Kool D.J. A.J. Legendary D.J. of Busy Bee and Kurtis Blow. Fall of 2006 By Troy L. Smith

Updated: Apr 8, 2018

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Troy- Brother A.J., where were you born and raised?

 

A.J.- I was born at Gouverneur Hospital which is on Clinton Street. I was raised on 8th street and Avenue D, on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. My mother and father passed away before I reached 13 years of age. My sister and I relocated to Jacksonville Florida where my Grandmother’s sister lived at and she raised us.

 

Troy- How long did you stay in Florida before you made it back to New York?

 

A.J.- About 2 years. But it was pretty hectic for me and my sister dealing with the death of both our parents. I first had to deal with the death of my father and not really knowing the reason and then a few years later my mother dies all of a sudden as well. So life was like wow!

 

Troy- Before you moved to Florida what was it like for you, your sister and mother in L.E.S before your parents passed?

 

A.J.- It was good, my mom’s was like a social worker in a hospital, which was Gouverneur Hospital. She had a good job, good income; she took care of me and my sister. We used to take cabs to school every day. That was kind of crazy back then because we were taking Yellow cabs everyday to school.

 

Troy- Why was she putting the two of you in cabs back then?

 

A.J.- Well Avenue D is kind of far from a train station and she had the dough at that time working for a city hospital.

 


Troy- Was she born in Manhattan also?

 

A.J.- Yes, right on Henry Street down in the Lower East Side. I remember my father, but he passed when I was like 6 years old.

 

Troy- So was it wild over there in the Lower East Side for you?

 

A.J.- Once my Father passed my mother pretty much kept us off the streets and a lot of what we did was pretty much in doors.

 

Troy- So what was it like for you in Florida? What made you come back up to New York?

 

A.J.- In Florida I got in a lot of trouble. I had dreams of being a basketball player but it was probably more of me wanting to be accepted. When I was in New York before my mother passed I had a little game playing point guard. My cousin Matthew Pastures had a game, he was real good. So that made me more interested in playing. I took my game down to Florida. But when I got to Florida, by my mother passing I went into a shell pretty much. So I really couldn’t get motivated because the death was always in the back of my mind. I started getting into a lot of trouble because there was cats down there with that New York this and New York that. While in school I got into a fight and I threw this dude through the window.

 

Troy- Damn!

 

A.J.- So that was kind of violent. But it was a first floor window. I didn’t go to jail for the fight but I did get expelled from school. So my aunt called my grandmother and said “This is not a good look, we got to get him out of here.” She was like “We got to take him back to where it all started.” This was like 1975, so me and my sister came back to New York. My grandmother had to get a bigger apartment because it was just her and my grandfather living in the apartment on the lower east side. So we all moved up to the south Bronx to a bigger apartment. The new place was on 149th street and Trinity Avenue.

 

Troy- Were you too young for Vietnam?

 

A.J.- I might have been but I was in a shell, I don’t really know. I knew about the Armed forces but I wasn’t into Martin Luther King Jr... I say that because him and Malcolm X died right around the time my parents passed away. I was like the underground Black man back then. I was hurting inside.

 

Troy- The Invisible man!

 

A.J.- Exactly!

 

Troy- I asked you about that because I wanted to know if you were able to be drafted, or were you too young to be drafted.

 

A.J.- Well I did go to the army.

 

Troy- I just wanted to know if you were closer to Kool Herc in age as well, because I know he had to be of age to be drafted.

 

A.J.- O.k., I see, I might have been, but I think what Muhammad Ali did changed a lot of things pertaining to the draft.

 

Troy- I didn’t think about that. What got you open on the music?

 

A.J.- Well before my mother passed she had a nice collection of music. Al Green, Isaac Hayes and others and her living room was a little bit type official, so she used to tell us stay out of the living room. So I would sneak in the living room when she was sleep and play around with the records. So that was my first experience with the music.

 

Troy- So did you slowly come out of that shell once you moved back to New York?

 

A.J.- Well mostly when I came to New York I ran right into the gangs, that was where the drama was at. They bought us right there to 149th street and Jackson, Cypress and Tinton avenue.

 

Troy- Damn kid right in the middle of Lebanon!

 

A.J.- Exactly, the Bachelors were there, the Black Spades, the Savage Nomads. And they were terrorizing everyone. Take your coat, sneakers, all that. I went to Jr. High school 56 on Madison and Henry streets down in L.E.S. and then when I came back from Florida my grandmother had me going all the way back down town to L.E.S. for high school. That high school was Seward Park on Grand Street. Oh and I went to Wolfson high school in Florida.

 

Troy- So while you were in Seward Park you had the Chinese brothers and other nationalities going to school with you?

 

A.J.- I had the Chinese, Jewish and regular white boys down on Orchard Street.

 

Troy- And then come back to Lebanon and dealt with them cats!

 

A.J.- Exactly right, things were crazy. After awhile I got tired of waking up so early to travel so far. So I got with a few cats up in the Bronx, probably got my first job as a messenger. Back then messengers were popular. I had a couple of dollars in my pocket. Back then my grandmother made sure I had money in my pocket. So cats would pass the word around Franklin high school is having a party, or Brandeis high school is having a party. I was hanging out in Franklin parties when Richie “The Animal” Adams was going there.

 

Troy- They had a whole crew there with Steve Burtt, Gary Springers and others that were monster ball players.

 

A.J.- Right some of them later went to Iona or U.N.L.V..

 

Troy- So those cats I think we're just a little bit younger than you because I remember them from the tournaments around town especially King Towers.

 

A.J.- Right I used to be in King Towers watching also. Walter Berry is a good friend of mine

 

Troy- Right, Walter “The Truth” Berry used to be up in those tournaments as well! A lot of brothers went to the NBA from that era. So did you complete high school?

 

A.J.- No I got stressed out in high school and tried to sneak my way out of high school, but my grandmother was real strict about school. So she told me if I left school I was going to have to leave her house. So I messed around and landed in Harlem prep.

 

Troy- Right Busy Bee was telling me that.

 

A.J.- That was over on 135th and 8th avenue. That was like oh my God!

 

Troy- All the hustlers and beautiful women were in there.

 

A.J.- That was the hustler’s playground. Nicky Barnes, Bat, Guy Fisher, Shameka.

 

Troy- But those dudes weren’t going there because they were older than you!

 

A.J.- You right but their girls were going there.

 

Troy- So they would be parked outside of the school lamping on their girls.

 

A.J.- They would bring their girls down in their Seville’s and all that. Billy Bang wasn’t a hustler but a ball player and he would come through also. As well as Gary Green, Charlie Rock. I know you from the Grant projects, that’s why you know a lot of these names but I really didn’t know all of those guys. I just used to see them. In fact I lived in the Grant for a minute as well. I was in what ya’ll call the 4 building (Short for C74 building that housed in mates on Rikers Island!).

 

Troy- Your talking about wild ass 430. Keith Sweat came out of that building. I remember seeing you back then in front of the building, somebody pointed you out to me. Now Harlem Prep school was that a G.E.D. type school or a regular get your high school diploma school.

 

A.J.- Nah it was a college preparatory school where you got kicked out of high school and this place prepared you for college. Right fast I went from Seward Park to the Army for about a month.

 

Troy- (We both start laughing.) You are a funny dude.

 

A.J.- My best friend did the buddy buddy move on me. This was my man Clay Westbrook. He said forget that messenger thing this is better money, we get to travel and go on planes. The day we got drafted he got the credit and they sent him to Fort Jackson in South Carolina and sent me to Fort Gordon in Georgia. I did not care for this at all.

 

Troy- Another rude awaking for you!

 

A.J.- Exactly, being in the army is like being in jail. A little bit before I went to enlist I injured my leg in a basketball game. They did not detect it when they took my physical. When I got to the army and seen that I wanted to get out, I faked like I hurt my leg. They looked at the leg good and said “I wasn’t supposed to be in here from day one!” They sent me back to New York and that lead me back to Harlem Prep high school. My grandmother was back on my case trying to make me do the right thing, so I had to go to Harlem Prep. When I got there it was like Whoa! It was crazy. By this time I was selling weed. So I fitted right in to the culture. Most of the guys that went to the school were selling drugs. I had to make money anyway because the girl I was going with at the time thought I was getting large money. I told my grandmother this was my first girl friend and the first girl I made love to and it’s her birthday I really want to get her something nice. I don’t have any money can you help me out. My grandmother goes to Macy’s and gets me a crazy diamond piece of jewelry. I give that to my girl at the time so she now has crazy expectations like I got large paper. I am definitely broke though! Her family thought I had money to because of the ring. So I had to do different types of maneuvers to make it happen like I had dough.

 

Troy- I feel you.

 

A.J.- So I started to sell weed and the weed game took off.

 

Troy- Who hit you with your first package on the weed?

 

A.J.- This guy name John D. hit me with my first package and then took me to 145th street and Bradhurst Avenue where he copped from. He should not have done that, because then I started to do my own hustle.

 

Troy- Took the middle man out!

 

A.J.- Exactly right. I blew up and started to come to school with the Corter Fields (very popular coat for that time.) on.

 

Troy- Oh you killed it like that kid, really flossin!