Scorpio Talks About the Birth of Hip-Hop
by Gentle Jones
Any emcee who rhymes on beat owes a debt to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. When Hip-Hop was just a newborn baby this crew gave it a name, then brought a musical language and a culture which has since flourished into a worldwide phenomenon. Scorpio discusses his experience with the Furious Five MC's during the birth of Hip-Hop and how DJ beef affected them from the outset.
Gentle Jones: What was your inspiration for this new Legends of Legends project?
Scorpio: Legends of Legends is an idea I came up with when I was speaking with Grouchy. A lot of interviewers ask questions of a lot of cats but they always have their own agenda and ulterior motives, they want to paint a legend the way they see them. And I thought it would be fair and righteous to have another legend speak to a another legend, because you know it is always going to come from a position of respect and never the intention to throw a cat under the bus or paint them as being something old school.
I interviewed all type of cats. Big Daddy Kane, Rob Base, Cold Crush, Fantastic, its nothing for me to get anybody on the phone.
Gentle Jones: This is so important because if these stories are not recorded they will be lost.
Scorpio: The stories are not lost, the legendary cats just need to be put in a light of respect. When it comes to the real media we don't currently have no part of that. That's why I'm so delighted to jump start this Legend of Legends show on allhiphop. Because it ain't like people don't want to know, you can take a 16 year old kid who might only know Lil Wayne or T.I. but they will be interested to know the real foundation of how Hip-Hop started. How what we did affects what they like today.
All the rappers that came out and got hot ain't really gave props to where it came from. Some of them stop at when they started listening to Hip-Hop they listened to Run, and that's when they fell in love with it, and I'm like cool, that's great I got love for Run but then do you stop and think where did Run and them get if from?
Some of these folks are trying to get back in the industry they love and helped build but people just don't know about what they've been doing. They don't get to see that. They industry went from being about culture first to where it is now, its about the money.
We feel like we should have a place at the table of hip-hop. If you look at any other genre of records or basketball, football, whatever, you see they always have positions for the Charles Barkleys or the Julius Irvings, all the greats, they are always around the table that they helped build and they can still eat and earn a living. Where as hip-hop music is the first culture, the first music on this level to basically spit out the old school cats like, “You old and you can't do it.” We invented the game. We made the rules. And now they changed the rules like, “Oh this game ain't for you, its for them.” And we are the original ones who built it.
Its not like cats like me don't acknowledge what they brought to the table, because they brought a lot of things that we didn't know about. Like a lot ways they do business now where they get what they worth, that's they chamber. We created the culture and they merged it with the business. We are just trying to be part of something that we truly love. And not looked at like, “OK thanks for creating hip-hop, thanks for building it. We don't need you no more.” That is wack.
Gentle Jones: The creators of this music, from the beginning, are mostly still alive and available.
Scorpio: We are walking amongst the cats. The cats that invented rock and roll most likely are gone, cats that invented jazz are out of here, but the true cats that invented hip-hop, the culture that is a world wide phenomenon, are still here. We are still walking amongst them.
Its not even about hit records. We are only talking about a place at the table. People can look at legends like what they have or what they drive and it might now measure up to the standard of money that is right now. You can't use money to discredit the success.
Every parent would tell they kids if you work hard you can be a doctor or a lawyer. That was it. This was the criteria of success for everybody. In the world. They wasn't about nothing else. We came with a music that you didn't have to highest education, you didn't have to speak the perfect English, and you could work. You could live and take care of your family. And this is all predicated off the seeds we planted.
It is not like cats are knocking on doors like “Yo can we get some money?” Nah, nah, its nothing like that. All I'm saying is can I get in your video? I don't even have to say nothing. Just let people know that I am alive.
Gentle Jones: Looking at the stance an emcee takes, the perspective that is spoken from in Hip-Hop, there is a more adversarial approach groups take toward each other that was uncommon before Hip-Hop, with battles and such. Is it possible that the Furious Five invented throwing cats out?
Scorpio: No. I think at some point we had something to do with if you are down with your click then that's what you are doing and not doing too much merging with other rappers and stuff like that. But that was just coming from a competitive stand point. But it wasn't from the stand point like we don't want you to have nothing to do with the industry, that's crazy. We can't take the blame for that. It really started in New York with the crabs in the barrel mentality. We was the first rappers. When groups like Run DMC started coming out, they came directly from our blood line, you can hear they whole flow, the whole style, the switch-over going from one MC to another. The Furious Five created that. After it got to a certain level cats started looking back and trying to define themselves like “We not like the cats that came before us because we don't dress like them,” and this and that and I think that's when all of that first started. Them saying stuff like, instead of saying we dress like this A, B, and C and don't point back at us like we fools or something. They basically opened the door for people to say “Oh you don't have to respect the people that come before y'all?” And right now that same stuff that they was doing, people doing to everybody now. Just like cats can talk about Jay-Z, one of the most talented cats on planet earth to me, and all he's done to build hip-hop and people will say “Check out old-head” what kind of disrespect is that? This generation is almost like you are supposed to be embarrassed to grow and to have wisdom. Like “Oh, you old.” That attitude is the same reason there is so much drama in the streets right now. You have young cats that don't care nothing about grandmas and aunties that are all caught up in that world.
Gentle Jones: I don't see any reason why Hip-Hop legends shouldn't be invited to drop a verse on these young cats records.
Scorpio: Exactly. If you talking about rap then you basically taking about talking. If a cat can still talk he can still rap. Maybe in they head its sounds old but it is what it is. If you go get U2 or Mick Jagger to be on your track they gonna sound the way they sound. That's part of the beauty of it. Thats the original sound.
A lot of the old cats, not all but a lot, almost brought they perception of the way the new school cats see them. And its falsified. All they gotta do is be they self, like they always did. Don't get caught up into the hype.
The reality is the Park 106 audience and stuff like that ain't checking for us. And its not because the fans and the people ain't checking for us, its the way the industry has painted a picture of us.
You look at a cat like Russell Simmons, he's just as old as us if not even older, but he would never even be looked at as old school, because he got the new school money. You can tell this is not about the culture, this is just about paper. If you got paper you can be in it, you around it, you still hip. If you just have culture, knowledge, and wisdom, it don't make sense, because everybody is back on the paper chase. More then ignoring how to keep Hip-Hop alive, they just working on just how to get money. And the culture don't really mean nothing right now. When Nas said Hip-Hop is dead I'm like yo half the industry had they panties in a bunch over that. So there had to be some truth for them to even come at him like that. That was just his expression of the Hip-Hop that he know. Not the Hip-Hop that they know, cause its two different Hip-Hops. The Hip-Hop that Nas loved and growed up with in his head is dead.
Gentle Jones: There might be 15 different Hip-Hops, man.
Scorpio: Definitely, and that's what it is. Right now its so many different Hip-Hops cause there's no real gatekeepers of Hip-Hop. When cats get so out of line and stuff, it ain't no board where it can be like, listen you are part of our community as well. You can't be out there doing blah blah blah, that makes us look bad as a whole. Just like if a cop is doing something real out of line he has a sergeant gotta step in, even if he wasn't on the scene or around the crime, and say look you wearing that uniform, As long as you wearing that uniform you can't be at the bar doing what you doing. And that's where Hip-Hop is, there's 15 different rules. New York got its own rules, Dirty South got they own rules, and this and that. And when one speaks about Hip-Hop as a whole it might not line up with they rules so they feel they can disrespect it. This shit is weird right now.
Don't get me wrong, its the best time in Hip-Hop history to be in Hip-Hop. The reason is cause you get what you worth. You get really what you negotiate. On the business side. On the culture side its the worst. You have no idea, cats like us will go to a Hip-Hop club and security, manger or whoever might not know who we are right off the bat, and you go and introduce yourself and they are still like yo its gonna cost you $100 to get in.
Gentle Jones: *Groans*
Scorpio: Do you understand what that feels like hearing a club making money, a living, and putting their kids through college off of a music that you created and they want you to pay to go in and be around this music that you created? Its like Muhammad Ali of Hip-Hop is coming in the building to pop champagne and you don't know what he did for the game. To me its weird.
Gentle Jones: And you are in the fucking hall of fame too.
Scorpio: That's where its at. I understand that back then everybody might not know our group just by looking at us cause there wasn't that much visual. But now there is 1000 websites and TV channels its easy to know who somebody is just on sight. Hip-Hop is blazing up the clubs and I'm just like wow where did this shit go. Its almost like they want me to play big Willie style just to come in the club and be around this music I know I had a seed in creating. And I can still make just as well.
I want to be down with the industry. I don't want to just make records with cats from my era. I want to make records with the Nelly's and the other newer cats too cause I'm a fan of their's as well. And you don't have to be a fan of Scorpio, or the Furious Five or Grandmaster Flash. But you are a fan of the music that we created. Bottom line.
Gentle Jones: How long was the Furious Five together before you joined the group?
Scorpio: From the beginning, they had maybe been together about month.
Gentle Jones: At that particular time when y'all were performing how many people when they saw you never seen anything like it before.
Scorpio: Everybody, the whole world. Prolly the Bronx knew what we was doing, but there was a time we were starting to branch out to Jersey and Virginia and stuff like that and they never knew what it was, it was the first time. I can remember when Flash made his first scratch record called Adventures on the Wheels of Steel and we were sending them out all around the world. Everybody we sent them too the company said they were sending them back saying “somethings the matter with this record yo it keeps scratching!” (Laughs) They didn't know what the fuck it was! They heard Flash scratching and they thought really that they got a bad record, that's how new it was.
Gentle Jones: OK, so engineers, chemists, inventors, if they create anything they can apply for a patent and nobody can use that idea without giving them credit and probably paying them a fee. If music worked like that, how many patents would the Furious Five hold?
Scorpio: We would have had a patent for everything. Our group brought so much to the table. One of the guys in my group called Hip-Hop “Hip-Hop”. That's because of Keith Cowboy. I didn't know him as long as Melle Mel did but me and Cowboy used to run together, we used to hang out. Before rapping. Cowboy was really the strength of the Furious Five. He was the guy that at any given time he would grab the Mic and have the whole party in a frenzy. Cowboys legacy was everybody that do a show, even now from Jay-Z to Lil Wayne whenever they do the in between stuff where they really wanna get the crowd going with “Throw your hands in the air”, “Say oh yeah”, “Say ho” say this, all of that that was Cowboys jingles. The blueprint that was written back then you still can't do great show now without incorporating Cowboys spirit in it. And they don't even know where its being summoned from, they think its them. But that was all Cowboy.
The reason I say he was the strength of the Furious Five is because I believe that if Cowboy was alive today that the original Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five would be together, because he didn't play that, he was just a no nonsense dude. We would have our ways where we don't speak, but when he get tired of that he'd call some type of meeting and we would all get together. You know he was like that type of big brother that would show you that tough love like yo you out of line I'm gonna knock you upside your damn head, he was that dude. We wouldn't let it get so far, wouldn't let us get too far into our own self or our egos, whatever.
Gentle Jones: You should write a book.
Scorpio: I am going to write a book. Because Flash half assed around a lot of stuff in his book, and the people want to know. How could grandmaster flash do all this stuff and the Furious Five you don't hear nothing about? When a lot of our rhymes are some of the reason people even know about Grandmaster Flash. We were the ones who put the dj's name first on the record, nobody else was doing that, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and that decision there has almost put us in competition with ourselves. They come to Flash first for everything because his name was out front, not taking nothing from him as a DJ but we had a long name. So when the record came out on the radio they wouldn't say, “And now The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,” they would just say, “The message by Grandmaster Flash,” because the name was long.
Gentle Jones: I never thought about that.
Scorpio: That's what people don't know. Yes, he is a DJ and an entity unto himself but that was also the name of our group.
Gentle Jones: So when you get back together and tour again is Flash going to come with you?
Scorpio: Nah. Listen, we have so many people that contact us. The BBC contacted us and wants to give us $150,000 to do one show. A guy wants to put together a 60 day tour at $50,000 a day. And Flash don't basically want nothing to do with the Furious Five. And its not no beef, I called him personally, said lets do a Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five last reunion world tour. We could all walk away from this with a million. But he'll make money with any and everybody else but us. If you look at his last album, it got everybody under the sun from Busta to Q tip to Snoop and even Caz and this and that and not one track with the original Furious Five. I know all of them cats and respect them cats but they are not the original emcees that helped you get where you at. So if you are doing way much better than us they why does it hurt you to help us and shine a little light on us.
Gentle Jones: Who was the first to rap on a beat?
Scorpio: Us. Furious Five, all the way. We was the first group to put rap on rhythm. Before us it was cats like Kool Herc, he had the top emcees in the Bronx, but they emcee style, he'd be on the turntable and they would say stuff like “yes y'all you are now listening to the sounds of my man my fam DJ Kool Herc” and that was they whole style. Period.
Gentle Jones: That's actually some Jamaican stuff, the ska dj's were doing that in the 60's.
Scorpio: But Kool Herc was Jamaican so that's where his thing came from. Grandmaster Flash was first actual DJ on planet earth to take turntables and cut on beat. Before, Herc, when he used to play a record and then go to the next record, it sound crazy, different speeds, like “God Damn!” just drop the needle anywhere you'd be like, “Oh, shit. What is happening?” (laughs) but with Flash he was the first one to start cutting in the Bronx, everything on beat, you could dance and he could go from record to record, you never have to stop dancing. On beat. And with him doing that allowed us to start our rhythm, rhyming. Like the first rhymes was simple stuff like “yes yes y'all, to the beat y'all, the beat beat y'all, and you don't stop, its on and on and on and on, like hot butter on say what the popcorn,” while he cuts on beat. So that was the original seed of Hip-Hop. whenever you hear they rhymes patterns and skills today, that's what it started from, on beat, on time, on rhythm. And that was the Furious Five, nobody on planet earth, no legend, no Herc, no Afrikka Bambaataa, nobody would ever deny that. It was the D-Squad, the Furious 5 emcees, at that time the 3 emcees.
Gentle Jones: Did you ever work with Herc back then?
Scorpio: Never. He hated us. He was the King of the Bronx at one point. I can remember going into his thing he used to play in a spot called the PAL, we used to be a break crew called the D Squad and he know we was slowly trying to get into music, and Herc would see Flash and say on the mic “I like to welcome the Dick Squad in the house y'all!” He used to straight diss us. He would take all the bass out and and say, “This is the way Grandmaster Flash sound” and it be all tweeters and then say, “ and this is the Herculoids” and put all the bass back in, it'd be like “boom boom booom” He used to diss us crazy. We didn't speak. At all. He hated us. I really feel that.
Gentle Jones: I heard it was when Herc got stabbed that he kinda went off the scene for a while.
Scorpio: When he got stabbed, Herc was a big strong dude. What happened was somebody tried to steal his chain or some shit but he didn't go off the scene. When he recovered he was still around. That wasn't why we came up, we came up because we had the most talented emcees and the most talented DJ on planet earth. Our group was so unique compared to all the other groups, even the groups back then like the Cold Crush, we were so far ahead of them because of the style of routines and the realism of our raps.
Gentle Jones: How did your distinctive fashion come about?
Scorpio: We always dressed alike, even from back in the Bronx when we started rhyming. We all had Lee suits we would iron with a bunch of starch. We didn't come out individually, we always looked uniform. We was the criteria for rap for most of the other groups in the Bronx, the Cold Crush, Fantastic 5, the Funky 4, they all followed suit, because we was truly the leaders of it. And that's not coming from an arrogant space, that's just from a reality space. When we started getting our own individual mics and walk around with our own Mic cases and coming in the park, everybody else started buying Shure mics with the white case. We was just setting the trends. We did it big like that.
I had a lot to do with that because as far as the Furious Five I was the most fashionablest one as far as like my style. I used to go to Harlem and buy all my clothes from a spot called AJ Lester, I had a little more flair, but I think it was more like a united thing that the Furious Five all had to dress alike and hit the stage. We couldn't go on the road then with just jeans and sneakers. We was playing with groups like Parliament, Rick James, Prince, Zapp and Roger, and these cats was tight, it was theatrical, it was a show. It wasn't like OK I'm gonna wear the exact same thing the dude in the third row was wearing. We went on a 60 day tour and Al Haymon came after the first show and was like, “I like you guys, I want to be on the tour, but y'all need to come out with a little more,” And thats where we really started getting into our character. At that time there was a little punk rock going around and we were running with Rick James and them.
Gentle Jones: Did you know the record Scorpio was going to be such a huge hit when you recorded it?
Scorpio: Of course not. With Scorpio all we wanted was a song on the level of Planet Rock. So we did it but we had no idea how huge it was.
I remember we did a show with Rick James and he was all fired up and couldn't go on. He was doing his thing.
We used to make a lot of money with Rick because promoters would be like, “Yo, we can't find Rick! Can y'all go back out to the crowd? We will give you another $10,000.” So sometimes we would make triple the money, because you wouldn't ever know when Rick would come out.
So they asked to come back out, and we had already played all the records, I remember it was at Dallas Arena, 18,000 people there, and Rick's not there and we didn't know what to do so it was just like lets put on Scorpio and the crowd went crazy. To the point it scared us. The crowd was going bananas, and we had no idea we had a hit record like that. All over the country people was going crazy over the record and that is how we found out.
Gentle Jones: What were you all doing with Rick James?
Scorpio: Everything. He was like my father in this industry. I did it all with Rick. That was my dude We was freaks, man, we was straight freaks. You gotta understand we came up in the zone there wasn't all them diseases out there at the time it was a lot safer. You think about any given day being around Rick James and Prince all the time and think about the vibe, the climate then.
Gentle Jones: Whats the most naked girls you seen in a room at one time?
Scorpio: Its not that many... Maybe 10.
Gentle Jones: Laughing
Scorpio: That's not very much, it was just the ambiance of the time.
When we were doing Hip-Hop on tour it was really a revolution. It wasn't no violence or anything, but everywhere we went people didn't know what it was. We would go places and people would be like where the fuck is the band? What seems so natural, to get on stage with just the turntables and the mic, yo, we fought for that. The whole south was big on bands. So when we came on the stage with just the turntables and a Mic they didn't know what that was, all they know is that they heard the record on the radio. And they loved the record but when they came out and saw just turntables and a mic they were like what the heck? They thought they was getting cheated. We couldn't get away with what you would have identified as the Bronx, we couldn't go out there with just our Sassoon jeans and sneakers. By the time Run and them came out it was full blown, like OK this is Hip-Hop, but they stripped it down. They still wore the leather, but without the spikes and studs, and they wore sneakers. But the leather, that was our era and that was us. That wasn't Prince. That wasn't Rick. That was us.