Forty years ago, kids in the Bronx, New York began a movement to make their voices known; they wanted something for themselves. From rocking block parties to dance battles, they decided to take what they knew, along with enough creativity to fill Empire State, to create their own style. They never knew it would spread like a wildfire and, eventually, changing music forever. To celebrate our 12th anniversary, we sat down with the people who experienced this movement and made Hush Tours what it is today — starting with the one and only, Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]
What’s the first hip hop song you ever remember hearing?
I was around before hip-hop. We [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][the crew I was with] created it so there was no first song that got me hooked. My earliest memory was when I first started going to parties and hearing the DJs on the block.
Many of the Cold Crush Brothers started out as break dancers. When you first got into hip-hop, which did you like better: dancing or rapping?
I like to say that I made a transition since I transitioned into emceeing based on the fact that I had a feeling I could master it — and I did. I think that was what I was meant to do and it’s what has made biggest impact [on the culture].
What do you like most about the Hush tour you do? Just throw out whatever comes to mind.
I like spreading the knowledge of hip-hop and introducing people to my experiences as a kid growing up during this time. One thing I would change about the tours is frequency; I’d really like to do them every day.
You’ve been doing the Hush ‘Birthplace Tour’ for more than 10 years. Tell me about how your participation with the tour has changed over the past decade. What was your reason for starting with Hush Tours? Were you nervous the first time?
It was daunting in the beginning, but we agreed it was a good idea. I was nervous because I’d never done anything quite like that; it was a different kind of performance. It was something that was needed, and that’s teaching the knowledge of hip-hop and culture. So the things that have changed? Well, a lot. We’re doing other boroughs and spreading the experience. In the beginning we started renting a bus, but we have our own bus now and it’s a nicer atmosphere for the guests. The foundation [of Hush Tours] has always stayed the same and basically the message is the same. I think that’s what I value the most about doing the tour. I always wanted to do this for a few years and I’d love to do it for 20 years.
How have you changed through your work with Hush Tours over the past 12 years?
I think I’ve gained a better perspective of the city in general. Being around all different types of people has added to my knowledge. I think being around people from different cultures made me dig deeper and research different places that have a hip-hop scene; places where I may not have had a clue about it. You know, [years ago] who would think of hip-hop in Serbia? It’s a universal thing. People have an appreciation for me and I respect and love that. I haven’t been overseas in 15 years so, because of Hush, I’ve been able to connect with fans and fellow hip-hop enthusiasts.
During the Birthplace tour, you perform “MC’s Delight,” which is still a pretty controversial record. Are you happy that more people are learning the truth and the history of hip-hop foundations?
I’m glad that people want to know hip-hop history. For a time, I honestly didn’t want to talk about it, since [I thought] everybody knew. It was such a big story in hip-hop that I realized it has to be talked about. Every time it’s a new awakening for people who didn’t know the full story, or even how this movement began, so I’m glad to tell them.
If you could go back in time, would you change anything?
If I had known what I know now, sure I would. I think I would have finished college and definitely got more involved on the business side [of music]; maybe start a record company. I think [back then] we looked way more to the creative side instead of the music business, itself; we didn’t really understand publishing rights. You know DJ Jazzy Jay started Def Jam off of just what he was observing. If you have an idea, and you’re passionate about it, you’ve got to run with it.
What are you listening to now? Who in the industry today inspires you and why? Do you have any current favorites?
I’m like most people — I listen to the music of my time, and the music that I was influenced by the most. Every now and then a “Happy” comes along or a “Blurred Lines” comes along but, as far as music in general, not much moves me these days. There are the Jadakiss, Immortal Technique, and Joel Ortize types that I will pay attention to, because I’m lyrical and that’s what catches me. I lean more towards people who are saying something and involved in the art of emceeing. Eminem is a good example. He’s one of those guys, too, that exemplifies the art of a lyricist.
Have you heard Chuck D’s statements about Hot97 and the state of NY hip-hop radio? Do you think that society expects too much from hip-hop?
No I haven’t heard his statements, but I think [society] should be happy with what it gets. Basically, people are guided and whoever is guiding the flock has the influence. If you get a leader in the industry talking about something positive while keeping your attention, then people will gravitate towards it. It works the same way if it’s something negative.
So do you think the music has been dumbed down?
It definitely developed over time to be more relatable to the average person. Labels knew they needed something that everyone can relate to and follow. In the 80’s they dressed down. [In the 70’s] we were a little more flamboyant so [new artists] brought it back to the average person with the black hats, track jackets, and sneakers. The lyrical style changed, as well, which made it easier for people to imitate.
Do you mentor other young artists? Do you think that could be a way to bridge the gap between the “true school” pioneers and new artists?
Informally, I’m constantly mentoring young people. I speak at Cornell University and in the Bronx to kids about hip-hop and staying focused on positive activities. Whatever I can tell you from my experiences to help you, I’ll gladly do it.
Do the kids you talk to realize you’re an icon and are part of the reason the music/culture they love of exists? Are they very responsive to the message you’re sending?
There was no hip-hop when I was a kid. We started this hip-hop generation. The blueprint has been here since we started, so there’s no way you cannot know hip-hop. It’s as easy as looking it up on Google. I always say that none of this should be hard because it’s always been here for you. They see I’m still doing what I do, the documentaries, interviews and appearances, so everything I do is related to hip-hop culture. I talk about it with a passion. This is my life that I’m telling and I can see them understanding that.
Do you still go into the studio these days?
I’m always doing projects so yeah, I’m still in the studio. I get requests for collaborations with people from overseas and I’m glad I’ve got records all over the world now.
What’s next for Grandmaster Caz?
Theoretically, I’d love to do Hush Tours for 20 more years, but my hope is that Hush Tours will get more people involved. I’m looking forward to growing even though I’m a traditionalist. The reviews are growing and we want to tap into the next generation [of artists]. The story never has an end, but you can’t forget the beginning. As long as we can do that, we’re good.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]