Roxanne Shante, Lovebug Starski in Minneapolis tonight
A couple can't-miss old-school hip-hop events are happening tonight in Minneapolis. Former teenage legend Roxanne Shante (official myspace) delivers the keynote for the B-Girl Be hip-hop festival (more here) at the Capri Theatre on Broadway at around 6:00 p.m., with the fest continuing tonight through this weekend at Intermedia Arts and other venues. If you don't know Shante, you better ask somebody.
Also tonight, hip-hop founding father Lovebug Starski (a.k.a. Love Bug Starski, Luvbug Starski, Luv Bug Starski, Star Ski, Starsky, etc.) spins at the Dinkytowner (more here; RSVP here ASAP). Then, later (at around 12:15 a.m.), check out Heat at the Red Sea.
Starski is arguably more influential and less known than Shante--one of hip-hop's founding DJs and MCs, he never had much commercial success beyond touring with Run-DMC in the early days. He began his career carrying records for Pete DJ Jones in the Bronx, and worked every club in the early hip-hop scene of the 1970s, becoming house DJ at legendary joints such as the Disco Fever, the Renaissance Ballroom, and Harlem World. Online searching turns up facts I haven't checked: Starski recorded his first single, "Positive Life", on Tayster records, and cut the soundtrack to the 1985 film Rappin' on Atlantic Records before recording his first LP, House Rock, on Epic. A prison sentence kept him out of the late '80s scene, but in the '90s he began DJing again with his old friend DJ Hollywood. I'll have to ask him if it's true what promoters claim, that he coined "hip hop."
In Yes Yes Y'all: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade (Da Capo, 2002), Afrika Bambaataa remembers Starski as one of the earliest Bronx MCs: "In the early '70s, we was already indoors in many of the community centers in the area [Southeast Bronx]. One of the first DJs that came out of the Black Spades organization was a guy by the name of Kool DJ D and his brother Tyrone, and they had a MC by the name of Love Bug Starski."
"My grandmother lived like four blocks away from Bronx River," says Starski in the same book, "and we used to be in the Spades--in order to walk in that neighborhood I had to be in the Spades. So I met Afrika Bambaataa and Kool DJ D, and DJ Tex and all them, who were old school DJs, you know? People don't even mention them anymore."
Starski tells the authors he was introduced to Pete DJ Jones by Grandmaster Flash. "I worked with Pete DJ Jones for about four or five years carrying equipment and filling in with him when he was too tired to play. We played all the clubs, like Superstar 33, Nell Gwynn's, Leviticus, Justine's, places like that. Pete DJ Jones was big on the mature club side. Flash, Mario, Bambaataa, Kool Herc, Breakout form Uptown, and Grandmaster Flowers from Brooklyn, that was the only heavy hitters that was out back in those days, besides Eddie Cheba and Hollywood."
He also says he put on Kool DJ AJ, who has this to say: "Love Bug, he was a great guy. He might be one of the first to have that crowd response. 'Look in the sky, look in the tree, who do you see? Star-ski!' And that 'Bob didda bob de danga dang diggy diggy diggy diggy, diggy diggy with the bang bang boogie.' People used to love that. And he'd make the people shout, 'Chant my name. Somebody say AAAAAA-JAAAAAY."
"You know the way some people go to church to catch the Holy Ghost?" adds Starski. "That's how I caught the Holy Ghost--at a party. That was my spiritual thing. When I was about fifteen, between fifteen and seventeen, and I used to stay out way beyond my hours and accepted that ass whipping from my mother, for real. She thought I was on drugs at one time, and all I was doin' was house parties and playing in the parks."
According to Busy Bee Starsky (who apparently borrowed the last name from his friend), "Love Bug Starski was the only person I ever heard that played in a Burger King. Imagine that: Coming to a disco in Burger King! The lights is out, and you're playing the music, and it was different, I mean... a party in the Burger King, where you buy your burgers and fries at? That's amazing! And he did it."
"Sylvia Robinson will tell you: I was 'Rapper's Delight,'" Starski concludes. "She got the idea off of me. I did her birthday party at Harlem World, and that's where she got the idea. She said, 'I've got to have him." She'll tell you that. But I wasn't interested in doing no record back in them days, 'cause I was getting so much money for just DJ-ing."