Nash, whose love for baseball and collecting memorabilia extends well before the advent of his 3rd Bass days, found it only natural to involve this chapter of baseball history in his music. Speaking with Nash recently via telephone, we discussed the origins of the Double Duty track, which was spawned from an attempt to include a song about Hall of Famer Cool Papa Bell on their 3rd Bass album.@ExamineBaseball @nlbmprez #DoubleDuty on #DefJam doc for the song I did with him in 1994 #doubledutygotdicked pic.twitter.com/6FAt1SMAGn— Hauls of Shame (@haulsofshame) August 13, 2016
“It was almost like I had two songs,” Nash said. “I changed the song to ‘Cool Papa Got Di**ed Down.’ I had the idea I was going to do a Negro League song. I pitched it to [MC] Serch and he was interested.
“We both wanted to do this song and then we got through the second album and the concept didn’t make it; then we broke up. Ultramagnetic MCs came out with their Negro League song (The Saga of Dandy, The Devil, and Day), so I was like they already did it. Back then it was competition; you didn’t want to bite. They beat us to it. That was in 1993.”
The ensuing break up of 3rd Bass allowed Nash to revisit the idea of paying homage to the Negro Leagues on his solo album. He linked up with a New York City lawyer, Richard Berg, who was the President of the Negro Leagues Players Association, an organization created to help the living Negro League alumni have proper financial dealings as the league experienced a resurgence of public interest and popularity.
“I contacted Richard Berg to get in touch with him about getting in and recording something with [Radcliffe],” he said. “Richard Berg said that it was going to be really tough because [Radcliffe] was so old and not really traveling a lot. He said, ‘Hey I have all these interviews I did with him and other guys.’ He gave me the master tapes and I listened to it and I pulled right off there. You couldn’t get any better than that!”
|Double Duty Radcliffe Signed Photo / National Pastime Museum|
Nash still had to wrestle with the idea of how to differentiate his effort from that of the Ultramagnetic MCs. During that era, anything considered copying or being labeled with the tag of “biting,” was the genre’s curse of death. After listening to Berg’s tapes, Nash’s vision became much clearer.
“Going into my solo album, I thought how I could do this in a totally separate manner,” he said. “That’s how I came up with the whole spoken word idea. That’s how it changed to Double Duty when I got the vocals from Richard. I was looking at a lot of different players, but his was the best. You can’t beat Double Duty.”
The preservation of Nash’s letter requesting Double Duty’s payment is an important link to the Negro Leagues and the hip hop community. Nash recalled Double Duty initially balking at the amount of money involved because of Nash’s ethnicity, but when all things were settled, both sides walked away with a smile.
“When it came down to actually paying him, the record company was willing to pay $500 or $1000 out of the budget,” he said. “They were really just licensing part of this interview that Richard did. Double Duty said something like, ‘Who’s this white boy doing this?’ He said he wanted more money because I white. He said a whole bunch of dismissive stuff. I didn’t really care; I was glad that he was getting some money. He was happy that it was useful and he liked the song too.”
The ability to access Berg’s master tapes was as close as Nash could get to having Radcliffe in the studio. In some ways, it was a blessing for Nash to be able to keep Radcliffe from the studio, as he felt the nonagenarian’s penchant for chasing women would have kept him from ever reaching the recording booth.
“It would have been cool to have him in the studio, but he would have been trying to pick up every woman that he saw on the way,” he said.
When Nash met Radcliffe in Cooperstown, New York in the early 1990s, he watched as Radcliffe tried to hit on the waitresses at the Otesaga Hotel. Sports Illustrated later noted that even when Double Duty turned 100, he was trying to charm the waitresses at his favorite lunch spot. It is this colorful way that he lived his life that made the story of Double Duty even that more vivid. Radcliffe passed away in 2005 at the age of 102, but the tales that Duty spun have further spread the legend.
“You never knew what Double Duty would end up saying if you sat him down and let him roll.”