Mastermind Monstamix: Boston’s Ragamuffin Hip-Hop History

Hey all. Last week I got a short notice request to join flack and wayne at Beat Research tonight. I decided I’d use the night to showcase some of my favorite local ragamuffin hip hop. And when you are doing that, you are basically playing stuff from Jr. Rodigan’s Mastermind Records. Everyone knows the classic ragamuffin hip hop sounds popularized by Bobby Kondors via Massive B Records. Lots of folks also know the collection of stuff on Profile (including the seminal Daddy Freddy and Asher D track) not to mention all the stuff on Nervous. What most people don’t know is that in the mid-90’s, Boston was putting out raggamuffin hip-hop as good as anyplace!!!! Believe it. Like all things hip-hop, Boston’s contribs have gone less recognized than some other places. Until now.

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Mastermind Monstamix

I offer this Mastermind Monstamix to prove that the Bean was rocking the ragga sound as hard as anyplace in the mid 1990s. As usual, its pretty much unedited and done live with two decks and included here warts and all. Its also clearly not ALL mastermind stuff and veers into a little paid in full mini-mashup by the end complete with Wayne flowin’ over a PM dawn IM (which always makes me smile).

Respect to Rodigan and his collaborators including the prolific Bingy Twins who co-produced many of his hottest raggamuffin hip-hop dancefloor burners! I’ll be rocking Boston Raggamuffin Hip Hop Classix tonight at Beat Research for anyone in town.

Bigup to the beantown massive. Stay tuned for the Monstamind Master Mix that will be highlighting some lesser known scientifikal rappers from MA.

peace

P.S.

Last night, I had the honor of meeting Jr. Rodigan and playing a set of his classic 90s track while he sat and listened. Talk about pressure. He shook my hand at the end of the night though, so I guess I did it proper. Listening to his verse on One in the Chamba while he sang along next to me has to be one of my all time best musical moments! More on that track in a minute but for now, keep those Boston beats bumpin’.

GuRumors

The strangeness gets stranger in the world everyday. I was reading Faraone’s tidy summary of the Gurumormill in the Phoneix this week and realized I needed to remove the “glad Guru recovered” P.S. from the webprayer post I put up when the news broke about his “coma”. Wtf? This would have been a total and unmitigated downermindfuck except that it got me rereading Brian’s thoughtful reflections on the passing of one of hip-hop’s greatest (imho). Anyway, since reality seems to be pretty much up for grabs at this point, I decided to do a little historical audio reconstruction myself. Here’s a little Boston scratch track I made that ends with a “lovingly corrected” version of Place Where we Dwell”.

Guru’s first tapes

Insane news of Guru’s coma today threw me for a loop. I thought there would be a lot of people out there in shock and figured it might help to hear some of the old tapes from before things got complicated. For those needing an update, the whole history has been recounted today by Dart Adams.
keith gangstarr spine
Here again (but this time set to video Ken Burns style) are the tapes Keith sent to Magnus at the Lecco’s Lemma show on WMBR in Cambridge in 1986. Among all the tapes in the boxes, he had the most by far (maybe next to DJ Prime – a strange coincidence actually). Its a sad day in Boston hip-hop whenever one of our own gets felled for any reason. Hopin’ for good outcomes and listening to these tapes is helping. Hope it helps you too. We know Guru always had Boston in his heart and recent years proved it. Peace.

Here are two of the tracks

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Epitome Spree

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Take a lesson

P.S.
SUCH great news that he pulled out OK. Man, I was praying hard in my way over here and I know a lot of others were too. Hopes for a fast and full recovery and many more years of dopeness! 🙁 WTF?!?!?

DJs for Peace

DJs for Peace Party

Short notice but I wanted to shout about a benefit tonight for DJs for Peace (a new initiative being brought to you by local peace/hip-hop activist Cindy Diggs). As a local DJ/Peace and Global studies graduate and Cindy fan I am definitely there. Not only that but the lineup looks amazing.

Here are the deets. But even if you can’t go, send some love Cindy’s way. She is doing amazing work as always.
______
Every year since 2006, Peace Boston has premiered their promotion for the year in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday dubbed by Peace Boston as The Ultimate Peace Weekend. This year is no exception.

On Thursday, January 21, 2010, The DJs for Peace – seventeen of New England’s best – will light up the wheels of steel, demonstrating the art of DJ battle and old school tribute as a benefit for youth fundraiser and danceoff The Beantown Bounce IV!

This year’s spin-a-thon will take place at Club Choices, 379 Somerville Ave, Somerville MA and is 21+

The event will feature special guest performances by DJ Act One’s breakdance crew The Krazy 88’s; Boston Music Award winner Lisa Bello; and a Run-DMC Tribute with DJ Cruz featuring Big Scythe and Visionary Da 3rd. Other DJs on deck for this occasion: DJ Black, DJ Daz-One, DJ Def Stef, DJ Dex, DJ Dru Nyce, EJ Spin, DJ Greg G, DJ Inkognito, DJ Jon Jack, Killer DJ, DJ Knucks, DJ Lil Nes, DJ Nestle Quick, DJ Val Beatz, and DJ Vixxx. Chip Greenidge will host.

The first forty-five patrons will receive a free gift from Peace Boston.

The Day of the DJ Meet & Greet at 7PM (for DJs only)

Guests are encouraged to dress for the occasion to win the Best of the 80’s Dress Contest and to participate in the 80’s dance competition.

Doors open for the public at 7:45. Show starts at 8:01 PM.

Admission is just $10. Guests may also purchase a copy of Peace Boston’s youth and anti-violence programming benefit CD PEACE IN THE STREETS for an additional $10.

Presented by The Knights of the Turntables and Peace Boston

For more information contact:
peaceboston@gmail.com

Boston Beats and Rhymes Day 3

Boston Beats and Rhymes Day 3

I took a week or so off since the Beantown Beats and Rhymes fest, but here are the links for the last day finally.

Part A 3-4pm
Part B 4-5pm

Its all up at WZBC for a bit longer, but grab it while you can. Thanks to Chris Faraone for comin’ by on the third day and bringing some of the latest local heat and classics from the last decade. I gotta confess, I spent much more time digging into the early years and left a lot of the more recent stuff to future efforts.

WZBC wall

I also have to thank Brick Casey again for coming down on the second day. As we were getting packed up I was snapping shots of the tectonic layers of local music history captured on the densely stickered, tagged and postered walls of WZBC. Among the Bentmen stickers and band posters from the 90s, there was the original Street Poets poster tacked up on a wood paneled wall next to an old milk crate. Apparently, Casey has been subliminally promoting down at ‘ZBC since the mid 1990s. Who knew? And who put that poster up?

Street Poets

Thanks again to Scott for having us down and to Brian for manning the decks!

Peace to the Bean in 2010.

pace

Boston Beats and Rhymes Day 2

IMG_4530

Thanks to Brick Casey (aka Polecat) who braved the snow storm yesterday to come down to WZBC and talk to us about the 1990’s scene in the Bean. Casey came up in the 4 Corners neighborhood of Dorchester and released a couple of early 1990’s underground gems under the name Polecat. Out Ta Flip is one of my personal faves. The Ruffa Mix features the gravelly Buju-style vocals of Dorchester’s own Ruffa and hints at the deep roots of the ragamuffin hip-hop sound in the Bean. More on that today as we round out the last of the 1990s and head into the Oughts and beyond. Happy 2010.

Here’s the audio from yesterday (Part A Part B).

P.S. Although it wasn’t snowing in the studio, I was sure dressed for it. Maybe I need to get a new hat too.

Boston Scratch Classix Vol.1

BostonScratchClassix

Happy holidays all. Here’s a new mix of Boston scratch classix to help you ring in the New Year. While I don’t normally include so many other people scratching on my mixes, that’s kind of the point with this one. You can probably hear the ones I added because they tend to stick out rhythmically (OR at least, that’s how I hear them). The thing begins with a Ronnie Ruff track “It Comes From Boston” which I only found a few months back.

Ronnie Ruff

Its already a future scratch classic for sure! I can throw up a set list, but maybe its more fun to guess and dig?

Here’s to more peace, love, unity and havin’ fun with the Beantown massive in 2010!

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Boston Scratch Classix Vol. 1

Hip-hop in the hub

Its finally here. The day the book drops. I am heading over to Beat Research soon to celebrate with the Beantown massive and wanted to put up the article before I do.

There is so much to say about this piece of work that I can’t even really begin. It took longer and was harder than I ever could have imagined. But it was also the highest honor to be asked to write the first real academic piece on Boston’s hip-hop history. What would you say? Its a complicated tale to say the least. Well, this is what I came up with.

A few words of introduction are clearly in order. First, thanks to everyone who opened their lives, collections and memories to me. I could not have done it without you. Second, I know there are certainly going to be some errors, omissions, thoughts about other angles to highlight, etc. I welcome your suggestions (post them up here) and hope I can update this in a second version, later works, etc. This is certainly a first pass at a lifelong project. Finally, you may notice that the article leaves a lot of the recent history (and people) out. That’s not because I see it as less important, interesting, etc. Just that I had a chance here to tell some tales that have not been told, reach some people that are harder to reach, and dig a little deeper into the past. I also wanted to celebrate a scene that I have loved and been around (but not quite in) for my whole life. So, that’s what I did.

There are lots of things I would do differently if I could. But most of it, I would do the same way again. Visiting Rusty and Spice at Touch. The trip to Maine to see/hear the Lecco’s Lemma archives and talk to Magnus my old friend. Checking in with Skippy at his last remaining store and asking him about his first memories. Reconnecting the electro sounds coming out of Boston in the early 1980s to the birth of hip-hop. A lot. Anyway. I hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Here it is with respect to all of you who lived it the first time around.

Hip-Hop in the Hub: How Boston Rap Remained Underground

For those of you who can afford the $165 price tag (nah, I don’t get any) its also available in the massive comp Hip Hop In America: A Regional Guide.

Thanks of course to Mickey for all the hard work putting out this massive compendium and inviting me to be part of it.

Lecco’s Lemma Mega-Mix

Lecco’s Lemma Mega-Mix

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This Monday, November 30 I am honored to be playing the Beat Research night over at the Enormous Room in Cambridge with fellow hip-hop scribe Brian Coleman. We will be celebrating the release of the book Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide, in which my article on Boston’s early hip-hop scene is appearing. The book technically drops that very day and this will be a chance for me to share all the musical treasures I uncovered along the way.

This is an enormous honor for me and I have to thank all the folks I talked to for sharing their stories and setting me straight about others. I’ll be posting the article on the 30th so you can all give it a read. In the strange economy of academic publishing, the book will likely be too expensive for most of my friends to buy. But since I was not getting paid anything to do it (thank UMASS for keeping my lights on), I at least negotiated to keep the rights so I can use it for other purposes (such as sharing with you).

In the meantime, Chris Faraone did a nice piece in the Phoenix this week shining some light on the tapes and the show Monday. Thanks! I wanted to follow up with some audio from the archive and some additional pictures. The mix above is a collection of some of the tapes I captured in a sleepless night up in Magnus’ lab two summers ago now. I included some of the station IDs and began the mix with an iconic first interview with Guru (then Keithy E) and Mikey Dee. Perhaps this was Guru’s first on air appearance! In the interview, Magnus asks why he has not heard of them before and seems genuinely impressed with the tape while the phone rings off the hook in the background. It sounds like a beautiful time in the history of Boston rap. Come on down Monday to hear more.

Lecco’s Lemma Lives

My best record find ever

Those are big words for sure. But in this case, it has to be true. Last summer, while sorting incoming records at the old lab, I flipped past  this copy of Ofra Haza’s Galbi 12″. As it was heading for the “sell/trade” pile (I already have a few), something caught my attention. The record sleeve seemed a little thick. There was clearly something else in there. “Hunh, might be worth keeping her promo shot/press kit, plus, it has an old WERS stamp on it…,” I was thinking as I removed the printed material inside. Then I fell over.

After a year digging into the basement of Boston hip hop looking for its origin stories, my personal grail had escaped me.  I knew that The Source magazine started in Boston (in the Cambridge dorms at Harvard to be precise) and I really expected to run across an old copy. Indeed, lots of folks reported having copies way back when (before the move, fire, robbery…) but I never was able to track one down. Until now. In the most random way imaginable.

Here, in a record I was about to throw away was a copy of The Source, Vol 1, No. 2, November 1988! Not only was it  still stapled shut but it started right out with a list of “hot picks from streetbeat” (presumably a reference to the weekly rap radio show run by David Mays Jon Shecter on Harvard’s student radio station WHRB). Also, nore the appearance of the local classic TDS Mob track Dope For the Folks along with a pile of golden age gems from national acts.  This amazing bit of Beantown hip-hop history was delivered in a way that only the vinyl gods could have organized. It also put a beautiful bookmark on the end of my year-long quest for the foundations of Boston hip-hop. Grail. Check.