African American Studies


Interviewers: Brian Purnell, Mark Naison, Princess Okieme, Dolores Munoz

Interviewees: Eric Hines, Lance Johnson, Joshua Wheeler

Summarized by Leigh Waterbury

Eric “DJ Cool Clyde” Hines and Lance “DJ Lightnin’ Lance” Johnson were both born and raised in theBronxin the 1960’s. Eric Hines was born July 31, 1966 and grew up in the Soundview section of theBronx, in the Skylar House. Lance Johnson was born August 6, 1962 and was raised mostly in the Lafayette-Boynton Avenue Houses betweenStory AvenueandBoynton Avenue. Both men briefly discussed their childhoods and the negative environments of drugs and gangs that attracted many children their age. Hines describes himself as a “little terror” growing up and as a result he switched schools a few times because his parents wanted to keep him from following the wrong path. Similarly, Johnson felt the same pressure to follow a negative lifestyle. For both men, music was their way out of that. The two men are also cousins; their mothers are sisters.

Both Hines and Johnson grew up listening to Motown or jazz through their families. Johnson’s grandfather was a jazz drummer as were his uncle and father, so he was just following in their footsteps. He played the drums in the band at I.S. 232 and I.S. 131. For Hines, getting into music the way he did came about in a different way than Johnson. He did not do very well in school and was placed in the special-ed classes, and when he should have been doing work he was going to the clubs instead. This was when he really became interested in music. He mentions several times his experiences in seeing Disco King Mario at jams inRosedalePark. He says Mario had the best sound systems at the time, and this turned out to be his inspiration when he was attending I.S. 192. This was one of the schools he was moved to in order to stay out of trouble. He became involved in carpentry while at 192 and made his own speakers and cabinet, which he used in his own deejaying. Johnson was also became interested in this scene and was influenced by his peers atStevensonHigh School, such as Afrika Bambaata and the Cold Crush Brothers who would jam in the Stevenson lunchroom. Hines, Johnson, and Hines’ sister formed the Hypnotizing Three and were the first to put live scratching on a record around 1980 or ‘81.

Joshua” Mr. Broadway” Wheeler was born April 28, 1963 inSydney,Australiaand moved toManhattanwith his family in 1976. He was very interested in what was going on in theUnited Statesat the time and would frequently wander down Broadway from his grandmother’s house. It was there that he found the club Broadway International and its owner Leon. After pesteringLeonlong enough he began working for him hanging up posters. It was also from Leon and his wife that Wheeler got his nickname “Mr. Broadway” because of his interest in walking around on Broadway. On these posters he saw advertisements for jams in the Bronx and decided to go explore theBronxand find places like Disco Fever with his brother. He eventually began deejaying, and like Hines and Johnson, says that this gave him something to do and kept him off the streets. He explains that this was back in the time when they did this for fun and because they liked it, not for the money like it is today.

Hines and Johnson said that while they were deejaying, they still maintained jobs. Both began working at an early age and knew that no matter what, making sure they got their education was most important as was keeping a steady job. Since they did not DJ for the money, they made sure to keep other jobs. Johnson gives credit to having a loving family for keeping him off the streets and on the right path. He said that many of the people that went down that path did not have very promising futures. Many ended up dead or in jail at young ages, and he feels that those growing up in single parent homes where the mother could not pay as much attention were more likely to head down a negative path.

All three men discussed the differences growing up then and the neighborhoods they experienced with gangs and drugs and such, as well as the differences in early hip-hop culture to today. The discuss the pioneers such as Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Funkmaster Flex, and Disco King Mario among others, and discuss how in those days it was not about the money and fame like it is now. These men started what we now call hip-hop, but never got the benefits from it. They discuss how hip-hop transitioned from a culture to a business around the 80’s when Russell Simmons and others started labels such as Def Jam Records, those men understood the nature of business and knew how to market the hip-hop culture. All three are trying to speak for those who are not being heard and bring back the message started by the pioneers of hip-hop. Hines wants to get a hip-hop museum started in theBronxto show the foundations and beginnings and take away the negative stigma that is now associated with much of hip-hop.

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Hines, Eric--Lance Johnson and David Wheeler.mp3 (160128 kB)