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.
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!
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!
A.J.- Playboys, Clarks, and things like that. It was kind of crazy.
Troy- Why you say that?
A.J.- Well you go through life in a shell and I wasn’t the most handsome cat in the world so I do things to be accepted in my life style. So when I started selling that weed I blew up! I mean I blew up for real!
Troy- I feel you.
A.J.- I had the cake; I had the diamond, the gold, and the chicks. This was like in early 1975, 76. I think I was the first person in the Bronx with a moped.
Troy- You had people working for you?
A.J.- Yeah I had cats working for me. I had my girl and all her friends. I had a lot of girls working for me, taking the weed to high schools. Then I was taking the weed to Harlem Prep and I was smashing them. Then things started getting kind of crucial because the Police started playing me close, watching me. They couldn’t catch me because I kept it moving. I was hanging out with my homies and they would tell me from time to time “one day the cops are going to catch you.” So I was like we are going to have to try to do something else. Back then I was a Kool Herc fanatic.
Troy- Talk to me!
A.J.- Everywhere Herc went I was there, Cedar Park, Sedwick Avenue, Hunter college.
Troy- Talk about the first time you seen him play.
A.J.- Probably the first time I seen him was Cedar Park.
Troy- That was the first time you knew anything about Hip Hop?
A.J.- That’s right, through Herc. But I heard about Pete D.J. Jones and Flowers and all that. I use to follow all that disco. You know go down town to Nell Gwen’s and Nemo’s etc. We were rocking back then.
Troy- Charles Gallery as well?
A.J.- Yes Charles Gallery. Oh you know about all that! Then Kool Herc, you know how people in the Bronx are, “yo there is this dude named Herc, this dude is crazy.” “Well where is he at?” “He is at the park on Cedric Avenue!” “Come on lets go smoke some Ill and go up there.” I had the drug money; so things were kind of comfortable back then for me. So the next thing is I am sitting there watching this dude like whoa! But I couldn’t feel him because he played a lot of break beats. He wasn’t playing a lot of stuff off of the radio. He was playing different s---, but that is what made him unique. Then he would draw a crazy crowd and there were a lot of dust smokers, so things were like whoa “this guy Herc is crazy”. So we became like regulars. He went from the Hevalo to the Executive Play House and we followed him there. Then there would be times we would go see Pete D.J. Jones and Flowers. We would go down town and play the down town movement and all that. But then the money started getting so good my boys were like “yo you got all this money let's give a party.”
Troy- Hold up for a moment, you said there was something different about Herc’s sound but you said there were times you weren’t feeling it?
A.J.- No, I was feeling it, everything about Herc was perfect. He had the echo chamber. He had the crazy big sound system with the Macintosh amp. Yo Herc was big.
Troy- As well as Coke La Rock, do you remember seeing him at this time?
A.J.- Yes, exactly, I remember seeing Coke LA Rock! I remember Clark Kent, I remember Mike Mike with the lights. I remember Eldorado Mike. The Nigger Twins.
Troy- Mike Mike with the lights, what were his exact contributions.
A.J.- He was most likely the light man because he was hooking up the lights in the clubs. Herc and his boys were a tight crew back then, and I was a loyal follower and all that. It all looked real good so that is why my homeboys were pushing me to do this party thing. They even suggested that we get involved with this promoting thing since we didn’t have the skills at that time to be the performers at that time. So they said lets just try and give a party first.
Troy- So you were a promoter before a D.J.!
A.J.- Yes, that is right. Back then Pete D.J. Jones was big , so you had to be a known promoter to get him or have money. So our first thought was let’s get Pete D.J. Jones vs. Kool Herc!
Troy- Word up!
A.J.- Yeah we were trying to get it at the Savoy Manor on 149th street on the Grand Concourse. It was crazy because Pete D.J. Jones was with it, because all he wanted was a deposit for the date. So we went and got Pete D.J. Jones and we got Savoy, now the task was to get Kool Herc.
Troy- (Troy starts laughing.) This is good stuff. Your first party you go straight to the head like that?
A.J.- Yeah the big dudes, because I had money like that. I went to the top for the top of the line dudes. We were built like that. So once again it was a matter of getting Herc. I think we had to pay somebody a hundred dollars for Kool Herc’s phone number. The money really didn’t mean anything….
Troy-..Because you needed that introduction to him!
A.J.- That’s right. Kool Herc was real big at that time. When we got on the phone he explained to us that we were not any real promoters, he doesn’t deal with cats like us because we are not established promoters and this and that. He also said that he was not interested in battling Pete. He also said we probably didn’t have the money to pay him, so he could probably do the concept his self. So he just reneged on the whole thing.
Troy- You were ready to pay though right, even double I Imagine!
A.J.- That’s right I would have paid Herc right out of my pocket even if I didn’t make any money. I had enough to pay Herc! But he wasn’t taking any bookings like that; he was only dealing with established cats. Plus Herc was doing a lot of stuff on his own. He could have gotten Savoy Manor by himself and had Kool Herc versus Pete D.J. Jones.
A.J.- …and that was the way he bought it to us. So long story short, we were already committed, so we did Pete D.J. Jones by himself. The night of the party was good because my girl and my homeboy’s girl were popular in the neighborhood, they were light skinned cuties.
Troy- What were their names?
My girls name was Jaine; she is the mother of my child. My homeboy’s girl name was Dee Dee. She was probably the baddest chick in the Bronx. They used to go to Dodge high school. So the girls helped spread the word around. We were new dudes just trying to do some neighborhood s---. But we had a good D.J. We had the flyer drawn up and everything; you know what I am saying. We had our art teacher from Harlem Prep draw up the flyer. The thing about Pete is he was a little bit more established. I remember going to his house on Anderson Avenue up the hill to give him his deposit. There was this guy at his house practicing. While I was waiting to give Pete the money this guy that was practicing kept looking at me, after while he was like “yo who you?” I say to him I ain’t anybody my man. (A.J. is laughing!) He asks where you got all that jewelry from. I said “yo my man it ain’t even important.” But he was fascinated by me. He probably saw something in me because I looked like money. So after I paid Pete the money I went outside to leave. The dude came out side; he was like “yo my man is that you’re Moped?”
Troy- (Troy starts laughing!)
A.J.- I said yeah! He said “what?” He said “where did you get money to buy that.” I said ‘my man that ain’t nothing”…..he said “can I ride with you?” I said “you are going to ride on the back?” He said “yeah”. I said “what s your name?” He said “my name is Love Bug Star Ski.”
A.J.- I said o.k.. At the time I had never heard of Love Bug Star Ski though. I said o.k. come on. He got on my bike and I took him to my hood. I told everybody this is Pete D.J. Joneses man! He was like a little celebrity because he was Pete D.J. Joneses man or whatever. But he had borrowed some money from me, and because he was Pete’s man I gave it to him, and he paid it right back. During this time I was still going to Harlem Prep high and everything was real smooth because I was selling drugs and everything was all good but the police was on me. So now the party goes off but I don’t make any money, I break even. I ain’t mad. But the dude Star Ski is on me. He is on me because I got dough. He is coming around my hood hanging out and s---. And every time he borrows money for his situations he is paying me back. So he is becoming a friend. But now he knows that I am hustling.
A.J.- At first he is in suspense.
Troy- (Troy starts laughing.) How do you know that the police are getting close to you? Are they doing pat downs to you right in the streets?
A.J.- They stopping me, but I am a little too ahead of the game for them! They can’t catch me with the weight though. I am copping a lot of weight across the bridge in Harlem. But I would have somebody else in another car while I am copping. Coming back by myself, they can’t figure me out. So they step to my Grand Mother and said to her “your grand son is out of order.” And by this time my grandmother is working Tenant patrol. So he said to her “your son is out of control and he doesn’t care so you know what we are going to do, we are going to get you evicted from this project.”
Troy- Damn kid it was like that?
A.J.- Yeah, he said if you don’t talk to him. She was like the vice president of tenant patrol. So she was like whatever you are doing you are going to have to stop doing it because they are going to kick me out etc, etc. I was like whoa. So I took the suggestion from my Grand Mother, because I really didn’t want to see my grandmother embarrassed like that. So the word hit the streets hard that the police are watching A.J. and they are going to get me soon. But I wasn’t getting scared I was still doing my thing. Star Ski is watching all of this and he says you know what you got all this money why don’t you let me teach you how to D.J.?
A.J.- I said D.J.? He said yeah. I said I don’t want to be no D.J! He said “you are a drug dealer and you are popular right now, if you start d.j.ing you are going to be bigger. It is going to be better then hustling plus it is legal.” I said well how are we going to start? He said if you got 5 or 10 thousand we can go and buy some turntables and equipment. I said what about all that equipment I seen you playing with. He said that’s not mine that is Pete D.J. Jones stuff. So I was like wow, and I thought about it. The next thing you know I am going down to Sam Ash.
Troy- 5 to 10 thousand is what you needed?
A.J.- Back then that was about right! So I go down there and buy everything, turntables, amp, speakers, the wire speakers, echo chamber.
Troy- Damn kid you bought the kit.
A.J.- I bought the whole kit in one day. (We both start laughing.) So I take everything up to my girl’s house.
Troy- So with all that money you didn’t want to get your own apartment on the side?
A.J.- Not really after my grandmother I was living with my girl and her family. She had a big family and I had money. You know when you getting money you are not thinking about the simpler s--- like that! Like get your own apartment because something might happen. And you are right I should have been thinking like that. But now I got the equipment and me and Star Ski our practicing and doing our little thing. So Star Ski is like “yo lets take this down to the park.” I was like whoa. It might have been the summer of 1977.
Troy- O.k. that was the year the Yankees won their first World Series in a long time. And the Portland Trail Blazers won the N.B.A. championship.
A.J.- Right, we had gone over to the park on 149th street and Jackson Avenue. It’s Star Ski and D.J. Aaron. They were calling me D.J. Aaron and s---. So we are doing our thing and the crowd is coming because Star Ski already had a little bit of a following because he had did Burger King with Flash…
Troy- That’s right I heard about the Burger King Disco where when it would close at night they would take the chairs and tables and put them in the back and party all night.
A.J.- That’s right, plus he was doing a lot of undercover stuff he was doing with Pete. So they were coming to see him not me. But the thing is I started getting the hang of it. To be honest the neighborhood was coming to see me but the people that were coming from across town were coming to see Star Ski. The game got tighter, and when the cold came we moved in to this center around the corner. It was called Moore House center, and it held about 200 people. So we went up in there and we started selling that out.
Troy- So you weren’t getting any beefs when you first started doing the outside jams?
A.J.- Nah, the police liked me. The police were awarding me. Man the guys that owned the stores close by the park would bring me beer or whatever I wanted because by me bringing the music out it made money for them.
Troy- Right, right.
A.J.- See because back then even though it was the south Bronx it was not that violent. It was a little violent because the Black Spades were coming around, but it wasn’t crazy, crazy. You know what I am saying? Somebody might go up on the roof and throw a bottle off, you are always going to get something like that.
Troy- So the cops went from hating you to loving you?
A.J.- To loving me! The same cops that were after me wouldn’t f--- with me in the park.
Troy- So I know you put a smile on grandma’s face too?
A.J.- Exactly! Grand ma was like oh that’s my grandson. And I am doing this and that and all the girls are loving me. So Love Bug and I are coming off, and the crowd follows us from the park to the indoors and paying. So now even the name started getting large. So Star Ski is now like “Yo I can’t call you D.J. Aaron anymore because it doesn’t fit.” He says we are going to have to change your name. I say o.k. so what do you have in mind. He says “your name is Aaron and your baby’s mother’s name is Jaine, so we are going to use the initials A.J.”
Troy- Now what I got from Busy Bee was because you shopped at A.J. Lester’s men’s store in Harlem that was how you got your name!
A.J.- Well I did do that, but that wasn’t why or how I got the name. But it was because of my girl and he should have known that. Yes I did shop there, I was getting that money to be able to shop there and you know I was killing it going back to the Bronx with that fly gear. And all the fly brothers at my school rocked A.J. Lester’s gear. In fact now my name is getting real big in school and the teachers would give me whatever I wanted and it was like I was an N.B.A. star. I never had to go to school and I would still get A’s in every class! My name was humming. Plus I used to do charity for the school by doing parties for the basketball team to get their uniforms. While in Moore house center we got too big for the place. I never heard of Bam in those early days. It went from Pete D.J. Jones and Kool Herc to Grand Master Flash.
A.J.- Bam was over there in Bronx River. But Flash was that dude. So now all you hear is Grand Master Flash and the Three emcees! He had Mel, Cowboy and Creole and they were killing s---! But they were on the other side of town. I was on the south Bronx side; Flash was a little bit more to the East of the Bronx. So we’re doing Moore House and we would do an 8pm to 3am party. But when we would get there by 6pm to set up there would be a line around the corner to get in our party.
Troy- Damn! It was just you and Star Ski and no emcees?
A.J.- Well we did have an emcee name Kenny Gee.
Troy- That was you and Busy Bee’s homie!
A.J.- Right, but he was a gangster in fact he caught a bid. He was from my girl’s projects, Moore Houses. I was across the street in Saint Mary’s projects. He used to help me out when I would get the equipment out of my girl’s house.
Troy- Was he a real emcee or just as nice as say Caz or those other dudes?
A.J.- Caz is my man I seen him back then but he was just starting out when I was killing it. I remember catching him as Casanova Fly, he was ripping it back then! You didn’t even have to be nice back then all you needed was a concept, a little voice and you didn’t need a lot of rhymes. Back then it wasn’t about the emcee.
A.J.- It was about the d.j., the emcee was the dude that used to shout the d.j. out. The emcee made you big. People were paying to see names back then. They were paying to see Flash then. They weren’t paying to see Flash and the three emcees! You were paying to see Grand Master Flash, Pete D.J. Jones and Kool Herc. You were paying to see d.j. names. As we got bigger we did a show in Moore House center and the manager of Flash, Ray Chandler came to see us, me and Love Bug. Ray Chandler was amazed at the crowd. He was like whoa. So he tried to set us up. He came to us and said he would let us battle Flash and Disco Bee but on their turf, at the Dixie Club on Freeman street. I told Love Bug that was not a good idea at that time, because we are just moving up. We were just rising to the top. Why should we battle Flash? He was like that would be good for publicity by us getting in front of a bigger crowd. But I was like that could be the end of my career, because the s--- you taught me wasn’t enough because I seen this dude Flash!
Troy- He was legend already.
A.J.- Flash was a D.J., I am a record player. I play records, Flash is a d.j.. But Love Bug was like yo the way s--- is going now that’s right in front of us any way. So for us to excel together we have to take that date. He was like I am going to hold you down any way. All you have to do is everything I taught you. We might not win but we are not going to get embarrassed.
Troy- So when you started learning this were you really starting to dig the art of the D.J.?
A.J.- Oh yeah I was feeling it, of course I was. The way my name was moving I didn’t get a chance to struggle. I just flew right into the mix, the public eye. The night we battled Flash it was either hit or miss. If you miss that would probably be the end of A.J., because Love Bug would probably always be there because he was a real emcee and D.J. So the night of the battle me and Love Bug had about 2 or 3 hundred people that came to see us.
Troy- How many people was the Dixie able to hold?
A.J.- About 500 people could get in. So I had my cheering squad, but Flash had the crazy crowd. I had my system but he didn’t have a system of his own. He borrowed a lot from other people.
Troy- Right, I heard Mean Gene’s and others.
A.J.- Right Mean Gene, but this night he had s--- that looked like it came from Infinity Machine. He must have borrowed s--- from everybody in the Bronx!
Troy- (Troy starts laughing.) I hear what you are saying because Infinity Machine had top of the line equipment.
A.J.- So Flash came into the spot with his equipment and I was like Whoa, where am I going to put mine at. He was like you can set yours up any where; you know he was gassed up any way. So now I am nervous asking what am I going to do. Love Bug was like a motivator to me. He said just do what I told you, everything is going to be o.k. I am nervous because the crowd is large and my people are there and they really are excited.
Disco Bee opened up and played his little s---. Then it’s my turn and I get on and I say whoa. Everybody is crowded around and I am not high off of anything, I am very focused now, this is some serious s---. You know what I am saying.
Troy- (Troy is laughing.)
A.J.- This is some serious s--- no mind altering drugs or alcohol. I am trying to think about my game plan because he is a D.J. and I am trying to learn how to be that d.j.! So I said I know what I am going to do I am going to go into my crate and start playing things that he never heard of. I had break beats nobody had at that time. I was shopping at Down Stairs records, and Elroy was hitting me with mad beats.
Troy- I heard about Elroy many times. Do you remember the records you played that night?
A.J.- I played Groove to get down, Catch a Groove.
Troy- At that time nobody heard of those records?
A.J.- Nah, I played Kool and The Gang’s Funky Granny!
Troy- Funky Granny!?
A.J.- I am so funky I am going to Funk the world up! (A.J. mimics the Granny record.) I am a Funky Granny!
Troy- I never heard of that one.
A.J.- I got a tape with that record in my crib right now.
Troy- Please brother! I hear about all these tapes you got, but can’t nobody get them out of you. You know I got tapes, let's do this!
A.J.- I got them and me and you are going to work something out. But I went deep into my crate and started playing s--- n------ never heard. Flash started looking at me, like what the f---! And the crowd started rocking! They started rocking and started big upping me and started clapping.
Troy- I thought you were going to have to beat him with your hands but you handled him with your record selection.
A.J.- Exactly, that was my strategy; So Love Bug jumps on the mic and starts rocking with the beats that I am playing. Oh No! Flash was still hard as hell though to deal with, doing ill s---!!!!!
Troy- (Troy starts laughing.) I be loving this stuff here!!!!!!!!!
A.J.- Flash got kind of tight, like who the f--- is these n------!? But the thing was I had my crowd there, and now I got Flash’s crowd on mines. “Oh S---, what the f--- is the name of that?” So after I got on Flash gets on and he kills it. But at the end of the party they was shaking our hands, talking about yo my man…..
A.J.- Even the Casanova’s, “yo my man, homie you did good.”
Troy- Ain’t that something even the Casanova’s.
A.J.- So here comes Ray Chandler, he was like “yo my man I like that. I am going to sign you and Star Ski to Black Door Productions.” He said he only had one group and that was Flash and the Three emcees, and me and Star Ski was going to be the second group and we are going to play everywhere. He told me not to take any bookings from any one, just him.
A.J.- He says to me “you own your system so your price is going to be different then what I give Flash and his boys. But we are going to work that out.” I said o.k. I like that. So I am opening up for Grand Master Flash, Disco Bee and the Three Emcees. Now I am a star and it’s a rap. We in Dodge High school, Walton high, the Boat rides, Clinton High, Mitchell gym, the P.A.L. on 183rd street, we in Roosevelt high, any where we go we are selling out. Just me and Flash. So Love Bug is kind of like getting under the weather because the money. He’s like “yo J!”
Troy- He’s doing better off by his self right?
A.J.- Yeah, he’s like A.J. you ain’t paying me enough money. He told me you are going to have to give me half of what you are getting! I said you can’t get half, what about the speaker wires, the guy I have to pay to rent the van? I said come on man. So we started arguing over that. Long story short, Love Bug quits. His words were I am not f------ with A.J. I still had Kenny Gee, got a little brush off of Love Bug, but he is not a real rapper, and it wasn’t about that like I said earlier. It was just about him keeping the A.J. going telling them who I was!
A.J.- So I had mines tight. We stayed focused, and kept doing things. A big test came up. I started taking other bookings once my name stepped up. You couldn’t get Flash to play nowhere, he was loyal to Ray Chandler his manager. I on the other hand said I am going to do what I want to do and that was in part because I owned my own equipment, so he couldn’t really tell me anything. The first time I had broke that bond was because of Kool Herc! Kool Herc was on the decline.
Troy- What year was this?
A.J.- This was by at least 1977.
Troy- You know something no one has ever said that. But I noticed that, because I can’t find a tape with him to save my life.
A.J.- You know what, it wasn’t 77. Let’s say September of 1978. In 1978, starting in August, it was about Flash, A.J. and Theodore!
Troy- He had to pass the baton!
A.J.- Let me tell you real quickly how I met Herc before I started D.J.ing. One day this dude sold me this record called Sex Machine. I went to the Hevalo and told Herc I had the record. He was like “what the original James Brown record?” I said “yeah”. He asked me my name and then asked how much did I want for the record. I said I didn’t want any money I just wanted him to shout my name out on the mic so I can tape it.
Troy- (Troy laughs.)
A.J.- And then take it back to the hood.
A.J.- So the chicks can hear it and play me closer. Now I am going to take you back to 1978 of August. Herc comes around my neighborhood because everybody is hearing the name A.J. and cats knew I was from Moore Houses. One day I was in the park and somebody came up to me and said, “Yo this big tall dude was looking for you.” I said what, who? He said he didn’t know who he was, but he was on a bike and he might have been a stick up kid or something. So I went and got my gun and came back down. And here comes Herc, and he rode right past me and then he seen that it was me and said “Yo Aaron what’s up? You remember me, I am the one you sold the Sex Machine to?” I said “Yeah what’s up.” He says to me “I am looking for D.J. A.J. I said I am A.J.!” He says to me “Oh my God…you are doing a lot of things!” Then Herc starts telling me about the Executive Play House. He said “I know you are down with the Black Door, but I am trying to do something with Flash but I can’t get to Ray. But I heard you take bookings on your own.” I said “Yeah as long as Flash is not playing on the same day that I am doing the bookings with you then I can work something out with you.” He says he is doing a back to school thing at the Executive Play House on 174th and Mount Eden. It would be an honor to have you come though and open up with me. I said “what we are talking about because your career is a little bit over, what finance we are talking about.” He asks “what do you want.” I said “Whatever you get I want half, if you get the door I want half.” I started doing a little bit of investigating and went up there to the Play House before the show to see if he really lost it like they said he lost it, and he did!
Troy- So in what way did he lose it?
A.J.- There wasn’t a crowd.
Troy- He lost the crowd. Did he lose his ear for the music as well?
A.J.- He still had the beats and s--- like that. He was playing records, but Flash was the main D.J. by then.
Troy- Right, I feel you.