When Spoonie Gee spit a verse, he typically had a lot more than 48 bars in his raps. Two decades later, Gabriel Jackson is a man of a few words. But as one of the first nationally-known Harlem MCs, Spoonies legacy speaks for him. Starting with Spoonin Rap in 1979, the MC had hits including Love Rap and Take it Off before his final releases in the late 80s, early production credits with Marley Marl and Teddy Riley.
Spoonie is still rolling with Tuff City Records, the New York label that in addition to Enjoy, Sugar Hill, and Sounds of New York made Spoonie Gee a major star in the early 80s. With The Godfather of Rap still a desired commodity by collectors, Spoonie Gee spoke to AllHipHop.com about the times he rhymed in, preserving his finances, his greatest hit and the difference three decades can make. As one of the least vocal Hip-Hop pioneers, its an honor to politic with the Godfather.
AllHipHop.com: To what extent do you think that your relationship with your uncle Bobby Robinson [CEO, Enjoy Records] is the reason why were talking today?
Spoonie Gee: He taught me a lot about the business. Hes a pioneer, as you know, of the music business. Our relationship is a very good relationship, if youre asking about that.
AllHipHop.com: I am, but Im also asking because history has suggested that a man by the name of Peter Brown came by the house looking for a talented rapper
Spoonie Gee: Peter Brown came to the record shop, and told my brother that he was looking for a rapper. My brother called his father; I was staying in Bobbys house at the time, with him and my aunt. I went downstairs and Peter Brown introduced himself, and so then he said, Can you rap? So I gave him a lil taste of what I could do, and then he said, You want to go into the studio? I said Yeah. The next day, we went into the studio and I made Spoonin Rap. The rest is history.
AllHipHop.com: Is it true that Spoonin Rap was recorded in one take?
Spoonie Gee: Yeah. It was. Spoonin Rap was recorded in one take.
AllHipHop.com: Peter Brown had a large name in Disco in those days. What do you think drove him towards rap in 1979. Was it money, was it genuine interest?
Spoonie Gee: I think he was going with the flow. Rap was hot [because of] Sugar Hill Gang. He was friends with Joe Robinson [founder, Sugar Hill Records], so I guess he wanted to try it himself, and see what he could do with it. Like I said, we went in, did one take, and the record became big. I didnt even think the record was gonna be big. [Laughs] It became real big, man. I just did it to be doin it, cause I was a rapper, you know? Really, a lot of people got the Peter Browns mixed up. This is not the one who made Funkin for Jamaica. Thats a different person. [My producer] was in the music business, but he never really was big in it just a local guy. I think my record was the biggest record that he ever had.
AllHipHop.com: Not too long ago, I interviewed Edan, and MC and producer out of Boston, whos been a real purveyor of that early 80s rap sound. I asked him what the most dusted sounding record ever was, he said Spoonin Rap. Tell me about the input that you had in the way that single record sounded
Spoonie Gee: Okay, you know The Headhunters. Thats really where I got the beat from, The Headhunters. [beat boxes the bassline] This engineer at the studio I think his name was Dave or somethin like that hes the one who put the bassline together. The idea of the reverb came from the engineer. I just started rappin while he was puttin things together. He added the reverb, saying it sounded better. That part really wasnt my idea, but it sounded so good, I said, Leave it like that. As far as people today, guys trying to get that sound, it was different back then. Theres a lot of violence in the rappin now and all that. The sounds is different too, but its still the same as far as the culture is concerned. The culture of rap is still the same, styles just change. With me, I was just raw. I wasnt trying to be commercial or nothin, I was just rappin. Id write my raps and just keep on rappin without stopping; that was my thing back in the days.
AllHipHop.com: New York City, especially Harlem was a much more violent and raw place back in 1979. As exaggerated as it may be, thats the year The Warriors came out. Why do you think your generation of MCs didnt talk about violence until a few years later?
Spoonie Gee: I used to rap about girls and stuff like that, cause thats what I was into. I mentioned jail on Spoonin Rap [though]. I had a cousin who was imprisoned at the time, and he would just tell me things about prison at the time. Jail is a game, its called survival / They run it down to you on your first arrival Thats where I got all that from. But I never really was into violence or nothin like that. When I rapped, I just rapped about what I was about. Like Love Rap, these are things that I really experienced. Thats what I write about. I seen a little bit of violence when I was comin up, but that never was my thing to write about.
AllHipHop.com: Thats interesting though. Years later, you had a record called Thats My Style, which was aimed at Schoolly D. Many people consider him to be a very violent rapper, especially in the mid 1980s. So what style were you referring to?
Spoonie Gee: To me, he was trying to bite me. Thats how I felt, so thats why I did the record. When he first came out, people thought it was me. [Laughs] People were like, Spoon, I like the new record. I was like, Huh? Thats not my record. People really thought it was me [because of the delivery, not the content.] I liked [P.S.K. (What Does it Mean?)] though.
AllHipHop.com: You are one of a select few of artists who can say they released rap records in the 1970s. How did it feel when you saw that new class come in and really switch things up in the mid 80s?
Spoonie Gee: Like I said, I respect anybody thats got a craft and a good style. It was that I felt disrespected, it was that people thought it was me as far as when Schoolly made his record. I just felt like Why cant you try to imitate somebody else? All the new guys that came up, I respect all of them. I didnt feel no way about it.
AllHipHop.com: In later years, you were one of the first people to work with Marley Marl and Teddy Riley. Tell me about how that came to be
Spoonie Gee: Aaron Fuchs had put me and Marley together. It turned out very well. Marleys very creative, and we got along very well. I was writing, and he was making music. [Fuchs] also put me together with Teddy Riley. The tracks came out good. Like I said, I got respect for both of em; theyre very creative producers. Aaron has a good ear. He knew what I needed, as far as the sound was concerned. Thats what he did he went and got the right people to go and make the music.
AllHipHop.com: You put out your first record on Tuff City Records almost 25 years ago. Youre still with them today. How does that feel? Smokey Robinson was at Motown for over four decades, but Hip-Hop artists today change labels like athletes change teams
Spoonie Gee: We have a very good business relationship. Aaron Fuchs, the President of Tuff City Records, he taught me a lot too, as far as the record business is concerned. Hes very helpful in a lot of ways. As far as my records are concerned, he makes sure that I get paid. I can always talk to him and my lawyer Jeff Gandell the whole work crew down there is good. Tuff City is just Tuff City, a good company.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned a lawyer. How important is it for Hip-Hop pioneers like yourself to have lawyers out there fighting when todays artists wrongfully lift something that you created?
Spoonie Gee: Its very important. See, you gotta understand: in the music business, its 10 percent music and 90 percent business as far as Im concerned. If you take care of your business, your business will take care of you. These days, people are just taking peoples records and using them without their permission. So to have a lawyer thats on top of that is very important, cause hes gonna make sure you get paid. Its very important to have a legal team behind you especially in the music business. Im glad I got mine.
AllHipHop.com: Today, Harlem has a real reputation for being flashy and flamboyant. You were the first nationally recognized MC from Harlem. Was it that way for you too?
Spoonie Gee: No, I was never flashy. Not me.
AllHipHop.com: You had a Mercedes Benz drop-top on the cover of Godfather of Rap
Spoonie Gee: That wasnt flashy that was just a car I liked. It wasnt really flashy.
AllHipHop.com: Love Rap goes down in the books as one of the best romance raps ever. Obviously, you tell an in-depth story on that record, but when you were making it, were you making it with somebody in mind?
Spoonie Gee: My uncle Bobby Robinson gave that record its name. It didnt have a name, and he put Love Rap on there. He said, Were calling it [that] cause youre a love rapper.
AllHipHop.com: You rhymed a lot about women. How much of your audience do you think was female?
Spoonie Gee: A lot, a big percentage. [Laughs] A lot of girls liked my records maybe 50 percent. [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Was there a point when you decided it was time to stop making music?
Spoonie Gee: Uhhh I knew I was getting older and I didnt want to be a rapper for the rest of my life. There was a time like 91, when I said to myself, Should I go back into the business? I decided nah. Theres been times like that, but there never was a time when I didnt want to make music, I just took a break. Im getting older, I started doing different things like working and all that.
AllHipHop.com: Even though youre not releasing material anymore, do you find yourself rapping in the car or the shower or anything like that?
Spoonie Gee: Yeah, sometimes I do do that; I catch myself doin that. I rap a lil somethin.
AllHipHop.com: Grandmaster Caz and Busy Bee still make music, but theyve made careers out of lecturing and educating on Hip-Hop too. Would you ever do that?
Spoonie Gee: If I could help somebody and tell young guys comin into rap about the business aspect of the game and how they should stay focused, I would do that if its possible. I would lecture about the Hip-Hop game, if I had the opportunity.
AllHipHop.com: Are you still a Hip-Hop consumer?
Spoonie Gee: Nah, not really. My son does. My son has a lot of Hip-Hop CDs.
AllHipHop.com: I dont know how old your son is, but does he understand that his father laid the groundwork for this?
Spoonie Gee: Yeah. Hes 18 [years old]. He does. He [wants to rap too]. [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Spoonin Rap is worth a ton of money on vinyl. Do you still own many copies?
Spoonie Gee: Yeah, I have em. I have two.