The original DMX

…was from Boston?!?! Back before Earl Simmons became known as the NY DMX, a Boston Beatboxer by the same name was tearing up local mics. I had not realized that the DMX we have come to recognize was also originally a beatboxer who got his start around 1984. I guess given the timeline, a DMX vs DMX battle was a possibility. Note to the hip-hop historians: Could we still put this battle together as a follow up to the infamous A-Train vs Solo Battle? (Yeah NYC, we won that one hands down). DMX (NYC) and DMX (Boston), you down?

Anyway, a while back I got a request for some Boston DMX and being the keeper of the tapes, it is my responsibility to provide. Here is the classic DMX/LeCarr routine from the Leccos Lemma show ca. 1986. There are so many amazing things about this routine to me. From the quotation of Trans Europe Express, Inspector Gadget AND the Pink Panther to the huge number of people in the background shouting and cheering along to the whistle beatboxing (which according to A-Train we invented) to the seamless tradeoffs between these cousins, it’s another example of how Boston was right there at the start (and all along really).

DMX LeCarr Spring1986B by LeccosLemma

You want more? Here’s the Beantown Beatbox Extravaganza!

Leccos Lemma Beatbox Extravagana B by LeccosLemma

Respect to Magnus, Willie and Matt (the original Lecco’s Lemma archivists).

Musenomix 3-2-11

Musenomix_3-2-11

On March 2rd, 2011 I joined Dana Scott and the gang down at WMBR (88.1 FM) for the second installation of my Boston Hip Hop tribute and Lecco’s Lemma Archive sessions. It was epic, if I do say so myself. I dropped some classic Boston 90s ish by artists like God Complex, Polecat, Tmax, Motion, Prento Kid (not from Boston but with Boston production by Underground Productions) and more. We also rapped about some history, had some laughs and nearly melted the decks with all the Boston heat.

Heads were bobbing off their necks in the studio as always happens when I break out the mid-90s Underground tracks (respect to Brad and Dow, the least appreciated producers out there in the Bean IMHO). Man, people have been sleepin’ on Boston’s lost classics for way too long now. Its amazing to us elders, but for all the really deep underground 90’s stuff (and earlier), there’s a new generation of ears out there who are feeling it hard. Lots of catz and kittens who are down with the underground now were still making macaroni art for gold stars when some of the Best Boston Beats dropped in 1995-1998. Listen for yourself.

Musenomix_3-2-11PaceFace

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Musenomix_3_2_11

Respect to Boston’s old school….too many to name…you know who you are.

Thanks for studying your history Musenomix. Keep that flame alive and maybe, just maybe, hip-hop can still bring down Babylon like it was always supposed to.

PEACE BOSTON!! (Happy birthday UMMF!)

Lecco’s Lemma’s 25th

Lecco's Tape Return 2010

All of this seems like it was preplanned. One possibility is that Lecco engaged the services of the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and somehow orchestrated a rediscovery of 1980’s Boston hip-hop to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Lecco’s Lemma show. In another, Lecco invaded the Media Lab through a wormhole he left back in 1986 and secretly built a tractor beam to draw the Lemmas back home. Whatever the plan, the machine certainly seemed to speak this weekend up in Maine. Let me provide some history.

You see, according to the origin myth, Lecco was the computer that was secretly running the local rap radio show that Magnus started in September 1985 in the basement of MIT. Even then, the singularity seemed near. The tapes (or more properly the songs) were his Lemmas. I have been searching for them for a while now.

On July 11, 2007, I visited Magnus up in his northern lab/studio/record repository. As usual, he is way ahead of everybody else (having moved to high ground long ago with his massive collection of reggae 45s and acres of LPs and 12’s). Unfortunately, on that first visit I only had one night to spend with him. It was great to reconnect and greater still to hear the famed Lecco’s Lemma tapes. But it was rushed. I was only able to record a few tapes before grabbing a couple of hours of shut eye for the long drive home. Not only that, I hadn’t brought a proper tape deck and the good one was deeply wired into Mango’s studio. So I wound up grabbing audio out of a boom box headphone jack. (Somehow appropriate, but not exactly up to even my lame archival standards).

As a result, I was only able to digitize a small fraction of the three wine boxes full of Lecco’s tapes he had kept together. I thought there was a life’s work just in those three boxes, but as I was leaving he explained that there were probably that many more tapes scattered throughout his dozens of boxes of unsorted tapes. I assured him I’d be back soon.

As it increasingly seems to do, time raced along and it was two years later (nearly to the day) when I discovered the second trove. Not in Magnus’s lab this time but in a closet up on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Coming just before the 25th anniversary of the first Lecco’s Lemma show, this new discovery seemed like an clear message from the record gods and perhaps even from Lecco himself. After years of asking around, what’s the chance of finding a collection of 180 show tapes containing the precious on-air performances that Magnus had witnessed (and fondly described) but never recorded? And on the 25th anniversary of the show no less! I immediately called Magnus to see about coming to find those remaining tapes. This time I went prepared with some time on my hands and a tape deck.

Newly discovered Lecco's tapes

This last weekend, on the 25th anniversary of the show, I spent a whole day in Magnus’s lab sorting tapes while he painted. Strangely, we often worked in silence. Sometimes he would amble over to my ever growing piles and dig out a familiar gem. They were always incredible. Tapes of his pre Lecco’s show Reggae Mukassa, original tapes of Gnawa music from the 1970s and of course, many many Lecco’s Lemma demos.

In my secret dreams I must confess I had imagined reuniting the two Lecco’s Lemma tape collections. In more sober moments I also thought it might be either unwise to have them all in one place (what if lightning hit the pile for example) or at best highly unlikely that Magnus would want to part with even one box of the precious Lemmas. Luckily hope prevailed over caution and I mustered the courage to ask him in a statement that was only half a question…”er, well, you know if we get this grant to digitize them, we might need to, er…take some tapes.” The quiet answer was a shudder inducing, “I think I can trust you”. The next morning, his mind-frying coda was delivered over the phone when I called him at work to confirm that it had not been just another diggers dream. “You are the caretaker now.” I had to turn off the video tape to collect myself.

Tapes heading home

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that I got it all on tape. Audio tape of course. But more importantly, video. I have perhaps 2 hours of Magnus telling the story of the show, his own history as a DJ and lots and lots of me digging.

Whether by fate, luck or some cyborgian scheme, somehow the Lemmas returned home just in time for their 25th birthday. I don’t know why I was chosen. Perhaps just because I kept asking. Or perhaps it was part of the plan all along. Either way, Magnus knows I will be a good custodian and that Lecco watches over the Lemmas always.

Happy 25th birthday Lecco. Your Lemmas are home.

pace.

Lecco’s Lemma Trove Two

prime box close

When I got to visit Magnus and the original Lecco’s Lemma tapes I was honored and humbled. Here were the raw materials of one of the oldest rap shows in the country (September 1985) and a critical one in the history of Boston hip-hop. In all of the wonder of that discover there was only one problem…Magnus didn’t tape his own show (or at least not that often). It makes sense. Listening to these tapes it’s clear he was juggling a lot already. The problem is, he did lots of on air stuff. Without the tapes of the shows the record would always be incomplete.

So I began asking around. Lots of people claimed to have tapes of the show. I have a few myself. But when it came right down to it, there just weren’t that many around. But there was one person on my list who I never quite connected with…until recently. I guess I just assumed when he said that he taped the show a lot it was the same as all of us…a lot less often than we remembered. Well. In this case I was wrong.

I finally connected with him this past weekend. As I walked up to the house with my backpack, he stood up from the stoop where he had been waiting and said, “Where’s your truck”. “Truck?”, I replied already taken aback. “What do you mean? How many tapes do you have?” “Like I said, I have boxes, man” was his only reply as he disappeared up the stairs to the archive. I still didn’t quite believe him until he opened the closet door. Then I had to sit down to keep from falling over. He has boxes man.

Lecco's Lemma Trove 2

I left with one box containing 64 tapes of the show. He still has two more. Rounding down, lets say there are 60 tapes per box. That’s 180 tapes. Two tapes per show on average is about 90 shows. Since the show only ran for three years, that’s more than half the shows EVER! With this and Magnus’ original tape collection we will be able to compile a pretty complete picture of 80s Boston hip-hop.

Needless to say, there will be much more to say (and more importantly hear). I’ll be putting stuff up here and on the new Lecco’s Lemma soundcloud account all year. After all, September 2010 is the 25th anniversary of the first Lecco’s Lemma show in 1985…so bust out the tape decks people as we run it down for y’all.

Peace to Magnus and DJ Spin (the first Lecco’s archivist) and all the Lecco’s Lemma alumni out there!

Lecco's Lemma Show Tapes Close

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?!?!?

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

Lecco’s Loco on WZBC

I’ve been digging through the tapes and found a good one. This is some audio of Magnus on a later incarnation of Lecco’s Lemma on WZBC in Newton. Not sure of the date, but it was post 1988 (it starts with Cold Lampin’ With Flavor). I also love that it was sponsored in PART by a grant from Mattapan Music…right there in Mattapan Square!

I’ve edited it a bit to focus on the talking (sorry Magnus) and one track from the mix that is not available elsewhere. Can you get to this? The Willie…Alexander…Rap. Yup. Once and former member of the later Velvets and Boom Boom Band leader, Gloucester’s own post punk magnate did a rap tune that was hyped by Magnus on ZBC way back when. Not only that, he just released a new/old record.

Here’s the review from the recent Noise.

[snip]
WILLIE ALEXANDER & THE BOOM BOOM BAND
Captain Trip Records
Loco Live 1976
16-song CD
Those unfamiliar with Willie should know he graced Boston stages playing Boston rock ’n’ roll when even dinosaurs like myself were playing Little League. I mean, this dude was in one of the last lineups for the Velvet Underground! It’s an honor to review a still-playing legend and I’m very glad this didn’t fall into the hands of some fool like Zortar’s hands. This CD was recorded at two Boston clubs—the Rat (there’s even a song called “At the Rat”) and the Club. The sound is great and the selection of songs is pretty representative. Younger folks expecting an early punk sound might be put off by Willie’s sometime falsetto and keyboards, but like most early Boston rock, his style is more garage than punk and he was one of the earliest and best of the time.

Willie Alexander & the Boom Boom Band play sloppy, eccentric, creative, rockin’ Boston music and you can’t go wrong with the lyrics from my favorite “Pup Tune”—“Your dog swallowed another pair of panties, she puked them up in the hall, they’re in a ball now.” (Slimedog) [snip]

Locos Lemma Lives!

Lecco’s Lemma at Beat Research

As many of you know, I’ve been workin’ on an article about the history of Boston’s early rap scene for better than a year now. Its finally off to the press and I’ll certainly post it as soon as it hits the streets (if not sooner). A big part of the project was locating (and visiting!) the legendary Lecco’s Lemma tapes.

Back in the fall of 1985, DJ/painter and local music legend Magnus started a rap and electronic music show on Saturday afternoons at WMBR in Cambridge, MA. In addition to being one of the earliest rap shows in the country (which puts him in the company of folks like Mr. Magic and Red Alert), it was the first in the Bean to feature local artists regularly. As a result, it was the hub of the Hub’s earliest rap scene. Shows like Beat Street were soon to follow, but Magnus was a critical pioneer and superfan who helped to launch the careers of artists like Gangstarr, The Almighty RSO, Edo G, Big Chuck, etc. To this day, he refers to the regular attendees as “the kids” and he loved them like an older brother. Based on the interviews I did, the love and respect still flows back to Magnus from everyone who remembers the show.

According to folks like Rusty Pendleton (whose legendary Funky Fresh Records is in danger of closing – so go by a cd y’all!!!), the Lecco’s Lemma show was THE SPOT to be back in the day. He should know. After all, he was rocking the decks with his TOES back at the Talent Nights while the New Kids took notes in the background!

Still don’t believe a PhDJ/professor of management? (I don’t blame you really). Check out D. Scribe’s words on the matter from back in 2005. Or how ’bout a post from my very own early bloggy days with critical history from Type 4 and Magnus himself chiming in. For that matter, head on over to the Lecco’s Lemma page Matt put up with streamin audio and all!

The amazing thing about Magnus is that he saves everything (everything good that is). Over the years, whispered words of a lost Lecco’s Lemma tape archive were passed around among Boston hip hop junkies but no one had ever seen them or knew whether they existed for sure…until now.

Last year I was honored to visit my old friend Magnus in his lab in rural Maine and see the Lecco’s Lemma tapes. (More on the visit soon as its a story in itself). Sitting above his equally legendary collection of reggae 45’s, the three wooden wine boxes contained a litteral treasure trove of early Boston rap tapes! The first one I opened knocked me off my chair.

That hand written tape on the top says “This one’s called she’s a mutt by Edo Rock of the FTI crew”. OMG! There was Guru’s “For Magnus” tape when he was just back from college and appearing as MC Kiethy E. Right up front was Malden’s Top Choice, there was TDS Mob’s whole TAPE (!?!) on Race Records, a hand made demo tape of Boston Goes Def…and on…and on…until the break of dawn. I spent a sleepless night surrounded by Magnus’s psychedelic bio-mechanical paintings taping everything I could in 12 hours. (If you look below, you might notice that my portable protools rig is connected to…what’s that? No, no, not the cool ass reel to reel. Try the 1/8″ jack of the ca. 1989 “all in one” stereo Magnus pulled out for the purpose! More on that later)

I’ll be sharing some of the gems in all their hiss and glory this Monday night at Beat Research at the Enormous Room in Cambridge, MA.(567 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA)

The Lecco’s Lemma listening party goes from 9:30-10:00 at which point, Flack, Wayne and I will trade sets. You can be sure mine’s gonna have plenty of classic Beantown tracks in it (along with a healthy dose of the random dancefloor killers I have collected over the years).