1993 seems so long ago, but I remember that year like no other. I was
turning 16 and felt the world was mine. I’ve been DJin’ for about a year
and a half and was already getting thumbs up and tutelage from the
older cutmasters in the hood. I had converted a small space in my folks’
garage as my personal studio equipped with 4 house speakers with rips
in the cone and a 8 track AM/FM receiver for an amp. I worked odd jobs
in the Italian part of town and bought myself a Gemini mixer and 2 Gemini
belt driven turntables. I was addicted….addicted to the sound, the craft,
the culture of hip hop.
It was rare to hear Hip Hop on the radio until Hot 97 changed formats in
1992-1993 to supply NY with a Hip Hop station. It introduced Hip Hop
culture to more people and commercially lucrative opportunities. That
winter, after doing a few summer gigs I bought my first sampler. An Alesis
Time Machine meant for a effects rack, but used by me to free myself
of pause tape hell. For all you young dudes, in those days if you had
no sampler you used a tape deck and would record parts of songs/records,
pause, then bring the record back and record that section again. A few
hundred times and you have full song looped slightly off beat. Pause
tapes done right though would provide you with a beat to rewind and
flow on with the block. The trick was looping unique parts of songs
sampled already by established artists and flipping it.
I used to listen to DJ Mister Cee and DJ Mr Magic ( this this is is a…)
Thursday nights while NY Undercover was on. That’s where I heard
“Live at the Barbecue” and Black Moon the first time. One night I heard
a song called “Protect Ya Neck” from a group influenced by old kung fu
flicks. I quickly hit up SOS DJ Specialty shop and picked up the unsigned
12” with “Tears” on the other side.
The day arrived, my 16th birthday. I scrapped up enough doe to cop the
Wu on cassette and the Tribe on vinyl. I popped in the Wu first and I was
immediately snapping my neck. Asking myself often, “How the FUCK did he
loop that sample like that?” The intangible beats were matched by an
incoherent, but lyrically poignant and vigorous verse delivery. I realized
then that hip hop had never heard the likes of this before.
Wu’s hard street rhymes on RZA’s awkwardly complex beat structure
took me away to a place I’ve never been. Before I knew it my Sony
auto reverse flipped through the auto reverse 4 times. (I listened to it
twice, for the MP3 genners). Wu was nothing like I ever heard before. It
was so raw, so New York. I was in hip hop heaven. Then I realized Midnight
Marauders was sitting on the turntable. It was 11:30 pm.
To be continued…