Filmed in ’97, released in ’98. Although this video has been available online for some time, both streaming and for download, the downloadable version has until now, been incomplete. (It’s also up on YouTube in four parts.)
“How long did you film for Zoo York’s Mixtape?”
“That’s a very good question. I would just hang out with R.B. from time to time. It wasn’t like we were really filming for anything in particular. By the time those guys were putting together Mixtape, I was surprised that I even had enough footage to have a full part. So basically, I have no clue.” ~ (Skater) Jeff Pang
“Did you guys get to pick which song you skated to?”
“I didn’t. I didn’t see the video until it was all finished. I definitely wouldn’t have chosen any music with lyrics talking about child molesting their little sister? But back in those days I was ‘bad ass’ and was like ‘who gives a shit anyway’.” ~ (Skater) Jeff Pang
â€œHow did you come up with Mixtapeâ€™s concept?â€
â€œIt sort of happened organically. And probably not the way you expect. It goes like this. My best friend (and original Shut Posse Skater) Beasley and myself, threw these wildly popular hip hop parties from 1989 â€“ 1991 called Trip. We threw them at this huge night club in New Yorkâ€™s Meat Market called Mars. We had a lot of amazing DJs. Our main DJ was Duke of Denmark and we got the Allmighty KG (from the Cold Crush Brothers) to be our MC. It was an amazing time. Our back up DJ was Clark Kent and we also broke a few new kids who had never DJed before. Most notably, Moby. Ask him. I gave him his first gig. Another DJ was my good friend Adrian Bartos, who DJed under the name Adrian B. But that name sucked.
Adrian was going to Columbia University and got himself a late ight radio spot out of Columbiaâ€™s radio station WKCR. He got our other friend, Bobbito Garcia, to host. But his name still sucked and he begged me to come up with a name for him. Adrian was a tall and skinny cat and everyone was calling him DJ Skinny Bones. He hated that! So Grand Poobah [Maxwell] just had that song out â€˜like Stretch Armstrong I goâ€¦on and on and on and onâ€™. And stretch is American slang for skinny so I was like â€˜okay, youâ€™re DJ Stretch Armstrong. And you can cut your name off a recordâ€™. So that was it. Adrian became Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito the barber (who actually used to cut hair).
I was going to the SVA Film Program at the time and had access to all these video cameras. So, I would go up to the radio show to hang out anyway, so I just started to bring my camera. And poof! Before you know it I had hours and hours of footage of everyone rapping. I lost a lot of it as well. Which is a loss. But, regardless, I still had about four tapes worth of freestyles and mayhem up at the station. And there it sat for years.
By the time we got Zoo up and running and weâ€™re in need of a video, the soundtrack was obviously going to be hip hop. And I really thought the world should get to see some of this amazing footage. Busta Rhymes debut, Ghost and Meth. I mean, these were important moments in New York hip hop and I wanted to share them.
Andy Howell already did the Sky Pager video. The video cassette box was designed to look like a pager (this was before cell phones) but I really liked the marketing idea, so I said â€˜letâ€™s make the video tape into a huge cassette tape and make a hip hop mixtape of our skaters over my Stretch Armstrong footageâ€™. And there it was. I think we may have shot Diamond D specifically for the Mixtape I video, but other than that it was all older footage. I think I even date the footage if you watch Mixtape again.â€ ~ Eli Gesner (originally printed in Kingpin Magazine)
â€œWhoâ€™s the DJ in the intro and where did the intro take place?â€
â€œNone other than the legendary Roc Raida, 1995 DMC World Champion and member of the X-ecutioners. We wanted a DMC champ to mix a routine for the opening and Roc was kind enough to do a little acting for us. R.B. Umali and myself shot it at his house in the South Bronx. That was specifically done for the videoâ€¦â€ ~ Eli Gesner (originally printed in Kingpin Magazine)
â€œDid you know a lot of these dudes beforehand?â€
â€œStretch and Bobbito are like family to me. I grew up with them. And the rappers I all sort of know from around New York City. I still have more crazy footage we never used, liked, I have Large Professor writing and then performing his rap from Live at the Bar-B-Cue for the first time ever. I mean, in hip hop, Live at the Bar-B-Cue is one of the most important songs ever and I have the creator of the song creating his rhyme. Itâ€™s important. But for the Mixtape video it was too slow a rap. And the footage is kind of dark. I gave it to Stretch and Bobbito to use for their documentary.â€ ~ Eli Gesner (originally printed in Kingpin Magazine)
â€œAny particularly funny stories in the studio?â€
â€œThat footage of Busta Rhymes is literally the first time he was on air or rapped for major public consumption. I didnâ€™t know who he was. None of us did. Only Bobbito (who was working at Def Jam), Kurious Jorge [heâ€™s the super stoked guy in the red backwards cap in Mixtape, Sebâ€™s note] and some guys from A Tribe Called Quest knew him because the Leaders of the New School were shopping their demo around, but the rest of us had never even heard this guyâ€™s name. Soâ€¦everyoneâ€™s freestyling and Iâ€™m filming and then boom! This Jamaican kid in a head to toe acid wash jean suit runs in and starts screaming â€˜I wanna rhyme! I wanna rhyme! Give me some headphones! I wanna rhyme!â€™ Like a total maniac and weâ€™re all looking around at each other like â€˜who the fuck is this?â€™.
See, ninety nine percent of the rappers who would come by would be very mellow. And the show was at two a.m. so everyone, even the big rappers, would be way relaxed and here comes this nobody kicking in the door and screaming and shit. Like he was gonna go crazy if we didnâ€™t let him rhyme. So, we gave him the mic and in thirty seconds everyoneâ€™s looking at each other like â€˜who the fuck is this?â€™! I mean the whole world knows Busta Rhymes now, but watching that happen? That was just amazing. It was watching a star being born. It was mind blowing.â€ ~ Eli Gesner (originally printed in Kingpin Magazine)
â€œWas it a hard process to put the video together?â€
â€œDJ Ani Quinn and myself actually â€˜mixedâ€™ all the music together. It was a very long and complex undertaking. Everything in that film is analog. This was years before everything went digital. I donâ€™t even think thereâ€™s a Mixtape I on DVD. Just VHS.
Ani and I had to blend every segment into one another and in some cases throw other music over the original raps because the beats were too quiet or too â€˜slowâ€™. We would add high hats or shakers or keys. Something to spice it up. In other cases, the rapper could not be heard, so weâ€™d hunt down friends who had the audio recorded on cassette tape and then have to manually dub it over the video footage. It was a lot of work.
Anyone who is doing shit like this today and thinks theyâ€™re so fresh and theyâ€™re suckers. Everythingâ€™s digital and itâ€™s all synched right off the bat. Everything we did would start drifting out of synch after ten seconds. Ani would be there tapping records while I was force spinning cassette tapes and recording it all in one take! Thatâ€™s not a lie. The analog hacks we pulled off in one giant seamless mix for an hour straight in super human. Iâ€™m really proud of all that.â€ ~ Eli Gesner (originally printed in Kingpin Magazine)
â€œIn retrospect, what was the best skater / freestyle combo in your opinion?â€
â€œI love Jeff Pang over Fat Joe. That shit is like the most official grimey New York rah rah ever. Itâ€™s so New York that I think only new York kids get it. Thatâ€™s just two New York kings shutting shit down. I suppose everyone gets psyched on Harold Hunter and Meth and it is the power combo, but I set it up like that. That was the N.Y.C. celebrity power move. Like, we all knew from the jump that that was the part everyone would shit themselves over.
â€œAny chance to ever see Mixtape released on DVD some day?â€
â€œZooâ€™s lawyers will never let it get re-released. Itâ€™s a licensing nightmare. We went out and got all the rappers and skaters and everyone to give us the okay to use them, but then our lawyers were like â€˜what about the music everyone is rapping over?â€™. I mean, we donâ€™t even know what half that stuff is.
Part of the reason why itâ€™s so hard to find Mixtape I is that Zoo is protecting itself from lawsuits. Not that thereâ€™s any money to be made off that video. It had one VHS run over ten years ago!â€ ~ Eli Gesner (originally printed in Kingpin Magazine)
â€œWould this kind of project would be possible today?â€
â€œNo! Not with hip hop and skateboarding. But yes with something else. See, the reason why things like this are so great is that it all happened organically. No one thought any of this shit was important at the time. We just did it â€˜cause we loved it! You must follow your passion and hopefully youâ€™ll be in the right place at the right time. If you want to be a photo journalist? Easy. Find a war and go to the front line. Youâ€™ll get pictures of shit blowing up and people dying. This is sort of the same thing but that the war just formed around us and I was there to film it.
Also, I happened to skateboard and I was fortunate enough to say â€˜hey, Iâ€™m going to put my passions together and call it Zoo Yorkâ€™. So, something like this will happen again, you just need to be in the middle of whatâ€™s happening. And I donâ€™t know what that is.
Maybe my kids will really get into Downhill Mixed Martial Arts and then start listening to Techno Cowboy Music and mix it together and poof! Mixtape III! Thereâ€™s no way to tell. You just have to find what you like and contribute to it. Be a part of it. Get involved.
And save your shit! This would be a way more interesting interview if I saved half the shit I lost or got rid of. I had Jay-Z and Big L rapping together as a duet before Big L was killed. If Big L was never killed, it would have been a duet, instead, todayâ€™s kids only know Jay-Z. And I lost that tape. Hate me now!â€ ~ Eli Gesner (originally printed in Kingpin Magazine
Peace to Kingpin Magazine, A Visual Sound, Zoo York, the Stretch & Bobbito site, the T.R.O.Y. forums and veteran member bad-cop for the new, fuller rip.
—The Big Sleep