Two days before the already renowned 20th anniversary re-union of the Stretch Armstrong Show hosted by Bobbito aired, Bob was kind enough to take some time out of his crazy busy schedule to answer some questions and chat with me via rotary connection steez telephone call.
Since leaving WKCR, Bobbito has moved on in major ways. He dj’s internationally, has another label called Ãlala Records, Bounce Mag, and still spins at the local NY spots on the reg, amongst many other things. It’s so great to see that a good cat like Bob is still able to maintain and even move forward on a consistent basis. Just like the show brought us the raw every single time, KBL still brings it as often and as intense as ever.
Read the condensed version of the interview, by clicking on the “read more” button. And make sure you click on some of the links as you get deeper into the interview as it makes for a better “reading experience”. Heh.
And here’s the audio.
October 19th, 2010 - The T.R.O.Y. Blog Interview With Bobbito Garcia:
Bobbito: Yeah, I mean he was okay, I donâ€™t remember it being like crazy nice. It was right up there at St. Nicholas projects over on 130th and 7th ave., which wasnâ€™t his block, he was from 139th. But nah, we were just in the park shooting around, it wasnâ€™t anything too, too intense.
V: Alright, cool, cool. You know weâ€™re seeing a lot of the demos you broke back then, you know theyâ€™re still sought after and some are even getting pressed up. Constant Deviants, O.C. demos just came out, couple of months ago, Shadez of Brooklyn, Â Godfather Don keeps cominâ€™ out with unreleased joints. You ever think about putting any more of the demos you got out on vinyl? Likeâ€¦
B: Nah, I mean, the whole premise of Fondle â€˜Em Records was based on the demos that I had from the radio show. A brother named Rich King [who was doing distribution at Â Big Daddy, which was out in Jersey]Â was an avid listener of the show. And so he knew I had Cenobites demo, which wasnâ€™t even a demo, it was a promo. Cenobites, which was originally Kool Keith, Godfather Don and myself,Â were originally all promos for me and Stretchâ€™s show. And they expressly said, “Yo we never want these to come out, this is just for you and Stretch and for the listeners.” Like on some clandestine type shit. And then Rich was like, “Yo Bob, ya gotta share this with the world!” You know, back then, you gotta remember that there was no internetÂ and not everybody caught tapes. And me and Stretch were bastardsÂ cause we used to love to play things like once and just let the listeners like clamor for them for months. Like, “yo, please play that again, I didnâ€™t catch it, my boyâ€™s got it on tapeâ€¦”
V: [Laughing] Yeah, I remember that well.
B: Yeah, so anyway, it was a big conversation with Don and Keith to finally convince them to press it up on vinyl and so that was the beginning of Fondle â€˜Em. And then Juggaknots was my second release, that was the demo, they had some interest from Atlantic Records at one point, East West label but that didnâ€™t go anywhere so Fondle â€˜Em quickly became that outlet for dope demos to the station, and then onto vinyl and my label. But ya know, [I]also put out Cageâ€™s first release, I put out MF Doomâ€™s first release, heâ€™s been [doing] very well. I did the Megahurtz crew, which was RJD2, who had a decent career with Definitive Juxâ€¦ Copywrite andÂ Camu , rest in peace. I was happy with a lot of the releases that I did there.
B: But yeah, I have a label now called Ãlala.Â A with an accent, and then L â€“ A â€“ L â€“ A records. Distributed by Fat Beats. I put out four seven inches so far, theyâ€™re all available at FatBeats.com online and you know, you can find â€˜em in record shops around the world.
V: Thatâ€™s cool.
B: What Iâ€™m doinâ€™ now is like jazz and African and Latin music and soul music and I put out a hip hop record too, by Blitz the Ambassador. But as far as the demos from back then, that was like an era that ended and Iâ€™m leaving it there. Another thing I did was Farewell Fondle â€˜Em. With EL-P, whoâ€™s my man, from Company Flow, but he had his own label Definitive Jux. He was like, “Yo Bob, Iâ€™d like to put out a compilation of..” Since he know I was deading the label in 2001 and we did a nice joint with a couple of unreleased demos and a couple of freestyles from the radio show and I told EL back then, I was like, “Iâ€™m never gonna release another Fondle â€˜Em record, this is it, Iâ€™ll give you my word, weâ€™re sayinâ€™ farewell Fondle â€˜Em“. And a nice collaboration with two powerful indie labels of the 90′s, Def Jux and mine and ya know I kept my word, I never put out anything else.
B: But Siah & Yeshua DapoED wanted to put back out their EP and MF DOOM has licensed his Operation Doomsday album that we put out together on other labels so itâ€™s been nice to see that music stay alive, but thatâ€™s completely up to the artist.
V: The Cenobites, there was a demo: â€œâ€¦your time is now, suckas be on, give â€˜em some time, suckas be goneâ€¦â€, you remember that joint?
B: I donâ€™t.
V: Aw, you played it and I was gonna ask if that was a lost Cenobites joint.
B: Hah. Yeah I donâ€™t know, I get emails at least once every week, two weeks like, “yo Bob, you and Stretch played this songÂ at like three four on April [dadada night]..”. You know how many records we played in twelve years? Well Stretch and I were together for eight years and then I stayed on until 2002, you know how many records were played?Â You know how many shitty demos, that like barely had any label information, or group information, you know? [Laughing].Â You know how many white label test pressings we played?
V: Yeah, no doubt.
B: When I played Wu-Tang in December of 1992, there wasnâ€™t even any writing on it.Â It was just a blank test record. They didnâ€™t even write out of courtesy, like Wu-Tang Clang. I didnâ€™t even know what I was playinâ€™, people were callinâ€™ up the show like, “Yo, what was that?” I donâ€™t know. [Laughing]
V: [Laughing] Ah man, … J-Treds, “Recognize” and “Peace of Mind”â€¦Â I think you remember J-Treds, the Peace of Mind demo. There was two versions. One had more of a hook["..through tough times and hardships, I'm lost in the depths of reality.."]. Do you remember if they were strictly demos or if one was on a white label [or test press]?
B: You got me on that yo.
V: Okay. No doubt.
B: I have no idea. I know I put out a J-Treds 12 inch on Fondle â€˜Em. ["Make It Happen"]I know he was part of Indelible MCs and thatâ€™s my man. J was more my man than anything. Like, that was my homeboy,Â you know, heâ€™d been there for me. Like years before he started rhyminâ€™.
V: I never knew that.
B: So me and him had a good repoire but I canâ€™t, I mean, props to you if you know thereâ€™s a difference between the two versions because thatâ€™s like way over my head.
V: [Laughing.] Alright, yeah because people were asking if the one was Â official or on a white label or test pressing.
So you still dig in the crates?
B: Yeah, Iâ€™m one of the few DJs in the world that still strictly plays vinyl.Â And even in my home, I probably play like 90% vinyl. You know, just in terms of listening pleasure while Iâ€™m eating or entertaining folks or whatever.
B: Iâ€™m also a cat that, and props to all of you online that are downloading and digitizing and dadada, but if I listen to an old show of me and Stretch, I like to listen to it on cassette yo, like straight up.Â Like, this is how we recorded it, this is how I used to listen to it back then, this is how I wanna still remember it.Â But itâ€™s nice, Iâ€™m happy to see that thereâ€™s a whole new generation preserving what we did. Iâ€™m sort of amazed by the attention that the Big L / Jay-Z freestyle has gotten in the last fifteen years. Obviously could not have predicted that because who knew that L would pass away, who knew that Jay would become like the ridiculously powerful force in the music industry, period, just even beyond rap. You know?
B: So I think that for those two reasons and on top of the fact that the verses were fire and Stretch played the lovely instrumental. But thereâ€™s no way we couldâ€™ve you known. People ask me like, “yo, did you know?” Come on dude, you know how many nights we had that were epic?Â That just as well couldâ€™ve been as revered, you know?
V: Yep. Is there any favorite overlooked nights or artists that came up?
B: Oh, thereâ€™s a bajillion of them, I mean, you know?Â Lord Finesse came up with the SP.
V: Ah, that was great.
B: And [Lord Finesse and] KRS freestyled together[also Supernatural]. Ya know, Large Professor brought up the SP and him, Kool Keith, O.C., Pharaohe Monch and Prince Po all rhymed together.Â Come on B, thatâ€™s crazy shit you know? Stretch played a beat that he made and Nas rhymed off the top of his head, which nobody knew he could doâ€¦Â That was in â€™93, months before Illmatic came out, which was the most anticipated album of the decade.Â You know, hip hop wise, lyrics wise, there was a lot of phenomenal, phenomenal freestyles on our show, like dudes just blacking out, ya know.Â And I can remember Kurious Jorge up there with Souls of Mischief, rhyminâ€™ for like 40 minutes. All off the top of the head, going back and forth.Â The Craig G, Supernat battle, me and Stretch created that, you know?
B: And itâ€™s just so many amazing moments. Really one time moments because people, we created such a standard for freestyling that people really came to our show prepared.Â Focused, like, yo, I gotta rock this, like of any show in the world, this is the one that really really has hounded the idea of cats rhyming off the top of the head. Or like cats kickinâ€™ original verses that wonâ€™t appear on their album, you know? So we gave our listeners plenty of experiences like that. One time experiences and thatâ€™s what made the show special.
B: I got a whole box, I gotta couple of boxes. Like every tape that I made for over the twelve yearsâ€¦and it used to be organized chronologically, but then I moved and you know, tapes have shifted. So sometimes Iâ€™ll have an idea of like oh, I wanna play this and then it takes a minute to find it.
V: Yeah, of course.
B: But thereâ€™s a Big L documentary being made by one of his boys from 139th street, I forget his name. Real cool dude and he came over to my crib last year and I went through all my tapes and man, there were like, I didnâ€™t even realize, L had came up to the show like 5, 6 times.Â And so the verses that he did with Jay was crazy but to me that wasnâ€™t even his best performance Bâ€¦Â He had other nights that he came up that were like, he crushed. There was a night he came up with Killa Kam and Murda Mase.Â Who became Camâ€™Ron and Ma$e, again, huge forces in the industry. Thereâ€™s a part of a crew called 8 Iz Enuff, Children of the Cornâ€¦Â And that was a great night for L, too. I mean L had a lotta nights but so anyway, I gave the director like all the freestyles, like yo, here, bong.Â Do with this what you can, you know.Â And I donâ€™t just do that for anybody because that takes a minute of research.
B: So when people email me like, “Yo Bob, what was the name of this?”… because you know they send me MP3s. Iâ€™m like yo, for me to research this, it would be a job in and of itself. Ya know soâ€¦Â I canâ€™t always honor [that], I mean, I feel bad ya know, because I wish I could just have the mad technical memory and be like, yeah, dadada, boom.
V: [Laughing.] Well you a busy cat man, you always DJinâ€™, around the world, magazines, you doinâ€™ it up man, thatâ€™s great. When the show was going towards the end in the 98, pause, it seemed like the listeners, some of them sensed it going down, some didnâ€™t. Was there any specific things just besides the difference in the ways you were going with the shows or anything like that that caused the departing?
B: The end of me and Stretch, that era, I think couldâ€™ve been predicted because you know it wasnâ€™t so much… the show ending was a reflection of what was going on in hip hop as well. You know, like the era of the 90′s for music sort of peaked very early on in the decade. Creatively and lyrically and musically.Â And then you had this ripple that kept on going, but truly, if you think about the best albums of that decade, most of them were made before 1995.Â Truth be told, itâ€™s not a dis towards anybody who came out after 95, but the height of what we did was probably â€™92 / â€™93. That was the height of our show and you know, Stretch moved on, I eventually moved on and thatâ€™s just the rhythm of life.Â And hip hop has moved on too, itâ€™s got all these different forms and still strong in pockets and itâ€™s really weak and wack in other pockets.Â It just is what it is, you know? Which has continued to flow in a rhythm. I stopped doing the show in 2002 because I couldnâ€™t find 4 hours worth of good music on a weekly basis. And that wasnâ€™t me being old and grumpy, that was just me being honest and critical. There were years and years of me and Stretch doing the show where weâ€™d leave the studio at 5AM and be like, “Damn yo, we didnâ€™t play this, we didnâ€™t play that, we didnâ€™t play this.” It was like a shitload of records that werenâ€™t getting played that couldâ€™ve gotten played more. I mean and witnessed the fact that we would play joints once or maybe twice and then never play them again sometimes because there WERE that many good records.
B: So when I stopped in 2002 and when Stretch left in 98, these are reflections of what was available. People got to remember we were doing the show on a volunteer basis.Â So itâ€™s difficult when me and Sear used to, in the final couple of months, we would do like two hours of live phone calls because weâ€™d only play like two hours of music that was actually really good sometimes.
V: Yeah, you didnâ€™t want the show to turn to garbage, so it was better goinâ€™ out than, you know…
B: Yeah and you know I wanna say props to Sucio Smash, â€˜cause he used to intern for me, right? And then when I retired he took the show and you know he kept it going.Â I went up there a number of times over the 8 years that he was on and Iâ€™d be like, yo that record is dope because it was cool, he did the best that he could do with what was available.Â He created a whole new community of listeners and then bridged that with some of the older listeners that used to listen to me and Stretch so I definitely gotta show love to Sucio Smash and Timm See and that whole Squeeze radio crew.
V: No doubt. So, that showâ€™s really done? That was really the last show last week?
B: Um, you know, heâ€™s petitioning to keep the show alive, heâ€™s got like a bunch of listeners that write the station management and stuff so ya know maybe the book isnâ€™t closed, who knows?
V: Alright, cool.
B: You know, but if it is, it is, so I had a really, he calls me Uncle,
me and him have a very close bond and I told him I was like yo, if the show is done then move on. You know, like you did a wonderful eight years and got a great opportunity to share music with people around the world…Â And you created a following because of it but, truthfully, we all got over. Stretch went to Columbia University for like one semester.
B: You know? Literally. And we were on that station for like what twelve years, twenty years?Â If you include Sucio. And none of us were students.Â Now the station did well too because we created such a buzz and we always raised a lot of money once a year for the fundraiser and stuff soâ€¦ we helped that station as well. And we were able to have various Columbia students intern for us, some of whom have you know, Sue Harraculdoon, for example. She went on to work for the music industry, she worked for Converse, she did publicity for my book, she did very well for herself so you know, I feel like we played a hand in that.
Thanks to Bobbito for taking time to speak with us and for everything that he and Stretch have done through the years for Hip Hop. Thanks to TheBigSleep for transcribing the entire interview. Thanks to TheBigSleep and Aleph for adding on some questions. Stay alert as we have more Stretch And Bobbito Show related material coming soon. In the meantime, you can stay up to date by joining the TROY forum and adding on to the “Mapping Out The Stretch And Bobbito History” thread. You can also take a look at what we have so far, that many people have contributed to and TheBigSleep has been systematically plotting out here at the Stretch And Bobbito blog. And of course, Nes over at dirtywaters always stays dropping tapes.
Again, if you have any tapes and want to help out in completing this show’s historical archive but don’t have the means to digitize, we will help you out with that and return your tapes.