Interview with Dj Grand Wizard Rasheen
Nahila S – When and how did you start DJing?
Dj Grand Wizard Rasheen – My name is David Roberts aka Grand Wizard Rasheen. In 1976, in Southwest Philly I was 16 years old – I was a dancer with two groups, one was called “Super Bad” with Ray or Grand Slam and the other called “Franchise Dancers” with Ronnie Ron. We would go battle everybody everywhere we didn’t care! we were the best in the Southwest Philly. We did a dance called “Philly Soul Steeping or G.Q”, it’s kind of like line dancing, break dancing and tap dance all at the same time.
We were dancing off of “James Brown – I can’t stand it”, “Kay Gees – Theme Song”, “Cerrone – Look for love”, we would wait for the drum break of the record to hit our steps. But we had a lot of dancers in our group and the break was not long enough. So I took a boombox and started making pulse button mix tapes to expend the beats.
We also had some guys form NY in our group that had Grand Master Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore and Cold Crush Crew tapes. We would listen to them, then try to imitate what we heard. I like the way Grand Wizard Theodore was cuttin’ and liked the name Grand Wizard so I called myself “Grand Wizard Rasheen”. Then one day my mom (Emma Roberts) gave me 2 (B.S.R) turntables and a mixer. I did not have enough room on my dresser to put them the right way so I turned them sideways and put the mixer in the middle and they fitted perfectly! And that was the start of Philly Battle Style or Grand Wizard Rasheen Style DJing. I incorporated dance moves with my DJing tricks and I was on my way with my new sound.
Then I met a guy called Stone Mike, he had a bootleg or pirate 50 Watts radio station around the corner from my house. So me and Him started the first 24h Hip Hop station in Philly called WSMP FM. I played Disco – Funk – Breakbeats – Live Rap conventions tapes I had. We were the talk of the town and all DJs around Philly from Philly would come and jam with us. So that is how I got known as a DJ in Philly.
Nahila S – You are also an Emcee and a dancer (some New York City dancers would even travel down to compete with you at the time) can you tell us more about this part of your career?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – Once NY came out with “Break dancing”. A few years after “Philly Soul Stepping”. Rappers and dancers from NY from NY started to come to Philly to do shows at the Hotel Phila, the Mayfair and other spots like that. I was a battle dancer and DJ and MC from Franchise Superbad and I lived for battles.
Many groups would try to battle me, but they just could not keep up, I had too much talent for them. I would battle crews all by myself and win. I would scratch, rhyme and dance at the same time and it was over.
Nahila S – You are a legend and among the most influential DJs of Philly! You taught people such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Cash Money how to make a cut. How did you meet them and how did it happen?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – Cash Money (Jerome) was a dancer in my group called Franchise at the time a lot of people could not beat my groups so they joined us, we had people from every part of Philly in my group. Cash was very young at the time so we taught him to soulstep and used him as a secret weapon when we danced. One day after practice Cash asked me to teach him how to scratch and mix, so I took him to my room and I showed him how to do my style of cuttings.
Cash came by everyday after dance practice to learn to cut. I made him battle me everyday, then I made up the “The Twins of Spin” so we could do it when we did shows. Jazzy Jeff at the time was just coming out. He used to listen to my radio show all the time but he had 1200S and Cash went to Jeff house right after he left my house to show off my tricks on Jeff’s 1200 turntable. Jeff loved the way Cash was cutting so he asked Cash to teach him and Cash did then they started doing shows together as the “Twin of Spins”.
Nahila S – As the creator of the cuts named the “Transformer” and the “Vibrator” would you explain to us what it is and what is the difference?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – When I DJ I have so many ideals in my head that I never really labeled my cuts. Other people and DJs that would inmate me would do my cuts and give them names.
The Transformer is when you bring the record back and forth slow while moving the fade in a rythmatic pattern. The Vibrator is when you are moving the record very fast while moving fade faster in rhythm. And what you call Beat Juggle I called it playin’ drums with the record, I use to do the cuts every day on my radio station WSMP.
Nahila S – Being a pioneer of the hip hop scene especially in Philly can you tell us about the Hip Hop history in Philadelphia?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – Philly had its own version of Hip Hop. We have the wall writers, Soul Stepping dancers, MCs and DJs, Philly Hip Hop has always been respected, but doesn’t always receive the credit that it deserves. The truth is, Philly has been representing since hip-hop’s earliest days, and was crucial in some of the genre’s most pivotal moments. Tracey Lee is just the latest in a long line of rappers who hail from Philadelphia. Here’s a roundup of the ones who’ve had the most success.
Where she’s from: West Philly Why she’s important: Her distinctive vocals put her in the same league as the Fugees’ Lauryn Hill. Biggest hit: “UKNOWHOWWEDO”.
Where he’s from: West Philly
Why he’s important: One of handful of local rappers to sign with a major label, Atlantic. Biggest hit: “The Glamorous Life”
Where they’re from: West Philly
Why they’re important: One of the first teen-age rap groups, predating Kris Kross. Biggest hit: “This Is a Little Something” for Da Youngstas.
DJ CASH MONEY
Where he’s from: Yeadon
Why he’s important: This DJ innovator won the “Battle of World Supremacy” at the New Music Seminar in 1987, then the highest award a DJ could receive. Biggest hit: “All the Ugly People Be Quiet”.
Where he’s from: Southwest Philly
Why he’s important: Another of Philly’s top DJs – he was the third Philly DJ in a row to take home the World Supremacy belt. He was Ice Cream Tee’s DJ. Biggest hit: “We Don’t Play” with MC Fresco.
ICE CREAM TEE
Where she’s from: Southwest Philly
Why she’s important: “Guys of the World Are Nothing but Trouble” was the response to the Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince hit “Let’s Work”. It made the Billboard charts.
JAZZY JEFF AND THE FRESH PRINCE
Where they’re from: West Philly
Why they’re important: Winners of the first rap Grammy and Philadelphia’s first platinum rap act. Biggest hit: “Parents Just Don’t Understand”.
Where he’s from: West Philly
Why he’s important: He’s one of the original old-school Philly rappers, a local hip-hop pioneer. Biggest hit: “Discombobulatorbubulator”.
Where she’s from: West Philly Why she’s important: One of the first female rappers from Philly, her hit record was an answer to LL’s hit, “Dear Yvette”. Biggest hit: “Yvette’s Revenge”.
Where they’re from: South and North Philly
Why they’re important: Along with the Fugees, one of the few rap groups to play their own instruments when performing live. Biggest hit: Their current single, “What They Do”.
Where he’s from: West Philly
Why he’s important: Arguably the first gangsta rapper, he set the pace for Eazy E and the rest of the West Coast rappers. One of the first explicitly violent and sexual records. He remains big overseas. Biggest hits: “P.S.K.,” “Gucci Time,” “Saturday Night”.
Where he’s from: West Philly Why he’s important: In 1987, he was one of the only local rappers signed to a major label deal, Jive Records. Biggest hit: “Bring the Beat Back”.
THREE TIMES DOPE
Where they’re from: North Philly
Why they’re important: One of the first Philly groups to sign to a major label, Arista. Biggest hit: “The Greatest Man Alive”.
Bahamadia – Name: Antonia Reed Known
For: Stepping out from behind the turntables during a mid-’80s house party, when her laid-back but cotton thick vocals launched the dawning of a new jazz-infused era. Her refusal to compromise her standards got her work with only the best–Guru, Sweetback, Roni Size, the Roots. The BB Queen also held it down for two years on 103.9 with Bahamadia’s B-Sides.
Beanie Sigel – Name: Dwight Grant Known
For: Shooting straight to the big time on Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella label. He later starred in the ghetto fabulous State Property.
DJ Too Tuff, a/k/a the Deuce Ace Detonator, is considered a forefather of the turntablists movement, because of several dynamic DJ tracks on the group’s albums. Dj Z-Trip, DJ Shadow and other New School DJs credit DJ Too Tuff for inspiring their style and music.
THERE ARE TOO MANY MCS AND DJS AND PEOPLE THAT HELP FORM PHILLY HIP HOP TO NAME IN PHILLY AT THIS TIME …THAT WILL BE ON ANOTHER INTERVIEW!
Nahila S – Nowadays you are a member of Elements of Hip Hop with Mikey D and Dj Mercury, how did the story start?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – I was doing shows with Cash Money and Mercury, saw one of the videos that was posted, so he contacted me to come do a show in NY so we met and I did a radio show. Then he introduced me to Mikey D… I went to the studio to watch Mike do his album, while Mikey was recording I was in the waiting room on my laptop makeup beats. Mercury and Mike heard the beat I was making and wanted to put it on the album and Mercury started cutting on it.
Mikey D went into the booth and the song called “Beastin” and the group “Elements of Hip Hop” was born.
Nahila S – What do you think about the state of Hip Hop today?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – Everybody has there own form of Hip Hop. You take a lil from here and a lil from there and make it your own style. To me Hip Hop is a way of life, no one can say you are wrong for what you say or do because you are expressing yourself your way through music, dance and art. So the new kids of today are the expression of how they feel.
But some are being told what to say and how to act and how to dress and that is not Hip Hop. That’s a slave if you are born a man, be a man!
Nahila S – Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to talk about?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – Me and DJ Mercury are working on a new DJ album while we are doing concerts and shows every where USA and over seas.. I am teaching DJ classes to all that want to learn. You can contact us for a show, party or DJ class at DJLEGENSBOOKINGS@GMAIL.COM
Nahila S – As a conclusion, what message would you like to pass on to the new generation of DJs and Emcees?
DJ Grand Wizard Rasheen – Don’t let no one tell you how to do your version of Hip Hop. Be yourself! it’s ok to copy somebody else but make sure you give that person there props. Don’t let the media record companies turn you into a fake Gangster, drug dealer, hoe or pump. Take Hip Hop back to Love Peace and Having Fun.. Thank you