|Marley Marl||Marlon Williams||September 30th 1962 Queens, New York|
|Big Daddy Kane||Antonio Hardy||September 10th 1968, Brooklyn, New York|
|Biz Markie||Marcel Hall||April 8th 1964, Harlem, New York|
|Roxanne Shanté||Lolita Shanté Gooden||November 9th 1969, Queens, New York|
|MC Shan||Shawn Moltke||September 9th 1965, Queensbridge, New York|
“Growing up in Queensbridge it was Marley Marl and The Juice Crew that gave rap niggas like myself hope that there was another life beyond our hood… He made us believe that although we came from those wild streets, we still had a chance to change our lives” - Nas. (Autumn 1998 at Sony recording studios.)
Formed by super producer, Marley Marl from Queensbridge, Queens New York in the mid 1980’s The Juice Crew was an innovative rap group who sparked up one of hip-hop’s first ever rivalries against the Bronx’s KRS One and the Boogie Down Productions by way of on of their biggest single, ‘The Bridge’. Juice would be the formative development of their individual talents with each member graduating onto successful solo careers, all of which produced and distributed through Marley Marl and his record label, Cold Chillin’.
Marley Marl had the vision of establishing a recording group in which to display his forte in production. With a passionate interest in the dynamic nature of rap music, Marl assembled his Queens hometown notables, firstly Roxanne Shante who was a hardened ghetto, neighbourhood girl who was equipped with an acidic tongue and high speed raps. Followed by the smart-mouthed MC Shan laying down harsh verbal threats, Biz Markie the class clown, goofy figure with a cartoon-like personality and lastly, Big Daddy Kane who was the reputed assassin of the group, cold hitting, quick-lyrically talented rapper with a debonair and playboy identity out to take your woman from beneath you. Later Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo, Masta Ace, Craig G and Tragedy would join but it was the aforementioned members who would create the legacy and hold the most influential impact of The Juice Crew.
Marley Marl became the face of production, putting forth this hidden aspect of making a record to the forefront of a rap group. Before Marl, producers were not given the due credit nor appreciation for their significant contributions to the manufacturing of a hit song. Marley’s evolutionary synthesis of compositions sustained an element in hip-hop very atypical today.
In 1984 the crew, U.T.F.O. were to make a jingle for Mr. Magic’s ‘Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack’ radio show airing Friday and Saturday nights 9pm till midnight on WBLS a black owned station known for playing R&B predilections than hip-hop politics. Marl assisted Mr. Magic as the DJ ‘Engineer All-Star’. Instead of this, UTFO produced a track for arch-rival DJ Red Alert with the b-side track, ‘Roxanne, Roxanne’. This in turn sparked the backlash from Magic and Marl who brought Roxanne Shante into the studio to record ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’. The 14 year old bubblegum Queens teenager aimed her spitting right at the heads of UTFO members, Kangol Kid, Educated Rapper, Doctor Ice and especially their producers Full Force, Marl had retuned this track with the same instrumental from ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ just to add insult. Juice’s battle track hit back hard. Marl and Magic rammed it down the throats of the tri state audience, playing it continually on their show and making tapes for other radio stations. The airwaves were jammed with the revenge track. This alone had established Marley Marl’s career as a producer. This boosted Roxanne’s notoriety fanning her solo career as a potent battle cat.
The inter-borough rivalry between Queens and the South Bronx was born when Bronx group, Boogie Down Productions with KRS-One misinterpreted a track produced by Marley Marl representing the new stage of hip-hop culture, Queens, New York. This however was not accepted by South Bronx originators. KRS-One reported a different explanation of the feud when interviewed in the 1994 book ‘The New Beats’ saying Mr. Magic showed no respect to BDP when they tried to sign up to Cold Chillin’ claiming their work was pathetic and Juice Crew were The Shit. This in turn fueled KRS One to represent his roots in South Bronx. At this time Marl and Shan came up with the controversial hit, ‘The Bridge’ a patriotic ode to the Queensbridge borough from whence they enveloped. Shan painted a visual of the Queens landscape over a thumping bass. This was the first track released on Cold Chillin’ Records owned by Mr. Magic and Tyrone Williams, with Marl running the production. Incidently MC Shan’s discovery comes by way of a mischievous youth trying to steal the windshield off Fly Ty’s (Tyrone) luxury car. As Ty drove him downtown to the police station, Shan captivated his attention during the ride with his raw lyrical talent. Instead of having him charged, he recruited him to co-write the track ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ and run as a roadie on her upcoming tour dates. The Bridge was placed on the b-side to a crude battle track aimed at the very smooth Queens native, LL Cool J entitled, ‘Beat Biter’. Shan had irrevocably insulted LL’s mother by calling her a “sleazebag slut” a response was never delivered in retaliation. The calm was bitter in anticipation of BDP’s response.
Boogie Down Productions rebutted with the anthem, ‘South Bronx’ aimed at especially Shan and Roxanne Shante, only to be served back with ‘(South Bronx) Kill That Noise’. BDP answered with ‘The Bridge Is Over’ with the infamous line, “Roxanne Shanté is only good for steady pumping” by KRS One. At this stage Red Alert blacklisted any Juice Crew tunes from their airwaves, thusly Mr. Magic censored BDP. By the late 80’s the war on wax had ceased just as Shan had released his debut solo produced by Marl ‘Down By Law’ in ’87. He released his follow-up a year later but had by this stage disassociated with Marl’s production and was caught in a spiral of drugs and women, Shan all bust vanished off the scene. In 1993 he lived on through the production work for the hit ‘Informer’ by one-time wonder Snow.
During the height of the well-publicized Queens/South Bronx battle, The Juice Crew developed their hallmark hit ‘Symphony’ that would reshape the structure of hip-hop. It was at this climax, the group moved forward into solo recording careers under Cold Chillin’ Records with Marley Marl producing each project. All would continue to flourish reasonably in the community of hip-hop.
Standing above adversary and against the trends of the Bronx movement, The Juice Crew proved you can snatch the mic from the Boogie Down and allow the rest of the world to elaborate this art form into an unframed contemporary of expression and development. Marley Marl paving a brave new path for producers in rap to achieve their rightful acclamation leaves Queens in a fruitful spring of fresh and vivacious exuberance representing the Bridge today.