DA HENCHMEN - THE ILL CYDE VAULTS 1993-1995
How does a record from 1993, made by a crew of relatively unknown artists, that received very little airplay or exposure when it was released happen to sell for around $1000 only 15 years later? The simple answer is - I have no idea. But it does! Enter, Da Henchmen.
There is a fascinating history to this project that we only began to understand once we started to scratch the surface. An in-depth interview will follow, but Da Henchmen were brought together by B-Boy, producer and joint label owner of Ill Cyde Recs The Tic aka Tic Master aka Ernesto Morales and his partner James Morgan aka Real, Brooklynite and brother of Saturday Night Live stand-up comedian Tracy Morgan. But for the moment, lets focus on Tic, better known to his friends as Nes.
Nes started out as a second generation B-Boy dancer in the early 1980's. His story is one that takes in Hip Hop music from its infancy through to its dominance of the music industry and as a vital part of NY and ultimately wordwide popular culture. He was a member of early B-Boying crews with Rock Steady Crew founder JoJo and legendary B-Boys Alien Ness and Track 2; as a dancer he was managed by Scott La Rock and with KRS ONE they used to perform shows in NYC prior to the conception of the legendary Criminal Minded LP; he travelled the world with Ringling Brothers and Barnum circus in the mid 1980's as part of a breakdancing act; he was a (short-lived) member of the 5% Nation; he produced an old school track for Busy Bee; this cat, on his own, is a lost chapter in the history of Hip Hop culture - AND he is one of the most humble characters you would ever have the pleasure of meeting. Next week we're gonna drop an interview that delves into the extraordinarily fascinating life of Mr Ernesto Morales. But for now, let's focus on the project at hand. And what a project!!!
Da Henchmen were made up of a bunch of different MC's hailing from all corners of NYC. They appeared around 1993 and 1994 as support act in NYC club venues for the likes of Doug E fresh, King Sun and Frankie Cutlass among others. They released an extended EP called 'Beware: Lyricly Dangerous' and a 12" 'Watcha Gonna Do' in 1994 both on Ill Cyde Records, which was set up solely to push the group. Contrary to mythology, there was no third single - but there was a different crew from NYC called Da Henchmen! Another overlooked fact was that two of the members, Ray Boogie and True Da Grynch (aka The Evil Twins) featured on Frankie Cutlass' huge Hip Hop club hit 'Puerto Rico' where they shout out Da Henchmen in their rhymes. Apart from these minor nuggets of information, as well as the status of both their releases as hugely desirable Indy Holy Grails, very little is known about this grimey,underground Hip Hop crew from NYC. Chopped Herring Records hopes to change that....
Musically, we have picked 3 previously released (though incredibly hard to find) joints from the 2 records released on Ill Cyde and we have been lucky enough to have chosen 3 more unreleased bombs from the vaults of Tic. 'Brooklyn Bastards' is from the 1993 'Beware: Lyricly Dangerous' sessions. 'Basket Case', an homage to b-ball and it's comparison to the art of rhyming, was recorded around the time of the 2nd single in 1994 and 'I want it All' was recorded by Frado (the Beat Man) in 1995 right at the end of the group's short lifespan. So there you have it, a six track EP full of flava and a crazy dope interview to follow. Keep peepin YO!
feat. Mental Flex, Brick The Juggernaut, Garders, Big Jam & True Da Grynch
A2 Brooklyn Bastards
feat . Naughty Shorty, A-Minner & Wild Juvenile
A3 Live Wire
feat. A-Minner , Naughty Shorty & Wild Juvenile
B1 Come On
feat. Big Jam
B2 Basket Case
feat. True Da Grynch & Murda One
B3 I Want It All
feat. Brick The Juggernaut & Garders
A2,A3 & B1 recorded in 1993. A1 & B2 recorded in 1994. B3 recorded in 1995.A1 & B1 recorded at Projam Studios. A2,A3,B1,B2 & B3 recorded at Data Base Studios.
An interview with producer and co-owner of Ill Cyde Recs, Nes aka Ernesto Morales aka Tic.
Where did you grow up man?
I grew up in the Bronx, Davidson Ave.
Were you in or aware of any of the street gangs when you were growing up?
I was with the 5% percent Nation. I was a God. Back in Davidson Avenue, right on 176th St, there's some long steps that lead to Jerome Avenue, near the 4 train. They used to meet and have rallies there. I guess I became a product of the environment. The 5% percent nation, Zulu Nation, Ball Busters (Dominican gang) and the motor cycle gangs were out there - Savage Nomads and a few others. Davidson Avenue on 176th St was big with the Peace Gods. The truth is, I was never into them like that, it was just all my friends from the neighbourhood were down so I was down. But I was a true B-Boy from the start. I remember my very first dance crew called the Crazy Breakers. We used to break at this place in Fordham Road call the Church. We used to meet there and hang out and do our thing. There were other crews there originally, like The Chief Rockers (a nice Ecuadorian Crew) and a few others. But there there was this kid named Little Alex the last member of New York City Breakers, he got to performed for the President of the United States. But I stayed really down low. But I was there and was known back then. I did my thing with all of them except Rock Steady ( evil enemies), may Buck Four and Kuriaki rest in peace. My partner at one time was Alien Ness - an incredible dancer.
So I heard you used to be managed by Scott la Rock? What's the story with that?
My boy Frank, Darren and I went to the same high school and somehow either Darren or Frank got hooked up with Scott not sure how (it's a long time ago!) , but he became our manager for a bit and we started doing shows in colleges. It was in Vermont. Scott ended up living in front of my boy Frank's place in Washington Ave off Webster, about the time KRS-One was staying in the shelter home. This was the early 80s, our high school years. We did a lot of college shows with Scott around the time that they were working on music. Frank, actually played a part in getting him the apartment in the Bronx. Some how Scott got the job at the shelter and the rest is History. I met one of the greatest MC's in rap History. When the music thing was popping with BDP, Frank and I continued dancing without Scott. Then BDP blew up.
What happened to you after the Scott la Rock period?
We [the dancers] came across an ad in a paper that said Ringling Brothers And Barnum Circus were looking for a breakdancing act for a major tour So we auditioned and we got the job! We went on a major tour for over 2 years. We performed in every major state and every major city in the US. After the US we hit Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) and spent 6 months there. Man it was THE best time. In this group we had this kid called Darren Henson who went on to become a famous dancer and choreographer. Another dude, Freddy Correa became a back up dancer to the late Selena. My boy Frank stayed in Japan after the tour and ended up becoming a popular dancer out there.
Were you in a crew before that?
Now before the circus, back in the early 80's - I think the circus tour was in 85 or 86 ,something like that - I was in a group call the Floor Lords. I was taught how to dance by a B-Boy called JOJO, an original Rock Steady Crew member, along with Track Two, Whiteboy speedy, this kid named Mango and Jojo's brother Mike. One good story i could tell you out of many was when The Floor Lords had a battle with Rock Steady Crew (Crazy Legs, Buck Four, Kuriaki and the rest of them) in a famous Roller Skating rink called Skate Key near Allerton Ave in the Bronx, which was very popular back in the days. We were the rising stars and they were the famous Rock Steady crew. Before we even got into the battle some how we got into a verbal thing, things got heated and a fight broke out and my boy Charlie from my group got punched in the mouth. I'm not sure who did it, but my boy Charlie had the biggest lips around anyway, after the punch, them lips looked 3 times the size and we were laughing for days!!! It's funny what you remember. After the Floor Lords I got down with another crew call the American Crew or American Breakers can't remember but that crew was made out of JOJO, Track 2 and Mr Wiggles' younger brother Danny. With this crew we did tons of shows.
How did you first meet Jojo?
Jojo was a friend of my cousin, we lived in the same neighborhood. My cousin used to take me to his house and I used to see them breaking and I was like, damn i can't believe these dudes are doing this!!! At the time i remember Mango being the nicest out the crew...
Where did you get the name TIC?
TIC was actually my break dancing name and it was the style of Electric
Boogie i was really good at, Ticking.
How did you make the transition from dancing into production...?
While i was on tour [with the circus] my boy Akani was a singer and a dope producer. I started watchin him and learning from him. When we got back from touring 2 and a half years later, breaking was already almost dead - I think that was like 88 or 89. So i continued trying to make beats. My family moved to 179th ST. and Burnside Avenue. There i hook up with my boy Dj Tony Tone (man he was one of the most popular DJ's at that time). Bought my first toy sampler, like a Casio with no output jack , just a toy sampler but i made wonders with this shit. I actually became popular again cause i was the only kid in the neighborhood doing beats. From there i got a job at a music distribution company called Buds Distribution. My man Tariq hook me with the job, (DATABASE STUDIO) and shit just fell in place for me. Man, my life's been beautiful, almost planned perfectly. One of the owners there his name is Dave Wallis , I credit him a lot with how my life turned out after Breaking. He actually lent me a lot of the money to buy my first MPC and my first real mixing board (Promix).
Who are your main influences in terms of production?
DJ premier, Pete Rock, Marley Marl, practically all the producers from the Golden Hip Hop Era.
Who did you look up to when you were coming up in the music biz?
Of course the first artist that i did music for, Main One. At the time he was label mates with late great Guru and Large Professor, so I got to chill with them at the label (Wild Pitch Records). Also my boy Frado the Beatman, man this kid had the sickest beats. He was the one that kept me in the studio. But
I've been around for a very long time. I did a record for old school pioneer Busy Bee. I did a joint for him call the Bart Dance [off the 1992 album 'Thank God for Busy Bee']. It was some funny shit!! Diamond D produced a lot of that album, I used to see him up in the studio. But it was my boy Main One who really believed in me. At the time he was signed to Select Records and he was like, your ass is giving me a beat. I Need a Ticnology beat for the album - I was kind of scared at first , but he pushed me and I ended up doing one joint for the album. After that we continue working together, so I ended up doing a
lot of beats with him. So because of him I got to with Smooth Da Hustler, his brother Trigga Da Gambler, Chino Xl and O.C. So shout out go to my brother Main One and DJ Tony Tone..
When and how did you find out about the demand for the Henchmen material on wax? cause the first record is one of the most 'valuable' and hard to find indy joints of the period......
I'm not going to front or lie about this, I think it was from you. You actually put me up on it. I mean I read the messages and the way people felt about it on YouTube but that [the fact that it was goin for loot] came from you. I was totally surprised and overwhelmed that this many years later one on my joints is considered a classic and real rap heads are feeling this. Man, it really feels great and I feel bless. This is my Legacy right here... and thank you for bring it back to life...
How did you hook up with ALL the MC's?
My partner in the project, Real [James Morgan] found all the ones from Brooklyn (Tank, Murder one, Short Fuze and True da Grynch). I brought in Big Jam, Garders, Brick and Mental Flex.
So, how old was Wild Juvenile?
Wild Juvenile was 13 at the time.
Why did they split up?
They split for a few reasons. Real at the time decided to move to Ohio and the Brooklyn crew felt that without him it was just different. All the MC's from Brooklyn were closer to him due to the fact that he brought them in and they were from the same projects - Thompkins Projects in Brooklyn. After a few
songs the guys were really eager to sign to a major and they started feeling that we were not doing a good enough job any more. That's when Real decided to make that move to Ohio. Everybody went their own way. Brick died from a heart attack, Wild juvenile got killed, Naughty Shorty killed somebody, now he's doing i think 25 to life and A-minor started acting. He did a video for Jay Z playing Jay-Z as a young kid. Murder One moved, not sure where. Big Jam went and did some bodyguard work for Tracy Morgan and did some bouncing work. Tracy was from my neighborhood, even though he grew up in Brooklyn. Actually that's how we met Real, cause of Tracy. So Tracy Morgan actually played a big role on bringing the Henchmen together...
How old are you now?
42 years and my life is a very good one; I did things that people to this day don't believe and those that were there tell me that all the time. I travelled and witnessed a lot of things. I'm like a Hip Hop Forest Gump, hahahahah. There's so many things that i lived through. But keep one thing in mind - success comes in different ways, fame, money, material things, but my success came in family. Been with my wife 20 years, 2 beautiful kids and a lot of wisdom to share...