CAZ - The Legend, The Historian- A Founding Father of Hip Hop.
The first simultaneous DJ and MC in Hip Hop history, Grandmaster Caz is perhaps best known for rhymes he didn't even perform -- namely, the uncredited verses that Big Bank Hank borrowed for the groundbreaking Sugarhill Gang single "Rapper's Delight." The fact that neither Caz nor his group the Cold Crush Brothers ever recorded an official full-length album also doesn't help shed much light on his legacy -- an unfortunate injustice, considering he was one of the most important and influential pioneers of old school rap.
Grandmaster Caz was born Curtis Fisher and grew up in the Bronx, where DJ Kool Herc began playing block parties in the early '70s. Caz attended his first Herc party in 1974, and was amazed by the huge, booming sound system and the way Herc worked the crowd. Inspired to try doing the same thing, he immediately purchased some equipment and adopted the DJ name Casanova Fly (which later morphed into Grandmaster Caz).
After honing his skills, Caz teamed up with JDL (aka Jerry Dee Lewis) to form the Notorious Two, and during this period became the first DJ to rap while handling records on the turntables. Both Caz and JDL joined the Cold Crush Brothers circa 1978-1979, with Caz becoming a full-time MC.
In 1979, former R&B singer and label head Sylvia Robinson discovered Caz's friend Big Bank Hank rapping along with one of Caz's practice tapes. Impressed, she invited him to become the third member of a studio rap group called the Sugarhill Gang, which was set to record the first rap single. Without revealing the true author, Hank went to Caz and asked to borrow the rhymes for the record; Caz agreed, hoping for an eventual favor in return -- which never materialized, and neither did songwriting credit or royalties.
Despite that mishap, Caz did find a measure of underground success with the Cold Crush Brothers. They recorded several singles for the Tuff City label during the early '80s (compiled in 1996 on Fresh Wild Fly & Bold), and became one of the most popular live rap groups in New York during the pre-Run-D.M.C. era. Most prominently, the Cold Crush Brothers appeared in the 1983 old school Hip Hop film Wild Style, which has since become a cult classic; they recorded the theme song and engaged in an MC battle with their chief rivals, Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic Five.
Like most other old
school artists, the Cold Crush Brothers didn't survive the advent of Run-D.M.C.,
and Caz launched a brief solo career in the late '80s. Again recording
for Tuff City, his singles included "Mr. Bill," "Yvette,"
"Count Basie," "I'm Caz," "Casanova's Rap,"
and "Get Down Grandmaster." None of them made much of an impact,
and Caz faded from the music scene for a time. With more attention being
paid to the roots of Hip Hop in the late '90s, Caz's name resurfaced as
an early pioneer, and he began making appearances at historical conferences
like the one staged in 1999 by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2000,
he released a new single titled "MC Delight," which addressed
the "Rapper's Delight" controversy.
Peace G.M. CAZ, Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. You are considered a Godfather, Historian, a Grand Master of hip hop. What are some the highest accolades you hold dear to your heart that you've acomplished to date?
Peace: Some of the
highest accolades bestowed upon me which I consider to be dear to my heart
You guys (COLD CRUSH BROTHERS)
are known for the incredible stage presence and crazy routines you guys
performed. What was the most memorable battle you guys had? Was it the
battle with The Fantastic Five? Any cool stories that stick out?
groups today that you think have the stage presence, etc.. that you guys
touch on the Sugar Hill thing other than ask if you you ever get to serve
that "Pizza Shop cat" proper for the whole Sugar Hill bullshit?
been with hip hop from the gate of it's inception, Are you happy with
the way it has progressed into what it is today?
would you like to see different?
your input on todays rap music, strictly from a TALENT AND LYRICAL point
do you listen to? what artists do you think are on point?
you think artists of today's era should have a fund for the Legends and
Creators of this genre we call hip hop? Cats like Kool Herc and yourself--
All the ones who paved the way for this to even be.
the internet, and even satellite radio, people now have a different platform
of choice rather than traditional radio on what they can listen to, search
for, etc.. We all know the regular radio playlists that stations play
are garbage and tied up with money motivated agendas or whatever you want
to call it. Do you have any input on this?
to see you on Ice T's Something from Nothing movie, Did you have fun being
involved with that project? How did you get involved with that?
this how your new book WRITTEN evolved? What was the process of deciding
to put the book together and making it available to the masses?
other projects can we see coming from you?
your top 5 rappers of all time?
been doing the HUSH TOURS for over a decade now, right? It has to be pretty
fulfilling to you as a Pioneer and being an integral part of the history
on educating visitors on the birthplace of hip hop, how it all began etc..
of rap what music do you listen to that fans may not be aware of?
It's been a pleasure and
definitely appreciate the time you took for this interview..GOD BLESS!
The Cold Crush Brothers were especially known for their memorable routines which included harmonies, melodies and stage-stomping performances. The Cold Crush Brothers set the standard for emceeing. They became known as the Rolling Stones of hip hop. Because of the attention they began to attract, many groups would try to battle them to gain street credibility and for hip hop supremacy. This would lead to a fierce and well known rivalry with The Fantastic Five, culminating in a lyrical battle between the groups on July 3, 1981. The grand prize was winner takes all, $1000 cash. The Fantastic Five won the battle.
The Cold Crush Brothers began to release records commercially. The first single was "Weekend" on Elite Records. It was a party and dance record that described ways to have fun on the weekends. The second single was "Punk Rock Rap" on Tuff City Records and distributed by CBS. This was the first time an independent hip hop label and a major record company worked together. "Punk Rock Rap" was the first recording to fuse hip hop and rock together. The phrase, "Oh My God!" sampled on Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew's single, "The Show", came from "Punk Rock Rap". The most successful Cold Crush single to date is "Fresh, Wild, Fly & Bold", released in 1984, which sold 16,000 units in its first week of release. A distribution dispute between Tuff City Records and Profile Records hindered the sales of the single with the most potential of reaching gold status.In 1988 they released an album on the infamous B-Boy Records label called "Troopers" which contained the classic singles Feel the horns/we can do this & The Bronx.This album was once extremely difficult to get hold of but has recently been repackaged & re-released on B-boy/Traffic records (cat no teg -76516).
The Cold Crush Brothers toured all five boroughs of New York and as far as Boston before commercially-released records. Their popularity was strengthened by the sale of their live performances that were recorded on cassette by Tape Master (Elvis Moreno). These shows were taped and distributed worldwide via word-of-mouth promotion. The Cold Crush Brothers were featured in the 1982 movie Wild Style, the seminal work depicting hip hop culture. In the movie, the Cold Crush was featured in a number of scenes, most notable was that featuring the Brothers' face off against their arch-nemesis, the Fantastic Five. A year after the movie was released, the Cold Crush Brothers took hip hop abroad with tour dates in Japan and Europe.
Cold Crush Brothers became involved in one of hip hop's most historic
moments when Joey Robinson (son of Sugar Hill Records founder, Sylvia
Robinson) happened to hear (part-time club bouncer and former manager
of Cold Crush member Grandmaster Caz) Big Bank Hank rapping to a tape
of Caz while working at a pizzeria in New Jersey. Robinson informed Hank
that he was forming a group called the Sugar Hill Gang and asked if Hank
would like to join. Hank accepted, although he wasn't an MC. Hank went
to Grandmaster Caz and asked him for some rhymes. Caz laid his rhyme books
on the bed and said, "Take whatever you want," with the understanding
that Hank would compensate Caz at a later time. Caz's lyrics landed in
a song by the Sugar Hill Gang called "Rapper's Delight". The
song became a huge hit in 1979 and was the first hip hop single to land
on the top 40 charts. Caz never received any credit or compensation for
the rhymes that he contributed.