Founding Fathers: Before The Bronx
is always up for debate. For instance, DJ Kool Herc, the Godfather of Hip-Hop, officially "started" Hip-Hop culture that
fateful evening he DJd his sisters birthday party
in The Bronx in 1973, right? While those details are generally accepted as gospel,
there are DJs in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, contemporaries of Herc, that
would beg to differ.
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-Hops too often forgotten originators.
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.
fair. Here is what they had to say.
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.
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 Iwe 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.
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.
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
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 yall 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
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 exs out Hollywoods legacy as well.
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
were 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 partthey
was doing that.
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
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
Hasan: You had the Crash Crew in Harlem,
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
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-forthit
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
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 fromplaying 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
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
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.
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 elses 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 Twinshe 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
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 Twins stuff whether it was in the
Superstar Cafeteria or whatever.
AllHipHop.com: For these DJs covered in
the Founding Fathers documentary what
were the crowds 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
Hasan: The project started about three years
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 theyre looking at
this like it's about time and people are going to know.
we talk about Herc, Flash and all these guys, they
know these guys. They played with them. Its 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
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.
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
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.
know the Bronxs story, but remember there's five
boroughs to New York City. These MCs, DJs, 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.