The Original Voice of the Ghetto
Bronx native, Curtis 'Grandmaster Caz' Fischer wanted nothing more than to be a DJ after seeing Kool Herc's show one cool summer evening in 1974. He brought all the equipment and teamed up with another aspiring talent, his best friend DJ Disco Wiz (Luis Cedeno). Later he teamed with JDL (Jerry Dee Lewis) who became The Notorious Two. Caz, also known as Casanova Fly became the first DJ to incorporate rhymes into his repertoire. By '79 after the turn of the MC, DJ Charlie Chase (Carlos Mandes) from The Cold Crush Brothers asked Caz to help audition MCs for his group. This was a cover for Charlie Chase to lure Caz into joining the super group, Cold Crush Brothers. The original group consisted of the founder, Original DJ Tony Tone, Easy A.D., DJ Charlie Chase, Mr. Tee, Whipper Whip and Dot-A-Rock. The Cold Crush Brothers had gained a reputation for their multi-skilled thematic routines in the game, featuring three MCs rapping simultaneously while two DJs worked the turntables. They began to attract so much attention that various crews queued to battle them. Caz was quoted as saying once,
"It's like I don't care if God, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus, come down here to battle us, we bustin' they ass."
Grandmaster Caz later became known as the Captain of the Cold Crush. He had been recognised for his formidable lyrical talents. He taught the fundamentals of rhyming, structuring and formatting to fellow rappers, Whipper Whip (James Whipper) and Dot-A-Roc (Darryl Mason) before they eventually left to join The Fantastic Five. He also came up with about the deafest rhyme going around at the time and now a classic called “Dear Yvette.” Sugar Hill records founder, Sylvia Robinson had over-heard night club bouncer and group manager of the Cold Crush Brothers Henry ‘Big Bank Hank’ Jackson rapping to a tape of Grandmaster Caz while working at a local Pizzeria. He was invited to be the third member of a group she was putting together called The Sugar Hill Gang. Hank accepted, but since he wasn’t an accomplished MC he went to Grandmaster Caz and asked to borrow his book of rhymes. Caz handed them over, no questions asked. When Hank would use the lyrics for “Rapper’s Delight” (which became a huge successful hit in 1979 selling two million copies, the first hip-hop single to land in the Top 40 charts and the first time the term ‘rapper’ was used to describe a person rhyming to a beat on the microphone) Caz figured Hank could hook him and the Cold Crush Brothers onto the Label. Caz would never receive the credit or compensation for the rhymes he contributed. The Sugar Hill Gang would later be acclaimed as hip-hop's first standard for the recording industry. A definitive new direction for the culture toward the path hip-hop has taken today as it sits in popular culture.
The Cold Crush Brothers were later well covered on the film, 'Wild Style' battling against Grand Wizzard Theodore and the Fantastic Five while playing a basketball game. They also went against each other on the battle tape, 'Live at Harlem World 1981'. Also that year they toured with Wild Style to Japan and became the first group to sign with CBS recording label, Tuff City Records. They never released a full length album, but on 'Live in 82' Cold Crush is shown performing on-stage. The most memorable quote from the album remains today as a sign of the times before the industry took over the art. "Ya'll gotta excuse us, we can't bounce as much as we want to cause if we bounce too much the record'll jump." - That's hip-hop! At the height of their game, they were the dopest crew out there, the cultural standard for any emcee coming through. As new standards were being set, the recording industry would take a wider view on hip-hop's marketability. Solo artist, Kurtis Blow would become public poster boy for rap.
Former native Harlem b-boy, Kurtis Blow from outside the Mecca Bronx,was a towering figure in the roots of hip-hop and is considered to be the breakthrough artist of mainstream media. His good looks and talented charisma captivated big wigs of industry. Inspired by fellow performer, DJ Hollywood's rapping performances, by 1979 Blow had recorded the 12-inch single, “Christmas Rappin” with Mercury. This was the first major label hip-hop release. His second single was, "The Breaks" which reached the top five of Billboard's R&B charts when released right after the Sugar Hill Gang's breakthrough hit, “Rapper's Delight”. He would later become the first hip-hop talent to record a full-length album, and cultural trailblazer as he introduced the world to the small, defining culture of hip-hop as a music. Other recording labels such as Enjoy, Sugar Hill and Tuff City soon saw the potential of hip-hop and tapped into it's talented beehive bringing many to sweet success. This segued to the legendary releases of Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel's well-heard, Message!
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five would become part of the recording fraternity by the turn of the eighties closing the underground culture and offering up hip-hop to public spectacle. The group recorded the single, "We Rap More Mellow" on Brass Records under the name, The Younger Generation. Under the name of Flash and The Five they released a live version of "Flash To The Beat" on Bozo Meko Records before they settled at Sylvia Robinson's Sugar Hill Records and scored with a hit on on the R&B charts a year later with, “Freedom” and “Birthday Party”. By 1982 “The Message” became an explosive, ground-breaking hit, a rap classic. Premier emcee, Melle Mel, the original G.O.A.T. was responsible for most social commentary lyrical content on the cutting edge track. This harsh, descriptive reality into life within the ghetto set the pace for what was referred to later as 'reality rap' or the unfavoured media term, 'gangsta rap'. This was a monumental turn in direction for trend of subject matter for most rap music today. Kool Moe Dee and his Treacherous Three soon followed behind the Furious Five in 1981 into Sugar Hill Records, recording “Feel the Heart Beat” and “Whip It”. One of their live recordings with The Funky Four plus One appeared on the long playing 12-inch, Live Convention '81 (Disco Wax) and were later featured in hip-hop docu-film, 'Beat Street' performing, “Christmas Rap” with rising star, Doug E Fresh. Kool Moe Dee and Special K co-hosted a short lived television show called Graffiti Rock in '84 in which they battled Run DMC and performed the segue into commercials.