TDS Mob - Part 1
DWG: It'd be good to hear in your own words how you guys met and got together. When we were speaking to Mark Cohen in L.A., he was saying that himself and Allen were working at the Tower Records in Boston, and Kool Gee was working on one of the checkouts there.
MK: Yeah, that's how those guys ended up meeting. I was actually recruited into the crew. They had the wheels turning and were in the process of becoming TDS before I even met them. But when I met Anthony [Kool Gee] he told me he was working at Tower at the time and had hooked up with some guys working there that were trying to get into the music business and put out records. These guys seemed pretty serious and he had built something of a rapport with them, where they'd exchanged tapes and were interested in getting into the studio and actually doing the demo tape they had built up, which I believe was the demo they passed on to Allen for him to hear, to determine whether he wanted to work with them, it was the original version of 'Crushin' Em'. The original version I've never heard, because that was the tape that got them the interest with Allen and Mark to sign us on as management, and once they'd signed us on we went into the studio to do our 5 song demo. That version had a lot more stuff in it – I haven't heard it but me and Anthony have had conversations about the demo.
The guy who was the liaison between us, Uggy, was a dancer, into poppin' and lockin' and that would have been in '86 or '87. There was a lot of back and forth talk, and at that point I had already been a DJ and making my little name for myself in the Boston area, being the first DJ to start scratching and scratch-mixing, doing parties where I was exposing people to what they considered to be hip-hop music.
DWG: You had family in the Bronx, didn't you?
MK: Yes, all my family is from New York, although my mom was born in Virginia. My father was born and raised in New York. When they started having kids, they didn't want to raise their kids in New York so they moved to Boston.
DWG: What was the Boston music scene like at that time?
MK: It was still going through that phase that I felt New York music was going through, Boston music was totally following the trends of the disco era. At the time in which hip-hop was created, disco was like the top music that was out. Discotheques were hot, the DJ with the two turntables and the fade-mixing, that was popular. And that was the outlet for the street DJ's, the hip-hop DJ's to do their thing. Soul and funk music were the underground, they were like the hip-hop back in those days. Music was very popular in the community, in the black neighbourhoods, but disco was the popular money-making music at the time and that incorporated the two turntables and a mixer.
DWG: Who was the first to use two turntables and a mixer on a hip-hop level in Boston?
MK: There were a couple of DJ outfits like Harry Hippy, at that time it was more about giving parties. There weren't really MC's and rapping, that didn't really kick off in Boston until I got out of high school, that was in 1982. I would say until Run DMC came out, that's when the Boston scene really picked up. It was already popular as far as all the records that coming out: Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, all the founding wax pioneers, but it didn't really pick up and become a phenomenon until Run DMC came out.
DWG: One of the earliest Boston guys was probably Rusty the Toe Jammer.
MK: Yes. I would credit Rusty the Toe Jammer and Skeeter and a couple of Boston DJ's that I credit with exposing hip-hop early on to the masses. They had their little radio shows and were playing the music that was popular and young and fresh back then, and that was hip-hop. It went from DJ outfits to everyone wanting to be in a rap group after the Run DMC phenomenon hit, everyone wanted to actually be Run DMC. Adidas became the official sneaker of Run DMC.
DWG: We noticed that in all your press photos, the Adidas connection. It's almost like there was no other brand of sneaker in Boston at the time. Was that so?
MK: Pretty much. Adidas is the Boston brand.
DWG: One of the other influential names from Boston is The Source magazine, and Almighty RSO – what was your connection with them? They tended to play the same shows as you.
MK: When RSO first came out, they were a merge of a couple of different crews. Ray Dogg and Marco [E-Devious], Antonius Albee, who had a clothing store that's been popular for like the last 20 years, he started it a couple of years after RSO made their run to be the premier hip-hop group out of Boston. We were one of the first groups out of Boston to do a lot things as far as rapping, that we don't get credit for, mainly because the rap scene was so spread out. There'd be a couple of years where there'd be one dominant crew, and everyone else would be opening acts, then there'd be another two or three years and a crew would come out that'd make a significant amount of noise. Not on a major scale but on a local scale. Ed OG and the Bulldogs was the first local group to breakout and have a national smash. Then Guru, Keith E E, kicked off the Gangstarr project, him mentioning Boston in a liner note or in a line every 7 or 8 songs.
DWG: And there was the Gangstarr Posse as well, wasn't there?
MK: The GSP. That was just a clique he was rolling with before he went to New York to hook up with Premier. They were the crew he hung with before he decided to take his dreams and move to New York. And he did it in a big way. I would credit Guru and Gangstarr as the first crew from Boston to make it but in the history book they're from Brooklyn.
DWG: You had adverts in early issues of The Source, and you were in the charts at number 6 in the second ever issue – above some real hip-hop legends.
MK: That was good for us, that was a real boost. But you have to take into consideration that for us that was a local hip-hop magazine. But that chart was where they tallied up, based on radio requests from the college radio show they ran out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Based on that, that's where we placed. There were 5 acts ahead of us and those were big records back then, it was probably KRS One and Bizmarkie and Latifah and Lyte, those were the acts that were dominant when we were first coming out. But that was an official chart, that wasn't a hook-up, or somebody greasing somebody's palm, that was us actually having a following and being popular. They were repping us because we were good as opposed to 'we've got to support our Boston acts'. We were one of the first acts where groups from New York, groups from down South were like, 'who are these guys?'
At the time, a lot of people didn't give us a second listen because we were from Boston, at that point Boston's reputation was for R 'n' B, we had New Edition, Maurice Starr, the Jonzun Crew, they were linked to Tommy Boy. Boston had links to New York hip-hop avenues but they didn't use 'em the way they could have. That was part of the inspiration for us to be that break-out group. At that point to get out of Boston, you had to go through one person, and that was Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun [brothers, the former a solo artist, then producer for New Edition and New Kids on the Block, the latter a co-founder of electro group the Jonzun Crew, and later producer of New Edition's 'Candy Girl']. They went on to be producers of New Edition, sell millions of records and be the second coming of the Jackson 5, in everybody's opinion. We were in talent shows with those guys. This was even before TDS. The Boston scene was limited to R 'n' B and rock back then, so were the first breakout rap group.
DWG: 'Scratch Reaction' was influenced by something you were doing before, is that right?
MK: I was a DJ, so my way of making my little mark in the music world at that time was to make the world's first all-scratch record. A little bit like what they were doing with sampling back then, when Marley Marl stumbled on to how to sample a kick and a snare, he stumbled on it accidentally and that's what made his beats unique. Sampling the snare from this record and the kick from that record, and the hi-hat from this record, a bass sound from this record, and that's how he went on to build his compositions. That is what I'd stumbled on by cutting and scratching. We were doing pause tapes and four-tracks were really popular. I'd take a record and play it and scratch in the kick for four minutes, then rewind it and scratch in the snare for four minutes to build the beat, then take little snippets from this record and that record to create a little demo composition.
DWG: One of the live recordings we have that we got from Mark sounds like you guys doing a live version of 'Scratch Reaction' where it sounds like you and Devon were actually cutting the beat live.
You must have been one of the first crews to do something like that. Were you aware that a lot of turntablists cite you as influential and inspirations for what you were doing?
MK: I had hoped that would be the case. I know we had an instrumental influence on a lot of different things that was going on.
I felt one of TDS' biggest accomplishments, as far as charting, 'Scratch Reaction' was number one on NYU which is a college-based New York station. We had the number one requested and played song for a couple of weeks and that was our second record. This was after we had gone to New York to try to break the first record. We did the circuit.
These guys Mark and Alan had all their ducks in a row as far as being able to go to New York, to hit this station, we're gonna go to Philly to do the same thing. They did what they were supposed to do as far as push the record and get our name out there and get us in alignment with the right people.
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