So much of current life is predicated on past life. Nations are raised and brought to fruition only through the anecdotes and life lessons of its history. Our evolution is directly tied to the experiences of those before us. In hip-hop, the pioneers told the stories of the city; tales of love, hate, enjoyment, despair, and power. Those tales were heard and absorbed by another generation of listeners, and with each transition, each generational member puts their own uniqueness into the historical blend. It is within the fabric of the culture that you can see the welds, from past to present, and present to future. Throughout our short history, there have always been those who have preserved history, and kept the story of hip-hop ready to tell to the people.
Geechie Dan, Queens native, is a gatekeeper and ambassador to the art and culture of hip-hop. Having been only a teen at the time of hip-hop’s true emergence, he has years and years of stories. These stories provide a roadmap to many of the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s of our culture. But don’t let him stop there – he’s got more than lore – he’s got proof. The Geechie Dan Hip-Hop Tape Show Radio Broadcast is unique in the fact that you can hear the ACTUAL history of hip-hop, collected by none other than Geechie Dan himself. Through his youth, he collected tapes of many club parties, park jams, and original recordings of the music of hip-hop culture.
Recently, we got a chance to talk.
Hip-Hop Forum: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to meet and talk hip-hop with us. To start out, we want our readers to get a look into what you do. Give us a glimpse of The Geechie Dan Hip-Hop Tape Show.
Geechie Dan: Geechie Dan Hip-Hop Tape Show is a show for hip-hop icons. I interview and provide tapes and recordings of live performances of all of our hip-hop icons – such as DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and The Zulu Nation, Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, and many others. I got tapes of some of the park jams from Queens, the Bronx, Harlem, Brooklyn, and Long Island.
The idea of the show is to bridge the gap from “what was” to “what is”. This generation of hip-hop doesn’t necessarily know “what was”, so I have a show so they can listen to the music, as well as some of the people that were involved at the time. It’s our responsibility to show the young generation where hip-hop came from. The music, style, and culture started from somewhere, and these tapes are the vocal point to our history. It’s not just about the music, not just rapping; but also the fashion, the break dancing, the graffiti, the way of life, our demeanor – that’s hip-hop. That’s what we’ve created across the world over this span of 40+ years.
HHF: How did the show begin?
Geechie Dan: I started with DJ Shauny D and Hilltop Radio. I was on his format for like, 7 months. Everyone loved the tapes, from the listeners to the icons. The icons that we interviewed loved to reminisce and give the listeners stories about what was going on at the times of the recordings – spreading the history. These tapes mean a lot to a lot of people. These recordings will go on to testify that our art form, our culture – is original and legitimate. You can’t ignore the tapes. And when down the line, when someone who doesn’t have the best interest of hip-hop as a culture tries to defame or tear down the essence of the culture, these tapes will stand as a testimony and a blueprint.
HHF: How far back do your tapes go?
Geechie Dan: My earliest tapes are from 1977 and 1978. Those are mostly park jams from Queens. I got several tapes from 1979, and a whole lot from 1980. I got tapes of DJ Divine and The Infinity Machine, I got stuff from a group called New Sounds, and they used to play at 147th park, at East Elmhurst in Queens. I got one from 1979, with DJ Divine and The Infinity Machine, DJ Hollywood, Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, and Eddie Cheeba, at the Jamaica Armory in Queens. I got one from 1978 with the Original Funky 4 – with Raheim from the Furious 5, Rodney C, Sha Rock, and KK Rockwell. That’s just a scratch of the surface, man.
HHF: Why did you start, and continue, collecting these tapes?
Geechie Dan: I started collecting tapes in 1982 – 1983. What happened was I heard a Cold Crush tape, and from that day, I was hooked. Between that tape, The Funky 4, and the Busy Bee vs. Kool Moe Dee battle. Those 3 tapes got me hooked on collecting hip-hop music. When I heard these tapes (even sometimes when I hear ‘em now), I envisioned myself being at the party or the park jam. Like, what would it have been like to be at the party rocking’ the Kangol, or smoking’ a joint? Break dancing, pop locking’? I always envisioned myself in these tapes, and that fascinated me. Original hip-hop, live on my stereo, on these recordings. So, at 12 – 13 years old, I started collecting tapes. I used to just be able to get a 15 or 20 minute snippet of the joint, which used to set me off. Like, I need the rest of this party! But as I got older and learned to network, I started getting the whole parties or park jams, like 90 minutes.
HHF: I’ve noticed on all of your bios that you are a proud member of The Universal Zulu Nation. How did you get down with them?
Geechie Dan: I got down with Zulu Nation from a dude from around my way. He was head of the Queens chapter. Me and him grew up together. I asked about it, and through the initiation process, he wanted to see where my heart was, so we fought. I think we fought twice. After that, another friend of mine in high school was down with Zulu, and he would take me to the meetings in Bronx River. Afrika Bambaataa and The Zulu Nation used to have their meetings at the community center in the Bronx River projects on Tuesdays at 7:30p. That’s how I ran into BO (RIP), Crazy Legs, Jazzy Jay, and Bambaataa.
HHF: Wow. History. So since we're speaking on Zulu, I got to ask this. Many of us, being from the outside looking into the Afrika Bambaataa controversy, what’s your take on his situation?
Geechie Dan: I ain’t gon’ comment on that, ‘because I know some personal shit with Bambaataa, ‘cause I was cool with them. But as far as the music goes, he’s an icon. On a personal level, it’s just a fucked up situation that he gon’ have to deal with. At the end of the day, that’s not tolerated, and that’s not hip-hop. Sometimes, hip-hop is like a house, and sometimes, you got to clean up your house. So with him, icon or not, he’s a part of this house, and we got to clean our house. Before anything else. He doesn’t get a pass because he’s Bambaataa. Nobody is above the culture. Not Flash, not LL, not Bambaataa, not Run and them. Nobody gets a pass because you “started hip-hop”.
HHF: Your history in radio goes long before this show. Give our readers your history from your experiences in college radio.
Geechie Dan: I got down with WBAU around 1984. At that time, Bill Stephney was the intern at the radio station. He had the “Mr. Bill Show”, which came on Mondays from 10p – 1a, on 90.3FM, college radio. Behind him was Andre “Doctor Dre” Brown from “Yo! MTV Raps”. Chuck D attended Adelphia University as well at the time. So now you got Chuck D, Bill Stephney, “Doctor Dre”, Flavor Flav was coming’ up there all the time – his name back then was DJ MC Flavor. Chuck was down with the music, so he brought his crew – Townhouse 3 – and Flavor up there all the time. He used to bring other crews from Long Island up there as well. They call themselves the Spectrum City – it was like 13 MCs and DJs. Their DJs was the Bomb Squad – Gary G-Wiz, Keith Shocklee (Wizard KGee), and Hank Shocklee.
Public Enemy got put on to Def Jam off the song they recorded at the radio station. “Public Enemy #1” became one of their first singles with Rick Rubin. Chuck D and Flavor Flav became Public Enemy.
“Doctor Dre” went on to start Original Concept – he had a crew with T-Money, Rapper G & Easy G. They made this song, “Knowledge Me”. He DJed for the Beastie Boys and also did “Yo! MTV Raps”.
Bill Stephney went to Def Jam, and eventually ended up executive producing the “Boomerang” soundtrack. Then he started his own label, Stepson Records.
I was 16 – 17 at the time, in the same room as these legends. Scott La Rock (RIP), KRS-ONE, the Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Jam Master Jay, DMC…they used to come up there all the time. Doctor Dre used to play their singles before commercial radio got to them. We used to get all their stuff first. I had a DJ show; they would come up there and play music for us and chill, and then take me home! I used to have to take 2 buses to get home from the radio station. DMC or Jam Master Jay would ask me “how you getting’ home?” “I’ma hop on this bus…” “Nah nah nah, come on, we got you.” They knew where I was at because I lived off of Farmers Blvd in Queens, right by Hollis. It was all love.
HHF: Speaking of legends, I heard through the grapevine that you had a battle with LL Cool J…true?
Geechie Dan: Yeah, it’s true. I was at a club called the Black and White on Farmers Blvd and 112th. I’m on stage with my man Fell-E-O and we free styling. I dropped a line, “It’s not a fable, it’s not a myth/Cool J’s real name is James Todd Smith/but when it comes to rapping’, he can’t compare/’cause his hairline is back here, I swear!” I was all animated and shit.
Well, the cats from around the way that was cool with him went straight over to LL’s grandma’s house to tell him. “Yo Todd, it’s a skinny dude up on stage dissin’ you and shit, talking’ ‘bout yo’ hairline…you know you can’t have that…” So he came up there and he approached me, and I’m like, whatsup? We got into a little shoving match, and my homeboy Luscious broke us up by throwing a chair between us, breaking up the fight. That killed the party, music stopped and everything. I extended my hand, and he pushed my hand, so I pushed him back, trying to knock his Kangol off and expose his hairline, but I missed. I was trying to expose him to Farmers Blvd, show the whole hood his hairline. That’s how it was, we was teenagers.
So we all left, but I seen him towards the end of the week. Him and his boys was standing outside drinking’ 40s, he said, “Hey Geechie, come here!” I was by myself, they was drinking’, I’m thinking’ it’s ‘bout to be a fight. I’m like, “Nah, I’m good wit’ all that…” But he was like, “Nah, it’s all good, come here.” I went over there, and we actually battled. He went at me, and I went at him, but he had some punch lines on me, talking’ ‘bout my ears and shit. He got me. But that was the end of that, we been friends ever since. Like, we really have been cool.
One time after that, he was like, “Come with’ me to Long Island City. Let’s hop on the train to Long Island City, they doing’ a movie.” I was like, “Get the fuck outta here, man. It’s cold, and I’m tired. I’m going’ home.” Turns out the movie being filmed was “Krush Groove”. Crazy. I could’ve been in Krush Groove. I fucked that up. We was gon’ bum rush the shit, just try to get in as extras. It was at a warehouse in Long Island City.
He’d come back to the hood and chill wit’ us and drink 40s and champagne. I got one for you. He blew up big; this was extra early in his career. He came through the hood in a limo. Todd hopped out the limo with a green garbage bag, half full. We sitting’ like, why do you have a garbage bag, Cool J? That half bag was full of condoms! Boxes of condoms! We sitting’ there like, “Dog u gon’ use ALL of them?” He looked at me like, what you think? I asked him, “Todd, is it like that?” He said “Geechie, it’s like that!” Hopped in the limo, & pulled off! Crazy! Make sure you print that! He knows how it was back then!
HHF: Thank you so much for blessing us with your time and a piece of hip-hop history. Thank you, Geechie.
Geechie Dan: Thank you, man. This has been great. Thank you for having me.
Interviewed By Warnell Jones
- Detroit writer, Warnell Jones is a hip-hop enthusiast and all-around music lover and loves to write about hip-hop culture, music, love and society. Warnell is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.