Archive for May, 2004

Got Myself A Gun

by Bruce Banter


I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time I read about a rapper being arrested on a gun charge. In today’s hip hop culture, guns are ‘fashion statements’ for the young. Especially for those projecting a thug like image. You realize its mainly about, image when you notice that the richest rap stars (Eminem, Dr. Dre, and P-Diddy) have all been arrested and charged for gun possession at the height of their career. Yes these Forbes men all have a rap sheet (no pun intended). These men can easily afford top-notch security; the type of protection equivalent to royalty and heads of countries. Once caught with a gun, the rapper will receive probation and agree not to carry it anymore because this would be a parole violation and it’s almost impossible to beat a 2nd gun charge while you are still on probation. Ironically the rapper often feels his credibility is intact just from the arrest, but the risk of jail becomes too real, to get caught again.

The majority of rappers are not rich and can’t afford professional security but since they project wealth they worry that, somebody who is as poor as they actually are, might be out to get them, so they arm themselves. Artist who don’t flaunt material possessions or feel the need to project a tough image are never in the headlines for gun possession. They may have them at home but they don’t feel a need to carry them wherever they go. So we can conclude image plays a major role.

I suspect the reason that more rap artist get in trouble with guns is part glorification and part geography. Hip-hop developed in New York and was initially an inner city phenomenon. New York and other urban centers are more restrictive about gun ownership. Primarily because places like Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia etc had instances where the people revolted against their oppressive conditions and took to the streets. Historians usually refer to these instances as riots. However the point is that resistance in urban areas like the aforementioned places almost always results in “guerilla warfare”. Having to do battle up close and personal, door-to-door, shootouts in tight spaces like project buildings makes for a great equalizer, even when going up against a better-trained force. So the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed as a response to racially charged revolts in major cities.

Race-based “gun control” has existed ever since the second amendment was established. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale read Robert F. Williams book “Negroes with Guns” and borrowed heavily from it while constructing the theoretical basis for the Black Panther Party for Self -Defense in September of 1966, at a library in North Oakland. The Panthers are known widely for “gun liberation” thanks to Robert Williams book, which became a bible of Black militancy. Williams book inspired them and The Black Panthers became famous with the doctrine of “Black self defense”, that the black war veteran (Marine), civil rights leader and Former NAACP Chapter leader documented as philosophy and policy.

Williams more than documented black self-defense he practiced what he preached but gets little credit because his activities didn’t get projected via television. At the time, the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement refused to provide protection to the black community while supporting and enabling perpetrators of violence in his hometown of Monroe, North Carolina. In response, Williams organized mostly black war veterans. They noticed that when armed defense teams returned fire, the racist mobs would lose their nerve. Confirming the cowardice inherent in mob mentality. Williams strongly believed self-defense should function as a critical component in a broadly conceived strategy for liberation. Williams understood this revelation as early as the age of 21. In 1946 only a few months home from war, Williams joined the growing ranks of black vets who felt like they had not come home to “pick cotton”.

Bennie Montgomery a fellow vet and friend of Williams killed a white man in self-defense. The white man had assaulted him and tried to slit his throat because he asked for his wages at noon instead of at the end of the day. The Ku Klux Klan wanted to come to town for revenge but authorities shipped Montgomery out of town, convicted him and executed him in the gas chamber. When Montgomery’s body was shipped back to his family the Klan said his body belonged to them. They said they was going to come and take the body drag it up and down the streets and then hang and burn it. Williams and fellow vets made a defense plan at the local barbershop. When the Klan motorcade pulled up in front of the Harris Funeral Home, 40 black men leveled their rifles, taking aim at the line of cars. Not a shot was fired; the Klansmen simply weighed their chances and drove away. That was one of the 1st incidents that got them realizing about resistance in groups. Their would be many more incidents of self defense and finally ten years later Williams would organize a permanent defense group, an “organized militia” for self defense. The NAACP at the time did not believe in self-defense and would vilify him and reduce his chapter temporarily to just him. It would not matter though, he was effective in self-defense and black people throughout the country were becoming more aware and ready to follow him. The best way for many blacks to really understand self defense tactics would be from Williams, so he wrote “Negroes with Guns”, and in later years, groups like the Black Panther Party helped make self defense a national issue.

Black Panther founders Bobby Seale & Huey Newton

The Black Panther Party quickly captured the attention of the national media when they marched on the California State capitol on May 2nd, 1967. In the book “Seize The Time” Huey Newton says, “We’re going to the Capitol. Mulford’s there, and they’re trying to pass a law against our guns, and we’re going to the Capitol steps. We’re going to take the best Panthers we got and we’re going to the Capitol steps with our guns and forces, loaded down to the gills. And we’re going to read a message to the world, because the press is always up there. They’ll listen to the message, and they’ll probably blast it all across this country. I know they’ll blast it all the way across California. We’ve got to get a message over to the people.” The message was self- defense and Huey was right the world got a visual message that was powerful and planned. Huey told a fellow panther. “Call the television stations and tell them we’re the Black Panthers,” Huey Newton had instructed. “We’re coming from Oakland, we’ve got our leather jackets on, we ‘ve got our rifles, and we’re going to walk into the legislature with guns. See what happens.” What happened was eventful on two fronts. First – the carefully orchestrated public display attracted international media attention on the local and national levels, capturing the imagination of everybody. Second – J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI got both, pissed off and frightened. Hoover described the Panthers as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and in November 1968 ordered the FBI to employ “hard-hitting counter-intelligence measures to cripple the Black Panthers”. (These COINTELPRO operations are still at work today disguised under different names.) As history goes, Hoover was largely successful.

imageBlack Self defense sort of dissipated from the public once the Panthers were infiltrated. When the movie Panther debuted in 1995 Black people stood up and cheered during this scene depicting black men with guns parading through the state capitol. To us this was classic defiance. Apparently not much had changed in opinions from 3 decades prior. In Watts whereby the play called “If We Must Live” (based on Negroes with Guns book) was performed in theatres it was always to standing ovations for half a year. Almost 10 years have passed since Panther debuted and how much you want to bet blacks would still stand and applaud when images of black men with guns in self-defense are presented. To our community standing up is heroic, to others its scary as 9/11. On the other hand when the black community hears of black men being busted for gun possession they realize that this activity is not synonymous with Williams or Newton’s heroic history. Outside of Tupac, who shot 2 cops (though they were off-duty) you would be hard pressed to find a rapper defending himself from white aggression, even in their videos they practice running from it. The guns they have are intended for aggression within their own communities. It’s obvious to me that this is a political decision.

History proves that “who gets to have a gun” is a very political topic. Michael Moore offers a nice historical anecdote in his documentary movie “Bowling for Columbine”. Some say he politicized the gun issue too much by injecting race into the discussion but in all honesty you can’t talk about guns in America objectively and not discuss race. Prior to FBI COINTELPRO guns had primarily been used by white men for aggression and black men for protection against aggressors. Today the only difference in usage of these diametrically opposed racial groups is political. White men with guns are a political movement. 90% of white men with guns voted for Bush. Black men with guns are not a collective but individuals either wanting them for self-defense or aggression. Both white and black gun owners offer ambiguous language in the Constitution and Second Amendment as a reason they should have guns. In my opinion it is not hard to tell who wants a gun for self-defense and who wants a gun for “incidental aggression”. All you need to do is observe the patron who wants the AK-47 (affectionately called the street sweepers) he’s either part of a white anti-government militia or he’s part of a white anti-everything militia. Active gang members of all ethnicities also want these automatic weapons but their chances of getting them legally is slim to none.

I could cite you numerous reports on guns and public safety that show that crime levels, particularly those involving guns, are extremely high, and that gun ownership in this new era is largely ineffective for self-defense. They would even reveal that guns pose a very serious threat to public safety, and that the widespread ownership of guns does not increase public safety, and may well reduce it significantly. Further, while owning a gun may make you feel safer; it does not necessarily translate into an actual increase in security.” However, I would probably be wasting my time because the political climate surrounding guns is so intense that studies have been done of studies, that have been done about studies, on the issue. Many of the basic statistics about guns are in wide disagreement with each other and opinions largely depend on which sources you use or if you already have your mind made up. I don’t have my mind made up, either way, but while I contemplate the history of guns in the black community, I am going to watch some Black Caesar and fill out the proper paper work so that I can get myself a gun! – Nuff said


RapCOINTELPRO Part XV – E-Letter To The Miami Herald, Evelyn McDonnell and Casey Woods Re: “Hip-Hop Discussion Extends A Bridge”

Cedric Muhammad

I think that your article, “Hip-hop discussion extends a bridge” was a concise and fair representation of the panel discussion that I participated in, hosted by the Miami Beach Black Host Committee, and which featured Miami police chief John Timoney, artist Luther Campbell, and Source magazine publisher David Mays, among others. This panel largely grew out of your ground-breaking reporting, along with Nicole White, specifically your March 9, 2004 Miami Herald article, “Police Secretly Watching Hip-Hop Artists”. As you now know, in fourteen installments, I have been writing on this subject for just about four years, receiving a healthy amount of raised eyebrows, criticism, and skepticism along the way. Your article, maybe more than any other, even those coming from the New York-area newspapers in 2002, bears witness to the truth of what I have been writing on. I appreciate your hard investigative reporting.

I think the most important part of your recent work is that it indirectly approaches the nucleus of this entire matter, which raises the focus on the subject of surveillance of rap artists above police harassment and racial profiling, and properly placing it where it belongs – at the federal level. Getting to the federal level allows one to see the issue in historical context, which is why I have included “COINTELPRO” in the title of my series – alluding to the FBI’s program to work against and undermine social, cultural, progressive, revolutionary, and nationalist movements. One of the greatest fears guiding COINTELPRO, where Blacks were concerned, was the idea that youth would one day be married to Black nationalist movements and charismatic nationalist leaders. To understand it all, you really, at least, have to read and study two memorandums written by then-FBI Chief, J. Edgar Hoover – a Shriner – dated August 25, 1967 and March 4, 1968. In addition to seeking to prevent the “rise of a Black messiah”; and the growth of nationalist movements among youth; the initiative set as its objective that no leader or group deemed as a target, should ever be able to spread “their philosophy publicly or through various mass communication media.” I hope you will listen to my March 16, 2004 appearance on Davey D.’s Hardknock radio program on KPFA in the Bay area, along with Luther Campbell, and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. On that show I explain how Hip-Hop, among other things, has become the mass communication media of the youth and oppressed communities in America – Chuck D. was absolutely correct years ago when he likened Hip-Hop to Black America’s CNN.

Black Panther founders Bobby Seale & Huey Newton

While we are decades removed from the heyday of the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as organizations the FBI targeted and worked to disrupt and keep youth away from; that reality should not confuse one into thinking that the spirit, motive and objective of COINTELPRO no longer exists in the minds of many influential people, inside and outside of the federal government or local police departments. If one carefully studies the five elements of Hip-Hop, its origin, and its evolution; along with the thinking of certain ideologues who advise police chiefs and federal law enforcement agencies, it is not hard to understand why rap artists would be targeted the way they are. As I stated on the panel more than once, the key to understanding what is going on lies in obtaining details of how street organizations, “gangs”, are viewed by those within the United States’ national security nexus; understanding the increased morphing of the local police officer into the United States armed forces; and the merging of the war on terrorism with the war on drugs. You can get an indication of this in how much of the intelligence that has been gathered and compiled on rappers has been the work of agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and even the White House through the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). That is why the letterhead on many of the documents, like that on Jay-Z‘s portion of the infamous, “rap binder” is that of The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program. This is much bigger than local police departments following rappers around while they are in town for business and pleasure. As I stated on the panel, in most cases the police officers are the pawns, or foot soldiers in a war that is being coordinated at a much higher level than the police chief’s office. A real clear picture of this can be seen in the third part of the “RapCOINTELPRO” series, Congress Holds Hearings On DEA Rap-A-Lot Investigation”

Attend any major law-enforcement gathering where police chiefs and officers are being trained and exchanging information and you will see that a disproportionately focal point of attention is youth street organizations. Read the writings of ideologues currently operating in little-known law-enforcement-oriented think tanks, or academics who advise government officials and national security officials and you will see in writing, the thesis that the greatest emerging threat to the national security of the United States are the gangs that are likened to terrorist organizations (Interestingly, it was just reported that an alleged gang in the Bronx is the first to be indicted under New York state’s anti-terrorism law). I did not exaggerate when I compared these ideologues who surround police chiefs, law enforcement and members of the national security community to the neoconservatives (“neocons”) who have surrounded President Bush, seeking human vessels to embody their ideas for war. It is actually more than an analogy once you get deep into the very small nexus of scientists who study gangs in America and groupings in the non-Western world from the lens of social science and history.

There are very influential, wickedly wise individuals, operating inside and outside of government who are seeking to include street organizations as a domestic component of the international war on terrorism. Their analysis does not at all differentiate between Bloods, Crips, El Rukens, Latin Kings, the 5% Nation Of Islam, Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, for instance. And in literature that I have seen given to top law enforcement agencies and police officers, the rapper is categorically described as “the spokesperson of the gang”. In other words, the rapper is the spokesperson, in the mind of these people, of terrorist organizations; and as I stated more than once in Miami, the youth gangster is described as “the new warrior” – the biggest threat to United States national security if he receives paramilitary training. If you look at the surveillance of rap artists from the perspective of COINTELPRO and the current thinking in gang intelligence you will see in a new light the following quote from Miami police Sgt. Rafael Tapanes, ”A lot if not most rappers belong to some sort of gang,” in the Miami Herald‘s historic March 9th article.

I hope that you will explore this avenue in your investigative work, we will be going further into it, in detail, and with documentation, in subsequent parts of this series.

Keep up the good work.


Cedric Muhammad


Minister Farrakhan



P.S. You may be surprised to learn that this domestic component – involving Black youth and street organizations – as part of an international war; was publicly announced in Washington D.C. in October of 1989 by Minister Louis Farrakhan. His announcement grew out of a spiritual experience he had in September of 1985 in Mexico. The Million Man March in 1995 also grew out of that experience. He speaks openly about this.

All of this is related to how cleaning up the grotesque international image of Black men in America impacts the pace of the domestic component of this war. Remember how in the 80’s and 90’s Black parents actually called on the national guard to come into Black and Latino neighborhoods to deal with gang violence? Some still do today – loosely likening gangs to terrorist groups. Consider this from Part XIV of the RapCOINTELPRO series:

Has a “cover story” been written to justify a war against Hip-Hop and Black youth, in such a way that civil rights violations, mistreatment and even the killing of young Black and Latino youth could take place and the majority of Americans or the majority of the world would think that such actions were warranted? Has rap music been a battlefield for this larger initiative, if it exists? Some might say that such a plan is unthinkable today. But is it a stretch or unreasonable to believe that the more brutally honest or negative aspects (depending upon whom you speak to) of rap music lyrics and videos have been projected domestically and abroad in such a way that it has enabled an unattractive image of Black youth – males in particular – to dominate the opinions of many people who might not regularly interact with Black Americans? Consider this from an article from the November 16, 2003 issue of the New York Times written by a Black American Muslim traveling in Egypt:

One night during Ramadan, a skinny hustler in knockoff American clothes joined us for dinner. He was one of those 20-something lotharios who haunt downtown Cairo, seducing tourists. After dinner, we sat alone in front of the shop.

“Do you know the story of Tupac Shakur?” he asked me. I nodded and smiled; I was intrigued that he knew anything about rap and proud that he did. “They killed him in the ghetto,” he continued. “I love all the rap, all the niggers.”

My face went hot. I told him he shouldn’t use that word.

“Why not?” he asked. “All the blacks use it. All the blacks have sex and sell drugs like Tupac and Jay-Z.”

Not since grade school had such talk so upset me. “Look at me,” I said. “I’m black. I don’t sell drugs.”

“Please, don’t be upset,” the young man said, offering me his hand. “I’m a nigger. I’m a hustler like Tupac.”

Friday, May 21, 2004

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Hip Hop History: Interview w/ Charlie Ahearn of Wildstyle

by Jayquan of the Foundation

Charlie Ahearn and Fab 5 Freddy

JayQuan: How did you first come in contact with Hip Hop , and what year was it?

Charlie Ahearn: Well, there’s no doubt that my ear was onto Hip Hop by 1978. I was living near the Smith projects where Lee Quinones lived in the 70s. I was doin’ these experimental film projects with a 16mm camera where I would film neighborhood kids and come back the next week and set up a projector and project the images on the wall. There was a gym at the Smith projects and kids would come there and dance. I distinctly remember hearing the DJ cutting up James Brown, and the kids would drop to one leg, and stick the other leg out in synchronous fashion like a line of guys at once. To this honky from upstate New York it looked like tribal dancing , I had never seen anything like it , and I didn’t know what Breakdancing was at the time. But I did have my camera and I would tape this even though I didn’t know what it was. I was very excited by this, and there were all these murals in the area by Lee.

When I was shooting this stuff a group of kids came up to me and said that they wanted to make a martial arts movie, and I said sure. I had never gone to film school & I knew nothing about making movies. But I shot these kids with Lee’s murals in the background, and it was like a Bruce Lee martial arts movie set in the housing projects. I was playing around with different percussion sounds to put in the background , and I went to this record store, which ironically is still there at Park Row. This was 78 or 79 and I told the guy that I was looking for something with an extended percussion sound. He said all the kids are listening to this one – and it was Bongo Rock by the Incredible Bongo Band! I bought a single copy , and put it behind this scene with Ninjas. The movie was corny , but I started showing the movie in different housing projects in the Bronx.

I was showing the film in June of 1980 in an abandoned massage parlor in Times Square and Fred Brathwaite (Fab 5  Freddy) came up to me and said that he had heard of me, and wanted to talk to me about doing movies. He said that he had been working with LeeQuinones. He brought Lee down the next day, and that’s how we started making Wild Style!!

Busy Bee

That doesn’t really answer your question yet , because the first time that I officially knew that I was in the middle of Hip Hop Freddy heard that there was gonna be an outdoor jam at this park with Busy Bee performing. This park was in the North Bronx and it was called the Valley. On one side of the park there was dub reggae music playing, and on the other I could hear James Brown music. Fred & I gravitated toward the James Brown music, and I  always say what if we went the other way, it would have been a totally different movie. But that was there in the Bronx, people don’t give it credit, but there were Jamiacians jamming in the park. People talk about Herc but they were there playing.

So we came across this stage area that looked like a miniature version of the Ampitheatre , which is where we got the inspiration later to do that scene because it made such an impression on me. There were a bunch of people on stage and this guy on the side who I later found out was Busy Bee was sweating bullets because he thought that I was a cop. He asked me what was up, and I told him that I was doing a film on Hip Hop and he brought me on stage and said “this is my film producer and we are doin’ a movie about the rap scene!” That was all she wrote – it was my first experience and there were so many people who were there that I got tight with like Rodney C who was there with the Funky 4. It wasn’t a big deal because I was announced so when I came off stage everyone came up to me and wanted to meet me.

JQ: So you heard a DJ scratching James Brown in ’78?

CA: Yes , and in the book “Yes Yes Y’all” there is a flyer for that jam at Smith projects. Theodore & Fantastic were there , Flash was there , I just didn’t know what it was at the time. In the summer of 80 Freddy and I went to DJ A.J. parties , Breakout parties , we went to the subway yards with Dondi. The movie was just a vehicle for these people to get their 3 to 5 minutes , and it was never intended to be a documentary , we never took it that serious. It wasn’t supposed to teach anyone anything – it just is what it is.

JQ: Did the Furious 5 originally perform in the Ampitheatre scene?

CA: Yes , what happened was we shot everything for the film in the fall of 1981, and  that winter looking at the footage , all the musical scenes didn’t sound very good. We used the Cold Crush sound system and it was loud , but it wasn’t clear , which is not good for recording sound for movies. I had to make a painful decision that winter to scrap everything that we shot and to redo the whole soundtrack. We redid the Dixie scene , the Ampitheatre – everything was done twice. The original Ampitheatre scene had Flash & The Furious 5 on stage , and also the Cold Crush. By the spring a lot of things had happened – Flash & the Furious were breaking up again , the Funky 4 had broken up , there was a lot going on. So what you see is the best we could do at the time.

JQ: Do you still have that footage?

CA: It’s in a warehouse in Jersey somewhere , its very hard to get to. If I could get my hands on it I would have released it long ago.The dvd would have been the time to do it , but I found it impossible to go through what I had to go through to get it.

JQ: How did everyone co exist on the set as far as Graf artists &  Emcees/DJs & B Boys ?I hear that  Graf artists didn’t really like being lumped in with Emcees and DJs , and that not all of them were really into rap.

CA: Freddy had a kinda fantasy or vision of Hip Hop as this united front , which was kinda radical at the time. There were interconnections , but there were no visible signs of it. Like in the whole year that I was in the Bronx before the movie , I saw no B Boying – it simply wasn’t there. It was going on somewhere else. I got to know Rock Steady through Lee Quinones. There was a party at his studio , and I met them there. B Boying was considered passé and out of fashion in the Bronx. People remembered it , but when I mentioned that it would be in the movie people would go awwwww that’s been played out so long ago!!! The Emcees really were not into it. The B Boys were not really on the scene at the parties and events except Frosty Freeze. Like wise the people who were down with the Graf scene weren’t at those parties. The only one I saw was Phase II because he did the flyers. Lee Quinones was a B boy when he was a kid bombing trains , but he never went to the parties.

JQ: How did Blondie & Chris Stein come into play.

CA: Before Freddy and I met he was working with Glenn O’Brien on a thing called TV Party. Debbie (Harry) and Chris were always on TV Party and Freddy used to hang out with them. Freddy took Chris & Debbie  up to a P.A.L. show of Flash before the movie , this was the spring of 1980. He took them and introduced them , hence you get the story in the song “Rapture”. Debbie was as big as any pop star could get back then , but she still hung out like that. She made this song as sort of a joke to make her references to Hip Hop , and Freddy had a lot to do with the writing of that song. In fact that song was the first time a lot of people heard rap.

When it was time to do the soundtrack I told Freddy I was scared to let these Emcees rap over the records that the DJs were playing because I would have to get clearance for all this music , and I didn’t want Emcees vocals held hostage by record companies. So I said lets produce the music ourselves , and give it out to the DJs , I don’t think that anyone has tried to do that since !! The DJs weren’t happy about it but they all seemed to like the one track (Down By Law) unfortunately because it makes it somewhat monotonous. Charlie Chase was more innovative and played other beats and slowed down the tempo. Chris Stein went into a studio with Lenny Fararri, who was the drummer  , and Dave Harper who played the bass tracks. They created the groove for the whole album & Freddy was kinda directing them. Fred got together with Grand Wizard Theodore to get musical ideas. Chris Stein came in the 2nd day and all the tracks were done in one 4 hour session. I brought in all kind of sound effect records and cartoons for the DJs to Scratch.

Cold Crush vs Fantastic

JQ: How did the Emcees get along on the set?

CA: Cold Crush & Fantastic were deadly rivals. They were friends growing up , but during this time it was like heavyweights before a match. The others got along fine , Busy Bee hung out with everyone.

JQ: Was there anyone that didn’t appear in the movie , but you wished had?

CA: Yes Spoonie G. He had Spoonin’ Rap on Peter Brown’s label  , I used to love that , the mood and everything. I wanted to work with him , but he was doing the Sugarhill tours and he was a recording artist , and I was on a street level , so during the movie  never really got a chance to talk to him.

I loved the Treacherous 3New Rap Language was my favorite. Treacherous 3 could have been the headliners of the whole movie , but we were on the way to tape the Ampitheatre scene , and we were in a van. Special K asked the driver to stop & he jumped out because he saw his girlfriend on the street. He said he would catch up with us , but he never showed. I was shooting 16mm film which was very expensive, and I told Moe & L.A. if you can’t get your guy here I can’t roll film on you guys. They gave a great show & could have headlined. I worked very closely with Theodore on the music track , and I don’t think anyone has done this since , but I showed him the film in edited form and he watched and Scratch mixed watching the scenes.

I also worked with Grandmaster Caz on the theme songs , my regret was that I wish that I had more of Caz in the movie , and more of Theodores’ Scratch Mixing like the way you see Flash. Originally that scene would have been right before they went to the Ampitheatre to see his group. There was a whole talking scene between Freddy & Flash that had to be cut because they are talking about goin’ to the Ampitheatre.

Grandmaster Flash

JQ: How come the Bob James break (Take Me To the Mardis Gras) is deleted on the Flash scene of the dvd ?

CA: I went to get permission for it , and they wanted an ungodly amount of money, and Rhino wasn’t paying me any clearance money.

JQ: Im gonna name some Hip Hop movies and ask you to rate them on a scale of 1  -10 , 10 being highest.

Beat Street – 6 (the Subway battle scene is so cool)

Breakin’ – 4

Rappin’ – 4

Style Wars – 8 for the original release , 10 for the re release

JQ : How did the book “Yes Yes Y’all” come about ?

CA: I went to Seattle to the Experience Music Project to show Wild Style , and I was disappointed that many people had never seen my photos. So I pulled out a book of photos & Jim Fricke pulls out flyer from like ’76 , 77 and so on. I said we have to put a book together where we have the flyers and photos back to back . So we would have a flyer , a photo and a story . My original idea was to call it “Legends Of Hip Hop” , and focus not so much on the exact truth , but what peoples perceptions were. I had been working on a movie idea about early myths in Hip Hop and I still want to do that , but that was the original idea for the book.

Charlie Ahearn directing

JQ: A central theme in Wild Style seems to be the Graf artists rejection of the mainstream art galleries, how do you feel about where we are 20 plus years later with rap being so mainstream , do you feel that it’s being exploited?

CA: The movie was the dilemma of someone who is an outlaw , and his becoming public threatens that identity. You cant be an outlaw and well known in the art galleries at the same time. In terms of rap I always thought that the street aspect of Hip Hop was in conflict with the commercial aspect. What we saw with Rappers Delight was the defining moment when people who weren’t part of the original culture became stars. It would be like if we never heard the Beatles , but we heard the Monkees and that was considered to be what 60s Rock & Roll was. Now the Monkees produced some great records , but when you hear the Beatles it’s such a highly developed form. When rap became commercialized in ’79 it was in conflict with the way it was developed till that point. But at the same time all artists involved in Hip Hop at the time were trying to earn a living from it. So it would be absurd for anyone not to applaud the opportunity to make things better for themselves. Nobody should wanna put it in a little box and say “if its not on the street corner its not real”. That would be racist and counter productive. So this contradiction between the needs of the commercial world & the street has defined Hip Hop for the last 20 years.

JQ: How were you received in Japan when you took the tour there?

CA: It was culture clash on many different levels for both sides , but it was very exciting. There was this Buddist Monk that came to all of our shows waving his beads……

JQ: Where did the title Wild Style come from?

CA: In the summer of 1980 when Fred and I began conceptualizing an exploring the movie , all the subway writers were using the phrase “Wild Style” to mean the most advanced form of letters , pushed to a complicated abstraction , unreadable except to those who practiced the art form. It was adopted as the name of the movie almost from the beginning. Much later I began to hear about , and meet with a pioneer named Tracey 168 who deserves credit for writing Wild Style in the mid 70s,and he is prominently thanked in the end credits of the movie.

JQ: How did the Sprite commercials come about , and what did you think of them?

CA: I was approached in 1997 by the Sprite advertising people. They wanted to do a series of “homage to the movie” scenes. Now you have to realize that the movie had not been in distribution for a long time and I was planning the re release with Rhino at the time. It seemed like a great opportunity to cross market the movie (since Rhino is notoriously cheap with advertising). I was excited about getting some of the people from Wild Style into the commercials. Also there had been some positive buzz about the ads since KRS- One  had done one etc. It turned out that they didn’t use as many of the original players as I had wished – Caz & Whipper Whip in the B ball scene and Flash & Crazy Legs in the club scene. But overall it was a lot of exposure for a very small movie…….

original article: