Originally posted on Nahright.com
Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
The New York mixtape game has many legends, and of them all, DJ Doo Wop is most definitely one of the most influential. The Bouncemaster was putting in work as a DJ on the mixtape circuit starting in the early ‘90s, repping his Bronx borough with classic tapes that always had the dope, customized intros with him rhyming on them, and skillful mixes filled with the newest and hottest songs for the streets. And with his groundbreaking tape 95 Live, which has often been dubbed by hip-hop fans as the greatest mixtape ever, he gathered up a ridiculous lineup of star rappers—from Q-Tip to Raekwon to Busta Rhymes to Fat Joe to Guru—to spit never-before-heard freestyles exclusively for his tape, which would later inspire the likes of peer DJs like Tony Touch, DJ Clue, and more.
We caught up with Doo Wop earlier this week for our latest Mixtape Memories feature, and we got the inside scoop on his storied career as a leading mixtape DJ, from his early beef with Kid Capri, to the making of 95 Live and the equally if not doper 95 Live Part Two, to historic freestyles like Prodigy’s Jay Z diss that led to the infamous Summer Jam screen moment, and a pre-shot-nine-times 50 Cent mixtape appearance. Plus so much more, including the ins and outs of his mixtape hustle in New York City, the history of his Bounce Squad crew, recording a live mixtape with Tony Touch in Japan, collaborating with DJ Kay Slay, his unforgettable “Ten Tape Commandments” song, and DJing on tour for Guru in the latter years of his life. This one is special, mixtape fans. Bounce on ‘em, Wop.
Inspiration to Start Making Mixtapes
DJ Doo Wop: “The first time I heard a mixtape was definitely a Kid Capri tape. It was the beginning of when mixtapes were really starting to be in everybody’s radio and car or whatever. It was around the time when Kid Capri was doing The Castle, in ‘88, ‘89. We would go by The Castle, but we would never really go in. Me and my crew, we didn’t really like to be all up in the club, we just liked to go when the club let out, to fuck with the girls and all that. We were that type.
“But we would hear the music coming out of all the cars with the talking over it. And I was already a DJ—I’d been a DJ since I was 9. So I was DJing nine to ten years before I heard a mixtape. But, I never talked on the mic. I never rapped. All I did was DJ. House parties, jams outside, parties in the projects, community centers, that type of thing. But I never looked at it like this was what I was gonna do for the rest of my life. Then when the mixtapes came out, it kind of drew me in, because it brought the DJ to the forefront. He had his own personality, and his own name that he could brand. It wasn’t just that the MC was the star like, ‘Oh, by the way, this is my DJ.’ It was more of, ‘Nah, this is me. I’m taking over. I’m gonna talk, I’m gonna spit, I’m gonna handle the crowd, I’m gonna do whatever.’ And I liked that. So I took a shot at it.”
“My first tape was probably something I did for my hood, I couldn’t even tell you. Back then, we just named them the date that we made them. It would be like Doo Wop 1-12-89 or something like that. It had Grand Daddy I.U., Lakim Shabazz, those type of joints. U.M.C.’s from Staten Island. Hip-hop shit. Around that time, even though I wasn’t known yet from the mixtape shit, I was connected through Ed Lover, who was a friend of a friend. He kind of liked my style, so he hooked me up with these dudes, and they would just send me mad records. So even back then, I would get records first, just like the radio DJs would get them. I would get advanced copies, and that helped me out too, because a lot of other cats weren’t getting that.”
“For the first year that I started making tapes, I would record straight through, so if I fucked up, I would have to start from the beginning. Two turntables, a mixer, and the mic in front of me on the gooseneck stand, and I would just have it planned out. I would practice, so if it was a blend or a transition I knew where the pitch had to be. That’s kind of rough to do it on the fly straight through, 45 minutes each side.
“Then after that, I learned how to use a 4-track. I still DJ’d, but I did the music first and then I talked. It was more convenient, because if I fucked up, I could just punch in. And it was more convenient for the vocals. I’m a big planning guy when it comes to shit like that. I’d be like, ‘Right here I want to say such and such, right here I want to give a shoutout to this person because it’s relevant to what they say on the record.’ I don’t care if anyone says, ‘Oh, that wasn’t on the fly.’ It came out dope like that. But the person listening to it didn’t know it was done on a 4-track.
“From there, I still did it live, it just got more advanced. I even did mixtapes in studios years later. But even through the first three, four years when I had the 4-track, I was in the crib. Then we moved it to my man’s crib around like ‘93 because we wanted to smoke, and that shit was not allowed at my crib. [Laughs.]”
“I was mostly known in the beginning Uptown—Bronx and Harlem. I wasn’t really too known in Queens. I didn’t care about that shit. I just wanted people to know me in the Bronx and Harlem. I figured I could just blow up there, and I’d be good. But I drove around and saw what stores sold mixtapes, and kept a note—125th, 137th, whatever. The night we’d make them, we’d copy them and label them. But there was no track list back then, so it was easier. You didn’t have to make a fly ass cover and do all the graphics they do now. We had a Telex machine that dubbed three, four tapes at a time. And they had some you could snap into another one and it would make eight. My man would sit there all night, I’d give him $20 or $40 and he’d do it. And the next day, we’d come out, and we’d go sell the tape.
“It was hard in the beginning, because they’d be like, ‘We only know Kid Capri, Brucie B, and Starchild. Who are you?’ Stereo Palace was the Mecca of mixtapes. It was these two white cats from Brooklyn, and they had a store on 125th directly across the street from the Apollo Theater, and they kept a speaker outside playing mixtapes all day. It was an electronics store, but the mixtapes is where they got all their bread. You’d go all the way in the back, and they’d have all the tapes in a glass case. And I’d be like, ‘Damn, I’d love to see my shit up there.’
“So I went in there one time when I first started and tried to sell them a tape. They were like, ‘We’ve never heard of you.’ I was like, ‘Aiight, cool. Whatever.’ So I left, it was a Friday. Saturday afternoon, I went there with a boombox and a case of tapes, and I sat in front of their store and played my tapes in front of there. It sounds like a cliche story, but it’s the truth. People actually walked up and bought tapes from me, $20 a pop. I was like, ‘Wow,’ because in there, those shits were like $10, $15. And after that, obviously, they started selling my tapes.”
Beef with Kid Capri
“Rock ‘N’ Will’s [which was another big mixtape spot in Harlem] never wanted to sell my tapes, because they were great friends with Kid Capri, and me and Kid Capri had beef. Me and Kid Capri went to Kennedy High School together. We weren’t friends, it was just kind of like that head nod you give somebody. He didn’t even know I was a DJ. I knew who he was, but he didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t making tapes then. I just knew he was Poochie—that was his nickname—aka Capri.
“A couple years passed, and I heard his name coming out of the cars on the tapes, and I knew who he was. And I was cool. There was no animosity or nothing. Then all of a sudden, one day, when I started getting known in the area, some guys that rolled with me that were amped that I was starting to get known, they came to me and said, ‘Yo, Kid Capri did a party last night on Broadway, and he said, ‘Fuck Doo Wop.’’ Come to find out later that it was a lie, but I ran with it. I was like, ‘Word? Kid Capri said ‘Fuck Doo Wop?’ I’m gonna respond to that on my tape.’
“I said something on my tape. It was 11-18-91. I don’t know what it was, but I said something, and he heard about it. Then on 12-3-91, he put out his tape, and that was the last tape he ever made, mind you. He started the tape like, ‘What the fuck is a Doo Wop? Boy, your career is over before it even started.’ Then he did a rhyme. And I was more amped, like, ‘Nah, he didn’t kill me, he just gave me some more life now.’
“1-1-92, on New Year’s Day, I came out with the response. And that shit went crazy. That’s when I got really known Uptown, and even in Brooklyn and shit. A lot of people liked how I went back at dude. It got ugly after a while, where it was like street beef, but we’re friends now, I got nothing bad to say about him. We squashed that shit in like ‘96. But we laugh about it later because it wasn’t even us, it was our boys who started it.”
Rapping on Tapes/The Importance of the Intro
“I rapped a little here and there before, but I always wanted to fuck with it. It was cool, because when you make a tape, you’re in the comfort of your own crib. It was like, ‘Let me try it.’ If I listen back to the old shit now, I’d probably laugh at it. But it helped me, because I got much, much better as time passed.
“I would do a mix of everything on my tapes, but the main thing was always the intro. The intro would always coincide with the tape, like Bronx Tale, or Xmas Jams 93, when I had my whole crew spitting over certain beats, but we started it with a jingle, like, ‘You better watch out…’ Some people tell me to this day, ‘Your tapes was bangin’, but I strictly bought them for the intro. I got my money’s worth with the intro alone.’”
“Sandy was this Indian lady on 149th and 3rd Avenue. For the DJs that were poppin’, she would pay good money and take a lot of units from you. Tape Kingz were in Brooklyn, they were really good. Of course Stereo Palace on 125th. Then there were all those little African spots that would sell t-shirts and hats and shit, and mixtapes were their bread and butter. And you had Jallow on Southern Boulevard, Beat Street on Fordham, and Music Factory. Young Star, the Chinese dude with the sneakers and mixtapes, crazy. These dudes, when I was poppin’, would buy a master from me—which as one tape and they would do the work and make the copies—for no less than $500. From Stereo Palace I would get $1,000, from Sandy I would get $1,000. Beat Street would pay like $750. And then from the little hole-in-the-wall spots, I would get like $250, $300.
“All I had to do was make master copies. If I had 20 or 30 stores, I’d make 20 or 30 tapes. I don’t remember exactly how many stores I had. But those were the days. You were making your own bread, and you’re still giving them something. And everyone had their own personality. If you wanted to hear blends, you’d buy a Ron G tape, no matter what the title was, because you knew what you were getting. You didn’t ask, ‘What’s on it?’ It was, ‘I know I’ma dig this. It’s Ron G.’ If you wanted freestyles, Doo Wop. S&S had all the new shit, before Clue came out. He was the Clue dude. We were each like a brand.”
The Bounce Squad
“My crew was always called The Bounce Squad. But they were not rappers. When I’d go put a tape out, or go pick up my money, I’d be with like twenty dudes. Now, I look back at it as ignorant, but back then, that’s just how I was rolling. That was my crew. And I would say their names on every tape. They weren’t artists, and they weren’t trying to be.
“Then, I had a talent contest in the hood, trying to find some rappers that I could pair up and bunch together. This is before Wu-Tang. I took one dude, Snagglepuss, who was like our Method Man. He was the charismatic dude, the good looking guy, who had the punchlines and the voice. Then I had the girl Uneek who I had met before because she was down with the Ghetto Girlz, who did the ‘My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me,’ the girl version, [called ‘My Man’s Playing Tricks on Me.’] I always like her style. Then I got two dudes from Edenwald, Aulthat and Rev Gottii. And I called us The Bounce Squad. And Lord Tariq, he was a Bronx legend since forever, and he was on somebody else’s tape, but it wasn’t really flourishing much. So when I put him on mine, everybody automatically thought, ‘Oh, that’s another Bounce Squad nigga.’ So we all rhymed on the beginning of the tapes. Summer Jam 93 is when I introduced them, and it took it to another level. So now on every tape, it was like, ‘Not only are we gonna hear Wop rhyming, we’re gonna hear that whole crew.’
“Then, Noo Trybe/Virgin wanted to sign me to a deal. So me, being ignorant to the business, we added [The Bounce Squad] to the same deal. They were so interested that it could’ve been two separate deals, but I didn’t know the business, I didn’t have a manager, so that was a mistake. But I let them into my deal, which was a great thing for them. They all got like $25,000 a piece as up front money.
“But then, this is the problem. When we sit down with Noo Trybe/Virgin to discuss what they want to do with the album, they tell us they want us to move to California for a whole year to record [because even though they had an office in New York, that’s where they were based]. But we had such a great buzz in New York, we didn’t want to lose our spot if we were in L.A. recording. It was like, ‘We want to record here. We want to go in the studio with Primo, and Pete Rock.’ But they were like, ‘No, we have a vision, and we have this house set up for you out there.’ So a week after that meeting, I told my lawyer, ‘Get us off that. We’ll give the money back, whatever.’ He was like, ‘Fuck that. You’re not giving the money back, but I’ll get you released.’ So he got us a release, but he said, ‘On one condition. They’re gonna keep Snagglepuss, and he’s gonna do a solo album.’ I didn’t like that, but I said, ‘Cool.’ And I agreed to it. And he moved out there, and I don’t know what happened to him after that.”
“Snag leaving kind of fucked us up. He was our Method Man. All of us together sound dope, and if one is missing, it’s not gonna sound right. And people were acting a little crazy in the squad, so I said, ‘Let me just chill, and try something different.’ And that’s when 95 Live came about. I figured, ‘What better way to come back than with the hottest rappers at the time.’
“It was all the rappers on the radio. Keith Murray had ‘The Most Beautifullest Thing,’ Raekwon’s album had just dropped. It wasn’t easy to initiate it, but then it got so easy, because even though we were poppin’ in the streets, I didn’t know that these rap cats knew me like that.
“I got a phone call from Fatman Scoop, who was the street rep guy for Tommy Boy at the time. He was the one that calls you like, ‘Hey, you got that record?’ He called all the DJs, that was his job. So he called me one day, and it was just one of those generic calls, ‘Hey, what’s up Doo Wop? Did you get the New Jersey Drive record?’ And I was like, ‘I got it, Scoop. Everything’s good.’ And I was about to hang up, and he was like, ‘Hold up. Busta wants to say what’s up.’ And I didn’t even know Busta knew who I was. And I’m not being humble, I’m serious. He got on the phone and was like, ‘Dude, any time you need me, I’m here. I love y’all, I love The Bounce Squad.’ And he gave me his number.
“That kind of made it easy from there. I was like, ‘Wow. If Busta knows me, these other dudes must know me as well.’ And I was already friends with Fat Joe, so he got me Raekwon’s number. Rae was like, ‘Doo Wop? From Uptown?’ Because there was a Doo Wop from Staten Island. ‘Hell yeah, I’m there.’ These niggas all came to the studio. I had in a little studio, where only four people fit comfortably, and I had Q-Tip, M.O.P., Raekwon, Busta Rhymes, and Fat Joe, all in there at one time. And not a dime was exchanged. They never talked money or nothing. They wanted to be on my tape. That wanted to have that street outlet to say what they want and not worry about the labels.
“I figured that not everyone was gonna come the same day. But the day before I started having vocal sessions, I went to the studio myself and laid down all those instrumentals, like, ‘These are the only ones I want to use.’ Obviously, I chose more than we used, just so they could have more to pick from, but this was all stuff that was hot. ‘Shook Ones,’ ‘The World Is Yours (Remix)’ that Q-Tip did, Group Home’s instrumental for ‘Supa Star,’ the Primo shit. Shit like that. And the studio was set up with a little lounge part, and an actual room for recording. So if they were all there, they would all chill out there, and I’d be like, ‘Yo Rae, come inside.’ And then he would go through the beats and pick.
“Rae freestyled off his head. He stood in there all night because he was having fun, but he freestyled off his head. It was classic. Fat Joe wrote his rhyme there. Busta had his shit ready. And Q-Tip is bugged out. He was like, ‘Loop the beat for ten minutes and record me.’ And he freestyled for ten minutes, and came out the booth and said, ‘Play it back for me.’ And he took a pad and a pen, and he took certain parts of his freestyle and wrote them into a rhyme. He combined them on paper. Then he went in there, and knocked his shit out.
“Guru stopped drinking for the last five years of his life. He was straight sober. But that was back in his heavy drinking days. And he came and did his verse, and it sounded cool to me. And the next day, I woke up to a voicemail from him like, ‘Yo Wop, man, let me come back in tonight. I’ll pay for the session, I’ll even pay you for the time. I was too fucked up.’ I was like, ‘Guru, you ain’t gotta pay for nothin’, just come through tonight.’ And he came through, and did it over, on the ‘Mad Ism’ instrumental. And since then, we hit it off, and we were always the best of friends.”
95 Live Part Two
“You see what I did on Part Two, right? I did all R&B, old school type mellow beats. I had AZ rhyming off of ‘Curious.’ I had Mr. Cheeks rhyming off ‘Keep Rising to the Top.’ That’s the kind of music I love. You won’t catch me in the car listening to too much hip-hop. I like old school R&B a lot. That’s one reason I like that tape a lot. And, to me, I already had knowledge of how to put it together a little better since I already made 95 Live.
“It’s like what I always tell people about Nas. Illmatic was the talk of the town, but to me, It Was Written was a way better album. That’s the one I can listen to from top to bottom. But, Illmatic was the ground-breaking joint, so you gotta always give it props. No known rappers had ever rhymed on a mixtape before 95 Live. There was never a 21-minute intro, not even a 5-minute one. There’d be a short intro, and that’s it. I still got the article where Village Voice said 95 Live was the best album that year next to Raekwon’s Cuban Linx. And they know it wasn’t a real album, but they were trying to say, ‘Yo, that shit was so dope, it was damn near like an album.’
“95 Live I put out on straight tapes. When 95 Live Part Two came out, that’s when the CD shit started. I got with this company down on 59th Street and Columbus Circle, and they pressed up like 10,000 copies.”
Keith Murray and Redman Freestyle
“On 95 Live, Keith Murray sets off the tape. And he killed it. I had gotten him through Eric Skinner, who was the marketing guy at Jive. He was always a big fan of mine, he’d always send me records first, and he always said, ‘If you need Keith Murray to do a drop let me know.’ So when I had the idea of doing the rhyming shit, I was like, ‘Boom.’ When he brought Keith to the studio, this nigga was one of the few that got on my nerves, because he had the big head, like, ‘Nah, I don’t want that beat. Nah, I don’t want that beat.’ I had to search through all these beats, but I played along, because he’s fuckin’ Keith Murray. And he didn’t diss me, but he didn’t pay me too much mind. He did the tape and broke out. This nigga got such a big response from the tape that Eric Skinner called me and Keith was on the phone like, ‘Yo, can you be my tour DJ?’ I was laughing, like, ‘Yo, he’s crazy.’ He was really a cool dude, he was just an asshole that day.
“Then, Part Two comes about, and I got Redman—I forget how I got him—and Keith Murray comes walking in behind him like, ‘Yo, I’m getting on this one too, fuck it.’ I was like, ‘Go ‘head.’ So him, Redman, and some drunk ass nigga named Kel Vicious who I couldn’t stop from going in the booth went in. They all did that in the booth together. There was no punching. You could tell it was a freestyle. When you listen to it again, every time you hear Kel Vicious rhyme, you can hear Redman laughing in the back. He’s standing right next to him, dying laughing. That was Keith’s boy, and he was dusted. And Redman’s laughing his ass off the whole time he’s rapping.
“That was off ‘You’re a Customer.’ But they also rhymed off ‘Believe in Love’ by Teddy Pendergrass. It was out at that time, it was a real commercial record. And they rhymed off it, but there’s no way for me to even find it. It was on a reel. I don’t even know if that shit even exists.”
Mobb Deep and Big Noyd Freestyle
“Mobb Deep and Noyd all rhymed off of the same beat, but then when I mixed it, I switched it on Noyd because the beat was too long. It was the same tempo as ‘How Many MC’s,’ so I put that Das EFX loop in there, and switched it without them even knowing. Then I was DJing for this Russell Simmons roast down in SoHo, and I took a break, and I’m in the bathroom taking a piss, and someone comes in. And I didn’t look, because I’m taking a piss, that’s some gay shit. So someone’s standing there, and someone goes, ‘Yo, I like the way you switched that beat under Noyd.’ And I look, and it’s fuckin’ Prodigy. He didn’t even say what’s up at first, he just said that. Like, ‘That shit was gangster.’ [Laughs.]”
Bad Boy Mixtape Volume 2
“I was real cool with Bad Boy at the time, I was getting mad shit. Like, whoever gave me that ‘Bust a Nut’ shit with Luke and Biggie for 95 Live Part Two was like, ‘Here, this shit ain’t never coming out.’ And I had a manager at the time who was big—Jessica Rosenblum—who ran The Tunnel. She had the biggest DJ crew—The Flip Squad—which I was a part of at the time with Funk Flex, Big Kap, Mister Cee, Biz Markie, Mark Ronson, Cipha Sounds, all these people. So Puff called her because he was starting to do all those tapes, and he definitely wanted me, so we did that.
“It was easy to do, because I had it organized, where I’d be like, ‘Harve Pierre is in the house,’ and then he’d go in and do the same thing after me. I had it orchestrated. And then he gave me the freestyle with B.I.G. and Craig Mack overseas rhyming off the ‘Rockafella (Remix)’ beat that nobody had ever heard before that tape. And it had the original version of AZ’s ‘Your World Don’t Stop.’ I love that record.”
The Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack “Freestyle” (Off Bad Boy Mixtape Volume 2)
“Once you started poppin’, it was easy getting exclusives. They would just fall in your lap. Now, you’ll wake up to emails. But back then, it would be a bunch of voicemails, like, ‘Yo, I got this record for you, come through.’ And that whole thing was cool, like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna go downtown, park my shit in the lot, and go to all the labels.’ It was fun. They’d be waiting for you like, ‘I got you.’
“In ‘96, everyone thought that Nas freestyle was just for my tape, because I had it so in advance. Tyriess Harris, who worked for Sony, she gave me that Nas freestyle when he rhymed on all those old records. And she gave it to me before she gave it to Flex. So when I played it on Summer Jam 96, everybody thought it was for me. And I didn’t front like it was for me, I just put Nas ‘Freestyle.’ And that shit went through the roof. I didn’t even know it was gonna be that big.
“I had a song on a tape I did in 2002 that was Nas and Nature and AZ. Dre produced it, it was The Firm days. And even on YouTube, it has my voice on it, because it never came out. And whoever gave it to me back then didn’t give it to anyone else, so it’s up there with a Doo Wop tag. Someone hit me from London the other day and was like, ‘Can you send me that record with no tags? I’ll pay you whatever you want.’ I was like, ‘Dude, that probably was a DAT. I don’t have that no more. I wish I did.’”
Relationship with Fellow Mixtape DJs
“Me, S&S, Ron G, and Craig G, we all came up together, and we’ve been friends ever since. Like over twenty years. We all started together. Clue, when he came out, we had already made it, and everyone looked at him like, ‘He’s walking around like he put in all these years of work.’ That’s how we looked at it then, when we were all a little ignorant in the head. But I never really kicked it with Clue, and I can’t speak for S and all them. I never kicked it with any of the radio niggas, but that’s just me. That’s just a personal thing. I like to do me, and then go home. I never loved the nightlife. I only went out when I was gonna get a check, and get paid to go DJ somewhere.
“So Clue, coming in out of nowhere, I definitely wasn’t fucking with him. I liked his tapes. I loved The LOX freestyles and all that shit. But I never really fucked with him. It was kind of silent competition with everybody, but me, S, Craig, Ron, and everybody, we always been the best of friends that can just sit in a room and talk all night. These other niggas is more industry. Even Flex, he was a big fan of 95 Live. He had me come up to his show to DJ. I was the first to ever be a guest DJ on his show, where he just gave me the spotlight and stood behind the mic and chilled. And I loved it, but I hated the whole vibe up at Hot 97. I seen things on the wall to the DJs like, ‘Make sure you play these songs today.’ I hated shit like that. It just left a bad taste in my mouth.”
“Some people might’ve said I was fucking up my money not wanting to be on the radio, but I’ll tell you, while most DJs made tapes like every month, I made three tapes in ‘95. I made a Cool Out tape at the top of the year which was just R&B, then 95 Live, then 95 Live Part Two. From the money I made from 95 Live, I bought a brand new Lexus, cash. The money was great. But like ‘99, that’s when it was either free, or, ‘We’re only paying fifty cents a CD now.’ So I was just making tapes for my core fans, just so they could have something. And the DJing shit helps. I tour a lot, and I don’t ever really settle on my price too much like these other guys do. I’m like, ‘Nah dude, you gotta pay. This is my job. Not a side job, this is what I do all day.’”
Diaz Brothers with Tony Touch
“I was on the ultimate high off of 95 Live, and a lot of people were doing stuff like that after my tape. Honestly, I don’t know if I was referring to Tony or not when I did that rhyme on Summer Jam 96, I was just throwing that out there to all the DJs. I don’t know if I had even heard 50 MCs yet, or if that even bothered me. Because that to me was different. The whole tape was rapping. But I was just like, ‘To all y’all niggas biting my style…’ on the intro to Summer Jam 96, when I rhymed to ‘The Bizness’ with De La Soul and Common. So that’s the one that Tony took a little offense to, and said something on his next one. And then, someone told me [to come meet up with him], and I went to D&D one night, and we came up with the Diaz Brothers right on the spot. And we did the intro right on the spot. We laid down the ‘Phone Tap’ beat, I went up to Harlem and got some weed, and came back and did that shit. And we’ve been the best of friends ever since. It almost seemed like it was meant to be.”
Live in Japan
“We got booked to do a show out there, just one party. And I remember they gave us $2,500 a piece to DJ the same night at Club Harlem, which is the biggest hip-hop club in Tokyo. The party was poppin’, it was packed, and right before we were about to get on the set, our translator said, ‘The promoter said they have a DAT machine up top where they can digitally record the whole sound. They have mics wired around so that we’ll even get the house when they react. They don’t want to tape it without our permission. Can they give us $1,500 a piece to tape it?’ Not knowing that if they just asked if they could tape it we would’ve said ‘yeah’ because we knew what we could do with the tape when we got back home. But they gave us $1,500 on top of that, so that was beautiful. They made the tape, cut it up to the way they wanted which was 45 minutes of Tony and 45 minutes of me, and a week later they sent us a copy, and we just ran with it out here. It was crazy because the crowd couldn’t speak to us in English, but they recited every word to every record that we played.”
Diaz Brothers Live in Japan
“The Ten Tape Commandments”
“Even 50 Cent always told me that when he started making mixtapes, he got that idea from me, from how I’d take a record and kind of make it my own, and flip it around. That’s something I was always doing. I did a few times before ‘Ten Tape Commandments.’ So when that came out, it was automatic. ‘Ten Tape Commandments’ instead of ‘10 Crack Commandments.’ I always rhymed from a DJ’s perspective. I wrote the whole shit in one night. And I threw it out there, and it did extra good, because Tape Kingz liked it so much that they purchased it to put it out as a record on the underground label they had.”
50 Cent Freestyle
“Before he got shot, he was signed to Trackmasters. And I had called Sha [Money XL], and I was like, ‘I need 50.’ He was like, ‘50 will be there, just tell me the time and day.’ So we set up the studio time, 50 came by himself, and I said, ‘Thank you for coming.’ And he said, ‘No nigga, thank you. Your tapes got me through my bid, you don’t even know.’ It was so genuine for him to say that. He was like, ‘Whatever you need.’ So he did the rhyme for me off the [EPMD] ‘Symphony’ beat. And he was like, ‘I can do another one for you in case you don’t like that.’ And I was like, ‘Nah, we good.’ I should’ve let him do another one.
“That was the last time I personally seen him. But even after that, I was living on Riverside, and Sha came by my crib and gave me the CD of ‘Wanksta.’ He was like, ‘Yo, you need to put this out ASAP, you’ll be the first one with it. 50 said make sure I bring it to you. He’s at the studio in Long Island.’ That was cool. I wish I could see him now, because I have some ideas. But it’s just hard to get to that dude. You gotta go through a million channels, and some of those channels don’t understand the history.”
Prodigy Dissing Jay Z
“That’s my tape, when Prodigy dissed Jay Z for the first time publicly. He was like, ‘Hoe ass nigga, Hova ass nigga.’ He was rhyming, too. He was talking shit about Jay Z, because Jay had said the thing about [Snoop] knocking down the buildings and all that. Then, about two days after it came out, Lenny from Roc-A-Fella called me and said, ‘You ain’t gonna bring that new tape up to Roc-A-Fella? We know what’s on it, but we wanna still hear it. We’re still fans of yours.’ And I was like, ‘Aiight.’ I used to drop my mixtapes off at all the labels, but I didn’t go to Roc-A-Fella with that tape. I was like, ‘I’m not going up there with that shit. Niggas going at Jay and shit.’ [Laughs.] But he was like, ‘Bring a few. We all wanna hear it.’ Then after that, he did Summer Jam, and went at them with that ‘Takeover’ shit.
“That beef would’ve come up anyway. But I was the lucky one to get Prodigy that night to come in the studio. But I didn’t know he was gonna do that, though. I didn’t even know there was a beef brewing. E. Money Bags, RIP, that’s who brought him to me. I hadn’t talked to Prodigy since ‘95.”
Kay Slay Collaboration
“Kay Slay and I almost had some beef, just like me and Tony. When ‘One Mic’ came out, I did ‘One Tape.’ I did the whole Nas flow and everything, ‘All I need is one tape, one week, one run/One nigga to sit in my truck in case police come…’ And then I said in one part, ‘If it wasn’t for the beef between Nas and Jay Z, I don’t know where you cowards would be.’ But I wasn’t talking about Kay Slay. I was talking about every tape on the market. I’m serious, every tape when I went to the store had a cover with Nas and Jay Z. It didn’t matter who was DJing, people were buying it because of the beef. So I said that, and he took offense to it.
“And we were cool, that’s why I was disturbed. I was like, ‘Kay, think about it, me and you talk.’ Like, when Jay Z did ‘Takeover’ at Summer Jam before anyone heard it, Kay Slay got a hold of that audio, and called me late at night like, ‘Wop, listen to this.’ That’s how cool we were. He could’ve called anybody, but he called me and played the shit over the phone, I was buggin’. So I was like, ‘Slay, why would that be about you?’ He was like, ‘Yo, I respect you, man. I hope that’s not about me.’ I was like, ‘It’s not Slay.’ But that gave me a bad taste in my mouth. So we chilled for a minute and didn’t really speak.
“Then, he was like, ‘I got an idea for us. Come to the studio tonight. 125th Street and 8th Avenue, behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken.’ I was like, ‘I’m there Slay. Let’s do it.’ And we did it, and we’ve been cool since.”
DJ Doo Wop “One Tape”
DJing for Guru (RIP)
“When Guru was diagnosed with cancer, he called me from the hospital crying, and his only concern was, ‘What am I gonna leave for my son?’ I’m not gonna go into his finances, but Guru had a lot of money saved up in a trust fund for his son. But as time went on, he had to tap into that to build his own studio and stuff like that. But he was still making mad money on tour, so it was gonna come right back. But he just wanted to leave his son so much that it was all he was worried about, to the point that he was like, ‘The doctors told me if I don’t stay here right now and I don’t get this operation, I might not live these next few months. But I’m going to Japan.’ I’m like, ‘We can’t.’ He’s like, ‘We are. If you don’t wanna go, you can stay home.’ I’m like, ‘Come on, Guru.’ But he said, ‘I gotta make money for my son.’ He went all out to the end.”
Doo Wop Mixtape Collection on USB
“What I did was I got all my tapes, even the ones from ‘91 when I was first trying to rhyme, the Kid Capri battle one, all that, and I gathered them all. It took a while. I went to my mom’s crib, I went through my storage shit, and I remastered all of them. It took time. Then I put them all on the computer, where I had them all laid out in folders. So now, every mixtape is in a different folder, and it’s on one USB flash drive, which you can play on anything that has a USB port. You can burn them to CD, drag them into your phone, whatever. It’s $100 on my site. I still sell some of my old tapes—like people call me for a digital copy of 95 Live—for $20. You’re talking about over 50 joints for $100.”
Photos via DJ Doo Wop’s Instagram, DJ Roz’s Instagram, Tapemasta’s Instagram, Grand Good, Discogs, Rugged Ones, and UpNorthTrips.