by RiotSound contributing writer Todd Davis
The man born Curtis Fisher, or as he is professionally known, Grandmaster Caz, is a Bronx, New York native, who was and very much still is, an integral part of Hip-Hop culture. Caz first became interested in the art of DJing after witnessing Kool Herc, another icon, play at a party way back in 1974. From there, Fisher adopted his now famous moniker and eventually teamed up with Jerry Dee Lewis, a.k.a. JDL, forming a duo called The Notorious Two. Caz soon began working his rhyme schemes into his DJ sets and historically is known as the first ever rap artist to do so. By ’78 Caz had parted ways with JDL and linked up with Whipper Whip and Dot-A-Rock. The trio began calling themselves The Mighty Force. The following year DJ Charlie Chase, of the legendary Cold Crush Brothers, asked Caz to help in auditioning MCs for his collective, which in retrospect was really only a slick ploy to trick Caz into joining Cold Crush. It worked, and Caz along with his former group-mates JDL, Whipper Whip and Dot-A-Rock all became “official” members of The Cold Crush Brothers. When Whipper Whip and Dot-A-Rock left the fold to enter into another crew, The Fantastic Five, the remaining members of Cold Crush continued on.
Caz, the most lyrically gifted of the bunch, would eventually become responsible for penning former Cold Crush manager Big Bank Hank’s verse on the The Sugarhill Gang’s hit ”Rapper’s Delight”, the first Hip-Hop single ever to land in the Top 40 charts; although in a notorious turn of Hip-Hop history, Caz would never receive any credit or compensation for his work. Later, in 1982, The Cold Crush Brothers were featured in the groundbreaking movie Wild Style as well as its accompanying soundtrack, with Caz providing the theme song. The year 2000 finally saw the prolific MC addressing the controversial “Rapper’s Delight” situation on his solo single “MC Delight”. Fast forward nearly eight years as we sit down for a tête-à-tête with the one, the only, Grandmaster Caz!
RIOTSOUND.COM: It’s an honor to speak with a living legend such as yourself – my hat is definitely off to you – for starters though, why have you remained absent from music for so long?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: I may have been absent from the rap industry, but have continued to work and perform throughout the years. I have been active in the Hip-Hop culture continually since 1974, non stop.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What are some of the things that you’ve been working on?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: I am constantly working on new material, and have enough songs stored to rival Tupac. I’ve done collaborations with Hip-Hop artists, as well as other entertainers. I DJ as well as MC and have worked with everyone from Chubby Checker to Moby!
RIOTSOUND.COM: What’s been the tone and feel of some of your most recent works?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Different projects call for different feels. The song I did with Moby is more dance orientated, while my collaborations with my tag-team partner in rhyme Mele Mel [of The Furious Five] are pure Hip-Hop MC fire. My theme song for [the Hip-Hop inspired clothing brand] Sedgwick & Cedar is a tribute to the birthplace of Hip-Hop and its pioneers, while my own solo album will be filled with truths and some surprising topics.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Over the course of time, how have you seen yourself evolve as an artist?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: I feel everything I do is better than the last thing. For me to be at the level of excellence that I’m at, at this age, is phenomenal, and I challenge some of these contemporary rap artists to be as good for half as long. Most of my projects represent me, my essence and the continuance of my mission – to live and die Hip-Hop!
RIOTSOUND.COM: Sadly enough, a lot of today’s music connoisseurs are unfamiliar with your legacy; can you give them a much needed history lesson?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: I’ve loved and felt music for as long as I can remember. A great song can change your life if you hear it right. When I was in junior high I had a singing group and we would do shows at our high school. After hearing of DJ Kool Herc and later witnessing a Herculord party, I strapped on my B-Boy sneakers and dove head first into the first stages of Hip-Hop.
RIOTSOUND.COM: How did you first come to the attention of DJ Charlie Chase and eventually become a key member of the world renowned Cold Crush Brothers?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: I met Charlie at a block party while he was DJing with these Spanish guys. He was the only one playing Hip-Hop so I would MC when he got on and we became friends. When both of our groups were in transition Charlie recruited me for The Cold Crush Brothers.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Where did your moniker originate from?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Grandmaster is my title, and it’s a standard of excellence; Caz is short for Casanova.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Looking back on it, what would you say that you attribute your longevity to?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: The key to my longevity is me. I don’t quit, I don’t give up and I don’t stop. I’m always in the mix and when you see me you can’t deny me. I also love what I do. I love Hip-Hop and almost everything about it. I helped create it and mold it and set the standards for what it is. Damn right I’m gonna do it till I die! As far as Hip-Hop goes, I’m James Brown baby!
RIOTSOUND.COM: A lot of heads these days might refer to you as being “old school” – as far as those younger fans go, how would you describe what it is that you do?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: I would say it’s Hip-Hop, plain and simple, beats & rhymes!
RIOTSOUND.COM: When you sit down to pen your rhymes, what’s going through your mind?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: My inspiration comes from within. I want to be better, more than the average dude, so I go beyond the norm. I set the bar high so I have to live up to it, and truthfully, the worst thing I’ve ever written is better than most people’s best, so I just try to keep up with [myself].
RIOTSOUND.COM: It is my understanding that you also have some flourishing business ventures outside of music.
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Outside of music, I’m part of a clothing brand [that’s] Hip-Hop inspired called Sedgwick & Cedar. [I’m also] looking to do TV and movies and I’m writing a book about my life in Hip-Hop. After that, I’d like to tour the country’s colleges and lecture.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Is Hip-Hop really dead?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Hip-Hop music or rap music? Hip-Hop is never just music, and rap music as an industry needs an enema! It lacks balance and perpetuates negative stereotypes without promoting positive ones.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What would the masses be most surprised to know about you??
GRANDMASTER CAZ: That I’m a person with family, friends and fans who give me the incentives to wake up everyday and be the best DJ / MC on the planet.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What’s a typical day like in the life of Grandmaster Caz?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Being daddy to my wife and kids, playing video games, writing and learning my computer.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Your biggest Hip-Hop moment?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Too many to name…maybe, WILDSTYLE!
RIOTSOUND.COM: As of now, what do your future plans entail?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: [I see myself] as an executive at a major corporation – [that’s all] MINE!
RIOTSOUND.COM: So what’s next on your agenda?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Shooting a video for Filthee a.k.a. Brickman Raw with Ice T, for his new single I penned, “Ayayaya” [I’m also] in the studio with Easy Moe Bee and Mele Mel turning coal into diamonds – [it’s] coming soon.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You mentioned earlier about touring, what can one expect from a Grandmaster Caz performance?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: My show is entertaining and educational. My voice is crispy and [the] energy is off the hook! It’s funny, and very real, and I keep the crowd involved – gotta see it for your-self.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you still remain in touch with your friends and former group-mates from The Cold Crush Brothers? If so, will you all ever “officially” reunite for either another project, tour or hopefully both?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Yes I do. We recently performed together at Wild Style’s 25th Anniversary concert in Central Park and [we] plan to perform at the Zulu Anniversary in November with Big Daddy Kane standing in for JDL – history baby!
RIOTSOUND.COM: Any message you want to relay to the readers of RiotSound.com?
GRANDMASTER CAZ: Thanks for the love and support and remember where it all began and who made it possible. Check out Sedgwick & Cedar at www.SC73.com and Hush Tours, the original Hip-Hop cultural sightseeing tour, at www.HushTours.com. PEACE!
For more news and info on Grandmaster Caz stay tuned to www.MySpace.com/GrandmasterCaz and www.ColdCrushBrothers.com