An Interview with B-Fats “Woppit”

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Troy- See at first I was wondering why you were co signing this thuggery, but now I understand.

B Fats- But see back in those days it was a whole different aura. It isn’t what it use to be. I see the kids sort of getting back to it with the dance crews. But that balling and shooting s— was not what we were about. (B Fats chuckles.)

Troy- So where did that name the Sapphire crew come from?

B Fats- I can’t remember who came up with that name. I think it was either Al Bee or my brother Donald Dee. It was B Fats, Donald Dee and The Sapphire crew and they ran hard with that.

Troy- So how did your brother Donald get involved?

B Fats- To be honest Donald Did what I did to Markie. I use to go up to Mr. Larry house now Donald is going up there. (B Fats is laughing.) I would come up in the house and I wouldn’t like the fact that he is up there, and I didn’t bring his ass up there! (Now Troy is laughing.)

Troy- “Yeah I am the big brother now get your ass out of here. I don’t want to see you in here no more!”

B Fats- Exactly, it got to the point were you knew you couldn’t kick him out because parents were parents in them days.

Troy- That’s right. “Don’t leave your brother, and I will bust your ass if I heard you did something to him!”

B Fats- That’s right. So Donald just sat back and watched what was going on and eventually Donald started doing his thing. And because Donald is my brother and we both have talent that was given to us through our mother it was just inedible that he would be able to do what I do. Between me and him we just rolled together. It wasn’t a planned thing it just happened.

Troy- Who were the first to start attaching them selves to you and your brother?

B FatsB FatsB Fats- I would have to say cats like Kurtis Blow and Love Bug Star Ski. Love Bug had already had a knack but he broke with us. Meaning he was struggling to do what he do but once he started hanging with us and got put on the bill at the Renaissance Ball Room with us that was when he really was born. Their were cats like D and D Express. Back in the day Spoonie Gee, Doug E. Fresh and Kev Ski from Manhattanville of The Family. Teddy Riley came later on. B FatsB FatsB FatsB Fats

Troy- What about Master Don and The Def Committee?

B Fats- That came a little later. We still are talking about the 70’s with Doug and Love Bug.

Troy- So how did Love Bug or Kurtis Blow approach you and your brother?

B Fats- Well Kurt was just in the hood, and Kurt would carry crates and be at the party shaking his head and just hanging out and just being apart of The Sapphire Crew. Then all of a sudden you didn’t see Kurt any more.

Troy- At this time Kurt didn’t even have a name yet?

B Fats- No he did not. Then you didn’t see Kurt any more and then when we did, Kurtis Blow was born. So the next question would be did he rock on the mic with me and Donald? Occasionally, but with no experience he sounded horrible. So Donald and I didn’t get what Kurt was doing and I guess that came from our experience with the band. Even though hip hop was fresh we knew what the s— should have sounded like. Now Star Ski was one of those cats that showed up at the Renaissance a very young man and he attached him self to me and Donald. Me and Star Ski became very close and still to this day we call each other up if its just to say I Love you man!

Troy- How did you guys get the Renaissance?

B Fats- We got it through Willie Gums.

Troy- Damn he had a lot going on because I didn’t know he was tied into that.

B Fats- Yeah he had this crew behind him called Willie Gums and The Rolls Royce Movement. Now Willie Gums use to hire us off the band tip first. The Rolls Royce Movement use to pick us up with our band equipment in vans and we would do their block party. They use to take us all around. Matter fact when Operation Helping Hands Phase Piggy Back was born in the 70’s we use to practice in their first office that was on 145th street and 8th avenue which was next to the bar called The Blue Note and it use to have the little strippers in there because I remember we use to pop the door open and run. (We both laugh.) We also use to throw parties in there. I also have to mention Mr. Chicks who had Colonial Park and he was one of those older men who worked with the youth.

Troy- Did he have a team in King Towers known as Chicks All Stars?

B Fats- Exactly, he was another gentleman who was very instrumental in our growth and keeping us out of trouble and keeping us focused. We also had the drum core where I was in a marching band. That was right up on a 142nd and 143rd street and 7th avenue.

Troy- What was the whole deal about Willie Gums.

B Fats- Well I was naïve to it but Willie was an old hustler and he was getting cake, that’s how it had to be because I remember the record shop on 7th avenue right next to Apple Town which was next to the Nova movie theater which was right on 145th street and 7th avenue. I remember even selling records out of his shop when I was a kid.

Troy- So what was he trying to accomplish with this Rolls Royce Movement? Did he have some type of after school program and other things to help the neighborhood?

B Fats- He was community orientated but I can’t remember him having any special place for people my age to come to to chill. We use to hang out at his record shop. His thing basically was a promoter. He was one of the early promoters who made some nice money with what he did with Willie Gums and The Rolls Royce Movement. I would have to give him promoter status as far as block parties and dances and stuff.

As far as The Renaissance Willie Gums had started this thing up once he came over to Drew Hamilton Projects and experienced the Drew madness, which was only a quarter. So he got the Renaissance Ballroom and he charged a dollar.

Troy- So in Drew Hamilton projects you would have a party in the community center and it would be jammed packed?

B Fats- Exactly, now once we got to the Renaissance we charged a dollar and we would be open from Monday to Thursday. On the weekends we would do our own thing in Drew Hamilton. During the week Willie Gums Rolls Royce Movement had the after party joints.

Troy- So before you guys got up in there what type of music was going on in there?

B Fats- The ending of the era of Band music and the start of hip hop. That’s what happened in the Renaissance ballroom for us. That’s where it really got serious. It was experienced in the streets prior to The Renaissance with the bands slash turntables and a mixer and a few words of throw your hands in the air and a little bit of yelling on the mic. But it got real serious for us when the Renaissance Ballroom started coming to life. B Fats

Troy- I am a big collector of the tapes from your era. I have only 3 tapes of you guys and none of them have all of you guys together. I have no tapes of you guys at The Renaissance, just Zulu crews up in there. What was the deal with that?

B Fats- I can’t remember making tapes in the Renaissance era.

Troy- So tape decks weren’t that big during that time.

B Fats- No mix tapes weren’t that big of a thing during that time. I do remember the pause button tapes.

Troy- So The Disco Four was started by you and Donald?

B Fats- Right. It started because we started to encounter groups like the Furious Four…

Troy- Did they come to the Renny before you put the group together?

B Fats- Yes

Troy- So what were your thoughts when you would see these guys or D.J. Hollywood and you guys were just as talented?

B Fats- You want to hear something crazy? I heard of Hollywood back in my era but I cared nothing about what he did because what I was doing was significant. Because I was bringing crowds and I was selling out parties. Hollywood, The Pete D.J. Jones the Eddie Cheba B Fatsall those cats didn’t mean anything to me. And that might sound arrogant but…

Troy- I feel you because a lot of guys I talk to as far as on a level of you guys, all felt you were always in your own circle and “you guys can’t touch this nobody we got this on lock!” “Ya’ll n—— is nice with that type of hip hop, yeah good for ya’ll!”

B Fats- Yes and that is real what you just said and I have to conclude on that, that that was how it was. Hollywood did what he did and Reggie Wells did what he did but you know in Harlem in a radius of 125th street to 155th street that was B Fats, Donald Dee and The Sapphire Crew world.

Troy- The Crash Crew was also in the very beginning of hip hop in Harlem what was your relationship with Mike and Dave and the rest of the crew?

B Fats- We had no relationship with Mike and Dave but Darrell Cee that was my boy. Darrell was real cool. But other then that I had no relationship with any of The Crash Crew.

Troy- So Mike and Dave never tried to book anything in The Renaissance?

B Fats- No, the Crash Crew basically did there thing over by them on 135th street at The YMCA and I.S. 201. They stayed East bound.

Troy- So it never came to you guys, “Let’s go battle them?”

B Fats- We never battled The Crash Crew. But there was a crew that I can’t remember right now from over by the Battle Grounds. We use to go up to the battle grounds on 150th street and Amsterdam Avenue and that is where we use to get it popping at.

Troy- What about Master Don and The Def Committee?

B Fats- We never battled Don because Don was like right next door. We on 143rd he is on 147th !

B FatsTroy- I bring that up because I remember you telling me you guys were cool and then you would be beefing and then you would be cool all over again.

B Fats- Don was arrogant. He was one of those cats where as when he tried to come out he tried to just bully his way into the scene. I will be very open with you that was not who I was. I was not a gangster cat. When I say s— like that happen it was like, “out of mind, keep it moving.”

Troy- Well didn’t you say that once you guys started getting even more popular you had the pistols on you?

B Fats- Well you are right we are talking about the time zone where hip hop is really stepping to its next level of birth. The Renaissance is over because there were too many situations of violence. I use to watch cats get shot right in the Rennie, I would also see cats get thrown right off of the balcony. What really bought it on was the Angel dust era! When the dust came along it caused a lot of problems. I didn’t start strapping up until I got my first little girl friend in the Renaissance. Her sister was connected to a big hustler from that era which from time to time bought beef. So I strapped up. And it wasn’t just because her I strapped up, but because that d.j. thing became a little violent thing.

Troy- Yeah well you right cats did start to really show off and it was typical for some one to act tougher then what they were to gain attention. What was the next Club?

B Fats- We later moved downtown to 125th street between St. Nichols and 8th avenues to place we called Randy’s Place. I was the first cat to open that place up with hip hop music. Randy was a type of person who knew what I was doing with the music. He was also a friend of my mother. The place was actually a bingo hall but when we started having parties in there and we started calling it Randy’s Place.

Troy- So why did you leave out of Randy’s Place?

B Fats- Well Randy started to deal with other promoters once we had made the place hot with music and the crowd. Other promoters would reach out to him wanting to host in his club slash bingo hall. I can remember being in Randy’s Place one night and their being this d.j that was playing that night calling him self White Flash. I’m sitting on the side smoking that marihuana and I was lucky to get out of there that night. Them boys tore that spot up!

Troy- You are referring to The Casanovas? B Fats

B Fats- Exactly, the Casanovas. They had a real problem with this dude calling him self White Flash being as they were backing up The Grand Master Flash. They went to step to him and all hell broke loose and they were shooting at everybody that came out that front door. Police all over the place! It was just a wreck, and that is what ended Randy’s place. He had about a 2 or 3 year run. I guess it is safe to say he got cocky because he started to mess with other promoters which probably lead to the inevitable of violence where as the Casanovas ran up in there which lead to the closing that was sparked by that night. And when they say Casanova’s all over they wasn’t fooling because there were many there that night.

Troy- So you and your brother stepped from there and went further downtown to 106th street I believe to a senior citizen home across from the Castle hotel and started doing party’s over there?

B Fats- That place came to us threw Randy once again. He was the one that gave us that connection. He was the one that introduced us to this older lady that was very creepy and scary looking. She actually lived in the facility down there. It was no longer being used so we cleaned it up. We threw some stuff down in the basement and used the ground floor to party. It was nice until they started shooting and tearing it up in there too.

Troy- The brothers don’t know how to act. (We both start laughing.) You guys are getting closer and closer to the white neighborhood and they still getting wild.

B Fats- They shut that down so fast it made your head swim. I don’t even think that had a good one year run.

Troy- Was The Disco 4 started by this time, or coming up on it?

B Fats- Coming up on it at that point. By that time I had a young brother hanging up under me a lot by the name of Ronnie Dee. Who happens to be Bobby Robinson of Enjoy Records son. Ronnie was talented on the mic.

Troy- Well how did Ronnie get on with you because I know he didn’t live in the projects over by you being as his father was really getting it at one time?

B Fats- Ronnie was staying over on 119th street between 7th avenue and Lenox Avenue with his uncle Pooche Costello who worked over at the record shop and played on some of the early rap records by Bobby Robinson. So I had just started driving my 98 Oldsmobile and I use to go over to his house and pick him up. He was nice on the mix so when ever I would d.j. I would let him rock with me. Then my man Country who was carrying crates at the time grew up on 138th street he started grabbing the mic. Then Greg Marius started grabbing the mic,

Troy- Greg actually came after Mr. Troy?

B Fats- I can’t really confirm who went first but I think I met Troy through Greg. Mike Gee grew up in the same building with me. We were friends from kids. I can remember Greg Gee just hanging out. He never showed any interest at the time. But Troy, Country and Ronnie and I became a click were we would get down on a tray bag together and get smoked up. You know what I mean. We would all be in Harlem World all f—ed up! Then me Ronnie, Country and Troy started selling the Coke that was when the Disco Four formed. Once they started making records they never included me in that part. And I think Greg was the orchestra of that. B Fats

Troy- Well from what I heard you and your brother were split by the emcees! Some of the emcees would go with you some of the emcees would go with Donald D. Then one day the emcees said we have to make up our mind.

B Fats- Well they were split, I had Ronnie Dee Mr. Troy and Country. Those 3 hung up under me crazy because those were my smoke partners. See because of everything we went through growing up Donald never got high. That was never his thing. Greg never got high so Greg and Donald had more of a relationship then me and Greg at that point. We met Greg up in A.J. Lester’s Men store on 125th street, a block away from Bobby Robinson’s record shop. Greg in fact gave me my road experience because he had his 98 before me. So I have to give him credit for me getting my license.

Troy- So Mr. Troy was very gifted on the mic before he went in? I ask you that because a lot of people said Mr. Troy was nice with his.

B Fats- Troy was the filling in the cake. What I mean by that was he was our best battle rapper.

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Author: Troy Smith

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  1. i write for 4th coast entertainment magazine. i want to talk to bfats for a piece in the magazine. this was a great interview,he talked about things that you had to be there. i am making a group of mixtapes with all old school music. its like jazz ,you do your studing to know the ledge! i do not dislike some of the new music,but we must keep it real,if you do not know your history,or know were you been you don’t know were you are going. we as black folks only seem to care about whats new,and give no regard to the past .thats old s&*t what you here. its not about old or new ,how many records you sold-i am like duke ellington, its either good or bad. i see that bfats was talking about greg marius from the entertainers classic at rucker park. he knows harlem and should write a book. something that will last. the rennisance ball room ,is were the new york rens played basketball. hgistory baby ,the lines in the hood always crossed. i always tell people music and basketball were always in the same places,its a black thing. 315 769 7246/386 8490 is were i can be reached. thank you for the article and your time. dj mike calvin.

  2. Man thanks for this interview with B-Fats> I’m from Louisville, KY and I use to rock hard to the Wop. He filled in a lot of blanks about things like Casenova All Over, because i only heard about them when KRS mentioned them in the South Bronx. Great article from a great dude.

  3. Man I read that whole article. I really have a great appreciation for the rap as an art form and when I stumbled across the name B-Fats it triggered a memory then I thought Donald D. Then I got confused was Donald D the the DJ for B Fats or was it the other way around. Then I kept reading and low and behold they’re brothers. I was born in 73 so I couldn’t be present for a lot of what was being described but so many of those names rang bells as those were people making that new music that was coming out when I was 6 or 7 years old. Then way later the Wop and I kinda remember people saying yeah B-Fats was down from the beginning but then again I was only like 13, now I hear the story and it is just amazing how this art form started with a relatively small group of people in the Bronx and Harlem and spread across the Burroughs and into Long Island, NJ, Philly, and now the world. I’d encourage you to do some video interviews with more of the unsung pioneers. I tell people (mostly recent college grads relocated to NY from the mid west) that the story of Hip-Hop is not the romanticized story of Kool Herc doing one block party and boom everything was set in motion. Just listening to the music you can hear the disco influence in a lot of the really early rap stuff.

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