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.
“I’d like to see a return of the elements of Hip-Hop culture. Not just rap music but B-Boys, Graffiti, Turntablism, Beatboxing and all the other elements which form the foundation of our culture.”
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.
In 2012, Caz became the unexpected star of Ice-T’s seminal rap movie Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap. In the movie Caz receives props from many of the cast, including Ice-T, Rev Run, Rakim and Eminem, who cite him as one of the godfathers of Rap. As a result of the movie Caz’s career is enjoying a significant renaissance. Notable for his extraordinary penmanship Caz’s favorite rhymes are reproduced from his notebooks and published for the first time in this beautiful book.
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 accomplished to date?
Peace: Some of the highest accolades bestowed upon me which I consider to be dear to my heart include..
Technics DJ Hall of Fame
Zulu Nation Hall of Fame
Bronx Walk of Fame
Emmy nomination for Cool in your Code episode
Hip-Hop’s first Ghostwriter for Rapper Delight
Greatest MC’s of All Time lists ( Blaze Magazine, Kool Moe Dee’s There’s a God On the Mic etc.)
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?
The most memorable battle was with the Fantastic Five held at Harlem World July 4th. 1981 it was our first and only loss everything after that was Cold Crush!!!!!
Any groups today that you think have the stage presence, etc.. that you guys held?
No!!! Only crew that got close was the Jurassic Five and that was routines and Harmonies. Show wise we have no equal!!!
Won’t 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? Just saying…
No I’ve never gotten satisfaction from that episode and probably never will. It is what it is!!!!
You’ve 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?
Hip Hop is like a roller coaster which has it’s twists and turns, at some points it advances and sometimes just regresses. I wouldn’t call the state of Hip-Hop today progress, more like a kindergarten version of what the original blueprint was made from.
What would you like to see different?
I’d like to see a return of the elements of Hip-Hop culture. Not just rap music but B-Boys, Graffiti, Turntablism, Beatboxing and all the other elements which form the foundation of our culture.
What’s your input on todays rap music, strictly from a TALENT AND LYRICAL point of view?
Today’s Hip-Hop music lacks the heart and soul that you can feel in early rap and or Hip-Hop. Talent wise, the blueprint has already been drawn!!! The goal should be to add on to what’s already been shared.
Who do you listen to? what artists do you think are on point?
I don’t listen to rap music because I am an MC and don’t want to be subconsciously influenced by other rappers or MC’s!
Do 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.
I feel that industry who has nothing to do with Hip-Hop culturally owes the Pioneers for exploiting the culture for monetary gain and should create a fund or resource where the Pioneers of Hip-Hop can benefit from their Blood, Sweat and Tears that went into the formation of this cultural phenomenah!!!
With 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?
As long as the media is owned by operated by outside interests, Hip-Hop and every other music genre will be dictated by those interests and it’s bottom line will always be about numbers!!! What sells and what doesn’t!!!
Good 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?
I got involved with The Art of Rap by Ice asking me to be a part of it. Our history goes back to early 80’s and me being a forefather of the culture Ice felt that it was only right that my story be told among the many influential MC’s of the Hip-Hop culture. I showed Ice in the early eighties that if you could write a rhyme or verse on your own, you didn’t need a group and that he would be better off solo!!! So we have always had a mutual respect and kinship so it was only right that I stole his directorial debut into film!!!
Is 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?
Well the enthusiasm of the producer over my skill, reaction to other mc’s assessments of my skills and my penmanship in rhyme writing kinda inspired the thought of me making a lyric book. The Producer Paul Toogood of the Lyricbook Company puts out books on some of the world’s premier lyricists so he thought because of my showing in the film that the world would be interested in the lyrics of Hip-Hop’s first ghostwriter!!!
What other projects can we see coming from you?
Upcoming projects include: Collaborations with many past and present Hip-Hop and Rap artists. The formation of GMC Entertainment, Coldcrush Brothers shows and possible new music, another book — more than likely my Biography and definitely new music solo and otherwise!
Who’s your top 5 rappers of all time?
5 rappers all time!!! ( You didn’t say MC’s )
Top DJ’s ?
Jam Master Jay
Love Bug Starski
You’ve 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..
( You can check out the tours HERE)
Hush Tours is my baby. It’s my reinvention and I’ve been doing it for ten years now. It’s very rewarding being considered a Hip-Hop scholar or Historian
and Hush Tours affords me the opportunity to spread my knowledge, experiences and stories to people from all over the world on a weekly basis! New faces
situations and stories are constant so I don’t get to dwell on any one of them for long before a new group comes.
Outside of rap what music do you listen to that fans may not be aware of?
I listen to 70’s music!!! Classic and Soft Rock of the 70’s!!! Simon & Garfunkel, Queen, Aerosmith, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Rare Earth, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Slow Jams, Stylistics, Blue Magic, Delphonics, Barry White, Lionel Ritchie, Sade etc!!! Springsteen, Bob Seager, Chicago, Dylan, Hendrix, Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Grover Washington, Donald Byrd, John Denver!!! — I don’t listen to dance I listen to hear!!!
Any last words?
I love Hip-Hop it’s my life, my passion and my legacy!!! Besides my children it’s the greatest thing that I’ve ever been a part of and I cherish it as such. I encourage the new generations of Hip-Hop to come to embrace this culture and add to it’s rich tradition!!! Peace and One Love… Hip-Hop!!!
It’s been a pleasure and definitely appreciate the time you took for this interview..GOD BLESS!
THE COLD CRUSH BROTHERS:
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.
The 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.