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'Colors' Impact Stands The Test Of Time 30 Years Later

On April 15, 1988, America would be introduced to the gang culture running rampant in Los Angeles, California through rap acts like Ice-T and NWA, who chronicled the lifestyle in song and in music videos. Many may credit gangsta rap with ushering Bloods and Crips into the mainstream and movies for playing a part, particularly the film Colors.

Classics like New Jack City, Boyz N The Hood, and Menace II Society may be the first to come to mind when listing the pivotal films that spoke to the gangster aesthetic, but Colors played a pivotal role in shedding light on the ills of the inner-city and the strained relationship between law enforcement and urban communities. Directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, Colors became a box-office success, with a cast that included Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, Leon Robinson and Mario Lopez, all of whom would go on to become future stars and major players in Hollywood.

VIBE spoke to five West Coast rappers about the impact Colors had on taking gang culture worldwide and why the film still stands the test of time thirty years later.

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Problem
What were your impressions of the movie Colors?
I knew it just looked real familiar to me, just from the look of it. I always thought though, for some reason, it definitely was told from a cop's point of view - it was a cop's vision of what gangs looked like. But then movies like Boyz N The Hood and Menace II Society come out and it's more in the form of the eye of the street's point of view. It was the first to ever really show gang culture.

Favorite character from the film?
My favorite character probably had to be the one that Damon Wayans played, the sherm head that was dancing with the fu**ing teddy bear in the mall saying "I'm fu**ing your girl, Roccet, I'm fu**ing your girl." He had that little strange voice [laughs]. But when you look at that film, it had a lot of soon-to-be A-list actors in it. Don Cheadle fu**ing played Rocket for Christ sake. You had Damon Wayans, Leon, he was in it. You had a lot of people [in it] who became larger than life.

Favorite scene from the film?
The first drive-by scene where Rocket pulls up slow motion on the Blood with the door open and he says, "What up Blood?" and then it shoots straight then shows his mama crying the next day. I always thought that shit was crazy. The other scene when Rocket and the black dude from the Mexican gang, when they end up shooting each other at the end. I think he had a jheri curl, the black Mexican dude. That shit was crazy, too, when the Crips and the Spanish had their shootout.

How accurate do you feel Colors was in depicting gang-culture in Los Angeles and California as a whole?
Again, for it being the first of its kind and then me being very young for me to analyze it, I wasn't outside to give you the play-by-play if they did it, but just from the guys I know, they had it real authentic. The crazy shit was the opening scene, like when they in the jail with the Bloods and the Crips, that shit was crazy. I was like how in the fu** did they shoot this? Right now, there's a lot of intermingling with the gangs in the hood, which is cool, you know what I'm saying? I'm not here to promote separation, but if that was really accurate, I wanna know how did they get these two [gangs] to get together like this for this? Like I said, it’s the first time, so you can't - you're not gonna get it [completely] right. I would like to see what Colors would look like today in the modern form. That movie was crazy.

What are your memories of hearing the Colors theme song by Ice-T?
I was like, "Damn, this shit is hard as hell." Ice-T was crazy. I remember the video and at the end him saying, "I don't want you to die...peace." He goes crazy and all hard the whole song and all this tough shit for five minutes and then he goes "please stop, I wan't y'all to live," that was so funny to me for some reason [laughs]. It was hard and had some menacing a** sample. I don't know what the fu** that sound is. I just know when I heard that beat, I used to be scared cause I was little, you know what I'm saying? This song means gangs, I'm scared of this shit, you know what I'm saying? This song means murder. It feels like this song was played all over the city. The funny thing is we were just watching this video the day before yesterday and tripping out like, "Damn, this video was damn near six minutes long and this ni**a was just bussin'." It damn near show the whole movie if you watch the video.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film and if so, why?
I mean, it's a classic cause it’s the first time to put gangs on the big screen. It's a classic for that reason and that's the only reason you need. That's the first movie about Bloods and Crips and gangs in Los Angeles. Thirty years later, to see it started off as that and see what it is now, that's crazy to see. 'Cause now, on some deeper sh**, that was the first time somebody monetized off of this type of situation. Now it's used as a marketing tool to explode today's big artists and a few sports people and different things. Like it's damn near cool, which is crazy, but at that time, that was damn near like a horror film. That was scary, like "what the fu** is going on."

Mistah Fab
When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
I was a kid, I can't even remember at what age I was when I saw Colors, but the West Coast is kinda split - California is three states almost. You've got Northern California, Central California and Southern California. Colors was very relevant in the culture of southern California, so outside of the world, everybody thought that California was all Bloods and Crips and where I'm from, Oakland, Bloods and Crips never existed. There's never been Bloods and Crips in the city of Oakland, so for us, it just painted L.A. as "wow bro, I ain't ever going to L.A., you can't wear anything. They be tripping over colors." Where we from, we say Blood and Cuz in the same sentence so it kinda gave us this whole stigma as kids, like "Man L.A., boy, that gang culture, they tripping. It's maini' out there, it's too crazy." The reflection of what L.A. was, we just thought it was all just gangs, kill you if you wear red, kill you if you wear blue, so that's what my perception of L.A. was as a kid growing up. Just being a young kid, not knowing until I went down there and saw the culture for itself.

Favorite character from the film?
Don Cheadle, man, Rocket. Rocket was a boss. Rocket don't smoke, Rocket don't drink, Rocket was a boss to me, man. Of course, T-Bone was hella funny, but I just think I liked Rocket. He was just the laid back lucid gangster. He was serious about his business.

Favorite scene from the film?
The high-speed, man, the high-speed was crazy. When High-Top was on the high-speed riding through the projects, but when he told, that kinda discouraged me. [The other scene from] Colors was the language and the conversation that Pac-Man had with the other cop and he told him, "Man, one day it was two bulls on the top of the hill, it was the old bull and the young bull" and he said, "dad, let's run down there and fu** one of those bulls up" and he responded to him and he said, "Let's walk down and fu** em all" and that stood out to me as I got older because it taught you a sign of patience. It taught you a sign of learning how to be mindful and be strategic in your attack. The element of surprise and how you're able to get more people when you're just slowly approaching. That always stood out to me, the commentary in that. The script was dope. It was worded very elegantly if you're able to depict those things in between and the decoding of that conversation. I always remember that part. That stood out a lot.

What are your memories of hearing the Colors theme song by Ice-T?
That was hard, I thought Ice-T was the hardest dude on earth. Like he was just hard! Like if you just listen to that, that was hard. That beat was aggressive, bro. You could hear the struggle, it was serious. It was serious man, just listening to it and listening to how dope it was.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film and if so, why?
You gotta think, at the time, I was a kid. I was only five years old when that came out so when I was able to watch it and know what it was, I was at an age where I could watch it with reasonable understanding of it. Where I was able to decipher what it was and what it really meant and then coming back to it and watching it as an adult, you even see more things to it. That was a hell of a movie, man, and I think the exploitation of the gang culture at that time, for one, the depiction of Southern L.A. gang culture, but [it showed] what it did to people. It made people wanna be involved with that culture so it was a good thing and it was a bad thing. It turned a lot of people out as well. Hollywood was used as a mechanism to get the gang culture to a higher level. If you look at a political view of it, the growth of what it did, it put it on a whole 'nother level and it traveled. It made the gang culture travel from just being a L.A. thing to all around the country and all around the world. I been in other countries where there was gang members and I was like, "Whoa, that's crazy" and Colors was the spawning of that. So Hollywood was able to use that tool as a traveling device to spread that cultural perspective to the rest of the world. And to anybody that's ever lost family and friends to the horrific details of gang-banging, it's different, man, it's crazy. It's always a good and it's always a bad, you always gotta take the perception of how you look at things.

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Murs
When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
My mother wouldn’t let me see it. I was living in Lynwood, CA. At the time and was already “cuzzing” her and idolizing the older Crips in our neighborhood. She said she wasn’t going allow us to see anything glorifying the violence we were witnessing daily.

How accurate do you feel Colors was in depicting gang-culture in Los Angeles and California as a whole?
I didn’t get to see it 'til 2000. And to me it was unremarkable, I didn’t finish it.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film and if so, why?
Colors, at best, was another classic ploy by the American government to further the chaos, violence and division in the black community. At worst, it’s a “well-intentioned” dagger jabbed in the back of the black community by yet another clueless white male fascinated with our plight and culture.

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KXNG Crooked
When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
I was a kid. I reluctantly went with my older brother who used to get into fights everywhere. He went because he was a very active gang member. Just like I thought, we got into a brawl after the movie. All I remember is pepper spraying two huge dudes. Yes, I fought dirty. I was a hundred pound scared young kid. I lost one of my shell toe Adidas during the scrap. [shakes his head]

Favorite character from the film and why?
My favorite character was Rocket who was portrayed by Don Cheadle. He reminded me of my male influences at the time. A super Crip. I grew up in the “hood” where people who make it out through means of an education rarely come back and provide the youth with positive role models so most of us looked up to the older guys on the block. Rocket was just like my older brother and all of his friends. He was very relatable.

Favorite scene from the film?
I have a few favorite scenes. I like the scene where Robert Duvall’s character tells Sean Penn’s character Pac-Man the story about the bull walking down the hill instead of running to hook up with all the cows. It’s a great lesson in wisdom and patience. I also like the scene where Damon Wayans' character T-Bone is describing the state police found the character Killer-Bee in. His description was hilarious.

How authentic do you feel Colors was in depicting gang culture in L.A. and California as a whole?
I think they did a pretty good job. I imagine they had a few real police officers and street guys consulting the directors and writers. They also shot in real gang infested neighborhoods so it felt authentic.

What are your memories of first hearing the theme song by Ice-T?
Gangster. Pure gangster. The beat is sinister. The storyline is a perfect depiction of gang life. From drug addiction to friends being shot, he covered all angles. The good, the bad and the ugly. That’s so necessary especially since some rappers glorify street life and never offer the negative side of being in gangs.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film?
The fact that we’re discussing the film thirty years later tells us it should be considered a classic. The cast is stellar. In my opinion, the relationship between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans on a street gang level still hasn’t been put on film in a better way than Colors did it.

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Del Tha Funky Homosapien
When was the first time you saw the film Colors and how were you introduced to it?
Wow, the answer for [that] may be lost forever...had to be in like junior or early high school around then. Yeah, 'cause I believe NWA and all that really hadn’t dropped yet and unless you been in L.A. South Central, you didn’t have any idea that sh** was that bad out there. My whole family damn near is out in South Central L.A. I think I actually lightweight avoided seeing the movie at first. I was against that type of sh** back then, although I grew to understand it much more later and I don’t feel the same way about it now. But Ice-T, that’s the G.O.A.T., so on the strength of him being involved, that spiked my interest.

Favorite character from the film?
I don’t remember much from the movie. It’s been so long, but I do remember homeboy trying to do it to the stuffed bunny off of sherm/PCP. Disturbing, those types of things I seem to remember.

Favorite scene from the film?
Same answer really. That’s the main thing that stuck in my mind after all these years. Don’t smoke wet, hahahaha...

How authentic do you feel Colors was in depicting gang culture in L.A. and California as a whole?
It was the first wave, you know what I mean? Kinda was still Hollywood, but you know, it’s gonna be that, or you not coming out with no movie. I remember feeling like it was kinda lighter than it really was popping, didn’t seem as menacing as say, Menace II Society. By the time that came out, ok now I can barely watch that movie cause it’s too real. Sh** really be like that though. To think you could get used to that sh** is disturbing. Guess that’s where the fry comes in.

What are your memories of first hearing the theme song by Ice-T?
“Aw sh**, Ice done did it again!” That song got so popular. It actually had kids around me attempting to emulate that kinda sh**. Same with NWA. But see, them cats were more responsible than a lot of people may realize. When you really around the sh**, you tend to not glorify it. Ice-T definitely didn’t, he gave you the raw footage always in his raps, pure game. I always could appreciate that from Ice, 'cause not only was he dope as a rapper, but he also gave you something you could use out here that you won’t get in say a classroom.

Do you feel Colors is a classic film?
Of course, and you know why: it began to expose the craziness that had been hidden in South Central from the rest of the world. I remember New York cats used to clown us, like we all blonde chicks and surfers out here. Colors came out and it started to show you. You don’t even know half of what really be going on out here, the sh** is straight up war zone. How it could be hidden for as long as it was, or not believed to be really happening...is crazy.

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Quavo Is Introducing 'Fan Controlled Football' To The Culture

From their penchant for popping tags and name-dropping designer brands in their rhymes to the obsession with diamond-encrusted neckwear, the Migos are the modern-day poster-children for decadence and opulence. But when it comes to balling, group member Quavo is a seasoned veteran, literally and figuratively. Notorious for his appearances in NBA all-star celebrity games, where he routinely dominates the competition, Huncho has built a rep as one of the athletically gifted hit-makers in music today.

Although he's known for his skills on the hardwood, football is definitely among his passions. His newest endeavor, an ownership stake in Fan Controlled Football (FCF), the first professional sports league to put the viewer in the coach's seat and the general manager's office, in live time, finds him putting his focus back on the gridiron. Having inked an exclusive, multi-year streaming broadcast partnership with Twitch, the FCF will be the first professional sports league to be fully integrated with the streaming platform with the potential to explode in the digital age, where user interest and participation is the main recipe for success.

Having tossed the pigskin around as a Georgia high school football star, to Quavo, it was a no-brainer to get involved with the innovative league on the ground level. “We are building a brand and something different in our league – with the fans. They are in control and get to pick the team names, colors, logos, and more,” said Quavo said in a press release. “I’m really excited because FCF is fast-paced, high-scoring 7v7 football and you are in control. You go from sitting on the couch watching TV and pressing buttons on the remote to actually pressing the buttons on the plays.”

Played on "a 35-yard x 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones,” the Fan Controlled Football league will kick off in February 2021, with a four-week regular season, one week of playoffs, and a Championship week. The league will consist of former elite D-1 athletes, the CFL, XFL, and the Indoor Football League. Broadcasted live from the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility in Atlanta, each game will be 60 minutes in length and will allow the viewers to play a hand in the final outcome on Twitch.

Aside from sports, Quavo has been relatively lowkey on the musical tip as of late, with two years having passed since a solo release or a Migos album. However, according to him, this delay can be considered the calm before the storm, as he assures him and his brethren are primed for one of their biggest years yet. VIBE hopped on the line with Quavo to talk Fan Controlled Football, what he's got cooking in the studio, and his foray into TV and film.

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You're the newest team owner at Fan Controlled Football (FCF). What about the league piqued your interest and made you wanna get involved?

It's just showing my interest in the game of football and just trying to put a twist to where it's fan-controlled, fan-involved. A lot of times we watch the game, you watch the game, you just have some concerns. Sometimes you feel you can make the plays or call the play, [with FCF], you can sit on the couch and make the play. I just think we came together to make something crazy like that. I feel like it's something hard, it's something new, it's something fresh. It's a new beginning to something, like giving ni**as a chance. Giving D-1 players who couldn't make it to the league a chance, giving ex-NFL ni**as a chance if they still got it, [and] to go with the fans. When we saw the Falcons lose the Superbowl LI, we [fans] just knew what plays to call, we knew to run the ball. We were up 28-3. All we had to do was hold the ball, but we wanted to air it out and we made a mistake and lost to Tom Brady. Just like when Marshawn could've won a Superbowl. If they'd have given him the ball on the two-yard line. We knew that Marshawn Lynch was supposed to get the ball, [but] they wanted Russell Wilson to win it and the New England Patriots caught an interception. So that's how we're trying to shape it, we're trying to make something new.

The FCF will be live-streamed exclusively on Twitch, which has become one of the leading platforms for eSports live-streaming and will kick off in February 2021. Do you feel the FCF has the opportunity to fill that NFL void during the spring, particularly given the fan engagement that FCF enables?

Most definitely, cause after the Super Bowl, it just feels like you just want another game. You feel like you want one more game. and coming from something [where it's] eleven on eleven players to seven on seven, I feel [there’s] still a difference. After coming from watching the game and the regular politics, the regular structure of the game, now you're getting to be involved in a game that you can control. You can pick the jersey, you can pick the helmets, you can pick the jerseys, you can pick the coaches, you can pick the plays. I just feel there are two different dynamics [between the NFL and FCF). You come from sitting on the couch and pressing the remote to actually pressing the button on the plays."

Speaking of fan engagement, the FCF is the only professional sports league that enables fans to call the plays in real-time and puts the viewer in control of a game’s outcome like never before. Have you ever had that experience, as far as fantasy football?

Nah, but I'm into Madden. You can sit at home and pick your plays [with FCF], it's just like the lifestyle of Madden. It's like a reality of Madden. You're playing with people at home, with these unique athletes, and it's seven-on-seven.

As an Atlanta native, how significant was the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility being in your hometown in your decision to come on board as an owner?

It's very important. We got top-tier talent here, so it's opening up opportunities for a lot of guys. We're just glad it's in the south, it's like a hub. Everybody loves Atlanta and everybody wanna be here. Everybody wanna play and the weather is good.

NFL Super Bowl Champions Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, boxing legend Mike Tyson, and YouTuber and podcaster empire Greg Miller are among the FCF's team owners. How does it feel to be competing against some of the most accomplished athletes and entertainers in the world? Have you had the opportunity to meet with any of them?

Most definitely. I have a good relationship with Mike Tyson. I've met Marshawn Lynch, it's a blessing. I feel like we're not competing right now, I feel like we're building a brand. I feel like we're building a league. I feel like we're trying to make the world understand what we're bringing to the table and what type of game we bring to the table, you feel me? I feel we're trying to create something different. Once we get the ball rolling, it's all together and moving into a real FCF league, then we'll get to compete. Of course, we all wanna win, but right now, we're just trying to get the foundation and the basics going and letting the strength of the owners and the relationships show on the field.

Being that you'll all be working with your respective fan bases in shaping your team’s personality and identity, any thoughts about what the team’s name will be? 

Man, I wish I did, but it's so straight strictly fans that you never know. Just like with music, can have an idea that is a smash, and then the fans don't think it is. You gotta strictly listen to the fans on this one. You gotta listen strictly to how they want it because it's the point of the game, that's the point of the league. We gotta let them control this game and then we the players and we the people that's listening to the people, the culture. FCF stands for culture, too, you feel what I'm saying? We listen to the culture, we're letting the culture run the field.

How involved will you be in the drafting and scouting process for your squad?

The fans make the draft, fans get to see everything. Open books, everything. It's an open thing, it ain't nothing to hide over here. The fans control it all.

In addition to sports, you've also been delving into acting, with cameos in shows like Atlanta, Star, Black-ish, and Ballers. Earlier this year, you appeared as yourself in Narcos: Mexico. How did that opportunity come about? 

Narcos reached out. We [Migos] had this song called “Narcos” on the [Culture II] album and we went and shot [the video] in Miami and everybody thought it was a Narcos movie scene and it ended up being Madonna's house. So we just shot that there and then they reached out to us. I think Offset had a performance somewhere and Takeoff had to do something and I just ended up being free that day and I went and shot it in New Mexico. I had fun, I loved it.

Do you have plans to pursue any supporting or leading roles in film or television?

Hell yeah, most definitely. I've been sitting down and having real great meetings with directors and people that got some movies in the works for 2021. I feel like I’ve got some good spots. I don't wanna tell it cause they’re gonna make some announcements. It's coming soon.

It's been two years since you've released a solo project or one with the Migos. Can fans expect any new music from you anytime soon and what are your next plans on that front?

Most definitely, hell yeah, we're shooting videos right now. We’re vaulting up a whole lot of videos so we can give you music and visuals at the same time. “Need It," the song came first and then the video. Right now, we wanna get a lot of videos and a lot records in the vault and smash [them] all at once 'cause it's been two years.

Pop Smoke's passing was one of the more tragic events in rap in recent memory, but his debut album, which you appeared on throughout, has been one of the most successful and acclaimed projects of 2020. How has it been seeing how the album’s been received, especially after you and him developed such a bond in a short time?

I'm happy. I'm proud of him, that was my partner. We did a lot of records, we spent a lot of time together and I feel like the album would've did even more with him being alive. A lot of people's album just go crazy when they die, I feel like his sh*t would've still went crazy. He had the momentum, he had the buzz. He was having fun. He was hot, he was fresh, he had everything ready.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Toots Hibbert performing at Hammersmith Palais, London in 1983.
Photo by David Corio/Redferns

Remembering Toots Hibbert

The best singers don’t need too many words to make their point. Otis Redding could let loose with a sad sad song like “Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa” and get you all in your feelings. Bob Marley got pulses pounding with his “Whoi-yoooo” rebel yell. Gregory Isaacs melted hearts with nothing more than a gentle sigh. Toots Hibbert, who died last Friday at the age of 77, could sing just about anything and make it sound good. One of the world's greatest vocalists in any genre, Toots paired his powerful voice with the understated harmonies of Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias to form The Maytals, a vocal trinity that never followed fashion and remained relevant throughout the evolution of Jamaican music—from the ska era to rock steady straight through to reggae, a genre named after The Maytals' 1968 classic “Do The Reggay.”

Whether they were singing a sufferer’s selection (“Time Tough”), a churchical chant (“Hallelujah”), or the tender tale of a country wedding (“Sweet and Dandy”), The Maytals blew like a tropical storm raining sweat and tears. The lyrics to Six and Seven Books,” one of The Maytals' earliest hits, are pretty much just Toots listing the books of the Bible. “You have Genesis and Exodus,” he declares over a Studio One ska beat, “Leviticus and Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, Judges and Ruth...” Having grown up singing in his parents' Seventh Day Adventist Church in the rural Jamaican town of May Pen, Toots knew the Good Book well.

The Maytals broke out worldwide in 1966 thanks to the song “Bam Bam,” which won Jamaica's first-ever Independence Festival Song Competition, held during the first week of August as the island nation celebrated both independence from Great Britain in 1862 and emancipation in 1834. They would go on to win the coveted title two more times, but “Bam Bam” was a singular song with a message every bit as powerful as Toots' voice. “I want you to know that I am the man," Toots sang. He was young and strong, ready to "fight for the right, not for the wrong." The trajectory of "Bam Bam" would not only transform Toots' life but make waves throughout popular music worldwide.

"Festival in Jamaica is very important to all Jamaicans," the veteran singer stated in a video interview this past summer while promoting his latest entry into the annual competition. "I must tell you that I won three festivals in Jamaica already, which is “Bam Bam,” “Sweet & Dandy” and “Pomp & Pride.” Toots described that first festival competition as a joyous occasion. "Everybody just want to hear a good song that their children can sing," he recalled. "Is like every artist could be a star."

In 2016, on the 50th anniversary of "Bam Bam" winning first place, Toots looked back over the legacy of the tune that made him a star. "I didn’t know what it means but it was a big deal," he told Boomshots. "You in the music business and you want to be on top and you write a good song and you go on this competition and if they like it then it becomes #1." After The Maytals won, the group was in demand not just all over the island, but all over the world. "We start fly out like a bird," he says with a laugh. "Fly over to London."

"Bam Bam" went on to inspire numerous cover versions, starting with Sister Nancy, Yellowman, and Pliers. It would also be sampled in numerous hip hop classics, and interpolated into Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones." But according to Toots, he did not benefit financially from these endless cover versions. "People keep on singing it over and over and over, and they don’t even pay me a compliment," he told Boomshots. "I haven’t been collecting no money from that song all now."

 

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“This man don’t trouble no one... but if you trouble this man it will bring a Bam Bam” Original Maytals Classic @tootsmaytalsofficial 🎶 All them a talk, them nuh bad like Niya Fiya Ball ☄️🔥💥 via @tonyspreadlove . 💥💣🔫#Boomshots

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When Toots began singing in his parents' church, music was not seen as a career prospect, and the profits were slim for Jamaican recording artists in the 1960s. "Those days we get 14 cents for the record to play on the radio," Toots said. "I get three shillings and five shillings for a number one record, which I had 31 number one record in Jamaica... It’s not about money for me. It’s about the quality that Jamaicans need to go back in the festival jamboree... You gotta talk to the children."

On the poignant “54-46 (Was My Number),” Toots recalls the dehumanization of his arrest and 18-month imprisonment at Jamaica's Richmond Farm Correctional Center for what he always insisted was a trumped-up ganja charge just as his music career was taking off. The song's crescendo comes two minutes in when Toots breaks into a scat solo that cannot be translated into any language known to man, delivered with palpable passion that made his message universal. During Toots' ecstatic stage performances he would follow this riff by commanding his band to “Give it to me... one time!” Then the 'd make 'em say Uh!  (Way before Master P!) “Give it to me... two times!” Uh! Uh! And so on and so forth until Toots worked the place into a frenzy.

The Maytals' live show was so explosive that Toots began touring all over the world, opening for rock megastars like The Rolling Stones and The Who. While Bob Marley richly deserved the title King of Reggae, his friend Toots was performing internationally before The Wailers, and remained a force to be reckoned with throughout his life, blazing a trail for generations of reggae artists to follow in his footsteps.

On his Grammy-winning 2004 album True Love, Toots recorded some of his greatest hits with a host of legendary artists, many of whom were also good friends, including Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Eric Clapton. His 2006 cover of Radiohead's "Let Down" was a favorite of the band's, who used to play it on their tour bus. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood called Toots’ version “truly astounding,” according to Easy Star Records Michael Goldwasser.

Toots supported himself and his family by touring all over the world. During a 2013 show in Richmond, Virginia he was singing John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" when a teenager in the crowd threw a vodka bottle at the stage and hit him on the head. He suffered a concussion and had to stop touring for several years. As his first album in a decade, Got To Be Tough was highly anticipated when it was released on Trojan Jamaica label August 28. On the cover the former boxer and lifelong fighter can be seen throwing a punch. Just a day after the album dropped, Toots came down with symptoms similar to COVID 19. Within a few days he was hospitalized where doctors placed him into a medically induced coma from which he never recovered. As his Tidal obituary pointed out, he passed away exactly 33 years after his old friend Peter Tosh died by gunfire.

Songs like "Just Brutal" from the hit different now, with Toots pleading for more love in a world gone wrong. "We were brought here," Toots sings. "Sold out. Victimized brutally. Every time I keep remembering what my grandfather said before he died."

“I’m feeling alright,” Toots said the last time we spoke, while he was still sidelined with stress issues due to the bottle-throwing incident. "I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling just cool because is Jah works. You seet?" I asked him if the song "Bam Bam," was about him—a peaceful man who should not be provoked—or else. "Nooo don't trouble him," Toots said with a laugh. "It’s gonna be double trouble, triple trouble. A lot of trouble."

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DJ Cassidy

DJ Cassidy Speaks On 'Pass The Mic Vol. 2' Ft. Hip-Hop Greats LL Cool J, Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Lyte And 30+ More MCs

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc globally, 2020 has been a year filled with tragedy and uncertainty, as an innumerable amount of lives have been taken or affected as a result of the spread of the virus. The world of entertainment, which relies on ticket-holders and live spectators, is affected severely, with artists unable to tour, give live performances, interact with fans, or even create material by committee. This unprecedented blackout of sorts is a tough pill to swallow and threatens to forever alter the industry as we know it. However, as a culture and artform that built its history around making the best of times with minimal resources at its disposal, hip-hop is at the forefront of keeping the public entertained and butts moving, with various DJs, artists, and producers discovering new ways to stay in tune with the people.

While new, digital platforms like DJ D-Nice's "Club Quarantine" and Swizz Beatz and Timbaland's "Verzuz" battle series are ahead of the curve, the latest virtual experience to emerge is Pass The Mic, a live event created and hosted by legendary spinner DJ Cassidy. A native New Yorker, Cassidy, who made his name via the club circuit during the late '90s and early aughts, has a resume that rivals the most accomplished of DJs, having spun at high profile events such as the 2009 inauguration ball for Barack Obama, Obama's 50th birthday party, and the wedding of JAY-Z and Beyonce. Performing hundreds of shows on a yearly basis, Cassidy, whose touring schedule was halted due to the pandemic, was stuck at home when a conversation with legendary soul musician Verdine White of Earth, WInd & Fire gave him an epiphany.

 

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Thank you @revwon @kingdmc @llcoolj @mrchuckd_pe @therealdjchillwill @therealdougefresh @thegodrakim @mcshan1 @mcmilkdee @specialedmusic @emceeserch @mclyte @chipfu @erick_sermon @doitalldu @therealgrandpuba @djpremier @darealgregnice #smoothb @blacksheepdres @therealclsmooth @realpeterock darealmonielove @youngmc89 @chubblive @officialbigdaddykane @robbasemusic @kidfromkidnplay @the_playgroundz @darealpepa @saltnpepaofficial @speech__ @rasadon @eshe2xgrammy @treachtribe @unclevinrock ❤️ You are my heroes. And to all 122,000 people that tuned in, I am truly grateful. 🎙👑🎙#PassTheMic @rockthebells @behindtherhymetv @twitch

A post shared by DJ Cassidy (@djcassidy) on Aug 5, 2020 at 9:13pm PDT

Cassidy explains: "In the heat of the pandemic, in the middle of the quarantine, I was facetiming with my good friend and mentor Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire. Verdine has grown to be a close friend whom I truly admire, and he and I go to dinner every month or so and, obviously, we were not able to do that. So we were on a Facetime call catching up and while I was talking to him, his song, ‘That's The Way of the World,’ came on my speakers. And ‘That's The Way of The World’ is my favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song and on a regular day, it sends a chill down my spine. But being that the world was in flux and everyone was in their homes, separate from each other, [and] being that I was looking into his eyes as I heard the song, a kind of special feeling came over me. And I said, 'You know, I'm very lucky that I have so many relationships with all of my heroes of music and I can hear their music in their company.' And I said, 'Wouldn't it be amazing if I could find some way to give that special feeling to other people around the world during this crazy time. And I said, 'Well, if I can connect my musical heroes from home to home, perhaps I can give people this feeling that I'm feeling right now. And perhaps I can use that as a way to pay homage to the heroes around the world fighting for health.' So therein lies the foundation of the whole idea."

That spark ultimately evolved into Pass The Mic Vol. 1, which saw some of the biggest R&B stars of the late '70s and the '80s performing their greatest hits from the comfort of their homes, for the world to see. The event, which was streamed live on Twitch before being uploaded to Cassidy's Instagram page, was a big hit, amassing upwards of twenty thousand viewers, prompting the DJ to follow up with a second volume geared towards his first love: Hip-Hop. Airing this past Wednesday (Aug. 5), Pass The Mic Vol. 2 saw DJ Cassidy summoning a slew of his friends, who just happen to be among the greatest rap artists of all-time, to join him in a cipher of the most pivotal rap records of the '80s and early '90s. DJ Premier, of the legendary rap group Gang Starr, spoke on DJ Cassidy approaching him to be a part of the massive celebration. "When Cassidy texted me the links to VOLUME 1, I was blown away by the people he chose," Premier shares. "And it kept getting more and more exciting as the songs progressed to wonder who's next. Even the way he sequenced it..."

Beginning with Run of Run DMC performing "Sucker M.C.'s," the nearly forty minute set included appearances from the likes of LL Cool J, Chuck D, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Kid N' Play and Naughty By Nature, all of whom tear the house down, albeit virtually from the comfort of their own. The session includes many magical moments and is filled with a love for one another, as well as the culture that brings us all together.

With the second volume in the series having took place, with many more to come, VIBE spoke with DJ Cassidy via phone about the genesis of Pass The Mic, what the process entailed putting the first two volumes together, the healing and unification of music, and how Black music has had an indelible impact on his life and career.

VIBE: The first volume of Pass The Mic included appearances by Earth, Wind & Fire, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Kool & The Gang, Patrice Rushen, and other stars of the '70s '80s. What made you kick off the series celebrating that particular era?

DJ Cassidy: I think two main reasons come to mind. First of all, the Facetime call with Verdine White was really the genesis of the concept, so it was that call that inspired the whole idea. And it was that song, the first song on Vol. 1 that was playing, so to me, it was automatic that I should go to that era of music to set the project off. But the second reason is kind of a bigger picture, which is I really believe that that music is the most feel-good, uplifting music ever created. It is undeniably body-moving and for two-thirds of my life, I've traveled the world, making people dance and there is no music that uplifts, inspires people, makes people smile and makes people dance than the r&b music of the '70s and the '80s. So when the world is going through what it's going through and people wanna smile and people wanna be uplifted and people wanna unite, there really was no greater music to channel to try to do such a thing, to achieve such a mission.

How would you describe an episode of Pass The Mic and what are some unique wrinkles users can expect?

Pass The Mic is an interactive mixtape delivered in a way that you've never experienced before. As I drop each record, you experience that record with the artist who recorded that record and you connect with those artists from home to home. And through that personal experience, you're left with an emotional experience of music unlike any before. And I'd be lying if I said I thought that all the way through when I started, I didn't. A lightbulb went off for me, I saw the big picture and I went for it, but I didn't quite understand how emotional the response would be until I premiered it.

You've also mentioned how the times we're in, with the COVID-19 pandemic, was also a factor in you creating Pass The Mic. What are your thoughts on how other DJs and producers have been adapting to the climate we're in?

Well, I think the pandemic has been such a tough time for everyone around the world, yet it's also been a great time for DJs to be the best versions of themselves. At our core, we DJs unite people. At our foundation we bring people together through music and no one exemplified that better, bigger and faster than D-Nice. In the first week of the pandemic, he found a way to unite the world through DJing and it was truly beautiful to watch then and remains beautiful to watch now.

You've been spinning professionally for upwards of two decades and have an expansive list of high-profile artists and musicians at your disposal. What has the recruiting process for Pass The Mic entailed and how would you describe the artists' reception to the idea of it all?

Well, the process has certainly evolved, I would say that's the best word to use. The recruitment process for Vol. 1 was entirely different from Vol. 2 'cause while recruiting artists for Vol.1, I had nothing to show. All I had was a crazy idea that some people understood and some people didn't, but what they did exhibit was a unanimous trust in me and for that, I was not only grateful, but extremely honored. We're talking about some of the most legendary r&b artists of all time, they don't need to do my Pass The Mic idea. And they all took a leap of faith and they put their trust in me and I think they were all excited by the results and that really was the biggest reward. The recruiting process for Vol. 2 was entirely different because not only had many of the artists now seen Vol. 1, but for those who didn't I of course had Vol. 1 to show them. One of the greatest experiences was calling Big Daddy Kane, one of the greatest rappers of all-time.

Now, I haven't spoken to Kane on the phone in years. In fact, I might have never spoken to Kane on the phone before. I first developed a relationship when he performed at my birthday party in New York many years ago, over ten years ago. And every time we see him, it's all love and, of course, I admire, idolize and look up to him and I wasn't even sure if I had the right number I called, I got a voicemail, it wasn't his voice. I text him, I said 'Kane, it's Cassidy, is this still you?'  And he called me within five minutes and I picked up and go, 'Kane!' And his first words were, 'Look, if you're calling about something having to do with Pass The Mic, I'm in,' and that was one of the greatest phone calls I've ever had in my life. And I will never forget that one sentence. Big Daddy Kane, the great, the legend, the forefather, he not only saw it, but loved it, felt that's why I might be calling and was down to take part in whatever I was doing and there's really no words to describe that feeling. And that sentiment was common in many of my phone calls  that a lot of the artists I was calling had seen Vol. 1 and were really emotional in their response to it. So the recruiting process from Vol. 1 and 2 were very different, in that respect.

For the debut volume of Pass The Mic, you partnered with Twitch, a streaming platform that's been continuing to gain steam. What spurred you to use that particular platform and is that partnership official?

Firstly, what I was doing wasn't possible to present to people on Instagram. I love Instagram, it's the platform I use the most, it's how I share my life and times, but there was no way I could've presented Pass The Mic through Instagram. So I was looking for a platform that allowed for a live experience, one which I could treat as a live event and there were several: YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. And Twitch seemed like a great home for the launch, their platform, their technology, their fanbase. They're extremely forward thinking and it was a great place, but it was also a partnership with the Behind The Rhyme channel. Behind The Rhyme is a channel on Twitch that presents  lots of great content having to do with hip-hop and r&b, specifically classic hip-hop and r&b, but all kinds of hip-hop and r&b. So it was a great kind of home for Vol. 1 and it worked out well, so I've chosen to host a live event for Vol. 2 there as well. And I've also partnered with Rock The Bells on this edition, they represent all things classic hip-hop so it's self-explanatory. The partnership is a no-brainer. LL Cool J and his brand represent everything that Pass The Mic Vol. 2 strives to represent, the beauty and inspiration of classic hip-hop.

The second episode of Pass The Mic aired this past Wednesday (August 5), and saw you putting the focus on the golden era of hip-hop, with legends like LL Cool J, Run-DMC and Salt-N-Pepa all appearing on the show. How would you describe your relationship with that era of hip-hop and how the music inspired you as a DJ?  

Well, I grew up in that era of hip-hop. I grew up memorizing the words of the hip-hop records of the mid '80s, late '80s, and early '90s, that was my childhood.  Hip-Hop is my first love, hip-hop is why I became a DJ, hip-hop is why I asked my parents to buy me two turntables and a mixer for my birthday when I turned ten. And these artists, the artists who I've included in Pass The Mic Vol. 2 are my true heroes. They are the artists I looked up to as a child, they are the artists I idolized as a child and to this day, I hold them up on the highest of pedestal.  They define the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I danced, the way I dress, the way I fought, they gave me identity. Without these artists, I don't really know what my identity would be. I became who I am through this music, so this volume really meant a lot to me, the last twenty-one days have been surreal.

Yeah, for sure. The reason the past twenty-one days have been so surreal is not only because I got to Zoom with all of my heroes of hip-hop, but because after we knocked out what we had to do we stayed on for another half an hour or more talking. And sometimes I'd be on with some of these artists for an hour and I'd be asking them questions and they would tell me stories and I just heard the greatest anecdotes. And sometimes with those whom I had relationships with, we talked about stories that involved me and us and those were incredibly special, for obvious reasons, but all the stories were just, like, gems. They were just dropping gems on me. I have all that footage and I hope, at some point, there is another component of Pass The Mic where I share those stories.

What would you say are three records from that period that personally resonate with you?

"Sucker M.C.’s" is a very important song to me, as it is to hip-hop culture, as it is I believe, to pop culture. "Sucker MCs," in my opinion, is the archetype of a hip-hop record. It's so brilliantly simple and it's powerful because of its brilliant simplicity. All that's on there is a kick, a snare, a clap, and rhymes. There's no chorus, it's only four verses. And if you think about it, on paper, it's the simplest hip-hop record ever made and it's just so magical because if an alien came from out of space like, 'What is hip-hop?' I would play them “Sucker M.C.'s.” So, for me, it was really important for that reason, to set off this particular volume with that record.

Another record that's really important to me is Arrested Development "People Everyday." It's not only one of my favorite hip-hop records of all-time, it's one of my favorite records of all-time, it just simply exudes joy and celebration. And Speech is not only an incredible rapper, but an incredible singer and his voice is just simply something you can feel. He's uplifting, he's truly a unifying spirit and I'm so happy he was willing to get down 'cause he really brings the celebration to this.

"Hip Hop Hooray," which closes out Vol. 2, is really important to me. As a child, I worshipped the ground Treach walked on. I thought Treach was the coolest person to ever walk the face of this earth. And Treach and Vinnie are the sweetest guys, I've known them since I was a child and they've always been really supportive of me and my career and that song is special. No matter where you go in the world, no matter what music someone loves, no matter how old they are, no matter who they are, no matter where they are, everyone sings along to that chorus and knows exactly what to do with their hands. And there's something really beautiful about that so there's no better song to end this with.

The first two episodes of Pass The Mic have been geared towards celebrating Black icons in music, across various genres. In the age of Black Lives Matter and social injustice, what are your thoughts on how music and the performance of it can help bring forth unity and healing?

I think there is no greater unifying power than music and I think there is no greater healing force than soul music. And soul music doesn't just mean r&b music, it means hip-hop, too, hip-hop comes from soul. And I think we're living in a time of divisiveness, bigotry and of separation and I think we, as humanity, can look to any one thing to uplift people and unify, it would be music. And you mentioned Black music, my life wouldn't be what it is without the music of Black artists, hip-hop and R&B has defined my life in so many ways, and not only in my career. It's my source of inspiration, it's my source of culture, it's my source of style, it's really my source of happiness. And it's through the music of soul artists and hip-hop artists that I've been able to travel the world and make people dance and make people smile.

What do you see Pass The Mic evolving into moving forward and what do you hope viewers walk away with after viewing an episode of Pass The Mic?

I hope people walk away feeling uplifted, that's it. That's the goal, to uplift. And by sharing these records in a unique way, I've been able to uplift, then I've done my job. The magic is in the music and I'm just a messenger. What do I see for the future? Well, at this point, sky's the limit. I didn't anticipate quite an emotional response from people and it's been quite overwhelming. As I said, this was a little passion project to stay creative, to connect with my heroes and to put a smile on a few faces and it turned into something bigger than I could've ever imagined. There's certainly gonna be more volumes and what the future has in store, we shall see.

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