Category Archives: DOPEfm

WIHH4: Celebrating International Women’s Day – Hip-Hop Style

WIHH4 podcastWelcome to a very special edition of DOPEfm. For our seven hours of programming tonight we are shining a spotlight on the Women in Hip-Hop.

We are celebrating International Women’s Day like we do every single year. This is our 4th annual show and we have a lot of great content coming your way.

We have a roundtable discussion with Reverie, LoDo, E-Turn, and Dessa. It was an incredible discussion. You won’t want to miss it.

We have a spotlight with Rapsody. We talk to her and play some of her amazing music. We are going to have Dessa back on the program a little but later to do a spotlight on her as well.

We sit down with Shay D, all the way from the UK, for an in-depth interview. We play her music and talk about her work with Lyrically Challenged.

We have a guest DJ who will be dropping some old school classic hip-hop. It’s absolutely incredible what she does on the wheels of steel. Her name is Miss DJ and she is all the way from Sweden.

We have a Know Your History episode focusing on motherhood in hip-hop. We talk to some mothers who are also emcees about how they balance a rap career and a family. We will discuss some of the issues around touring and how difficult that can be when you have a family. It’s a thought-provoking hour of radio, that’s for sure.

I drop an hour-long mix of female-only hip-hop as well.

This is our 4th Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular. It grew out of a little seed of an idea about five years ago when I talked to Shad. I talked to him a few months back and this is what went down on that interview.

Chase: “You inspired me in a way that you probably wouldn’t even believe. Your track ‘Keep Shining’ and then talking to Eternia. Those two things gelled in my mind and set me on the path to feminism, believe it or not. That’s how our International Women’s Day show started and it’s become a yearly tradition now.”

Shad: “That’s awesome!”

Chase: “Keep Shining is an amazing track because quite often in rap we don’t see or hear women portrayed in such a positive light. It really is a shame too. We have some great talent and we have some great female talent. And sometimes that doesn’t get heard.”

That’s what this show is all about – exposing the talent in hip-hop’s better half.

Press play or Download WIHH 4 – Part A

This is the first of 8 parts. Remember to come back tomorrow to get the next installment of this groundbreaking radio program.

Thanks for listening!

Share this on Twitter with the hashtag #WIHH4

Hashtag Rap Explained

Welcome back to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Today we are exploring the poetic device known as the simile. More aptly, we are looking at instances where rappers have taken the word “like” out of the comparison in a style that has been branded “hashtage rap”.

If you missed part one, you can go back and read it now, download the podcast for free, stream it with the player below, or just continue reading.

An emcee made it part of his style several years before this became the popular thing to do. Nowadays, you can’t listen to the radio or the latest mixtape or album without hearing an example of hashtag rap. In fact, it is getting so overused that it is now played out. It has become cliche and therefore something to be avoided according to the unwritten rules of rap.

In fact, this style was used in the early 2000s by a particular artist and members of his camp. It didn’t become employed by the masses until the second decade of this millennium.

So who was this early pioneer? I tell you he was part of the Dipset Crew. That’s right, I am talking about Cam’ron. Here is an example of how he used this style.

“I’m on the westside of Chicago, lookin’ for a bust down
And make me put my two arms up – Touchdown!”

That was from his song “Dipset Anthem.” Here is another example from “Girls.”

“And hope is hopeless, disappear in the air – Hocus Pocus.”

There are countless examples of the Dipset Crew using the truncated simile. Some of time, their use of non-sequitors seemed a bit absurd. The words didn’t quite connect as powerfully as we heard Drake or Kanye West do it several years later. Maybe that is why the style didn’t catch on until the late 00 decade.

But we can trace its use back even further. These rappers didn’t make it a style like Cam’ron did. In fact, when Cam’ron employing similes with use of “like” or “as,” Twitter hadn’t even been launched yet. That’s something to consider, the style that owes its name to Twitter was around before the popular micro-blogging platform was.

And speaking of Twitter, remember to follow us on there. You can find me @chasemarch just like you are running after the month. Daddy J maintains @DOPEfm and Jose reps @thewordisbond. Great hip-hop news, links, music, vidoes, podcasts, and real talk can be found on those platforms every day.

So Twitter launched in 2006 and quickly grew to become one of the biggest social media sites online. There are over 500 million users who generate 340 million tweets every day. Pretty impressive numbers.

I’ve got some impressive numbers to. I found some early examples of hashtag rap that will probably surprise you.

Method Man used this style in 1999. “The aliens they just landed/Any you in the way/Overthrow these niggas planet – independence day / fellons get slip melons.”

That was from a song he did with Left Eye called “Cradle Rock”

But we can go back even further. The Notorious B.I.G. did it in 1997 on the hit song “It’s All About the Benjamins.”

He says, “uhhh, undercover, “Donnie Brasco”

It would have been nice to credit the first use of Hashtag rap to Biggie. He really was a gifted lyricist and we lost him way too soon. But I found earlier examples.

Jay Z did one year earlier with his song Dead Presidents II. He says, “At the end of the fiscal year than these niggaz can wish to/ The dead presidential — candidate.”

But we can go even further back. ODB of the Wu-Tang Clan used it in 1995.

“I get psycho killer, Norman Bates”

That was an awesome rhyme. It shows that ODB really could kill a track just like the character he references from the horror film Psycho. The comparison really works well without him having to say “like.” That word wasn’t necessary for him to paint that picture for the listener.

Can we stop there? Or are there earlier examples of hashtag rap in hip-hop history?

I tell ya, I’ve been working on this show for weeks now. I tend to get a bit obsessed about things and I don’t mind sharing that with you. But there comes a time when the research needs to end. Otherwise I could drive myself nuts trying to find earlier examples. I have this fear that after I complete this show, and after it is aired, I will find an even earlier example than the one will end with today. Oh well. so is life, I suppose.

It’s a bit hard to find these examples without carefully listening to records and there are so many albums, singles, MP3s, videos, and whatnot vying for my attention that some might slip by.

In my digging, the earliest example I could originally find was from A Tribe Called Quest.

“Mind gets flooded, ejaculation”

That’s from the slamming track “Bugging Out” from the classic album “Low End Theory” by A Tribe Called Quest. It was released on September 24, 1991.

One month early, PM Dawn released “Of the heart of the soul and of the cross.” Their stand-out hit from that album was a tracked called “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” and it is the best example of the modern hashtag rap style that I have been able to find.

“I guess I’ll leave that question to the experts, Assuming that there are some out there/ They’re probably alone — solitaire.”

They set up the comparison, pause, and then deliver the punchline. It’s an effective use of a truncated simile. And exactly the kind of thing that Drake did and made popular twenty years later.

The hip-hop historian in me didn’t want this trail to end with PM Dawn. Although, truth be told I bought that album on cassette back in the day. Their second album was even better, in my humble opinion, but they are a pop act. I wanted to be able to attribute this style to a real hip-hop group.

So I kept digging. I listened to some of my old school tapes. I searched the lyric archives online, and I talked to my brother about this topic. He immediately reminded me that Public Enemy employed this style a bunch of times. He should know, he might just be their biggest fan.

So here is an example from their debut album way back in 1987. I’ll play a portion of it fro you right now.

This is Public Enemy “Raise the Roof”

Did you catch the hashtag rap. If not, let me spell it out for you. “Fly ladies of the 80s – sororities”

That is awesome!

I am so glad I found an old-school example of hashtag rap. I knew there had to be one and it is so cool to have this trail end with Public Enemy.

So there you have it, Public Enemy employed similes without the use of “like” or “as” way back in 1987. This is hashtag rap when the pound symbol really had no useful function. I always wondered why it was on our phones. Now I use it all the time on Twitter and so rappers use it all way too often.

It has become a style where rappers are running out of comparisons to make but still feel the need to throw in a hashtag or a ridiculous non-sequitor. It is getting way out of hand.

I remember back in the early 90s when rappers would overuse the simile. Erick Sermon used to litter his rhymes with them. And I don’t mean to pick on him because I love EPMD but some of his comparisons seemed a little off.

Rappers need to be creative. This is a poetic artform afterall. But maybe it is time to hang up our reliance on simile. When used too often in rap, it really starts to water down the message, It doesn’t paint a clear picture in the listeners’ minds. It just becomes noise.

Back in the ’90s, in the backpacker era, rhymes were so littered with similes that it was starting to get out of hand. Wordsworth joked about it in High and Mighty’s Open Night Mic Remix. He said, ‘You can’t write without using ‘like’/ What are you, some sort of valley girl?”

In this second decade of the 2000s, we really need to hear someone taking shots at the overuse of hashtag rap. Thank goodness we have this track from Taboo.

That was Now Yous Can’t Leave by Taboo. He talks about the overuse of hashtag rap in that song. I especially like the line, “these bitch MC’s are gimmicky Took the like out your similes so I don’t like your similies”

That’s nice!

This whole thing reminds me of another gimmick that got played out in the 1990s. Das Efx had a tongue-twisting kind of flow that many rappers tried to imitate. The Beatnuts called out the overuse of that style in their song “No Equal”

“But all that tiggedy-tiggedy tongue-twistin shit don’t impress me
It’s just a phase, and you know damn well
That you’ll fall off in a minute, cause that shit don’t sell
Funny how you think you could surpass me, or outlast me
With that bullshit style, you’re fallin fast, gee
See, I suggest you go back where you came from
(Your mic, and my mic) Come on, don’t play, son”

That was The Beatnuts “No Equal” and if that song came out today, they wouldn’t be calling out tongue-twisting. They would have said, “All that hashtag rap don’t impress me / It’s just a phase, and you know damn well / That you’ll fall off in a minute, cause that shit don’t sell.”

So, it really is time to retire this poetic device. Hashtag rap has become cliche. It works in moderation and has been diluted from overuse. We need to take a pause on this pause-stop-flow. See what I did there?

There is a lot of room for creativity in hip-hop. Let’s not forget that.

Before we rap things up on this topic, I did manage to find an even earlier example than the Public Enemy one I played for you. I’m cheating a bit because I am going outside of hip-hop culture, but good music is good music and this artist is definitely a pioneer in his genre as well.

I am talking about John Lennon. We wrote a hashtag line way back in 1965

That was from “It’s Only Love” by The Beatles and the hashtag line is “When you sigh my, my inside just flies, butterflies.”

I wanted to see if hashtag style rhymes had been used in literary poetry but this is a show on the history of music. As such, I am happy with this search bringing us back to a music pioneer such as John Lennon. He might not have influenced the style of rap, but then again?

Thanks so much for tuning in today. I have had a lot of fun exploring this topic in detail. If you have any comment about the show and what we do. get at us on Twitter. @DOPEfm for the radio show @thewordisbond for the hip-hop magazine website and podcast, and @chasemarch to reach me about anything hip-hop, education, writing, skateboarding, or anything else.

Gotta love the hashtag and how easy it is to communicate online with anyone, anywhere in the world. We continue our mandate to bring you the best in real hip-hop music and talk every single week over the airwaves or wi-fi.

This is Chase March signing off till next week reminding you, “You Better Know Your History!”

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Know Your History – Hashtag Rap

Rap is poetry. I know a lot of people would disagree with that succinct statement but if you really think about it, where in modern society do we such wordplay, such poetic expression, such commentary, such emotion and feeling, and a wealth of rhyme. We can get all those things in a single rap song in less than 3 minutes.

Of course with a limited amount of time and an excessive amount of listening choices, the rapper as a poet has to command attention quickly and capture wandering ears if only for a moment.

Adam Bradley writes, “In poetry where a premium is put upon verbal economy, any technique that has the capacity of expanding the meaning of a single word is valuable. When artfully rendered, puns do just that: opening a range of associations that the poet/MC can exploit for the purposes of oral expression.”

One word. That is all an MC needs to call forth a variety of images and details. That’s all a talented rapper needs to command the attention of fickle listeners. One word is enough to spark an entire style and trigger a crowd of copycats hoping to cash in on that success.

So what is this one word? How does it fit into a show on the history of hip-hop music and culture? We will get to that in a second.

Hi, my name is Chase March and welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. You can stream this show with the player at the bottom of the post or download it for free.

For the next half hour we are going to explore the phenomenon of what some people call Hashtag Rap, other people call it Pause-Stop Flow or Delayed Punchline Flow. Whatever you call it, it all comes down to a single word . . .

Simile – “the most accessible and versatile way that MCs can dress up their words. A simile is a direct comparison between two distinctly different things, usually using like or as to connect them. In their simplest form, similes offer direct comparisons for the purpose of revealing the unexpected similarity of disparate things.”

That’s another quote from Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Style by Adam Bradley. It’s a great read that analyzes how poetic this art form really is. And it’s nice to see scholars acknowledging the lyricism and artistry that is often hiding in plain sight. The music can overshadow the brilliance of a pithy rhyme, the content of a an entire verse, and the message in a song or album.

This book was published in 2009 and that was right around the time that a new trend was developing in rap. A trend that hadn’t yet been branded. And a trend that now, four years later, has just about run its course. At least I hope so.

Everything in moderation, right? I mean, when something is overdone, it becomes tired. The most brilliant example of linguistic expression can become cliche. And the chief job of a decent writer is avoid cliches.

George Orwell wrote an essay in 1946 entitled “Politics and The English Language” where he states some pretty solid writing rules. Talented rap artists apply these rules all the time in their songs.

Rule # 1 – Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print

Of course, we would modify that rule to say – never use a metaphor or simile that you have heard in another song or by another artist.

Rappers are always striving to come up with creative similes. And it’s simply because they “have the capacity to reshape our vision of the world. More than any other contemporary form of linguistic expression, rap plays with words in ways that jar us from our settled sense of reality, opening up new ways of seeing and even feeling. This too, makes it poetry.”

Man, with a quote like that, you have to love rap music and Adam Bradley’s book about the poetics of it.

There is almost no way to trace where similes began in rap music because you can hear them in so many songs from the earliest rap recordings right up to the present day. But when was the first time we heard a simile without the use of “like” or “as” connecting the two things being compared?

Drake is probably the one responsible for making this a style unto itself. He would set up the comparison, pause for a moment, and then deliver the simile as is it were a punchline.

In his hit Forever, he says, “Swimming in the money, come and find me — Nemo/ If I was at the club, you know I balled – Chemo.”

He is using two different similes here. He could have said, “Swimming in the money, come find me like Nemo. If I was at the club, you know I balled like Chemo” and that would have been fine. It doens’t sound nearly as fresh as the way he actually delivered those lines though.

He basically traded the word “like” in both of those similes for a rest. In other words, he pauses, doesn’t say a thing, and then completes the simile without ever having to say “like.” It somehow makes these simply similes even more powerful.

This is a brilliant technique. Taking a simile and punching it up by pausing, not saying “like,” and then delivering the pay-off.

Maybe Drake was following George Orwell’s 5 Rules of Writing.

Rule # 3 – If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

His meaning comes across perfectly well without the use of the word like. The comparison is made, we get the visual in our heads, and it sounds fresh and original.

That original version of that song came out in 2008 and a star-studded remake came out one year later. At the time, we didn’t have a name for that particular style but it did seem like it belonged to Drake and no one else. He made it his own in a way that no rapper before him really had done.

But he was not the first rapper to employ this technique. He wasn’t the first person to use a truncated simile.

Kanye West did it two years prior. He said, “Here’s another hit… BARRY BONDS.”

And he even coined a term for this poetic device. We no longer have to describe it as “simile without the us of like” or refer to it as a “truncated simile” or label it “pause-stop-flow” or even worse “delayed punchline flow.” It now has a name. A name that comes from an unlikely source. That’s right, it comes from Twitter.

Kanye West had this to say on Funkmaster Flex’s radio program . . .

“We develop and change rap styles all together. Like, look at say the hashtag rap–that’s what we call it when you take the ‘like’ or ‘as’ out of the metaphor. ‘Flex, sweater red–firetruck.’ Everybody raps like that, right? That’s really spawned from like ‘Barry Bonds’: ‘Here’s another hit–Barry Bonds.’ So even like when I sat with Nicki [Minaj] in Hawaii, I was like, for this album, particularly–and I still like that, that style is super fresh–but this album, we not even doing similes. It’s just a series of statements. We get on some real push the culture forward–I think that’s the biggest reason ‘Power’ took me like five thousand man hours to sit there and write it.”

Hashtag Rap. It’s not the worst name. And it does aptly describe the style.

In Twitter a hashtag is a way to label our posts so the can be easily tracked and shared. You do so by using the pound sign, that weird tic-tac-toe symbol that was pretty much only ever used as the short form of writing out the word “number.” Now it you want people who search “hiphop” to find your tweet, you type a pound symbol and then the word hip-hop without using any spaces or dashes.

Here is an example #hiphop

Kanye West and Drake both creatively used hashtag rap as a style to deliver a powerful simile to make explicit comparisons between things. Their wordplay called up imagery in our minds and was quite frankly brilliant.

But where did this style come from?

Drake actually credits it to Big Sean. In “Supa Dupa Flow,” Big Sean strings together a seemingly endless trail of hashtag rap.

Click through to read the conclusion of this transcript or you can stream the entire show right now with the player below. It is also available as a free download.

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The History of Women in Hip-Hop

Women have been involved in rap music before hip-hop even had a name, before it was a recorded music phenomenon, and before we had superstars such as Queen Latifah crossover from musician to actor to author to model. She is one of hip-hop’s biggest success stories and she’s a woman.

Welcome back to DOPEfm’s 3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular. We are taking a close look at the history of women in hip-hop today. Yesterday, we covered the years from 1912 all the way up to 1985. Today, we will continue right where we left off.

You can download this hip-hop history podcast for free, stream it with the player at the bottom of the post, continue reading, or do all three. However you take in the program, we are happy to have you here.

So far, the artists that we have looked at are not quite household names. Those outside of hip-hop culture might not be able to call up these names when talking about the important milestones of the music. But nonetheless, they are important names. We looked at The Mercedes Ladies, Lady B, Sha Rock, and Roxanne Shante,

This brings us up to 1985. The year we first heard of the trio Salt N Pepa. Their debut album dropped in 1986 and was called Hot, Cool, and Vicious. They were the female rap group of their time and they had quite the string of success. They received four Grammy nominations and finally won one in 1995.

This was one of their most popular songs that year and it’s notable because they flip the script on what’s become a popular trope in commercial rap music.

successful female rap group

That was Salt N Pepa “Whatta Man” and those three ladies took the hip-hop world by storm when they hit the scene in 1985. Rap music was just starting to get popular and their single “Push It” literally helped push it to new heights. They released five albums, went on very successful tours, and received quite a few awards.

Two years ago, Salt N Pepa received the I Am Hip-Hop Award from BET. They were also part of the Legends of Hip-Hop tour with such artists as Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Doug E Fresh, Biz Markie, Naughty By Nature, Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee, Slick Rick and Chubb Rock.

There was another famous lady on that bill, MC Lyte. It’s hard to believe that her album “Lyte as a Rock” was the first full length album released by a female MC. Why did it take nearly ten years for a female rapper to head up her own album? I don’t know.

All I know is that it is a classic. The album is called “Lyte as a Rock” by MC Lyte. And just in case you didn’t know, light is spelled “Lyte.” This is her song “Paper Thin” that came out in 1988. And this is Chase March celebrated the Women in Hip-Hop as we observe International Women’s Day here on DOPEfm. Stay tuned as we explore the pivotal moments in the history of female hip-hop this hour and all night long as we shine a spotlight on the women in hip-hop with mixsets, artist interviews, and a special roundtable discussion.

female rapper

That was “Paper Thin” by MC Lyte from her classic album “Lyte as a Rock.” It came out in 1988 to a wide range of critical appeal and underground success. She continued to make great music and her fourth album was certified gold. That record also gave us “Ruffneck,” a Top 40 hit.

All in all, she has released seven studio albums and shows no signs of slowing down. She just released new material with her group Almost September. And like many other rappers, she ventured out into acting. I really liked seeing her on Ice T’s Rap School, a television show that had her mentoring young girls in the art of emceeing.

MC Lyte is even featured in Smithsonian Institute. Her turntables, diary, and records are part of a collection entitled “Hip-Hop Won’t Stop: The Beat, the Rhymes, the Life.” That exhibit highlights how important hip-hop is and shows that it is a valid part of our history.

It’s really cool to see that women in hip-hop are represented at the Smithsonian. I am a hip-hop historian and love to see our history being recognized by those outside of the culture. Of course MC Lyte deserves to be there. She was the first successful female rapper to go solo and her lengthy career is a testament to her skills on the mic.

She also inspired a whole new generation of women to get started in hip-hop. Up until this point, men had been ruling the show. Women didn’t take over by any means but we finally heard a voice that had been lacking for many years.

The next important female voice in hip-hop we need to look at emerged from Canada in the mid 1980s. Her debut album came out in 1991 and was entitled “Jamaican Funk – Canadian Style.” This was the first Canadian hip-hop release. She was the first rapper from the country to get signed by a major label. Her name is Michie Mee and here is the title track from her debut album.

Canada's First Rapper

That record proved that Canada had talent and it paved the way for artists such as Maestro Fresh Wes, Drake, Classified, and everyone else who came after her. That was Michie Mee and LA Luv ‘Jamaican Funk – Canadian Style.”

Welcome back to Hip-Hop’s Better Half. This is Chase March and we’re focusing on the important moments in the history of female hip-hop in this special edition of Know Your History.

Ya know, Michie Mee really had to hustle to be heard in an industry that was pretty much dominated by men. She got started well before MC Lyte showed that a solo female rap artist could be marketable. Starting in 1984, she regularly visited the hottest hip-hop spots in New York to make herself seen and heard. And it worked.

She caught the ear of DJ Scott La Rock of BDP. Her reggae style was something that impressed Krs-One and you can hear her influence in his records. Of course, BDP did more that just borrow her style. They supported her, put out her music on a compilation album in 1987, and even came up on Canada to share the bill with her. This was a cosign that helped spark her career and get her signed to a major American label.

Many people falsely think Maestro was Canada’s first rapper but it in fact was a woman. Michie Mee wasn’t merely the first lady of Canadian rap. She was the first Canadian rapper. Period.

Very cool history here as we celebrate International Women’s Day on DOPEfm. All seven hours of our programming tonight are dedicated to the women in hip-hop. This is our third annual radio special and we’re so glad that you’ve tuned in. That’s right, we’re putting ladies first.

Ladies First rap

That was “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah from her album “All Hail the Queen” It came out in 1989 and that song features fellow emcee Monie Love.

That is an important record to talk about when looking at the history of women in hip-hop. Queen Latifah showed us a strong, intelligent woman with a no nonsense attitude.

Here are some of her lyrics from that song . . .

“I break into a lyrical freestyle
Grab the mic, look into the crowd and see smiles
Cause they see a woman standing up on her own two
Sloppy slouching is something I won’t do
Some think that we can’t flow
Stereotypes, they got to go
I’m a mess around and flip the scene into reverse
(With what?) With a little touch of ‘Ladies First’”

Great lyrics from a great emcee.

Queen Latifah has achieved more than any other female artist in the history of this hip-hop. She has starred in movies, a few television series, has written books, earned a Golden Globe, two SAG awards, a Grammy award, and several other nominations for a variety of award shows. She continues to act, sing, and rap as well. Very few rappers ever achieve the level of fame and list of accomplishments that Queen Latifah has.

As popular as Queen Latifah was, she wasn’t the first female rapper to earn a platinum record. Can you guess who that was?

I’ll give you a hint. The record came out in 1994. It was entitled Funkdafied and this is the title track.

This is Chase March and we’ll be back to celebrate more of the achievements of women in hip-hop right after we hear from Da Brat. Stay tuned!


That was the title track from Da Brat’s debut album, “Funkdafied.” She was the first solo female rap artist to earn a platinum record. It’s hard to believe that that hadn’t happened sooner. I can’t understand why hip-hop became a male dominated art form. Some of my favourite emcees are woman and I must admit that I had this album on cassette and I bumped it like crazy back in the day. Her next album was good too but it didn’t manage to pull in such impressive numbers.

Although another female rapper who would smash even more records made her debut that very same year. I was immediately drawn to her vocals and really liked “Blunted on Reality,” the debut album from a group called The Fugees.

That was one of my favourite records from 1994 but it didn’t bring them immediate success. It was their sophomore album that made people sit up and take notice. The female emcee of the group started to receive a lot of attention. She could sing, she could rap circles around the best rappers at the time, and she was quite the looker as well.

There was no doubt that Lauryn Hill would become a huge star. She released her solo record in 1998 and it is one of the most popular rap albums ever released. It has sold close to 20 million copies and won five Grammy Awards. Lauryn Hill took home Album of the Year and Best New Artist, the latter I didn’t quite understand because I’d already been jamming to her music for close to five years.

She is still celebrated as one of the best voices hip-hop has ever been graced with. Many people name her as top female rap artist of all time. And with good reason. There is just something magical about her music. There is no denying it.

So, let’s listen to one of her songs right now from that record breaking album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Stay tuned as we continue to look at the history of women in hip-hop as we celebrate International Women’s Day all night long here on DOPEfm

Hip-Hop royalty

That was “Lost Ones” by Lauryn Hill from her debut solo record “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” That album smashed so many records. She was the first female act in the history of the Grammy Awards to be nominated for 10 awards. She took home five trophies in the 1999 Grammies. A pretty impressive feat for a rapper.

Her debut album stands as a classic. It blended genres and forms. She rapped and she sang and her talent just couldn’t be ignored or denied.

But then she disappeared from the music scene. We were left with this incredible debut record and two albums from her rap group The Fugees. And that was it.

There was a void in mainstream hip-hop when Lauryn Hill decided to focus on family instead of her music career.

But we didn’t have to wait long for another innovative artist to come to the forefront and represent the ladies on the mic.

This is Chase March and if you are just joining us, make sure you keep that dial on lock. This is our third annual spotlight on the Women in Hip-Hop as we celebrate International Women’s Day. This is a day where we recognize and celebrate the achievements of women across the globe.

We’re gonna be doing that all night long here on the program. This hour we’ve been looking at the important moments for women in the history of hip-hop. Later, we’ll have mixsets where every single track we play will be from female rap artists. We will also have special interviews and a roundtable discussion. Stay tuned for all of that. We have seven hours of programming to celebrate this important day.

It’s International Women’s Day on DOPEfm.

We’ve been working our way through the entire history of hip-hop and the important role women have played throughout. We’ve looked at some of the biggest artists to ever work in this genre and we’ve made out way up to the late 1990s.

The next artist we are going to look at is the only female rap artist to stack up six platinum records. I’m talking about Missy Elliot. Her debut album “Supa Dupa Fly” came out in 1997 and she continued to drop highly successful records every couple of years. In fact, she is even slated to release a new one later this year.

successful female rapper

That was Missy Elliot, one of the most successful female rap artists of all time.

In the late 1990s, female fronted hip-hop was all the rage. Missy Elliot was just one of a handful of popular artists. I’m slowly running out of time though. I couldn’t expect to bring us completely up to date with the accomplishments of the women in hip-hop in a one hour special.

An hour ago, we started with the first women deejay, who began broadcasting a hundred years ago. We then looked at the first rap record most people ever heard and saw how that project and label was masterminded by a woman. We looked at the first rap group to ever appear on national television and how a female rapper was at the forefront of that. We then looked at the success female rappers have had since hip-hop’s very inception all the way up to the 1990s.

Stay tuned later tonight for another spotlight on the history of women in hip-hop. We’ll pick up where we left off here and look at the female artists of the late 1990s all the way up to the present day.

I’ve been focusing on the commercial appeal of hip-hop in this special but it’s important to note that women have been quite active in the hip-hop game. There are countless female rappers who have released albums on independent labels. We’ve played many of them on the show here over the past eight years and will continue to champion great music.

It’s been a lot of fun celebrating the women in hip-hop in this special hour-long edition of Know Your History.

Remember International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th. Here on DOPEfm, we dedicate the entire overnight programming to the Women in Hip-Hop every year. This is our third annual special and we have lots more great content to share with you.

We still have some dope mixsets, artist interviews, and a roundtable discussion. Stay tuned for all of that and remember to go to to find out more about me, for some great hip-hop articles and home of my podcast, and to get more content from the radio show right here on 93.3 CFMU.

Download Hip-Hop’s Better Half for free, or stream it with the player below.


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Hip-Hop’s Better Half

Welcome to our third annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular on DOPEfm. We’re an overnight hip-hop radio show and every year at this time, we dedicate all seven hours of our programming to the Women in Hip-Hop.

We do this to celebrate International Women’s Day and to shine a spotlight on the achievements of women in this culture that we hold so dear.

Download this hip-hop history show for free, stream it with the player below, continue reading, or do all three.

We have a lot of great content for you tonight including some dope mixsets, a roundtable discussion with some very special guests, artist interviews, an episode of Know Your History, and some special surprises.

But to get it all started, we are going to look at some notable women in hip-hop. Hi, my name is Chase March and welcome to Hip-Hop’s Better Half. For the next hour, we are going to explore the history of women in hip-hop culture.

And what better place to start than with what is genuinely acknowledged as the first event in hip-hop history. The historic concert at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in The Bronx. This was the groundbreaking event that introduced the world to Kool Herc, that brought forth the era of the deejay and the block party. This changed everything and sparked the culture of hip-hop.

But did you know, this was all started by a woman. It was Kool Herc’s sister, Cindy Campbell, that threw this party. She organized everything, including the music. Hip-hop historian and journalist Davey D interviewed her and you can hear what she had to say by pressing play. Just scroll down and find the media player at the bottom of this post.

Women in Hip-Hop

Kool Herc is heralded as the godfather of hip-hop culture. This is undisputed, but it’s really interesting to see that it was indeed his sister, Cindy Campbell who got the whole ball rolling back in 1973. In fact, she even continued to support his career after this historic concert.

They do say that behind every great man is a great woman. It’s a phrase that I’m not particularly fond of, as much as it speaks truth. Women are important and need to be celebrated for their achievements alone. That’s one of the reasons we do this show each and every International Women’s Day.

I like to celebrate the women’s voices that often get over-shadowed in this culture that we call hip-hop. Some of my favourite emcees are women and we’ll be hearing from them very shortly.

Ya know, hip-hop started with the deejay. It didn’t start with rappers. It started with deejays playing records. And we can trace that all the way back to 1912. That was the year that “The Little Hams Radio Program” got its start. It was the first regularly scheduled radio program and it became popular because of the world’s first female deejay, Sybil Herrold.

Radio's first female deejay

That is so cool to see that one of radio’s first on-air personalities was a woman. And this was just over one hundred years ago. Hip-hop, as a culture, is not that old, but like those first radio programs it was not recorded and distributed. Back when this culture got its start in 1973, it wasn’t part of the music business. You had to experience the music live.

A few recordings are available of those early days of hip-hop culture. They were done with portable cassette recorders so the quality isn’t that great, but it does give you an idea of what those live shows were like back in the day. I want to play a portion of one of those recordings for you in a moment by the first all female rap group, The Mercedes Ladies. They formed in 1976 and they were more than a just music group. They were a crew with deejays, breakdancers. emcees, and graffiti artists. They put on shows and played with some of the biggest acts of the day such as Afrika Bambaataa, Red Alert, Kool Herc, Busy B, Kevy Kev, The Cold Crush Brothers, The Furious Five, and more.

Here’s an old school tape from a performance they did in 1979. This is the Mercedes Ladies and we’ll be right back to continue celebrating International Women’s Day right here on DOPEfm.

all female hip-hop crew

That was an all female group called The Mercedes Ladies and pretty typical of what you’d hear at the live venues in the mid to late 1970s.

That was what hip-hop sounded like prior to the first commercial rap recordings. Back then, you had to experience the music live. Although, that would soon be changing. Several people saw that rap could in fact be recorded and distributed on record, just like any genre of music.

One of the most successful records of all time is also what many people consider to be the first rap record ever released. There’s a little bit of debate about that but there is no debating the popularity of this record. I’m talking about “Rapper’s Delight”

first commercially successful rap record

That record wouldn’t have seen the light of day without a woman. It’s true. Sylvia Robinson saw the power that hip-hop could have and took a bit of a gamble in assembling a rap group, recording, and distributing a single.

Here is a rare clip of her talking about it.

female hip-hop mogul

There is a lot of controversy about Sugar Hill Records and what Sylvia Robinson did with that label. Some people criticize her for manufacturing a rap group instead of signing one of the established groups of the time. It would have been nice to see the Mercedes Ladies get a deal. It would have been awesome for The Cold Crush Brothers to have recorded “Rapper’s Delight” instead of the Sugar Hill Gang. After all, some of the rhymes on that record were stolen from one of the pioneers of this culture, Grandmaster Caz. You can find out more about that in an episode of Know Your History. Go to, click on Hip-Hop History and you can download the podcast and read the transcript of that show.

I don’t want to get into that controversial stuff today. I cover that often enough on the program, because it is important, but so is today.

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day all night long here on DOPEfm, focusing on the achievements of Women in Hip-Hop.

And if we think about it. Sylvia Robinson was the person who brought rap music to the masses. Rapper’s Delight was a huge success. At the peak of its popularity, it was selling 50,000 copies a day. That is an impressive number even in today’s market, thirty years later.

Sylvia Robinson even signed one of the founding fathers of the culture, Grand Master Flash. However, she wasn’t the only woman working behind the scenes in the earliest commercial rap recordings.

Monica Lynch was the president of Tommy Boy Records and she signed Afrika Bambaataa to the label in 1982. It’s great to see that two of the founding fathers of hip-hop were able to land spots on major labels and achieve some success there. And it truly is a crime that Kool Herc did not get a recording contract or reap the benefits of starting this culture of hip-hop.

Def Jam, one of the most successful hip-hop labels ever also had a woman at the helm, Carmen Ashurst-Watson was the president of the company.

So far, we’ve seen that women have been actively involved in hip-hop since its very inception. We might not know all of their names since many of them were working behind the scenes. And some of those early female rappers, breakdancers, deejays, and crews were doing their thing before rap music became part of the record business.

Some of the earliest hip-hop records were by female artists. The first rap releases came out in 1979 and this is one of them. This is Lady B “To the Beat Y’all”

First female solo rapper

Welcome back to Hip-Hop’s Better Half. My name is Chase March and we are exploring the history of women in hip-hop to celebrate International Women’s Day. We just heard the very first solo female rap artist to release a record. That was Lady B ‘To The Beat Y’all”

She is still actively involved in hip-hop. She did a radio show on Power 99 called “The Street Beat” for many years and she can now be heard on Sirrius Satellite Radio and WRNB in Philadelphia.

Do you know who the first rap group to perform on a national television show was? It’s probably not who you’d expect it to be. But it is notable for several reasons. First, it happened back in 1981 on season six of Saturday Night Live. Secondly the group had a female member as its undisputed star. The group was called The Funky Four Plus One More and the one more was Sha Rock.

This is one of their best songs, “That’s the Joint.” Village Voice even rated it as the best song of the 1980s.

That was The Funky Four Plus One. It’s interesting that this group decided to highlight the female member of their group with their name. It was calling attention to something that really didn’t need attention called to it. Women had been rocking mics since hip-hop’s very humble beginnings and they would continue to put out great music for many years.

But for some reason, hip-hop became a male-dominated genre of music over the years. Women have had to fight to be heard in a genre of music that often demeans them through obscene lyrics, and objectification through imagery on album covers and music videos.

That’s never stopped women from being involved in this culture, whether it is behind the scenes at record labels, behind the turntables as deejays, or on the mic as emcees.

We just heard Sha Rock on that last record and she was one of the most talented and respected emcees in the early days of hip-hop culture. She started as a breakdancer in 1976 and one year later she was part of the legendary group The Funky 4 + 1. They got signed in 1979 and were one of the first groups to have a record deal. They were the first group to appear on national television. And Sha Rock was in the classic cult hip-hop film “Beat Street” in 1984.

She’s widely celebrated as the pioneer of female hip-hop, just with the level of attention she was able to command. Her appeal was something else, on camera and on stage. And we have quite a few records in which to play and celebrate this important voice in hip-hop music and culture.

This is Hip-Hop’s Better Half, part of our annual celebration of Women in Hip-Hop here on DOPEfm. We’re celebrating International Women’s Day, which happens every March 8th. We do so by focusing all seven hours of our programming to the women in hip-hop.

In this hour of the show, we are looking at hip-hop brightest moments with women at the helm. We’ve already discussed how women have been actively involved in hip-hop since it’s very humble beginnings, how they’ve helped propel it to the mainstream audience, and how they continue to champion for the culture to this day.

So far, we’ve worked our way from the first female radio deejay ever back in 1912 all the way up to the first rap records being released in 1979.

The next biggest moment in the history of female hip-hop happened almost by accident. It was 1984 and a hip-hop group cancelled a show. This might not seem like an impetus for a huge record that pretty much redefined what hip-hop was all about. A record that birthed the culture of response records. A record that propelled another fierce emcee to stardom. But it was.

Here’s a quick run down of the story. UTFO was a huge group in early 1980s and Marley Marl was one of the promoters bringing them to town. He was talking about how disappointed he was about them canceling the show. A young lady overheard his conversation and being the quick thinker and battle rhymer that she was, she offered to help the promoter get a little revenge.

You see, U.T.F.O’s biggest hit was a song called “Roxanne, Roxanne” and it was about a lady refusing their advances. It really had nothing to do with Roxanne Shante but she adopted the persona and spit fire on the mic. This is a powerful record and it sparked what is known as the Roxanne Wars.

This is Roxanne Shante “Roxanne’s Revenge”

That record made Roxanne Shanté a bonafide hip-hop star and also established the tradition of the answer record. Tons of people tried to follow in her footsteps by releasing their own response songs to the original U.T.F.O record. It got so convoluted that there were over one hundred such songs. I haven’t heard them all, and quite frankly, I don’t have any desire to. Roxanne Shanté did it first and she made a memorable record, and made her mark on the industry.

We started out hip-hop history lesson today in 1912 and have made our way up to 1984.

Please come back on Saturday as we will cover the important moments in the history of hip-hop where women were at the forefront.

Download Hip-Hop’s Better Half for free or stream it with the player below. Celebrating the female voices within hip-hop for our 3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop radio special.

Thanks for listening.

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Know Your History 36 – The First Rap Record

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. I’m your host Chase March and today I want to look at the first rap song ever.

This is the transcript of the radio show. You can download the podcast or stream it with the player below. And if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast or check the Mixcloud feed for weekly episodes.

A lot of you are probably nodding your head right now, listening to the track in the background and saying, “Yep, that’s it. ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by The Sugarhill Gang.”

But you’d be wrong. That wasn’t the first rap song. It was the first one that many people heard. It was the first one to achieve commercial success. But it was by no means the first rap song.

Finding the first rap song can be a bit tricky though simply due to the definition of what is and what isn’t rap. I don’t like to think about rap music outside of the culture of hip-hop. And if you are a fan of this show, you already know that hip-hop started to solidify as a culture in the early 1970s. It didn’t start out as rap music either. It started with the deejay. Rappers weren’t even around at the start of the culture. That’s something that is often forgotten in this day and age where it seems like rap music has just always been around. Maybe it has been.

The first commercially recorded rap songs started to emerge in 1979, fairly recently if you think about it. But there are songs that predate this recording that sound rather rap-like.

In fact, there is even an athlete who is often credited as being the first rapper. He didn’t record any songs but we have quite a few audio tracks of him saying rhymes that could easily fit to a beat. He probably could have been a rapper instead of a boxer.

I’m talking about Muhammad Ali. Here is one of his famous speeches.

Was that rap? I don’t know. We can definitely see comparisons of what we know about rap music with what Muhammad Ali did in that brief rhyme. He tells a story. It rhymes. It has some rhythm to it. He has a larger than life image behind the words. They evoke a feeling. But isn’t that what poetry does.

Muhammad Ali was an athlete. He liked his wordplay as much as his fancy footwork and punch combinations in the ring. He was a poet, but I don’t think we can call him a rapper.

I was watching a documentary recently and there was a quote in it that said, “You can’t become what you do not see.” In terms of hip-hop, seeing a black man being confident, using words creatively, and excelling in his sport probably did have an impact on the first rappers that we would probably agree upon.

But right now, I want to go further back in time. Muhammad Ali was in his boxing prime in the 1960s. I’d like to go back another ten years and look at this record. It’s called “Big John” and it’s by Jimmy Dean.

This is Chase March and we are exploring the roots of rap music today in this edition of Know Your History. Perhaps this is the first rap song.

What do you think? Is “Big John” by Jimmy Dean the first rap song?

It has some elements of modern rap music in it. And unlike the Muhammad Ali clip I played earlier, this one is set to music. It wasn’t merely a poem or a recited rhyme. The music and the vocals work together. They are intertwined. They are one.

In his book, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop, Adam Bradley writes, “rap is not speech exactly, nor is it precisely song, and yet it employs elements of both.”

An exact definition of rap music is pretty hard to come by. It is not simply talking over a backing musical track. Rappers can use cadences, rhymes, and all sorts of poetic devices in their music. The key word here is music. Big John is music. Is it hip-hop? I don’t think so.

I think we need to look at the birthplace of hip-hop. It was born in New York in the 1970s. Some people peg the official birthday as August 11, 1973. On that historic day, DJ Kool Herc threw his first party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. Hip-hop still didn’t have a name at this point but I definitely agree that this was the start of the rich culture we all love and enjoy today.

Still though, some of the elements of hip-hop were around well before this. Five years earlier, a group was just coming together in Harlem. They dropped their debut album in 1970, nine years before the first commercially recorded rap song. Let’s play a song from that album right now. This is “New York, New York” by The Last Poets. Maybe this is the first rap song.

Woah, that was heavy. That record was socially conscious. It was politically charged. In that way, it was ahead of it’s time. It foreshadowed what was to come content wise within hip-hop much later.

The Last Poets are definitely pioneers in what would become rap music. We just heard “New York, New York” and we can probably draw comparisons, pick out parts of that recording that were rap-like. That being said, I don’t consider that to be the first rap song.

We are getting closer to it though. I promise.

Let’s jump back in time 50 years . This track is called “Kinesiska Muren” and it is by Evert Taube. Maybe this is this first rap song?

That record came out in 1958. It is about the construction of the Great Wall of China. According to online sources, it is a poem. However, it sounds quite rap-like. It is set to a beat, the rhymes are spoken in a cadence and they are on time. That being said, it is not a rap song.

I know, I know. I keep teasing you, telling you that I am going to play the first rap song and I keep playing stuff that quite simply falls a little short. The songs and poems I’ve been playing have a lot in common with rap music, but they are not rap.

So what is the defining characteristic of rap? What have all these tracks been missing?

Adam Bradley writes, “Rhyme is the music MCs make with their mouths . . . Everyone knows rhyme when they hear it, but few stop to examine it. Rhyme is the concordance of sound. It works by establishing a habit of expectations in listeners’ minds, conditioning them to identify patterns of sound, to connect words the mind instinctively recognizes as related yet distinct. All rhyme relies on the innate human impulse to recognize patterns and to anticipate what will follow. A skillfully rendered rhyme strikes a balance between expectation and novelty.”

I love Adam Bradley’s book. It shows how artistic rap music is. It explores the poetics of it. It looks closely at the music. That’s what I try to do every day. That’s why I work at producing documentary hip-hop radio each and every single month here on the program.

That was King Tim III with The Fatback Band. The song is called “Personality Jock” and it’s often considered to be the first rap recording. It is a rap song as much as it is a funk song. It has an MC saying rhymes with a cadence. The rhymes are on time. It is hip-hop. It came out in 1979 a few months prior to Rapper’s Delight.

But we can actually go back another forty years to find the first true rap song. This track originally came out in 1937. It’s called “The Preacher and the Bear” and it’s by The Golden Gate Quartet. So here it is, quite possibly the very first rap song ever.

You can see how similar the cadences are and where the rhymes are falling when you compare this song with Rapper’s Delight. Check out the mash-up Darrin Jackson did to hear it quite clearly.

There you have it, the first rap song as recorded in 1937. We heard the 1941 re-issue of it and then the 2005 mash-up of it.

That is an incredible record by The Golden Gate Quartet called “The Preacher and The Bear.” Apparently it was a folk song that people used to sing. These creative musicians did it in a rap style in 1937. My goodness!

This Chase March, thanks for tuning in to Know Your History!

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Know Your History – The Complete Third Season

Know Your History is a documentary radio show that I produce each and every month. The show is subtitled “Your Monthly Dose of Hip-Hop Knowledge”

I try my best to deliver content that educates and entertains. I am a hip-hop historian and love sharing these stories about the rich culture of hip-hop with you.

This past year, I covered some pretty interesting topics. We looked at . . .

I have some great content coming your way this year as well. 
Stay tuned to DOPEfm to hear the shows live Saturday nights and you can also catch them on The Word is Bond Podcast every month
or you can click on the above titles to download the individual episodes and read the transcripts.
Thanks for tuning in! 

DOPEfm – Hip-Hop Radio at Its Finest

DOPEfm is an overnight hip-hop radio show that can be heard on 93.3 fm each and every Saturday night.

If you don’t live in the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada area and can’t tune in the signal, you can stream us live on the station website.

If you can’t stay up to listen to us live, you can catch the past four episodes any time you like.

First click on “programming” at the top of the page, find “Dope FM” in the grey area on Saturday, and click on it.

Your screen should now look like this one. You’ll see a description of our show and a list of past episodes. If you click on one of them, you will hear a stream of our programming.

This system is completely automated and we can’t control the starting time of it at all. So if you start listening and you hear the metal show before us, or some commercials, just be patient and hip-hop will start shortly.

So listen live tonight and enjoy the show! Or check it out tomorrow through the archive.

You can also check our podcast page, my artist interview page, and to hear more.

Thanks for tuning in.

Hip-Hop Pioneers – The Cold Crush Brothers (Know Your History Podcast)

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Let’s start off today’s show with a lyric from Jay-Z and then dive back in to past to look at one of the first hip-hop crews ever.

“Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over / Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up / I’m overcharging n*ggas for what they did to the Cold Crush / Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us / We can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks”

That was a short verse from “IZZO” by Jay-Z. That was a huge hit but not a lot of people understand what he was doing with that short lyric. It leaves us with a lot of questions. Who or what are the Cold Crush? What happened to them? And why does Jay-Z feel so bitter towards the entire situation?
My name is Chase March and we’ll be exploring all those questions and more as we focus the entire episode today on one of hip-hop’s first crews, The Cold Crush Brothers.
It’s important to remember that hip-hop culture predates the rap music industry. It wasn’t a business back in the early days. Grandmaster Flash was recently on BBC Radio 1 and he explained it this way . . .

“In the mid 70s, it was a street culture for a DJ to play in a small club or in the streets, and you’d have these people called emcees—not rappers, MCs. And these qualified vocalists would play with qualified deejays. And that was the way it was for about twelve-thirteen years. Then, what happened was, a lot of these small record companies started coming in to The Bronx because their children were telling them that we had these cassette tapes of these amazing DJs who had these amazing MCs. And they came into the Bronx looking for groups that did this. And that’s where some of us had gotten the pleasure of getting recording contracts, like Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, The Cold Crush Crew. There were a few of us that were to the beginning of major record distribution. Now you could get these performances on vinyl. . . Now, it’s become business.”

That’s important to remember. Hip-hop had to be experienced back in the 1970s. You either went to a show or you recorded it on cassette tape. There weren’t any rap albums at the time. And when the first commercial recordings finally did start to emerge in 1979, the original street crews kept doing their thing at clubs and block parties. Here’s an example of what the Cold Crush Crew were doing back in 1981. This was recorded live from Harlem World in 1981.
That was the Cold Crush Crew performing live at Harlem World back in 1981. The entire show was recorded on cassette tape. A lot of those old school tapes have been passed around and copied over and over again. Some of those tapes don’t sound nearly as good as this one does, which is thanks to DJ Charlie Chase. He cleaned up the tape and remastered it for us old school heads who appreciate what the Cold Crush Brothers did.
The crew originally consisted of DJ Charlie Chase, DJ Tony Tone, Easy A.D., Whipper Whip, Mr. Tee, and Dot-A-Rock. Two of the members left the group to join the Fantastic Five which makes the tape you just heard even more of a battle because The Cold Crush Four were battling against two of their old members, Whipper Whip and Dot-A-Rock that night.
One of the interesting things about the Cold Crush Brothers was the way they used harmonies and traded off vocals back and forth. They had a commanding stage presence and anyone wanting to make a name for themselves tried to do so by battling the crew.

The Cold Crush expanded their original line-up to include Grandmaster Caz aka Casanova Fly, Almighty Kay Gee, and J.D.L. Money Ray. They were hugely influential in the creation of hip-hop culture and despite releasing their own records in the 1980s, fame and fortune never did seem to smile on them like it did for some of the other crews of the day. This was the first single they released. It’s called “Weekend” and it was released as a 12 inch single on Elite Records in 1982.

That’s a fun record. “Weekend” by the Cold Crush Brothers. You can hear how accessible a sound they had. It was light-hearted, it was easy to dance to, and it reflected the sound of their commanding live performances.

The Cold Crush Brothers released several other singles but none of them were able to rise to the popularity of “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang. That record introduced a lot of people to rap music and hip-hop culture when it was released in 1979. It wasn’t the first rap record ever released, even though a lot of people think it was. But it does have a connection to the Cold Crush Brothers. Grandmaster Flash of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five describes those first two hip-hop records and sets the scene in this snippet from a special he did for BBC Radio 1.

“There was a song by King Tim III. His performance was on vinyl but he was speaking in a street-tongue that a lot of people didn’t understand. It wasn’t until we heard this voice on this other record of this guy who used to be a bodyguard and bouncer at a club. His name was Big Bank Hank. We heard this record and said, ‘Oh crap, that sounds like Hank.’ So Hank, who was a bouncer, joined two other guys, Master G, and Wonder Mike. They had this record on Sugar Hill Records. I’ll never forget when I heard this song on the radio. Sugar Hill Gang, that didn’t ring a bell, at all, with any of the group masters that was doing it in the streets…Every time. I switched the dial the song was playing. It was gigantic . . . Who are these people? Never played with them, never went to any of their shows, didn’t know anything about these three guys called the Sugar Hill Gang. But they took it from the street culture and made this thing a worldwide phenomenon, which was the genius of Sylvia Robinson. That was sort of like the slow demise of street culture MCing and DJing because there was now a new prize to look at—to get that recording contract was the goal.”

It’s really interesting to know that hip-hop culture had been building in The Bronx for years and years prior to the first recordings being released commercially. It wasn’t a music business in those early days. It was a party scene, it was something you had to experience live, it was a culture.

So why was the first record ever to achieve commercial success done by someone outside of the established crews and groups? Why hadn’t Grandmaster Flash or the other crews at the time had any inkling of who the Sugar Hill Gang were?

The story starts with the Cold Crush Brothers and in particular Grand Master Caz. Caz was not only a DJ but also an MC and he was the first person in hip-hop to hold down both duties at the same time. He was well known for his rhymes and even if you had no idea who the Cold Crush Brothers were prior to hearing this show today, I bet you can recite some of his lyrics right now.

In a bizarre twist of fate, it was his manager and bodyguard Big Hank who brought these lyrics to a much wider audience. He was working at a pizzeria and was rapping some of the great rhymes that Grand Master Caz had penned. Sylvia Robinson overheard him rapping along to one of Caz’s practice tapes and she liked what she heard. She recruited him to join two other rappers and form the Sugar Hill Gang in 1979. Hank asked Grandmaster Caz if he could use some of his rhymes for the record he had been asked to record. They were friends so Caz agreed. He thought it would be a way for him to become known and perhaps make a name for himself in the new recording industry that was starting to build. Grandmaster Caz tells the story in the Quincy Jones’ program BEEF II.

You can watch the section of Beef II here (embedding has been disabled)

So in the end, Hank used Grandmaster Caz’s rhymes in the recording. He just straight lifted the rhymes without changing a single thing. He even spells his name in the course of the rhyme as “Casonova Fly,” which of course was Caz’s nickname. There really is no dispute over who’s rhymes those were. The only problem was that Grandmaster Caz was never compensated for his work. It was the biggest hip-hop record at the time and still gets plenty of spins. He never received any royalty payments, no writing credit, and only the most educated hip-hop heads know the true story. Grandmaster Caz tried to get his story out there with the Beef DVD and with this track, “MC Delight.”

The music industry can be shady. A lot of hip-hop’s pioneers have been ripped off. They haven’t gotten the credit they deserve or the money that they actually helped generate for hip-hop labels and executives.

That is what Jay-Z was talking about on his hit IZZO. He raps, “Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over / Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up / I’m overcharging niggas for what they did to the Cold Crush / Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us / We can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks”

With that lyric, Jay-Z was helping to call attention to the fact that many of our pioneers had been exploited just in the nature of the music business. Of course, rap music didn’t start out a business. And those early pioneers had no idea how much money was to be had. The Cold Crush Brothers weren’t the only crew to be shorted. It just is a shame to see that these pioneers of the art form never did get compensated financially for what they helped develop.

When I was doing my research for this show, I found out that a lot of people don’t have any idea who the Cold Crush Brothers were. I found a few discussion boards about that Jay-Z lyric and it was sad to see that hardly anyone had done their homework to find out what that line meant.

It’s important for us to remember where we came from, to honour our pioneers, to share the rich history we have in hip-hop culture. That is what I try to do every single day. I’m a hip-hop historian and I’m glad to have this outlet to share some of these stories with you. You’ve been listening to Know Your History on DOPEfm radio and The Word is I’m your host Chase March and I bring this segment to you each and every month. You can check out my site for transcripts and free downloads of every episode at

This is the third season of the show and so far we have over two-dozen episodes in the archive. I hope you subscribe to the new Word is Bond podcast and the long established DOPEfm podcast as well. We continue to bring you the best in underground hip-hop each and every week on the radio and every day on the world-wide-web.

Thanks for tuning in, this is Chase March and you better Know Your History!

The Rise of the West Coast (Know Your History Podcast)

For the first few years of its existence, hip-hop was something that you had to experience live. There were no commercial recordings, no rap albums, no 12-inch singles, no rap music on the radio. You had to go out to a block party or a club to see a DJ throwing down a set.
Hip-hop started with the DJ. It was born in the Bronx but not content to stay tethered to only one area. The culture and the music spread throughout the entire world in less than a decade. One of its first landing spots was some two-thousand miles away in the city of Los Angeles.
The interesting thing about hip-hop culture is how it can have very distinct regional sounds and styles. Wherever it travels, hip-hop is able to make itself at home and flourish there. This was definitely the case on the West Coast. It took a few years before the rest of the world would sit up and take notice of the unique sound and style of West Coast rap music, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. I’m your host Chase March and for the next half hour, we will be exploring the Rise of the West Coast. If you’re tuning us in on the new Word is Bond podcast, it’s great to have you here. This is the third season of this show and we’re proud to have partnered up with The Word is Bond to expand our coverage here on DOPEfm. You can hear us every Saturday night on 93.3 CFMU on your radio dial or worldwide on For more info on us and what we do, visit

You can download the podcast for free, stream it with the player below, or continue reading.

West coast hip-hop seemed to come out of nowhere with the advent of Gangsta Rap in the 1980s, but the scene had been developing quietly under the radar for many years prior to that. Just like in its birthplace of New York, hip-hop had to be experienced in those early days and the scene in Los Angeles was flourishing.
Uncle Jamm’s Army was one of the premier party promoters in L.A. They started gaining a lot of attention, fans, and respect in 1978, one year before the first rap recordings came out of New York. They were a collective of DJs and musicians and pretty much ruled the hip-hop scene in Los Angeles.
In 1981, the first West Coast rap label was started. It was called Rappers Rap Records and the first group on the roster was Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp. They released a single that year but it was there song “Bad Times” two years later that made the most noise.

That was “Bad Times” by Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp. It came out in 1983, and by that time, the Los Angeles hip-hop scene was becoming quite large. We still aren’t in the G-funk age but you can almost hear the roots of that sound in this song. The synthesized baseline and the singable chorus really got people moving on the dance floor.
By this time, the parties that Uncle Jamm’s Army were throwing were becoming legendary. They needed to find bigger and bigger venues to accommodate the crowds. They even did a few gigs at the LA Sports Arena filling the stadium to capacity every time. Founding member Roger Clayton was able to bring in famous East Coast groups to these shows such as Run DMC, Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and L.L. Cool J.
But unlike those East Coast groups, Uncle Jamm’s Army had a more electro sound. They were influenced by a German group by the name of Kraftwerk that had been around since 1970. They released an album called “Autobahn” in 1974 and toured it extensively bringing this unique sound to North America.

Kraftwerk’s influence is sometimes overlooked but it really shouldn’t be. They have had a huge influence in early hip-hop music and you can hear it in the work of Uncle Jamm’s Army. This is “Dial-a-Freak” which was released in 1984. This is your host Chase March. Make sure you stay tuned as we will continue to explore the rise of hip-hop culture on the west coast in this month’s edition of Know Your History

That was typical of what you’d hear at an Uncle Jamm’s Army show back in the early 1980s. The electro sound was pretty popular in Los Angeles and their shows were hugely successful. It didn’t take long for the music of the parties, the clubs, and the arena shows to make it to the radio.
In 1983, local radio station KDAY 1530 am began spinning rap music 24 hours a day. They were the first radio station to dedicate their entire programming schedule to hip-hop music. They even beat New York to the punch there.
That same year, Egyptian Lover, who was part of Uncle Jamm’s Army, came out with his album entitled “On the Nile.” which featured a reworking of his popular single “Egypt Egypt.” The b-side of that single had the track “What is a DJ if he can’t Scratch?” and that’s the record I’d like to play for you now.
This is Chase March and we’re exploring the rise of West Coast hip-hop on this month’s edition of Know Your History. Stay tuned.
That was “What is a DJ if he can’t Scratch?” by Egyptian Lover and it was the b-side to his hit single “Egypt Egypt.”
We’ve been exploring the rise of hip-hop music on the West Coast and in particular in Los Angeles. So far we’ve only explored the late 1970s up to about 1983, and that was the year we first heard from a young MC by the name of Ice T. He released a record called “Cold Wind Madness” also known as “The Coldest Rap.” It had the electro type sound that Uncle Jamm’s Army was famous for. In fact, Ice T was pretty much the only rapper they had in the crew at the time.
In the following year, we were also introduced to Dr. Dre and DJ Yella. Before NWA, they were part of The World Class Wreckin’ Cru. They released a single “Slice” with the b-side “Kru Groove.” One year later, they released their full length album “Surgery.” It went on to sell 50,000 copies but this was only the beginning for Los Angeles based hip-hop moving large numbers.
Gangsta rap was on the forefront and it was about to change everything. Most people tend to associate the West Coast with this genre of rap music, but the truth is, it was starting to take shape across the United States by 1986. I covered Gangsta Rap in detail in Episode 12 of Know Your History. You can go to right now, click on the Hip Hop History tab to read the article and download that podcast.
The West Coast had been building a hip-hop scene for years but the rest of the country didn’t sit up and take notice until Ice T released “6 in the Morning” in 1986.
Two years later, NWA burst on to the scene with “Straight Outta Compton. This group consisted of Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince, Easy E. MC Ren, and Ice Cube. The group went on to sell ten million records and pretty much ignite the popularity of Gangsta rap.
JJ Fad, an all girl group, released their self-titled album in 1988 as well. Their single “Supersonic” went platinum and stayed on the Billboard music charts for about four months. They were also the first female rap group to be nominated for a Grammy.
West Coast artists had proved that they could sell records and that hip-hop was equally at home on either coast. Of course this is only the start of the story. The next chapter is all about Gangsta Rap, which I’ve already covered, but the third chapter is about the rise of G-funk. Stay tuned to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge as we will be explroing that topic in the future.
If you like what you’ve heard today make sure you visit We bring you the best in underground hip-hop each and every Saturday night on 93.3 CFMU. We have a podcast and live webstreaming available as well. You can also visit my site, the official blog of the show, at
And thanks to our new partners at The Word is Bond. Look forward to hearing a Know Your History segment every month there, as well as some exclusive interviews and bonus podcasts. Until next time, this is Chase March saying, You Better Know Your History. 

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