hip hop music

October 2, 2009

Mister Magic & Mister Cee Interview, 1995

I'm reposting here the full text of an interview with Mister Cee and Mr. Magic, that I did on the set of their "Best of Both Worlds" radio show at WNYE back in 1995. RIP to to John Rivas AKA Mr Magic, the inventor of Hip-Hop Radio and a man whose importance to the culture cannot be overstated.

JAY:So let's start from the beginning...What were you guys like as kids growing up? Before You got into hip-hop?
MAGIC: I was a hoodlum. No, not really a hoodlum, but I was always in trouble. Not really always in trouble. Let me just see, how can I explain it? I was a basketball player; played ball; got a girl pregnant when I was, like, 15, stopped playing ball, started working, still finished school, went to college; I was doing some clubs, I was playing in clubs; me and a friend of mine named Nate we went and got a van, and we started doing mobile stuff. That's when I first met Winston. Winston used to have Bonds, Studio 54, he was like a promoter; he got in touch with me and I started playing bigger clubs; I always kind of wanted to be a DJ on the radio. So then I did some college, I went to Bronx Community; and then, let's see, I started at what's called WNWK now but it used to be WHBI.
JAY: What year was that?
MAGIC: Hmmmm, ah, '77?
JAY: Wow, that long ago? And what other hip hop was on the radio at that time?
MAGIC: Wasn't no hip hop.
JAY: So yours was the first hip-hop show on the radio?
MAGIC: Even when I first went into radio, it wasn't really called hip hop, it was called disco. So you know like doing the clubs, from playing in the clubs I ran into Kurtis [Blow] and Grandmaster Flash and all of them, so you know we became friends. I was just from Brooklyn, they was from the Bronx, but I used to always run into them and Winston was one of those guys who used to believe in that battling stuff 'cause he used to have two different rooms. Then he would have a DJ from the Bronx playing in one room and have us from Brooklyn playing in the other room and he started his whole battle thing. And so that's why battling was always like a way of life for me. So then, let's see, around '79 I went to HBI, 'cause they had some air time. I always wanted to do it, so I was like working in this electronics store. I used to make speakers and stuff, so. They said that they would help me sponsor it, so I bought an hour, it was maybe like $100 or something like that. The store, all I had to do was advertise the store, because I had built up a following playing in the clubs so a lot of the other DJ's that I knew used to come around there and I used to give them discounts on speakers and used to make speakers and the whole thing. So then, let's see, HBI, I started playing at HBI, they expanded to 2 hours. I used to come on real, real late at night. At that time it was called "Magic's Disco Showcase"; wasn't even no hip hop. I used to have someone come down and just hang out like we do now. And you know if they started rapping, like Kurtis would come down and start rapping, Melle Mel would come down and start rapping. (Laughter) And so then it kind of developed. And then the Sugar Hill Gang came out with "Rapper's Delight" and then it was Frankie Crocker, their station was doing kind of bad in the ratings, so his music director's name was May James. Her daughter's name was Crystal, she used to always listen to me on a sneak tip.
JAY: Uh huh.
MAGIC: Her mother was like, "It's 2 o'clock in the morning; what you doing with that radio, 'cause this is before Walkmans came out. "What you doing with that radio?" She used to have it under her pillow and the whole thing. So she kept telling her mother. So May was the music director and so Frankie was like, their ratings were sagging, and she was telling him about me. So he sent for me. So we started talking and he asked me if I was interested in going to a commercial show with a commercial radio station. I said, "Yeah, of course" because I would have regular hours, I wouldn't have to be on at 2:00 in the morning, I wouldn't have to pay to be on the radio, they would pay me. So I think that was around . . . I did HBI for about two years, so that was about '81. Then I went to BLS. That's when I met Tyrone [Tyrone Williams aka Fly Ty] and Marlon [producer Marley Marl] . We kind of built up like a family type of thing and then came Shanté, going to Marley's house, because Marley always had all the equipment in his house. 'Cause Marley was a DJ too. So he always had all the equipment, he was like a little genius, he was always fixing stuff and all of that so, to make a long story short, Shanté came in town, she made the record [Roxanne's Revenge], that's how the Roxanne Roxanne thing started. Then after that everybody would put the next person on, so that's how Shan got put on. After Shan came Biz, cuz everybody used to open up for the person that was hot.So then came Biz and then came Kane, right. Then came Kane and then came G-Rap. Everybody putting each other on. And then that went through the '80's, and, you know, the rest is history
JAY: What about you , Cee?
CEE: Well, when I was younger, I was like Magic when he used to play basketball, I used to play all sports. I was one of those type of kids who played stickball, baseball, basketball, hockey . . . (laughter), I was a goalie at one time, (more laughter) . . played hockey like a motherfucker, I wanted to be a black goalie in the NHL type-shit. I used to play all sports. I was weighing like a buck-o-five. Scrawny looking kid. Nappy head. They used to call me "Corduroy Head" and shit like that. I was a nerd. (laughter) You know, all kinds of shit. And then, started working at 14, summer jobs, New York City summer jobs, started going through that. Then when I got 17, 18, I graduated from high school.
MAGIC: Didn't you go to school with Kane?
CEE: Me and Kane went to the same high school, Sarah J. Hill High School, a school for cosmetology. (laughter) We both went to a school for cosmetology (laughter).
MAGIC: But y'all had all the females in there.
CEE: All females were there. And it's funny, Kane got kicked out from another practically all-girls school, he got kicked out from, I forgot the name of that school, but it's a school for cooking. I think it's Park West. Used to be Park West High School. It was a school for cooking, so that was mostly girls, he got kicked out of that, got into Sarah J. which is a school for cosmetology. So that's how I met Kane, I met him in high school. But, as far as like what I was doing, before I really got into the rap thing I was like a messenger for like seven years. (Magic laughs). I was just a regular messenger for different messenger services. Then at my last job I was working for Airborne Express, so you can't tell me nothing about the City. I know the City like I know my balls!. (Laughter) I know every part of the City, you know. And that's what I was doing. When I was working for Airborne Express we had the deal like Cold Chillin. I was working for Airborne Express all the way up until we put out the Long Live the Kane album. And then the Juice Crew all of us, we went to London overseas for the Juice Crew tour, and then like my supervisor at Airborne, he was like, "Yo." I wanted to take a leave of absence cuz I still wanted to have a job and still do the record thing. My supervisor was like, "you got to pick one or the other." and I was out. And here I am.
JAY: Who came up with the name "Juice Crew"?
MAGIC: I did. This girl at BLS, she used to call. . . cuz see, Juice, that was the station with the juice at that time. Juice was like a word that we always used to say at the Fever. I used to always hang out at the Fever constantly. So she came up with the name "Sir Juice." So I'm the one who kind of, when I first went to BLS they used to call it the station with the juice. So she started calling me "Sir Juice." So that's how the Juice Crew developed cuz it was kind of like my crew at the time.
JAY: How did the battle start between KISS and BLS?
MAGIC: It was just natural because we were the first ones to play rap, and we was just crushing them in the ratings. So . . , crushing them, I mean doing them bad. Cuz when I first went there KISS was like real hot, cuz KISS used to be 99X. They changed their format. So they was doing good. Crocker called me, so we started killin' 'em. So they had to offset the fact that I was playing rap cuz at that time rap had really started becoming hot. So that's how they got Red Alert. And so automatically it was just a battle type of thing.
CEE: The battle between KISS and BLS, that's was just because KISS was hot at the time, and y'all came in and y'all just crushed them, and it just started from there.
MAGIC: It's a normal thing to battle, though. It got to be personal at one time, but you know we all grew out of that. You know, it's like, in basketball. You could have two brothers, but if one's playing against the other one, he wants to be the best.
MAGIC: It's just a normal thing, it's not like, you know people take it out of context, that's why we went and did the Old School battle to show how it is. At the time we'd just battle them with lyrics and skills and stuff like that. It wasn't like, a real physical battle. Although we did have a couple of confrontations while we was on the road, you know. Taking people's, pulling people's plugs out and getting they records, and the whole nine, you know. But it was cool. Kept it interesting.
JAY: So who won the battle?
MAGIC: We definitely won. (Laughter)
CEE: You know, a lot of people be asking me that, "Who really won that battle with the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions?" I think about that a lot, especially when people ask me, and one thing that I do have to say. KRS One is an incredible rapper. He's a dope incredible rapper, but . . . what would his career be if he didn't make an answer record to The Bridge? That's the only thing that I can say about that. And nobody would know the answer unless they was to actually happen. If they had actually happened, nobody would know the answer. Because the whole battle thing, correct me if I'm wrong, the whole battle thing started off with KRS ONE and Scott La Rock doing a record which was on Sleeping Bag Fresh Records; and I think it was called "Success Is The Word". And they wasn't called the Boogie Down Productions; I think they was called "1241" or; . . . they had a number as a name. And they got the record to Magic, Magic dissed the record, "Wack, Wack, Wack, Wack", and then the Bridge came at that same time; that's when Kris did "South Bronx".
CEE: I just wonder what would Kris' career be like if, let's say if Magic would have loved the "Success is the Word" record. You know what I'm saying? What if he would have played it, then what?
MAGIC: See, the thing bout what I did, I always gave everybody a chance, so it wasn't so much that I didn't like the record; it was just wack! That's all. The same thing that happened with UTFO, you understand. But see, I was the type of person, I would always take it because I've got a lot of mouth. And plus, with Flavor Flav, I broke his record on the air.
CEE: Yeah, Public Enemy.
JAY: Which record was that?
CEE: It was "Public Enemy No. 1".
JAY: Really?
MAGIC: You know, but that kept it interesting, cuz you've got to have controversy.
CEE: I think what it was was that, cuz you know, me being a listener at the time, listening to all that going on, I think I was like, all them records that was coming in, like Public Enemy, like KRS ONE, they was different records. So it was hard to accept something that was totally different. Like the Public Enemy record was very noisy, and it was just very, . . .
MAGIC: It was ahead of its time.
CEE: It was ahead of its time. It was very out of the ordinary coming from the KRS, the "Success of the Word" record was, the beat was kind of wack or whatever, but the lyrics was there, you understand what I'm saying? So it was like, good lyrics with a wack beat. So that was like, out of the ordinary, you know? So, I think what it was was they was just coming totally different, and it wasn't as easily accepted. Just like how De La Soul wasn't at first easily accepted. So Magic at that time was known to have a mouth . . .
MAGIC: (Laughter).
CEE: You know, he said what he wanted to say; he did what he wanted to do; and he didn't give a fuck, you know what I'm saying?
MAGIC: Still like that sometimes . . .
CEE: So he didn't give a fuck, and to this day that's what really a lot of people respect about Magic, the fact that even though there's people that say that, "Damn, Magic, back in those days, yo he was dissing niggers" and at the same time people liked that, cuz they was listening, and they was like, it was just amped.
MAGIC: And that'll make you better too.
CEE: It was like an amp type of situation.
JAY: Seems like that would inspire them.
CEE: You know what? It was like, he was saying stuff that a lot of fans wouldn't say, or a lot of people wouldn't say. I mean, you look at the Wendy Williams right now, you look at all these other radio personalities that have that same type of sassiness. That all came from Magic, man. To me. Magic was the originator of coming on the air and saying anything, knowing about gossip, saying "You know, I heard such-and-such got punched in the nose . . ."
MAGIC: (Laughter)
CEE: Magic was the originator of that. So now, and now look at it. It's even on the talk show issue, you know what I'm saying? With Ricki Lake and all that. And I'm not saying that Magic just brought it out like that, but I mean as far as radio, he was the first motherfucker, I don't give a fuck what nobody, he was the first motherfucker to just be like, "Yo, yo, such-and-such is wack." on the air, and didn't care. "Yo, I heard such-and-such got beat up." (Laughter) "Yo, why the fuck . . . " He was the first person to do that, and now you've got the Wendy Williams and the you know, well, Wendy is like the only one really doing it now, but I mean, even like the Howard Sterns and the Eds and the Dre's, you know what I'm saying? But it all originated from Magic, I feel.
JAY: How do you feel hip hop is different now than how it was when you were doing the Rap Attack?
MAGIC: At that time you could build up an allegiance to a certain rapper this way to the point where if Run DMC came out with a new record you were just going to buy it because you was a friend. Now there are too many rappers. It's like everybody got a rap group on their block; it's a DJ in every block; it's a block party and everybody wants to be down. And the thing that really sets people apart -- you got to be original. I also feel like the West Coast caught up to us but the East Coast came forward this year, with Biggie, and with Craig Mack. But the West Coast was doing us bad for a while; and the thing I like about the West Coast they got real good beats, but the East Coast got better lyrics. That's what I feel, but rap will be around. And plus, the fusion of reggae into rap, that also expanded it too.
CEE: I think rap has changed from just on the fact of it being on a mainstream level now. I mean, just about every commercial you see on TV is something with a rap record or somebody rapping, you know. You got rappers that's doing Sprite commercials, doing Reebok commercials, it's just totally on a mainstream level now; that it's just, we out of here.
MAGIC: And see white people like it too, now.
CEE: We're out of here with this rap thing. Like back in the early '80's, they was like it was no stopping rap, but now you just, it's way out of hand. When you got people like Michael Jackson bringing in Biggie Smalls to do a record together, it's out of here. It's out of control.
MAGIC: (Laughter) That's another thing about nowadays. I think that the rappers need to have better stage shows. A lot of times you see the rappers they're just like, studio musicians and when it comes to a stage show, they's why like, there's no tours now. Everybody's just rappin' and rappin' and plus the videos kind of hurt the tour situation too, because people would wait to see the person that they liked. Nowadays it's just, everybody's doing the same thing; it's just too many songs out. That's why, in order to be successful now, you've got to have something that everybody doesn't have. That's why Wu Tang is good, cuz they've got like a real good stage show, where you want to see them.
CEE: When me and Kane was coming up, I think that was a pivotal point of rappers that had dope stage shows; whether there was Kane, or whether it was Biz, or whether it was Luke or NWA or Dougie Fresh or Whodini or Run DMC, like the late '80's was like the pivotal point where it was just dope MC's but also dope stage shows.
MAGIC: Fresh Fest.
CEE: Forget about it. And nowadays Magic is right, it's just a lot of MC's who've got the most incredible records just don't have a stage show. And people's not going to pay $20 and $25 to hear you do the record the same exact way you do it on the album, you know what I'm saying?
JAY: Exactly. Exactly.
CEE: They want a little drama to it. Another thing about the stage show situation is that you know, like when we was coming up, we had the dances, whether it was Scoob and Scrap, or there was Heavy D and the BOYZ with their dances or whatever; Joe Ski Love with the Peewee Dancers, we had an extra little thing going on onstage whether it was the rappers, the dancers, whatever. Now, it's like, you've got an MC and a hype man. (Laughter) Somebody that will just get on stage and say "Ho-oo-oo, ho-ooo-oo!"
JAY: And steps on all your punch lines.
CEE: I'm not knocking that, but at the same time, there's somebody out there that's trying to come out that wants to bring more dynamics to the stage, and we just have to wait and see who that person is gonna be. I think Hammer to be honest with you had a lot to do with killing the stage show or presence cuz after Hammer came out and he had 30 and 40 dancers, had had like mothertfuckin' the Rockettes! (Laughter) After he did that he just overdramatized the stage and like . . .
JAY: So people had to go the other way . . .
CEE: Right, and so after he did that it's like he just really ran the dancing etc. on a rap stage show overboard and then everybody said, "We ain't touching it no more." So, I don't know what's going to be next, but, we have to wait and see.
JAY: Do you think it's better for you to use a DAT or a live music at a show?
CEE: Coming from experience, depending on your situation. But when me and Kane used to do shows, Scoob and Scrap was dancing, and them motherfuckers danced so hard that they would make our records skip. So all the songs that we performed "Ain't No Half-Steppin", etc. or whatever, we would have those songs on DAT. All the songs that we performed would be on DAT, but any free styles that was done, any interaction with the crowd or whatever would be done live on turntables cuz Kane kicking the freestyle stage Scoob and Scrap is not dancing while he's freestyling. Or if he's interacting with the crowd onstage, Scoob and Scrap is not dancing. But when the songs actually come on, Scoob and Scrap dancing. So I used to go back and forth; I used to be half live, half DAT. Is there something wrong with it? I think to a certain extent it is. You know what's wrong with it? When artists get on stage and say "Yo, son, turn that DAT on . . ., Yo, turn the DAT on son . . . Man, let's start this shit off. . . ". I cannot stand that. That shit just kills me. Cuz I just never was brought up like that. You supposed to be, everything's supposed to be kept secretive, you know what I'm saying. How you do your show. You have a DJ behind you and you're saying, "Yo, son, start the DAT". I mean that makes the DJ look stupid. And it's just unprofessional. If you want to use a DAT, use a DAT, but make you shit tight to where people don't know you 're using a DAT, you know what I'm saying. Doing shows on the road, so many people, like we would be on tour with Chuck, with PE or Stetsasonic or EPMD and them motherfuckers would be like "How did you switch back from DAT-live-DAT-live?" If you really work hard enough you can do it, you know what I'm saying? But motherfuckers don't, they just wanna -- get that money, like LL said, "6-G for 20 minutes is the pay that I earned", they just want that and be out. So, I don't know.
JAY: What do you feel is the importance of underground radio in hip hop today?
MAGIC In New York? Well, it's where you break the records and start the buzz. And see the thing about HOT '97, although it's my station, their playlist is real short. Because their philosophy is they want a quick turnover because everybody don't sit and listen to the radio stations for hours. They figure that it's like day party. They want to hear all of the dope songs in each day part. That's why the records keep repeating. The only way that you could hear anything else other than HOT '97 is the underground shows. Cuz I mean even now I get tired of listening to HOT '97, you know very seldom, we go to our music meeting and I know what's coming up and believe me you will hear it within the next couple of hours. You will hear everything that's on there. And that becomes annoying. That's another reason why here in New York mix tapes are so hot. Because you get tired of hearing the same thing.
CEE: When we first got to HOT '97 and they explained how the playlist is done or whatever, I really didn't understand it. But now I kind of like do, because like Magic said, for somebody to listen to one station for 12 hours, they would just have to be an asshole
MAGIC: And have no life (laughter).
CEE: They would just have to be ridiculous or something, so I see their philosophy on what they're saying. It's working right now for them, but as far as underground radio, it's been going on since the beginning of time, with Magic, with fuckin' Supreme Team, with Jerry Bloodrock, with the Awesome Two; you know the Awesome Two's been on the air for 15 years, man. With the Awesome Two, with the Afrikka Islam, the Zulu Beats, I mean, it's going on like that, since hip hop began, since the whole art of mixing two records at one time was started. So underground radio has always been a part of hip hop, whether it was in New York or the rest of the country. I mean the rest of the country they don't call it underground radio, they just call it college radio. But at the same time, it's very important.
MAGIC: Plus, you get to hear the stuff that's not commercial, you understand; plus you get to hear like a lot of new artists. That's how they get started and that eventually filters down to the HOT '97's and the PGC's in DC and so on and so forth.
CEE: It's just like comedy. If you can see somebody like DL Huey on BET when he does that Comic View show on BET; but when he's on HBO, he's cursing like a motherfucker; he's just raw with his shit and that's the same thing with commercial radio. Commercial radio is just clean cut, proper, but the underground shit, you can just get away with shit, you have no limits on what you want to play and what you want to do . . .and the kids like it, you know? They like it. They fiend for it. Every week. they listen to us, or they listen to your show, or they listen to Dirty Dozen or Awesome Two or Stretch and Bobbito; they just can't wait to hear what new song that we got. And that's real good, cuz it's like over 20 underground rap shows in New York, but everybody has their own exclusives every week. Like I may have a new KRS record, you may have a new Fat Joe record, Stretch and Bobbito may have a new Gangstarr record, everybody has their own exclusives. It's like, nobody plays the same exact records on their show. And everybody's show is different, even though we're all playing rap, everybody's show is different.
MAGIC: Everybody's got his own thing.
CEE: Everybody's show is different. And I've been to everybody's show on the underground circuit. Everybody's show is different. That just bugs me out, but that just shows that us being individuals we're all different, so our taste is going to be different. Like with me and Magic's show, I look at our show, it's an underground show but it's still kind of like more proper, like we do stuff more on a timely basis.
JAY: One last question, I always wanted to ask you, I used to listen to the show every week, and like you'd be playing that "this is a world premiere-premiere-premiere" cart, but it would be a song I'd heard on your show like three times already. Why would you play the cart then?
MAGIC: Cuz Marley fucked up. (Laughter) Marley's good for that. Marley's cool, see but another thing like having different DJ's. Marley's cool, but CEE is a lot more organized.
JAY: So it was Marley that was controlling that part.
MAGIC: Well , if Ty wasn't there screaming, anything could happen with Marley. Like we was on tour one time he forgot our records. Marley's really better as a producer. That's really what his expertise is. What really makes Marley real, real good is the way he could mix shit in the studio.
JAY: Right.
MAGIC: Like he hears certain things that other motherfuckers just don't hear. Like me for instance; if I'm in the studio and I'm doing something, I get bored too quickly. After a while it all sounds the same. Marley got that little expertise where he can bring out the bells in a certain area. So everybody's got certain things that they do good. C is a lot more organized; makes my life a lot easier. You know, we got a nice crew. There's Ty too. We can't forget Ty cuz Ty does a lot of the shit you can't see; he does a lot of the organizing.
CEE: Especially with the HOT '97 show, cuz like there's a lot of old school records that I may bring, and I have the name of the record but I don't have the artist on the record. And I'll be like, "Ty, who made this record? And he'll be like "it's the Emotions". So he gives us the mileage.
MAGIC: He's like the producer. Cuz he writes all the commercial copy, all of that shit. He's got his expertise. That's like when we did the old to the new shit; he's got that way to add to the shit that make everything come out right.
CEE: And that's how Fly Time started too, cuz he started doing radio at BLS. Am I right?
CEE: He was at BLS also, so . . .
MAGIC: Matter of fact, the way I met Ty, he used to do high school sports. So I had a problem getting places on time . . . so Crocker told Ty to come and get me since he lived in Brooklyn and I was in Brooklyn; so that's how we hooked up and shit. And you know, he kind of represented me in different things. Like I said, we all became like family. We've been together a while . . . 12 years.
CEE: Long time ago. Before we break out I just want to tell everybody to read this article, just support underground radio. Just support radio in general, but especially underground radio, cuz as far as rap is concerned, that's the only way that artists come through is through underground radio, or the mix tapes or whatever; but I mean, it's just like how a flower grows. It has to grow from the ground up; that's the same way that artists have to grow; and this is where we're at. We're in the ground, come down here and check this out before you get to that other level, cuz this is where they come; they all come through here; we just had Smooth tha Hustler here, that's how they all come through: they come through this level first, and then they get large, and then they forget about us, but you know . . .
MAGIC: Not all of them, just a few.
CEE: So that's how it goes.
JAY: Thanks a lot, man.

Posted by jsmooth995 at October 2, 2009 1:11 PM

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