Yesterday we dropped Part 1 to this story so check it out out is you missed it!
The list and range of ways that DJ Pill inspired me in this short period of time are rather impressive. Here are a few other key things:
Building A Crew: DJ Pill built of crew of other like-minded individuals who were on the Army Base and they were known as the House Rockers Nation. The main part of the crew, as I remember, was DJ Pill with MCs; Black Knight (NYC?), Dancy (NYC?), Mouse (LA? He was a DJ as well). 3D Crew were brought in as the young House Rockers. I think T.T.T and Champagne may have been official or at least affiliated as well.
The crew was ill. I remember watching them rock at the JC Skating Rink battles and other spots, just destroying the competition*. Not only was there a high level of talent, but a fantastic display of showmanship and just about as entertaining of personalities as they come. Every member of the crew was a character. A true class act. I have vivid images of a House Rockers Nation show highlight reel that play in my mind often.
DJ Pill knew the value of giving a show and enticing the crowd with some visual stimulation. He had this look on face that was a unique blend of confidence, coolness, smile, and smirk. He was certainly skillfully advanced, but he wasn’t afraid to sacrifice a little bit of the technical aspect to create a visual spectacle a.k.a eye candy. Two of my favorites moves were how he would throw the crossfader in the middle and then just simultaneously cut with both hands, with aforementioned expression boldly on his face. Or how you would see this extra turntable on the floor during their whole set and just assume it was spare equipment they didn’t need. Until the show finale and out of nowhere he was scratching with his feet! All of this was huge impression on me. When I formed my next crews, we borrowed, remixed, and created routines based on these great concepts and originality.
Production Inspiration: One day we went to DJ Pills spot and he was filled with the type of excitement that can’t be expressed by words. He quickly showed us why, he had just got his hands on a new toy, a Boss DR-110 Dr Rhythm Drum Machine!! Which is the featured image in this post.
That was his baby! He didn’t let anyone is his crew touch it at first. I remember just sitting there, watching it like it was some sort of alien technology, I was entranced by it. Pill must have noticed my, for lack of a more extreme word, intrigue. When I was about to go, he said to me, something like, “You really love this drum machine don’t you?” I responded to make that very clear. His next words probably left me a little light-headed…ha. “Do you want to take it home to check it out?” Before I could even respond, his crew was expressing their confusion and frustration… “How can we not even touch it, but the 15 year old can take it home??!!” DJ Pill answered the best way possible, “It’s mine and I can do what I want.”
I was excited and nervous. It was a great opportunity and a big responsibility. I promised myself to be careful and not let him regret his decision. That night there was no getting me to turn that thing off and go to sleep. I had it plugged into my Sharp GF-575 Box and was programming beats, studying the manual, and learning techniques for countless hours. I remember the first beat I wanted to master recreating was Jimmy Spicers “Beat The Clock”. In any event, the next day DJ Pill came to pick it up with a touch of nervousness as he asked for “his baby”. I returned it to him, but not before showing him what I had made and learned. That included a few functions he didn’t know about, he was impressed. From that point on, I was hungry for more Drum Machine action. A year later I would get my hands on a Roland TR-505, a story within itself, then later graduated to the Roland TR-808, and finally the SP-12.
Jimmy Spicer-Beat The Clock: This is probably the first Drum Machine beat that really caught my attention and made me think about production. I used to play it on the table tops all the time with my hands and then it was the first thing I learned to program in a drum machine. Produced by the magnificent Rick Rubin:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Beat-The-Clock.mp3|titles=Beat The Clock]
PERSONAL MINI-BLOCK PARTY: Thru all this time, my main focus was mastering rhyming. MC Coolie, that was me, and I was trying to take out any competition I could. However, I was always mesmorized by DJs and what they did. I would watch very carefully. At Pill’s house, in our sessions, if he would take a break I would jump on the turntables while my crew kept kicking rhymes. I didn’t think much about it.
For part of the Summer of ’85 I went off on a vacation on my own for my first time without my family. I spent several weeks with relatives in Galesburg, IL, which I call my default Hometown. Upon my arrival back, my parents had partnered with MC TNT to throw me a welcome back party. They invited all cool kids and cute girls and most importantly, arranged for DJ Pill to bring his full set up to our driveway to throwdown. OK, you have to imagine how cool this makes you like to your peers; Your parents throw you this cool mini-block party and they have the knowledge to book the hottest DJ in town. That sort of thing does not hurt your dating or props game. Trust me…ha.
This is definitely one of the most memorable parties I’ve ever been to. We danced, partied, kicked it with the young ladies & did some b-boying on cardboard in the driveway.**
At some point, DJ Pill stopped to make some announcements. He did some of the basic stuff, thanking the people and what not. Then he broadcasted that there will be a new DJ making their debut up next. I began to look around with great interest and curiosity to who it could be amongst my friends who was secretly a DJ. I didn’t get too far into that thought before he declared that special DJ was…ME. I was caught totally off guard. I was flattered, but sure didn’t think I was ready to DJ a party. People start to clap and all that so I had to represent, so I got on there and did my thing. It was all pretty awesome. Well, the feeling that is. I'm sure I didn't "kill it" by any means, but I got thru it without making a fool of myself at least.
For a short time, DJ Pill became the official 3D Crew DJ. He did our very first show with us, which I spoke about in the Neighborhood Legends: Champagne story, which was rather successful. When it came time to do our next big show, at one of the infamous Junction City Skating Rink Battles, DJ Pill was out of town back home in NC, so we enlisted the help of upcoming DJ, the soft-spoken man of few words, Jeff Synder, who we named DJ Quiet Killer. We won first place in that competition and I’ll never forget the look on Pill’s face when he came home and was super proud and happy for us.
There is a sad part to this story. During the Summer of ’85 the 3D Crew wrote a albums worth of material.*** We went to Pill’s spot one day and programmed a bunch of beats and recorded, pretty much, the whole album in one take, live show style, filling one side of a tape. We played that tape so much it broke!! The odd thing is by the point I had fixed broken tapes before. I’m not sure why it didn’t get fixed or what happened to it, seeing as I still have a stack of broken tapes from the 80s that I’ve been “meaning to fix” for two decades and that is not among them. I assume that we thought we would just go in and record it all again, but of course, that never happened.
Unfortunately, the only recording**** I can find of us is doing a "Level Test" with DJ PIll. It features Capri and/or me on the Boss DR-110 Dr Rhythm Drum Machine, MC TNT on the mic, DJ Pill on the scratch, doing his famous "Two-Handed Scratch", and me adjusting levels. It doesn't even begin to capture none of our true skills since we are just messing around, but I'm happy to even have that:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/3D-Crew-Soundcheck-Edit.mp3|titles=3D Crew-Soundcheck Edit]
I think both DJ Pill and my family moved from Fort Riley around the same time. I probably mentioned this before, but one of my only regrets in life is not being good at keeping touch with people, no matter how important they were to me. The dumb thing is I would write people letters, but just never send them. I was just too easily distracted to remember go mail them off. So I actually still have a letter I wrote him after I moved to North Chicago and started my new crew, Wildstyle. I wanted to make sure he know how helpful and important he was to me and my Hip Hop evolution, but I never sent it.
However, thanx to social media, I had reconnected with him a couple years ago thru Myspace, but again I failed to follow up. I am now going to make a full-fledged attempt to connect with him again. He hasn’t been on his Myspace page in awhile, like most people I suppose, but at last check he back in his Hometown of Lumberton, NC ad still doing his thing, working with young talent, spinning on a local radio station there and still nice with his. His Myspace page still has a nice classic R&B video mix of him throwing down.
*JC Skating Rink Battles: The only other crew I’ll give props to was these two DJs who did sets with just four turntables and a drum machine. NO MCs, just ripping up cuts. One of the DJs, I swear, never talked and he was just ill on the cuts. He was basically DJ Pills biggest competition out there. He was super precise with the cut, but lacked Pills diversity and showmanship. In any event, 3D Crew respected his cutting skills and me and T.N.T used to refer to him as the Quiet Killer because he only spoke with his hands….pre-Terminator X. Later we adopted that name for our new crew DJ, Jeff Snyder.
**This is the party where our 3D Crew partner, Capri, infamously used some leaked car oil in the driveway to enhance his backspin…ha. So Ridiculously awesome.
***3D Crew-"3rd Dimension" Album ’85: This is what our album would have looked like if released in '85
Shante (Our version of Roxanne)
The Man With The Hands (Ode To DJ Pill)
Togetherness (In The World Today)
Bed Time Rhymes
Sexual Desires (Yes, I we wrote a song with that title…it was actually pretty PG-13 since I doubt we really knew
anything about sex. Well I’ll speak for myself at least…ha.
****While that is the only recording I can find of 3D Crew and DJ Pill, I know I have two tapes of DJ Pill just messing around on the turntables. One, unfortunately is distorted and has some tape damage. The other I think is good, but I seemed to have misplaced. I'll keep an eye out for it!