Three things about Empire Boulevard (there are more)*: First, what’s beef? In 1989, graffiti writer JA wilding on SONI’s house as recounted in Jim Dwyer’s excellent book Subway Lives (1991): JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA JA. And so on. This really happened and it didn’t end there. Second, a decade earlier, there was the so-called Empire Boulevard Operation, which pitted the FBI against a massive Brooklyn-based stolen car ring helmed by fearsome Gambino crime family member, Roy DeMeo. Also a prolific hit man who often butchered his victims to make them disappear, DeMeo ran his crew out of a bar, the Gemini Lounge at Flatlands and Troy. Sometimes the Gemini Lounge had music; can ya’ll imagine the bands who played there in late 1970s Brooklyn? Third, many BK folks– myself included– still hear the throb of hip-hop, disco, funk, dancehall and other musics at the late, still lamented Empire Roller Skating Center. Just picture then 60-year-old Caz Dolowicz rolling the Empire with his Grenadian girlfriend and Michael’s “Billie Jean,” Run-DMC “It’s Like That” or even Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” comes on the system: don’t front, you were there too! Or should wish you were.
Speaking of empires, my most esteemed colleagues, Dallas Penn and Combat Jack, in addition to holding down their own internets, are both now writing for ihiphop.com also. I’m not super familiar with the site but I follow dudes so… Most recently, CJ wonders where Michael Jackson bought those white kids and Dallas ponders the skills, and hype of Jay Electronica. I’ve not heard enough JE to really have an opinion though his beat for Nas’ “Queens Get The Money” made me take musical notice. Not wanting to get left too far behind, WWIB’s very own Brian Berger has been writing for the estimable HiLoBrow.com, where “middlebrow is not the solution.” Preach! Berger’s pieces to date include:
* Brooklyn-raised jazz great, activist and educator Max Roach, Boys High School Class of 1942 and so much more.
If Max were alive, I bet he could say some things about Crispus Attucks, whose more than just the name of a small park at Fulton and Classon, as I bet Dallas and CJ will remind folks for Black History Month. Me? I’ll be reading, whether or not Sharp Eye Washington gets my wallet back or not; I hope to hell he does. — Kenny Wisdom
* There’s always more: take a ride on Kevin Walsh’s Forgotten New York Franklin Avenue Shuttle for starters.