The last edition of “100 Jawns That Changed My Life” covered the years of 1983 to 1985. During this time, Hip Hop and Rap went from being a subculture that some thought was a fad to a national then global phenomenon after the fallout from the release of two seminal Hip Hop films, “Style Wars” & “Wild Style”. After these two movies were released, Hollywood and Madison Avenue came calling. Next thing you knew, rappers, DJ’s & B-Boys were all over the place. LL Cool J was on American Bandstand. Run DMC’s “Rock Box” was on MTV when the only Black person allowed in the building was that VJ.
The next installment will cover the years of 1985 to 1987, we’re officially in the Crack Era as well as entering Hip Hop’s first Golden Era. The second all Hip Hop radio show in the entire country began in Boston, Magnus Johnstone’s Leccos Lemma Show. Not only that, but during this same time over at Harvard University Jonathan Shecter & Dave Mays (AKA BMOC) start the Street Beat radio show (which would eventually lead to them starting The Source in Boston a few years later). Not only was I being influenced by national acts but local ones. New Edition were stars and I remember them whipping around town on scooters when they were home and stealing everyone’s girlfriends.
Enough lead in, let’s go to work:
41. LL Cool J “Rock The Bells” 
“Rock The Bells” was one of those songs that you threw on and folks went crazy. Back then, people used to dance. Even the thugs. Occasionally a weapon fell out while they were dancing. Never forget the visual of seeing someone reach down to pick up a weapon then realizing they still had theirs just to locate the person whose butterfly knife had actually hit the floor. God bless Roxbury…
Back in the days, rather than play a song every time someone requested it and to avoid playing it “too much”, radio played popular songs at the top of every hour. “The Show” & “La Di Da Di” got played at the top of every hour in Boston. That Summer, our father took my big brother Dave, myself & my younger brother to Mount Vernon, NY where these two songs were also played at the top of every hour on the radio.
There was talk of a rapping neighbor named Dwight, a young kid named Peter who was supposedly some great DJ and this other kid named Sean that often raided my aunt’s refrigerator that my cousins told me “could dance his ass off”. Dwight was Heavy D, Peter was Pete Rock and that kid Sean is now known as Diddy. My brother went back for several summers afterwards. I got stories for days, mayne…
43. The B-Boys “Girls Pts. 1 & 2″ 
I loved this record but mainly because the instrumental was used in blends by the DJ’s at WRBB for about 18 straight months. Anything you can imagine, you’d hear the beat to “Girls” beneath it. I swear I heard it blended with Stetsasonic’s “Sally”once, picked up the phone and called the radio station to tell the DJ to stop using “Girls” for blends. I never heard it used for blends again after that. I wonder if I just dreamt it or if I actually called or not, though?
44. Mixmaster Gee & The Turntable Orchestra “The Manipulator” 
My big brother Dave used to make pause tapes off the radio and play them around the house. He and his friends used to battle to have the livest tapes and it was my responsibility to make sure if a fresh song came on to record it if he wasn’t around. Also, if there’s a new song we want to tape we need to try to get the whole thing. After LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells” if I heard any song with a bell or a bell tone I just pressed the [II] button and let it record. That’s how we recorded ‘The Manipulator” the first time. Then later came “Breaking Bells” from T La Rock & “Peter Piper” by Run DMC. This song is now recognized as a classic & I first recorded it because I heard “Ding!”.
45. Run DMC “King Of Rock” 
This is obvious. Run DMC were like superheroes to me (and everyone else in Boston). A lot of times, Rap groups came to Boston and shit got serious. When Run DMC came here it was almost as if they were doing shows at home. Jam Master Jay has family here and from the first Run DMC 12″s it was almost as if Boston adopted Run DMC somehow. This video became huge for Run DMC and it almost completely crossed them over to the mainstream. Even if you had a vague idea of what Rap was, you at least knew Run DMC & LL Cool J.
46. Mantronix “Fresh Is The Word” 
Mantronix was popular with B-Boys and especially girls. In particular, Puerto Rican girls. I grew up in the South End and I used to go to the Blackstone Elementary School which is near Villa Victoria, a mostly Latino housing development. At the time Mantronix came out, I was going to Josiah Quincy Elementary in Chinatown (but a 10 minute walk from Villa Victoria. Boston is a small ass city) but all of those girls were in love with Kurtis Mantronik.
They used to rap all of MC Tee’s words at recess and I was confused. I thought they thought Mantronik was the one rapping instead of MC Tee. I was about to tell them until I got tackled by Mariano Rue who told me “If you tell them, they might hate you forever”. I decided not to tell ‘em. I didn’t want Blanca, Marisol, Evelys, Glomerys, Ibelca, Idalis, Analisa or Merissa (her mom was Black) to hate me when I got older. Good call, Mariano.
47. Bad Boys f/K Love “Veronica” 
This song was X rated (even said so on the label) and they used to clean it up by doing scratches when they played it on the radio even though it had a radio version. I remember hearing the uncut version because one of my brother’s friends had the record and standing there with my jaw on the floor. The song is actually really dope given it’s raunchy & misogynistic. Ashley Judd would hate it. K-Love on the beatbox.
48. Super Kids “The Tragedy (Don’t Do It)” 
I remember hearing a rumor that the kid rapping on this song wasn’t much older than me. I said “Fuck that” and started writing rhymes shortly after hearing “The Tragedy”. I had NO clue that I’d be listening to the emcee that was on this same song for the next 25 years, though. That kid Percy Chapman grew up to be Tragedy AKA Intelligent Hoodlum AKA Tragedy Khadafi. Crazy…
These two songs transformed my life. I’ll never forget when these songs first got played on the radio because it’s all anyone would talk about. If you didn’t have those songs on tape then you weren’t shit. If you didn’t know those bars you couldn’t be down. Rakim didn’t sound like Run DMC. That dude rapped like nobody else did. When I finally saw a picture of Eric B & Rakim in a magazine based on Rakim’s voice I though he was Eric B. It wasn’t until my brother’s friend Trent told me that Rakim was the little guy that I even realized what he looked like. I’d assumed HE was the DJ. Then I was just confused as hell for a while…
50. Run DMC “My Adidas” 
Run DMC. Adidas. South End & Roxbury, Boston during the Crack Era. We had Crystal’s downtown and Harry The Greek’s in the South End where we could buy Adidas. I wanted Adidas for the longest but my brother Dave was a Nike head (I know, I know) and he refused to buy me Adidas because they were in his words “the official sneaker of thugs & hoods”. Back then we had Intervale Posse (IVP), Corbet Street Crew (CSC) & the X-Men as major gangs who stayed head to toe in Adidas. The Almighty RSO Crew looked like they already had an Adidas endorsement deal on their “We’ll Remember You” 12″ cover!
There was the Adidas Tree, Adidas Park, the old Adidas Crew gang and South End, Roxbury & Dorchester rocked so much Adidas you’d swear Adi Dassler was buried at the Old North Church. I BADLY wanted some Adidas but my brother wanted to get me Nikes. We compromised & he copped me some White on Black Reeboks (they were new back then) instead. No one would dare try to stab me over my brand new Reeboks when I was at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury. No one. Not a soul. At least they were a step up from the all grey Brentmore Pros I got clowned for rockin’ before. Thanks Ma…
51. Just-Ice f/DMX “Latoya” 
My little brother Buc and I started doing these little rap routines and one of the first ones we ever did was a spinoff of Just-Ice & DMX’s “Latoya”. I think we called it “La Choy-a” after the fake ass Chinese food “La Choy” they used to sell back in the days. They had a racist ass Kung Fu commercial with an Asian dude pretending to be Bruce Lee fighting off a gang of thugs with a dub over talking about “Give me back…my…La Choy!”. All the kids at school knew the words to “Latoya”.
52. Boogie Down Productions “South Bronx” 
The “Bridge Wars” were in full effect and “South Bronx” was a huge answer record to MC Shan’s ‘The Bridge”. Forget for a moment that there was no point in “The Bridge” where MC Shan ever claimed that Hip Hop started in Queensbridge. He never once made that claim. “South Bronx” was a monster beat and a huge song. Folks used to play that song around here and turn the volume down during the chorus when they said “Bronx” and replace it with “End” so it became “South End! South! South End!” instead. Kids are inventive like that.
53. Ice T “6 N’ The Mornin’” 
Back when I heard this record, my world had changed. I graduated from the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown & went to the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury. The Quincy was next to the infamous Combat Zone and while I saw some crazy stuff over there I was completely immersed in it at the Timilty. Going to school & coming back home was like navigating the killing fields daily. Crack changed everything.
Teenagers had cars, gold chains, guns and crackheads were plentiful. There was a drug kingpin named God around at that time as well. The movie “In Too Deep” actually happened in Boston. I went to school with 8th graders that bragged about their new uzis & getting blowjobs from crackheads. All my friends talked about were cartoons, comic books, the Celtics or the Red Sox. Ice T’s song was about this new dangerous world I was experiencing all around me…
That Beastie Boys record was everywhere. Everyone had that tape. My brother’s friend John “Lucky” O’Neill (he was Black. I KNOW) lived in Hammond Street Projects, rocked Adidas and played this tape to death in his Walkman. TO DEATH. When I went to school in Roxbury I’d hear this Beastie Boys album playing at all hours. Oddly enough, the hoods & the drug dealers in Madison Park Village were partial to playing “Brass Monkey” on repeat.
I can just see them in Coca Cola gear, Adidas & stop watches over dookie ropes with all the girls around their new cars that they didn’t even have a place to park. I had to walk through or past Madison Park Village, Whittier St. Homes, Ruggles St., Roxse Homes AND Hammond Street Projects to get home as a kid. My boy Berwyn Holder called it a “Daily Death March”. If the Bromley/Heath, Lenox Street or Academy Homes thugs were out? Bodies guaranteed…
55. Whodini “Funky Beat” 
I loved this song. We tried to record it off the radio but there was another cheesy ass song by Midnight Star that started “Extra Extra! Read all about it!” too called “Headlines” that used to fake us the fuck out when we ran to press the [II] button on the radio to record. In the end, we got so frustrated that my brother & his boy Troy just went to Record Town and Strawberries to cop the “Funky Beat” 12″ and the “Back In Black” album. Grandmaster Dee bodied his verse, by the way. Oooooh weee! © Ecstacy
56. The Almighty RSO Crew “The Greatest Show On Earth” 
Local Rap group The Almighty RSO Crew went over to Boot Records to record their first 12″ “The Greatest Show On Earth”. Back then my cousin was known as Emo E and he and his boy Big Chuck (Google him) were in a group called Body Rock Crew. Orangeman would bounce from RSO and Emo E would join in his place. Soon he’d take the more suitable name E Devious. These cats were all regulars on Magnus Johnstone’s Leccos Lemma show, which was only the second Rap radio show in the entire nation after Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack Show.
57. White Boy Crew “Popeye Rap” 
White Boy Crew consisted of Popeye & Spinach on the beat box. My sister knew Popeye as “Seth”. One kid was from Boston and the other was from Cambridge. I heard this song for the first time as a routine they did live on Lecco’s Lemma with no music, just Spinach beatboxing. Shit blew my mind, son! They did the routine on record for the compilation “Boston Goes Def!” on Beautiful Sounds Records but it just wasn’t the same. Some people preferred the song version but I want to hear the live version I feel in love with as a kid again.
58. Fresh To Impress Crew “Suzi Q” 
Fresh To Impress Crew featured the legendary beatboxer A Train (who beat many of New York’s greatest beatboxers in battles regularly) and a 16 year old kid named Edo Rock who was brand new to the crew. The also went on to record another jam called ‘Monsters!” later on but “Suzi Q” and “Power In Our Rhymes” from Body Rock Crew were my favorite songs from that record, hands down.
59. Skinny Boys “Jock Box (America Loves The Skinny Boys)” 
The Skinny Boys were from Bridgeport, CT and we were very familiar with them in Boston. Their album “Weightless” was a classic and my favorite song off that album was “Jock Box (America Loves The Skinny Boys)”. Super Jay, Shockin’ Shaun & Jock Box were monsters on this record. I think this album was even better than the Fat Boys “Crushin’” (which was their best overall album and their last one worth buying). Jock Box bodied this track and it was on at least three different tapes. My brother Dave was like “DON’T RECORD “JOCK BOX” AGAIN!”
60. Gang Starr Posse “The Lesson” 
Keithy E & Mike Dee moved to New York a while back but they’d finally got a record deal with K-Tel/Wild Pitch and the song was called “The Lesson”. I couldn’t believe it. A rapper from Boston finally had a record out getting burn! I remember MC Spice got signed to a major around the same time but that song was garbage. Next, Atlantic signed MC Lyte and First Priority Music jumped off. The only people that remembered MC Spice was the first rapper ever signed to Atlantic wore nothing but Adidas and used slang no one else in the country would dare use. On dogs…
NEXT UP: 100 Hip Hop Jawns That Changed My Life (Compiled by Dart Adams) Part Four (61-80)