Hosted by James Billings, Real Rap Stories is a five-part mini-series delving into the origin stories of some of hip-hop's most influential characters. Follow along as these hip-hop pioneers, family and friends discuss how they obtained success in a music genre that was still in its infancy. From the lyricist to the dancer, this series shows how each artist contributed to the hip-hop genre.
Hey, what's up, everyone?
This is James "Kraze" Billings, and this is "Real Rap Stories."
Now, in this episode, we'll be highlighting
the hip-hop band Stetsasonic, whose members are Daddy-O,
Wise, MC Delite, Frukwan, DBC,
Bobby Simmons, and Prince Paul.
In the early part of the '80s,
they were discovered by Mr. Magic
and Tyrone "Fly Ty" Williams of Cold Chillin' Records.
Their demo was later shopped to Tommy Boy Records,
where they got their first record deal
and released an album called "On Fire."
Here is part of their story.
♪ D to the A double-D-Y-O
♪ I go by the code of MC Daddy-O ♪
♪ And this is something that you must be told ♪
♪ You couldn't touch me
In the very beginning,
I didn't know what hip-hop was, right?
♪ MC Daddy-O came back for more, y'all ♪
MC Delite: That's what we was all a part of.
Daddy-O, he would deejay as well as emcee.
Me, I was in the background. You know what I'm saying?
And Crown Supreme, he was the..
He became an original,
one of the original emcees of the group Stetsasonic,
which we later on formed.
Billings: As Daddy-O got more into becoming an emcee
is when he forged a deeper connection
with the Stetson Brothers,
who shaped that Daddy-O style and even gave him his name.
And I started switching all my rhymes to a style
we call the gangsta rock,
and so it was, you know, it was a harder edge.
They taught me that.
My rhymes was dope, but I was saying them soft,
and Doctor On was soft with that.
So they gave me the Daddy-O, and I took it from there.
I taught Delite the gangsta rock,
and I took it from there.
Billings: Other members, like Frukwan, DBC,
and DJ Prince Paul would complete the group.
It wouldn't take long for Stetsasonic
to build their reputation and become well-known
throughout the borough of Brooklyn.
The group really got their shine when Mr. Magic and Fly Ty
did a citywide talent contest
in conjunction with New York radio station WBLS.
Mr. Magic played a very, very, very, very big part
of Stetsasonic's career.
So did Fly Ty, 'cause Fly Ty was like, you know,
"You guys, I can get you guys to do this,
and we could do that, and we doing this, and..."
Magic and them, they had the WBLS rap contest,
and we entered into that.
And it was our first time
performing in front of a large audience,
and they had about at least 20,000, 25,000 people deep.
Williams: Now, Stet was my crew. I loved Stet.
Stetsasonic I loved, 'cause they were Brooklyn like me.
They won our contest.
We had a contest, Mr. Magic Rap Attack contest.
Just to remind you, Fat Boys won the first rap portion.
UCFO won the first dance part.
Well, we had it in Coney Island when Stet won.
And Stet, matter of fact... [ Laughs ]
For the first time in history,
Stet actually won all three places --
first, second and third.
Wise: We won the contest, and we originally got
a recording contract with Sugar Hill Records.
We declined. You know?
But still and all, you know, Mr. Magic and Fly Ty,
you know, had us doing shows along with them
and, you know, and The Juice Crew.
You know what I'm saying?
And we waited about a year and a half later,
you know, and we finally got signed.
You know, we finally got our record deal.
Once we got our deal, the deal was horrible.
Producer: So you got a deal with Sugar Hill?
-They offered us a contract. -Right, okay.
And the contract was 4% wholesale, which meant...
-What does that mean? -That meant 2 1/2 points.
It was a horrible contract, and so we just didn't take it.
We had a lawyer look at it.
We didn't take it, and then Tyrone was like,
"What do you want to do?"
And I said, "Let's go with Tommy Boy."
I'll be brutally honest.
We went Tommy Boy because of the break-dancers on the label.
Billings: Fly Ty and Mr. Magic no doubt was very instrumental
in taking Stetsasonic to their next level.
With his influence, Ty spearheaded the efforts
to getting their very first record deal.
They won the contest,
and the labels that could sign you were,
I think, were Tommy Boy, Sugar Hill,
and maybe Profile, or something like that.
Oh, Pop Art, Pop Art.
It was Pop Art, Tommy Boy, Sugar Hill.
Well, we're kind of... No, we're kind of, like,
letting them know about the songs in the process.
Tom is really the... I guess that's his end play.
He's on the label, but he's really playing more
the A&R than anybody else.
Monica Lynch, who's the president
of Tommy Boy, she's around.
There's no real A&R there at Tommy Boy at all.
Definitely nobody that was at that level,
my level for us, because we now figured out we can make records,
so we...[chuckles] we going for it.
Like, we trying to do everything that we can.
Lynch: They represented something new for us --
you know, Brooklyn, a Brooklyn act.
-Right. -They had, like, a hard sound.
They were a band. You know?
They always, you know, the idea of the hip-hop band
was a cornerstone of their,
you know, how they promoted themselves.
That was their unique thing was, you know,
they were a hip-hop band.
I remember the first single, "Just Say Stet," was '84.
So, we do that,
and then like I said, Tom is coaching us.
We're like, the first single is "Just Say Stet,"
and the B-side, "Rock De La Stet."
And in the beginning, "Just Say Stet"
was a record called "Stetsasonic."
So we took it to the next level
when we put the stamp on that we are the hip-hop band.
Listen to all the hip-hop records back in the '80s.
You've never heard no rap artist
or act said anything about a hip-hop band.
Delite penned that.
Delite penned straight from the letters,
we're the hip-hop band.
♪ From America, London, and even Japan ♪
They were a very powerful act live from get.
One of the greatest groups of all time
that people just don't talk about.
Like, why not?
If you were there and saw what they brought to the table,
they inspired a lot of groups.
They were already very tight as a band, as a live act,
so I remember that being a big plus.
And, you know, I remember
working together with Daddy-O
on, you know, the look and feel of the artwork.
Billings: Just like most acts in the '80s,
everything was new and uncharted territory,
and signing with an independent label
and getting them to fully back your idea was a task in itself.
During their second and third Stetsasonic albums,
they would experience this with Tommy Boy Records.
That particular time, rappers didn't get budgets.
Matter of fact, rappers didn't even do albums. [ Chuckles ]
You know what I'm saying? Rappers only did singles.
and then from the compilation of singles,
you know what I'm saying,
that's what they would, you know --
that would actually become the album.
See, those independents kept an independent mentality
because the independents were making...
If they sold 40,000 units, that was huge,
so they wasn't gonna try to spend a lot of money.
They were gonna try and do whatever they could,
you know, through whatever without spending money.
So we were definitely expecting more.
I mean, yeah, you know?
There was some video talk and all that jazz
and, you know, and so on and so forth after that,
but you know what I'm saying?
You should have done it from the very beginning.
We should have got that support from the very beginning.
You know what I'm saying?
It was almost as if we were experimental for the next group.
You know what I'm saying?
I mean, that's the way I took it.
Simmons: We fought with Tommy Boy a lot
during the third album --
how we wanted to sound and the direction we wanted to go.
So we was expecting a lot more support from Tommy Boy.
We didn't get a lot from them
because with the success of De La Soul's
"3 Feet High and Rising" album, they was expecting, you know,
'cause since Prince Paul was the producer of that album,
and Prince Paul being a member of Stetsasonic.
They expected Prince Paul to give Stetsasonic
that sound and that direction.
My relationship with them was generally good, but not always.
You know, there was, I think there was a point when...
And this is the first and only time this ever happened,
but they at some point, and I don't know if it was...
It was probably during the first album,
maybe the second.
I can't remember.
We were still over on First Avenue,
and I remember they were frustrated.
We were frustrated.
There was a big marketing meeting
as, you know, the group came to talk about their frustrations
and address me and Tom,
and I don't know who else was there.
I can't remember, but it was in the conference room.
Billings: As time went on, other acts would build their name
in hip-hop, making it much more competitive.
Stetsasonic and all its members would also see
how other solo acts and duo groups would bring in the cash.
With being a six-man group,
the pie had to be split six different ways.
As members like Daddy-O, Prince Paul, and Bobby Simmons
would go on to produce hit records for new acts,
some of the original members of Stet
would have to break off and find a new way.
You got to understand the time that they came in.
They have a whole lot of people.
How do you hold that group together money-wise?
We were starting to get money outside of Stetsasonic,
at least me and Prince Paul. And at first,
DBC was my production partner, so at least us three.
The rest of the guys, not so much,
and so what I was trying to do was compensate for it.
I wasn't gonna give them my "Top Billin'" money
or my "Hawaiian Sophie" Jay-Z money,
but I wanted to compensate for them to get something.
And so that's why I began to start
giving people individual production credits
because I felt like if I gave Delite the credit
for "Talkin' All that Jazz,"
which to this day is still the biggest Stetsasonic record,
that he could run with it.
Did he? That's up to him.
Billings: Stetsasonic would go on to put out two more albums
on Tommy Boy records -- "In Full Gear" in 1988,
which had critical acclaim and released the singles "Sally"
and "Talkin' All That Jazz."
"Blood, Sweat & Tears" was released in 1991,
which singles invaded the radio was "No B.S. Allowed."
Now, even though they had radio play,
by that time in hip-hop,
the landscape was shaping for rap's new generation.