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THE IMPORTANCE OF LARRY SMITH

 

(This excerpt was originally published in Rap Whoz Who: The World Of Rap Music, Performers, Producers, Promoters by Steven Stancell in 1996 Schirmer/Simon & Schuster.)

Producer Larry Smith was responsible for some of the early hits on the Def Jam Recordings label. His collaborations with Russell Simmons, and his album productions for Run-D.M.C. (Run-D.M.C., King of Rock) and Whodini (Escape, Back in Black) helped establish those two groups and the Def Jam label. Initially a bass player, Smith is also known for his bass work on Kurtis Blow’s first singles, “Christmas Rappin’” and “The Breaks.”

Smith taught himself to play bass by listening to records by James Brown. He got his first paying job as a musician while still in high school, playing at a club in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. He later toured with a Brooklyn blues singer, and played for the R&B group Brighter Side of Darkness. He also worked as a session musician, playing jazz, punk, rock, and even bar mitzvahs and weddings. Smith was also involved in the theater, working in Albany, New York, leading the orchestra for the play Your Arm’s Too Short to Box with God, then later in Toronto, Canada, where he led the house band for the musical Indigo.

In 1979 Smith was hired to work with Kurtis Blow by his friend Robert “Rocky” Ford. Smith later formed a band with DJ/guitarist Davy D, R&B singer Alyson Williams, and drummer Trevor Gale, called Orange Krush. Around 1981 to 1982 he produced with Russell Simmons their single “Action,” which had vocals by Williams. They also worked on Jimmy Spicer’s “The Bubble Bunch” and “Money (Dollar Bill Y’All).” Smith and Simmons began working with Simmons’s brother Run and his friend Darryl (a.k.a. D.M.C.) in Smith’s attic recording studio. They worked on songs like “It’s Like That” and “Sucker MCs,” subtitled “Krush Groove 1” after the drum programming they used, which was patterned after Orange Krush drummer Trevor Gale’s drum pattern on “Action.”

Smith worked with Simmons on Run-D.M.C.’s self-titled album in 1984. During that year he produced Whodini’s album Escape. In 1985 Smith worked on Run-D.M.C.’s King of Rock, and in 1986 he produced Whodini’s Back in Black. On that group’s 1987 album Open Sesame Smith worked on two songs, before terminating his relationship with Def Jam for a period, due to creative differences.

Smith disappeared from the music scene for a while but returned in 1994, working with Whodini again on their piece “It All Comes Down to the Money,” which he co-produced with Public Enemy’s Terminator X.

GODARD'S WEEKEND

 

Contrary to what Quentin Tarantino said, I can never outgrow Jean-Luc Godard. Yeah, he was part of my film study years ago (along with Fellini, Bergman and the rest of them), but good art is meant to be taken in over and over again, like a good song. Take this traffic jam clip from his 1967 Weekend. I never get tired of seeing it.

 

KATHLEEN HANNA DOCUMENTARY

 

Kathleen Hanna

Glad to see someone actually did a documentary on Kathleen Hanna. Known for her work with the group Bikini Kill, and the whole Riot Grrl movement, I was first turned on to Hanna by way of Carla DeSantis’ publication ROCKRGRLback in the mid 1990s, a magazine which focused on female musicians. (A magazine that I still miss to this day.) I never thought Hanna’s work was completely appreciated. Oh yeah, she’s got her fans and all that, but it always seemed to me that when I wanted to find out what was going on with her, I had to kinda dig for it, ya know? Anyway, with this documentary, maybe she can get some more deserved attention, is what I’m thinking.

READ SOURCE (Laina Dawes/Bitch Media piece)

THE LEGEND OF BALDWIN MOTION

 

Baldwin Motion logo

One of the most revolutionary places for a gearhead to get a car back in the day (late 1960s) was at the Motion Performance shop in Baldwin, Long Island, New York, headed by Joel Rosen. Rosen, who raced on the weekends and changed back into a businessman during the week a la Clark Kent/Superman, knew how to tune an engine, and would guarantee your car would be an 11 second  car on a quarter-mile track when he got through with it. The deal was this: a person would purchase a car (Chevys we’re talking about here) at the Chevy dealership called the Baldwin Auto Company or Baldwin Chevrolet, also in Baldwin, Long Island. You purchased your Camaro, Nova, Corvette or Chevelle, etc., then you brought it on over to Joel Rosen at his Motion shop, where he would do his thing on the motor. Big blocks were the specialty, and he would always dyno them at 425-hp to 500-hp and up. No car was ever brought back! To say that each of these cars were masterpieces is fundamentally an understatement.

read more on Baldwin Motion

THE 8TH WONDER OF THE WORLD

 

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I met Frankie Crocker at a party many years ago, and you wanna know what we talked about? His program directing at WBLS-FM? No. His VH-1 VJ gig? No. His professional beginnings in Buffalo, New York? No. We talked about Cuban cigars! During that period I smoked Havanas every single day for over 25 years, so when I met him I was surprised to see him with one in his hand. I was already familiar with his value as an artist, so we didn’t have to talk about that. That’s right. An artist.

 

Once upon a time radio DJs were like friends. You were aware of their time slots and followed their schedules on a weekly basis. They had style, some cooler than others. Frankie Crocker had style. He carved himself into an original. He had that suave urbane look for the ladies and all that, but what really set him apart are the kinds of music he introduced to his listeners, for Frankie Crocker was into some deep stuff musically.

 

The veneer of Frankie Crocker was furs, silky hair, candlelight baths with female listeners, expensive rides, flamboyance all the way, including once riding into Studio 54 on a white stallion. Ahh, but the music he played. That’s what made him an artist. Especially since today, most people are not creating music from scratch but programming music. And, since we honor these programmers, one of the greatest programmers of ‘em all was Frankie Crocker.

 

This is a small portion of some of the artists he would play for his listeners: George Benson, Miles Davis, Queen, Manu Dibango, Blood Sweat and Tears, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Prince, Madonna, Maxwell, Human League, Phyllis Hyman, Phil Collins, Bob Marley, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Fela, Teddy Riley, Laura Branigan, Kurtis Blow, Sylvester, Celia Cruz, and he is also recognized as the first to break Sly Stone and Donna Summer on the East Coast.

 

A repertoire like that says a whole lot about a man.


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