QB's Finest: The Illest Hip-Hop Is Always Comin' Outta Queensbridge
By Jay Quan
Opening in 1939 and accommodating over seven thousand residents between its North and South complexes, Queensbridge Houses is the biggest housing project in the United States. Its 96 buildings stretch over six city blocks and it’s been described as a city within itself. Queensbridge Houses is known as the home of the legendary Hip Hop collective The Juice Crew. The story of Hip Hop in Q.B. as its affectionately known predates even producer Marley Marl’s talented clan of M.C.’s.
Queensbridge native M.C. Dimples D. was the first Queensbridge rap artist and Marley Marl protégé to make a Rap record, releasing Sucker D.J.’s in 1983 on Arthur Bakers Partytime records. The acapella version of Sucker D.J.’s provided Marley the instrument with which to scratch his name, and that scratch would be immortalized on several records and eventually become his trademark.
Dimples told Hip Hop Historian JayQuan in a 2020 interview “Jappy Jap and Dr. Bob Lee are the Q.B. historians that started coming out in the park with D.J. equipment and playing music. This was long before there were any rap records”. Queensbridge veteran M.C. Shan who immortalized Jappy Jap on 1986’s the bridge says “I was too young to come out and listen to the music being played at The Reese Center, but I could hear it
History was made when Lolita Shante’ Gooden was walking to the laundry room in Queensbridge and was approached by Marley Marl from his window to record a rhyme. She said a rhyme off the top of her head to U.T.F.O’s Roxanne Roxanne instrumental, dissing the group and went back to finish her load of clothes. That recording became 1984’s Roxanne’s Revenge credited to Roxanne Shante’ which started the “Roxanne Wars” resulting in more than 30 replies to U.T.F.O’s smash hit and further opening the door to female Rap recording artists which there were very few of at the time.
D.J. Marley Marl
Marlon “Marley Marl” Williams had seven siblings and was the middle child. According to the October 1991 issue of The Source Magazine Marley attended several schools and at Manhattan High he met the legendary D.J. Breakout of the Brothers Disco and later The Funky 4. He also witnessed Afrika Bambaataa play at Queensbridge center, but he was too young to enter, so he watched from a window. Marley’s older brother D.J. Larry Larr of The High Fidelity Crew joined the armed forces leaving Marlon with access to records and D.J. equipment. Marley would put his speakers in the window providing music for the block and he eventually hooked up with producer, singer and musician Andre Booth and learned about recording equipment and they would play together according to Goin’ Off: the Story of The Juice Crew & Cold Chillin’ Records by Ben Merlis. Booth & Marley would access power from light poles and play live music with Booths band while Marley mixed records. Marley would eventually form a collective of M.C’s called the Juice Crew and that marriage would change the face of Rap music starting in the mid 1980’s and the influence is still evident today.
One of Marley Marl’s early M.C’.s was M.C. Shan. Together they recorded “Feed The World” and “The Marley Scratch” in 1985, but it was a 1986 recording that was created strictly as musical entertainment for the annual Queensbridge Day celebration that changed the face of Rap music and literally started a war. “The Bridge” told the history of Hip Hop and the practitioners of the Rap art form in Queensbridge. Shan told JayQuan “Marley suggested that we make a song for Queensbridge Day. Neither of us thought that anyone would wanna hear us talk about our neighborhood on a song, but I wrote some names down on an envelope of some legendary Queens figures like Jappy Jap, Gas, Cousin Bruce and Marley’s brother Larry Larr. That tape became a smash hit in Queensbridge long before we made it into a record.”
“You love to hear the story again and again of how it all got started way back when/Hip Hop was set out in the dark they used to do in out in the park”. Those opening lines from “The Bridge” were the basis of KRS-ONE of Boogie Down Productions creating the legendary “South Bronx” diss/reply and setting off the legendary Bridge Wars. “Kris knows that I wasn’t saying that Hip Hop started in Queensbridge. He had issues with (radio legend) Mr. Magic who was like the head of the Juice crew. Magic dissed a song that KRS played for him called “Success Is The Word” when they were a group called 12:41. Magic told KRS that the song was garbage, and Kris came at me. I gave Kris a career.”
In the ending scenes of Roxanne Shante’s biopic Roxanne Roxanne a young and aspiring Q.B. resident named Nasir Jones who later became Rap legend Nas rhymes for Shante’. According to M.C. Shan “I used to sit in my truck with Nas before he got his deal. I would tell him about the industry and how his friends and everyone would change once he got some fame.” Tragedy aka The Intelligent Hoodlum was the youngest member of The Juice Crew and recorded classics like “The Tragedy”, “Juice Crew All Stars” and “Live Motivator” with Marley Marl and “Go Queensbridge” with Q.B. legend D.J. Hot Day. The legendary M.C. Craig G is another Q.B. Juice Crew icon who recorded with Marley very early on Philadelphia Rap label Pop Art. Songs like “Shout Rap” “Transformer” and “Oh Veronica” were considered underground classics in the mid 1980s drum machine era. “Duck Alert” “The Symphony” and “Droppin’ Science” were huge songs in Rap music’s Golden Era. Later generations of Q.B. M.C.’s learned at the feet of their predecessor/neighbors. Nas, Mobb Deep, Big Noyd, Cormega, Capone of CNN, Nature, Bravehearts, Screwball and Infamous Mobb all kept the spirit of Q.B alive while artists like Sheff La and Ruc Da Jackel continued the legacy. The Q.B. sound and influence is still very much felt today and the legacy stands strong.