Gangster Gee of Master Don and the Def Committee
Winter of 2005
Troy: Alright my brother, we are about to make it happen.
GG: Let’s do this.
Troy: Where were you born and raised?
GG: I was born in Augusta Georgia, but raised here in Harlem. on 115th st and Lenox avenue.
Troy: Alright, another brother in the vicinity of Harlem World. So where did you get your love of hip hop from, what inspired you?
GG: That would be my brother, Boo Ski. What it was, was him and Master Don would go through problems amongst themselves. It was Don, my brother and Keith K.C.. It was originally them 3 and another guy name Easy E, from over there, near 122nd st. Lexington avenue, but he wasn’t down that long. As far as me I couldn’t rhyme for anything.
Troy: What? It seemed like you were the best m.c. of the crew, at least the most noticeable.
GG: Initially I couldn’t rhyme. But I came in doing some singing stuff, because I seen that there were some groups doing it. Like Rayvon and Johnny Wa, were singing. The Crash Crew had G- Man. So I said I could contribute by doing some singing. So initially I came in just singing songs and putting raps to them. Sort of like changing the words, sort of like what they are doing today. So that’s how I got the bug. Plus my brother was rhyming, and I remember Rob G. and Ducky Dee of the G- Force crew. They were from up on the hill by St. Nick. On 155th st. over by the battle grounds. That’s where I got the bug. After that it was just a progression of creating the rap sort of sound, or image or anything. It just became my passion, just doing that. Of course there were influences like Johnny Wa and Rayvon. You know all those types, and I dug Love Bug Star Ski, Busy Bee. I heard them long before I got on the mic. Some of those guys I remember seeing at places like the Fever Disco, a couple other spots, Ponderosa. Then I heard tapes of people battling. The year I got on, was about, a little after Rappers Delight and High Power Rap came out. Before that I wasn’t into hip hop, I played an instrument. I play a whole bunch of instruments today, up to 12 different instruments. But at that time I was playing the alto Sax. That’s all I was into, that and jazz.
Troy: So how old were you when you came up to New York?
GG: We were like 7 and 8. We originally lived in Edenwald projects, in the Bronx. That was 1974. I went to P.S. 112. we really couldn’t go outside, but I remember going to jams outside to see d.j. Breakout. Initially I heard of rap, but I didn’t really know what it was. We really couldn’t go out because they had gangs back then, like the Black Spades and all those other gangs in the Bronx, so we really couldn’t go out after dark. But I remember if you went pass Baychester, you was like the man, brothers would be like “you went where”? If you went into the Valley you would hear Breakout and all those guys, whatever the local groups were. It was cool. There would be a little violence. Not like today how they preach in their rhymes violence. The rhymes back then were about partying. We knew what was going on in the hood but we never glorified it.
Troy: So what high school did you attend?
GG: I went to Park West. That’s when I was just about to get on that mic. I remember hooking up with Malik Yoba (New York Undercover police show in the 90s).We used to hang out and he got into some scuffle at school so he had to leave Park West. I remember about a year or two of me doing this hip hop thing and Doug E Fresh and I sort of battled. That was like my running partner. Something happened where we ended up battling at I.S. 201. (Junior High School in Harlem were a lot of parties were played.)
Troy: This is not that same battle were your whole crew was going against him and one of y’all said he had on hot corduroys in the summer?
GG: Yeah, that was me. (Gangster Gee is laughing, then says the lyrics he used for the battle that day.)
“This party people
is Dougie’s life story
how he got to reach that fame and glory
you want to know why
he makes those sounds
with such grace
because s— like this
was always in his face
at the site of his mug
and his face looked like
it wanted to be hugged
for dinner he ate a lot of plates
now you can right away see he has no taste
and What is this we have in here?
Corduroys Dougie, let’s have a beer.
although we know you wear corduroys in 90 degrees
May, June, July, August till New Years Eve…”
GG: So I am just remembering a lot of this stuff. Right after the battle we were all cool again.
Troy: But how did that battle start?
GG: The battle started between Master Don and Barry Bee. Barry Bee was Doug’s d.j. at the time. Chill Will was down too, but Barry was mostly Doug’s battle d.j.!
Troy: Barry is still with Doug to this very day.
GG: Yeah, I don’t really know what brought it up but they was battling at an outside jam. I forgot what park it was, but Don was cutting with a basketball.
Troy: What, Don was cutting with a Basketball in his hand? (we both start laughing)
GG: Yeah he would ask people in the audience for pieces of items. “Yo, give me your shoe,” (Troy is laughing hard) and he would cut with a shoe, on both hands. I mean everything, shoes, keys. It didn’t matter. He would cut blind folded.
Troy: Damn, Don was a bad brother, we got to talk about Don. So listen he could have probably taken Barry B by himself why did y’all pile on, and there was about four of y’all going against Doug by himself?
GG: It wasn’t really like that. Nobody was really prepared. K.C. or the other guys didn’t really want to battle. We knew a week in advance so I knew I had to be prepared. The other guys were like “why are we battling let’s just do the show and get our 30 dollars,” (Troy’s laughing at the mention of 30 dollars) and be done with it. So I said to myself, I am going to be prepared. At that time I was writing all the routines. Don and I pretty much wrote everything. Don was pretty good m.c. as well.
Troy: That’s what I heard.
GG: Kool Moe Dee loved Master Don’s rhyming. I think that’s where Moe Dee might have gotten that rapid fire rhyming stuff, because Master Don used to do stuff like
“I said you know it like a poet,
and a poet ought to know it,
Master Don is rocking on,
and I came to”
GG: I mean real fast, so I think Kool Moe Dee might have sharpen Don’s style a little something. He might not admit it.
Troy: Well there is a debate about that, because there is another guy from my projects who also had a style like that. Big Boris Pendergrass. He used to have somewhat the same style, he used to rhyme extremely fast, but it would be too many words on top of each other. So I looked at it as Moe fine tuned it. When I talked to Mike Cee of the Fearless Four about it, he said Moe did steal it from Boris. He said Mike and L.A Sunshine almost had a fight over that. (Gangster Gee is laughing) Let me ask you this, why didn’t Master Don get on the mic on any of the records or shows that y’all did?
GG: Well he would do it on the shows. I think I have it on one tape.
Troy: Please have it.
GG: I am going to try and look. Remember Cool Jazz? He was with our group also. Initially Master Don would start on the turntables and then Cool Jazz would relieve him. Then it would be Master Don, my brother, Keith K.C., me, and Pebbly Poo. We would all start rhyming.
Troy: I never knew this about Don. I heard he was a hell of a d.j., he was a real nice guy and a lot of brothers had love for him.
GG: For sure. I had much respect for him. Everybody liked him. Everybody wanted to be a cousin or brother to him. When he passed it was a shock to me. I was like wow!
Troy: What was his relationship with Pebbles?
GG: Wow, we stole her from Kool Herc. We were actually trying to get the multi cultural sort of thing. So we got a girl, and we went out and got Johnny Dee. He was a Latino rapper, who is actually Marc Anthony the singer’s cousin.
Troy: Where did you get the name Gangster Gee from?
GG: I like to watch old gangster movies with Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. To be honest Any old movie with gangsters in them. Not thinking about violence but when I got on the mic I was a gangster and you were like done, or assassinated. I didn’t really feel comfortable with it. But it fit with a lot of our routines. So I kept it. The Gee was because my first name is George. Now I use my initials which is G.T.O. George Timothy O’Brien.
Troy: Was Don the best d.j. you had seen?
GG: He was so good that you had all the d.j.s from that time Steve O, Barry Bee, Chill Will, Theodore etc. that when Don was on they would crowd around and look at his technique. He would literally carry on a conversation with you and still keep a beat. I had to leave after awhile, because Enjoy records was just not paying us like they should. So Johnny Dee and I left to form our own group called Marauder and the Fury. We found a d.j. named Dollar Bill. He was from the Eastside. Over on 121st st. and I think Pleasant avenue, here in Harlem. He was the bomb, I have tapes of him cutting and he is unbelievable. We signed with some rich guy who didn’t know anything about hip hop. He gave us freedom to do whatever we wanted to do in the studio. But when it was time to come out, he backed out on us. But I still have the demo’s. After that I said what the heck, I went straight into music. Started singing at the Apollo. I won like 8 times.
Troy: Word. At the Apollo’s amateur night?
GG: Yeah, and from there, that is where I met Luther Vandross, and started doing some back grounds. I started working with Mantronix, I literally wrote the big song for him, Got to have your Love. I think it was a woman name Wondress who sung it. It was real funky but I got no credit for it.
From there I started working on my craft, learning every instrument I could. Getting hired for a lot of jobs, and just doing that for like the last 15, 18 years strong.
Troy: So how did you get on with Luther Vandross?
GG: Through dealing with different artists. Angie Stone, Herb Alpert. A lot of people in the music business know of me, they would say “Who George, G.T.O. is a bad, he’s like a little Teddy Pendegrass.” So I would get a lot of gigs. The Vandross gig was beautiful. I did the “Stop To Love” tour. It was good.
Troy: How long did you work with him?
GG: Close to five years. So for me, right now, I am going to try once, maybe twice to do an album. Then I am going to go back to producing. Which is what I have been doing for awhile. I have this young lady name Pamela Laws, singing Funky Rock stuff. Her stuff is real nice. I got another woman, she is black doing straight up Rock, she will be like a female Lenny Kravitz, because there are no sisters doing that. It is not exclusively white folks music. It’s all music anyway, but we don’t think so. From Hendrix to whomever. We started that. I really can’t complain about my life, it’s cool.
Troy: When did you actually leave Don. Was it before his death or after?
GG: It was after Funk Box 2 or Music Gram.
Troy: So did Don and them try to talk you out of leaving or they understood?
GG: They tried, but I was like we are not getting paid, so why stay. We were barely getting paid for the live shows. At that time I knew about publishing. I asked why is Bobby Robinsons name here, when he didn’t write the song. I understand he was like the executive producer. But as far as writing the actual song, not true. Initially we were going to use Pumpkin and the All Stars, to do the track. We told them what song we wanted to use, which was Mount Airy Groove. It was a hot song by I think the Redding’s, I am not sure.(It was Pieces Of A Dream). But the groove was hot. Bobby said we couldn’t use it, because we would get sued. We were arguing in the studio for like an hour on the clock. Him and Don was going back and forth, so I went in the corner and just started writing. I finished the song I was going to do for a routine we was going to do live. It was chaos all around me, but I knocked it out. Master Don had bought his Beat box, we were going to use it for the track. I asked Don did he have a funky beat on the beat box. He said yeah! I said to him that I wrote this routine for us when we do something live at one of the parties. I said why don’t I just sing it, and y’all can say your best rhymes after this chant. He says so let’s hear how it goes. I said all we have to do is start it like this. “Listen, listen, listen for the beat box”. (We both start laughing) that was it, he threw the best beat he had on, and huh. I said yeah we can make like we at a show. K.C. did his ad lib. It was like we were really at a show, and then I started singing “This is called the funk box.” I changed it from beat box to Funk box. The rest is history. We really weren’t supposed to do that song. We were supposed to do it live at a show as a routine. Never meant for vinyl. By that time I took over all the writing, whatever I wrote Don said yep. Like on your tape number 52, you have us out in New Jersey performing and I am using that melody from one of Gladys Knight’s songs the “Do us a favor, we want you to clap your hands one time”. I mean it was kind of corny, but the girls loved it. It was like some Rock Star stuff. We first did that at Patterson New Jersey. As I looked at the flyer as we are talking, it was a Sound 2 production by Arthur Armstrong. Love Bug Star Ski, Us and Dr. Shock. It was at 60 Temple street at the Rec center. It was totally packed. It was flawless. It was one of those shows where everything went right. All our routines, dance steps, us throwing Pebbles up in the air. We used to give it up as far as putting on shows. No one wanted to follow us not even Cold Crush. The Cold Crush were like the masters of crowd participation and stuff like that. They used to always look to see what we were doing, giving us props saying that s— is hot, or I like that new song.
Troy: I also have a tape where ya’ll are at the Savoy Manor and there is a shootout. (tape 73)
GG: I remember Doug falling on top of me trying to get away from the shootout. Doug used to always be at the big shows, he hadn’t gotten his record deal yet, so he was always waiting on the sides of the stages waiting for somebody to give him the mic. So before the shootout we were waiting in the dressing room, and all of the sudden you hear all this rumbling and whoop he lands right on top of me. He said yo I am sorry about that, but I ain’t getting shot, I got things to do. (we start laughing) So who would guess he would come out with The Show, and La Di Da Di.!
Troy: So the Def Committee was already established a year before you got there?
G: It was really just Don and K.C. they were doing the Johnny Wa, Rayvon type thing. Boo Ski was in and out. Pebbles wasn’t there yet. By the time I got there, we were just traveling around battling others, we were like hired guns. So when Pebbles got on with us it was a plus. I remember saying we got to get the guys on our side, because it seemed like they started hating, because the girls in the crowds started really loving us, screaming and bugging out. So I was like we need somebody hot. The guys really loved Pooh.
Troy: Did ya’ll have any battles? With the big names Treacherous Three, Fantastic, Zulu?
GG: We were suppose to battle the Force M.c.s at Harlem World but it never happened.
Troy: Yeah Did ya’ll battle anyone else?
Yeah there was someone else. A crew from the Polo Grounds name the Romantic 4. We battled for equipment. The battle was over there in the Rucker park on 155th street and 8th avenue. On that tape you have Fearless Four there lending us support. Fearless Four got on after we destroyed the Romantic Four. Funk Box hadn’t came out yet. We were just known at that time for our routines. We couldn’t understand why they wanted to battle us. Don came up to me, “you got to write some stuff now”. He was always coming up to me talking about we were going to battle someone. This battle was like 1981 summer jam. After we beat them, I told Don let them keep the equipment, he said o.k. But he just didn’t want anybody to think that it was o.k. to challenge us. I have a flyer here 1980 were we are performing with Ronnie Green and Jeckle and Hyde at Harlem World, along with Johnny Wa and Rayvon. Back then they just called it Master Don and crew.
Troy: So where did y’all get Def Committee from?
GG: Just dread. When people hear it they go dread, oh s— here come the Def Committee. We actually had to take that off of the record as far as who we were. We had to change it to the Master Don Committee. They didn’t want Def. Can you imagine that, today with what’s going on as far as rap.
Troy: So who said that, Bobby Robinson?
GG: Yeah he said the higher ups said so. They weren’t promoting that sort of stuff. There were always problems with Enjoy. We didn’t even get taken care of for the movie Fresh sound track, they just put Funk box in the movie, and didn’t say anything to us. They never played it in the movie Fresh, but I did buy the sound track, in fact they didn’t play any cut in the movie.
Troy: Yeah, you right.Bobby Robinson done cleaned up. You know I still see him on 125th st. from time to time? I say what’s up to him.
I called him a couple of years ago. I told him we are in this movie sound track and Master P just did our stuff, so there is tons of money. So I would imagine that he got that money. Once I put my record out and get my pub deal, I will be able to deal with my lawyer and that will be the first thing I am going to tackle. Which is the money that is owed to the crew. We are owed money. Funk Box went gold overseas.
Troy: What about Master P? Did he come to y’all?
GG: No, but maybe he called Bobby Robinson and dealt with him. I hear they don’t have to call the artist for rights, just call the publisher. The artist might be dead, so they go to publisher for clearance.
Troy: How did you feel you heard the Master P version?
GG: Yo, I was like is this a slowed down version, did someone slow down my vocals? Then I heard the d.j. say “yeah this is a new one by Master P.” I said damn he even stole Don’s first name Master. That’s what I was thinking who stole Don’s first name. Master P? Then I did some research and found that it was some drug dealer guy from New Orleans. So I was like shoot we must be going to get paid, because I heard it went gold. I am not mad, but I hope the crew gets its just due as far as money is concern.
Troy: I want to go back for a minute. Did Doug ever get on the mic when y’all battled him? I have the tape but not with his part.
GG: Yes. A friend of mines has the tape, and at the end of his routine he says Master Don and y’all get off my d—. Of course the crowd went crazy after he said that. What was crazy about that battle, every time Don would cut he would mess up, we found out somebody was bumping the table. At that time there was a gang there known as the Cigar Mob, who was terrorizing all over the place. So it ended up being a draw.
Troy: What about Moe Dee and Them, did y’all come close to battling them?
GG: Ah, man I had so much admiration for Kool Moe Dee. I remember we had a show that was down in the basement. I don’t remember the club. L.A. and K, wasn’t there. So me and him rhymed for about an hour back to back, rhyme for rhyme. It wasn’t no battle. I was like man this guy got a lot of rhymes. (he starts laughing). We did shows up in Patterson, Connecticut. One time a show was canceled because, well there was a show with us, Treacherous Three, LL Cool J, and it might have been Queen Latifah. This was before she did any records. At some cadet place in Patterson N.J. during this show I didn’t stay in the dressing room too much, I was up stairs looking at the crowd. Now Moe and L.A. was always clowning around when I go back down stairs Moe, L.A. and the others were all laid out on the floor nobody moving. I thought they were joking but nobody moved. So I run back up stairs and said “I think something is wrong.” What happened, a heater or something was broken, and it was giving of carbon monoxide. They literally had to clear the whole place. So we ended up not doing the show.
Troy: Hold up, Moe and the Treacherous fell out, and others?
GG: Yeah, they all fell out, got sick and ill, the Boogie Boys too. People was coming out of there hacking and coughing. Some of them people almost died.
Troy: So did they sue anyone?
GG: Nah, I guess no one was that concerned, but more into just getting out and being alive.
Troy: L.L. did not have his record yet?
Troy: Did you see L.L. before he put out his record, and could you tell he was going to be the star that he became?
GG: Right away I said this guy is going to be huge. I mean he had total mastery of the flow, it was a different aggressiveness, but you could hear everything, it was clear. It was precise, and splitting. Just his presence, he was a big guy, he was lanky but tall. After that he came out with Rock the Bells and the rest is history. I have to say in my experience in early hip hop I have been in a lot of shootouts, I was in the middle of a shootout in Queens with homeboy the Fresh Prince, Will Smith. I remember their being ten flights of stairs, and we jumped down all of them.
Troy: Did he do a record yet?
GG: Yeah, “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, I think. That was a Lady B, production. She was based out of Philly. We also went out to Philly, to perform for her. That was a little after Funk Box. We used to chill with Will Smith. Still till this day, we might holler at each other from time to time.
Troy: So the Moe Dee, Busy Bee battle, your crew wasn’t on that flyer. Why not, y’all was just as hot as any of those other groups at that time.
GG: We were doing a lot of weekend parties out of town. So that is where we were probably that night. I heard about it that Monday after the show. A brother name King that used to go to school with me, said yo check this out. He played it, and I said oh boy.! That sort of diminished Busy Bee’s star. I mean he used to walk through a party, and people would literally get quiet, because people felt “yo Busy Bee is the man.” He was the Chief Rocker. Him and Caz had total mastery of the crowds.
Troy: How long did it take before your crew made Harlem World?
GG: Maybe a year. D.J. Randy used to tell us before we made it to Harlem World to get our s— tight, before he could let us in. Then the word got out that Master Don and them are doing things, at the other clubs. Our first show was with T- Ski Valley.
Troy: What records did y’all get your ideas for your routines?
GG: Temptations “I Can’t Get Next To You”, some Jackson five stuff. Pooh started singing a little. So I didn’t have to do all the singing.
Troy: Oh man I used to love her joints, she really pulled me to ya’ll guys.
GG: I couldn’t do that high stuff.
Troy: Moe Dee had me cracking up one day. He said yeah man Pebblee Poo get on that stage and get riled up, and it is over man, she is just like a ball of energy.
GG: Yeah, she was a spark plug. Their were times we would take her lead. We were like a real team. People didn’t hate us. We never were disrespectful, like telling other crews “yeah y’all ain’t s—.” We just get up there did our thing, get our thirty dollars and broke out.
Troy: Thirty dollars! (Troy is laughing) You keep saying thirty dollars! Where thirty dollars come from?
GG: That is before we did Funk Box. After Funk Box, we might get $500 a piece. Maybe. But before Funk Box thirty dollars, or car fare.
GG: But it was cool back then. (Gangster Gee starts laughing.)
Troy: I mean how you go from thirty dollars, to five hundred dollars because of a record? L. A. told me the only way you play Harlem World in the beginning is if you had a record.
GG: Yes or you had to be really good. By the way, what tapes do you have of us?
Troy: Well I have the three you know, and I have a joint where y’all are in Harlem World (tape 32) and y’all tore it up. Busy Bee open’s up for y’all. When y’all get on y’all do a routine were y’all say “no more standing in the rain,” “no more trying to play the game.”
GG: (laughing) Whoa. That was inspired by Moe Dee.
GG: The routine was patterned by his rhyme cadence. That rhyme itself signified that we have arrived. We ain’t standing in the rain no more, we are here to cause some havoc. In fact Moe Dee was at that show. He used to always be there.
Troy: L.A. told me that was their second home.
GG: Him and Moe would go upstairs and hang out with Busy Bee. Busy was always there too. It was cool if you was told to come up stairs to see the God Father.
Troy: Who was the Godfather?
GG: Busy Bee. It was like a big thing to meet him back then.
Troy: I got the battle between y’all and Doug but it is not straight across.
GG: What made it really funny is I was pulling stuff out as I said the rhymes. I mean it was funny. “mirrors crack at the sight of his mug.” I pulled out a broken mirror. It was funny, it was all in jest, it wasn’t to be malicious. Hey, man I had to defend my crew.
Troy: Do you make any of the hip hop anniversaries’ today?
GG: I made one this year, Caz was there. I came there and did the Funk Box.
GG: Yes. The later part of the summer in August , before I went back on the road, I did a show outside. Which was also Caz and them at Cratona park. A lot of these people had never seen me do Funk box live. There were people from Australia, Italy. They said we heard this record, we been hearing this record for like years and years we never knew what the guy looked like. They were like are you really the guy. I said yeah. So I took pictures with them and when I did Manhattan center they was like oh my God, this is Gangster Gee. I was sitting on the side for like two hours, nobody knew who I was.
Troy: So you really don’t make the anniversary circuit?
GG: No I am mostly on the road doing my R&B stuff. I had to take pictures with everybody.
Troy: So did you do Funk Box by yourself.
GG: No I did it with K.C. and Pooh. We had a moment of silence for Master Don. Then, Bam, LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN to the Funk box…………. (we started laughing).
Troy: Thank you Gangster Gee.
GG: Thank you Troy.
Peace and blessings to you all.
I dedicate this one to Master Don…….and the Def Committee.
Troy L. from HARLEM the Grant Projects.