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The Boom Boom Bap
Old-school hip-hop heroes Tuff Crew try to pull it together for a reunion show.
by A.D. Amorosi

Published: Aug 8, 2007

Keeping the old school new makes the beat go on.

Take Schoolly D. He's not stuck in 1984 with "Gangster Boogie"; he's still making fresh music.

But watching the O.G. spin rap oldies before the Beasties' Festival Pier show last week? Just Schoolly having fun — especially when he put "Kick the Ball" from North Philly's Tuff Crew on the turntable. The chatty hit from 1986 sounded powerful and hard, its clamorous voices and 808 drum kicks as riveting as they were 21 years ago.

"Somebody should redo this," says Schoolly later. "'Kick the Ball' was amazing. All their shit was."

In the late '80s, the racially mixed Tuff Crew — LA Kid, Ice Dog, Tone Love, Monty G and DJ Too Tuff — enjoyed regular airplay on Power 99 and an opening spot touring with 2Live Crew.

Tuff Crew's first three records on the Warlock label (1987's Phanjam, 1988's Danger Zone and 1989's Back to Wreck Shop) were full of scratch-heavy turntablism and vivid depictions of life on Philly's mean streets. (Tone Love kept the Tuff Crew name for one last album after the group disbanded, 1991's Still Dangerous.)

Like Schoolly, the group is looking to rekindle its old-school glory.

As unreleased tunes are being readied for release on Peanut Butter Wolf's Stones Throw label, there're new tracks that Tuff Crew's recorded in the last three months — songs like "Welcome to the Danger Zone" and "You Just Got Played" — that pick up where 1989 left off. The tunes have a similar vibe to the back catalog. The Crew didn't want to get too new on the old heads. Besides, there's more to come.

And all systems were go for a full Tuff Crew reunion gig at Tritone this weekend. (Only Monty G, who works in promotions at The Beat 100.3 FM, couldn't make it.)

That is, until DJ Too Tuff, aka Joe Hicks, got busted for possession of pot. He's currently at Curran Correctional Facility, held without bail because of priors.

Ice Dog — the Crew's wordiest rapper — was ready to rock. "We haven't been together, doing a show, close to two decades," he says. Ice Dog won't give his full name. He works as a correctional officer in the area where he grew up.

That means Ice Dog can't be too pleased with Too Tuff; not as a pal, musical partner nor as an officer of the law.

"Yeah, I'm very uncomfortable with it," he says a hint of disgust. "Though we have other priorities — work, family — things were starting to get back on the ball. With him getting incarcerated, it takes away the ballast we're trying to achieve."

Suddenly, Ice says he has to get off the phone.

Says he'll call back.

He doesn't.

In a Philadelphia where scenes and regions were sharply divided, Tuff Crew united the blocks with "My Part of Town." "If you're not the future, you're history," went one of the vocal hooks. "Bring down the walls."

"The '80s were about gangsters; holding your own ground," says Schoolly. "But everyone from other neighborhoods accepted Tuff Crew." Not just because of their lyrics. Their blunt, raw hardness was a major factor. "They came. They rocked. They left. I don't just mean through the '80s. Every gig."

"There's a good chance Hicks'll get a work release for the Tritone event," says David Dickerson, the Tuff Crew's "LA Kid."

If he doesn't, the show goes on. According to Crew manager Tim McCloskey, "the money'll go to our legal eagle in Fishtown."

"I'm sad we're not all there," says Dickerson, who's worked as a producer in California since Tuff Crew disintegrated in 1989. "But the heads want this," says Dickerson, referring to Crew's fans.

He wants this, too. It puts a period on one phase of his life while starting another sentence. Dickerson makes no bones about how Tuff Crew didn't fit hip-hop during the '80s. They didn't create radio songs. They didn't clean up their videos. Even for underground rap, the Crew was raw. More rhythmic, less musical than today's over-produced sound with in-the-red bass blasts and tinny 808s, Tuff Crew was primal.

"We were the boom boom bap, the rap and the riffs," says Dickerson.

Ice Dog was the writer, the architect of the rhymes. Tone wrote, too. "He brought personality," says Dickerson. "Tone was the center man. Me? I did tracks and production. Tuff produced and handled turntables. He was my partner."

Tuff Crew was about "the street." And by "street," they didn't mean gangsta shit. "Not killing, not drugs — the reality," stresses Dickerson.

Eric Young, a local rapper from 11th and Diamond streets, agrees. Young gleaned musicality from hanging with the Crew, doing trick shows with his brother DJ Rockinghood and Too Tuff during mad grand Crew days.

"What was good then is good now," says Young, the Wicked half of the Wicked & Black duo. "Their music's everlasting." If not to the rest of the world, to heads like himself - Philadelphia City Paper

Tuff Crew, one of Philadelphia's first hip-hop groups, will reunite for the first time in more than 15 years with a concert
By Alexandra Chalat
August 9, 2007

Rappers Ice Dogg, left, and South Philly's Tone Love reunite with other members from Tuff Crew - dubbed 'Philly's First Rap Supergroup' - for the first time in over a decade to play live at Tritone 9 p.m. Aug. 11.
Tone Love was 18 years old when he went from spouting off freestyle rhymes with his friends to part of a rap group - and a movement - that would change music forever.

It was late 1985 and the genre was just starting to take off. Tone Love found himself as a member of Tuff Crew, which would later be perceived as so influential to hip-hop it was dubbed “Philly's First Rap Supergroup” by numerous magazines and radio DJs.

Now, he and the four other Tuff Crew members are scheduled to perform their first public appearance since the early '90s at Tritone, 1508 South St., 9 p.m. Aug. 11.

Born and raised on 15th and Dickinson streets, Tone Love moved to the Northeast - leaving South Philly High and completing his last year of school at Germantown High - when mentor Tony Mitchell introduced him to a young rapper (who also was his godchild) named David Dickerson, aka L.A. Kidd.

“I was rapping at different local clubs, local skating rinks, after-midnight spots - first in South Philly then down by Roosevelt Boulevard,” Tone Love recalled last week of his early music appearances. Mitchell, who the rapper refers to as a “father figure,” filled a void in Tone Love's life, as his dad was absent during his childhood. “I called him an ‘old head,'” Tone Love said with an endearing laugh. “He was generally around, kind of guided me, trying to keep me out of the normal trappings. He'd give me advice.”

Just finishing high school, L.A. Kidd and friend Ice Dog, who now lives in the Northeast, were making small steps on the budding scene when Tone Love entered the picture.

“I did all the music and Dog wrote the majority, and then Tone came into the group,” L.A. Kidd, who now resides in Los Angeles, said last week via phone. He had gone to Overbrook High School and grew up in West Philly rhyming with such soon-to-be icons as Will Smith. “Then we got our DJ, Too Tuff … a North Philly local boy who lived around the corner from Ice Dog,” L.A. Kidd said, adding Too Tuff has since become known as an instigator of the turntablist movement because of his spins with Tuff Crew.

About the same time, another South Philly boy, Monty G, brought his beat-boxing skills into the mix. His distinctive voice landed him the role as the hype man, revving the crowd up before a performance.

A few months later, the five teens became part of what is considered the founding fathers of hip-hop - now-famous musicians like Public Enemy, Run DMC and LL Cool J, all with whom the group performed during the late '80s.

Fame hit fast, L.A. Kidd and Tone Love recalled, after their first album, “Phangam,” a compilation with Camden, N.J.-based rap group Crown Rulers, dropped in '87. “We got a lot of good support in the areas we were known in - Philly, Miami, Baltimore,” L.A. Kidd said. “Tuff Crew kind of took off faster than we anticipated.”

A year later, they were thrust into an even brighter limelight with “Danger Zone,” especially with the hit single “My Part of Town,” which made waves with Philadelphia's inner-city teens, L.A. Kidd said.

“‘My Part of Town' - that was Philly's anthem,” the rapper recalled. “The song is based on our experiences in Philly and I feel like Philadelphia can relate to those experiences, especially youth in the streets. We wanted to make the music for the people. We kept it rugged and I think Philly appreciated that.”

Coming a long way from freestyling on stoops and at skate parks, Tuff Crew made three hit albums and then went their separate ways in about '91 to carry out personal music endeavors.

Monty G stayed in South Philly, where he went on to work on radio promotions, such as Power 99. He's also part of the Broad Street Bullies, a group that attends local events, such as Eagles games, to hype up the crowd.

When Tuff Crew joins him at next week's concert (with Too Tuff's appearance pending due to legal matters), they'll dole out hits and a taste of their new tracks from a yet-to-be-titled album that's been in the works for the last couple months.

“We're trying to bring a lighter mood of hip-hop back,” Tone Love said of the project.

Like the group's previous three albums, the new work aims to confront social ills, which is timely, the rapper added, since the city is experiencing an ongoing wave of violence. “We're trying to address [the crime] in a positive way,” Tone Love said, “to communicate hope and awareness and bring some peace to a lot of these situations.”

Though he now lives in Bucks County, Tone Love hasn't forgotten his old neighborhood and uses music to preach antiviolence. With a p - South Philly Review

The back end of the 1980s found Philadelphia battling it out with the West Coast as New York’s chief rival on the hip hop scene. Along with the obvious crossover DJ heavyweights Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money, Philly could boast Schoolly D, Steady B’s Hilltop Hustlers and Three Times Dope. Less well-known but for my mind, the cream of that crop, were Tuff Crew; a quartet of rappers, ‘The Lyrical Auditor’ LA Kid, ‘The Overlord’ Ice Dog, ‘The Teacher’ Tone Love and ‘The Mountain’ Monty G, and their DJ ‘Deuce Ace Detonator’ Too Tuff.

My introduction to the Tuff Crew came though ‘My Part of Town’; a quality 12” taken from their second album ‘Danger Zone’. The core trio of MCs (Monty G doesn’t feature) come across like a posse of tomcats marking out their territory by spraying their devastating rhymes all over the much-used ‘Think (About It)’ break and a snatch of hard-hitting funk guitar. So far, so bad meaning good, but if you factor in the scratching talents of the DJ Too Tuff, you start to understand why I, and so many others, hold them in such high esteem. Too Tuff’s got skills in abundance, showcasing his signature style of cutting up each word of a phrase (in this instance, “So Damn Tough”). King Bee notoriously ripped off ‘My Part of Town’ on the track ‘Back by Dope Demand’ (1990), and annoyingly, it’s the King Bee track that became better known, despite being massively inferior.

It was 1989's ‘Back to Wreck Shop’ (their third album in three years!), released on Warlock Records, which was their greatest achievement. The album was unheralded by critics at the time, but always gets maximum props from true hip hop heads, who (quite rightly) mention it in the same breath as legendary LP’s like ‘Critical Beatdown’ by Ultramagnetic MCs and ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back’ by Public Enemy. It is that good. Almost every track on ‘Back to Wreck Shop’ is a classic, combining awesome beat programming with a judicious choice of samples; some obscure, but the majority familiar, yet still sounding fresh in Tuff Crew hands. I’m posting ‘Show ‘Em Hell’, though it’s taken me a while to select one track from the fifteen on offer. It’s a blistering burst of hardcore hip hop with rugged raps and frenzied scratching, over a killer beat and scowling funk guitar.

I will always associate ‘Back To Wreck Shop’ as being the album that signified the end of an obsessive musical period (1985-1989) where all I was listening to was hip hop and electro. The sound and swagger of the Roses and the Mondays seduced me into a world that promised more than record trading and anally retentive conversations with fellow B-boys. My NASA-patched black bomber jacket was retired from service, to be replaced by a godawful Top Man patchwork hoodie (I blame Mary Jane), my gelled flat top grown into lank curtains. ‘BTWS’ may have been the end, but I wasn’t giving up without a fight. I remember it fondly as an album I would stubbornly play in mate’s car tape decks and in the college smoking room, even though it was far too hard for most people’s tastes - De La Soul was about as tuff as it got by that point... - White Noise Revisted (UK)

DJ Too Tuff's back to scratch

He was one of the city's favorite turntablists. But youth, bad judgment, and trouble with the law brought him down. Joe Hicks is older and wiser now - and rediscovered.

By Rob Watson
Phialdelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

If you had a hankering for pizza from Top Quality on Castor Avenue early this year, chances are it was Joe Hicks who came to your door with a hot pie.

Even some of the most knowledgeable hip-hop fans in Philly would have tipped the guy and shut the door, not realizing that the 34-year-old Hicks was the DJ for the Tuff Crew, one of greatest rap groups this city has ever had. Many believed the rumors that DJ Too Tuff had passed.

Until recently.

Once lost, but now found, DJ Too Tuff is touching the tables again, trying to piece together a career that held as much promise as those other Philly turntablists Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff and DJ Miz. Tonight at Tritone, he begins what many hope is a not-so-long road back.

"In my opinion, any DJ from the Philly area who is 25 and up has been influenced by DJ Too Tuff," says Cosmo Baker, the renowned DJ behind The Rub parties. Baker, a Philly native, called Hicks one of the best unheralded DJs of his time in the April issue of Wax Poetics magazine. "Any DJ of worth knows the cuts from 'My Part of Town' by heart."

With Ice Dog, L.A. Kid, Tone Love, and Monty G giving shoutouts to every part of Philly, "My Part of Town" was an inescapable anthem in the summer of '88, booming from every car, rocking every club. Even then, you couldn't get enough.

"The whole city got behind it at the same time," says Docta Shock, the hip-hop professor who runs workshops and seminars on the genre. "It was one of the first Philly tracks where the turntable became an instrument."

Hicks' desire to play the turntable started in 1982, at a meeting ground for the emerging art of hip-hop.

"My mom used to buy incense at the Funk-O-Mart on 10th and Chestnut, and they would have all the records," says Hicks, a Fishtown native. "I got my first record at 10, it was Grandmaster Flash's 'The Message.' There was really no turning back."

At 14, after getting a job at KFC, he bought two turntables and learned to scratch from a friend. School days at St. Joe's Prep led to after-school battles as Disco Joe, dazing rivals - or practicing until his dad made him stop.

"He would come up to my room yelling and screaming to turn that craziness down," Hicks says. "He didn't realize that there were always six or seven boys right outside my window always listening to me, so they got shut down too."

Though hip-hop was primarily a black and Latin art form, Hicks says he never encountered any more resistance than being called "White Boy Joe."

"Inside hip-hop, it was never a problem," Hicks says. "The three real platforms - graffiti, rap music and break dancing - have always been color-blind as long as you could do your thing."

After Hicks joined the Tuff Crew in '86, they recorded Phanjam, an EP that included the highly regarded "Kick the Ball" with Camden's Krown Rulers.

"Those were my boys," says Lady B, the Philly hip-hop radio icon and one of the first females to rap on wax, back in '79. "Jazzy and Cash were smooth, and made it look easy. Too Tuff would be killin' those tables - it was like he was torturing them."

The big time came less than a year after Hicks graduated from St. Joe's Prep, when "My Part of Town," the single from Dangerzone, blew up. The opening guitar sample from the Blackbyrds' "Street Games" coupled with Too Tuff's scratching of the Kurtis Blow phrase "so damn tough" was like a call to arms.

"It was the last song we recorded. We had the rhymes and the beat and I just stumbled across that Kurtis Blow part by accident," Hicks remembers.

Hicks had been awarded an academic scholarship to Temple University. But with a tour coming up, he dropped out and started living the life - one that provided only limited luxuries due to a bad deal the group had signed.

"We had money but it wasn't like we had money. It was enough to party on but not enough to really live," Hicks laments. "We didn't really know better at that time and when we found out, it was too late."

After Back to Wreck Shop came out in '89, the group split, with Too Tuff and Ice leaving, and Tone Luv carrying the Tuff Crew name for a final album, Still Dangerous.

"That stuff was corny and soft," Hick says. "They even had a white DJ to act like nothing had changed."

He started his own recording studio, but late nights, high expenses, and hanging around with some bad folk led to his incarceration on drug possession charges.

It took only those four months in lockdown for his studio business to fall apart. Many of his artists went to work with other producers, some were killed in street violence, others wound up doing jail time. Hicks was evicted, his equipment and records confiscated or stolen, and he was left broke with a daughter on - Philadelphia Inquirer

"So damn tough"... listen to the Deuce Ace Detonator, DJ Too Tuff, whittle away at this phrase and you're probably underground, burrowing at the Earth's core with Philadelphia's Tuff Crew band.

The later half of the 80’s saw Philly threatening to transcend the West Coast as New York's chief rival with the likes of O.G. pioneer Schoolly D, the acknickulous Three Times Dope, and Steady B's Hilltop Hustlers. Yet, it was the "Kings of the Cuts on Two Turntables"-Champion DJs Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, and Miz - that caused the most commotion for Philadelphia. Nor were any of the Tuff Crew albums bereft of pinpointed, fervent scratching. On the fairly obscure Soo Def label, the Tuff Crew had to share liners with the Krown Rulers back in '87. After the R-9esque "Techno Tuff," the quintet's hallmark uggedness was defined in ’88 via a dope tongue in cheek joint entitled "My Part of Town." With seismic implications, this notorious jam set the precedent for 89's Back to Wreck Shop on Warlock Records. Though "My Part of Town" does-and still does-firmly plant a skillfully aimed boot up your butt, the 15+ cuts on Back to Wreck Shop are pure "so leave my mic alone" Hip-Hop. Overlord Ice Dog's eerily stoic, monotone style orders chills down MC spines like Orson Welles on radio. LA Kid the Lyrical Auditor and Tone Love the Teacher serve equally skilled time on cuts like "Show Em Hell," "Back to Wreck Shop," "Mountains World," and "What You Don't Know." "Gimme Some" is a low ended ode to Miami. On the DJ cut, "Behold the Detonator," the Deuce Ace breaks the PE air raid down like a '74 Pacer on I-95 in 5:34 traffic. However, this album is about mic control - is there anything else? 'Cause these kids certainly didn’t need (nor did they have) that MTV thematic montage crap to drop the goods on the only audience that matters. Now you know! (Oh yeah, after their break up, Ice Dog returned with some other kids on Still Dangerous.)

Dave Tompkins (Bombhiphop.com) - bombhiphop.com

The rumours floated around for years as many Europeans travelled to Philadelphia looking for members of Tuff Crew. I met many of them & shared their enthusiasm for one of the most neglected crews in hip hop history. The made 4 albums & a heap of singles or compilation tracks, yet they had virtually zero media attention. True old school heads recognise & celebrate thier entire back catalogue. And yes, they still are my most favoured crew in the music's history. And also, Too Tuff was one of my inspirational reasons to start deejaying. (MentalCombat.com, Australia) - Mentalcombat.com (Australia)

Opening Riff

by Doug Wallen

Tuff Love
Listening back to Philly’s archetypal Tuff Crew, songs like “Smooth Momentum” seem weirdly slow and fitted with the same identifiers—big funk-spawned breaks and tinny whistles—as a young Public Enemy. It’s easy to forget that was the sound of hip-hop in ’88 and ’89, when Tuff Crew released their influential albums Danger Zone and Back to the Wreck Shop.

As quaint as they may seem today, Tuff Crew blew the doors off local hip-hop, and though they struggled for national attention, they’re cult heroes to this day. Philadelphia has always loved them, and not just because they posed in front of the Art Museum in Phillies uniforms for the sleeve of Wreck Shop.

With four black MCs—Ice Dog, L.A. Kid, Tone Love and Monty G—and the white DJ Too Tuff, Tuff Crew drew a perfect balance between chest-beating braggadocio and ridiculous party-starting. And Too Tuff was enough of a visionary to blow minds regularly, whether he was chopping up Isaac Hayes’ iconic Shaft theme on “Deuce, Ace, Housin’” or isolating the sick hook of the Blackbyrds’ “Street Games” for “My Part of Town,” a watershed single that still resonates. Its flipside “Detonator” flits comfortably between the soulfully smooth and rigidly tough.

Tuff Crew are planning some reunion shows this year—two solid decades after they debuted—as well as the unearthing of their “Lost Archives.” Too Tuff has been laying the groundwork for the comeback for a few years now, getting his name out with high-profile gigs. He was recently sent back to prison for a spell, but that hasn’t dampened his ambition.

During Friday’s Tritone show Too Tuff will debut some of the “Lost Archives” while spinning classics that will prove his salt to anyone who doesn’t know by now. It’s only a brief teaser for that Tuff Crew reunion, but it’s hard to imagine a more fitting time and place to start the countdown.

Fri., Feb. 1, 10pm. $13-$20. With Jeru the Damaja, DJ Tat Money + Doodlebug. Tritone, 1508 South St. 215.545.0475. www.tritonebar.com
- Philadelphia Weekly

Joey “DJ Deuce Ace Detonator Too Tuff” Hicks is the DJ and half the production force behind Philly’s legendary supergroup Tuff Crew. He’s the hip-hop immortal who conducted the cuts and scratches on the anthem “My Part of Town,” an essential track no Philly DJ would ever leave out of their crate.

Too Tuff, 34, is also a forefather of the turntablist scene, having created pioneer DJ records like Behold the Detonator and Soul Food. After a 15-year hiatus, Hicks has spent the last year reintroducing himself to the game he helped lay the foundation for.

“Z-Trip brought me out to Central Park last year around April. He brought me onstage with Common,” Hicks recalls. “There were about 7,000 people in Central Park, so that was like a soul injection, reintroducing hip-hop back into my life. From there it’s pretty much been smooth sailing.”

That smooth sailing has led to a relationship with tastemaking L.A. record label Stones Throw, which is currently interested in putting out unreleased Tuff Crew material, according to Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf.

“The project consists of lost archives, which are being remastered,” he explains. “They include [original Tuff Crew members] Ice Dog, Mechanism, L.A. Kid, Tone Love and myself. It’s sorta like going into the basement and finding some never-before-heard Eric B and Rakim studio masters from when they were doing Paid in Full. It’s our version—unreleased Tuff Crew songs that probably would’ve been on the album after Still Dangerous.”

As if that weren’t enough, fans of Tuff Crew have a reunion album to look forward to. “After 15 years pretty much everybody is on board. There’s a super buzz in Russia, Japan … Europe especially is a hotbed right now. It seems like it’s ’89 all over again.”
- Philadelphia Weekly

When DJ Z-Trip interrupted his set at last year's Save the Rhino concert in Central Park to introduce a special guest, few in the crowd could have anticipated the appearance of DJ Too Tuff, the man behind the rapid-fire cuts and scratches of Philadelphia's Tuff Crew. Best known for his intricate turntable skills on tracks such as 'My Part of Town', Too Tuff has been out of the limelight since the crew parted ways in the late eighties. But after a random appearance on a phone-in radio show unexpectedly propelled him back into the public eye, the man formerly known as The Detonator found himself on the brink of a full-scale comeback.

With his personal archive of unreleased tracks and mixtapes attracting interest from Stones Throw head Peanut Butter Wolf, and a brand new Tuff Crew album in the works with original members Ice Dog, Tone Love and L.A. Kid [1], momentum is building behind Too Tuff's return to the music industry. Twenty years after his debut on wax, the North Philadelphia native is most definitely back to wreck shop. TakeYourRadio caught up with him for the full story.

Can you introduce yourself for those that might not know you?

This is the one and only original DJ Deuce Ace Detonator Too Tuff, the axe man of terror, deejay and producer of Philadelphia's Tuff Crew.

How did you first get involved in Hip Hop and specifically scratching?

I started deejaying at age 14 after taking an interest in mixing from some friends at school, St. Joseph's Prep. There were two people in my class who had turntables. They owned straight-arm SLB 100s and they used to do blends and mixes of club tunes. I was already into Hip Hop but scratching hadn't really evolved other than Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money.

We used to collect mixtapes from in the street and it would be like little bits and pieces of Jeff scratching "It's Time" or Cash Money cutting Rhythm Trax. I used to study those and when I showed them [my friends] what scratching was they went crazy. From there I bought some Pioneer straight-arm turntables and I learnt how to scratch on them until I saved up enough money to buy some 1200s. And I pretty much emulated Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money up until I started to develop my own style.

Philadelphia dominated the Hip Hop DJ scene in the 80s. Why do you think so many great DJs came out of the city?

I was aware that Philly had something special going on with their DJs but it was more of a competition as far as gaining street rep in order to draw as many people as possible to my parties. As I was learning to cut, battling was always there as I hung with a select set of DJs in Northside: my best friend and teacher YO-YO, DJ Fresh aka DJ K-Swift, DJ Easy-Money, and DJ Pin. So even before I was an established show DJ, I had to battle my way through the ranks in my own circle of peers. This sharpened my skills and kept me practising to constantly get better and eventually become the DJ for the almighty Tuff Crew.

How did Tuff Crew come together as a group? Songs like 'Northside' and 'Mountain's World' suggest that you all came from different neighbourhoods. [2]

Tuff Crew was formed by our manager Tony Mitchell who happened upon one of our breakdance functions one summer around 1986. Ice Dog was the lead rapper and breakdancer of a group called Street City Rockers – they were a breakdance group in our neighbourhood. Wilson Goode, who was the mayor at that time, used to have Anti-Graffiti Network breakdance parties at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia and we used to enter our crew into those battles and I would DJ. One time we were practising in a park called Hart Park right in our neighbourhood and a limousine pulled up.

Everybody had the linoleum and cardboard laid out and was windmilling and breakdancing. I was cutting. We had some big giant speakers out there. Everybody had Filas on and shelltops with the fat laces and Lee jeans with the graffiti on the side and the Kangols. I mean incredible, original Hip Hop type stuff.

So this dude pulls up in a limousine and introduces himself as Tony Mitchell, and with him is Tone Love. He said he was putting together a rap group and he handed us each like 80 dollars. We went and bought some weed and we got high. About three days later he picked us up and brought us to his apartment in West Philly. He started saying that he was putting together a rap group and that his godson's name was L.A. Kid and that L.A.'s mom was the A&R director of Capitol Records and that he could get us a record deal as long as we put together some good material. So he bought some equipment and we started to practise in his basement.

So was Tony Mitchell behind your deal with Soo Deff Records?

Yeah he owned Soo Deff Records and Soo Deff Management. One night - about midnight, one in the morning - we came up out of the basement from practising and he had two sets of contracts in his hand. One was management contracts, the others were recording contracts. He was like "There's - takeyourradio.com


After a long-time hiatus, DJ Too Tuff is back to where he belongs: the rap game. As a member of the infamous Tuff Crew, he contributed to the strong Philly scene that flourished at the time (and ever since) plus he’s one of the originators of modern turntablism. His production style: way beyond many, his cuts: deadly…

Wassup DJ Too Tuff? You've been out of the game for a long time, now you're back, what are your main activities?

Since returning to active hip-hopping, I’ve done a series of small club gigs entitled ‘Wreck Shop’ at 5 or 6 upscale night clubs in Philly. As a sort of ‘Rebirth Tour’. Triton, Fire, Walnut Room, Denim, Glam and Starlite Ballroom II so far. Also remastering my lost archives of Too Tuff beats, Ice Dog, Tuff Crew, Emcee Mechanism unreleased albums and various cutstramentals from 1990 to 1995. Sat-One of the Scratch Makaniks is doing the clean-up and mastering out of Grape Street Studios.

So what have you been up to during the period you were not involved with hip-hop?

My daughter Felicity Unique was born in 1996 as I became a father for the first time in my life. She needed emergency surgery for a non-cancerous brain tumour in 2002 which was a real scary and life-altering moment. She’s fully recovered now and is doing well today! I also was locked up for a short period of time, 6 months, nothing major; for a probation violation in Philly. Thanks to God for everything turning out ok!

Why did you decide to return?

The love for hip-hop never left my heart. I just had a lot of personal ‘real life’-issues to deal with. Tim, my manager, and Z Trip were really instrumental in rebuilding my drive and confidence as well as bookings and financial support. I love those two dudes! Thank you guys!

What exactly was the role of DJ Z-Trip (Linkin Park) in bringin you back?

DJ Z-Trip had played in Philly at the Wachovia Center numerous times between 2000 and 2005, opening for his peoples Linkin Park. He always stopped his set to ask the crowd if anyone knew the whereabouts of DJ Too Tuff. I never attended the shows but was informed by several people from different parts of the city of his requests for me. I didn’t believe it for real, until I and my manager Tim McCloskey opened a website on Myspace.com. Z hit me up earlier this year and we spoke on the phone and on-line about planning my comeback. He invited me as a special guest on the Marc Echo ‘Save The Rhino’ Tour on June 8th, 2006 in Central Park N.Y.C. This was our first face-to-face meeting. He had me on some VIP family shit up in the dressing room with his peeps and after he stopped his set, he brought me out to the stage in front of 6-7 thousand people and told everyone of my plans and re-introduced me to the world. Me and my protégé DJ Kinetic from Philly chilled out with Z-Trip, Kid Capri, Rakim, Styles P, Lupe Fiasco, Rhymefest and Common backstage and at the hotel in the city. Z-Trip also bought me all of my DJ and studio pieces I needed to master my old tracks and knock the rust off as far as cutting wax. Without Z- Trip none of this would be jumping off major like it so quickly.

According to you, how has the art form changed compared to fifteen years ago?

As far as hip-hop and rhyming, the old school is the best school. Today, hip-hop is dumbed down to brainwash kids into corporate record sales. Our shit was from the muscle! Hardcore, straight up raw, what u don’t know? As far as cutting, it’s really technical and almost like rocket science with niggaz like Q-Bert, Craze, A-Trak killin shit all crazy. I mean crabin and flares and yo these boys are rough. Big ups, ‘yameen’! Compare their cuts to those of Eric B or Scott La Rock, whose style we called ‘dope cuts’ for their rhythmic simplicity there’s no comp. I would say I was the link between then and now, me, Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff, Miz, DJ Scratch of EPMD… Cats like us bridged it and led the way for Q-Bert and Craze. In the late 80’s nobody killed it, really, really killed it live and on wax except for Jazzy Jeff, Cashmoney, Miz and me, maybe Magic Mike and Mr Mixx, but cutting was mastered only by a few supreme DJ’s, a select group of assassins of wax. Now, there are kids no one has ever heard of who are completely off the hook, straight out the box. No deal, no albums just cut masters, A-Trak was one initially, before he got with Kanye.

You recently met A-Trak...

I saw A-Trak live at the Walnut Room in Philly as a guest of ‘The Rub’ Cosmo Baker. A-Trak killed it right before my very eyes. Every time he finished a trick he looked over at me to sort of check if I was feelin it, and I definitely was.

How did you get into DJ'ing?

A few Italian kids at my high school, St. Joseph’s Prep, Craig Tropea and Anthony Cassela had straight arm Technics, SLB-100’s, belt-drives and used to do the blends of Club and Planet Rock type of shit. They made me want to cut the rap songs I had only o - Platform 8470 (Belgium)


"My Parta Town" peaked at #23 on the Billboard Rap charts (1989.)

"Back to Wreck Shop" reached #74 on the Billboard R&B album charts (1989.)

Source: www.billboard.com

LP Discography
1987 Phanjam (Soo Def)
1988 Danger Zone, My Part of Town (Warlock)
1989 Back To Wreck Shop (Warlock)
1991 Still Dangerous (Warlock)



For Hip-Hop purists, scholars and Philly natives of the first Golden Age, Tuff Crew fully epitomizes Philly's civic pride. The crew consisted of Ice Dog, L.A. Kid, DJ Too Tuff, Tone Love, and Monty G, repping all parts of the city to create Philly's first rap supergroup. First appearing on the scene on the Soo Deff Records EP "Phanjam," alongside some other regional acts such as Camden, New Jersey's Krown Rulers, and accompanied by production from Ced Gee, they made local noise playing block parties in and at spots like the legendary After Midnight nightclub. However, they didn't really break until the spring of 1988, when they released their first LP, Dangerzone, on Warlock Records, and their first single, "My Part of Town" b/w "Detonator." "My Part of Town" became a citywide anthem, with its opening guitar riff (the Blackbyrds' "Street Games"), up-tempo beat, and 808 overload. All summer in the city, this song could be heard playing in almost every car on the street, with booming kicks preceding any vehicle for blocks. With bass like that, no wonder Miami was also a big market for the Tuff Crew. To this day, in Philly, by dropping that instantly recognizable guitar chord, it's the equivilent of throwing gasoline on the fire. The rugged beat, coupled with the assault of some of the best lyricists of the time, is heightened by Too Tuff, one of the best unheralded DJs of the time. His lightning-fast cuts of Kurtis Blow's "so damn tough" inspired every DJ from up and down the Delaware River. Flip the record over for one of the best Dj cuts of all time, "Detonator." Again, Too Tuff "drops the bomb" in this workout of Technics wizardry. It's a shame that Too Tuff's name doesn't get mentioned as much as it should alongside the laundry list of Philly's legendary DJs. Truly classic material. --Cosmo Baker, Waxpoetics