First time “hip hop” appeared in print (and it wasn’t me)

Phaseatmybirthday3I didn’t realize there was a controversy about the origins of the term “hip hop” in the media until Michael Holman contacted me via facebook. Michael was part of the original downtown scene that included Jean Michel Basquiat and Fab Five Freddy. He’d just started managing the New York City Breakers when I first met him. The picture of him and me with Phase 2 and Stephen Crichlow was taken around this time at my birthday party at Lucky Strike. I wanted to get his crew into my film Beat Street, so I introduced Michael to Harry Belafonte. At that first meeting, Michael made a pitch to be the director of Beat Street. Both Harry and I felt though, that he was too inexperienced for a multi-million dollar project, but Harry liked him and signed him on as an associate producer. Who knows what might have happened though because the arrival of Andrew Davis as director signaled the demise of my script, although my original story is available on smashwords.com so any interested parties can dream with me about what might have been. I wonder if Michael even ever read it? Maybe he’s just the guy to go to back to Hollywood and get it done finally in time for the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip hop.

More to the point of this blog: ever since my original Voice article on Afrika Bambaataa was reprinted in a best-of hip hop journalism compilation, I began getting credit for putting the words “hip hop” into print for the first time. Not so, as it turns out, since Michael Holman apparently did that in a interview in the East Village Eye in January 1982. The interview probably took place shortly after Fab Five Freddy lured Bambaataa downtown to the Mudd Club for the first time, although Bambaataa and Fred soon began spending a lot of time working on the soon-to-come downtown-uptown merger that helped birth an explosion of creativity out of both camps. Michael and Charlie Ahearn were the first independent filmmakers to arrive on that scene. Anyway, I hope this mea culpa clears up the whole controversy.

Meanwhile, I’m about to release the first three ebooks from my new High Times Greatest Hits venture on smashwords. But I also have turned my attention back to my original Hip Hop book, which, although available in beta form on smashwords, desperately needs a complete overhaul with images and new material, as well as corrections to numerous typos. Thanks to Michael, I’ve been inspired to dive back into that project and hope to have an amazing new edition out in a few weeks. Among the gems I’ve uncovered so far is a picture of Kool Herc in 1975 taken by Coke La Rock and a complete copy of Bambaataa’s English class paper on street gangs.

StreetGangBam copy

 

 

 

 

 

What Really Happened to Beat Street?

Review by: Sifu TORO on Feb. 03, 2012 : star star star star star
I’m sitting here after reading the script thinkin’, WHY!? Why did they re-write it into a story so far from the original script, and so far from the reality of where Hip Hop came from? Steven Hager wrote a script that really takes you into the reality of early 1980s everyday life in the South Bronx, with respect to the pioneers of Hip Hop. I would really like to see this script on the big screen some day. The script is a piece of Hip Hop history. Pay the $2.99! It’s really worth it!!

Others, like Alisha, who had brought my original script to Harry Belafonte’s attention must have also wondered what in the world had happened. What happened to the slice-of-life drama I created?

What happened is Andrew Davis was chosen by Orion Pictures to direct the movie and I had a private meeting with Andy at my apartment right after he was hired. I played a bunch of classic hip hop records for him, telling him it was essential to get songs like “Apache” and “Just Begun” into the soundtrack for the climactic break-dance battles. (But none of these songs would ever make it into the film.) I also told him that Harry wanted to make all these crazy changes to the script and I didn’t agree with them. “I’m not worried about Harry,” replied Andy. “I know how to handle Harry.” On paper Andy and I should have gotten along: we both were graduates of the journalism department at the University of Illinois. But I could tell I was already being jettisoned from my own project. Andy was taking over and becoming the new script writer, and my script was getting tossed out the window. In fact, I never spoke to Andy again after that day. He was not interested in my input. In all fairness, Andy became a very accomplished director of action films within a few years. I particularly liked his “The Package” starring Gene Hackman, filmed mostly in Chicago. But Andy never became a great writer. And Harry ended up clashing with Andy and firing him off Beat Street. A TV director was quickly brought in to finish the film, but by then, the project was in a shambles, and the story had lost all cohesion.