In 88Nine's new Backspin podcast series released Monday, hip-hop expert and DJ Tyrone Miller (DJ Bizzon) and Radio Milwaukee Music Director Justin Barney dig deep into the roots of Milwaukee hip-hop to identify the first-ever Brew City rap song pressed into wax.
Without wanting to spoil anything, I'll just say here that there are two main contenders: an early one by an artist that wasn't trying to make a rap record, and a later one by a more well-known artist that certainly had hip-hop in mind. Which is the "winner" is a matter for debate, and you can hear the evidence in the podcast, specific details of – and a link to – which is here.
In the meantime, Barney and Miller sifted through a lot of vintage Milwaukee music during their research for the podcast, so we asked them to share some gems they uncovered along the way.
Here are the ones Barney selected, along with his comments ...
The Majestics – "The Key to Love (Is Understanding)"
The Majestics play a MAJOR role in this story and "The Key To Love (Is Understanding)" kind of became our spiritual anthem for the whole thing. The Majestics formed in 1963 when they were hardly big enough to hold an instruments and they are STILL at it today. Now they go as Chocolate Ice II and they play at Club Timbuktu every once in a while and Center Street Days coming up. They are Entertainers with a capital E, playing and they still dazzle in their live shows like the living spirit of James Brown and the Famous Flames.
Marvell Love – "Gotta Have Love"
Marvell Love is a key part of this story. He started as a musician, as he is in this song. After releasing some of his own material, he branched out with the idea of making Milwaukee a new Motown in the early '80s. He formed a record label, New World Records, and attended a conference that would be key to the story of Milwaukee's first hip-hop song.
A-Tack – "My Car"
A-Tack is really at the beginning of Milwaukee hip-hop. The bandleader of A-Tack was Peechy (later renamed Speech), who started VU Records in the basement of his parents business, The Milwaukee Community Journal on MLK Drive. A-Tack released a couple key tracks and an EP here in Milwaukee before leaving to Atlanta and forming Arrested Development who went on to win two Grammy's, be Rolling Stone's Band of the Year in 1992, as well as one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time.
Ill Chief Rockers – "I Gotta Rock (Breaking' All Records"
Ill Chief Rockers' Stricklin and Crab were part of the early Milwaukee hip-hop scene. They were some of the first in the game in terms of making music. They have been part of the scene since those early days and their interviews and input were integral for understanding what it means to have the first hip-hop song.
Royal Dynasty – "N-Sane"
One of our most colorful and fun interview subjects was Doc B. Doc B, or Dr. B, as he was known back in the day was THE guy in the scene. He's gone on to be a MKE hip-hop legend as an MC and a DJ. He currently DJ's on V100, but he started as part of Royal Dynasty, releasing this jam, "N-Sane."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.