December 31, 2006

Likker Kats - Substance Abuse Mixtape

December 30, 2006


FUEL TV brings you the latest action sports phenomenamanoanneaa, "Crawbling". You got the skills? the blue hair? the liquid diet? Then it's time to 'crawble'.

December 28, 2006

December 26, 2006

Closer To U - Trel Mack

"Closer To U - Trel Mack" length: 03:56
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It’s time for the City of Brotherly Love to once again introduce another artist and this time the city of Philadelphia will have someone that really expresses that nickname to the fullest. Representing North Philadelphia is upcoming artist Katrel Kelly AKA Trel Mack who is on his grind and is now prepared to bring the rap game a sound unlike heard before. In this current state of hip-hop it seems the only way to make it is if you rap about the usual drugs, money, and women. With those aspects still being entertaining in this game Trel Mack just has a different approach in the music he will be making for the fans, especially the women. Even though Trel Mack is from the streets of Philly when asked why he won’t rap about the usual the answer was just simple as he responded “I’m gonna keep it real, I seen it all but I just don’t do none of that shit”. Now you have to respect the man for that as he is only being himself. Trel Mack in his time of realizing he wanted to pursue a career in the rap game was heavily influenced by many artists. Major influences include the legendary Tupac, Biggie, living legend Jay-Z, but one name many new artist rarely mention in speaking on their musical influences was Harlem star Mase. You know Mase made bangers for the beautiful women out here as Trel stated “A lot of people sleep on Mase, but Mase came in here and did his thing and you have to understand in his time he was a good artist”, that’s real talk right there.

With Trel Mack being young, ambitious, and handsome he is definitely marketable in this music industry, especially as that aspect nowadays in the music business is a key to success. The kid Trel Mack is one with confidence too, so you have to respect him for that because in this industry you can’t even make it without it. To stay on top of the rap game it will take great dedication and plenty of hard work. Now it makes you wonder from the look of Trel Mack if he really does have the hustle and grind to make it and he said with great confidence “Yeah and that’s the only way you can do it, it’s a 110% grind, you can’t even say a 100% because you have to do a little extra”. Every body in the rap game wants to be somebody according to Trel Mack, but he doesn’t want to go that route as he feels once again he is his own individual. That’s why he makes his music for the ladies “Everybody wants to be a gangster so I’m just doing me”. The future is very big for Trel Mack as recently this past summer he co-founded his own record label Street Knowledge Entertainment with Journalist/CEO Quinton Hatfield. “Me and my homey Q about to do it big with SKE and that’s real rap”. Now that you see history in the making look out for Trel Mack as he’s one of Philly’s new faces and not the average you see on a DVD, now you see the meaning behind the name Street Knowledge Entertainment. The kid is out to make hot music and not talking all gangsta, but hit songs especially for the fine ladies out there. To close it up Trel Mack is coming so get prepared for him on a magazine cover, award show or album near you, so ladies keep your eyes open!

December 20, 2006

An Intelligent Perspective

An article was written this week entitled “Critical Minded: Why Does Jeezy Get a Pass for Being Wack? By J-23 for

These are my thoughts…



***My article is NOT about Young Jeezy!*** this build session attempts to answer the question posed in the 1st sentence of the original article, as well as other topics related to Hiphop’s turbulent life and supposed death…

Since when did mediocrity become acceptable for emcees in hip-hop?”

An Intelligent Perspective…

This argument about mediocrity in hip-hop is not a new one, neither is the Northeast vs. the South lyrical "beef." Ironically, the East took the same position when the West Coast hip-hop scene popped-off. Think about it, this problem with "hip-hop has changed", “hip-hop is wack” or "hip-hop is dead" has only happened when some other city, coast, or quadrant other than New York, develops a vibrant hip-hop scene. Before hip-hop in other parts of the country began to blow-up, it was all about New York. But, didn’t New York MC’s have lyrical beef with each other? Absolutely, the Bronx (hip-hops birth-place) had lyrical issues with other boroughs who they felt was not as hip-hop as they, thus, "The Bridge is Over." Lyrical "beef" was focused primarily in New York between blocks, crews, boroughs, etc. But, as soon as Cali threw their hip-hop hats in the arena it seemed as if the five boroughs magically united to deal with the so-called common threat, "the West Coast." Now it’s "the south." I say let the “niggas” live! Of course, you can criticize someone’s art, after all its art, but don't make it appear as if rappers whose art you may not care for is the reason "hip-hop is dead." Because that is far from the truth! Mediocrity has nothing to do with where you come from! The reasons that many of today’s rappers choose the same exact “mediocre” subject matter speaks more to the CORPORATE control over hip-hop’s current image and direction than to their natural lyrical abilities.

When the East Coast was the sole-controller of the hip-hop genre, while growing up in my hood I caught the same hell for criticizing Milk D's rhymes, my opinion was that his shit was mediocre, but I liked the overall song. Was it not the intellectual Ultramagnetic MC's who said "to the scientific matter I probe for evidence.../leaving melodies obtaining slight positive beams.../of the average formulation applied mechanically..." and dissed RUN-DMC for their apparent mediocrity by saying "they keep singing back and forth the same ole' rhythms../that a baby can pick-up and join right with'em.../their rhymes are pathetic.../they think they copasetic.../using nursery terms, at least not poetic...” Shit, Ced Gee said straight out "Say What…Peter Piper? …to hell with childish rhymes.../but this jam steady moving, the crowd is steady grooving.." What I am saying is that Hip-Hop is NOT dead! Hip-Hop has always had its "mediocre" rappers (Milk D amongst others), its gangstas (Just-Ice, Kool G Rap, etc.), political (PE, BDP, X-CLAN, PRT, etc.), party/dancing rappers (Kid-N-Play, Steezo, etc.), etc., etc. The only apparent difference I see in Hip-Hop is "CORPORATE AMERICA!"

Corporate America does NOT want to market an MC who's songs are geared towards the upward mobility of black-people when 75% of the music is purchased by white-kids who they claim/feel don't give a fuck about that, therefore PE, X-CLAN, PRT and others are, at best, a "turn-off" for white kids going out to the store and buying the music. This is why we no-longer have the balance of hip-hop opinions blaring through the radio-speakers or the BET/MTV video networks. CORPORATE AMERICA IS THE REAL PROBLEM! The clap-a-nigga, stripper-bitch, pimps up-hoes down, flossed-out, bling-bling, cognac, $500 blue-jean raps keeps white-kids shopping, clubbing, drinking and SPENDING MONEY! While at the same time it keeps young black kids smuggling, cooking, hustling, pitching and banging, so that they may afford to go shopping, clubbing, drinking and SPENDING MONEY! It is not in the best interest of CORPORATE AMERICA and her hierarchy to have a balanced and healthy representation of Hip-Hop on the radio that mobilizes kids to book-stores, colleges and libraries! I really believe that we should use our time and energy on trying to figure out how to break the legs of CORPORATE AMERICA and take back control over hip-hop’s business and image instead of isolating and blaming one form of the culture as the reason for it’s decline? The bottom line is that mediocre rappers are a hazard of the job, but as long as we have balance and respect…we’ll be fine. Maybe if the overwhelming majority of interviewer’s, journalist’s, and photographers spent an equal amount of time covering, writing and exposing those Mc’s that exceed our lyrical expectations and speak about more than pimps, hoes, clothes, guns and cars, mediocrity in hip-hop wouldn’t be such an issue. Hip-Hop ain't dead, I seen her sliding down a pole in a strip club in Decatur "I kissed the bitch and put a fifty in her thong.../and whispered in her ear, STAY STRONG..."



2007 is the year of Solutions and Success!

December 12, 2006

Hear what americans think about saddam and the war on iraq?

So what do you think?
If you took the time to watch take another moment to respond.

John Henry Radio Vol. 16 - Rhthym & Breez Edition

Available FREE now at and I-tunes

Peace to all my peeps who've been there through many years and then some. It is with some sorrow that I present to you JHR16. We've just suffered a loss to our household recently. Our 13-year-old Lab, Lulabelle passed away last Thursday morning after struggling with seizures during the past month. We know that she's had a great long and wonderful doggy life, but it still saddens me to write this without her sitting in the corner scratching herself or outside barking at the other dogs around here. She was an amazing companion, she will be missed.

Hip-hop gets me amped, but some great vocals always have a soothing effect. This week is my little get-up-and-go/reflect-and-recognize mix of song and verse. I've had the privilege of working with many incredible singers over the years who've broadened my ideas for choruses and who've brought some incredible choruses along with them. I wish that all of these could've have received the exposure deserving of the contributors, but at least they've found their way to you.



JHR 16 Playlist:

SOMETIMES from the "Mic and the Music" EP
Feat. Reggie Watts of Maktub
Prod. Eric Krasno

NO MO CRYIN –exclusive unreleased-
Feat. Faraji
Prod. Juggla

BORN –Homeboy of the week-
from the "End of the weak presents 3 KINGS" album
Feat. Sinclair & Ed Goldson
Prod. Belief

DAY BY DAY – blast from the past 1997-
Feat. Michael Crump
Prod. Cash-us Clay Mack

APPRECIATION –exclusive unreleased-
Feat. B. Falsetto
Prod. Oran Juice

GOD BLESS –exclusive unreleased-
Feat. Sinclair
Prod. Nonezeo & Sinclair

STREETS 2005 mix–unreleased exclusive-
Feat. Jannine V.
Prod. DJ Static

Next week's show will be another special edition of JHR celebrating another birthday for Breez Evahflowin. In the tradition of the old live shows I used to have every year on my birthday look for an all "HOMEBOYS" addition of JHR as I sit back and enjoy the music of my peers who've made me what I am today, for better or worse…

Check out for some dope blends from one of my main production geniuses Burt fox

The "FLY" ep is finally available for download at I-tunes or purchase a hard copy at, they're kinda like "breez evahflowin starter kits" great x-mas gift!

The Daily News is a disgrace-A response letter to their cover story on Assata Shakur By Hired Gun

The lead article and subsequent editorials surrounding the naming of the CCNY's student center after two convicted "felons" is in plain english a disgrace and disgusting. The slanted and very biased view that the paper chooses to uphold only discredits the paper and its writers as a legitimate news source. Sadly, the truth behind the case of Assata Shakur had more to do with a racist judicial system in New Jersey and the climate of fear and hate towards Black activists in the sixties and seventies. The facts still remain that as the various police organizations in the tri-state area spew their anger and hate towards their perception of a violent "criminal", even the most recent history of the department, as late as the mid nineties was one of violence, intolerance and blatant racism against blacks and latinos.

It does not surprise me that in a country that was largely founded on policies of exclusion and subjugation; has a long running history of civil rights injustice, and genocide the discussion that should be goin on; regarding the New York City Police Department "accidentally" shooting
another innocent black man celebrating his soon to be marriage we are treated isn't happening. Instead we are treated to a thinly veiled protest of "reverse racism". How this institution's student center, one of several across the campus, which had this name since 1989 all of the sudden became an affront to the honor of benevolent policemen, is somewhat baffling. When human life is lost it is unfortunate, but sometimes the truth is hard to accept, and what the Daily News and shamefully what the rest of the country believe as truth is a bold face racist lie.

- Hired Gun
or freeradicalz(@)


The Future - Gerald Walker

Chi town's next young hero Gerald Walker gave FHHN an exclusive track off of his forthcoming album. His website was also just launched

"The Future - Gerald Walker" length: 02:23
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December 8, 2006

where's the money mixtape

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December 5, 2006

What She Say Radio Show Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 Part 1

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What She Say Radio Show Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 Part 2

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What She Say Radio Show Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 Part 3

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What She Say Radio Show Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 Part 4

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What She Say Radio Show Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 Part 5

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Lips Inc.

On a sleepy Sunday evening, a Brooklyn-bound L train lurches to a stop somewhere deep beneath the East River. Strangely, nobody in the last car seems to notice. Not the old ladies clutching shopping bags, not the preening hipsters wobbling in ill-fitting heels, not the starched family men on the way home from church. The packed train is too busy craning its collective neck toward a noise wafting from the middle of the car:

Boom-boom . . . ghat—tssst . . . boom-boo-boom . . . crack! Brooklyn! Bring that beat back!
Boom-boom . . . ghat—tssst . . . boom-boo-boom . . . crack!

Out of a huddle of swaying bodies, a nimble kid in high-top sneakers drifts into view, sputtering improvised rhymes over a heavy beat. His verses are forgettable—"Keepin' it real/You know the deal," etc.—but the musical backbeat is not. Its underlying thump and stutter-step rhythms tickle tired feet along the car's dirty floor. More than just curious, the crowd of onlookers are confused, their quizzical faces all asking the same thing: Where are the drums?

The drums seem to be near Kid Lucky. But upon closer inspection, it's suddenly clear that Kid Lucky is the drums. In fact, he and a couple of motormouths on either side compose an entire rhythm section. Passengers press close behind, and Lucky, feeding off the crowd, huffs and puffs a deep bassline using only his mouth. With loose lips flapping and Adam's apple bobbing, the barrel-chested beatboxer barks out a Fort Apache–style breakbeat, a favorite of the two B-boys in attendance. Decked out in tank tops, tube socks, and headbands, they breakdance in the limited space between the handrails. Shockwave, a lanky, blond-haired beatboxer in his late twenties, steps up to the cipher, seemingly frothing at the mouth. His muscular percussion buttresses Lucky's raspy turntable scratches, and together they give new meaning to the expression "say it, don't spray it." Lucky draws a hurried breath and eggs on the crowd, "Now clap your hands to the beat!"

Only 20 minutes earlier his crew had boarded the train at Eighth Avenue, kicking off the latest edition of the twice-monthly Subway Series, an informal gathering of homegrown beatboxers, B-boys, MCs, and their ilk. In the last year or so they've taken over entire subway cars for freestyle performances. The L is their line of choice tonight, and as it rolls eastward, the rear car sucks in one unsuspecting rider after another. With the train fully loaded and stuck in the tunnel, the beatboxers now face a large and captive audience, something they hadn't had in a long time.

An old-school hip-hop throwback to a time when, as the lyric goes, "shoelaces were fat and Michael Jackson was black," human beatboxing first emerged on the streets of New York City in the early '80s. Pioneers like Doug E. Fresh and Darren "Buffy" Robinson of the Fat Boys began mimicking the drum machines—or beat boxes—popular with DJs. Such high-tech equipment wasn't cheap, so a few enterprising loudmouths started vocalizing their own beats. A minor craze ensued, culminating in the Fat Boys' appearance on Live With Regis and Kathie Lee. Always somewhat of an oddity, beatboxing came to symbolize hip-hop's early invention and innocence. Its proponents once rivaled MCs for mic time, but when hip-hop rose to cultural prominence soon afterward, their mouths fell largely silent.

Beatboxing never really went away, of course—it just went (often literally) underground. And that's where it's thriving on this particular night, in the steamy subway car. The mood may be light and jovial, but the beatboxers have something to prove. They fret about being regarded as charmingly nostalgic at best, and hopelessly outdated at worst. DJs, MCs, breakdancers, and even graffiti writers have long enjoyed deity status as the four official elements of hip-hop. But the culture's outrageous success has somehow left the "fifth element" behind. Beatboxers' quest to regain cultural cachet is odd in terms of the venues they choose (poetry clubs and subway cars), their opponents in the battles they fight (VH1), the now famous former collaborators they sue (the Fresh Prince, for one), and the bizarre schemes they hatch to steal back the spotlight (one plot involves dolphins). Their art may look funny in person, but this is no joke.

Lucky and his ragtag crew have long seen themselves as latter-day John Henrys fight ing an increasingly mechanical and soulless music industry. "It's the human mouth beating technology at its own game," explains veteran beatboxer Baba Israel. "Laptops can break down, and I've been at shows where the DJ didn't show up or the turntable stopped working. So beatboxers are always saving the day." As the beatboxers take their turn in the stalled L-train cipher, their only foe now is the computerized conductor, occasionally interrupting with a polite but insistent "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. We apologize for the delay."

Kid Lucky knows a thing or two about delays. Abandoned on the streets of Youngstown, Ohio, as a baby, Kid Lucky (Terry Lewis, according to his birth certificate) started off life pretty unlucky. "My whole youth was taken from me," he says. "I was at Children's Aid in Cleveland when I was five years old. Then at 13 this guy adopted me but couldn't handle it—he didn't want me, plain and simple." Lucky rattles off the names of more foster homes. "I got to a point where I was too old to be adopted, but was still a minor. At 15 I was put into a mental institution for the next three and a half years."

His powerful voice is quiet now. He's sitting on a low ottoman in his unkempt Crown Heights living room, carefully rolling a blunt. "I was always making music with my mouth as a young kid," he says. "It just kept me really happy, doing it when I was alone." Lucky leans back and slowly exhales. "One time I was put into solitary confinement, and while I was in a straitjacket, I was beatboxing. And they told me to shut up or they'd take away certain privileges. Make me wait, you know, hours before I would eat my next meal." His eyes squint at the memory. "But I just stayed on making that music despite all that, and when I got out of there, you know, it was a constant companion."

The cries of Lucky's baby boy, Psyence, ring out from another room. Dad tries a little cooing to calm him down, but can't resist adding just a hint of hip-hop to his lullaby. Convinced that Psyence is awake for good, Lucky raises the volume: Buddha—boom-boom—dap! Boom-boo-boom—dash! The beatboxer's black-rimmed spectacles vibrate in rhythm to his mouth's bursts of sound. Save for his lips and tongue, he's remarkably still as he loops the same rhythm of snare, kick drum, and hi-hat cymbal over and over again. To the neighboring tenants, the strange noises coming from apartment 4K must sound something like a syncopated demonstration of kitchen appliances, a five-piece combo featuring a grinding can opener, groaning trash compactor, flowing sink faucet, crackling skillet, and spring-loaded toaster. But to Psyence it's simply how Daddy talks.

"He wakes up every morning at 6 a.m., like clockwork," Lucky remarks with a grin. "I just hope Tarsha fed him." Tarsha is Lucky's wife of eight years, a social worker with a degree in psychiatry and, as Lucky freely admits, "the love of my life and a grounding force for me." Lucky was a dope dealer when they first met almost a decade ago at an Alphabet City needle exchange where Tarsha volunteered. "She's helped keep me on the straight and narrow," Lucky says. With the birth of Psyence she's taken to calling him Papa Lucky, and the nickname has stuck.

It's an apt moniker, since Lucky, 34, is a kind of father figure to the restless community that shares his skill. Numbering around 20, they rely on his upstart production company, Beatboxer Entertainment, to provide an outlet for their eccentric talent. Long marginalized, this new generation of beatboxers often comes across like the X-Men of comic-book lore—freaks with a special gift who are often misunderstood.

Masai Electro, a country-club cook in his mid-thirties, says even his own mother didn't get it at first. "I knew I had something different when my mom thought I was possessed by the devil 'cause of the voice. She really thought something was wrong—'That boy got the devil in him!'" he recalls, imitating her shrill cry. "She thought I was kinda crazy. Then fortunately, around the mid '80s beatboxing came around, and it gave me a format to turn my raw sounds into something constructive." His specialty is an uncanny rendition of the Knight Rider theme, complete with the whoor-whooorl sound of David Hasselhoff's car, KITT. When Electro busted it out at a recent show, the crowd first whooped, then fell all over the place cracking up.

That reaction poses a problem Electro and his mates have never quite solved: Their crowd-pleasing antics sometimes come off as corny. Several beatboxers confess to idolizing actor Michael Winslow, better known to the public as that guy from the Police Academy films who makes bizarre and hilarious noises with his mouth—not exactly the thuggish image preferred by today's rap industry. These guys are sensitive on this topic. So it's with some astonishment that I listen to Kid Lucky's latest idea for Beatboxer Entertainment. He's as excited as I've ever seen him. "Yo, are you kidding me?!" he exclaims. "I was trying to figure out what would be dope, you know, the most far-out thing we could do. And I remember watching Flipper a few years ago on TV and I had this idea. And, really, it's not so far- fetched . . . " He arches his eyebrows, relishing the suspense until he breaks down and bellows with laughter, his Yankees cap falling to the floor. "I believe that beatboxers could actually communicate with dolphins!"

He pauses to let this sink in.

"Yo, I'm not kidding! I mean, I was nervous about it being a joke, but the research is serious. Look at the way the dolphins' lips are, the mouth. . . . I'm sure there's stuff we can't do, but they—the Dolphin Research Center— actually got back to me." He catches his breath. "It could really happen." He proceeds to spit out the clicking noise of a dolphin.

Located in the Florida Keys, the Dolphin Research Center is one of the country's top institutes for marine mammal research. "I'll admit, when Terry first approached us, well, it was unusual," says Mary Stella, media relations coordinator for the DRC. "But he was so sincere, so nice, so . . . earnest that I took my notes and ran it by my staff. Bottom line, it's not harmful and he's so enthusiastic."

Stella cautions that the idea is still in the early stages, awaiting a formal research pro posal. But she seems genuinely interested. "I didn't know what beatboxing was until Terry explained it," she admits. "There's not a lot of beatboxing in country music, which is what I mostly listen to." She notes that the center has tried out music before. "We've had choral groups, a cellist, and I even think a didgeridoo player before, but this is unique. Terry said they believe in 'edutainment,' and we are the same way. Our dolphins are always curious." In fact, she mentions one in particular—Theresa, or T for short. "T is a totally goofy show-off, and has an unbelievable repertoire of sounds," she says.

Maybe Lucky's onto something here.

"On the surface, people will think it's a gimmick," he acknowledges. "But from 1978 to 1984 there was research about dolphins communicating using verbal sounds like vowels and consonants. And human beatboxers are essentially trained to do just that. Plus, I got a beatboxer down in D.C. who's a high school science teacher, ya know? So I was like, let's try it."

But not all beatboxers are interested in the call of the wild. The more conventional among their ranks have eked out a living on tour, often revving up a crowd for the bigger acts to follow. Perhaps the busiest mouth around is Rahzel, a/k/a the Godfather of Noyze, who gained notoriety in the mid '90s with Philadelphia hip-hop crew the Roots, wherein he was joined by Scratch, another beatboxer known for his signature turntable sound. Rahzel was one of the first to create vocal beats while singing lyrics simultaneously, and he went on to a modestly successful solo career. Kenny Muhammad, the "Human Orchestra," has carved out a niche, once donning a tux for a gig with the New York Philharmonic. And then there's that crazy Orthodox Jew whose percussive tics became an Internet phenomenon— Brooklyn's Matisyahu may be an international reggae star now, but he got his start as a beatboxer on the same bills as Lucky.

Lucky likes to point out that several a cappella vocal groups now also tout themselves as beatboxers. He mentions Björk's 2002 album Medúlla, constructed entirely of human vocals, beatboxers foremost among them. And he's got special affection for Justin Timberlake, who dabbles in the art briefly on both 2002's Justified and this year's FutureSex/LoveSounds. In the meantime, Lucky has made it his mission to track down all the old-school greats, guys like Biz Markie, Jock Box, Wise from Stetsa-sonic, and Doug E. Fresh. He's held court with most of them—the only major figure to elude him was Buffy from the Fat Boys, who died of a heart attack in 1995 at 28 years old and 450 pounds.

But there was one other legendary name who, though still very much alive, was particularly tough to draw out. "I finally found him just outside Philly," Lucky says. "In fact, I was the first in the beatbox community to get his contact info. Dude eventually called me back on Christmas Day."

Long before he moved to the Philadelphia suburbs, acquired a beautiful wife and four rambunctious kids, was born again through Jesus Christ, and sued boyhood-friend-turned-superstar Will Smith for $2.6 million, Clarence Holmes, now 38, was simply Ready Rock C, the human beatbox. "I was always ready," he explains. "To do what? Rock. What's the first initial in my name? C. That's how it came about: Ready Rock C. Ready to rock a beat!" He's yelling all this while reclining in a plush leather love seat on a recent afternoon in his duplex's spotless living room. Ready's personal website lists his favorite color as "all of them"; he's just as magnanimous in person.

Like most beatboxers, he discovered his unusual gift early in life. A shy kid from the black middle-class neighborhood of Wynne-field in West Philadelphia, Ready liked making funny noises with his mouth. One particular routine he became known for was the Sanford and Son television theme, but with a twist: He pretended he was underwater. "That came about, me just sitting home in the kitchen with a cup of juice or something," he recalls. "I was drinking at the time, blowing bubbles, you know? And then God inspired me. I just felt it in my spirit. Like, OK, that's cool, now lemme see you do it and make a beat." Ready tries to resurrect the tune, but he's nursing a nasty cold and only manages to cough out a few frustrated notes before giving up. Embarrassed, he scoots to the kitchen and grabs a box of Clorox disinfectant wipes.

Around the time Ready's big mouth evolved into a booming beatmaker, he met a lanky rapper with big ears who called himself the Fresh Prince. "We played basketball together, went to the arcades, put change together to buy burgers from McDonald's," Ready recalls of his new friend Will Smith. The young MC needed to build his reputation as a freestyler, and it helped to have a mobile percussionist like Ready Rock C to supply the beats. Hanging out in West Philly, they were always looking to test their skills against other crews. "I mean, we would literally pull up on guys," Ready remembers. "If we seen them bobbing their heads on the corner or in a B-boy stance and it looked like they was rapping, Will was like errr!!, pulling over, out of the car, kachutt!! 'Yo, you wanna battle?!' And we're going at it." The scene is captured on the beatbox classic "My Buddy":

up4 Tryin' to beat us, that doesn't make any sense
He's Ready Rock C, and I'm the Fresh Prince
In the rap industry we're ranked as first
Ain't a better combination in the whole universe!
up4 So if you wanna battle your future looks muddy
up4 'Cause you just can't beat my buddy

"That's when hip-hop was fun, you know?" Ready says. "You could just go head-to-head, display your craft to one another, and no one gets offended or pulls any guns." The duo eventually brought in local DJ Jeffrey Townes, and the rest was history. Unfortunately, Ready was largely left out of it—"My Buddy" appeared on 1988's wildly successful He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, credited to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Ready appears on a number of tracks from that album and claims to have conceived the idea for mega-hit "Parents Just Don't Understand." He says he didn't mind being left out of the group's name at first, because his beatboxing was often at the forefront. But over time the omission was telling. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince went on to sell millions of records, winning rap's first Grammy in 1988. At the awards ceremony Ready was asked to sit out the group's performance onstage, and shortly thereafter was booted from the group altogether.

Ready blows his nose clear of mucus and spits in a small Styrofoam cup. "I mean, I was kept in the background. 'Cause to be honest, I was a threat, and Will wanted the spotlight all to himself." He creases his brow. "'My Buddy' was written by Will Smith and composed by myself. In spite of how Will Smith treated me in the long run, that's how I know he felt about me. That song was about our friendship."

It's a friendship that's grown acrimonious over the years. A few years ago Ready filed a lawsuit asking for back royalties he contends never came his way. The case went before federal court but was thrown out due to the statute of limitations. Ready shakes his head. "He promised me and lied to me all these years, which is why I waited. He's very smart and manipulative." (Through a PR rep, Will Smith declined to comment.)

Ready is wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with his own "READY ROCK C" logo stretched over a pronounced paunch. He strokes his close-cut beard and sits forward in his seat. "See all of this?" he asks, gesturing with his brawny arms at the comfortable middle-class possessions that surround him. "None of this is Ready Rock C money. I worked hard, got an education, and made this through my IT company. Will hasn't done this—pulled himself up by his bootstraps, I mean." The burly beatboxer is a seesaw of emotions. "But I'm blessed— children clothed, roof over our head, meat in the fridge . . . " His voice fades out as his face tightens into a grimace. "Even though I pray for Will, I need my money. I need to get paid!" By now he's almost growling, but quickly laughs it off.

"Ready Rock C's a cat who got hurt," Lucky says. "No doubt." He's been trying to bring his childhood hero out of retirement for some time now. "But it's like he's trying to recoup all his lost dollars—crazy dol lars— at once. We can't do that, but we can give him a mic and a stage." At times like this Lucky seems more like a support group leader tending to his flock of bruised egos. He's bruised himself, but his optimism is infectious. "Here's the thing," he continues, clapping his hands together. "Why have we survived so long? Live shows! That's it. Our live shows are bangin'! I mean MCs just go back and forth, back and forth." Lucky mimics them swaying lazily from side to side. "But people are amazed and dazzled by our live shows. Cats are just bending and breaking notes all over the place—you'd think TV would wanna see that."

Sometimes TV does. A couple of months ago NBC approached Lucky's crew about participating in the next season of their hit reality show America's Got Talent. Andreas Thai-yan, Lucky's manager, says the beatboxers chewed it over but eventually turned NBC down. "The people who do these things are not taken seriously," he explains. "They're looked at as a novelty." Lucky concurs: "Some of the guys were worried about being pigeonholed. The issue of exploitation came up. Fact is, so much is going on now, we can afford to turn it down."

He's got a point. Despite their struggles in hip-hop, beatboxers are thriving elsewhere. They work fashion shows, peddle their own line of ringtones, and have inked promotional deals with everyone from Google to Verizon. "I like authenticity and originality, and beatboxers can really make the crowd go crazy," says Matt Herron, executive producer of MTV Networks, who hired Beatboxer Entertainment a few months ago. "We used them for an e-mail blast and an advertising upfront. They just had that certain . . . something." Thai-yan thinks he knows what that something might be: "Honestly, it's very nonthreatening. Hip-hop without the dirty words; just dope music that draws you in."

But it doesn't draw everyone. Though MTV showed them some love, sister network VH1 failed to do the same during its third annual Hip-Hop Honors Week in October. Sponsored by Mayor Bloomberg, this year's event was a citywide celebration of all the elements: rapping, DJ'ing, graf writing, and breakdancing. All but one, that is. Beatboxing was conspicuously absent. Martha Diaz, a leader of the grassroots Hip-Hop Association and a friend of Beatboxer Entertainment, says VH1 had pledged to work with them but later "brushed us off. They made promises and then reneged. Sad to say, I'm really not that surprised."

Neither is Lucky. "Do we get respect?" he asks. "No, we don't. VH1, they may not be giving the culture its own shine like the others, but at some point they're gonna have to. They're just ill-informed right now. I'll take the 'I told you so!' down the road, ya know what I'm sayin'?"

"Our decision of what to put on the calendar for the week was based on good old-fashioned research of what was going on 'hip-hop-wise,' " counters VH1's Wendy Weatherford, the station's VP of consumer and music marketing, in an e-mail. "As far as the celebrity talent involved in HHH Week is concerned, we tried to book talent that was also involved in the [televised awards] show. Actually, our Celebrity Basketball game on Sunday was hosted by the original human beat box, Dougie Fresh."

True, but in all the promotional materials for Hip-Hop Honors, not once was Doug E. Fresh billed as the "original human beatbox." Instead he was one of many "celebrity MCs." A pedantic quibble, perhaps, but a significant one. As hip-hop officially becomes History —enshrined in the Smithsonian and canonized by tastemakers at VH1 —will beatboxers ever get their proper due? The irrepressible Kid Lucky takes the long view. "'No' doesn't mean 'never,' it just means 'not now,' " he believes. "You gotta pick your battles. Besides, history books can be rewritten."

Maybe if spurned long enough, beatboxers will decide they don't need hip-hop at all. Or other human beings, for that matter. The last time I speak to Lucky, all he can talk about are his dolphins. "This is like some Nobel Prize shit!" he cries. "I'm very proud of this. I mean, I didn't go to college like a lot of people. After you've been locked up in a small room for most of your adolescence, done the 'Yes sir, no sir' thing in the military, been homeless, sold drugs . . . " His voice trails off. "Yeah, this is big."

Back on the sweaty L train—still jammed but now jamming in the tunnel—the smiles are as bountiful and organic as the beats. For just this moment, the beatboxers have everyone's attention. Then the robotic voice cuts in once more: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. We apologize for the delay. We will be moving shortly." In the space of four kicks, two snares, and six lip smacks, the train rumbles to life and rolls toward Brooklyn.

This piece is dedicated to Ellen Willis.

December 4, 2006

Artist of the week - Uncut

After eighteen years of hard work Uncut is finally ready to shine. A survivor of Father Panik Village, a notoriously violent section of Bridgeport, CT, Uncut has opened for the likes of Biggie and Fat Joe and appeared on the Free Mongo series of mix-CDs. Uncut, who’s a member of Mongo Maddness’ Deviouz Dollarz team, has spent the bulk of his career educating other artists, but now at age 30 he feels it’s time spread knowledge globally. This week I sat down with him to find out more. Read more...

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