Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop History
This is living online documentation of Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop history. Historical content will be added as it is shared with grhiphop.org
Recap from an Interview with Vito and Freeze of Fantasy/EURO-K/The Realist (4/24/21)
Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop pioneers and siblings, Vito and Freeze, grew up on Watkins St SE in the 70s and early 80s. They fell in love with rap music as pre-teens. Vito meets meets his soon to be homie, Holly Rock, in 1979 at GVSU in the Upward Bound program. They become friends right away and start writing raps together. One of the first rhymes they wrote together was a rhyme about one of their counselors, Arnie Smith, and they would bust this rap in front of the other students in the program that would go wild. After that, they started writing raps together about anything. In 1979 Freeze was poppin' and not emceeing yet. Freeze was one of best popper in Grand Rapids at the time. The first crew they formed was called Fantasy (which became Fantasy 4 when they added their homie Shon Shaw as a second dancer).
WKWM Talent Show (79-82?)
- Fantasy 4 rapped original lyrics (Vito & Holly Rock as emcees, Freeze & Shon Shaw as dancers)
- Fantasy 4 was the first emcee/group to rap original lyrics at a scheduled public performance in Grand Rapids
EURO-K (Vito, Freeze, Trent) was the first in Grand Rapids to release a rap record: "Swing It" on the A side/"Wild Thing" on the B side (12") in 1986 on Pit Records. The record was home pressed at Archer Records in Detroit. The record sold 500 copies in the first 3 weeks (1986). Vito made the beat for "Swing It" with a guy named Will Smith in Vito's mom's basement. Will Smith had one of the first samplers in Grand Rapids in the early 80s. For "Swing It" they sampled the 808 from Original Concept's "Pump That Bass". Having the 808 on their first record was groundbreaking for Grand Rapids Hip Hop at this time because they sampled it instead of using an 808 machine. Nobody had done this yet as far as we know in Grand Rapids.
Fantasy was the first in Grand Rapids to be emceeing original lyrics over their own original beats. Vito was making beats as early as 1980/1981. He would rent Chucky Johnson's drum machine for $8 an hour. Chucky Johnson was in a Grand Rapids R & B band at the time. One of the first songs Vito wrote to one of his original beats was "My 98" about a car he and the fellas wanted.
EURO-K was the first to bring rap to area recording studios. Prior to EURO-K, no one was recording rap music in area recording studios. A dude named Kirby Crump helped them get into their first recording studio. They think he may have wanted to be their manager and ended up setting up their first studio recording session at Albo Studios. After that, EURO-K started booking their own studio sessions. They also recorded at Fast Tracks (Jenison), River City, and others.
EURO-K signed with Profile Records (Rap Label) in 1988. At the time, Run-DMC, Special Ed, and Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock were signed to the label. EURO-K was the first emcee/group to be signed to a record label from Grand Rapids, MI. They got an album and a music video out of the deal.
EXCLUSIVE Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop History Discussion with Vito and Freeze of EURO-K and Robert S
Monk Matthaeus of GRHipHop.org was able to sit down with these true pioneers of Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop on June 6, 2021 to discuss the earliest days of Grand Rapids Hip Hop and their unique relationships and history together. The video was shot by Breakfast In Bed.
Recap Conversation with DJ David Cain (4/26/21)
DJ David Cain was on WEHB (1987-1988) under the handle, DJ Spinbad. He rocked alongside DJ Grim Reaper (James Sims). Their show aired after Mikey Mike and Frankie J.
DJ Grim Reaper cut for Robert S on a couple of his singles. DJ Grim Reaper was originally from Benton Harbor but landed in GR via GRCC.
David Cain spun at "Club Pizzazz" @ 645 South Division every weekend. That club was called "Bill's Retreat" when it first opened in 1985.
DJ David Cain and Robert S attended the New Music Seminar in NYC (1987). Robert S battled Grandmaster Melle Mel in the Battle For World Supremacy. Melle Mel defeated Robert S but it was close and Robert S represented Grand Rapids, MI well. DJ David Cain stated, "He (Robert S) held his own against the legend. I witnessed it!. We didn't even think about any pictures back then. I wish I had bought a disposable camera now!" DJ David Cain's New Music Seminar badge says "Chicago, IL" because I was in the "Let's Dance" Record Pool. There were no record pools in Grand Rapids at the time for deejays.
Peep the video link below for early Grand Rapids, MI Hip Hop History
The History of Grand Rapids Hip Hop pt. 1
Pioneers and participants of the first and second generation of Grand Rapids Hip-Hop. Hear their stories and details of the origins of the local scene - directly from them.
Did you know a Grand Rapids artist was the first rapper ever signed to a record deal with Epic Records - at the same time Michael Jackson was with the label (during the “Thriller” era)? The same label that is now home to Rick Ross, Tribe Called Quest, and many more. Did you know a Grand Rapids rap group was the first Michigan rappers to have a video on MTV? Hear these stories and more. Featuring: Tony Tate (Dancer), Chris Cross of (New Concept), Atricia Banks of (Rhun Girl Run), Robert S, Governor Slugwell (GRHHC) and moderator Jonathan Jelks (GR USA).
This series will be ongoing, generation by generation, as we are filming each episode for an official History of Grand Rapids HipHop documentary. We hope everyone will join in on helping us account for all the rich characters, events and music that helped shape up, what became and is becoming Grand Rapids HipHop. And so that we may also properly pass the baton to the next generations to follow.
Video Production by
Wealthy Theatre & GRTV
January 25, 2017