Everyone has a favorite genre of music, and a time period that they feel it was at its best. For me that genre is hip-hop and that time frame was the early-to-mid-nineties. This was a time when creativity peaked and bling was on the back burner. I'm not saying it doesn't exist today, but the game changers from that era paved the way for artists today like Drake and Nicki Minaj to creatively shine. Some of my favorite game changers that emerged from that early '90s era were Das EFX with their 'iggedy, iggedy' style. Another game changer was M.O.P with their hip-hop rock band flow. Recently in New York (known to many as the birthplace of hip-hop) the non-profit City Parks Foundation's free performing arts festival, SummerStage hosted the Rock Steady Crew's (known as the pioneers of hip-hop dance) annual hip-hop concert. Now in its 37th year, this legendary event has featured scores of famous hip-hop artists. I had a chance to have a conversation with some of the featured artists and their contributions to the hip-hop game.
Das EFX consists of emcees Dray (AKA Krazy Drayz), and Skoob (AKA Boogee Bang ). They named themselves "DAS" standing for "Drayz and Skoob" and "EFX" meaning "effects." The pair met while attending Virginia State University in 1992. Das EFX and their unique style caught the attention of the rap duo EPMD at a local talent show, who helped them solidify a recording contract. Das EFX took the hip-hop world by storm with the release of their debut album Dead Serious that showcased their unusual flow which they nicknamed "sewa iggedy." The style was a combination of fast-paced, witty flows that ended with the word, "iggedy." Their unique style influenced artists such as Lords of the Underground, Kris Kross, and countless others.
Q: How did you get your unique style?
Skoob: (Laughs) Back then I just thought I was the nicest rapper in the world! This was back in the days, so when you wrote rhymes and were influenced by artists that came before you. We were hungry and wanted to be on the radio and be different. I wanted heads to be like "Yo! Who is that?!"
Q: When you reminisce about hip-hop what does that mean for you?
Skoob: It's a lifestyle, from Run DMC to shell top Adidas. It was like seeing an image of myself in the masses, and they felt the same way as I did. Also it was the collective of my musical history, because of all the sampling.
Q: What do you think about the direction of hip-hop today?
Dray: It's like the wild wild west. Like the gold rush in San Francisco back in the day, with everyone trying to get out there. You have Iggy Azalea flocking in from Australia, and Drake from Canada and Lil Wayne from New Orleans. It's like a country with no president; it's wide open. I'm still a student in the game trying to express myself, and it's a very different game since Das EFX came out in 1992. It's like the stock market, you have to see what goes up and comes down, and adapt accordingly.
Q: How is Das EFX adapting today? What are your current projects?
Dray: Currently as a group we do shows all over the world. We just returned from Germany and performed at Radio City Music Hall a few weeks ago. I have an album called Showtime Encore that I'm shopping for distribution, but you can check out the mix tape I have out now called Faith. My partner Skoob is releasing a few videos and singles in anticipation for his solo project called Resilience. He is also launching a signature line of cigars.
Q; How do you feel about the Rock Steady Crew:
Dray: They are the truest representation of Hip-Hop Culture
Hip-Hop group M.O.P short for Mash Out Pose is a Brownsville Brooklyn duo composed of childhood friends Billy Danze and Lil' Fame. Their unique aggressive lyrical style has always been a favorite of the underground. Their classic single, "How About Some Hardcore?" appeared on the soundtrack for the film, House Party 3. Their mainstream success single "Anti-Up" was released in 2000 and is still a huge head banger today. M.O.P has collaborated with hip-hop heavyweights such as DJ Premier, 50 cent, Busta Rhymes and many others.
Q: I always describe M.O.P as a band without instruments, especially after hearing the album with rock group, Shiner Massive. Can you elaborate?
Lil' Fame: We loved collaborating with Shiner Massive! It was hooked up by our boy Lazy Laz. He put our vocals on their beats, and it just worked. We actually never went into the studio with them. The album came out on Koch records, right after we left Rocafella Records.
Q: Is there a link between underground hip-hop and underground rock?
Billy Danze: Yes the link is the artistry and integrity of the music. Underground music is less manufactured, because artist just do what they want to do without any stipulations and backlash from media. A lot of times underground artists find their comfort zone here, but later they kick themselves for not taking advantage of commercial success (at least monetarily).
Q: What up-coming artists do you like?:
Billy Danze: I like the energy that Ace Hoody brings, and I also like Troy Ave representing the new Brooklyn.
Q: How do you feel about representing for Rock Steady Crew?
Lil' Fame: Rock Steady encompasses the entire element of Hip-Hop culture; they have inspired us with their energy always. We are honored to perform with them.
The Rock Steady Crew was established in 1977 by Bronx b-boys Jimmy D and Jimmy Lee on the streets of the Bronx as a hip-hop dance crew. They established the bar for Hip-Hop dance and culture which has become a worldwide phenomenon. At the helm of the crew is Crazy Legs who has currently retired from dancing with Rock Steady Crew (his last public performance was at SummerStage in Central Park in 2013), but still choreographs and teaches workshops worldwide. He is currently focused on his project, Puerto Rock Steady. Crazy Legs will be moving his collection of hip-hop photos, video's and personal artifacts to The Cornell Hip-Hop Collection where he is a board member To learn more about this project please visit: PreservingHipHop.org.
Here is what Crazy Legs had to say about the show: "The lineup was so incredible! We always try to make sure that New York is very well represented. People are coming from all over to the Mecca of hip-hop to walk away with the elements of the experience. I want them to leave knowing they experienced hip-hop in every way, shape and form."
SummerStage produced by the non-profit City Parks Foundation is New York's largest free performing arts festival, bringing over 100 free performances to 14 parks throughout the five boroughs. With performances ranging from American pop, Hip-Hop, Latin and World music to dance, comedy and theater, SummerStage fills a vital niche in New York City's summer arts festival landscape. Since its inception twenty-nine years ago, more than six million people from New York City and around the world have enjoyed SummerStage. The festival runs from June 3rd to August 24th. www.SummerStage.org
Slide Show of Performance Highlights: