Winter of 2009
Troy- Thank you my brother Chill Will for giving me this time to talk with you.
Chill Will- No problem. Thank you also.
Troy- I always like to start from the top. Where were you born and raised?
Will- I was born in Harlem Hospital, right here in New York. I was raised up on 118th Street between 8th and St. Nicholas Avenue.
Troy – Ok, over there across from the church.
Will – Yeah, right across the street from the church. I went to JHS 136 on 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. I went to Charles Evans Hughes High School and then later transferred to Martin Luther King High School.
Troy- So you went to Hughes just before it closed up.
Will- Exactly. That was where me and Doug met. That was like 1980 when I was about 15 years old. So when they closed Hughes down me and Doug went over to King High School over on 66th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Then we both got kicked out of King. Then we ended up going to Park East, which was a smaller school compared to King and Hughes. In there you called all the teachers by their first name. Park East was on 105th Street between First and Second Avenues.
Troy- So how was it growing up over on your block because you were in the heroin capital of the world?
Will- You right, I was in the Mecca of it.
Troy- So you’ve seen “Claw” walk past your window!
Will- Exactly right! (Will laughs) The block was crazy and everybody came through there. Not just addicts caught in their habit, but hustlers and wannabe hustlers.
Troy- See you had two different eras that came and went through your block. You had the big heroin trade going on. Then just before it left, it was overlapped by the crack epidemic. So it went from one extreme to the next. So were you allowed to come outside and play in front of your building?
Will – Yes, for sure. Because the players in that block took care of us. They took care of the kids. They made sure nothing happened to us when we were young. So we never really worried about it that much. So when we were outside they kind of shielded us from that. They bought us baseballs and basketballs and kept us doing things instead of getting caught up in all that. Because you know that the longer you stood around stagnant, you started to see all this stuff go down. So that was pretty much how I grew up in the neighborhood.
Troy- So when did you first get wind of Hip Hop?
Will- I got into hip hop in the late 70’s. Like 77 or 78 when it was like brand new, just starting out, and it wasn’t any records or anything like that out yet. People were just out in the streets doing their thing. This was really before cats got their turntables. Cats sometimes just had two phonographs: turning the volume up on one and turning the volume down on the other. (Troy starts laughing) Sticking the headphones in one and taking the head phones out.
I am from that time and place. It evolved from that. That’s when the DJ was everything and the rapper was something that just added a little flavor, nothing compared to later on. But the DJ was the main event. I always wanted to be the DJ because it seemed like they always had something to do. When the early jams would start people would come around for the DJs, not so much the rappers.
See when I seen cats like Flash and others in the streets, they weren’t like stars yet. They were just DJs in the streets. To be honest, the first DJ I seen was DJ Artie Art out of Foster Projects. He used to DJ for Johnny Wa and Rayvon’s Magnificent 7. See DJ Spivey was one of the main DJs for Magnificent 7, but I seen Artie Art first. He was always right on Lenox Avenue and say 115th Street or 114th Street, right on the street doing his thing. He used to be out there starting at say 3pm in the afternoon till like two in the morning. And that was the thing, even if there were no rappers out there he would always be there. He would be playing for like nine hours. (Both start laughing)
Troy- All by himself, ain’t that something. And people would be coming and going.
Will- That is right. People would be coming and going, as well as rappers coming through saying “Ho! Throw your hands up in the air” or whatever for a few minutes and then they gone. But that constant was always him. I would go home and do what I had to do, and come back and he would still be there.
Troy- Damn, ain’t that something!
Will- So he was the one that made me want to do this.
Troy- So the next level now is getting your equipment. How did this go down? You asked your mother or did you get down with somebody?
Will- Well what happened was I got down with two older guys from my neighborhood, Wayne and Cyrus, and they had jobs and I was still in school. So I teamed up with them and it was a learning curve, but I caught on really quick. I started doing it better than them even though they bought the equipment. I used to go up to their house to practice and I practiced so much up there that when they would be leaving, I would still be up there. So as they would be leaving I would say, “Yo, if it’s cool with your moms, can I stay?”(Troy busts out laughing) …”Yo, if it’s cool with your moms, can I just chill…?”
Troy- How long did it take before you took it to the streets as a DJ?
Will- Once I felt confident I would go out when somebody was out there. In fact, Harlem World did a party out there on 118th Street in the middle of my block: DJ Randy, Son of Sam and Charlie Rock.
They were dancing and everything, they threw a whole big block party. The cats on the block bought them in and told them whatever it takes just come through.
Troy- So the hustlers paid for this!
Will- Right. So when they came in, the party went on all night. See like Artie Art, Randy was “the” DJ. But he stayed all night, while Sam and Charlie would leave and come back throughout the night. So Randy was that dude.
I wanted to get on, but I didn’t have my confidence up just yet to do that. But later on, I finally came out on 140th Street between 8th and Edgecombe Avenues in that school yard.
Troy- So this wasn’t B Fats and his brother Don doing that outside jam?
Will- No, but B Fats was there. I just can’t remember the guys that bought the equipment out. See during those days I wasn’t introduced to a lot of those cats. I just knew somebody who knew somebody. See I had to pass me getting on through like three people: I told a friend of mine’s, who told a friend of his, that told a friend of his, that told the DJ! – That kind of thing. But I was so nervous. I only played like one record and I didn’t really do what I do in the house and that was because I was still not confident. I had to build it.
Troy- So now you are about to get to the next level because you are building your confidence. Where or when was it when you felt “Yeah, this is what I want to do, and I can do this?”
Will- Well what actually happened was I got down with a guy named Short Man. Me and him started our group. Short Man had equipment of his own. We wanted to come out in the street and do our thing, but he had a little side hustle where he used to do the airbrushing on people’s jackets and pants.
Troy- I remember that.
Will- That kind of took off for him where as he didn’t have a second to really concentrate on DJing. We would be trying to make tapes and people would be coming upstairs with jackets and pants. So he was like “I need to get this paper right here right now.” So he did his thing while we tried to keep practicing and making tapes. It was all fun at the time. Me and Short Man was about 14 or 15 years old. I was just getting ready to go into high school. In fact, Short Man went to Hughes with me and Doug.
Troy- So how did you and Doug E. Fresh meet?
Will- I was sitting in the lunch room of Charles Evans Hughes High School with Short Man and we are talking. And this guy Mike I know comes up to me and says, “Yo, you have to come see this.” He takes me to the other end of the lunch room and Doug is doing the beat box and these other guys are rapping. So when Doug finishes Randy introduces us and this is when he was Dougie Dee. Randy says “You two guys should hook up, and do something.” Doug was looking for someone to DJ, although he had someone DJing for him, but his DJ was doing other things. So he was never really available when Doug needed him.
Troy- So are you talking about Barry Bee or Kev Ski?
Will- Neither one of them. His name is Rich. Barry wasn’t even with us yet!
Troy- I always wondered who was first between you and Barry.
Will- When me and Doug met in school we didn’t even know Barry yet. So me and Short Man were still doing us, and we were trying to put Doug and Short together also – but it didn’t work out, and Doug actually lived closer to me than to Short.
So me and Doug would hook up all the time around the neighborhood and we were always trying to figure out a way how to get some equipment so we can make our thing happen. We actually met another hustling cat named Ted. Ted said he would buy the equipment for us. He said he would invest in us.
Troy- And Ted was a house DJ from Harlem World also?
Will- Yes, he was down with Harlem World when he wasn’t in the street. So he actually gave us the money to go to 42nd Street. He said “Go down there and find out what you need and come back and let me know and I got ya’ll! ”
Will- Man I went down there and priced everything and came back and said this is what it is going to take for us to get what we need.
Will- I let him know and he peeled it off and gave it to us, and we bought the stuff back to my house. We were going to hook it up that night… you know how you get excited!
Troy- Word up!
Will- My mother was like, “Oh no, I am not having that right now!”
I didn’t have the room for it in my bedroom, so I had to make the room. So I told Doug lets work it out tomorrow. You know that way I can make the room for it. So I changed my room around that night instead of plugging up the equipment. I was like “Ok, I don’t need this or that.” I was ready to throw my dresser out. (Both start laughing)
Troy- You were ready to sleep on the fire escape. I hear you.
Will- Word up. I didn’t even care. So we changed everything around and I took all the equipment out of the box. Doug called me the next day at seven in the morning like, “Yo, you ready to do this?” (Both laugh) Yo, we were mad excited. We hooked up the tape deck, but we just needed records now. So Doug says he is going to get some records. He goes out and comes back with records. I don’t know where he got them from, but he went borrowing from everybody. He came back with a bunch of records.
We started making tapes for people and personalizing them by putting their names on them; “Yo, a big shout out to ‘so and so’!” Cats were paying us $25 for a tape because it had their name on it. Yo, we were trying to run a business. We would tell them we will make a regular tape for you for ten dollars, but if you want us to put your name in it, then it’s going to cost $25! We started making money off that.
Then one day we were going to get into this MC contest at Harlem World. So we said we need to buy some clothes and sneakers. So we tried to make enough tapes to buy some gear. But when we got to Harlem World they had a shootout in there and we never got on…
Let me go back a little bit because I went too fast… Doug and his DJ, Rich, were supposed to play Harlem World one night in the past, but Rich didn’t show up and another brother that was cool with us named Kev Ski DJed for Doug that night in Harlem World… But all these guys we’re talking about had families at an early age, so they had to be committed to their families.
Me and Doug were not there yet, so our connection was closer because we had more things in common: Neither one of us was working, and we both lived close to each other in the neighborhood. We were trying to do this and we were out hustling whatever we needed to do to make this thing work. So Doug said “I can’t do this with Kev, and I can’t do this with Rich”…and mind you Doug was 24 hours music, that’s it. That was his whole discussion. That was all he talked about. That was all he dealt with.