existence, but would they even be as big as they are because these guys are

basically the ones that put them on the map. The same thing with Technics, if these guys didn’t bring these things to the

streets, no one would have been buying these turntables, would they be what

they are right now?Find out more info about the Founding Fathers documentary here.

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