Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine interview with former “Geto Boy,” Dj Ready Red
Interviewed by D-Boogie
HHF: How did you become a Geto Boy, and where are you from?
Red: Well let’s see, I am from Trenton, New Jersey. It all started when I fell in love with hip hop, after going to a family reunion in 1979, and hearing the dj spin Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore. So I decided that I wanted to see if I could become a dj. I was not very talkative back in those days. There used to be a dj, who I called the Kool Herc of Trenton. His name was Kenny Beal and he was my inspiration. So it was a couple of disco twins, named Joe and Henry, (may Henry R.I.P) that I used to play hooky with. The twins lived right next to my uncle so that right there was pretty risky ha-ha. One time I was inside, and the twins showed me a lot of the technical aspects. This was late maybe late 79, early 80. So right around September I asked my mom to get me some turntables. So she came up and got me two Technique SLB 101s, from a place called Silos. So I got a little Gemini mixer, and it was on. I kept quitting for years though. I would start and stop, but I also wanted to play football. In my junior year, I ended up getting hurt so I started to dj more, and I started getting the hang of it, and decided to stick with the DJ thing. So I hooked up with a group called the Mighty MCs, but they had this female MC named Queen Equality She was my first Mc. Then I started working with the Mighty Mcs which consisted of Prince Johnny c (who would later become a Geto Boy), and Radee. Through about 1981 through 1986, we stayed in jersey battling crews. So in 86, my next oldest sister asked me to come to Houston to help her out, so I did. I decided to stay in Houston after I won a battle of the Djs and I ran into NC Trahan and Jukeboxx, along with Raheem, and K-9. So we started going through negotiations, and I became a Geto Boy.
HHF: How do you feel about your time there?
Red: Well let’s rewind, I first got to Houston in January of 87, and I ended up in southwest Houston. That was when I ran into John and Lee, two brothers from Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Their father, Dr. Freddie Brown, was a dj for WKPSU, he was the jazz guy. He had a lot of records so I made a demo tape called “Outlaw”, with a TR- 909 drum machine and took it to rap a lot records at this car lot. J said he wasn’t interested in a group at the moment, but who makes the beats? So I told him, man I’m down with the Def 4.(Originally known as The Casanova Crew) So I talked to the 4, which they knew I was kind of raggedy, and doing a lot of craziness out there, and told them huge opportunity. So the next day me and J went to a pawnshop and got some equipment ( 8 channel mixing board, tr-808, technique turntables, and 2 speakers, then hooked up system up on top of the car lot and stayed there.
HHF: Would you agree that the 808, 909 etc. helped to shape your sound?
Red: It played a big part because I didn’t know how to sample at first. I wasn’t that technical back then. I mean all I could do was run the record along with the beat. On the “Making Trouble” album, I was doing a little something, but I didn’t know how to sequence yet. That wouldn’t be until the next album. My first drum machine was the TR- 606. The 808 and 909 make a good combo. I liked the 909 but it came on to become the go to machine for house music. The 808 plays a big part and is a cornerstone in hip hop and many different genres. Now to me, that’s what everyone went back to now today. That would be the trap music. So I could be one of the first trap producers if you want to call it that, even though they keep changing names. I had to figure out, what is trap music, and I noticed that the only difference is the high hats. There is no set way of doing this. That’s why I tell a lot of young cats to come mess with me. I never knock, I always try to inspire others because a lot of cats encouraged me along the way.
HHF: Now back to the Geto Boys.
Red: So I went thru the bases with K-9 and Raheem, who was the first rap artist to be signed to A&M records, and then they signed Jukeboxx. So, 1 by 1, k-9 went to jail, Raheem left, and it was just me and Jukeboxx. J started looking for replacements, and I was not happy with who he was looking at. So I said hey, I got my boy Prince Johnny C I’ve been down with now for 6 or 7 years, and he came down to Houston. By that time most of the “Making Trouble” album was already written. So Johnny C wanted them to show what he could bring to table that he would feel good about. So he wrote the song “Assassins”, and about the time he wrote that, Ronnie Mac (R.I.P) introduced us to Bushwick Bill, who became our dancer. So one night at my crib, we were watching the movie Scarface. We had the VCR going through the mixer, the turntable going through the mixer, as well as the 808, and Bill sat down on the start and stop pedal. Right at the time Scarface says “Hey Sosa, all I have in this world…” and then the beat kicked in at the same time, and I heard something. I went to work and that’s how I came up with “Scarface”, made in the Geto Boys image.
HHF: So did you meet Scarface or Akshun as he was known then through Bushwick Bill?
Red: Nope, we met Face at the club. He always would come up and say “yo man I can rap”, and kept on to the point of irritating your ass. So J finally heard him rap. There was a battle over my house between k-9, who had just gotten out of jail, and Scarface basically blew him out the water. K-9 said, “Yea I see what you talking about.” Scarface was still Akshun at this time, so I said yo just be Scarface. So they wanted me to remix the original Scarface from Troy Records, at first I said hell naw. Then looking at it in a business perspective I agreed to do it. So at first I took some common break beats like, “gimme what you got”, and a couple other joints, put my touches on there, and it came out a nice way to where I liked it, and that’s how Scarface was born.
HHF: Now back to your time with the Ghetto Boys, how did the G-E-T-O spelling come about?
Red: Before that, Willie D came in and joined the Geto Boys, and I did Willie D’s “Controversial” album. I say Willie D is the true definition of a “get ya ass in a minute” 5th ward motherfucka. He was true about his shit. It was fun working with Willie, He was great, very talented. He still is, but ask me and I don’t think he is at his full potential. He is the original mouth of the south. So anyway, we put out “Grip It On Another Level”. That did well and that got us out of Houston. We went all over the country and all that. Then Rick Rubin gets involved. He is the one who suggested we change the name to the “Geto Boys”. I wanted to make a new album, and Rick says ” No, we are going to re-do the “Grip It” album. I said, “Man that’s not good for the fans”. So we ended up going to work with Rubin, who mixed it and brought out a lot of sounds and I liked it, especially because it was Rick Rubin. I thought we were on his label and things would get good. Then I called up there one day, and next thing you know we are back with Rap a Lot. Around that time I started to see some things, like yo where is this money at, what’s going on? I deserve and I thought everyone else deserved some decent compensation. It was around the time we were working on the “Can’t Be Stopped” album, which I did most of that album and did not get credit for it. So I decided I’m not going to keep doing this if I keep getting fucked. Then that was it that was it. Closed that chapter, which was in 1991. I got mad right before “Mind playing tricks on me”, which me and Brad did at my house, and you know what happened to that, it became the signature song of that Geto Boys….And uh, I’m still here! Yeah, that is the short version.
HHF: Do you have anything to say about J Prince?
Red: I have no hostility toward J at all. I did not allow him to make millions off me. He probably did though, but I didn’t stay long enough for him to do that. I can say some millions was made, but I have not been around him in over 27 years…I hear something now and then, and the courtesy call, that’s some funny shit ha-ha, but you know, you see nobody aint fuckin with me. I fuck wit J, but about my money I think he should be able to break bread with me. If he can buy pews and chapel steeples for churches, he can surely break off a piece to some of the people that helped him make it. Other than that, I really don’t got nothing to say than what has already been said.
HHF: Talk about how funky the industry is.
Red: I’ll tell any young artist this, before it gets bad, know your business. You can only have done to you what you allow to have done. Trust no one. Go get you a lawyer. Read everything that is on that contract, and make sure he tells you exactly what is going on so there is no surprises in the long run. Oh and if anyone u dealing with ever says “man aint no need to sign this, it’s just for when we got to show it to folks,” do not believe that shit, that’s how I was tricked. I was too trusting. At the same time, do not sign no manager contract if u aint got nothing to manage. If you do, do it project by project, don’t lock yourself down. You never know, you can make a hit and contracts will come out the woodworks. That’s the music business, take care of it, (your business) and with all this social media, you should know your business so you aint got to kill nobody out here for ripping you off.
HHF: As far as the Prison Industrial System and the secret meetings in hip hop, what do you know or have to say about that?
Red: Well you know the biggest trick of the devil was what? To show that it don’t exist. A lot of people don’t think that Illuminati and all that other stuff is there man. I happened to be a part of the meetings. They, and when I say they, I mean J and Cliff, went out to LA, and came back. Next thing I know we being told like, “yo man this what we got to do, this what we going to do, this how things going to be, we going to talk about bitches and hoes blah blah whoopty woo.” If you watch that Unsung episode, (about the geto boys) it plays out just like it. So there it is. That is the proof, its right there. Hell yea there was a secret meeting. Nobody wants to admit to that shit. You know back then before that meeting in 91, you had an even playing field. You had conscious, you had reality rap, everybody had they little part of what was going on. Now all of a sudden it’s just dark. It’s about rims, about bitches, about 9s, and about drugs.
HHF: – And everything good has been pushed underground?
Red: Pretty much. So when CEOs are telling you “yo man they don’t want to hear that good shit, come up with some of that gangsta shit and we will put u out.” So you got your good artist, and I aint saying they not good at what they do, but man after a while, after 20 something damn near 30 years, of being one of the head niggas behind this shit, I want to hear some new shit, I wanna hear some solutions. I already know that you hard. I already know you got rims, got bitches. Do you have any solutions for all this shit? If you got all this money, what you mad for? We need to save the youth man. As for me, I’m just sitting back working on some new records with some of the original Geto Boys, but it won’t be under the name Geto Boys. We have a name, we just have not released it yet.
HHF: What do you think, or is there a solution to change way the main stream is?
Red: Well you as a consumer, your dollar pulls a lot of weight, so stop buying the bullshit. Demand better. That’s what I would do. Tell the CEOs you don’t want to hear this bullshit. I want to see some happier shit, Sometime I want to hear some conscious shit.
HHF: So if you threaten a company with the dollar, it is more powerful than threatening with with a weapon
Red: Pretty much, got to hurt em in the pocket man.
Currently, Dj Ready Red is still making music and recently formed a group with a few former members. So be sure to look out for him!