Thursday, June 19, 2008

It was a cold December evening in 1979 when my next door neighbor Adrienne said, “Mark, you gotta hear this new record called Spoonin’ Rap.” In fact everyone in my building was blasting the shit out of it. Up and down Kissena Blvd and Colden Ave everybody with a box was playing the latest jams – but this one was different.

The white-sleeved yellow label said SOUND OF NEW YORK USA. It was the first rap record to have song title listings “I Don’t Drink, Smoke or Gamble Neither”, “I’m the Cold Crushing Lover” and “I Was Spanking and Freaking”. The record itself was called “Spoonin’ Rap” by a guy who called himself Spoonie Gee.

Spoonie was different from every other MC at that time. Whereas most guys had big golden voices, this guy rhymed in a laid back conversational tone. Spoonie was cool.

“I’m the one and plenty lover who gives the good sensations,
I’m the good and plenty kid
With all the qualifications.
Now if the girl is ugly,
And she looks like a dog,
I start to running like a cow,
And leaping like a frog.
No, I’m not conceited baby please don’t take me for a toy,
Just remember me as Spoonie Gee the baddest lover boy.
The rhyme sayin’, girl playing, drink a lot of juice,
And what God gave me baby,
I’m gonna put it to use…”

Nobody rhymed like that back then. Spoonie was a mack.

Christmas morning 1979 guess what was under the tree? ‘Spoonin Rap’. It was the first record I ever got. I sat in the living room with my eyes closed listening to every sound of the record, the reverb, the slick bass line, the whistles, all of it mesmerized me. For eight years Spoonie sporadically released one classic 12 inch after the other, and then nothing. Spoonie’s last stand as a recording artist was a Marley Marl produced cut called “The Godfather”…

“Let’s get this straight there’s no contest,
So now you people know and don’t have to guess,
I’m not the king of rap,
Not lord, nor prince,
I was a young kid rappin’
And I been rocking ever since,
I was just a young buck
I didn’t care what
MC’s were in my they never uttered a what…
Cause I’m the Godfather.”

It was then that he got the most publicity of his whole entire career. Spoonie appeared in Right On! Magazine, Black Beat and got a write up in Spin magazine as well. But there was never anything in depth about the man. As hot as he was at the time there were no videos and he only played spot dates here and there. After “The Godfather”, “Mighty Mike” and “You Ain’t Just A Fool” Spoonie disappeared.

Word on the street was that he was a prisoner of the crack monster. One guy told me he saw him sleeping on a park bench and there were other very sad stories out there about him. Fast forward to 2005. My man Jayquan contacted Spoonie and did the first real in depth interview with the man. Jay and Troy both told me how he was a real quiet dude. A couple of years later Allhiphop dot com held an online chat session with him, one of their writers got in touch with him and was able to interview him. His words would prove to be ominous to me: “Gabriel Jackson is a man of few words…”

Last year DJ Woody Wood did the first live radio interview I had heard Spoonie do in years. He was clearly different from what Jay and Troy had told me about. He laughed; he was more conversational than I was told he would be.

Then it was my turn.

In a sense I have been waiting since 1979 to interview him. After much back and forth with Tuff City Records I was able to get a phone interview with him. He was cordial and polite, but not exactly the most talkative person I have ever come across. Getting answers from him was pretty hard. The only time he really came to life and wanted to really volunteer answers was when I asked him about his previous activities with skeezers…

I was warned (not sternly but hints were dropped) that he doesn’t like to discuss his personal life. I wasn’t going to push him. The only thing he would openly discuss was his love of women. Beyond that, it was pretty tough to get him to open up. There was much he didn’t remember, but to his credit, he tried; in all honesty and in his defense I have to say, it is hard to recall things from twenty-five years ago – I know I have trouble doing so. And also in his defense, I think I woke him up from his afternoon snooze or something, because when I called him he sounded like he had fallen asleep and was awakened by the ring of the phone.

Me: Hello, Spoonie?
Him: (Yawn) Yeah man, what’s up?
Me: Hey, hope I didn’t disturb you, man
Him: (Yawn again) Nah, nah it’s cool…

It was three-way phone call with plenty of office noise in the background, half the time we couldn’t hear each other. There were plenty of times where Spoonie said, “Brother, your gonna have to speak up.”

I got what I needed from him though. In all of the interviews he has done, no one, not one person has ever asked a single question about his 1985 recording ‘Street Girl’. Everyone asks him about ‘Love Rap’, ‘The Godfather’, and ‘Spoonin’ Rap’. I thank God they didn’t because I wrote a classic for Wax Poetics that came out this week, my editor re-titled my story
Streets Disciple and I ain’t mad at him for it either. Brian usually comes with some good titles, my favorite one is “Interstellar Transmission: The Birth of Planet Rock and it’s Electro Repercussions”.

But all in all I got some good information from him. My buddy freelance writer extraordinaire and master wordsmith Michael Gonzales suggested that I should re-interview him, but do it in person. If I had the loot I sure would’ve. Through Michael I got in touch with Barry Michael Cooper. Cooper is the godfather of hip-hop journalism. Period. Point blank. No questions will be accepted. He is the guy that wrote the groundbreaking classics New Jack City, Above the Rim and Sugar Hill. Currently he’s been hard at work producing movies for the web Blood On the Walls and Chief Rocker are two of his latest classics. Tuff City founder and CEO Aaron Fuchs told me how it was through Cooper that he had come into contact with Spoonie. At the time, Cooper was into music and had started making records; one of the people he hooked up with was Spoonie. Cooper was a huge help to me in this article because he painted a picture of Harlem for me and of his impressions of Spoonie.

Bum rush the door of your local record store and cop this joint here, Wax Poetics is also available at Barnes and Noble and Border books.