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  Historical content will be added as it is shared with grhiphop.org

80s-90s

Historical account of TMF Cloak / NXICON (5/26/22)

I moved back to Grand Rapids in 1987 after being released from probation in Lansing.  I was already into music by then having performed for the then governor of Lansing and at various festivals in and around Lansing.  By the time I came back to Grand Rapids, I was going by the name of The Gangster Prince and had hooked up with a DJ/Beatboxer, Roosevelt Brown aka DJ Rose.  He was a part of another group.  I can’t remember what they were called but it was him, Michael Bray, Will Russau and Tina Patterson.  I became a part of that group but too many issues kept us from moving forward so the group disbanded.  DJ Rose and I stayed together and began going to Stockbridge Studios off of Leonard around 1989-1991.  That was where I first started recording my demos.  I was staying on Delaware at the time at my grandmother’s .  Vito and Freeze stayed around the corner on Watkins.  I came across Vito first.  I think it was at a performance when they were known as EURO-K.  At that time Robert S had came out with Big Words and they had I think, Wild Thing.  I got to know Robert S because my cousin and his sisters were and still are lifelong friends.  At the time, I was still getting the feel of the studios and recording.  Up until that point everything was freestyles, rap battles, and live performances.  There weren’t that many people really out there like that at the time doing rap.  There was LONDEN E (Donnell Adkinson RIP) and BROOKLYN VON SHADE (Gerald Cage) of The LYF SUX POSSE (LSP) and there was a female group called CLECHE’ that sang mostly.  There was Janice Brown.  I don’t remember her stage name but we formed a group (short-lived) called BASSHEADs and then she became apart of another group.  I want to say they were called PROPHECY and they released a single on KJ RECORDS.

 

The biggest thing out of Grand Rapids at the time were DeBarge and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Even after I moved back to Grand Rapids, most of my rap battles were outside of the city.  Grand Rapids really wasn’t battle rap city to me.  Grand rapids was on a whole other level as far as that went.  We all tried to collaborate.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.  But there was never, to my knowledge, any REAL rap beefs in Grand Rapids.  Everybody found their lane and that’s pretty much where you were.

 

I came across WEHB and The Other Brothers around 1989 and that was where things started to take off radio wise.  I was performing in various spots around Grand Rapids.  The old Intersection was my first club performance.  Then I performed at another club where I was the opening act for a Rock band called THE NAMELESS.  At that time Hip Hop was really just coming into Fruition in Grand Rapids. Not a lot of venues were open to booking rap at that time.  If you got a venue to book you, that was a big thing.

 

So I would say that Robert S and EURO-K were the trailblazers as far as rap and hip hop in Grand Rapids.  ICEMAN JA (John Trice) was coming up with DANCE TRANSFORMER within the Miami bass movement.  Robert S was on EPIC and EURO-K was signed to Profile.  So they really became the go to for a sense of direction, advice, and insight.  The rest of us were trying to get to that point.  The biggest problem  then was EGO.  We may not all have been able to work together but we did support each other.  That’s what made Vito different in my book.  He always answered the questions.  Always willing to teach.  Always willing to listen.  That was where I learned about beat programming.  There were so many people trying to do music in Grand Rapids but nobody really put that much into it as they should have.  That’s what I remember.  There were so many that could have been great but now they’re nameless faces of the industry.

 

DJ Mikey Mike and Franky J were the hottest DJs in Grand rapids on WEHB 89.9.  To me WKWM was their only rival.  They broke a lot of new and independent artists that WKWM ignored.  But once your star shined on WEHB then WKWM wanted you on their station.  They played everything I recorded and because of them, I started gaining some notoriety.  You had Ben Mcgliechy and Emmanuel “Mackaroni” Davis (RIP) throwing events and trying to help out artists but those artists were flash in the pans, that is, here today gone tomorrow artists.  A lot of them fell off with the Grand Rapids Arts Festival.  They wanted to perform as they recorded and if anybody knows Grand Rapids, especially if you’re born and raised GR, you know they are not having it.  So a lot of potentially great artists limited themselves by not wanting to alter their lyrics for the audiences.  I even pushed the envelope at the time because I wrote and performed a song at the festival intentionally directed at two GRPD officers that had harassed me.  I intentionally mentioned their names in the song and pointed them out at the festival because they had shown up there.  That was in 1992 or 1993.

 

There were the house parties that The OTHER BROS threw on the weekend that gave artists a place to have fun and bless the mic.  There were no shootings.  There may be a fight here or there but it was never anything major and the beefs never lasted or got anybody killed.

 

I’d say around 1990 or so, Robert S and his DJ Diego did production on my first OFFICIAL demo song called “UNKNOWN FACTOR” and introduced me to ROB REISTER of FAST TRAX Studios in Jenison.  I was experimenting with sampling then and Robert was the guy at that time for that.  Because of the sampling issue, though, I couldn’t push the music like I wanted to.  I still continued to perform live.  After that, I moved on to continue recording and producing and continued working with THE OTHER BROTHERS.  Because of them a lot of people were noticed.  Through them I was introduced to Mackaroni and Ben who had heard about me and eventually got to see me perform through STAR CONNECTION.

 

Jim Krews ‘The Spoon Man’ and Star Connection was a talent agency in Grand Rapids.  Jim Krewsinki played the spoons but also worked as a booking agent for other talents.  To my knowledge, I was the only rap artist affiliated with his agency.  Working for him got me traveling to various cities.  He opened a lot of doors for me which led me to Mackaroni and Ben.  Mackaroni introduced me to PRICE WEST who was just starting KJ RECORDS.  That was where I met Janice.  We were the first two artists that Mr. West signed to his label. My signing made the GRAND RAPIDS TIMES.  It was through KJ RECORDS that my album DO OR DIE was released under TMF CLOAK.

 

People can say what they want but Grand Rapids had and still has some bona fide talent.  But the history of it has to be understood with ALL of the people that made it possible.  Not Just Robert S and EURO K but ICEMAN JA, Eric Smith of Stockbridge Studios, Rob Reister, Red Eye Studios on Eastern Ave (I was recording at Red Eye Studios the day that 2PAC died in 1996), LSP, LESTER KEY of OFFBEAT Productions, the Londens and Brooklyns of Grand Rapids, and others.  No not all of us made it big but we all contributed to the hip hop movement.  The Grand Rapids Arts Festival was where it was at.  Everybody keeps saying Detroit this and Detroit that and I’m not knocking or hating on Detroit but there was just as much if not more talent in Grand Rapids at that time.  The problem was that the major labels always wanted you to claim Detroit as your base even if it wasn’t and a lot of us took the bait.

 

No, Grand rapids wasn’t a Hip-Hop Mecca but it still earned its place and it was OUR Hip-Hop Mecca.  We had a camaraderie unlike any other because we supported and stood by each other.  You rarely in those days heard of anybody beefing in music.  If there was it was extremely minor because it was always about the music.  We may have had street beefs because of the click that ran around but this was outside of the music.  People that left always came back.  It was all love.  No jealousy.  No animosities that I ever saw or encountered. From East Grand Rapids to Wyoming and beyond.  We all had the music in common and simply wanted it to grow, to be accepted, and to be recognized for our contributions to it.  We all represented Grand Rapids in our own way and it showed.  Constantly and consistently.  

 - TMF Cloak / NXICON

 

History of Grand Rapids Hip Hop pt. 2

 

All the rich characters, events and music that helped shape what became and is becoming Grand Rapids HipHop.  May 15th, 2017 include some of the 2nd/3rd generation hiphoppas on a panel which includes artists that were on the fringe of the 2nd generation 86/87 of GR Hiphop and those who kicked in the door on the 3rd generation 96/97 of GR HipHop.

 

This series, brought to you by Wealthy Theatre, The Wege Foundation, Grand Rapids HipHop Coalition and The Love Movement Inc.(Official HipHop Non Profit), will be ongoing, generation by generation as we are filming each episode for an official History of Grand Rapids HipHop documentary.

 

Panelists include:
James (Jumbo) Owens
Troy (Ceaser) Braden
Tychuis (Shorty TY) Martin
Will (Raw G) Grandson
Will (DJ Rush Da Gullitine) Blackmon
Jimaine (SixMan) Wilson
Charles (Pofani) Ambrose,
Maurice (Izy Dope) Scott


With a special keynote address from Minister Server.

 

May 15th, 2017

Video Production by
Wealthy Theatre & GRTV

1990s - Albums & Singles (Tapes/CDs)

1992 C.O.D - kill-or-be-killed.jpeg

1992 (Tape - Album) C.O.D. - Kill or Be Killed
Smoove Records 

1993 Mac Ten - the-whole-ten-yards.jpeg

1993 (Tape - Album) Mac Ten - The Whole Ten Yards
Noisy Joint Productions

1994 New Concept - disturbing-the-peace

1993 (Tape - Maxi Single) New Concept - Disturbing the Peace -
Keylow Jam Records

 

1994 Rukus nowadays thangs ain't da same
1994 Rukus - nowadays thangs ain't da sa

1994 (Tape - Album) Rukus - Nowadays (Thangs Ain't Da Same)
Dog Records

1994 New Concept - papa-got-big-nuts 1.j

1994 (Tape - Single) New Concept - Papa Got Big Nuts
Keylow Jam Records

1996 Jekyll Hyde & The Darkside - born-d

1996 (Tape - Album) Jekyll & Hyde & The Darkside - Born Dead
Darkside Entertainment

1996 Mario - whats the solution MI front

1996 (Tape - Album) Mario - What's the Solution?
Up & Coming Records

darkman_heist-front.jpg

1998 (CD - Album) La The Darkman - Heist of the Century
Black Tools

1999 Nappy Head Assasins - aim-4-da-sky

1999 (CD - Album) Nappy Head Assasins - Aim 4 Da Sky
KJ Records

1999 Mario - Had To Be Cold IL front (CD

1999 (CD - Album) Mario - Had to Be Cold
Up & Coming Records

Sixman-Who Am I maxisingle.jpeg

1999 (Maxi Single - CD) Sixman - Who Am I
KJ Records

Recap Email Conversation with DJ Sham-Rock (5/12/21)

dj sham rock ry bread ryhmes the ebony t

DJ Sham-Rock, Ry Bread, & Rhymes The Ebony
at Ottawa Hills High School circa 1992-1993

A Short History of TS Dance & The Ottawa Hills Talent Show
By DJ Sham-Rock 

TS DANCE started blowing up before I got to Ottawa so I guess it starts way before they (my brother) were in high school.  Back at Dickinson Elementary, after school in the cafe gymatorium, there would be small get togethers.  These were little dance parties that my brother’s class would hold. Just a boom box and some tapes and there it was. These get togethers would happen either there or in our basement. Our basement was like a neighborhood and athletic celebration hub for a while. My dad was a coach so athletes were always at our house.  My sister was the captain of the volleyball ball team so even more during that time.  But for my brothers age group, if it wasn’t about Atari , it was a dance party.  Full circle along the wall around the entire basement.  We used my dad's old system to throw down. This is the same system I used to learn to deejay and scratch on.  Electric Kingdom, Shackles On My Feet, Play at your Own Risk, etc...

So you know, people would get in that circle and it was like a dance off kind of thing.  It was serious business, and my brother was all always dancing and things just got more and more serious as he went to high school.  Styles changed.  The patent leather shoes with the polkadots and stuff, merry go round, etc...  But they were doing a lot of scoob and scrap lover type stuff, more acrobatic style hip-hop dance and that was in during that time.  Sometimes I’d be at some of those practices and it was such a major event.  Man, they practiced hard.  I used to try and get on with my mixes and everything but they were like “naw, not ready yet.”  Omar Griffin (O the Composer) did the mixes most time I believe.  He would later be a mentor of mine.  Back in the day, Omar and his brother Will Blackmon (Rush the Guillotine) would be hired to DJ the parties at the O and were always killin’ it.  So getting back on track, TS Dance would perform during school events.  As a matter of fact, my old school friend Alexis Ader was a TS dancer for a second as well.  She was white and that was rare for a caucasian to make it into that group.  So TS did pep rallies and whatever.  But the real deal was the talent show at Ottawa Hills.  Of course they would perform there too and kill it. The Ottawa Hills talent show was also an opportunity for anyone else in the city to rock.  It was city wide.  

That’s how I started, being on stage with Omar and his group Double MS (Ministers of a Mad Society). Ryan (Ry Bread) and Terrell (Rhymes The Ebony) started with them as well.  Truthfully, I came in late.  I was rolling with Colice Usser (SP?) who rolled with Ontario Noel and Derrick Williams (DJ Brown Hornet) and they rolled with Vito from EURO-K.  I eventually started rolling with Brown Hornet and DJ Shonski (EURO-K's DJ).  I remember when Colice had to battle two emcees at lunch time: Hide and Seek (Ryan and Terrell).  I assume Ryan was Seek, because he wore glasses and kind of looked like MC Serch from 3rd Bass.  I never found out which was which.
Anyway, not too much longer after the battle, Colice went to a different school so it was just me.  But then Ryan moved around the corner from us.  That pretty much began the movement with us.  

Quazar Shaw (Facebook Post 6-23-22)

WOW....IN 1994....I WAS LEFT ALONE...DECIDED TO GO AND CHECK THE NIGHTLIFE IN GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN....FOUND THIS PLACE....IT WAS CALLED "Noel's Lark"....I SAT THERE AND WATCH THE DJ PLAY CASSETTE SINGLES, ALL NIGHT...I REMEMBER NOTICING ONE IN HIS BOOTH...IT WAS HEAVY D....I THINK, "Black Coffee".....ANYWAY....THE CROWD HOPPED UP & DOWN, ALL NIGHT...DANCING...THEN, SITTING TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT SONG....MOSTLY WAS WHAT THEY CALLED "BOOTY MUSIC" (Chicago house, Detroit techno, and Miami bass)....MY FIRST AND MAIN THOUGHT WAS THAT I'M GONNA MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS OUT HERE....LOL.....NOW, I'VE NEVER BEEN GREAT IN BUSINESS OR JUST STEPPIN' TO PEOPLE...SO, LOOKING BACK, I KNOW IT WAS GOD WHO MOVED ME, PUSHED ME, AND MEANT FOR ME TO BE...CAUSE, FOR SOME REASON, THE NEXT DAY, I CALLED AND WOULDN'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER...I GOT A MEETING WITH MR NOEL...THE OWNER....MET WITH HIM, DURING THE DAY...HE TRIED HIS BEST TO DISMISS ME, SAYING THAT HE DIDN'T NEED OR WANT ANOTHER DJ....I NOTICED THAT HE WAS WEST INDIAN...SO, I STARTED TALKING A LIKKLE PATOIS....HE STARTED RESPECTING ME....THAT GOT ME A CHANCE TO PLAY FOR A NIGHT...IF I ROCKED, I'M HIS DJ...IF NOT, I WOULD NEVER BOTHER HIM AGAIN....AND HE TRIED HIS BEST NOT TO LET ME BRING IN TURNTABLES OR RECORDS...SHOWING ME HIS BOOTH, WITH A TAPE DECK...AND ONE STRAIGHT ARM TURNTABLE, THAT...ALONG WITH ABOUT 20 OLD RECORDS, HAD ABOUT A QUARTER INCH OF THICK DUST ON IT...NO EXAGGERATION....
SO, I COME IN, THAT NEXT SATURDAY....WITH MY SYSTEM AND 3 CRATES OF RECORDS....THE BOOTH WAS WAY TOO SMALL, BUT THEY DIDN'T EVEN WANNA GIVE ME A TABLE...
FINALLY GOT IT...THE FEMALE BARTENDERS SNEERED AND TREATED MY LIKE SHYT....I PLAYED EAST COAST STUFF...MARY J, JODECI, JERU, SOUL II SOUL, ETC...AND CUTS FROM "The Chronic" AND SNOOP'S FIRST ALBUM.....I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT BOOTY MUSIC....
TOTALLY DEAD NIGHT....THEY DIDN'T DANCE AT ALL....OH, THEY DANCE TO HEAVY D...LOL....BUT, WALKED OFF THE FLOOR WHEN I MIXED IT AND THEN, ROCKED THE REMIX....AS I PACKED UP AT THE END OF THE NIGHT AND SAT BY THE DOOR, WAITING FOR THE CROWD TO LEAVE....I HEARD EVERYBODY, RIPPIN' ME A NEW ASSHOLE....I'LL NEVER FORGET...SOME DUDES WHO BECAME LIKE FAMILY TO ME (Wee-Wee, Michigan Moe, Devin Kyles ) WERE CALLING ME "DJ Skeletor" AND OTHER THINGS...CAUSE I HAD BIIIIIG ASS TEETH.
SOME MONTHS LATER, I ENDED UP MOVING TO THE HOOD...AND BECAUSE OF MY MANZ, Toro ( Latorious Willis )...THOSE SAME DUDES THREW A SPECIAL PARTY, SHOWCASING ME, "The Brooklyn Dj"....MY MANZ, Robert S. Womack ALWAYS SAYS THAT I CHANGED THE TEMPO IN GRAND RAPIDS...
A FEW YEARS LATER, THIS SPOT WAS BOUGHT BY THE TOWN MILLIONAIRE, ROOSEVELT TILLMAN....HE GUTTED OUT AND REBUILT THE WHOLE THING...NOW, IT WAS THE "Half Moon/Half Court" SPORTS BAR AND NITECLUB...HE CAME AND FOUND ME...AND BUILT A STATE OF THE ART DJ BOOTH & SOUND SYSTEM, FOR ME...TO ANY AND ALL SPECIFICATIONS THAT I COULD THINK OF....LIKE, ALL THE AMPS AND STUFF WERE IN THE BASEMENT...IN ORDER TO REMAIN COOL...A CLEAR & LIGHTED DANCEFLOOR...IT WAS A DOPE CLUB...AND I ROCKED IT...KEPT IT PACKED AND ROCKIN'... EVENTUALLY NEW MANAGEMENT AND UNDERHANDED POLITICS TOOK OVER AND I WAS LET GO...
BUT, I GOT ALOTTA GREAT HISTORY IN THIS BUILDING....I MET KEITH WASHINGTON IN THIS BUILDING....I MET, TALKED WITH, AND EXCHANGED NUMBERS WITH MY MANZ, THE COMEDIAN, Shang C. Forbes IN THIS BUILDING...WE TALKED, FOUND OUT WE WERE BOTH FROM BROOKLYN AND CLICKED...IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY, HE TALKED ABOUT HIS DAUGHTER, WHO WAS 3 YEARS OLD, AT THE TIME

YEAH....ALOTTA HISTORY IN THIS BUILDING...MY VERY FIRST START AS A DJ, IN THAT TOWN...WORD

 

Do you have Grand Rapids Hip Hop history to share from the 80s-90s?  Please hit us up on the contact page!