So much early Hip-Hop is under-documented, and no one is better equipped to help fill in the blanks than the man known as Fab 5 Freddy. The Hip-Hop icon is a treasure trove of experiences and connections, and for Hip Hop History Month, Freddy's sharing a conversation with GrandMixer DXT. The legendary deejay chops it up with Fab about DJ Kool Herc, taking Hip-Hop to Europe, the Roxy and DXT's reputation as one of the most innovative deejays of his generation.
"I like to remind people that this all started with the DJs," Freddy says. "People that figured out the technology to get the right turntables and a mixer and an amplifier and speakers, and then develop these skills to basically do things that really was the foundation that this whole thing was built on."
DXT's approach was "astonishing." Elevated the art of deejaying in the Bronx. Freddy saw DXT on the turntables and was blown away. And he saw how DXT became one of the most prominent downtown deejays; how his deejaying anchored the scene at the Roxy, which Fab credits for bringing people together from various backgrounds. And DXT was brilliant on the turntables.
"I knew the importance of what I was because no one else was doing that," DXT says. "No one else approached the turntables from a musician's standpoint. I wanted to demonstrate that this could go further than the basic deejaying skills we were seeing."
An early show at Negril, which had been a reggae club prior to the popular Hip-Hop show being hosted there, forged the connection between Freddy and DXT. The final scene of the seminal 1983 rap film Wild Style is DXT cutting Chic's "Good Times." And at the Roxy, DXT helped break tracks like Freddy's "Change The Beat" and DXT's own "Infinity Rappers," and other major songs by artists like the Fearless Four and the Sequence. "Change The Beat" became a special record for both men, DXT would later cut the song into an 80s classic.
"The thing that made the record so unique and os special; DXT starts off this major domino effect of cutting this sound on the end of the B-side of my record," Fab explains. "Where I went 'Aaaah, this stuff is really fresh.' DXT wound up cutting it with Herbie Hancock's record 'Rockit,' which featured DXT's innovative scratching and mixing.
DXT's prominence on the downtown was so well-known that it informed his original name, which was "DST," a reference to Delancy St in Lower Manhattan. And DXT acknowledges the impact of Wild Style, even after admitting that initially, he wasn't comfortable with being in the film. That movie was a big bang for putting Hip-Hop culture on film.
"In the beginning, I stood off from it. I [even] said 'film my hands. I don't wanna be on film.' At the time, I was too immature to recognize the genius of that. Because I thought, as a purist of Hip-Hop, that it was only about what we did. The graffiti part was the generation before us, and i didn't make the connection at the time. I didn't know my own history."
Both Fab and DXT were a part of a group of about 30 that helped take Hip-Hop to Europe in the early 1980s. A cadre of emcees, deejays, breakers, emcees and even double dutch girls took a tour of Europe, across France, Germany and England. It was billed as "The New York City Rap Tour."
"No rap records had blown up in Europe," Fab shares. "At this point in the game, no rap records had happened. People were clueless. We went on this tour and it was basically a free-flowing jam session."
The stories of how Hip-Hop was taken from the boroughs to the world are rich and there are so many; these two men weren't just witnesses, they were active participants in that exportation. Fab and DXT helped gift that to Europe.
"It was basically a live block party," DXT adds. "We took a block party from town to town. There was no run of show. It was a traveling block party. And it was organic."
This is a conversation for any Hip-Hop head and music lover! DXT talks touring with Herbie Hancock; watching DJ Kool Herc and those early Hip-Hop parties; mixing without a mixer; these two run the gamut. And they even share how DXT was the (somewhat reluctant) catalyst for the term "turntablism."
CHECK OUT THE FULL VIDEO BELOW: