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Taken from NUVO (Jan 24, 2018)

The lost history of Indy hip-hop

by Kyle Long

For the average music fan in 1979, rap music dropped mysteriously from the sky.

It was the year Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” hit the airwaves. It was one of the first hip-hop songs to be recorded, and its quick ascent on the Billboard charts marked rap music’s arrival within mainstream popular music.

While hip-hop’s emergence into pop culture was swift, its incubation period was looooong. The roots of rap music stretch deep into America’s cultural soil. Some of the first murmurs of the genre could be heard in the late ‘60s, when Black poets began merging spoken word with jazz and soul. Records by the The Last Poets, The Watts Prophets, Nikki Giovanni and Gil Scott-Heron clearly anticipate the emergence of rap. But influences came from many directions, including comedians like Rudy Ray Moore, whose x-rated Dolemite toasts leaned heavily toward the rhythmic language of rap.

The most significant influence on the development of hip-hop can be found in the work of ‘70s funk, soul and disco stars like James Brown, Isaac Hayes and George Clinton. Collectively this generation of artists created the musical foundation of hip-hop, while their various individual contributions helped to promote and preserve the culture during its formative years.

Many key players from the Indianapolis soul scene of the 1970s played an enormous role in the development of hip-hop, on both a national and local level. And their stories have been buried in history for too long. Let’s fix that. Read on as four of the most compelling Hoosiers personalities of that era share their secrets from the lost history of Indianapolis hip-hop.

Reggie Griffin

The legacy of Indy’s late ’70s soul super- group Manchild is dominated with talk of Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. That’s understandable, because when Edmonds left Indianapolis in the 1980s he ended up becoming the most successful American songwriter of the late 20th Century.

But Manchild was much more than a launching pad for Edmonds’ talents becuase the band was packed with legendary musicians. While Manchild’s leader Reggie Griffin may not have the celebrity status of Edmonds, his accomplishments are just as important.

Griffin earned the nickname “Mr. Everything” for his ability to play an impressive array of instruments. He cut his teeth as a professional musician during his teenage years, playing sax with the legendary Indianapolis funk group Billy Ball and The Upsetters. During his time with Ball, Griffin also picked up the guitar. From there his talents expanded manifold. By the early ’80s, Griffin had mastered a variety of early synths and drum machines, and that’s where our story picks up.

Griffin’s skill for creating electronic music brought him to the attention of Sugar Hill Records founder and CEO Sylvia Robinson, who hired Griffin as an in-house musician and arranger at Sugar Hill. During his time at the label, Griffin made significant contributions to hip-hop and electronic dance music. In 1982, Griffin became the first American electronic dance music producer to use the term “techno” when he released the electro classic “Mirda Rock” under the name Reggie Griffin and Technofunk.

Griffin is one of the unsung pioneers of electronic dance music, and that’s partially due to his avoidance of the limelight. But thanks to my friend Paul Thomas, I was able to catch up with Griffin during the summer of 2017. We spoke at length about his contributions to hip-hop music.

Kyle Long: I understand your career in hip-hop started as a result of the dissolution of Manchild.

Reggie Griffin: I was the leader of Manchild, but when Kenny Edmonds left the band, I didn’t really feel like it was the same. But I didn’t want to leave the other guys high and dry. We had some legal issues with the name Manchild, so we changed the name to Redd Hott, and I said to the guys, “I’m gonna help you get a record deal. But I’m also gonna start doing my own thing now.”

I’d come in contact with a guy named George Kerr who was helping Redd Hott to record. George happened to be connected with Joe and Sylvia Robinson of Sugar Hill Records in New Jersey. So we went to Sugar Hill to record some rhythm beds for a project. After the session Sylvia Robinson must have asked about me and found out I was the leader of the band and that I played multiple instruments. Because after I flew back to Indianapolis, Sylvia called me and asked if I would come back and help work on a song.

I remember the first song that Sylvia asked me to work on. The Sugarhill Gang had come out with one of the biggest records to ever happen, which was “Rapper’s Delight.” That was the first multi-million selling rap record. They were trying to come back with something strong after that record. They’d already started on a song called “Apache”. They had the rhythm section together, and some of the raps were done, but Sylvia really felt like something was missing. So she asked me point blank, “Reggie, what would you do on this?” I sat down and got my Prophet 5 synthesizer out, and I just started putting in all these different filter sweeps and synth parts on it. The rest was history.

Kyle: At that time electronic dance music was an emerging concept. How did you develop such a great mastery of synthesizers and drum machines?

Reggie: I’ll go back to the Manchild days. I was starting to hear those sounds from Stevie Wonder, and other people in the late ‘70s. I remember saying to the band, “We gotta get one of those polyphonic synthesizers. That’s where things are going.” But I guess they didn’t really hear me. I remember Manchild was on a tour of Air Force bases that year, I probably only made $4,000 that whole year, but I took my $4,000 and bought a Prophet 5 synthesizer. [laughs] I learned my way around it. I started adding it to a lot of the things we were we doing. I was pretty much self-taught.

Around 1980 or 1981, the LinnDrum and Oberheim DMX came out. That was around the time the Roland TR-808 drum machine came out, but at Sugar Hill we bought an Oberheim DMX. Instantly Sylvia looked at me and said, “I know Reggie can work this thing.” [laughs] So I quickly learned how to get around on it and quickly became the drum programmer, as well as synth programmer, as well as synth player for the whole studio at Sugar Hill. On pretty much everything that came out at Sugar Hill after “Rapper’s Delight,” I did a lot of the arranging, the keyboards, the programming, and production. I did whatever was necessary for them.

Kyle: That includes a track that is widely considered the most important rap record ever made, “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Am I correct that you essentially designed the sound of that song?

Reggie: Oh yeah, totally.

Kyle: And you had far more to do with that record than Grandmaster Flash himself.

Reggie: As you know Flash was the DJ. So he liked to orchestrate a lot of the tracks around samples, because that was his forte. He actually wasn’t crazy about that particular song. But Sylvia was adamant about it, and she really felt it could be big. Ed Fletcher, or Duke Bootee as he was known, he wrote the original song. He gave me a lot of input on what he felt it should sound like. But I did design every sound you hear on that track. I played almost all the synthesizer parts. We brought in Doug Wimbish and he doubles on my synth bass. Skip McDonald was on guitar. But most of what you’re hearing is me, as far as the instrumentation.

Kyle: In 2012 Rolling Stone magazine selected “The Message” as the greatest hip-hop song of all time. The write-up from Rolling Stone lists your contribution to the record, but you weren’t given a credit on the label of the record. Does it bother you that your contribution to this song has been largely uncredited?

Reggie: To a degree, I have to be honest. But at that time at Sugar Hill a lot of the credits just didn’t get put on the records. As a matter of fact, I remember that Joey Robinson, who was Sylvia’s son, he would put in the credits: “Reggie Griffin — Prophet.” I always imagined people thought I was some guy who came in with a long beard and a staff. [laughs] But no, it meant Prophet 5 synthesizer. Which was one of the main synthesizers out at the time.

Kyle: In 1982 Sugar Hill released “Scorpio” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, one of the greatest electro records ever made. I understand “Scorpio” was almost entirely your creation.

Reggie: Yeah, and ironically, I am a Scorpio. Ed from Grandmaster Flash had a lot of ideas for that song, and he and I collaborated back and forth. I did the vocoder on it and I did all of the beats. Instrumentation-wise, I believe “Scorpio” is 100 percent me.

Kyle: In 1982 you released a classic electro single titled “Mirda Rock” under the name Reggie Griffin and Technofunk. “Mirda Rock” hit #66 on the Billboard R&aB Hot 100 chart in February of 1983, becoming one of the earliest and most popular electro tracks. Electro was an important genre in the development of electronic dance music. We hear about pioneering electro artists like Afrika Bambaataa in New York, Egyptian Lover in L.A., and Juan Atkins in Detroit. Your contribution to electro is just as important as any of those guys, but I don’t see you receiving equal credit.

Reggie: Well, I was definitely there on the ground floor of it. Actually, if you want to hear something funny, I did “Mirda Rock” almost as a goof. Afrika Bambaataa and the guys had done “Planet Rock,” and Kraftwerk had done their thing in Europe. I was listening to those records and I said, “Oh, I can do that.” [laughs] So I came up with “Mirda Rock.” That ended up being the most successful single of my solo career.

Kyle: There are so many classic tracks on Sugar Hill that you helped create, but I want to move on to different area and ask about your involvement with one of the greatest dance records ever made. I’m talking about Chaka Khan’s 1984 recording of “I Feel For You.” It’s my understanding that you had a large role in crafting that record.

Reggie: Oh yeah, unquestionably. I got a call from a lawyer who he told me Arif Mardin was looking for young producers to work on a Chaka Khan record. I was like, “Whoa! Ok.” Arif is one of my idols as far as production. Back in those days there were two guys, Quincy Jones on the West Coast, and Arif Mardin on the East Coast.

So I put together a reel of a lot of stuff I’d done for Sugar Hill. Arif listened to it and said, “OK, so this is the kid that’s been doing all these hits that are coming out of New Jersey.” He called me up and we met. He said, “I’m working on this song that Chaka really loves. It’s a song that Prince wrote years ago, but she wants to do it a little different.” Arif had taken a run at arranging it himself, but he wanted to do something that was really fresh and young. I took the song back to my little spot, and gave it my treatment. I put down the beat, played some bass, played some guitar, I played all the instruments for that matter. I took it back to him and he said, “I love it. Let’s do it.”

On that record I ended up doing the drum machine programming. I did the arrangement. A lot of people think Melle Mel wrote the raps, but he didn’t. I wrote the raps. I did the bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, and pretty much all the instruments. But Arif being the perfectionist he is, we went back and listened to the bass line and he wanted to make it a little different. So we took my bass off, and Arif went back and wrote my bass line out and wrote some other parts to it. At the time I didn’t have a bass sequencer, so we called in David Frank from The System. David sequenced the synthesizer bass line and I played Fender bass on top of that. After I did the drum machine programming, we also called in Steve Ferrone from the Average White Band, he played live drums on top of my drum machine.

A little bit of trivia, I originally had a guitar solo on that song. Arif loved where things were going, but he scratched his head and said, “I’m gonna do something different with the guitar solo.” Long story short, he put Stevie Wonder on with a harmonica solo. I said, “If I have to move out of the way for somebody, I’ll move out of the way for Stevie.” [laughs]

After Chaka put on her vocals, the rest became history.

Tune into WFYI’s Cultural Manifesto in 2018 to hear my full interview with Reggie Griffin, as we discuss his contributions to Tommy Boy Records’ classic 12” single “No Sell Out” featuring samples of Malcom X, and Joan Jett’s 1986 rap crossover “Black Leather.”

Rickie Clark

Rickie Clark is a shape-shifter. During the ‘70s, he was Rickie “Solid Gold” Clark, a smooth-talking soul DJ on WTLC. In the ’80s, he was Officer Clark, a respected member of the Indianapolis Police Department. Clark was so popular on his Northeastside beat, some residents dubbed him the “Mayor of Brightwood.” There’s also the businessman Rickie Clark, who managed the legendary Indianapolis soul vocal group Words of Wisdom and founded Indiana Minority Business Magazine.

But for me, Clark’s most compelling identity is his unlikely role as a history maker in rap music. In 1980 Clark recorded “Ladies Rights,” the first rap record ever issued in Indianapolis. Clark deepened his connection with hip-hop in 1984 with the release of the electro classic “Time To Throw Down,” featuring incredible production from Circle City Band’s Paul Thomas. With the help of my friend Herman Slaughter I tracked Clark down to learn more about his role as a Hoosier hip-hop pioneer.

Kyle: In 1980 you released “Ladies Rights” on Indy 5 Records. Not only was “Ladies Rights” the first rap record released in Indianapolis, it was among the first hundred or so rap records ever made. Tell me about making “Ladies Rights.”

Rickie: The recording was done in New Jersey at the Sugar Hill Records studio. In fact, the track was done by the same musicians who had played on the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”.

Kyle: Wood, Brass and Steel?

Rickie: Yes, and George Kerr produced the record. He was part of Sugar Hill Records at the time, I believe he was in the All Platinum Records division. He left Neptune Records, which was Gamble and Huff, to be with Sylvia Robinson at Sugar Hill.

Kyle: George Kerr is a soul music legend. He was a member of Little Anthony and The Imperials and later branched out to producing groups like The Whatnauts. What was his connection to Indianapolis?

Rickie: One of his daughters lived here, and he had a residence here. So George would leave New York on a weekend and come hang out with his daughter. That’s kind of how he and I met. We got connected and George said, “You’ve got a great voice. I think I’ve got a track up in New Jersey for you.” I’m thinking, “Ok, but I’ve always been behind the scenes.” Long story short, I ended up going to Jersey and doing the recording at the Sugar Hill studios.

Kyle: What were you rapping about on “Ladies Rights?”

Rickie: I was rapping about lifting up women. In fact, I got flack from a lot of guys for that song.

Kyle: I’m curious what you really knew about rap music at that point. Hip-hop was a cultural movement that had developed largely in New York. How did you absorb that from Indianapolis?

Rickie: Well, we were playing Grandmaster Flash and Sugarhill Gang records on WTLC. We knew rap music was the new sound. The kids were loving it, and I was loving it too. So I said, “I’m game, let’s do this.” So we did, and to my surprise the record started to take off. I’d hear about it taking off in different markets and I’d hear they were shipping the record overseas, and I’m like, “Huh?” [laughs] You have to remember this record wasn’t heavily planned. We did it in a weekend. That song was written and recorded in one weekend.

Kyle: I understand you were listening to the hit singles coming out on Sugar Hill, but the MCs on those Sugar Hill tracks were immersed in hip-hop culture and had been honing their skills long before cutting those records. How did you get acclimated to the style and delivery of rap so quickly?

Rickie: Divine intervention. I’ve had folks ask me that before, and all I can say is that it was divine intervention.

Kyle: Three years later in 1984 you released your second and final hip-hop record, “Time To Throw Down.” The song was credited as The Rickie Clark Company, and was largely produced and created by Circle City Band’s Paul Thomas. “Time To Throw Down” is an electro classic, and it’s my favorite release in your discography. Tell me about making that record.

Rickie: I heard some of the tracks Paul Thomas was working on in the studio, including Circle City Band’s “Magic,” and I said, “Oh, I like that.” So I went to Paul and said, “Let’s collaborate.” I told him we needed to experiment with something different, and at the time the talk box was beginning to get popular. I liked what Zapp had done with it, and I thought we could do that. So I said, “Let’s do something that’s heavy on the bass, but also funny and has a hook.” So that’s what he came up with in the studio just playing around. Paul was making beats before that became a popular idea. He’s a very creative person.

Kyle: I know your records were getting big spins in huge markets from legendary radio DJs like Frankie Crocker. I’m curious why you didn’t continue cutting hip-hop records?

Rickie: I was always more comfortable being in the background. I gave it a shot with “Ladies Rights.” When it started blowing up, I said, “OK, that’s not a bad taste. Let’s try something else later on.” But in the meantime I was working with other artists. People were beginning to pay attention to Babyface. Eric Fearman from the Dazz Band was from Indianapolis and I was trying to help them out. So, I got involved with a lot of other projects.

Kyle: “Ladies Rights” was among the first wave of rap records ever released. How do you feel being a foundation element of a music genre that transformed global culture?

Rickie: I feel good about that. I really feel good. I try to keep it low key, but I do get excited about it. I don’t even really know how strong these records are, but I get word from people. I get comments from people living outside the country. I guess it still hasn’t hit me. I still don’t realize the magnitude of what happened with rap music.

Watch for my full interview with Rickie Clark later this summer in NUVO as part of my coverage of WTLC’s 50th anniversary.

Grover Wilcher

During the early ‘80s, Grover Wilcher left Indianapolis for California. He’d traveled west for college; his major was business, but music was in his heart. By 1985, Wilcher had written and released his first recording as World Entity, a quartet featuring his three biological brothers. That record was titled “I Found That Love,” an irresistible slice of ‘80s synth-soul. It became a hit in regional radio markets across the United States.

“I Found That Love” also brought Wilcher to the attention of Def Jam Records, who recognized his wide set of talents. Wilcher was hired by Def Jam to perform a variety of different roles for the label. Wilcher was on the ground floor at Def Jam when artists like LL Cool J broke into the mainstream of American culture.

When Wilcher and his brothers returned to Indianapolis in the late ‘80s, they came home armed with serious music business expertise and an affinity for hip-hop. Back in Indianapolis, the Wilcher brothers continued recording and releasing R&B music as Word Entity, but they also expanded their enterprise into hip-hop.

The Wilchers’ work in hip-hop may stand as their greatest contribution to Hoosier culture. I can’t think of another single organization that has done more for the development of Indianapolis hip-hop than the Wilcher brothers. Their many contributions include the development of a widely viewed television program titled Naptown Rap Videos, and the creation a hip-hop record label that made it it cool for rappers to rep Indianapolis in their music. I reached out to Grover Wilcher to discuss his groundbreaking work in Indianapolis hip-hop.

Kyle Long: Your label Monster Jam produced and released some of the most important records in the history of Indianapolis hip-hop. You were deeply involved in R&B music, so I’m curious to how you started recording and releasing hip-hop?

Grover Wilcher: We had Dub’s Boys Records, which was mainly an R&B and funk company. My brother came to me and said, “Hip-hop is blowing up. We need to get a slice of that. You’ve been on the road with Def Jam artists and you’ve got a good insight on this music. What do you think about doing some hip-hop?” I told him I thought it was a tough market and that hip-hop was just as hard to promote as R&B. But I decided to follow through on it because William was always coming up with good ideas.

So, we started a subsidiary of Dub’s Boys Records called Monster Jam Records. We put all our hip-hop stuff on Monster Jam. Back in those days radio really didn’t want to touch hip-hop, and they didn’t want any record labels that promoted hip-hop. So we separated the R&B from the hip-hop on our labels.

I remember there was a kid who was living in the same apartment complex we were in. He had gotten our record “I Found That Love” from his mother. He came up and said, “Wow, can I get an autograph?” He kept hanging around and eventually he said, “I know these guys who are rappers. They’re friends of mine and I was wondering if you guys would be interested in listening to them?”

So we went and listened to them. I wasn’t really impressed. But they said, “Well, we also have a DJ.” So they brought out their DJ. I’d been on the road with LL Cool J, and his DJ was the legendary Cut Creator. But this guy, DJ Def came in and took a pair of 1200s and cut the crap out of some records! I said, “Whoa!” I told my brother, “That DJ is good. If we put our minds together and recreate the group, we could probably make something happen.”

The name of the group at the time was the Medieval MCs, and they were rapping about Robin Hood and stuff. [laughs] My brother had a meeting with the group and told them, “Man, nobody cares about that Robin Hood stuff! You got to rap about real stuff!” So my brother came up with the name Tibbs St. Posse and he created the look of the group. He reinvented the group. He came to me and said, “I’ve got this idea for a record. We need them to be hard like N.W.A.” He hummed a melody for me and I put that down. Then he put down the drum beat, we had a LinnDrum machine. He told us he wanted to call it “Cracks ‘N’ Haughville.” So we laid the music down and then brought the rappers in. They wrote some lyrics up, and I edited and rewrote some things.

We took that record to Harmony Hines at WPZZ and asked her to play it. When she played it their phone lines lit up like a Christmas tree. People thought it was a national group that had come to Indianapolis to rap about Haughville. So that record instantly got play and started blowing up. We were selling boxes of those records. My brother worked that group and they were opening up for MC Hammer and MC Breed. They were in Michigan and they were hitting all over the place. We had a huge success with that group.

But we ended up having some disagreements, so we released Tibbs St. Posse from our label. From there we focused on the group BMW. After BMW made ”Pump Ya Fist” we signed them and ended up putting out a couple records on them, like “Ghetto Bounce.” We had several groups on the label at that time. We also had the Prophets of Knowledge who were blowing up. So Monster Jam was not hurting for local Indianapolis rap groups.

Kyle: Hoos-Yer Boyz was another local group you were working with, right?

Grover: Yes, the Hoos-Yer Boyz were like the older brother of the Tibbs St. Posse. The Hoos-Yer Boyz concept was from my brother William and I think I ended up writing most of that album.

Kyle: You and your brothers also booked N.W.A. for their first Indianapolis performance in 1988 at the Tyndall Armory. How did that show come together?

Grover: During my time in California I made a lot of connections in the industry with guys like Dr. Dre and Eazy-E. We all had our records pressed with Macola Records, and we’d see each other when we picked up our records. So we brought N.W.A. to Indianapolis and put them on a bill with Tibbs St. Posse.

Kyle: How were N.W.A. received on their first trip to Indianapolis?

Grover: I think Tibbs St. Posse blew them out! But it was a great time. I remember we played basketball with them in Tyndall Armory before the show. Ice Cube and Eazy-E thought they could play some ball, but when we got done playing they said, “What are you guys, professionals?” [laughs] I remember they were carrying a suitcase of guns around, and we took them to the Don’s Guns firing range. We brought N.W.A. to Indianapolis twice, we had a good time with them.

Check out my full interview with Grover Wilcher in an upcoming edition of NUVO.

Paul Middlebrook

Paul Middlebrook first came to the attention of Indianapolis music fans as a member of The PHDs. During the 1970s The PHDs shared status with The Vanguards as one of the top soul vocal ensembles in Indianapolis. According to Middlebrook, The PHDs had tighter choreography and sharper wardrobe than any other Naptown act. The PHDs enjoyed great success in Central Indiana, cutting a popular disc for Indy’s legendary soul label Lamp, while splitting concert bills with R&B superstars like the Spinners and The O’Jays.

The dawn of the 1980s saw Middlebrook walking away from The PHDs in search of new artistic pursuits. In 1984 Middlebrook released an excellent solo single on the Indianapolis-based Circle City label. In that same year Middlebrook also began a completely different sort of venture, launching a public access variety show called Hit Makers Showcase.

What could’ve been a dull exercise in low-budget local television was thwarted by a visionary decision from Middlebrook. During a time when hip-hop was blocked-out from much of the local media, Middlebrook allowed his show to become a platform for the burgeoning Indianapolis hip-hop scene. Scores of amateur Indy rappers and breakdancers appeared on the Hit Makers’ stage through the years, and the program became an underground sensation among Indy’s inner-city youth. Hit Makers also featured occasional cameo appearances from hip-hop icons like De La Soul and Slick Rick, who recorded custom bumpers for the show during tour stops through Indiana.

The Hit Makers Showcase documented and preserved the development of Indianapolis hip-hop culture in unprecedented and unparalleled ways. The collection of performances Middlebrook preserved on Hit Makers represents one of the greatest documents of Indiana folk culture that I have ever encountered. I recently caught up with Middlebrook to learn more about his work showcasing early Indianapolis hip-hop on public access TV.

Kyle Long: How long did Hit Makers Showcase run?

Paul Middlebrook: I started in 1984 and stopped in 1989.

Kyle: How often did the show air?

Paul: It ran twice a week.

Kyle: Did you produce new episodes every week?

Paul: Yeah, and I had three hours to produce a 30 minute show. But if things went smooth, and all the performers showed up on time, maybe we could produce two shows in that time. We had to set up, and tear down in them three hours — plus run our show! The stakes were high, so I told everybody, “If you mess up, just keep going.”

I had everybody in this city on that show. I got Angela Brown. I had Greg Bacon. I had Kenny Dodson. I got Andre Carson, but I can’t show that tape.

Kyle: Right. Andre Carson was a rapper during his younger days. Carson asked you not to release that video?

Paul: Yeah, when he was running to try to get in office he didn’t want that craziness.

Kyle: You gave a lot of young entertainers in this city their first break.

Paul: Yes, and that really inspired them. They saw that something good could come out of all the time they spent rehearsing.

Kyle: Do you know how many episodes of Hit Makers you produced?

Paul: Probably about eighty shows.

Kyle: The impact of the show was huge in Indianapolis. I bet people still recognize you today from Hit Makers.

Paul: That has died down a little, but yes I’ll get somebody calling out, “Hey that’s Hit Maker over there! Ain’t that Hit Maker?” [laughs] I thought it was a good thing when they told me the kids was really enjoying it. They’d tell me the kids was getting off the school bus and running home to catch the Hit Makers show. It was on at 4 p.m.

Kyle: You mentioned that Hit Makers was essentially cut live. If there was a mistake, you just had to live with it. I’ve seen some episodes where the performances really went off-course. But regardless of the quality, you were always so gracious and supportive of everyone on the show. I’m curious what was going on in your head when a performance started to fall apart?

Paul: I just tried to keep them calm and let them know everything was alright. It’s easy for something to go wrong. I’ve had shows where something happened and I’d be sweating, like, “Oh my god, did he say that?” It happens, but I learned to deal with it.

Kyle: You grew up in the era of classic soul music. When rap music came around, some people from your generation rejected it. But you chose to give hip-hop culture an important platform on your program. I’m curious what your thoughts were on hip-hop at that time, and why you decided to give it exposure?

Paul: Because of the talent. Because of the work people put in to what they did. If you really work hard to do something, you should be noticed.

Kyle: So for you, it wasn’t so much about supporting hip-hop music, but a desire to create opportunity for young people?

Paul: Yes, I wanted to create opportunity for young people in the music field. It kept the kids busy. When I had Hit Makers I know the kids was at home rehearsing. They wasn’t out trying to get in trouble. They was trying to do something to get on that show. With all the killings and stuff that’s happening now, we need more of that. Music is an occupation you can pick up, and make you some honest money, and have a positive notoriety.

For more on Paul Middlebrook’s work with The PHDs, look out for my contribution to the liner notes of Now Again’s LAMP Records Anthology, scheduled for release later this year.


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