Check out RPHH’s coverage of the Pittsburgh Underground Music Awards at the August Wilson Center on April 28th, 2013. Almost every dope Hip Hop, Rap & R&B artists in the Burgh came out to collect their awards and support their favorites. We have not seen the city come together like this in a long time, it was refreshing to see everyone support each other. The night was a huge success, brought to the Burgh by Mista Scrap & Holly Hood! S/O to you both for such a great awards show! They had legit A&R’s in the building, meeting with artists and managers to give advice, feedback and opportunities to those who deserve them. The venue was a great choice, the auditorium at the August Wilson Center was beautiful! The performance show at Frankie’s was poppin, coverage from that event has already been posted. Check out the site to see the interviews and performances from that evening. All and all, they did a great job from start to finish. DJ Afterthought held it down all night long, at both events, on the one’s and two’s! The awards were pretty sick and every single person who took one home was ecstatic. Couldn’t have asked for a better award’s show! Check out all our interviews, Pgh performances & still shots from the evening’s festivities. Click this link now to see Brenna & Joanna cover the PUMA Awards show! We offer this service to any promoters, club owners and event coordinators who are interested in our event coverage. Please send your requests to our email: RepPghHipHop2013@gmail.com and we will get back to you in a timely manor.
by Rory Webb
Mel was recognized as a Pittsburgh hip-hop legend long before making his imprint on the game by co-producing with Dr. Dre from the mid-90s to early 2000s. Older heads acknowledge his involvement in the Hardcore Crew. Mel remained behind the scenes throughout much of his career. However, that didn’t stop him from influencing two of the most influential producers in the history of hip-hop, Dr. Dre and RZA.
Mel-Man – The Melman Delivers (1991)
01. Intro-My 9 is to Load
02. The Hoe Shop
03. The Baby Ain’t Mine
04. This is for Your Kicker
05. The Mel Man
07. I Wanna Do Ya
08. Hard to Say Good Bye
Mel-Man – Knock ‘Em Off (CD Single) (1993)
01. Knock ‘Em Off
02. Wreck Shop
03. Fag Force
04. Knock ‘Em Off (Instrumental)
Mel-Man – Rare Tracks and Radio Spots (199x)
01. Aftermath Session Snippet
02. The Crew Got Paid
03. WPTS Exclusive
04. WRCT Nightshift (Spring 1994)
DOWNLOAD ALL 3: http://www40.zippyshare.com/v/96004488/file.html
Interview by Rory Webb
RPHH: When did you first start rapping?
I started listening to Cold Crush… Me and my cousin… Somewhere we got a Cold Crush record from like ’83, nobody had heard it. So, we took the record and put our names in it [laughs]. We used to be in school saying the rhymes. All the time the teachers would be like, “Say that rap again!” Til once, it was like the next year we were doing it, and some dude had moved down from New York… And he wanted to battle us. So we’re doing it and he started singing along with us, like “That’s Cold Crush! That’s Cold Crush!” That’s when I was in like the 7th grade [laughs]. So I started writing my own raps… And I would just write ‘em, but I wouldn’t pay ‘em no attention. Then I got that little drum machine, the Synsonics drums. We had the little Dr. Rhythm’s ‘n stuff. I would make beats and would be saying my raps to ‘em.
RPHH: Can you share some of your early experiences recording music.
I would have my beat machine, and my mic running through my DJ mixer, then I would record, and I would take that tape and put it in my Walkman, put another tape into the recorder, play the Walkman back and do the adlibs over that. It sounded completely hissy, but you could still hear what I was doing.
Eventually, we had three or four tape decks dubbing every tape. There were no multiple tape doubles. We’d have a master tape and box of blank tapes. Every label got written by hand. We’d take them to local music shops, Stedaford’s and Dorsey’s.
I used to make a limited amount, so that I could sit back and listen to people tell me “Man, I need another one of your tapes, somebody stole my tape.” I just wanted people to steal them from each other, cause I had nothing else to do [laughs]. When people bought a new tape they’d buy multiple copies. One for the house, one for the car… knowing that somebody’s gonna steal it. Yeah, you used to have to guard that Homewood tape with your life! If you were riding with somebody that was listening to it and you had to get out of the car for something you’d take the tape out with you.
Smash Money – “Pick It Up” Music Video circa 1992
RPHH: The first song I was put onto of yours was “21” … It’s one of the best storytelling songs/concepts I’ve ever heard.
That started as a ghostwriting track for somebody else. Walt D. asked me to write him a song, he said “I wanna make a song about some young nigga hustlin’, called ‘By the Time I Turn 21’.” So, I said ok, I’ll call you back. And I called him back an hour later with the song and the track done. I said it to him… I played the beat and had the phone to my ear. I had an [Akai] S950 at the time, it didn’t even have a sequencer. So, I got the drum loop and the two sample loops. I’m hitting it, and saying the rhyme with the phone at my ear, reading off the paper. And he was like, “You know what, I’ll never say the song like that. You oughta keep that.”
“21” was released in ’92 on the Thinking and Drinking tape, which also had “40 & A Blunt” with Infinite from F3/Ruff Chemistry. “21” was later released as a single on vinyl. I was doing the white label tapes and a guy came up to me and said he wanted to get involved and try to do some things. So, we came up with a plan… And I think for him the money wasn’t coming as fast as he thought it would. So we weren’t able to see the plan completely through fruition. We did the first pressing of 2,500. I did what I could do, I got some distribution through National Record Mart. But we didn’t get a chance to do it the way we needed to do it.
RPHH: Were you actively performing at local shows?
[Laughs] We used to do shows with lots of people. And if the show started at 7 o’ clock, we’d come in at 5 for the sound check and set stuff up on stage. If you went on before me… your beat machine and your keyboard left with me. There are many people whose music careers I ended. A couple of them thanked me for it cause they went on to do some bigger and better things. One dude I bumped into down in North Carolina, he said “Yo, I wanna thank you for stealing my beat machine. Cause that made me do this.”
RPHH: [Laughs] Any particular show stories you can talk with us about?
The Strip’s Edge, when we had the big fight. We did one Strip’s Edge show that went perfect. And that’s the one that Phunk Magazine threw. Beautiful show, it was nice. So, Nick [Nice] tried to repeat it. We did another one a couple weeks later and it turned into a big fight. I was drunk, got my back broke, it was crazy. It was us, F3, umm… here goes me and my Homewood shit again, I don’t remember anybody else that was on the show but the people from Homewood [laughs]. There were like four or five people on the show, and I think F3 performed and then we were going on. And then the Garfield dudes had set it up to come at a certain time, cause I remember performing, when I was doing “21,” I see a line of people come in wearing red. And then they just start fighting. I’m rapping and everybody’s fighting. And then when they finally shut the mic off I just jumped in the crowd and started fighting too. Drunk as hell [laughs]. I was walking around just grabbing people like, “Oh, I know you, you’re cool. I don’t know you, blaow!”
RPHH: From what I’ve heard, the gang-bangin’ was something of an epidemic during this time in the early-mid ‘90s.
From the inside it wasn’t nothing cause it was the people you grew up with, they just decided to start carrying guns and shooting people. It’s like… Your cousin is still your cousin, no matter what he’s doing. He could be eating people and that’s still your cousin. You’re gonna look at him differently than the people looking at him on the news. So it wasn’t like “Oh my God, they’re killing each other.” We didn’t look at it like that. You know them when they’re playing with their kids, or arguing with their girlfriend, or crying when their mom died… you know that side. Like, I listen back to a lot of the subject content we had… And I didn’t care about too much but drinkin’, fuckin’, makin’ music, and daring somebody to give me an excuse to shoot ‘em. That’s all I cared about when I was 22 [laughs].
Smash Money – “Da 3rd Song” Music Video circa 1993
RPHH: It was around ’93-’94 that signed the deal with Lifestyles, out in L.A. How’d that come together?
We were doing a show. Sam Sneed was on the show, down at Pitt at the Studio Union. He came over and was like, “Yeah, my boy Dre… I’m trying to bring you out there as soon as I get situated.” And he introduced me to Blak Cz[er]. And Blak Cz’ was working on his album at the time. And he was like, “Listen, MTV went through the whole album and they won’t play a video for nothin’ on my album, so I need another song. I want you to do it.” He called the label, they said “Cool, we can do it.” Me and Quiv (Emmai Alaquiva) worked on it together. Quiv did the drums and I did the music on that Blak Cz’ joint, “The Hood.” And then he had B-Dub, who rapped on the song with him. So, they did the video for it and everything. I took a production deal with [Lifestyles] so that I could get in, and then break my click in. I took a corny production deal. I took an ASR-10 keyboard and $20,000. I could’ve got more, but I just took anything so that I could get in and put my people on. I turned all of L.A. out on the ASR-10, a lot of cats didn’t even know what it was.
RPHH: How did traveling and working in other cities with their artists influence your music?
When I was first getting into the music during the ‘80s, the local cats had the greatest influence, cause we hadn’t seen the mainstream people before. So, for me to start, it was Stan the Man and K-Kel, period. Stan the Man, that’s Pittsburgh’s version of Grandmaster Caz. My hip-hop world began and ended with them two. And then when I went to the service and came back, I was really just looking for their respect in what I did. The city’s top DJ and promoter, Sly Jock, had a thing called the Pittsburgh All-Stars, where he would take dudes to Ohio ‘n stuff to do shows. Every Wednesday you were able to go audition. I wanted their acceptance to get into that, cause if you weren’t in that then you were just a nobody. So those are the people that I always wanted to get recognition from. I got a pioneer award from the Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Awards this year, and Stan is the one that pushed for it for me. Which was cool, cause that was the dude that made me want to do it. So for him to recognize and respect what I was doing was big for me.
More specifically in regard to travelling, it made me know that people like other shit. Like, if you never left Homewood you would think B.G. was Jay-Z. If you spent your whole life in Homewood then you go somewhere else people don’t even know who B.G. is. And it’s just those types of things… Musically, it definitely changed my music… In D.C. they don’t even listen to the real versions of the raps, the Go-Go bands will re-do the raps with the drums and all that stuff. Being out in L.A. with their stuff, like the Hieroglyphics movement and Planet Asia… You hear a lot of that, and it just all gets incorporated.
Once I started branching out more, I started learning more about how music was put together. I would listen to everybody, to either learn how to do something or learn how not to do it. I got a lot of stuff that nobody’s heard, that people just wouldn’t understand, like they’d think I’m Kanye West or somebody [laughs].
In 2011, Smash Money was released from a six year prison bid. He has been producing new music and is expecting to unleash new recordings in the upcoming year. Prior to serving his bid, he produced and recorded “Draw the Line (Outta Here),”which is being presented for the first time on RepPittsburghHipHop.
Strictly 4 de Boomin System was distributed regionally by M.S. Distributors Chicago IL, Galaxy Records Pittsburgh Pa, and National Record Mart Pittsburgh Pa.
Street dejays such as Biz Markee, Nick Nice, Dejay Boogie, Mocha, Sly Jock and special radio shows such as hot 8 at 8, The Bad Boys, and Strictly For The Streets on WAMO FM 106 Pittsburgh, helped in the promotion of “Ghettosoundchek”.
“Ghettosoundchek” was Pittsburgh’s anthem in summer 1991.
download the single at www.tuffytuff.com
The scene: Pittsburgh in winter…I think the temperature was in the teens when we shot this video. Nonetheless, we pulled it off and one year later it has been viewed over 13,000 times. Now, it is nominated for Video of the Year at the 5th Annnual Pittsburgh hip hop awards (click here to vote).
Pittsburgh is known for a whole bunch of things. A great skyline, the steel industry that allowed the country’s backbone to strengthen and become the nation it is today, the Pittsburgh city of champions idiom: the Steelers, Penguins and the Pirates of old. We’re known for the historic backdrop of Hill Street Blues, Malcom X’ beginnings were documented in the early Pittsburgh Courier, and a monumental influence on jazz subsequently producing Ahmad Jamal, one of the most celebrated jazz musicians of all time. Pittsburgh’s hip hop scene is also known for being a hostile an unforgiving environment consuming twice as many MCs as it produces. Such is the case for in my opinion the best group ever in Pittsburgh, Greed’s Ultimate Nemesis or G.U.N for short.
Cannonsburg or affectionately known by it’s residents as Guntown is small town in Washington county which is basically West Bubble Fux. It was there that produced the duo of Big Ghate and Soma Candelaria aka Soma Splitfinger (true baseball fans already know the deal there). I was introduced to them via Myspace in 2005. I was under the impression that they worked with then a pop culture relative unknown but still underground phenom 9th Wonder however, their producer Phil The Soulman was just cool with 9th and informed him that G.U.N would be rapping over a few tracks he produced for a mixtape. This mixtape would turn turn to be my top five Pittsburgh Hip Hop releases of all time, Dat Greedy: The Mixtape w/ 9th Wonder.
G.U.N was easily Pittsburgh’s Little Brother (I now give that title to A.P.E.X., ironic how it’s both duo’s with acronyms for names init?) . Soma being the ultra lyrical introspective type like Phonte, Big Ghate being the more direct angsty MC like Big Pooh, he’s even heavy set like Pooh. Though Soma actually sounded closer to his idol Big Pun then Phonte. Every one of the Splitfinger’s rhyme schemes were laden with heavy multisylabics and a lexicon the size of a New York metro phone book. Ghate had the concrete solid delivery that was the 1-2 in contrast to Soma‘s lyricism that could almost always go over your head. It was a wonderful balance.
Soma and Ghate had great stage presence too. They played off each other very well. I caught every one of their shows I could. What I often pondered was how Soma could do all these long multi syllable rhymes live when he was a chain smoker! The green 19 year old I was took plenty mental notes. The hip hop scene was still in it’s modern genesis, not the full out explosion it is today. The Hkan just started doing the weekly hip hop and hookah series every Friday, The Shadow Lounge was still around, Wiz was a tall tee wearing highschool student, Mac Miller was a snot nosed kid, Nova was the 21 year old local favourite, Da Button Pusha was the most hated name on the scene (now its me …), K-Mo was still blonde and Ron Noodles was the most talked about MC with no music out. Relationships and alliances were just now forming within the inner workings of a young scene showing signs of development.
G.U.N was never the main attraction but I remember people leaving every show they rocked with black and yellow Greed’s Ultimate Nemesis tee shirts in the Steelers font, they even had black and yellow terrible towels done in the same fashion along with the The Greedy Ultimate EP, a 6 track release of some of the best soulful social commentary released in 2005.
G.U.N had all of what a great group should have. A platform, great stage presence, a lane, and two MCs who knew their way around a microphone and ability to deliver music that just remained relevant no matter where you were from in the city. Their production was beyond top notch, just down right incredible via Phil The Soulman a Philly native who inked the group to his World Of Beats indie label. G.U.N had some of the realest lyrics, soul touching tales of life in the rust belt with an awareness of global politics and all around hip hop flavour.
Soma to me was one of the greatest MCs to come out of this area and still remains one of my largest influences ever. I chose my single “I Will Not Lose”off the strength of G.U.N using the same sample on their tune “Good” and shot scenes of my video “G.O.O.D” at the Pirates mural on 10th St. Because of their album work as an homage to them. Amongst some of Pittsburgh’s largest groups, Tha Govament, Strict Flow, Formula 412, Rook & Bishop, Deadly Scribes, Classic 1824, Eviction Notice, Hands Down, and with the recent arrival of A.P.E.X, Common Wealth Family and Varsity Squad, I still rank G.U.N close to the top of Hip Hop groups in this city.
G.U.N released 3 projects, The Greedy Ultimate EP, Dat Greedy: The Mixtape w/ 9th Wonder, and Greedyology. Unfortunately G.U.N shared the same fate as pretty much every group, they had a falling out which lead to a break up. Soma was working on a solo project last I heard from him, but he put that up to raise his son and coach tee-ball. I haven’t spoke to Ghate in years, but the memory of the duo I knew as G.U.N stays just as fresh in my mind as is it did in 2005. I honestly feel that if G.U.N would of came out in 2009 with the scenes dynamics how they are now, we would have another angle of discussion about the current MCs locally making noise.