When I first moved to Illadelph (that's Philadelphia to the rest of y'all) some years back, I ain't even gonna front- I thought it was a wack city. Coming from New York- by way of Connecticut- had that typical NYC superiority complex and wasn't trying to give no love to anyplace else (which is really funny now, because every once in a while some native New York kid who doesnít know me from a can of Rustoleum will give me that same "oh he ain't from New York, he's from Philly" treatment- doesn't happen much, but I do get it sometimes).
Well, let me just say that my feelings on Philly have changed. Drastically. The Hip Hop nation had to give respect to the city of brotherly love in the mid '80s when deejays like Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Spinbad and D.J. Miz elevated turntable sorcery to unreached heights. And today you have newer talent like The Roots, Da Youngstas and Bahamadia (as well as a lot of underground acts that are just a step away from blowin' up like landmines) that are ushering in a whole new era for Philly.
But, as y'all know, this column is about beats. So the question is: how's Philly as far as the beats go? Truthfully, when you talk about record shopping, yo... it's been decimated. Dead ass. Back around '87, '88, '89, shit was-everywhere. And cheap, too. After the beat collecting frenzy started to catch on in the early nineties, stuff started to dry up. Brothers were even invading from out of town to raid record spots (you might remember The Beatnuts talking about going on a "Philadelphia beat mission" on their first e.p.). Nowadays you might catch some rare stuff, but you're gonna have to pay out the buttcheeks for it in most cases.
Now I'm sure that most of you out there who know your hip hop are aware that Philly is the original home of the world's greatest deejays. But Philadelphia also has it's share of beatmen. In fact, not many people know that one of the living legends of scratch, D.J. Cash Money, is a true crate digging fiend as well. Whenever I hit a used record store and start asking for all these obscure titles, the storeowner's reply is usually something like "you and that Cash Money are always asking for some weird records that I've never heard of"!
The multitude of deejays that I've talked to from all over the country who idolize Cash would no doubt be surprised to learn that he started out as a dancer before ever touching the wheels. "I used to be in a dance group", Cash told me. "There was this stuff called 'stepping' that was hot at the block parties. It never got out of Philly, though. I was with this group called The Franchise Dancers. Stepping was like doing Fred Astaire type stuff. I used to be th6 young boy of the group, back when I was in junior high in the seventies."
As fate would have it, this early Phillystyle hip hop experience led to Cash's inevitable destiny on the one and two. "This dude, Grand Wizard Rasheed, he was like the deejay of the group", Cash says, "and I was always amazed by him because he had all the beats like [Captain Sky's old school classic] 'Super Sporm'. He'd be pause tapin' em, then he got the turntables and he started cuttin' I'd be like, 'damn, man, I like this!' So I started imitating him. He showed me how to go back to back, how to stay on beat, blending records and stuff. I kept doing it until I got good, then I started doing little house parties." And you know this was back in the days when Cash says what kind of tables he was gettin' biz on. "I was using B-101s. To be honest with you, I never knew what 1200's were until I met Jazzy Jeff. I saw them on the Malcolm McClaren album, but I never knew what they were."
One of the biggest debates among Philly heads back then was over who was the nicest on the cut: Cash Money or Jazzy Jeff. "Being that I lived in the suburbs I had a lot of rep, but all the big parties was in the city", Cash told me. I was supposed to battle Jeff at this place called the Cozy Nook back in 1984. I'd never met him before, but they put me up against him for the battle."
Cash made it to the battle too late, but he and Jeff exchanged digits and got together later on. After seeing what Cash could do, Jeff hooked him up with the promoters for local parties and the rep began to blossom, although never quite as big as Jazzy's. "I was always overshadowed by him because he took a lot of my stuff and used it", Cash states very matter-of-factly. When I met Jeff he didn't have a lot of that fast stuff, that was my own originality. He was getting all the parties., so when I came up they were like, 'oh damn, another Jazzy Jeff'. We were the only two doing this style of scratch. [At this time] 'D.S.T.' scratches were out, and that's what Jeff was doing. He was sharp, he was on point. But all that [real fast scratching] was originated by me". By the way, Cash isn't referring to the notorious "Transformer" scratch, which came out a little later. "Transforming was invented by D.J. Spinbad [whose other claim to fame was deejaying for that hip-hop-smoothed-out-with-a-pop-appeal singing trio Bell Biv Devoe]. I saw this videotape he did, and he did this thing with 'It's Time' [the 1983 classic by Hashim]." Cash quickly learned the new style and took it to the next level, doubling up the speed and making rhythms with it. He dubbed it the Transformer, and before long, street disc jockeys all over the world were sweating the technique.
Cash Money's legend began to grow, eventually reaching the mecca of hip hop, New York. "We did a show at The Zodiac Cub, I think in the Bronx", recalls Cash. "I was scared because when you see [movies like] 'Wildstyle', they always show the dark side. I went up there with my Izod sweater, looking like a college student walking up there with two new 1200s! I couldn't believe we were doing a show ii New York because that was the bomb."
"At first when I was setting up niggas was laughing at me because of the way I had my turntables set up", Cash continued, "you know, sideways with the arm at the top. Plus I had a small mixer. My rapper Marvelous was nervous, so I told him to just let me go for self. And we ripped it! Everybody was saying, 'oh shit, he's using a machine!' Then we started doing shows at the Latin Quarter, that's when I really broke through. That was the spot."
Cash Money's wondrous turntable displays led to an album on Sleeping Bag, a string of contest victories (including the New Music Seminar World Supremacy title), and most recently touring the globe with P.M. Dawn ("A lot of niggas be sleeping on them", Cash asserts, "but the brother's gifted").
But again you ask...the beats! What about the beats??? Well, Cash is one of the few people Iíve met in this town that can go beat for beat with The Soulman, so respect must be given. From the days of catching old school breaks to cut up at jams, Cash now has crates and crates loaded with obscure joints that only the most dedicated beat zealots would ever be up on.
Which comes in handy when it's time to produce those phat tracks, the main thing that Cash Money's doing these days. keep an ear open for Cash's production skills on Bizmarkie's next album ("Me and Biz are like the best of friends, we talk almost every other day", Cash told me) and up and coming R&B group Nima, who just happen to also be his sisters. "I want people to know that Philly got some funk too. As far as the beats, I'll admit- a lot of the shit that comes out of here is wack. But it's not really representing the real niggas that's live like that on the beat side. I just want everybody to keep it real. because music is an expression."
Random Thoughts From The Soulman: Flavors in The Soulman's tape deck this month: Tha Alkaholiks featuring Diamond D, "The Next Level" (I've watched the video 537 times so far and I'm not tired of it yet); Mobb Deep featuring Nas and Raekwun The Chef, "An Eye For An Eye" (did Raekwon come off or what?); the new shit by Kool G Rap (time for that gold, yo); and The Nonce's debut album (I had the CD sitting in a corner somewhere for months because I HATE CDs...finally listened to it the other day and I'm glad I did because it's mad nice).
P.S.- By the way, that little dickheaded cartoon guy that you've seen on this page is NOT, I repeat, NOT The Soulman! It's just a little dickheaded cartoon guy.