How and when did you get started in the music business?
I used to go to all the parties in the past, and I was inspired by DJ Kool Herc and studied his style. I went to school and work and saved my money to buy my equipment and records. I had found out that my cousin was being inspired by me, and a person by the name of Afrika Bambaata. My cousin told Bam about me and it just went from there.
What about DJ Kool Herc’s music made you want to get into music?
It was something different. During the time when Herc was playing up in the Bronx, his style and music selection was different from what they were playing downtown in the clubs and on the radio. He had a real street appeal and the audience would gravitate to him. It made people appreciate the music because they wanted to hear the beat in a hardcore sense.
What do you consider to be your greatest professional accomplishments?
My greatest professional accomplishment is to just be able to continue what I am doing. I don’t want to look at it as just a fly by night or one shot deal. I took the time to learn from all the people that I used to listen to, and I finally got to work with them. I listened to them and what it took for them to stick around, which encouraged me to do the same.
How was it to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I also read that you were named an honorary ambassador to the United Nations in recognition of your achievements in the field of music, how does that feel?
I was not actually inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What they have is a radio section and in the early 80’s they recognized me as being one of the first Hip Hop DJ’s on the radio. People can go and listen to my takes and read about my history.
Yes, earlier this year I was named accordingly with a couple of other people from different countries to an ambassadorship according to how we served the community or different ethnics. I make appearances and contribute to community affairs.
How did you go from the party scene to the radio?
Well, being with Afrika Bambaata we went from uptown in the Bronx and moved to downtown in various places like Nagril’s Danceateria to the Roxy. That is when people from Kiss FM took notice of what Afrika Bambaata was doing and came down to talk about certain DJ’s. They actually went after 2 other DJ’s before me, and by the time they got me I had learned to stick with it and just keep going.
You have been in the radio business for 18 years. Are there any artists that you have worked with that stand out in your mind? Are there any artists that you would like to work with in the future?
A lot of people know me as being a part of Boogie Down Productions and on behalf of Red Alert Productions. I have launched such groups as The Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest.
It’s hard to say who I would like to work with in the future because I have stepped away from the production and management end of the business. This is because I saw the other side of the entertainment world and what I enjoy more is broadcasting, I like to please the audience. I continue to do radio and play in the clubs.
If you never became involved the music business, where do you think you would be right now?
Before I started in the music business I had gone to school for drafting. I was actually working for this company where I would approve architectural blue prints.
What would you like to tell teens about yourself? What kind of message would you like to send to today’s teens?
Well that’s funny that you ask that because I know for a period of time a lot of people were calling me Uncle Red. I actually don’t recall how I got that name, but at the same token and time it feels good to know that not only the audience that grew up listening to me but the younger set also accept me. That is the way I learn to tend to them because it keeps me young.
I want them to remember me as a person they enjoy listening to and looking up to. I want them to think of me as someone they can call a friend or family member, that is why they can always call me Uncle Red.
If a teen came up to you today and asked you for advice on how to get into the business, what would you tell them?
Take time to study your craft, but also study the business. There are people that have all the talent in the world, but they don’t know the business and that is not good. If you take time to study, talk to others in the business, read books not magazines. Read plenty of books that give you information on the music business, this will only help you enhance where you want to be. Study your craft and business and everything else will come into place.