Written by Shugabooga
The Rhythm Room in Cleveland Heights can best be described as the Church in 8 Mile. It was a little dark, maybe a little seedy- certainly not air conditioned and posh. It was a hole in the wall, way off the freeway in this uppity little neighborhood not far from John Carrol University that we all performed at because honestly it was one of the only places in the city that would let us rock. Hip Hop shows at that time didn’t exactly have the best reputation, and we were just happy to have SOMEWHERE to call home.
What was so funny about the Rhythm Room was that at one time or another, just about anyone who was anyone past through those doors and made their way to the basement to perform. Ray Cash would come down from time to time, and for that era, Ray was as big as you could get in the city. Quincy Taylor aka Big Heff, who know works for Def Jam Records and has one of the biggest names in the Midwest was a staple there- throwing shows at least once a week. Brainz Davis made his comeback there. The GI Joes, a group who was signed to Rawkus Records would battle there. It was a place that let you know immediately if you had talent. No Punches were ever pulled- even if some were thrown.
And then there were the groups that came in, week after week, to fill in the night for the headliners while making names for themselves. I remember Contact N Cashius, Duece Dirty and the No Mo Pain Camp, NappyHedz, Beat Effeck and the whole Pandemic clique.
It’s where I met Garbs Infinite. It’s where I met Joey Fingaz. It’s where I met my baby momma for God’s sake.
It’s where I met the Chop Shop. It’s where I met The Great One.
Back in the day I ran with two groups primarily- The Union aka Whyte Trash and The HoodFactor. I also ran with 71 North for a while, and I will always be a part of that family, but people usually identify with the U or HF. The Union was a raucous party act. We could spit, but we were really there to kick it. We were a whole lot of MGK before people knew how to handle it. We had a blast at those Rhythm Room shows.
The Hoodfactor was my street cred. We were like a Wu Tang Clan- 30 members deep, and when we went to those Rhythm Room shows we would roll in a caravan. Our M.O. was simply to run every other act out of the building. We would come in and dominate. Promoters loved us because we would pack the joint.
So needless to say, I was a known commodity at the club. I knew everybody. I did lots of cameos and I felt like at that little hole in the wall, I was somebody. But there was always one group that I had my eye on. One group that I secretly was jealous of, in a time when I didn’t even know how to be jealous!
The Chop Shop Renegades.
The Shop was so polished. Everyone had a role. Arrogant was the front man and he handled the crowd. Asj Islam was the heavy. He could drop jewels and rapped his ass off, but he was also the intimidator. No one was steppin’ to the Shop if Asj was there. Ed Hayes came later- he was their laid back side. Hayes had that West Coast drawl and demeanor that gave the Shop a totally different vibe.
And then there was The Great One.
G1 WAS hip hop. While everyone else tried to perfect their look- G1 wore a button down and jeans every time I saw him. Sometimes with a fitted cap, sometimes floatin’ waves, but every time understated. He wasn’t there for a show. He was there for the culture. In a time when I was coming to shows with grills and every ounce of my body covered in fake chains- G was the opposite. As the rest of us struggled to find our gimmick- G perfected the art of not having one. All he wanted to do was spit. Period. He lived hip hop and he breathed it. He wasn’t concerned with the party. He wasn’t concerned with the money. He just wanted to be… Great.
I loved Chop Shop’s music and I always had so much fun around the crew and I secretly wanted to be a part of their movement so bad! Well finally, after much discussion and a cameo appearance or two, the group extended their hand, and I was a member of the Chop Shop.
We had so much fun making music. I really only did one album with them- a Mixtape with Jack Da Rippa called “Think B.I.G.” which was a tribute to Biggie we did on the 5th anniversary of his death. I still look on it fondly as one of the best projects I was ever a part of.
Ultimately my time in the group was brief. Me and Arrogant easily could have switched monikers- and our ego’s made it tough to get on the same page at times. You have two alpha males going for the same prizes and eventually it’s going to be tough to navigate. Me and Asj love each other like brothers, but when we got to arguing it looked like to rhino’s about to gouge each other with their horns! But then about two minutes later we’d have a shot and hug it out. Never gonna be anything BUT love there.
And then there was G. I never saw him argue with anyone. He would just laugh at us for the most part. He’d be the level headed one- pulling us aside and saying “I’m gonna need ya’ll to get it together!”. Every great group, every great team has one. The level headed force that ties it all together. Every family has one too. The big brother. That was G. When we acted like dumb kids- he brought us back together.
He was a great artist, and possibly the greatest purveyor of hip hop I’ve ever seen. But more than that he was a great father and a great man. I wrote another blog about my last visit with him that you can check out if you choose to- but that image of him reaching out for that boom box will live in my memory forever.
This experience has brought Arrogant and I back together, and I’m sure I’ll see Asj and Ed this week and I’ll get to remind them that I love them. It’s crazy how we hear all of these precautionary tales about not waiting to reach out to people and how we need to “Seize the Day”, but we never do all of those little things until a situation forces us to do so. The time is now- and I’m so glad that we’ll have each other to get through this tragedy!
We can choose to remember people however we’d like. For me it will be The Great One, arm in arm with his brothers from the Chop Shop, on that little stage in the basement of the Rhythm Room. Spotlights flooding his button up. Microphone in front of his mouth. Smiling. Always smiling.
Because he was in Heaven. And now he’ll never have to leave.