Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, DJ Quik, Darryll Brooks, Lionel Bea, Norby Walters Show Love & Appreciation For 50 Yrs Of Hip-Hop
Moderator: Geoff Walker, Founder Kickstand World | Marketing & Branding Consultant, Warner Music Group
Lionel Bea, SVP, Black Promoters Collective
Darryll Brooks, C D Enterprises Inc.
Doug. E. Fresh, The Worlds Greatest Entertainer & The Original Human BeatBox
Big Daddy Kane, Performer & Hip Hop Legend
DJ Quik, Rapper & Producer
Pollstar Live! 2023 commemorated Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary with an incredibly special Keynote Conversation, which featured icons of the game, including artists Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane and DJ Quik who went deep into the origins of what has become one of the most successful musical genres and influential cultural movements worldwide.
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THROW YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR: 50 YEARS OF HIP-HOP PANEL
The appreciation and love these legendary artists have for the culture of Hip Hop in general, and for each other in particular, was apparent at all times chduring this session, booked in association with Universal Attractions Agency, which this year is putting on a Masters of the Mic Tour featuring Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Rakim and KRS-One.
The panel was deftly moderated by Geoff Walker, the charismatic founder of Kickstand World LLC and a Hip-Hop fanatic.
Doug. E. Fresh The Legend, ‘The Show’ & 5th Element Of Hip-Hop (Q&A)
Darryl Brooks of CD Enterprises out of Washington, D.C., is one of the first hip-hop promoters in the U.S. (alongside his partner Carol Kirkendall). He opened things up by talking about his early beginnings working for a non-profit arts organization in the nation’s capital. After booking Parliament-Funkadelic for a fundraiser, the band asked him to become their promoter. His work for the famous George Clinton outfit led to tours with other legendary acts, including Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash as well as his two fellow-panelists on stage, Doug E Fresh and Big Daddy Kane. Brooks recalled, “We partnered with buildings, we partnered with white promoters, we partnered with black promoters. Relationships were everything. We did more with no money than we did with money.”
One of those relationships was with Norby Walters, the legendary agent name-checked alongside fellow agent Cara Lewis on a record by one of Hip Hop’s greatest, Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full.” Walters had joined the Pollstar Live! panel as a surprise guest, and reminisced on changing the minds of venue operators, who didn’t want to put on black shows.
“They were afraid of it,” Walters remembered, “thinking that anything could happen, but, of course, nothing ever did happen. We had a lot of sell-out shows that Darryl and Carol (Kirkendall) produced for us. We had the talent, and they had the street hustle to get out there and make it all happen. I was very proud to represent Big Daddy Kane, Doug E Fresh, and dozens of other great, talented groups. But it took people like Carol and Darryl to bring em out to the public, so I want to thank them publicly here for doing that, because I think that they [were instrumental] in bringing Hip Hop to where it is today.”
Long Live K.A.N.E.: Q’s With The King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal Big Daddy Kane
DJ Quik, Big Daddy Kane, and Doug E Fresh, one by one, went into their early beginnings, and also talked about those artists who’ve had the most influence on them. For L.A. native, DJ Quik,it was Curtis Mayfield, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, to name but a few. “There was something special about it, because when I played the music my older sisters went crazy,” he recalled, adding that putting on records in his mother’s garage was what kept him off the streets during a time when gang violence was at its height. “73 through 87 brought records that can’t be undone,” he said.
Big Daddy Kane said he first got introduced to hip-hop through the local block party scene. “Brooklyn’s anthem” used to be ‘Love is the Message.’ When that song came on, everybody went crazy, and about 20 people would rush to the front to get on the mic to rhyme, and about 18 of them would have the same damn rhyme,” he remembered.
And then Doug E Fresh treated the audience to a Hip Hop 101. He began by explaining, how “Hip Hop was created to stop the gang wars and street gangs that went on in New York City, to create unity between the five boroughs.”
Five is also the number of elements that make up Hip Hop: DJ, MC, Graffiti, Breakdance, and Beatbox. The latter was literally invented by Doug E Fresh, when he began playing around with sounds on his way home from school. “We come from the neighborhoods where there’s mom and pop record shops, speakers outside. You walk down the streets, and you’re just dancing. So, I’m walking down the street, and I’m just start to repeat the sounds of the music that I hear,” he remembered.
The only reason he felt compelled to make music without an instrument was the fact that the music program of his school had just got cut. Doug E Fresh had been learning how to play the trumpet, with the intention of switching to drums soon, but the cuts killed the music department. He had to return the trumpet and never saw his old music teacher again. “The interesting part of the story is this. Would I have created [the Beatbox] if the program hadn’t been cut?,” he asked. A breakthrough moment for him was doing beatboxing on stages for Kurtis Blow during Harlem Week in the 1980s, This happened because he had no back-up band or DJs and Kurtis Blow was the biggest thing in Hip Hop at the time. The show instantly put Doug E Fresh on the map.
Aside from creating an art form that has spawned live beatbox tournaments around the world, Doug E Fresh is also credited with being one of the first and greatest performers on stage. “I come from a generation where you had to know how to perform, before you made a record,” he said. And acccording to DJ Quik, “nobody wanted to follow Doug when he went on stage. The show was over
Big Daddy Kane recalled Doug E Fresh showing him VHS tapes of artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, or Pink Floyd. “We watched those, and he explained to me, ‘everybody else is trying to do what Flash & the Furious Five or Run DMC did. I’m trying to do things that artists who are not Hip-Hop do, things that have never been done in Hip-Hop.’ That was the blueprint to performing for me,” Kane said. It inspired him to buy his own set of Barry White, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown VHS tapes, watch their performances, and incorporate some of that into his own stage show. That’s how he came up with the famous Big Daddy Kane split. (Brooks: “Kane was a monster. When he did that split he does, the girls went crazy.”)
He also shared the story of meeting another legendary pioneer of the culture: Biz Markie. It all began when a guy dating Big Daddy Kane’s cousinwho just wouldn’t shut up about this guy called Biz Markie D. He was relaying all of Biz Markie’s rhymes, and Kane, a lyricist himself, decided that he would battle the man. When the opportunity presented itself, Kane walked up to the artist and challenged him.
“Me and Biz we battled, and at the end of the battle Biz said, ‘You’re dope. You should get down with me. I’ll be doing shows in Harlem, Bronx, Long Island, it’s not a lot of money, but it’s decent money and good exposure. If you get down I promise you, one day I’ll get you a record deal.”
Biz soon showed up at Kane’s house and hung out with this grandmother before he got home and the rest is history. Kane got down and Biz Markie got him a record deal when the time came. It speaks volumes about the culture, that a professional business relationship and friendship could spawn all that from a battle.
Doug E Fresh piggy backed off of Kane’s story, recalling meeting Biz Markie in 1982: “He was a guy who wanted to see everybody win, and that’s the nature of the way we grew up. We grew up with a love and a passion for what we do. I always say passion makes money, money never makes passion.”
And then he pointed at Norby Walters, saying, “this guy taught me something, which is at the foundation of my career. I’d come into the agency every time and say, ‘Norby, how you doing?’ And he’d say, ‘Hey Doug E. Never too big.’ Same the next day. One day I asked him, ‘Norby, can I ask you a question? Why do you say ‘Never too big?’ He said, ’cause I’m never too big to say hello to everyone. I’m never too big to help somebody. I’m never to big to do something for somebody else, and I don’t have to get anything for it. I’m just, Never too big.’ And that has been the foundation of my career.”
The final panel member was Lionel Bea, SVP of the Black Promoters Collective, which came out of the pandemic when independent black promoters got together in order to come up with ways to not only survive economically, but stay competitive. In 2022, their first year in business, the Collective turned over $105 million in ticket sales, promoting tours by Maxwell, New Edition, Mary J Blige, and others.
“It showed that small independent black promoters can come together, build a company and become successful,” Bea said, who remembers a time when Motown used to be referred to as race music. He recalled Barry Gordy taking the executive decision to blank-out single and album covers to make sure people didn’t dismiss a record before hearing it.
Bea also spoke of working in the Bay Area with the legendary BIll Graham on hip-hop shows which others promoters at the time refused to work because he knew it deserved a voice. 50 years later Hip-Hop, Bea said. is the “number one selling import of black people. It’s the number one selling import of music in America. Hip Hop is now officially the soundtrack of America. So, the future is bright. It is as bright as it was for most of us 50 years ago,” he said.
Brooks quoted Erykah Badu, who said, “Hip Hop is bigger than the government.” He recalled a time when he had to go against city councils, who tried to prevent NWA from performing, and having to explain that the band was no gang, that they weren’t taking drugs, but that they were telling people about what was going on in their neighborhoods. He gave multi-million dollar branding deals with Hip Hop artists as proof of how far we’ve come. And he concluded, “I’ve seen Hip Hop it in its infancy, I’ve seen it mature. I’ve been to concerts in Detroit, where the entire building shook. It’s tribal in some areas. It’s a community, it tells stories, it has history. So, no, it’s not going anywhere.”