featured interview

Too Tuff The Deuce Ace Detonator: back to wreck shop! After a long-time hiatus, DJ Too Tuff is back to where he belongs: the rap game. As a member of the infamous Tuff Crew, he contributed to the strong Philly scene that flourished at the time (and ever since) plus he's one of the originators of modern turntablism. His production style: way beyond many, his cuts: deadly.

Wassup DJ Too Tuff? You've been out of the game for a long time, now you're back, what are your main activities?

Since returning to active hip-hopping, I?ve done a series of small club gigs entitled ?Wreck Shop? at 5 or 6 upscale night clubs in Philly. As a sort of ?Rebirth Tour?. Triton, Fire, Walnut Room, Denim, Glam and Starlite Ballroom II so far. Also remastering my lost archives of Too Tuff beats, Ice Dog, Tuff Crew, Emcee Mechanism unreleased albums and various cutstramentals from 1990 to 1995. Sat-One of the Scratch Makaniks is doing the clean-up and mastering out of Grape Street Studios.

So what have you been up to during the period you were not involved with hip-hop?

My daughter Felicity Unique was born in 1996 as I became a father for the first time in my life. She needed emergency surgery for a non-cancerous brain tumour in 2002 which was a real scary and life-altering moment. She?s fully recovered now and is doing well today! I also was locked up for a short period of time, 6 months, nothing major; for a probation violation in Philly. Thanks to God for everything turning out ok!

Why did you decide to return?

The love for hip-hop never left my heart. I just had a lot of personal ?real life?-issues to deal with. Tim, my manager, and Z Trip were really instrumental in rebuilding my drive and confidence as well as bookings and financial support. I love those two dudes! Thank you guys!

What exactly was the role of DJ Z-Trip (Linkin Park) in bringin you back?

DJ Z-Trip had played in Philly at the Wachovia Center numerous times between 2000 and 2005, opening for his peoples Linkin Park. He always stopped his set to ask the crowd if anyone knew the whereabouts of DJ Too Tuff. I never attended the shows but was informed by several people from different parts of the city of his requests for me. I didn?t believe it for real, until I and my manager Tim McCloskey opened a website on Myspace.com. Z hit me up earlier this year and we spoke on the phone and on-line about planning my comeback. He invited me as a special guest on the Marc Echo ?Save The Rhino? Tour on June 8th, 2006 in Central Park N.Y.C. This was our first face-to-face meeting. He had me on some VIP family shit up in the dressing room with his peeps and after he stopped his set, he brought me out to the stage in front of 6-7 thousand people and told everyone of my plans and re-introduced me to the world. Me and my prot?g? DJ Kinetic from Philly chilled out with Z-Trip, Kid Capri, Rakim, Styles P, Lupe Fiasco, Rhymefest and Common backstage and at the hotel in the city. Z-Trip also bought me all of my DJ and studio pieces I needed to master my old tracks and knock the rust off as far as cutting wax. Without Z- Trip none of this would be jumping off major like it so quickly.

According to you, how has the art form changed compared to fifteen years ago?

As far as hip-hop and rhyming, the old school is the best school. Today, hip-hop is dumbed down to brainwash kids into corporate record sales. Our shit was from the muscle! Hardcore, straight up raw, what u don?t know? As far as cutting, it?s really technical and almost like rocket science with niggaz like Q-Bert, Craze, A-Trak killin shit all crazy. I mean crabin and flares and yo these boys are rough. Big ups, ?yameen?! Compare their cuts to those of Eric B or Scott La Rock, whose style we called ?dope cuts? for their rhythmic simplicity there?s no comp. I would say I was the link between then and now, me, Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff, Miz, DJ Scratch of EPMD... Cats like us bridged it and led the way for Q-Bert and Craze. In the late 80?s nobody killed it, really, really killed it live and on wax except for Jazzy Jeff, Cashmoney, Miz and me, maybe Magic Mike and Mr Mixx, but cutting was mastered only by a few supreme DJ?s, a select group of assassins of wax. Now, there are kids no one has ever heard of who are completely off the hook, straight out the box. No deal, no albums just cut masters, A-Trak was one initially, before he got with Kanye.

You recently met A-Trak...

I saw A-Trak live at the Walnut Room in Philly as a guest of ?The Rub? Cosmo Baker. A-Trak killed it right before my very eyes. Every time he finished a trick he looked over at me to sort of check if I was feelin it, and I definitely was.

How did you get into DJ'ing?

A few Italian kids at my high school, St. Joseph?s Prep, Craig Tropea and Anthony Cassela had straight arm Technics, SLB-100?s, belt-drives and used to do the blends of Club and Planet Rock type of shit. They made me want to cut the rap songs I had only on tape.

What was your first pair of turntables?

My first turntables were straight arm Pioneers and a Gemini or Realistic mixer. My best friend Yo-Yo showed me his 1200?s and took me step by step from knowing nothing to going back to back and transforming. We used to study tapes of Cash, Jeff, Spinbad, Lightnin Rich and DJ Bones till I had the same individual scratches as they did and I would mix and match them to win street battles. Me and Yo-Yo were best friends, he was my Jedi master, I was his Luke Skywalker. Yo-Yo was killed in 1997 in our hood down North. I miss him to this day. RIP Yo-Yo! Anthony Ray. One Love.

Did you have a lot of records at home, while growing up?

My mom used to go buy Incense at Funk-O-Mart in Philly and she would buy me a single every time we went downtown. They were $ 1.99 at that time, 1984. I had a lot of records at home like the ?Saturday Night Fever? soundtrack, Really Rosie musical album, Pat Benatar, John Denver, The Eagles, CCR and Steppenwolf. They were my mom and dad?s, also Stevie Nicks, my mom loves her ? nd Fleetwood Mack!

What was your first record?

Melle Mel?s ?The Message? and The Sequence?s ?Funk You Up?. Maybe ?Showdown? by Grandmaster Flash and Sugar Hill Gang... Both on one record, I was drugged instantly!

Then you became an artist yourself. How did you get with Tuff Crew?

Me and Yo-Yo used to do $ 1.00 house parties at an old abandoned crib, we put flyers out ourselves. It was called ?The Get-Go?. Ice Dog was there with his break-dance crew called S.C.R., the Street City Rockers. He was their leader because he could break and used to rhyme. He was a star to me, but Yo-Yo used to say he was corny just to fuck with him, because Dog had a big ego back then. Me and Dog got close because he used to date some girl, Shara, who lived across the street from me. One day we were doing a little battle test in a place called ?Hart Park? on 4th Street in North Philly by Girard Ave. Me and Yo-Yo had our 12?s and some Big Scoop E.V.?s and SCR had linoleum and cardboard-cut. It wasn?t no big deal, we did shit like this all summer, smoking weed, drinkin, cutting, breaking, fuckin with bitches, rockin Lee?s and shell tops or Fila?s with fat laces, or maybe the T.I. sweat suits with the pony sneaks. This was like 1987. A limo pulls up and we like ?Yo, look y?all. This dude gets out of the limo with a tall curly box?. Haircut and nine-fifty-one Cazles on, it was Tone Love with some old head, Tony Mitchell. They said they heard about us and were putting together a rap group. They signed Ice Dog and later we met L.A. Kidd. He was Mitch?s god son from Cali, he moved to Philly because he had some drama in L.A. A month later, after I beat some studio DJ Shiver and my friend from the neighbourhood, DJ Fresh, in a battle at St-Peter?s Hall, I was anointed the new DJ of the Tuff Crew. Originally, the name was T.U.F., the Unforgettables, it was L.A., Ice Dog and Easy Cee and DJ Doc. That didn?t work out, Easy Cee and Doc got released and Tone Love became the front man after a short solo stint. Shiver was the first DJ of Tuff Crew on their first single ?Philly Style? on So Def Records. He was wacked, and soon after I murdered him in a battle, Too Tuff was born! Tone Love named me Too Tuff about a month and a half later, the night before our appearance (my first as a member of the Tuff Crew), at the Philadelphia Spectrum. On the NY versus Philly battle. That was my first show, centre stage with LL, Salt N Peppa, Steady B, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Cut Master DC, Mantronix, Jazzy Jay, MC Shan and a few more. We went on 2nd and battled some crew from N.Y. called L.T.D. Crew. We performed ?Philly Style?, it was on the Power 99 countdown for like 9 weeks. Lady B was a close friend of our manager Mitch, ?The Godfather?.

The first record was actually a split album with Krown Rulers, how did that come together?

We did a show at Skateland, A Roller Pink in Camden, N.J. later that year, ?87. Some kid dressed like L.L. came up to me and started spittin, better than L to me. His name was Grand Pubah or Poah. I got his number and did some songs with him over some beats that we had co-produced with Ultramagnetic MC?s, who hooked up with our manager, when ?Ego Trippin? was hot on the charts. They helped produce Krown Rulers and Tuff Crew on ?P.H.A.N.J.A.M.?; PHiladelphia And New Jersey All-star Mcees. ?Kick The Ball? was th? hit on that album, but we put them down. They were marketing us as a commercial, friendly, cross-over rap group doing dance steps and no hardcore stuff since we were racially mixed, white, black, Puerto Rican and Mulatto. The Krown Rulers were straight dope NYC shit and blew up the East Coast. This put our independent record sales and popularity through the roof and got us a P&D deal with Warlock Records in NYC. We both signed solo album deals and re-releases also.

What do you remember of the recording days?

We recorded at Studio 4 to do ?Phanjam? with Ced Gee and Kool Keith, engineered by Joe ?Da Butcher? Nicolo of Ruffhouse Records. Everyone was drugged and cheering in the studio as I laid cuts, they never seen a white boy kill it like that, but the best was yet to come...

'Danger Zone' for instance, where you really put a mark on through scratching and throwin in samples...

I figured out that other than the beats, which I co-produced with L.A., who also rhymed, I wouldn?t get to say anything so the way I spoke was with my hands. And I had a lot to say. Me and Dog were real, real close and we would write together with our click so he always had my name in the lyrics of every song. Leaders lead, followers follow, the rest get out of the way totally and fall back, ?yameen??!!

Were you down with Miz, Tat Money and Jazzy Jeff and were they examples for you or just colleagues?

Jazzy Jeff was an icon to me, my idol and inspiration, along with Cash Money and Terminator X of Public Enemy. Tat was the DJ of the Hilltop Hustlers who were arch-rivals of the Krown Rulers. Pooh and Steady B had major beef then, as a matter of fact ?Confetti Emcee? by Krown Rulers is about Steady B. And Miz, well, I beat Miz at the Tower Records, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Fresh Prince, DJ Spin off on 6th & South, with Yo-Yo watching in person. I haven?t seen Miz lately, but we?re cool. Big up to Miz. Will Smith was there to present me with the trophy; it was sponsored by Elless sneakers and Jive Records. I got an offer from Jive, but stayed with Tuff Crew.

Who else from the golden Philly era (Schoolly D, 3times Dope, Steady B, Cool C,...) were you down with?

We were pretty much self-contained and doing our own thing. Philly artists don?t really support each other like NY artists. So all those cats were our competition other than Jeff, Will and Cash Money & Marvellous. We were united with Von Love, Krown Rulers, Emcee Mechanism, Ultramagnetic MC?s, Luke Skywalker and 2 Live Crew and Priority artist MC Lyte, Audio Two and Roxanne Shante, and Robbie B & Jazzy Jay.

'My Part Of Town' is still a city anthem over there, right?

Yes, it?s still the shit in Philly to those 25 and older. It still gets played maybe three times a week in prime time slots on WUSC, WDAS and 100.3 the Beat, that?s 99, 103.5 and 100.3.

When you DJ nowadays, do you play it?

I play all Tuff Crew shit in my sets today and end it with ?My Part Of Town?. It never fails.

Who did most of the production on the first two albums?

A 50/50 split between me and L.A. Kidd actually. That?s what we do, meng! I?d bring him some hot loops, he?d chop them up and I?d finish off with the 808 kicks and cuts and sample overlays. It?s da formula!

So what production equipment did you use?

EMU SP-12, Roland 808 bass machine, Boss Digital Delay, a foot pedal sampler and a Scratch Master Gemini mixer, 1200 Technics turntable with pickering needles and Cartridge.

The second album 'Back To Wreck Shop'; did you like it as much as the first?

My favourite is ?Back To Wreck Shop?. I had a chance to do more producing as far as beats and more solo songs like ?Soul Food?, ?Behold The Detonator? and ?Danger Zone Assault Trax? as well as ?Going The Distance?. All Too Tuff solo?s! But ?Danger Zone? was classic raw hip-hop from the Golden Age. Unmatched and ahead of its time, no doubt!

What's your fav Tuff Crew song?

My favourite Tuff Crew song is ?Wreck Shop?, ?face your doom, I make room like a broom, sweep da weak cuz I?m like boom!?.

Then the group split. On what grounds?

Embezzlement, poor management, corporate robbery and confusion over clauses in original contracts. In a word or two: Tony Mitchell!

Tuff Crew was then Ice Dog, LA Kid & "Smooth K". Who was Smooth K? And how has the group changed?

Smooth K was one of our dancers. Warlock was threatening to sue for breach of contract with the label So Def and Tony Mitchell, CEO, because they were still owed one or two more albums contractually. Smooth K took T.L.?s place and me and Tone went solo and released ?Back To Yell? with Flipin Iceecoz on Sure Shot Records with our road manager Calvin ?Fats? Sutton.

Did you like the 'Still Dangerous' album that came afterwards?

That album is still wacked to this day, a fake Tuff Crew effort, half-assed at best! And they used some of my beats without permission.

Did you hear/read any rumour(s) about you being dead?

Yes. This was started unknowingly by Jazzy Jeff as I?m now told by numerous people including Z-Trip. So it?s like being Tupac or Biggie but not really dead, or am I? Ask Hawkeye in Hamburg!

Are you still seeing members of the Tuff Crew?

Me and Ice Dog are like family. I speak to him every day, see him two times a week, much love. I speak to LA Kidd on the phone and Tone is now at least able to be found though I haven?t spoke to him in years. I saw Monty G a while ago, he?s coolin out.

Do people recognise you on the streets?

Yes, since the launch of my website djtootuff.com I get a ton of requests for autographs and my personally remixed ?Tuff Crew?s Greatest Hits? by Detonator Too Tuff is a hot seller at $ 20,00. I?m recognized coppin chronic all the time and in jail too. Always!

Are you a fan of the Philly cheese steak?

Philly cheese steaks? Yes. I was a cook for 3 years at Top Quality in North East Philly. I love em! Ketchup, mayonnaise and hot peppers, lettuce and tomatoes, toast the roll and a Mountain Dew.

Would you ever move from Philly to Bel Air?

If the price is right. That?s close to Z-Trip?s I think, yeah!

Of the Philly scene, who are you feelin nowadays?

I fuck with B Siegel, Beans is the shit. He?s top gun in Philly. Cassidy, Peedi Crakk, Alcachaz and Bermuda Triangle, Vegas from Redbrick Syndicate and of course my man Overlord Ice Dog and Emcee Mechanism, family forever!

What's next for Too Tuff?

Next for me, I have an unreleased Tuff Crew album, never released before, being remastered with the help of Sat-One and DJ Z-Trip. I also got Peanut Butter Wolf of Stones Throw Records ridin out with me, you know! It?ll be called ?Weapons Of Mass Destruction? or ?Too Tuff: The Second Coming?, maybe we?ll drop both, one up top and the other underground. I got enough songs for like 4 albums, strictly hot shit, never before heard from the originals members ?not dem wanna-be bombaclogs sayin??. I?ve filmed a feature documentary with Michael ?Butch? Mayo called Philasophical.com. It will debut in limited theatrical release and then to dud in 2008, with Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, The Roots, Questlove and Lady B appearing also. Also I have an offer to tour the UK on my own headline ?Rebirth Tour?. Cities include Barcelona, Spain, Cardiff, Wales, Paris, France and London, England, put together by Tim McCloskey of Tuff Mgmt. I also co-own DangerZone Productions with Overlord Ice Dog which is a 24-track digital production studio in Philly workin with artists such as Alcatraz of Bermuda Triangle, Switches of the Taliban, Emcee Mechanism, Jozey Wells, Straight Biness, Obvious, Wilecat and Sprewell of Chester ,PA and Shu-Ja the pioneer, my heart. Also me, Ice and LA Kidd have spoken to T.L. with co-ordination by, again, Tim McCloskey, on a long-awaited and elusive, exclusive reunion album. God?s will be done...



POSTED 09|01|2006
conducted by cpf

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