An Interview with Se’ Divine The Master Mind of the Legendary Supreme Team Show on Radio Station WHBI
What’s up my brother thank you very much for giving me this time. From the beginning where were you born and raised?
I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to New York in the early 60’s. My father was already up in New York working so by the time I hit 12, 13 years old me and my mother moved up they’re to be with him. We went straight to Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy, over on Washington Avenue and Green.
What was the junior high school and high school you went to over there?
I didn’t go to school in New York. Man when I came to New York I was already getting money from when I was in Maryland. School wasn’t a thing because my parents couldn’t control me. I was doing my own thing back in those days. See I bought that GAME with me out of Baltimore. I was in the streets hustling, playing. When I was in Baltimore as a youngster I was in different reform schools. This is 8, 9 years old, probably even before that. But I was always intelligent going to school. I didn’t pay attention in class, see I would fall asleep in class and then ace the test.
I hear you.
The teachers could never understand that, they always thought I was cheating in class. But I never had to; it was simple math, especially when it came to mathematics. I could do whatever problem you put before me. Now moms and pops weren’t doing that well financially but they always kept a roof over our head, and we ate everyday. The little extras I learned to get myself. This might have been because my pops didn’t know how to be a pops, or perhaps he did and I didn’t know how to be a son. But there were certain things I felt today that he could have shown me then that could have lead me a different way as a young man, but it just didn’t happen. When I got the first whiff of them streets and came home and got that whipping for being out late, they warned me not to do it again but it came a time were I just stopped coming home because I wasn’t going for any more whippings. Although we never lived in the projects in Baltimore I was attracted to them and hung out in them on the regular. There was Lafayette, Faragut and so many more; today a lot of them have been torn down.
How close were you to that type of situation on that HBO show the wire and Showtime’s the Corner?
Well that situation didn’t exist back then. The locations that they show on the Wire today wasn’t like that at all back in the days; those were really nice neighborhoods back then! Back then I lived on the east side where it was rough. What they do on the Wire is on the west side where the white people once lived and people that were getting money. Park Heights, Private Row etc. these were places people moved to from the east side like moving from Brooklyn going to Queens and Long Island.
Right, I understand you.
I was really amazed when I went back to Baltimore years later and seen all those people on dope. See when I first came to New York when I was 13 cats were already on dope but it wasn’t like that in Baltimore. You seen a little weed here and there but not the dope. I came to New York with the weed, a little loose joint here, and a little loose joint there. While growing up in Baltimore it didn’t take long before I was in some reform school. I think it was called Boys Village, and it was never for committing a crime it was because I would never went to school.
So you were a truant?
Right I was bad with it, I just would not go. The only time I would go was when it got cold. Then I would go and I would come straight home! But soon as the springtime hit my mother would look me in my eyes and say, “oh lord, that boy is getting ready to go.”
I feel you.
When the birds started tweeting I would be out the front door. If I seen one head on the streets I’d be gone. Whenever they would put me in one of those reform schools I would run away and go to the projects or hang out where ever my boys were at. I would never run to my house because they would know where to find me. So I would go to my homies houses and their parents didn’t care because they would be hanging out all night themselves, especially on the weekends and just leave their kids alone. I had already known about New York before I got there. I read about Man Child in The Promise Land when I was 9, 10 years old.
A good book by Claude Brown.
Right, so I said I couldn’t wait to get to that town! When I got to New York I was ready, because I already knew the game because I read the game. I read the Ice Berg Slim and all that stuff, and the codes that went with it. So when I came up the real players already taught me. When we was coming up on that Grey Dog (Grey Hound bus.) I had the window seat and when I seen us rolling up on New York it was fly, real fly. I will never forget it. You remember that song by Stevie Wonder….
Yeah “Living for the City” and the guy gets busted in the end.
That was me. That was my attitude, I was so happy, I had to be about 13 years old. When we got off that Grey Dog we went down into the train station and caught the A train that lead to the GG. We got off on Clinton and Washington and went to live with my father. The next day at 7 o’clock in the morning I was back on Broadway. I took that GG and just reversed it.
Back to 42nd street?
Right. Went back to Broadway or 8th avenue and 42nd street where that Grey Dog was at or bus terminal and never left. Bust it; some cat sold me some slum (fake) piece of jewelry. I had a few dollars; he probably got me for a dub (slang for $20.)! Somebody from around the way later told me “this ring isn’t real, somebody got you country boy!” I went around the corner shedded some tears and I flipped that ring by selling it to somebody else.
Right I got you.
So I said, “its all good, I wonder where money (that person that sold it to him.) got that from!” So I found a little slum spot to cop (buy.). And this was before them Chain Gang dudes that we used to call them came out of Brooklyn. They use to sell the chains up on the deuce (42nd street area. Mainly Times Square area.) back in the day.
Yeah slumming was big back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Yeah it was good for a youngster back in the days if they were 12 or 13 years old. You could cry some hard luck tears and people are going to buy something from you. I was making a little something off of it. The slum spot was on 14th street.
Over there by Union Square. Today it is further up on 26th street and say 6th avenue.
Right, but back in the days that area didn’t have anything like that. In Union Square you found all the bootleg, but as you started going uptown the more expensive the stuff got, and you ran into the real merchandise. Now it is just saturated with knockoffs. I have to say I have been to school but that just wasn’t my thing, there was just too much money in them streets and it was too easy to come up on.
All right I want to pause for a minute, as I am listening to you I am saying its almost impossible to believe you got down like this because when I used to listen to your shows I felt you had a great deal of discipline because you would never bark on people and you always talked about positive things.
Well I am going to keep it real – I caught a bid at a young age and maxed out in Comstock prison. I caught a case for something I didn’t do, but someone else did. And that is were I realized all niggers looked alike.
(Troy starts laughing.)
No for real!
No I am laughing because I know exactly what you mean.
I believed in Jesus Christ and all that. My mother was coming to court and saying son it’s going to be alright. And she was my witness because she knew the truth and I believed what she was telling me. But when they hit me with that nickel, (5 years.) that kind of f—– my head up for a minute. I think I stayed on the rock fighting it for two years over in HDM (a section in Rikers Island Prison.). I went from Elmira, to Glennen to Napanoch and last stop Comstock . In prison is where I learned about the 5 Percent Nation and studied the lessons and believed in my heart that the white man had to be the devil, especially after what I went through in the court systems. I stayed in trouble in jail, always warring with them cops, took some ass whippings from them cops too. I stayed in solitary confinement and I was so institutionalized at that time I didn’t care. Although I was fighting cats and prison guards I still stayed in my literature such as Malcolm X or Before the Mayflower, and read other strong literature and history. I maxed out in Comstock and didn’t owe anybody anything once I got out.
So now you make it home, how did you catch this hip-hop bug?
When I first came home it wasn’t hip-hop that I heard, but I always loved music, singing and all that stuff. We used to have the doo-wop in the joint and I had a good voice for it. But when I came home that cat Flowers (Grand Master Flowers.) was rocking Brooklyn. He used to set up in this park I lived across from Elevens park or P.S. 11 park, over on Green Avenue and Washington Avenue. When Flowers came out with that system and started rocking that sound I was like “damn I like this.”
What year was this when you first heard Flowers?
This was about 1974. I needed money so instead of going back to the streets and doing my thing I went to this place called Street Academy in Brooklyn on Nostrom Avenue (The Education of Sonny Carson players came from The Street Academy as well.) over by Boys High school. They taught drama class in there as well as education. I became very popular there and a very dynamic speaker there as well. I love speaking, especially talking about what the black man should do. But I have to say those streets still had me, so my moms said I had to do something. So I went into Job Corps, and they shipped me out to Indiana and I rose to the top out there also. But after awhile this Job Corp thing started to feel like jail, cats fighting everyday. Dudes saying Chicago this, Brooklyn or New York that! I am arguing with cats non stop…so I ended up leaving Job Corps and went into Indianapolis and started living there. I got me a little apartment and my Earth (Woman) came over from New York. I met this cat named King Gypsy from the West Coast and he was selling that slum like I did earlier. His girl who was in the witness protection program, and my girl got cool. Which made him and I start talking, and he started telling me about the game. He told me about the Red Card (3 card Molly.) He also put me on to the Insurance game. The cat knew all the games and I picked up a few things from him. I was on that public assistance for a minute. The Public assistance over there would pay your rent give you food stamps but would not give you green money. But when he showed me that Red Card I became a monster! My whole thing with that Red Card had him and I arguing on the regular about it. I had many arguments with folks even up in New York. I was so nice with it I was unstoppable. I could not be beat. I got hit once, and that was my mistake. I leaned left when I should have leaned right. But I never leaned left again. Also I would have to say I never played black people. I just could never do it because they had their own money problems.
So how could you not catch blacks when all the marks on 42nd street were black and Hispanic? There were a few whites but mostly blacks and Hispanics.
Nah see this is how you would get around that. When we played even if you played on the deuce you played at a certain time. The deuce is not where I really laid them cards down. We laidthem cards down on Wall Street. I took my crew down to Wall Street, because the money wasn’t really on the deuce. Plus you have to remember I learned the game from a west coast cat and the west coast had a slower pace of playing. In New York they were like “red card, black card, red card, black card who see it, who got 10 dollars?” West coast game was real smooth; they would have a story to go with it. But at the end of that story whatever you had in your pocket they were taking. So if he had a G (Thousand.) you could get that G. If a cat had 5G you could get that whole 5G’s. You had to know how to ask for your money and I learned that from the West Coast. So for the cats on 42nd street asking for 10 and 20 dollars taking all day to grind, I say “man I need to go down on Wall Street to get some paper.”
I feel you.
See they don’t have any protection for one. They would never expect it to happen.
As far as a crime it was a misdemeanor. They writing you a desk appearance ticket right on the street. It isn’t like they are taking you to jail. You are going to go to court and pay your fine, come back out and keep playing. It couldn’t have been any sweeter.
Yeah you could have done that all day.
Right, but we would all go down on Wall Street and cats were nervous, but I was young energetic and could write my own story. That is how much I was into the game. I would just do stuff that was out of the ordinary. The first time I took my team to Wall Street they were shaking like a leaf on a tree. All I told them was “hold me down” which means watch out for the police. I took those cards out and started rocking right there on the Bank steps. In fact I dropped them cards right on top of a guys shoes and caught him for about 3 hundred dollars quick. Then the team started to loosen up.
Now the deuce was just a place where cats would meet. In the morning we might meet up at the bagel shop, the locations would change over the years. It might be the bagel or the donut shop, or the park if it is a nice day. So the teams would come out and every one would then disperse. But the only time cats would really play on 42nd street would be at night for that night action. 5th avenue was sweet.
So let me ask you this – wouldn’t that night action be risky being as those cats at night would be more vicious, so you would be taking more of a chance. Or would you be up on the deuce because you just felt like hanging out up there?
Yes of course certain times I just loved the deuce and being in the game. We had a little bar cats use to go to afterwards. I think it was called Steve’s Pigpen. It was a little hole in the wall to the left of the bus station on about 43rd street or 44th street. A lot of the players used to hang out over there putting that thing up their nose. All that type of nonsense and I have to say I never got into that type of thing because the guy that taught me, told me this is all a game. And you got players that are going to play on players. So if you out grinding all day long and you got another cat that is out here selling drugs, he’s grinding too. So he is waiting for you to get done then he gets paid.
So I said I could never get caught like that. Also I have to say because of what I did a lot of cats in the hip-hop game during that time did not like the idea of me being a hustler. Now today it is accepted! A hustler to me is a confidence man. That is some one who can walk up to you and talk you out of your money, or talk a woman out of her p—-.
Would you say the art of a confidence man is to think fast and talk fast as well as think slick as possible.
No, see it is wrong to say that, people think to be a confidence man you must talk fast. To be a confidence man you talk slow because a person has to understand what you are telling them.
Well when I say talking fast the mark is missing the point of what you are trying to do. That is what I mean by talking fast.
But they don’t miss the point.
No when I say miss the point I mean they missed the idea that they are about to be taken for their possessions, valuables or money.
Oh yes, of course. But I have to say I never played a black man. That was for them ….., because that was who had the paper. For instance this cat broke a sister on the Deuce one day. I just happened to be hanging around this day and watched it go down. She said, “That was my rent money.” There have been so many situations where this has happened. Where these girls have been crying, and I just couldn’t take that. No I couldn’t take anybody’s money like that and leave him or her in pain like that.
Well what about the black brothers with the suit and ties down on Wall Street that did work the stock market, were they part of the cats that you would consider marks because I know they had loot too. Even if it weren’t that many brothers down there.
Well I can’t lie to you I have got some of the brothers. But when we played we had a move were we knew how to block out people. Where you might throw your hips at them or you move your position. Then you always have that black person that will say “dam n—– my money isn’t good enough!”
(Troy busts out laughing.) I understand you. You giving him every chance to not play and lose his money and he still don’t get the message. Then you say, “To hell with it you can get got too.”
Exactly “bang, have a nice day”. Oh we had a way of playing even when we stood up with that fox. Troy I had a fly game. We had a way of playing with newspapers, anything to block visions, put your hand in front of some ones face. As soon as who ever the Vic was bent down to pick up that card, everybody else who was in the game got blocked out.
Right I got you.
My man Bubba aka Lucky Pierre was good at blocking that vision for me. He was one of them cats on the team, he was a good slinger too, but he died possibly from getting high, God bless him. That killed a lot of players and a lot of them got out of that drug thing later on. So we had moves were we could block out the whole crowd and then move the cards to where people thought they were anyway.
So now how did ya’ll handle a slick dude that knew what time it was and was game tight like ya’ll? See my thoughts with the 3-card molly were the dealer would always give you the opportunity to win in the very beginning to steer you in.
No ,that could never happen.
Well isn’t that part of the game, they allow you to win so you can put more money down and then you get taken? So my thoughts were put your money down right in the beginning and then break out once you win.
No, that is not true. It is a team sport, so if I am passing money off to somebody, that is money I am going to get back and that is why it is a team sport for those that can understand it. And you can win if you are that clever, but you can’t beat me.
So how did you handle those clever dudes that came at you?
Well one time a cat got me and that was because I lead left instead of going right. This happened on Court Street in Brooklyn, where other cats would go to Fulton Street in Brooklyn we went to Court Street were the money was at. You have to say the right things out your mouth that is the most important thing. If a cat says he wants that joint that’s on the left, that’s the one you paying on. You can’t bet left and go right.
I see what you are saying.
You understand, so if a cat is so clever you have to say that while you are playing. You ask which one do you want you are not laying it down like a free for all! If the cat points to the left and I think he is clever enough I will put the right one inside my pocket. Or I will turn that left one up for him and don’t even give him a chance. Say “oops that’s your black,” all right baby next!
So that is something I learned because I leaned left and the guy got me on the right. But guys that know game are called Pick up Artist! You had guys that would go around and just pick up on other cats. This day that cat picked up on me; he might have gotten me for a hundred dollars. He caught me leaning. The team wanted to beat this cat down. I said leave that man alone, I gave him a handshake for that one. You not going to win them all so at this point I am just trying to get him out of the game since I see what he is doing, and its now a mind thing. So it’s like “do I play him one on one or do I contemplate winning all this money.” Let that man walk with that. I will take it out of my pay, I’m not even mad at him.
Well more money can come in because somebody walked away winning. Now other cats think they have a better chance of winning.
You saying it right Troy, because it is almost like he is on your team. But you can’t cry about that. They really wanted to beat his ass and take it from him but I told them we players, not robbers!
Yo I ain’t going to front one time I lost money going against the dealer. See I thought the trick to this game was put your money down immediately when he is giving you the opportunity to win. Well I seen the trick go down and it looked tricky on my eyes but I still went with the flow. This white guy was watching and told my friend “yo tell your man don’t do it, what is he doing?” And just as I put the money down the n——s on the dealers’ team surrounded me, and they surrounded me like they knew I was going to rebel. All I did was say “yo ya’ll got me” and I was just stunned like how did I allow this to happen. All I had in my mind was I am going to rob somebody when I get back uptown, because I got to get that money back. But I later said to my self “n—— you just played your self.” “You can’t deal with these cats on no 3 card molly, don’t ever get involved any more.”
You right just leave that thing alone because its just not for you. Man we played that game all over the country. And you are right there are other times I have let cats win but that is in close quarters. He couldn’t go anywhere. We might be on a bus riding from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale so we are trapped in there together. So you don’t want to break him too quick. You have to keep it interesting.
Right you got to milk him.
Right you have to leave that man some money to catch the next bus.
So this Red Card came before the Hip-Hop for you, is that valid?
(Slight hesitation.) Yeah…right.
And Grand Master Flowers inspired you, but how long did it take before you started getting involved with it?
Hard to answer but I would have to say about 5 or 6 years before Hey D.J. came out.
Well what were you doing before WHBI?
We were tearing up Brooklyn man. See once I got some paper playing all over the place and hanging out with the hustlers I still loved that music and I still was writing. If I was in say North Carolina I would try and get on and play. I kept records with me. They didn’t always let me on but when they did I got a chance to shine. You have to remember I seen Flowers, I then left for Indiana; I came back to New York. I then went down to Florida and then I went out to the west coast L.A. So I love music but I am into the game at this point. When I came back to New York it had to be two years later. See what happened was I seen the cats on the street playing, I seen the hustling but their morals and principles were not like mines. So it is not like I had a partner. So I had no interest in their street games at that time, so I was like “nah I can’t get involved with this.” So instead of playing Red Card I started peddling again. I went back to 14th street ran up in them joints, even the ones on 16th street and 17th street. That’s where I met my man Justice (Just Allah The Super Star.) I would buy a little merchandise, regular stuff no slum and come back to the train station by Mays department store and we got our hustle on. Do you remember back in the days when the transit authority had the lockers down inside the subways?
I had keys to all those lockers. I had lockers stuffed with clothes, umbrellas and if it rained I just ran down there and got some umbrellas and ran back out and hit them. Then if it was sunny outside I would come out with the straw hats and whatever and stayed ready. It was all good but I had to go back to the way of getting larger money!
So one night I came out on Broadway two deep and they were playing five deep in this game. The cats in the game mostly knew me as a peddler, they didn’t know I knew the game so when cats seen me put that box up and them cards down cats were like “yeah I am going to pick up on him.” I said yeah come on I am ready for that type of s—.
(Troy starts laughing.)
“I am bad with this thing” “I will shut you cats down with this”! So they stood around and watched the game and we took about $400 and jetted. It was kind of nervous out there because I never used to do my hustle over there.
So the slick brothers thought they would be able to take yours and you ended up taking them for theirs!
No, no because see a player is never going to play a player, all they were doing was talking! But you could never put that type of fear in me because I was too good. I would study cards for months. I could take a card and put them together and sling them across the room and make them land how I wanted them to land. I could take them joints and flip them up in the air and make them fall the way I wanted them to, and people didn’t know that about me. Cats got broke f—— with me back in them days.
So lets get back to the music you bought the equipment and went to the parks before you got to WHBI?
Yeah we rocked the parks, like Bed Stuy, Brownsville, Fort Green, East New York.
So where did you rock in the winter?
Shut it down and go to Florida!
No I am saying in the winter where did you rock?
Nah I heard you. I would go to Florida in the winter, or the west coast. Some where where it was warm. I don’t like cold weather. When the seasons changed I slid back up in there. It didn’t take long though; it might have taken two years to get where I wanted to be with the music. I also think it might have happened too soon for me. Do you remember Africa Islam (The Funk Machine, Zulu Beats Show.)?
Sure I do, he had his show as well.
Right well back in the days we were doing a show with D Train, who was hot at the time. Africa Islam and these beautiful young ladies called The Mercedes Ladies stepped to me and said “yo we are going to do a show with D Train” They wanted about 3 or 4 thousand people at a spot I think in the Boston Ball room up in the Bronx, something like that I not sure of the location. Nice spot, a brick building right off the highway, or right across the bridge. The Mercedes Ladies were supposed to be selling these tickets and the cat wanted half up front and the other half after the show. To promote the show we went down to WHBI. We did a show with this kid name Chris Blackwell who was an emcee and he talked like Frankie Crocker. He pronounced all his words, but he was a real cool cat. During this time Islam was playing under ground music, but people weren’t into that underground, they were into that hip-hop.
And I already knew how to scratch and mix because I had my own turntables, plus I knew how to write and I was having fun with it. We were real popular in the parks and other jams. But the show went bust because enough tickets were not sold. And Blackwell didn’t have a following! The show was dead because the crowd was not ready for what Islam was playing; in fact the music that Islam was playing during that time, they were not ready for him at least that was the impression I got. In fact that boy was ahead of his time he was beyond hip-hop! I have to give him that, he was tight I will never forget that about him. But the main stream was begging for straight hip-hop. So we took a lost, we took a bath on it. So the WHBI show came up that next night and they came to the studio, Islam and Blackwell and I told them “this is my show because you cats didn’t lose anything I was the one that took the loss.” I didn’t try to house or take the show, but that was what my feelings were since I took such a big loss. I needed a way to recoup my money!
So this was right at the time Mr. Magic had his show on there. So you came on right after he finished his show?
So you just started spinning records at first?
Well once I told them I was going to do the show then I started making my own tapes and taking them down to the studio. We were already Supreme Team from Brooklyn. See two or three years before WHBI, before I had a turntable before I had anything, I was making flyers saying Supreme Team is coming. I was all over Brooklyn posting these flyers, whether on barbershops walls or super markets I had these flyers all over the place. So cats were like “what do you mean they coming, what is this all about!” Three years later we were on WHBI!
So what was the purpose of you making those flyers at that time?
Because it was already my dream, I knew what I was going to do. That is if God kept me living. I knew I would eventually be on a radio show or have my own radio show. I also knew I would be doing something having to do with d.j.ing, I seen it coming. History always repeats it self, I was smart enough to see that even then.
So how did you rock this in the studio?
Like I said earlier I had music that I made at home on tape. While in the studio I would also play records, but they didn’t have it hooked up in the studio to mix and scratch. So while I am playing a record on the turntable I then would say “it is now time for a World Famous Supreme team break” and hit a button and I might play a 15-minute tape of just cuts of with maybe Big Beat or Mardi Gras. Then I might cut it off and say “we are going to take some dedications” and that is what our show became just a lot of little skits actually and picked up a few sponsors. Like O.J. limousine service, which was rocking up in the Bronx and Manhattan. Then there is Sylva’s restaurant, which used to give us money too. We stepped to her, I was just out hunting and I told her we got a show and we need sponsors. WHBI was making money and we had listeners also because I am a God, the Nation was right there with me, although it scared the hell out of me.
(Troy laughs.) Why do you say that?
Well being so early in the game I didn’t know how they were going to respond to it. Gods were out there spitting the truth and I am on the air cutting and scratching and hollering and screaming. So I didn’t know how it we be received by them and I didn’t know how it would effect my hustling.
Well how much did it cost you to pay for a slot on the WHBI show?
I think one of the shows was like $300.00 and that was on Tuesday’s. I think from 1am to 2am. The other two might have been about $150.00 or $200.00 and those nights were Thursday morning from 4am to 5 am and Sunday from 4am to 5am. I can’t remember right now. I know we were dam near hitting a G for those 3 shows.
Ya’ll rocked for about 3 years am I right?
I don’t really remember it might have only been just a year.
So while you played there how was your relationship with Mr. Magic while he was rocking there also?
Well he was cool with me or I should say cool to me. We had two shows that were different but everybody was trying to be a star. To me I was like I don’t give a f— one way or another! I am just trying to do my thing. It’s kind of hard for me to speak for him.
Speak for him? What do you mean?
Well I don’t think I was somebody he really liked from what other people had told me. My response was so the f——- what! I mean he was on one side of the glass and we were on the other side. He would say “this is Mr. Magic going of the air” and it was cool because he had his fan base. Then the engineer, I think his name was George he would say alright Supreme Team you’re on. And he would go 5,4,3,2,1 and we would be sitting down and we would jump up out the chair and say, “yo wake up your mother your father your sister and brother and let them know that the world famous Supreme Team is on the air.” That’s heart-taking s—, for somebody to be sitting right there in the chair looking at you. But like I said Magic and me had two different shows. I wasn’t trying to take anything from him! You know that was how that was back in the days, cats was like that. Flash didn’t like Theodore so folks say! Other emcees just didn’t get along. You go to battles and they pull the plug on you.
So bust it once the Supreme Team show started making waves how did the established groups and artists like Cold Crush, Grand Master Flash and the Furious 5, Kurtis Blow, Star Ski etc receive ya’ll now?
See I really don’t know because I was doing my own thing and I really didn’t care about what they were doing. A lot of them hung out in the Fever. I have been to the Fever and I have been to the back room were they was putting that s— up their nose. That wasn’t my place. I had my own plan. Also I have tosay a lot of cats didn’t like the fact that I was a hustler, which is accepted now. If they had accepted it then, it would have been all-good! I am going to jump ahead for a minute. When Malcolm Mcclaren came to America I think he was like $350,000 in debt with a company called Charisma Records in England. Malcolm was a player for them England cats to give him that kind of money and he wasn’t producing anything. He might have been on the road for about 8 months and they hadn’t heard a note from him or lyric. The budget might have been 250 and he had 350 and pushing. He went up to the Fever and met Kurtis Blow etc., and you name it he met them and he is chatting with them. Africa Bambaataa who is by the way a good friend of mine back in them days, he chatted with him. Then he came to WHBI. A friend of his, I think his name is Terry a white guy told him “you need to go down to this radio station and check him out.” See he came to me but those guys he chatted with before me he could have put them on.
Alright I don’t want to go to fast because I have a lot for Malcolm Macclaren. How did you get so cool with the Force M.C.s, or Sweet Slick and Sly from New Jersey?
Well the Force M.C.s were in the streets just like us. So I used to always walk past them while they were performing.
Was this on 42nd street, or down by the Staten Island Ferry?
Yeah this was in Midtown and I would see them on the Ferry later. But I thought they were very talented, so when we got WHBI I asked them to come down, and being as I had the equipment if they was throwing a jam out in Staten Island I would come out there and rock with them. We also took them into Brooklyn and they rocked with us and they blew up. Brooklyn blew them up.
So you were pretty tight with Mercury, God bless him as well as Steveie Dee.
Yeah I was cool with them but I was little older then them. But what really attracted me to them was they reminded me of your Smokey Robinson’s, and they were unpolished!
But like the Smokey Robinson’s, Temptations, Moments and Delphonics, to me the Force M.D.s are the fore fathers of all of them groups like Jodeci, Boys II Men you name it. They all heard the Force M.C.s.. We did a party up in Ossining and I took them and something happened with the lights or the equipment because cats were real shady back then. Force M.C.s rocked that joint with no music!
I believe you.
They rocked for two hours just like that. As well as doing little skits of the Chinese man.
Yeah they love that, which is their m.o., Billie Jean, Michael Jackson, Karate Flicks all that.
Right they just had so much ammo and energy so I would take them any where with me. The situation with Sweet Slick and Sly was they just popped up on me. But it is not like I hung out with them like the Force. This other group I liked was from Queens. For a minute I had lived out in Elmhurst Queens and the Turn Out Brothers were from there. The Turn Out Brothers had showed out the Force one night. You know the Force; they would just come out gangster. They didn’t have any real money at the time, just got finish hustling on the street and they would run up on the mic and do their thing. When the Turn Out Brothers got on the mic they came on dressed in all white with red handkerchiefs sticking out of their jacket pockets and they looked real nice and had their dance steps down good. So I remember when the show was over the Force said “man we got to start dressing alike”, it was funny. I think one of the members of Kid and Play was down with the Turn Out Brothers with Grand Wiz.
Its strange you tell me that because Biz Markie used to call me a lot about those Supreme Team tapes and ask me to play them for him through the phone. He kept telling me that Kid and Play was on your show, asking me did I have it. I told him what I had (tapes 116, 117, 118,) but no Kid and Play.
No he is right Kid or Play was running with Turn Out Brothers, but also Herbie from Salt and Pepper was running with them.Them cats all came up together. I tried to do a party out there in East Elmhurst but it wasn’t like Brooklyn they wouldn’t let me plug it in. In Brooklyn you plug up and you can rock to like 4, 5 o’clock in the morning! The one thing I will say about Brooklyn, Brooklyn was wild but when Supreme Team would go to Brooklyn it would be no problem. The Gods and cats that knew us would get on that mic and say “yo ya’ll n—— know Supreme Team is up in this joint and it ain’t going to be no s— out here tonight.” Guess what it wouldn’t be no s— either! I loved that about Brooklyn, they supported us. They made sure we left and came o.k.
Who were the other cats that came up in the show to perform or just hang out?
I remember one time Doug E Fresh came and it broke my heart because he had came at the wrong time. A lot of cats used to come down there and think they could just walk up in there and just do their thing but we might already be doing something else. All cats had to do was call me up because I wasn’t hard to find. Doug E. Fresh came in one night and I think the show was already half gone and I was playing a tape and we had to do the dedications and he wanted to go on. We were like “man we have to finish this thing off, this thing is almost done.” I didn’t see Doug again until we did a show up in the Audubon together. That is one cool brother there.
You are right he is definitely a cool brother even to this day. Now with the name Supreme Team, I remember you telling me that you had the name before Fat Cat and his crew.
That is correct in fact I didn’t even hang out in Queens. I never knew about that Fat Cat brother and the fact that there was another Supreme Team anywhere. In fact somebody out of town asked me one day “are you Divine from the Supreme Team I said yes because that is my name.” But they weren’t talking about Divine from the Supreme Team on WHBI that was doing the music. So I found out months later that he mentioned it to someone else that “that is that dude Divine from Supreme Team, them n—– that be doing that thing up in 40 projects. I said doing what thing!” And cats started questioning me about Cat and I said “nah baby we talking about two different things. I said I am World Famous Supreme Team WHBI 105 FM on your dial partner. I said “I don’t sell no drugs.” I said “if they picked that name up they did it on their own.” That Supreme Team means something and it don’t mean that. It was me, Just Allah The Super Star and another brother name Black God. We were grinding in them streets together. We did everything together, whatever. We said we are the Supreme Team and we are always going to be together and it just carried on.
So how did the radio station feel about ya’ll once ya’ll really started to blow up?
The station didn’t have any problem, they was just trying to get money. They didn’t like us giving out the phone number because it came a time were we started putting their lights out.
What does that mean?
The old style phones we had to push the buttons 1120 or 1121. If we were to say “give us a call 873- 1120 and 1121.” Folks start calling.
So that means the station can’t get any phone calls because your listeners are clogging up the line with their phone calls?
Yes and a couple times the phones went out. There weren’t any lights. I guess it was just too much traffic. When the phones would go out then the calls would roll over to the neighborhoods. And WHBI was down by Riverside Drive.
Right over there by West End Avenue a block away from Riverside Drive on the west side of Manhattan.
Right it was on something like 79th street, down in the basement of a hotel. It was little rattrap not a big station. “Station with a little static” we used to call it.
(Troy laughs.) Station with a little static?
Yeah that is what we used to call it. Yeah we used to say, “yo man if you turning your dial trying to get us and it sounds staticy leave it alone because that’s us.” (We both start laughing.)
So all right in the very beginning it was quiet and silent from Mr. Magic, but did his respect ever change for the better as you started to get popular on the radio, or did he remain the same?
I doubt it, and there might have been a little tension there. I always speak when I see some one but you can always feel tension. Perhaps it was positive tension I don’t know, I just wanted to do my thing. Don’t get any blows thrown at me and I don’t throw any. Just try and live in peace.
Were any other stations calling on you to sign with them such as the main stations Kiss, WBLS or 92KTU?
Nah, which I probably could have went into that but I started getting tired of the radio.
Why is that?
Well by this time we had went into England with Malcolm and it just got too hard to do. We would do tapes in England and ship them back. It was a six-hour difference. What really made me lose interest was when we did the records I could not get the company to get behind us on the records. That is what really broke my spirit because I broke Buffalo Girls on WHBI, and the next day that song sky rocketed to number one in New York, Connecticut and Jersey. They went crazy for that song. When we did Hey D.J. the same thing happened and I told them ya’ll need to get behind this! Their response was it doesn’t sound like Buffalo Girls. I told them I know because its called Hey D.J.. But I broke that song on WHBI as well. So how much of that can you take. Bust it you got your other cats coming up on these independent labels and cats like Russell Simmons and then you got a cat that comes up out of nowhere with a deal and selling numbers, but you can’t move no numbers if they don’t believe in you.
So this takes me to how did you and Malcolm Maclaren first meet?
Well we had a lot of white listeners on the WHBI show as well. So this white cat name Terry called the show and said this guy wanted to meet us. So we hooked up a time and place, which was the Park Meridian hotel. So we sat down to some Steak and Eggs and he told us a little about him self, and how he is doing his thing for Virgin records over seas. He also said he liked the show and wanted to do a record with us. So I said what type of money is ya’ll talking about. He said we could probably give you guys a thousand dollars apiece or something like that. I was taken back with that number. I said you couldn’t be talking about no 1000 dollars; I could go on the street corner and get that!
So from that we did some real negotiating. I can’t think of what he gave us right now but he would have done better fooling with those other cats that didn’t know better and what I was saying was the truth.
On Buffalo Girls we got a hefty fee for that, and that was because of what we wanted. I said if it hit or miss we need some money! So hit us off lovely. The next day I came to the studio and they hit me off with a large sum of money. I then got a passport and said were going to England and make this song. No one knew what the song was going to be because they didn’t have a concept.
So ya’ll recorded in England and not in New York?
Right, I cannot remember the studio over there. But when I went over there it wasn’t like America. They had the real equipment, the Fare Light for example. They had instruments that you weren’t seeing in recording studios over here. All of the stuff was top of the line. That Solid State Logic, all the spots were already sitting on that. America was still using a lot of analog stuff.
Yeah I heard about that, homeboy from Whodini was telling my partner about that when they were recording over there back in the 80’s as well! It was like they were years ahead of America in their sound! I find it hard to believe. Why do you think it is like that?
I really couldn’t tell you that! America is just America, I mean one that lives here would think that the technology is born here but its not. Once you leave and go somewhere else America is a world apart. Even with the Internet stuff, you have other countries that charge less the money for high speed. You click that button and you are there. America so busy trying to drain you for as much as they can and not one for trying to set up new systems. They hate to spend money, all they want to do is make money, and they end up getting left behind. Then they end up coming to your country and steal your s— any way.
Isn’t that something?
They will find away of getting it. But I am glad you ask me, this cat name Trevor Horn (English pop music record producer, song writer and musician) over there was a producer and the other day I read an article about him and he said that we came over there and we used their DMX drum machine which we already had in New York because we were rocking the TR Drum machine also. There was a lot of Drum Machines out during that time, and black folks got that beat. But on Buffalo Gals he said that he asked me “what beat do I like the most and we will program that beat.” He then said it took me two hours to be able to communicate it to him!
I was like dam why would he make a statement like that, to take nothing from him because the statement was true, because it took two hours to communicate it to him because he was so busy trying to beat on the drum machine with the beat I was trying to put into his head and he couldn’t do it. And Trevor Horn was like a Quincy Jones over seas.
I tell him boom da bap and he would play something like bo da da da, and I would say “whoa what the hell is that.” So I would say let me do it, but they wouldn’t. So it took 2 hours. So after an hour of not finding it and me leaving him alone and sitting on the couch he finally fesses up and says “Divine you know white people don’t have any rhythm.” I said, “I heard that but I didn’t believe it, but now I do!”
I hear you. All right check this out with the Buffalo Gals first version why did the vocals come out the left speaker and the instrumental come out the right ear.
That was just one of Malcolm Maclaren’s tricks. That was all that was; I personally didn’t think that would work because I knew how clubs were set up. But I listened to Malcolm because he was playing the game. He said we have to do as much stuff that is different then what they are doing right now. He said we are going to do one and call it the stereo mix! It was cool and it was good that he did it like that because you got so many samples off that left side. “Too much of that snow white” I hear that stuff in a lot of songs. Also the African chant & “All that scratching is making me itch” on other tracks for years.
Who actually came out with that concept Buffalo Girls?
That was Malcolm’s stuff, that whole track was him. The only thing that I put on that track is a drumbeat and I also did the scratching.
I am going to take you back again for a minute. Being as you are a 5 Percent Nation member, what was your relationship with Malcolm being as he was considered a White Devil by the 5 Percent Nation?
We didn’t have a relationship, Malcolm was a player and I know a player when I see one. We didn’t do nothing but sit down and chat. The most money I have ever made was having somebody down with me like that. The best way to get money depending on who you are, you put somebody down like that. He put us down and it didn’t bother me that he was white or him considered a devil or what ever the case maybe. Man we were trying to get money. I wasn’t trying to have sex with white women. It didn’t change me at all. But some of the best players I was able to get the most money with because of their complexion. I had a white boy down with me back in the day’s name Joe and I got so much money with him it was crazy. But cats hated Joe.
He was down with the red card also?
Yeah he was playing red card with me. But Joe and I were taking more money then anybody.
And everybody hated this dude, and I loved Joe. I would go out there with Joe and have a 4000 or 5000 dollar day, and Joe and me were friends. But when Joe would say “yo Divine come on and hang out with me after the game”, I never did that. You know when he would go to his little strip clubs and see his little black chicks all that kind of stuff. I was never a part of that but I was with him with that money.
I got you but with Malcolm did he seem sincere about the black culture it self?
..Yeah…you know the one true thing about Malcolm and I kind of seen it coming out the gate just by the way he communicated to me. But I hate to call him an opportunist but that was what it is. Some people are able to see what’s going to happen, black, white green it don’t matter and through being in the industry and through his Sex Pistols group back in the days and that track they put out I think its called God save the Queen it became a record that was banned in England. He knows how to get that attention.
And he was just smart, in fact not smart but seen what was happening. Hip-hop is the new thing. He was at that time of our first meeting with him $350,000 in debt He had to come back with something to show and prove and he stumbles in to hip-hop. And says this is the new thing, like I knew it was the new thing when I first heard them youngsters rapping at the young age of 12, 13, 14 years old. Same as you Troy, you had to see the same thing.
And the strange thing is those 25 year old cats during that time didn’t like hip-hop, or the 30-year-old crew. Frankie Crocker wasn’t playing it. 92 WKTU wasn’t playing it; they already had their own format. But eventually they realized hip-hop was taking over because the youth is going to grow.
I got you. So in time your relationship became cool with Malcolm and you would consider him a friend?
Yeah! But like I said we didn’t hang out. He was a friend but it was business.
Now with the Buffalo Gals who’s idea was it to put the snippets in from the radio show?
Once again Malcolm.
He had a lot to do with this Buffalo Gal; he did pretty much everything like you said.
Yeah that’s real the cat did his thing. He was trying to get paid and trying to present something to these people that would sell. He had a lot of music from all over the world France, Africa etc but the first cut he played for them at the boardroom in England was Buffalo Gal. And he is a real good promoter and I have to say I learned that from him how to make these companies jump. So when he played it they did the first pass, and every one is sitting there looking like what the f— is that, because England had not heard that type of stuff. They didn’t know what hip-hop was! Their first time hearing hip-hop was when Malcolm came back with it. He said when he played it he told them “ya’ll need to listen again because ya’ll not hearing it.” He told them they need to get behind this because it is going to be a number one hit. I felt the same way about it when I heard it completely. Where they went wrong with Buffalo Gals here in America is that they put so much into MTV playing it and Charisma records put all there chips on to it as well, and felt the video would make the record go right to number one. You remember MTV’s commercials I want my MTV with Eric Clapton and others!
When MTV took it to the board I can’t remember how many people were on this board and listened to the stuff as well as watching the videos to see what they would accept and what they would reject. They ended up rejecting Buffalo Gals and it took Charisma’s heart! They didn’t even put them on the shelf! While this is going on we are sitting up in New York waiting for it to be released. We down at the studio WHBI just coming back from England and the fan base is like “yo what’s going on when that new joint coming out ya’ll said ya’ll was over there in England recording that what’s happening with the record.” I call them again and say, “what are ya’ll going to do we got people hitting us up saying they want to hear the song.” They said another week, and once MTV told them no they lost their spirit and I went and played it. I played it right after the intro, and then I played it again before the show was over that night. The next day it was a big song. Everybody was rocking it in the streets in their box (Radio.) “First Buffalo gal, first buffalo Gal this s— is hot!”
We both start laughing.
But they were scared of it, and rightfully so but that was the ticket and Malcolm saw it.
How long did it take before it got buck wild in England?
England accepted it. They released it over there and they called me over there. I have never been an entertainer. I have never claimed to be an entertainer a rapper none of that stuff. I am the jack of all trades master of none, my daddy told me that because I would move on to other things so swiftly. When I went back over there they offered me something like $5000, something real stupid.
That’s just to take the plane ride?
Nah that was the contract, they wanted to sign me. The only thing they heard on me was Buffalo Gals and that was Malcolm’s song but he paid me and that was love. So I said I don’t know. So they said all right why don’t you go around and do these little promos or what you would say little tours. So they took me to clubs and stuff like that to do our thing. Now scratching and cutting I had no problem with that. I get up and catch that with no problem plus I bought my own turntables, mixer and records with me. So I was pretty comfortable with that. Now the young white kids were packing these joints and never heard scratching and cutting before.
So now ya’ll are in England does that mean ya’ll went out there before Bam, Islam and Rodney Cee?
Probably so, because the people out there had never heard this music before. I am pretty sure we did because all of those cats came after us. Whodini came after us once they got down with Dolby.
Do you remember some of the clubs you played at out there?
Hard to remember but one of them might have been called The Palace, a real pretty place. See while we were on this tour we were just jumping from spot to spot. Every night I was somewhere else.
Was any one on the tour with you?
Well there might be other bands playing but I was so swift I didn’t even get a chance to meet other groups. We would run up in there and they would say, “The World Famous Supreme Team is here and they got this new album.” Plus the company would call ahead because they supported each other over there, they knew what spots to send you to. So we would run up in there plug up the turntables do our thing and be out of there. But we really thought the label just wanted to see if we were good entertainers or not. So I would roll up into each town and stay for about a week and do t.v. shows and clubs and stuff like that. After a while we said damn we need to come up with a plan and we decided to treat it like it was WHBI. So after about the third show it was getting uncomfortable around these white people because we talking about hip hop you don’t stop and they never heard of this stuff! (Se Divine laughs.) So we would come into the club and start at the front door and start asking people their names and shaking their hands. I bought a notebook with me and we would start writing down folk’s names and asking them stuff like what part of town are you from and stuff like that.
O.k. so you started the request line thing over there?
Yes the same thing exactly, but this time we are doing it on stage and by the time it ends we be giving them pounds. (Money.) They had those pounds over there not dollars. I would have a whole load of dedications. We would get on stage and say “World Famous Supreme Team, yo D.J. hit me on the one.” “Ya’ll know we are cutting it up like this”…. Bang! We might hit them with that Brothers Johnson Jam then hit them with the Rocket in the Pocket jam or something like that. Then I say yo I am going to give out a few dedications. Then I say yo yo what’s up with my boy so and so in the back, let me hear you, let me see you out there. They start putting their hands up. I had about a hundred dedications to make you know.
I got you.
So we would rock it like that and you would hear them say yo I am over here. At the end we would say we came to England and we got all this money and I don’t know if ya’ll know about dollars but we got these pounds and I don’t know what to do with these pounds, yo what do you think we need to do with these pounds? One of the guys on tour with me would say “we need to give those pounds away, lets leave those pounds right here.” So we say here is what we are going to do, we are going to have a dance contest. So we then would bring them cats on stage and they would start dancing, for like 30 minutes and that is how we would be giving those pounds away and they was loving it. They would be like “yeah when are those guys coming back.”
Were there times ya’ll would come into these clubs and the crowd just didn’t understand the music and they didn’t say a word, dance or anything?
I think the first club we went into reminded me of home because there were blacks there like flies to butter milk and they had never heard cutting before. And just catching that joint on the four or catching it every four bars I should say. That was to give them a chance to feel the groove and kind of feel what I am doing. Not just cut one two, cut one two. You know you confuse them like that and so they started to get the hang of it, but they would just be looking like totally spaced out at times.
(Troy starts to laugh and we both agree that the crowd just looked like “what the hell is this!”)
What the hell is these n—— on! But we kept doing it and I think they were trying to pick up on the technique, but the s— was amazing to them because it wasn’t like we were missing beats because the stuff still made sense. Plus you know the beats we were coming out of New York with, these beats were Gangster.
What inspired the World Famous cut, and why was it so Jazz influenced? By the way that is one of my very favorites of all time!
See now there is this woman name Ann Dudley over in England who they put us with, and by the way I came up on Jazz and I came up as a player, and Jazz was old school. So coming out of The Moments and Delphonics and stuff like that, and as a youngster in New York coming out of the joint I started going down to the village a lot because I loved Jazz players. If I had a girl and she wanted to go out I would take her down to the Village and we would sit up there and watch Sunny Stick or whatever cat was there that night. Jazz is just like that, all players are good players and I could rap to anything that had something going on with it, something melodic. Once you put that in there for me I am gone, and yes Troy you are right that is a Jazzy Track.
A lot of people might not know this but the lyrics came one night when I had a problem on WHBI! See a lot of cats up in New York would say “them n—— ain’t this, they ain’t that, they hustlers. They aren’t any real emcees! Them n——- be down town playing that 3 card Monte”. So I got so fed up with it that I came over there and said “Some People Some People listen for history, some people listen because they want a mystery, some people listen and say we’re wack, but if the miss the show they catch a heart attack.” Because all these cats that is talking and making that noise is cats that listen to the radio station with lemon faces.
I got you.
But then I say “but we are still World Famous”, and I meant that. So that is were that track came from. It was something real with some of them New York cats.
That is really a great cut
See well that is another one of those cuts they did not get behind. See what killed it was when BuffaloGal came out they didn’t get behind it which was understandable because they didn’t know what they were messing with and they didn’t know how big that market was going to be. But Malcolm had seen it and I also. In fact the whole New York seen it, and that was because that was what we were living at that time. When we did Hey D.J. Charisma records merged with Virgin Records. So we had trained Charisma and Charisma was ready. So whatever we put out Charisma was ready to get behind. But the guy that owned Charisma was Tony Stratton Smith. He ended up selling to Virgin for so many millions and Virgin ate up the whole England at that time. When they came out they were buying up companies and shutting people down. Virgin signed I think Phil Collins after he had just left Genesis. I believe Janet Jackson was doing some work with them, as well as Sade. So our stuff got put up on the shelf.
I got what you are saying.
The same A&R people we had and the same relationship we had over at Charisma we know longer had at Virgin. We had to start all over again and that was what killed Hey D.J. It became a hit in New York only because we played it here on WHBI! I wrote Hey D.J. after listening to Frankie Beverly and Maze sing Before I Let go while I was coming out of North Carolina. I felt it was a Jazzy song and wondered if I could put together something like that. When I got back to New York I pulled out the Key Board. Now at that time I was kind of good with the keyboard, as I knew the chords, scale and knew how to embellish tracks but I was still kind of basic with it. So I wrote the bass line to Hey D.J. as well as the chord pattern and put the melody into it. Then I went to my friend Shawn who lived around the corner and asked him to play it for me and tighten it up. Shawn was another one of them cats that was young but gifted. His parents had money and what ever he wanted they was giving him. He was still going to school and he was from East Elmhurst.
I paid him a couple of hundred dollars and the track became mine. I completed it down in Philadelphia through Bunny Ziegler because I was trying to get that Philly sound. I was trying to get away from that New York sound. Although those cats from Philly were pretty much done by the time I started doing my thing but I still dug that Philly sound as a youngster. When I got back to New York they finally released it. Of course I got WHBI playing it but now some how WBLS has a copy of it, probably from a record pool but they are only playing the B-side, the instrumental. Of course that was because they weren’t playing hip-hop. Now Ahyae was on the instrumental side. Ahyae was the female that was singing “Hey D.J. just play that song and keep me dancing”… real fine girl. We were just talking to each other earlier in the day because we are going to be doing another Hey D.J. 2008. She just laid down those same locals again, and I fattened up the track. She still has the same beautiful voice after all these years.
Sounds like she got it going on.
She does and the bad thing about that Hey D.J is she is not on the album credits and I never knew that. When the album came out I might have been in California I might have been anywhere. With me I might be on WHBI one day and the next day be in Florida or on the West Coast some were gambling and then say oh its time to go to WHBI and we go run over there. So the liner notes of the album I did not know about because I was not around. But Ahyae was on a De La Soul track as well as the remake they did of our Hey D.J. A lot of cats were trying to get at her and she was a pretty young girl and the industry be trying to run up in them shorties!
And she is not that kind of person. Do you know that she still had the master tapes from 23 years ago! Which was amazing to me because she said I gave them to her when we were in Philly making the cut. I said o.k., I see you hold on to s—!
(We both start laughing.)
But she is a fine young lady with a nice voice, but I was upset with the fact that they Charisma did not put her name on the credits and they were supposed to. They put their folks down. They put folks on there that had nothing to do with nothing.
So with the World Famous who thought of the idea with the video to put Martin Luther King at the end?
Well that video I have never seen!
It is a lot of stuff I have never seen.
But you were part of this.
Yes, but I was part of the song, writing the lyrics and putting together the musical concept. I have to say Ann Dudley knew what I liked, so even when you hear that version on it I say “Ann you know I got to have that”
Because I damn near cannot even start speaking until you gave me some flavor. See if you just put some snare drums and bass drums with some high hats then I am kind of lost with that because that’s something that you could just scream over. But once I hear chords and melodies then yeah I feel good about that. Yeah-nice song.
Yes that is a beautiful joint there. So who put ya’ll on to the Ebonetts and the Double Dutch Girls (Girls from the Grant and Manhattanville Projects in HARLEM,)?
Well we were never part of that. That was a Malcolm Maceration project; see how he got that was he was just out hunting. This is just my opinion and I feel it is right but any thing that seemed black that was out and they weren’t doing in England that is what he was trying to get. He really didn’t do know more than write a documentary and just put it out as an audiotape or videotape. But that’s the stuff young girls have been doing for years along with the break dancing and stuff like that. He just put all that stuff together. Even the graffiti on the walls he just took everything during that time and put some music behind it, which was clever.
So now what bought on the fall out between you and Malcolm Maclerin where you both just seemed to disappear?
We never had a fall out.
Well how long did your relationship last with Malcolm because ya’ll did stop doing music with him am I right?
Yeah but we never fell out, in fact I talked to Malcolm about two months ago. We were setting up a date to see each other in New York after he got out of L.A. coming from Paris. I figure I need to get up with him because Malcolm will lead you to some money! I know a lot of people think we got jerked or he is this bad guy that robbed us. But he never robbed us. We actually made money with that cat. The first deal I got with that cat we were in the 6 figures, and this was right after Buffalo Girls. They offered 5 thousand on Christmas day I never forget it. After we came off tour traveling all around Europe and presenting our self here and there. Then we had this one cat that wanted to be our manager and I am thinking how can you be our manager and I don’t know you! You about to fall into some money then folks start coming out the woodwork
Cats said “yo you need to get this lawyer over here” and they pointed their finger at who we should deal with. I went and got a dictionary and I went back to the hotel. I sat in the hotel for like two days. Came down to the lobby to eat, went back upstairs and took me a nap, later got back into that dictionary and read some more of the contract. On Christmas day we signed a deal with them. I wish I still had the contact just to show people because they had to cross out so much stuff and rewrite the contract. We stayed in Charisma for like 5 hours just crossing out this and adding that. They would say “Divine this statement means this and I would say well if it means that we need to write that!”
Right I feel you.
So they would be like all right and they had their lawyers and I became my own lawyer. I got a really good deal from them.
So when they first handed that contract to you did it look like they were doing something fishy to you, and once they seen that you were on the ball did they change it around for you?
Nah they were always on the up and up. One thing people have to realize and especially for the youngsters out here, if I have a record company I am going to have a standard contract and you need to go read it. It is impossible for somebody to jerk you. You have to go to school or you have to study that stuff. Let me tell you something, you can even get a lawyer and your lawyer can work against you. I have seen that happen. I seen a guy try and sign a deal over in London and the company wanted to give him $200,000 and he was trying to get a million but in the end he got $300,000 which is really far from the million. But what they did was pay off the lawyer. So if a cat got a lawyer they could give his lawyer $300,000 to convince you. So you really have to handle your own business.
What happened to you and Malcolm during the 90s since you said ya’ll never fell out. I am talking about as far as making music, touring or going to Zulu Nation Anniversaries?
Let me tell you like this because the spirit can be broken, but not forever but when we did Buffalo Gals I struggled with them people to get that record out. Now remember they done gave us a gang of money but this stuff has to be recouped. So you want to hurry up and let them recoup, so you can start getting your money. On Hey D.J. when they put that on the shelf that means we have to wait that much longer for them to recoup. Just say Hey D.J. don’t hit and it makes only 2 or 3 hundred thousand then we ain’t going to make a dime because they have to get their money back. I am talking about the record company and the publishing company who are giving these advances. They need to get their paper back before they pay you a dime! So if they are not releasing how can they get paid back!
When I did Hey D.J. I begged them to play it. I even flew to England to talk to Virgin; but still nobody could get anything done. During that time record sales were hot for a lot of people, you could spit on a record and hit. That’s how it was in those days. But if you are with a company that is not putting your stuff on the shelves what can you do? So I took Hey D.J. down to 42nd street and bootlegged it myself and that was because it wasn’t on the shelves. I even took them to stores myself, they were taking it from me on a plain cover, no picture on it, no nothing! Just a plain white sheet, saying World Famous Supreme Team, Hey D.J.
I hear that.
I wrote another song called “I am in Love” with a fly hip-hop beat. I wrote a fly jazz joint with the piano playing behind this joint. I also had the horns in there and it wasn’t over powering because I still had my lyrics in there. So I told them this is the next piece for them to put out. They were on some “I don’t know because hip hop and love songs don’t go together.” What happens two months later, L.L. comes out with I need Love.
And it went right to the top, and now they see it! I said damn I put this right in y’alls lap. A lot of that stuff I could have bought out but a lot of it never was recorded. I gave it to them in the demo stage where they never even had copies. I believe that was one of the best songs I have ever written. I studied a lot of music over time like jazz, blues even from your ragtime era. I even study music all the way back to slavery time when they weren’t allowed to read music. They had to just get on a stage and light it up. But the one thing that is always constant is women love love songs. If you give them a good love song and hip hop being where it was at that point, it needed somebody to drop some real sweet lyrics on them. Not that hard stuff these cats were dropping. That is why L.L. came off. They also told me L.L. didn’t believe in the song. I don’t know if it is true or false, but when it first dropped they was like “L.L. didn’t want to do it because it was too feminine and he wanted to keep that thing hard.” But L.L. smoothed that thing off and it went right to number one. So who ever was behind L.L. trained him, taught him and showed him how to do it and he did it. And my hat goes off to him, but Virgin could have been first with that.
So what you are saying is that is what discouraged you and you had to fall back during the 90’s?
Well what could I do because I was with these folks for 5 years? I can’t make money if they not putting the stuff on the shelves.
So how do you look at hip-hop today?
There are things a lot of these cats are saying now that don’t make sense.
They are too vulgar and they disrespect each other too much. But that is what they pay them for. Black companies, white companies – who are you going to point the finger at? These cats just want some money now a days and they don’t care who they hurt. The youngsters get on these records and just say any kind of thing that they want to say and then you have your little kids singing this stuff, two and three years old. Come on. They are being raised with their parents who are youngsters also and they are talking about F this and F that, bounce that ass , ride them down the pole. You know and you raising your kids around that stuff because you like it. So we pretty much done, because other nationalities have to be looking over at us and saying, “they have to be the goofiest people that have ever walked on the face of the earth, because nobody talks about them selves like that.” If somebody can come to me and prove that that is not being disrespectful I will submit to it. But until that day nah.
So these last couple of years you have just been writing music for other artist?
No I have been writing music for my self I have tons of tracks.
So in the year 2008 are you plotting to come out with a new album?
Yes I am, and if Malcolm wants to come along he is welcome! See one thing I said to you earlier Malcolm is going to lead you to some money.
But you have to have the right concept too. See when you get older you can write a hot track and it would be something that you like and you would think that other people would enjoy it, and then when you turn on the radio and hear what they are doing you would be like “how do I compete with these youngsters!” You just can’t do it. You got to have a way of getting back into it. Like I had a way back then I finally have a way now, and I think I am going to be successful, enough to pick up some awards.
So when is your date that you propose that it will be ready?
Well actually on the 7th of this month I am doing a show down in ATL in a club called Atlanta Figure 8, it’s in the Ben Hill section. Down in the hood where the boys are. Nice club. I deal with the old school now because I am old school. You have to bear this is in mind that when hip-hop first started the oldest might have been 17 to 20 years old. It has been 23 years. So when you add the 23 on to the 20 years people 43 years old remember hip-hop.
So that audience is still there, but there is nobody serving them. The reason is all these older cats feel they can’t compete with these kids! Rightfully so, so why even try? The audience is still there though they just waiting for you, and it took years for me to figure that out. But once I looked at the numbers I said, “oh all I have to do is start being around the old school cats.” It’s wonderful down here in Georgia because only a few cats know I am Se Divine. I lived in Mississippi for about 4 years and they didn’t know me there too much either. But wherever I go I become well known. I lived in New Orleans for about 4 years, the same thing happened. I became well known there. In Chicago I might go into a club or be with the old school, the Stepping Community, which is Chicago style and asked them did they know that song Hey D.J.? They say “what by Shane, or the one that goes Hey D.J. just play that song” and then they standing there reciting the song and say “yo we be stepping to that song that’s the joint!” Which means to me the old population still remembers that track and that is why I am redoing it. I am going to shoot a video of it as well.
How many people have sampled your song and did you give permission to all of them?
Yes but there are probably some cats out there that have sampled that didn’t get permission because I read my publishing papers when they come in and I have recently heard some stuff that came out in 90’s that has never shows up on the publishing.
What were some of the names that sampled with your permission?
Puffy sampled it with Mariah Carey on the song Honey. Warren G sampled it also I can’t think of which one. But he shows up on my publishing paper. Ricky Martin and Jermaine Dupree is another. It’s about 10 more people that have been on my paper work.
You and Malcolm ever toured around the country during the 90’s?
So these songs have never been heard live since the 80’s?
Exactly and that is perfect for me.
Let me ask you something back in the days of early hip hop did you have any feelings about say the Cold Crush battling Fantastic or Busy Bee vs. Moe Dee, Flash on the Beat Box stuff like that?
See I was always in my own world and doing my own thing but I kept my eye on what folks were doing.
So you knew about Kurtis Blow and Kool Moe Dee and all those guys and actually seen them perform and appreciated their work?
Yes, man those were some hot cats, trust me! Africa Bambaataa, Zulu Nation who ever you named! Yes to the Cold Crush they were dangerous. I used to come out to the parties also and pay my little fee. I wasn’t on WHBI then but I used to hunt that hip-hop down like a dope feind, I was up in T- Connection and Harlem World. A few blocks away on 125th street I also use to go down the stairs to The Celebrity Club and see Flash. You have to respect that stuff. That was the beginning and I wasn’t the beginning. Them cats were stomping way before I stepped foot into this hip hop thing. The best writer was and people may disagree and that was Mele Mel.
I seen Mele Mel when we were over at Sugar Hill and he would go in the bathroom and come out with a song on toilet tissue. Man you have to respect stuff like that.
So what were you doing at Sugar Hill?
Well Sylvia was trying to get me also back in them days. She heard that World Famous that you liked. She loved the line “bring in the organ and you know I got to have that.”She finally got in contact with me, but I was already signed. In fact I was trying to get off the label so I could go over there with Sylvia so she could release that “I am in Love” but I couldn’t get out of that thing. She heard the song and she was in love with it, and said, “What is wrong with these white folks, man you right on the cutting edge with this thing.” She even asked how much would it cost to buy me out. Her husband Joey Robinson and I were very tight also. That was the real paper and player, Mr. Robinson.
A lot of people felt they were slick; did you feel the same and felt they couldn’t play you for a sucker?
I can’t say anyone was being taken because you have to read them contracts, and that is even in this day and time here. If you sign a deal and people giving you Cadillac’s that’s leased to them and all that type of stuff, come on man you know better then that. Them cats have to blame them selves. They have to stop saying somebody tricked them, ain’t nobody trick you.
You allowed your self to be tricked!
Yes, you tricked your self when you signed that deal. You didn’t read the small print. Cats really kicked Sugar Hill down into the ground with that mess man. But they never gave me a problem they used to give me money and everything. Sylvia would send me home in the Rolls Royce, and at that time she was trying to get me over there I am sure of that. When it came time to sign a deal I am sure I would have gotten something fair. One thing I did learn through dealing with Charisma and Virgin is that I was not signing anything unless I was the headman on the totem pole! “When I get finished with this we need to release this” if we can put that in the contract and live through it then we can ride with that. But just sitting around waiting while y’all just twiddle y’alls thumbs and trying to figure this and that out, nah! I could do that myself.
Before you go how do you feel about this hip-hop today?
Well to tell you the truth I don’t even call this crap hip-hop what they doing now! They need to rename it.
I like what you said. That is the first time I heard that before but you are exactly right.
Ah but its true man. If they say that what they are doing is game and if game truly detect game why do you get on records and give the instructions! You disrespecting the game then! I heard one cat made a record and he said it was game but he taught how to transport cocaine, what the police do, what they call each other and the signals that they use. It sounds fly, the words rhyme, the rhythm is cool, but dam baby you about to shut folks down that is eating.
Because you are now telling the police what these kids are doing. And they say that they keeping it real. A whole lot of these cats need to shut up. You have some true gangsters out here. I seen some and I like cats like Scarface. I think he drops some real nice material. Some of it I agree with some of it I don’t, but I like the flow that he has and how you knew that he really came from that world. And I lived in Houston at one time also. Then there are a lot of young cats that don’t know game that have read a lot of Donald Goines book and making this stuff rhyme. Matter fact the album I am coming out with is called Going out with a Bang! Because I am going to cuss out a lot of folks man.
(Troy starts laughing.)
No I am serious!
I know that’s why I am laughing.
I know how to cuss I came up in the streets. Put that in the story.
It ain’t hard to tell.
A n—- can’t do nothing but shoot me. And guess what like my lyrics go I am already dead. But somebody has to do something and save these kids. All this stuff you see on t.v. is nothing but a bunch of political nonsense. It just boosts up their ratings and when you come out on the streets the next day the streets are saying the same thing. These young cats are still out here in the streets struggling and regardless of what T.I. or who ever get on there, even Montel or Sharpton, come on Sharpton is preaching to the choir man. Sharpton is preaching to old folks. Who is going to get out in these streets with these kids? That is who need it.
I hear you we need some young Martin Luther Kings and Malcolm X’s.
Yeah but it don’t even have to be young it has to be a cat that can come out into the streets and relate to them. I talk to these youngsters almost every day because I am still a street person. I am out there and I see them selling their disk. And I say “yo what’s on their ya’ll cussing out everybody?” “Yeah man we got a little bit of cussing.” I say “dam when are ya’ll going to come up off of that bull s—.” “Come on ain’t ya’ll tired of making each other look stupid.” And the youngsters respect me for that. Somebody really has to step up to the mic because I be seeing these shows they be having on T.V. and it’s a joke.
Before we go Just Allah that’s your man and we didn’t talk much about him but how much did he contribute to the situation, and I am sure the two of you are brothers through thick and thin. I say that because at times it might appear that you were carrying him. And I say that because he was so quiet with his!
People might think that but it was just the opposite, because I feel Just Allah really carried me and I say that because he was that strength that I may not have had. There were a lot of things I could not do with out him. If I was going off and wasn’t seeing stuff clear he was that one that could be sitting there and say “but you know something Divine maybe you need to look at this like that.” Troy you have a way of looking at things one-way when it’s you.
You can hear your own material and think its lovely and the world can hate it because you need that other piece there. Yeah that’s why it’s called Supreme Team. It takes more than one person to make something happen. That’s the soul, that’s the heart of this thing and he will always be. Yeah Just Allah the Super Star, that’s my man.
That’s a beautiful thing to have a good friend and some one you can trust.
As far as getting money I’ll go ahead and sing and dance and you know do the soft shoe or what ever, but when its time to get that paper you need a Just Allah down with you. Where as I might settle for ten thousand, Just Allah might be the one that would say, “we need to push this envelope man, Sting just signed over here to a company for a million dollars.” “Whoa we ain’t Sting!” “It don’t matter they signed for a million, lets at least ask for it.”
And that is that piece that you need with you that can sit back and look at that whole picture and make sure you going in the right direction and we shared what ever, it would always be equal that’s my brother.
Thank you Se Divine you have said a mouth full.
Well thank you for giving me the time. This is my myspace, check me out.