Showing posts with label Hip Hop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hip Hop. Show all posts

Saturday, October 21, 2023

DJ Mark The 45 King Exclusive Mix From The Formula Radio Show With DJ Groove Da Moast

DJ Groove Da Moast

We take a short break from the baseball happenings to salute two hip hop pioneers, DJ Mark The 45 King and DJ Groove Da Moast. Sadly, both DJs died within a week from each other in October 2023, but we have this gem from The Formula Radio Show archives connecting the two legends.

In February 2005, DJ Mark The 45 King was the show's featured guest, masterfully spinning exclusive tracks from his personal archives. 

DJ Groove Da Moast (aka Fredy Blast) followed The 45 King with a tribute set of his own, expertly mixing up 45 King's classics. DJ Skeme Richards and Primetime provide the commentary in between the mixes, giving you a slice of the hip hop landscape at the time. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Def Jef Tells The Story Of Shaq's Early Rap Career

By the time Shaquille O'Neal wrapped up his first NBA season in 1993, it was clear O'Neal was a global entity whose marketability extended well beyond the confines of the basketball court. Whether it was his best-selling Shaq Attack sneakers, his domination of the sports card market, or serving as a pitchman for Pepsi products, everything Shaq touched in 1993 turned to gold.

His Midas touch gilded the hip-hop realm when the nubile O'Neal kicked a verse on the Fu-Schnickens single, What's Up Doc?, helping to propel sales of the song to RIAA Gold certification. O'Neal 's microphone exploits turned many heads in the industry, including that of Def Jef (Jeffrey Fortson), a Grammy nominated MC and producer who released two critically acclaimed albums on the Delicious Vinyl imprint. As Fortson watched O'Neal perform on television one morning, the idea of collaboration was spawned by a phone call from one of his close friends.

“My friend Ron Mack saw Shaq rapping on one of those morning shows on TV at seven in the morning,” Fortson said during a recent telephone interview. “I've never been a huge sports fan, but I just happened to be watching this show at 7:30 in the morning and Shaq is rapping with the Fu-Schnickens. I was like, 'Wow, check out Shaq, he can rap.' My friend Ron calls me and says, 'Hey you should get up some tracks.' I said, 'That's probably not going to happen, he has the opportunity to work with anybody in the industry he wants to.'”

At the time, Fortson had a publishing deal with Chrysalis for his production crew The Arsenal, which was comprised of Fortson and Meech Wells. As fate would have it, one of the executives at Fortson's label had a close connection with O'Neal's agent. It opened the door for the two to forge a relationship.

“The person that signed me was named Tom Sturgess … he was friends with Shaq's agent at the time, Leonard [Armato],” Fortson said. “He called me one day and said, 'Hey would you be interested in working with Shaquille O'Neal, he needs an intro for his album.' Tom knew that I was a DJ as well. The idea was to meet him at the studio and bring a bunch of records where rappers mentioned his name so we can kind of scratch in an intro of all the rappers that said his name.”

While creating the intro for Shaq Diesel, Fortson used the opportunity to showcase his production talents to the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year. By the time Fortson arrived, all of the tracks slated for the album were completed; however, one beat Fortson played for O'Neal was so undeniable that the roster was expanded to fit an additional song. That track, which also featured Fortson rapping, became the lead single, (I Know I Got) Skillz.

“He [O'Neal] actually told me before we started working, 'The album is done, I just need an intro,'” Fortson said. “After we worked on an intro, I played a track for him and said, 'Hey, what do you think of this track?'… He said, 'I like that; I want to work on it.' We kind of worked on that song, 'Skillz,' and that set off us working on the first single from his album. I think because his album was done and that song was a new energy, that's why it became the first single.”

Skillz was a hit, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Top Rap singles chart, and No. 35 on the Billboard Top 100, ascertaining O'Neal another Gold plaque. His immediate success affirmed O'Neal could deliver the goods, quieting those outside of the music community who fancied the NBA player as a novelty act.


Core artists of the era openly welcomed O'Neal on the mic because of his budding skill and genuine appreciation of the culture. He aligned himself with such heavyweights as A Tribe Called Quest, Erick Sermon, and the aforementioned Fu-Schnickens.

“He reached into the music community,” Fortson explained. “It was an opportunity to work with Shaq because I thought he was good. I didn't just jump at the chance because he was Shaq. When I first saw him rapping with the Fu-Schnickens, I was like, 'Shaq can rap,' because it could have gone the other way. At the time I was a producer, and I had success as a producer, so I didn't look at this as an opportunity like Shaq would help me get a plaque. It was more like let's work on this and it's awesome. Plaques and all of that [expletive], that is a by-product of trying to make something good; doing your best to make something great. We all worked on something great and we were rewarded for it.

“Let's take a step back," he said. "A Tribe Called Quest was huge; they weren't some fledgling rap group. They were A Tribe Called Quest, the standard in hip-hop, [at least] one of them. They were a very credible, respected rap group. … Everyone he worked with was successful. Erick Sermon, EPMD, people [that] had status in the music business. … He aligned himself rightfully so and smartly about it with his hip hop heroes.”

O'Neal took the same work ethic he had from the sports world and applied that to his approach in the studio. Fortson said O'Neal showed tremendous respect to a world where he was no longer the main attraction, not only by how he carried himself in the studio, but also his pride for writing his own songs.

“Every line that Shaq said on the several songs we worked on was his lyrics,” Fortson said. “He might have mentioned a lyric to me and said, 'Is this pretty good?' He was 100 percent professional in the studio. He was never late. The guy worked like he respected the craft. At that point, he was probably a millionaire. He was doing really well and brought none of that energy into the studio. He was 100 percent dedicated to making something good. He would spit lyrics for me and say, 'Hey what do you think of this?' He would give me his ideas, but I didn't write one lyric for him. Everything we worked on, he wrote.”

While discussing Fortson's studio experience with O'Neal, the conversation turned to the few live performances they shared together. Immediately, Fortson recalled how a show they did in Minneapolis at Prince's club, First Avenue, later led to an impromptu meeting at Prince's studio with the recently deceased superstar.

“I do remember that date in particular because I got to go to Prince's studio,” Fortson recalled. “I remember going because I remember playing the club and then going to Prince's studio. I met him [Prince] briefly. One of the guys in his band recognized me. He said, 'Hey, you're Def Jef, you're the rapper. You're the real deal.' We exchanged a few niceties and pleasantries. He said, 'Do you want to meet him? I was like, 'Sure.'

“This figure scurried by that I didn't know and he was like, 'That's him right there; he went to the bathroom.' Prince came back out and he was very short. I don't mean that in a mean way. He was surprisingly much shorter than I anticipated. The guy said, 'Hey this is Def Jef, he's a real rapper, he's the real deal. Prince said, 'If he says you're good, I'm sure you're good. Do you want to go up and do something later?” We were in his rehearsal stage. He had a sound stage in his studio. It was the most amazing place ever; it was like a fun house.”

MC Supernatural corroborated Fortson's story.. Known for his tremendous freestyle abilities, Supernatural remains one of the most highly regarded MCs in the game. When reached via telephone, just the mention of Shaq's name triggered lucid memories of an unbelievable evening.

“It's definitely a true story,” Supernatural said. “I'll never forget the night; it was amazing. I remember Shaq coming out doing the running man on stage looking like a giant, like he was getting ready to fall off the stage.”

Supernatural observed that O'Neal was well received within the hip hop community for similar reasons that Fortson earlier expressed; he was real.

“We loved it,” he said. “At that time, Shaq was like that dude. He was fresh in the league, blowing up crazy, doing all types of stuff across the board media wise. When he did that record [Shaq Diesel], it was amazing to be there to see it. He was probably one of the first basketball players ever to do a rap record. That was a big deal to MCs, especially to guys like myself. I always thought it was dope that he was so involved with hip hop.”

O'Neal released three more studio albums, but none had the commercial success as his Platinum debut, despite later enlisting the likes of Jay-Z and the late Notorious B.I.G. Artists and producers sought to capitalize off of Shaq's fame and budget by charging exorbitant amounts, when just a few years earlier, they were all posturing for a spot on his album.

“The first time around everyone wanted to record something with me,” O'Neal said in his 2011 autobiography, Shaq Uncut. “Now all of a sudden they're calling up and saying they'll do it, but they want $200,000.”

Fortson remained proud that he was able to work with O'Neal at the nascent stage of his rap career, well before finances complicated the situation. The experience had a purity that couldn't be replicated in future efforts.

“I was glad I was in on the ground floor because it was genuine,” he said. “After a couple of albums, people saw a check.

“I think he did his best to honor whomever he listened to because he took time to write his rhymes. People might say he wasn't saying anything particularly deep, but he was having fun making cool and clever rhymes, and really at the end of the day that's what hip hop is about.” 

* - Originally published for The Sports Post on September 9, 2016.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How Pete Nice brought Double Duty Radcliffe into the hip hop realm

Peter Nash, known to many as Pete Nice from the legendary hip hop group 3rd Bass, posted on Twitter a copy of a letter he penned to Def Jam executives for payment to Negro League legend Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe for his appearance on Nash’s 1994 solo album, “Dust to Dust.” The track, “Double Duty Got Di**ed,” which featured Radcliffe dropping knowledge on the segregated league over a funky drum break, put some hip hop flavor behind the ruminations of one of baseball’s greatest storytellers.

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.

“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 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.”

Nash’s preservation of the 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.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hip hop's passionate plea for Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame

Back in 2003 when I was DJ'ing on college radio, I befriended New York City hip hop artist Tribeca, who was on the appropriately titled Major League Entertainment imprint. The label was known for their attention grabbing sports inspired record covers, including one major tip of the cap to Mr. Pete Rose aka Charlie Hustle.

Tribeca - Pony Express (Charlie Hustle) 12"
Tribeca's "Pony Express" (Charlie Hustle) makes a heartfelt case for Pete Rose's enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame that is not only a timeless tribute to the all-time "Hit King," but one that fans can appreciate regardless of their musical tastes.