At the same time, Grandmaster Flash and The 3 Emcees (Keith Cowboy, Mele Mel, and The Kidd Creole) were putting it down at park jams in the South Bronx, Harlem’s own DJ Hollywood had already begun making a name all over the city.
He is New York’s first DJ who could rap simultaneously to the Disco tunes he spun. He had garnered a huge following with a clientele that allowed him sometimes to do three appearances in one night. Many will tell you it is Hollywood that they heard first, not only to rhyme but also sing to the records he would spin.
Now, to ensure that the party started poppin’ as soon as Hollywood walked into the establishment, the man traveled with his own entourage of around eight people.
Enter The Corporation.
Kareem, his personal OJ driver, rode around blasting these Hollywood tapes in this fabulous white-on-white Oldsmobile 98 with this blaring sound system. This group soon began to take on its own persona. The Corporation complemented everything that Hollywood did. They were his personal party starters.
Captain Jack, LTD (Loves To Dance), Mommaship, and the rest of The Corporation knew Hollywood’s call-and-response routine almost better than Wood. For example, LTD would be dancing and scream outta nowhere:
The Whole 371 Club: “Shake Yo Wood”
Hollywood: What You Say!
Repeat. Holly!!! What, Shake yo Wood!!!!
All it took was one time, and the whole club would be doing it next.
When I tell you that the floor in 371 would be bouncing up and down along with the crowd, that is no exaggeration. The line to get in stretched around the building. There would be easily – 200 people – worked into a disco rap frenzy, all courtesy of Hollywood. The man knew he could work that room.
Meanwhile, at the legendary Charles Gallery on 125th Street, another rapping DJ was also making the room shake. Eddie Cheba was duplicating Hollywood’s success.
My idol. Mr. Eddie Cheba.
When you talk about the greats of the formative era, you’d be remiss without mentioning this man. Eddie Cheba rose to prominence in a very crowded field at a time when your name meant something.
Hollywood, Luv Bug Starski, Reggie Wells—these cats called their own shots because they knew just by telling an audience, or if people knew that they were going to be there, it was going to be a packed house.
Mind you; this is all word of mouth.
By 1976, Eddie Cheba had also moved across the bridge from Harlem to The Bronx. To witness Eddie Cheba at Club 371 on a Saturday night can best be described as a sweat-fest. I’m talkin’ ’bout workin’ it out. Eddie Cheba, too could master the room.
Eddie Cheba: Who does it sweeter?
Club 371: Cheba Cheba Cheba
I would literally stand at the door of the DJ booth in marvel. He even had his flashlight guy, Bobby “Bob” Malone, positioned on top of the club’s speakers going off.
Eddie Cheba—a kool m#### f####.
His whole playboy aura persona demanded respect. The whole gang of fine women that accompanied him. His control over a crowd. He made the whole s### seem easy. Out of all the great personalities who rhymed and manned the decks at the same time, Eddie Cheba was hands down one of the premier party rockers of that era.
So why is it then that two of the first people to invent rapping, crowd participation, remixing a whole song, and singing their own lyrics over, for example, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” aren’t considered the precursors to Hip-Hop?
They made money hand over fist at least a year before the Hip-Hop emcee even moved from park jams to indoors. They have flyers that predate the majority of Hip-Hop pioneers.
Yet when it comes to getting credit for the art form they helped to create, these two are largely ignored and referred to as the “Disco” guys. As if early Hip-Hop pioneers didn’t play Disco at their park jams.- because they did.
So what’s the difference?
I’ll try and explain the difference. In the early stages of Hip-Hop, there was a DJ, and there was an Emcee—two separate entities.
Flash didn’t rap. The Furious 5 didn’t DJ. The emcee was there to compliment the DJ and display superior rhyme skills while practicing crowd participation.
Hollywood and Eddie Cheba could retort: we didn’t need the emcee because we did all that simultaneously.
Next, you have to consider the cadence. Hollywood and Eddie Cheba would pause after a rhyme, while there was no break in Mele Mel’s pattern. It was rapid fire. There was a clear difference. The Disco rappers’ cadence didn’t work well on top of Hip-Hop beats. It sounded corny. Trust me, some tried. There’s a reason that cadence didn’t survive, and why Mele Mel’s style is still used to this day.
Next, Hip-Hop will point out that Hollywood and Cheba didn’t play or rhyme to Hip-Hop beats but instead played Disco. Thus, the term “Disco” guys. Wood and Cheba were older and played to a more mature crowd that honestly turned their noses up to Hip-Hop. It was something that kids did.
I clearly remember Hollywood and Eddie Cheba frowning on Hip-Hop and didn’t want to be compared to that. There most certainly was no breakdancing at Club 371 and definitely no sneakers.
I surmise that the clear answer is a generation gap. In 1976, Disco still ruled the clubs, radio, and the charts, but it was on its way out. You had our older brothers and sisters still going to 371 to hear the latest tunes from The Trammps and Donna Summer.
Whereas the kid brother was in the parks with a linoleum mat practicing B-Boy moves to a new kind of music just beginning to bubble. Hip-Hop was still new. It was a fad, they said. So Hollywood and Eddie Cheba wanted nothing to do with it.
Eventually, the two would come around, but it was after the fact.
When Sylvia Robinson was forming The Sugarhill Gang, she originally wanted Hollywood, Eddie Cheba, and Luv Bug Starski, but both Hollywood and Starski rebuffed her.
They didn’t see the vision.
That’s why two of the greatest pioneers of the formative era are vastly underappreciated and overlooked for their contributions. Guys like Kid Capri, Ron G, Brucie B, and all the mixtape DJs that came after owe their style to Hollywood and Eddie Cheba.
To celebrate 50 years and still not recognize Hollywood and Eddie Cheba is not a celebration. It’s a miscarriage of our history.
Let’s start singing their praises while they are here.
Roosevelt Dynamite Simmons,
The Hip-Hop Impresario”