No Country For Old Men: The Importance Of DJ Hollywood And Eddie Cheba

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At the same time Grandmaster Flash and The 3 Emcees, (Keith Cowboy, Mele Mel and The Kidd Creole) were putting it down at park jams in the South Bronx, Harlem’s own DJ Hollywood had already begun making a name all over the city.

He is New York’s first DJ who could rap simultaneously to the Disco tunes he spun. He has garnered a huge following with a clientele that allowed him to do as many as three appearances in one night. Many will tell you it is Hollywood that they heard first not only to rhyme, but also sing to the records he would spin.

Now, to ensure that the party started popping as soon as Hollywood walked into the establishment, the man traveled with his own entourage of around eight people. Enter The Corporation.

Kareem was Hollywood’s personal OJ driver who rode around blasting these Hollywood tapes in his fabulous White on White Oldsmobile 98 that had this blaring sound system. This group soon began to take on its own persona. The Corporation complimented everything that Hollywood did. They were his own personal party starters.

Captain Jack, LTD (Loves To Dance) Mommaship and the rest of The Corporation knew Hollywood’s call and response routine almost better than Wood. For example, LTD would be dancing and just scream outta no where:

Holly!!!

Hollywood- What

The Whole 371 Club- “Shake Yo Wood”

Hollywood- What You Say!

Repeat. Holly!!! What, Shake yo Wood!!!!

All it took was one time and the whole club would be doing it next. When I tell you that the floor in 371 would be bouncing up and down along with the crowd, that is no exaggeration. The line to get in stretched around the building. There were easily 200 people in the club, all worked into a disco rap frenzy, courtesy of Hollywood. 

The man knew he could work that room.

Meanwhile, at the Legendary Charles Gallery on 125th Street, another Rapping DJ was also making the room shake. Eddie Cheba was duplicating Hollywood’s success.

My idol. Mr. Eddie Cheba.

You’d be remiss without mentioning this man when you talk about the greats of the formative era. Eddie Cheba rose to prominence in a very crowded field at a time when your name meant something.

Hollywood, Luv Bug Starski and Reggie Wells. These Cats called their own shots because they knew just by telling an audience or if people knew that they were going to be there, it was going to be a packed house. 

Mind you, this was all word of mouth.

By 1976, Eddie Cheba had moved across the bridge from Harlem to The Bronx as well. Witnessing Eddie Cheba at Club 371 on a Saturday night can best be described as a sweatfest. I’m talkin’ bout workin’ it out. 

Eddie Cheba, too, could master the room.

Eddie Cheba- Who does it sweeter?

Club 371- Cheba Cheba Cheba

I would literally stand at the door of the DJ booth and marvel. He even had his own flashlight guy, Bobby Bob Malone, positioned on top of the club’s speakers going off.

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Eddie Cheba was a Kool M#### f####. His whole playboy aura persona demands respect. The whole gang and the fine women that accompanied him. His control over a crowd. He made the whole s### seem easy. 

Out of all the great personalities who rhymed and manned the decks at the same time, Eddie Cheba was hands down one of the premier party rockers of that era.

So why aren’t two of the first people to invent rapping, crowd participation, remixing a whole song, and singing their own lyrics (for example, Ain’t No Stopping Us Now) are not considered the precursors to Hip-Hop?

They made money hand over fist at least a year before the Hip-Hop “Emcee” even moved from park jams to indoors. They have flyers that predate the majority of Hip-Hop pioneers. 

Yet when it comes to getting credit for the art form they helped to create, these two are primarily ignored and referred to as “The Disco guys” as if early Hip-Hop pioneers didn’t play Disco at their park Jams. 

Because they did. So what’s the difference?

I’ll try and explain the difference. In the early stages of Hip-Hop there was a DJ and there was an Emcee – two separate entities. 

Flash didn’t rap. The Furious 5 didn’t DJ. The Emcee is there to compliment the DJ and display superior rhyme skills while practicing crowd participation.

Hollywood and Eddie Cheba can retort: “we didn’t need the Emcee because we did all that simultaneously.”

Next, you have to consider the cadence. 

Hollywood and Eddie Cheba would pause after a rhyme, while there is no break in Mele Mel’s pattern – it is rapid fire. There is a clear difference. The Disco rappers’ cadence doesn’t work well on top of Hip-Hop beats. 

It sounded corny – trust me – some tried. There’s a reason that cadence didn’t survive and Mele Mel’s is still used to this day.

Next, Hip-Hop scholars will point out that Hollywood and Cheba didn’t play or rhyme to Hip-Hop beats, but instead played Disco. Thus the term “The Disco Guys.” 

Hollywood and Cheba were older and played to a more mature crowd that honestly turned their noses up to Hip-Hop. It was something that “kids” did.

I clearly remember Hollywood and Eddie Cheba frowning on Hip-Hop and didn’t want to be compared to that. There most certainly was no Breakdancing at Club 371 and definitely no sneakers.

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I surmise that the clear answer here is a generation gap. 

In 1976 Disco was still ruling the clubs, radio and the charts, but it was on its way out. You had our older brothers and sisters still going to 371 to hear the latest tunes from The Trammps and Donna Summer.

Where as the kid brother was in the parks with a linoleum mat practicing B-Boy moves to a new kind of music that was just beginning to bubble, because Hip-Hop was still new. It was a fad they said. 

So Hollywood and Eddie Cheba wanted nothing to do with it – at first. Eventually the two would come around, but it was after the fact. 

When Sylvia Robinson was forming The Sugarhill Gang she originally wanted Hollywood, Eddie Cheba and Luv Bug Starski, but she was rebuffed by both Hollywood and Starski. 

They didn’t see the vision.

So I believe that is why two of the greatest pioneers of the formative era are greatly under appreciated and overlooked for their contributions. Guys like Kid Capri, Ron G, Brucie B and all the mixtape DJ’s that came after owe that style to Hollywood and Eddie Cheba.

To celebrate 50 years and still not recognize Hollywood and Eddie Cheba is not a celebration. It’s a miscarriage of our history.

RIP Eddie Cheba. 

Roosevelt Dynamite Simmons

The Hip Hop Impresario

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