TDS Mob - Part 2
DWG: Going back to 'Dope for the Folks', we've got sales lists from Tower Boston back in the days that has it as being one of their biggest selling singles for weeks on end, so it was clearly selling quite a lot of copies in Boston, but maybe not so many out of Boston. Was that down to distribution or you guys being a local act?
MK: That was down to us being independent and being a local act. We tried to shop the record to get a deal, before we put the record out ourselves. That didn't work out based on... I don't know, it could have been business dealings, or that nobody wanted to invest or put trust in a Boston act, or that record labels didn't think they should invest in signing us with Alan and Mark having so much at stake or wanting so much return back. In Boston we had a big following based on our street promotion, us being a group that was already hot and having a bit of a following, and Anthony just being a good MC.
DWG: Would you say that before Ed OG came out, 'Dope for the Folks' was the biggest hip-hop record to come out of Boston?
MK: Yes. I'm not sure if RSO were making records as RSO at the time, and I'm not sure who put out records first, but I know we put the fire under RSO's ass to step their game up. [DWG nerd note: Almighty RSO released records in 1986 and 1987 on Boot records, pre-dating TDS Mob, and a third 12” on Surrender Records in 1988, the same years as TDS' first release. However, they're nowhere near as good...]. We were usually the first under the top billing, and that didn't sit well with them in terms of them feeling they had more records out, or they had more of a street following. I mean, there's popularity and there's having the streets, the rowdy dudes, the thugs. They might have had clout in the streets but as far as respect for the music and the artform, putting out good music using good beats, good live shows – we were killing everything that came in site back then. Even national acts we'd support. We were bringing attention to ourselves to the national acts based on the amount of hype and noise and adrenaline that we'd bring to it. National acts would have to put on a good show because we'd turned it out and got the crowd all hyped, people screaming 'TDS'. These headliners sit back in their rooms, play with their girls, smoke their weed, whatever they're doing until it's their time to perform, but if you're in a stadium or a theatre, you can hear what's going on outside, they're like 'what is going on out there? Who's performing out there right now? Who's got the crowd that hype?' And people are like,'That's that local group TDS, I'm trying to tell you, their record is hot, but you never even listened to the record'.
DWG: Let's run through some names that you opened for or were billed with. Would you share a quick memory of your time and shows with those groups? Let's start with Slick Rick.
MK: The Slick Rick show was at Madison Park High School. We had people coming to see TDS as well as Slick Rick. Slick Rick coming to town was a big act for us because he was a platinum-selling artist and he was one of my favourite MC's. That was the first show where we brought out our Boston Bruins attire. Slick Rick turned out to be one of those MC's who is a lot like he conceives himself to be on records. He showed up late, he showed up a little bit intoxicated, he came in the building, did his performance and he left the building. We didn't get to interact or see him much but we did our thing on stage and we were the saving grace of that show.
DWG: MC Lyte?
MK: That was at Lee School in the hood. A lot of thugs there, MC Lyte was there, she was the hottest chick rapping at the time. Brooklyn was in the house so that was a heavy security type show.
We didn't get a chance to meet her and I was really looking forward to a chance to meet her. I wanted my shot at her!
DWG: Haha! We've got a flyer from a show you did here with De La Soul, Queen Latifah, 45 King at the Chez Vous Rollerway.
MK: Queen Latifah was there, but De La Soul might have been a no-show. Latifah was the dominant person I remember there because we got to meet her because she's very personable just like she is to this day. She's very down-to-earth and she's one of those artists who actually conversed with the people, hung out with the crowd and mingled with the other opening artists. She actually sat and watched our show and was impressed and let us know. She said, 'You guys need some New York Connections. Y'all are known too locally. You're stage show is really right and you're too good to be local opening act'.
DWG: How about BDP and the whole crew like Ms. Melodie and D-Nice. Mark was telling us there was a sound system issue at that show.
MK: That was the Strand Theatre show. That was a huge show. I would say that was the biggest show of our career because we upstaged BDP who were the top rap group out there period. All we ever cared about was turning the crowd out, impressing and showing up the headliners. That was always our thing.
DWG: Would you battle their tracks? So you'd do a different show when BDP were on than when MC Lyte was on?
MK: It wasn't so much that. We were on the climb and we had got to BDP. That's when we were at the height of our popularity and I believe when we did the BDP show, 'Scratch Reaction' wasn't even out yet, so that was the height of our popularity off the first disc. We only had one 12” out and we went to New York to try to push our record and we went to Hot 97. That was when Mr Magic and Red Alert was battling. We were Red Alert fans then as opposed to Mr Magic fans so we set our goals on getting our record to Red Alert and his crew first and foremost, also because they were down with BDP and they were our favourite group. So we went up to the station and the dude shoots us down, never even takes the record, or takes the record and never plays it, never even acknowledges that we came and tried to get our record played. That was like a shock to the heart for us. It's not like he was one of our idols, it's just that these were the guys we wanted to be accepted by in the rap game at that time. They shot us down cold.
So now fast forward 6 to 8 months, BDP is coming to town, the host of the show is Red Alert. They're in our town now, so here's our chance to show them how they slipped up. They could have been the ones to break this group from Boston and they missed the opportunity. Our stage show was the tightest. We had gone to New York prior and at the time their was this dude who was making leather suits in New York. He used to make them for Rakim, BDP, so we went and got our own leather red and black Gucci suits that had our names on the back. We came out looking like rap stars, our show was tight, we had our dancers and we turned that building out to the point where Red Alert had to come out and be like, 'Who's out here making all this noise?' 'It's TDS, remember them? It's the guys who came to your show. We came all the way up from Boston, we gave you our record, you shot us down in the hallway, told us you wasn't feeling it. So this is the record you wasn't feeling, these two records. 'Crushin' Em' and 'Dope for the folks'. These guys are the guys that you slept on.'
DWG: By contrast, you also did a show with their biggest rivals, the Juice Crew. Was that before or after the BDP show?
MK: Ooh. I think that might have been after. That show was working with Bizmarkie, that was a huge show. Whoever was headlining – BDP or Bizmarkie – TDS were going to be there too. You were also going to a TDS show, it was more of an incentive to go to the show. At that stage the major national rappers had the reputation that they'd come, they'd show up to shows late, they'd sing half of the five or six records that you know and they're out.
DWG: Nothing has changed!
MK: Right. It's even worse now. Now they'll do one verse of a song. They'll do a half or quarter of eight or nine records and two thirds of the rest of them. They don't do whole shows, they don't give you freestyles, they don't give you any new music. They're trying to be on stage for as little time as possible.
DWG: We've got some pictures of you and the Beastie Boys, that must have been around '89?
MK: Yes, we got to meet with them and chat with them. That was on the eve of when we were shooting our video for 'What's this world coming to'. We took a break from shooting that video to go down and meet with them and have that photo-op. That was strictly a promotional night. We weren't performing. I don't think they were either, they were here signing autographs to promote their multi-platinum 'License to Ill' album. It had already done 2 million and they were already the most popular group in the world besides Run DMC. Because we were who we were at the time in Boston, it was very easy for us to get in. I don't have a copy of that picture.
DWG: And the last show we wanted to mention was with Ice Cube.
MK: Oh yeah, that was another huge show. That was right after Ice Cube had broken up with NWA.
DWG: TDS get equal billing with Ice Cube... Pretty impressive!
MK: Yeah, we were that big at the time. That was after we'd got our major independent distribution deal with Relativity. Now we were national, we had a couple of videos, one of them was being played nationally. We wanted it to be 'Scratch Reaction' but it was too grainy and too street for them to feel that they could run with that and break it.
DWG: ‘Scratch Reaction’ is a good video. What record store is that in the video?
MK: That's Nubian Notion. That store is still open, but they don't sell records any more. That was a store that sold everything. You could buy milk, cigarettes, records, perfume, incense. You could be in their for 45 minutes because they had a little record store in the back, they sold clothes. At one point they had gotten so popular that they branched out and had their own little separate DJ section. That was a major spot where you could go and always find our record in stock.
DWG: You had the twins who were the dancers for you, what was their background?
MK: These dudes were popular when poppin' and lockin' were the thing. These dudes were the best at it at the time. They ended up approaching us based on us always having shows. We were like, 'We're not that kind of rap group where we would need all that extra baggage on stage'. But Uggy knew them too and was telling me about these dudes. He was like, 'You need to call these dudes and see their routines. These dudes are crazy with it'. I went and checked out their routines and I had to get them to dance for us. We were giving them exposure, they were giving us exposure. We would come out, do our little intro set up, give them the stage, let them get the crowd totally hype to the point where we had to come out and do a good show. How are you going to upstage what the dancers just did? Our stage show was killing it because we had all the elements. We had the swagger, we had the dance, we came with a hip-hop show. There wasn't a bunch of dudes on stage trying to look tough. We had variety packs too. We had 3 or 4 different routines so if you saw a TDS show on a Friday, a Saturday and a Sunday afternoon, you wouldn't see the same show 3 times.
DWG: You had different routines for different areas, didn't you?
MK: We tried to break national, we tried to do the national thing, but we were a street hip-hop group so we always had that. We'd do remixes. Puffy said he invented the remix, but he didn't invent the remix. Not to say we did, but remixing has been going on ever since records have been going on. A remix would be a change of our show. We'd do 'Crushin' Em' but to the Lou Reed record. We did a lot of benefits, Amnesty International, we had a pretty impressive resume for a rap group. We were considered more of a music group or band in the Boston market because that's the kind of town Boston was. It wasn't a hip-hop town. We could be playing with an acoustic band on the same bill, so we had to have a clean show, a show that people could comprehend that weren't fans of hip-hop but they could still see the talent.
DWG: Any particular stories you wanted to mention about your two 12”s, or about the studio sessions?
MK: The session where we did the five tracks, that was the most memorable. We did it over the course of a few of days going into the studio. It was probably 3 days of 5 to 6 hour sessions. Our method at the time was laying down all the music on one day, then doing all the vocals after all the music was laid down. On day one we'd work on three tracks almost to completion, lay down the samples, lay down the beat work, lay down the scratches. The second day we'd do the other two tracks and then start the vocal lays because it was important for Anthony to do what he needed to do. He needed to have his groundwork done.
DWG: Who would you credit with the production on those 5 tracks?
MK: It was a group production. Them coming from a rock standpoint, rock and roll producers used to be the people who would set up the studios and guided the bands through whatever it is they're creating. Mark got production credits on our first 12” based on what he perceived a producer to be.
DWG: What you'd probably call an 'executive producer' now.
MK: Yeah. I see now, based on the production credits for a lot of bands, that is what a lot of producers do. It's the person who gathers everything, makes sure all the levels are right, makes sure nobody is the dominant voice in a confused and noisy rock record. With hip-hop production it's the people coming up with the samples and laying down the drum programming, doing the scratching and doing the mixing. And that was all us. We produced all the 5 tracks – they didn't provide any of the samples or any of that stuff, but they were the guys who booked the sessions, and laid down a set plan on how were going to do what we needed to do in the time with a set amount of money that we had.
DWG: We gather a lot of those samples might have been from 'Ultimate Breaks & Beats' which were courtesy of Tower Records in Boston?
MK: Not at all. Our first session had nothing to do with those breakbeats. 'Dope For The Folks' was a record by Creative Source that we used - that's a diggin' in the crates record. The initial beat on 'Crushin' Em' I never heard, but I had the Bozo Meko record with 'Flash It To The Beat' and on the other side had the James Brown beat with 'Tramp'. That's one of the reasons I was recruited to the group because I had the record they needed to make the record they wanted to make. Bozo Meko became my DJ name after TDS broke up because that record to me embodies hip-hop. That was me being able to take a record and be like, 'Now I'm gonna show you guys what the fuck I'm talkin' about'. This is what they're doing in New York – there's five rappers and a guy with a beatbox and he's tapping out beats. I was trying to explain it to people and tell 'em my version of hip-hop.
DWG: You must have trashed a few copies of the Bozo Meko!
MK: I had mastered DJing by that time, so my records were like gold. When I bought records I bought them by the 4 or by the 6. If I bought a hot record I would buy 6 copies of it, put a couple away.
DWG: We do that with sneakers and it gets expensive.
MK: It does, but it's worth it. When we we have an event, it's like you need to break out the new ones, but you've got a couple that's worn in, so I can beat them up like I want to. So 'Funk for the folks' made 'Dope for the folks' and 'Flash it to the beat', we sampled that and 'Funky Drummer' and made 'Crushin' Em'. We wanted to sample for 'Head of the Dope Committee' a beat that was actually from the breakbeat records but we couldn't, it was a pace thing. To make it sound the way we wanted it to sound, the record was too fast and so on and so forth based on the pace of the record that Gee wanted to rap to. We ended up doing that beat over, we took the Marley Marl method and sampled a kick, sampled a snare, so we just recreated a breakbeat and there it is.
DWG: On that note, ‘Head of the Dope Committee’ is an amazing record: it's unbelievable it's taken 20 years to get it out there.
MK: Yeah, that's one of the ones we saved. That was a record we were saving for the album. It was unanimous that that was one of our hottest tracks, that's an incentive to buy the plate. Had that album come out it would have been called 'Head of the Dope Committee'.
DWG: Was the sample for 'Dope for the folks' Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers?
MK: It might have been. All I know is that it was called 'Funk for the folks'. I can just see the record, but I can't remember the name of the artist.
DWG: 'Dope For The Folks' is a bitch to find – we're guessing there aren't that many copies of it. How many were pressed?
MK: I think 'Dope for the folks' was 2000 or 1500, knowing that a certain amount was going to go into promotion. A third of that was going to give be given to DJ's to promote the record and record pools. That was one of those released that, if you got a copy of it – whether it was free or you bought it – you got one of the original copies. Unless the record really took off there wasn't going to be a repressing. The record took off enough to give us shows, to keep us busy, to get our name out there, to get us the distribution deal that went on to become videos, a second disc, the potential of coming out with an album.
DWG: Was 'Scratch Reaction' a much bigger run?
MK: Yep, that was a bigger run. That was probably 4 or 5000 and who knows if they even did a reissue because that became Relativity property. Relativity were an independent distributor at that point and right after they released that they came out with their own label brand as Relativity Records. They went on to become one of the big East Coast independents. When Priority broke with NWA they showed these independents how to really make money. If you get proper street promotion and get your product into the places that consumers are gonna buy it then you can cut the big boys out. Priority showed how big the money you come if you did it right and Relativity followed suit. They were the East coast version of Priority, but they didn't do it as big as Priority because they didn't take as many risks. They did controversial promotional stuff like Eazy E visiting the president. If somebody was controversial back then you went and bought their disc to hear what the controversy was about, whether it had anything to do with music or not.
Nowadays a normal person can become a Google or Youtube sensation with a 1 minute video. Back then you had to make noise in certain circles to even have your name brought up.
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