DJ Hollywood Tells Ice-T What He Says Is The True Story Of Hip-Hop’s Origins (Audio)
On the latest episode of his Final Level podcast, Ice T chats with DJ Hollywood, the legendary Harlem DJ whose work in the ’70s and ’80s helped elevate Hip-Hop culture from obscurity to relevance, a story far too unfamiliar in music lore. Along with co-host Mick Benzo, Ice took the opportunity to bring Hollywood in for an in-depth discussion about the earliest days of Hip-Hop parties and radio, and Hollywood repaid the favor by vibrantly painting the podcast with humorous and personal reflections about what he feels is the “real” story of how the culture grew out of New York City, and his viewpoint is one many Heads may not have yet heard. The 61-year-old icon is celebrated not only for his DJing, but also for his rhyming skills, and is famously quoted as being the first Hip-Hop style rapper, according to Kurtis Blow. For more than 60 minutes, the three talk shop, but the real fruit of the story begins to blossom in the second half, where some historical gems are uncovered including Hollywood’s now world-famous Hip-Hop refrains, the Harlem origin story of Hip-Hop, and why Hollywood never received the recognition he so dearly deserves.
Around the 42:50 mark, Ice asks Hollywood “What were the first signs of this thing we call Hip Hop?,” to which Hollywood replies “the first signs of that were in the after-hours spots where I was kickin’ flavors in the basement…they searched you when you went in. Hip-Hop didn’t even exist..and I’m rockin’ and I’m puttin’ my little lyrics together and it’s jam-packed in there.” What differentiated these parties from others at the time was the inclusion of an MC’s voice; what made it Hip-Hop, Hollywood says, is “because the voice was added to the track. They didn’t have people doing poetry syncopated to the sound of the track.” Near the 51:00 mark, the conversation turns to the likes of Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa, two personalities most often credited with Hip-Hop’s first days. Ice, in speaking to Hollywood says “you say there are discrepancies, because you are from Harlem. Why don’t you build on that.” Hollywood coolly responds “the reason that they’re promoting Kool Herc as the father of Hip-Hop is because they made this a Bronx network. They created a buzz that Hip-Hop starts in the Bronx so therefore anything that doesn’t have anything to do with the Bronx really doesn’t happen.” His statements do not end there, and for several minutes Hollywood describes what he feels is the true origin story, one that incorporates all of New York City.
Other notable moments of Hip-Hop history in the episode come at 53:50, when Hollywood explains the story behind the popular refrain “now throw your hands in the air, and wave ’em like you just don’t care,” which he invented. His responses to Ice’s claim of the idea of a “Bronx conspiracy” to keep Harlem out of Hip-Hop’s formative history around 56:15 are also incredibly illuminating. Towards the end of the interview, at 1:02:30, Hollywood goes into his personal trials with drug addiction, which he says is a major reason why his career with Epic Records never took off the way it should have. In closing, the three discuss the treatment of Black artists in the years after their fame has climaxed in comparison to how White musicians are celebrated later in life. Around 1:05:00, Hollywood’s words include “White people take care of their heroes,” which sets the stage for a moving commentary.
This episode is a must-listen for fans of Hip-Hop history, and Heads are encouraged to listen to it in its entirety, as the first half offers up some side-splitting laughs relating to things like television, video games, social media, and more. Hear it for yourself.