Tyrone ‘Fly Ty’ Williams is still cold chillin’!

by Shahid M. Allah

[Intro: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan] “So out of the mercy of Allah, And the law, written in our nature, We call an individual into existence, And when that individual come(s),

I make no apologies for what I’m about to say …”

[Verse: Big Daddy Kane] “Rough, rugged and real, you’re on standstill, To obey okay so let the man build, Words of rapture that you have to capture …”

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When Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack on WBLS (107.5 FM) sounded the trumpet over the airwaves like this in the 1980s it caught millions of people’s attention, especially since this particular Big Daddy Kane song “Young, Gifted and Black” started with fiery words from a speech excerpt by Minister Farrakhan.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Cold Chillin’ Records and its Juice Crew All-Stars are world-renowned in hip-hop culture. The Juice Crew All-Stars consisted of Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, the late Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante, Master Ace, Marley Marl, MC Shan and Craig G. Its members would engage in rap battles with other hip-hop artists from their rivals at the time, Boogie Down Productions. BDP consisted of KRS-1, the late DJ Scott LaRock and D Nice.

So, when MC Shan released “The Bridge” in the 1980’s, KRS-1 responded with “The Bridge Is Over.” These epic rap battles helped to make hip-hop as glorious as it is today as the art form continues to celebrate its 50th anniversary. 

Tyrone “Fly Ty” Williams is the co-founder of Cold Chillin’ Records and co-founder of Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack, along with John “Mr. Magic” Rivas, which used to air on WBLS in New York and helped bring rap music to the masses.

This writer was blessed to sit down and interview Cold Chillin’ co-founder Tyrone ‘Fly Ty’ Williams at the Howard University Homecoming Bison Honors Awards Dinner and Royal Blue Gala, held October 21. ‘Fly Ty’ is an alumnus of Howard University, an HBCU, and received an award at this year’s gathering.  During our interview, he talked about some of his experiences in hip-hop. Below are edited excerpts from portions of that interview.   

Shahid M. Allah (SMA): You say something very significant. You said 1971 was your first exposure to the culture. … Now, I know you are a hip-hop pioneer. You hear the stories out there that ’73 wasn’t the beginning …

Tyrone ‘Fly Ty’ Williams (FTW): Hip-hop, my first taste of it, I was 14 in 1971, when they started having parties outside in the park. That was something we (had) never seen before! But, all of a sudden technology … because they started making turntables separate from the whole hi-fi. Once they separated it, kids are ingenious. That was my first taste to anything close to hip-hop, jams in the park!  … I remember Albany Projects, we had parties in our community center, too! Hip-hop is a culture that was started by young people in the city of New York, not any particular borough. Just the city of New York. Anybody I can name in Brooklyn, somebody in Harlem can name somebody else. It spread like wildfire! It didn’t take long for everybody to be doing it! 

SMA: Speak a little bit about … for the brothers who would aspire to be in hip-hop, but their funds are a little short. Could you speak to that?

FTW: I wanna say that when I got in hip-hop money wasn’t even a part of my attitude, you know. Me and Mr. Magic … the only reason we thought of money was to get the $50 to pay for airtime. Money is a tool. It’s gonna come. Listen, life has never been easy. Langston Hughes wrote a poem, “Mother To Son.” Basically, it says, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair …” Life is hard … So, I worked for years, sometimes I shed tears. I said my prayers. Been through hard times, even worked part-time in a Key Food store, sweeping floors ‘til dawn. See, … I was sort of a porter, taking the next man’s order for lousy quarters! Or my manpower for four bucks an hour. Work so hard I fell asleep in the shower! Shoes was scuffed when the road gets rough! So, I rocked it ‘cause my pockets wasn’t stuffed enough! The road ain’t yellow! And, there ain’t no witches! My name is Fly Ty! And, that’s the road to riches!”

SMH: So, you mentioned an affiliation with Def Jam. When was that started?

FTW: That was in 1984 when WBLS told us to stop playing rap. There’s a significant period from August of 1984 to February of ’85. There’s a slowdown in everything in rap wherein the stations were trying not to let us play it. The fans are just trying to find where we are. During that period of time there was no money being made by me, Russell (Simmons) or Andre (Harrell). Russell was a promoter, alright … Andre was an account executive. He was also in a rap group called Jekyll and Hyde. So, there was no money during that time. But when February came everything exploded. The Roxanne phase blew up in America. It (rap) was everywhere all at once! And Roxanne Shante … she was officially the Roxanne.  And that opened up doors for all other rap arenas again. Run DMC, Whodini, the Fat Boys, all of them.

SMA: When did you meet Mr. Magic?

FTW: I knew “Magic” from junior high school. We used to call him “Speedy.” He played basketball and he was quick, so, he got the name “Speedy.” So, I knew him since I was 12. He was a year older than me.

SMA: What’s the name of your youth organization that you talked about at tonight’s awards dinner?

FTW: Brooklyn United. We used to be called Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band. If you google “Brooklyn United” it’ll give you the website and everything. [Instagram/IG: @bkunitedmb; Facebook: Brooklyn United Music and Arts Program].

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