Saturday, August 25, 2018

REST IN POWER D.J. READY RED - THE GENTLE GIANT By JayQuan

 

 

Collins


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"How's it going Jay? Hows the family?" That intro to conversation is one that I hear daily, and it's just an expected greeting, and of course the expected reply is "everything is good bro, how about you & yours?" When Red asked how you were doing, you felt that it was more than just the cliche' greeting that we bestow upon each other as we attempt to fit a conversation into our busy lives. Everything about Red was genuine. Collins Leysath was genuinely one who was more concerned about the well being of his fellow man than his own. I knew that based on my almost 20 year friendship with Red, but it is also solidified through the words of others. His social media pages have been flooded with one testimony after another of how good Red was as a human being.There are instances of him personally calling people that he'd never met face to face to wish them Happy Birthday. I saw an instance where someone's Mother transitioned, and he personally called them to let them know that he was available to talk and listen, because he understood that pain. I can count on one hand the times that I've heard Red use profanity (outside of his recordings of course). This is in stark contrast to the persona given to us by the group that along with NWA set the precedent for extreme vulgarity and profanity on rap records.


Balls & My Word


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One day in 1988 I was record shopping like I did every weekend. As I thumbed through the dollar bins at Carrington's Records in downtown Richmond,VA I came across an album called Making Trouble by the Ghetto Boys. Even for the low price of 1 dollar, I only bought records that I had heard before, or that contained something familiar to me like a producers name, the record label or a song title that really grabbed me. I saw that the record label was Rap A Lot, which was the same label that Raheem The Vigilante released records on. Raheem had a single called Dance Floor, and the video was getting good rotation on BET. He even had the nerve to diss L.L. on the song, when L was at his zenith.The fact that this record was on Rap A Lot had earned my 4 quarters, but I noticed on the cover of the lp that the midget (Red would later tell me that Lil Billy aka Bushwick Bill was a dwarf) that was dancing on Raheem's video was part of this group. Once I got home and listened to Making Trouble, I was more than pleased with my purchase. The movie Scarface had been released 5 years before, and certain lines that Pacino said in the movie were classic. Someone had taken the best snippets and put them over top of Roland TR 808 drums. And the Mc's were dope! On songs like Assassins and Snitches the lyrics were gangster, but these were stories that were obviously just tales to entertain, as much of the so called early "Gangster Rap" was. But these 808 beats though. There was a slow tempo interlude that sampled the famous Scarface line "all I have in this world is balls and my word". I wanted more of this sound.


Geto Boys

 

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D.J. Ready Red, the producer of the first 3 Ghetto Boys lps had crafted quite a soundscape. 1989's Grip It On That Other Level caught the attention of Rick Rubin who had left Def Jam and started his own label Def American Records. He would eventually sign Johnny Cash and comedian Andrew Dice Clay. He would also re-master,tweak, re-arrange,re-title and re-release Grip It on Def American in 1990 as The Geto Boys (Assassins from Making Trouble was re worked and added as well). A few things happened between the release of Making Trouble in '88 and Grip It in '89. Prince Johnny C & Juke Box (the Mc's that I mentioned earlier) had been replaced with D.J. Action and Willie D. Bushwick Bill was now an MC in the group and Red was still D.J./producer. I don't remember which song I heard first from Grip It/Geto Boys, but I distinctly remember being at the Tropicana, a Richmond ,VA night club that we affectionately called "The Trop" and hearing a mixture of the drums from Paid In Full (which were actually a sample from Ashley's Roachclip by The Soul Searchers), Blues & Pants by James Brown and Gimme What You Got by Le Pamplemousse. This incredible sound that I heard was D.J. Action on a song called Scarface. This song would become such an anthem that he would drop the name D.J. Action. The song started with the signature "balls & my word" sample that Red had interpolated to perfection just a year or 2 before. This was the production of D.J. Ready Red. It's not just about sampling, but crafting a song. What are you going to scratch on top of the track? Which samples go well with what? I told Red every chance that I got that Grip It/Geto Boys is a lesson on sampling, scratching and programming beats. Red was a master, because he was a good student.

Playing Tricks

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Every artist from James Brown and Prince to The Beatles and George Clinton has had to ask their record label that age old question. Where's the money? Im writing and producing these songs that people are buying. Where's my cash? D.J. Ready Red was no exception, and when the answer wasn't to his liking he walked, some time in 1990. Prior to his departure he had found the soundtrack to Tough Guys by Isaac Hayes, and he really liked a song called Hung Up On My Baby. He suggested that the group should sample it at some time in the near future.They did just that, and scored the biggest hit of their career. In fact My Mind's Playing Tricks On Me is the definitive Geto Boys song. The song charted, it was their first and really only song to receive prime time radio airplay, and any list of the 50 or 100 best rap songs is bound to contain it. Red missed it. He literally built the house, but was not able to benefit from the success and/or accolades.

The Foundation


My first time on the internet was in 1995. My best friend had just got accepted to law school
JayQuan & Ready Red 2016
, and we were at the library of the University Of Richmond. The internet was brand new, and there was no Google or You Tube, additonally there was no such thing as social media. I typed the words Hip Hop and rap music into the search engine (possibly Excite at the time) and 2 stories came up. One was about KRS One and one was about Run DMC. I knew on that day that I would learn how to publish web pages, and that I would write and post pictures about the (still) little known history of the genre. By 1998 I had a full website up and running with pictures and biographies, and I was getting contacted by people from around the world about my writings.I received an email from Red. It was definitely an honor to communicate with someone whose work I admired, and I always wondered what happened to him as far as the group. Of course today we are aware of everyone's movements, but this was before the internet and social media. If someone dropped out of sight, they were out of sight and eventually out of mind.



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Red thanked me repeatedly for my website, and he explained to me almost every time that we talked, that it helped him to get back on his feet. "Jay I've been through it all. I've suffered with drug addiction and I was homeless". Red told me that he would go to the library in the early days of the internet and read and research on the web. A search of his favorite group Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 brought him to my site, and he says that he would read a little bit everyday. Red began to reveal his story to me. Not that of D.J. Ready Red, but that of Collins Leysath; the Mama's boy who loved Hip Hop and Dj'd at the rollerskating rinks in New Jersey. He told me of his younger days when his parents disliked rap music, but after hearing The Message & You Are by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5; they accepted the music and bought him equipment. We didn't just talk about music, we talked about life, and music was an important part of the fabric and the back drop to both of our lives. I told Red about my early regional successes with rap music and let him hear my music. Red would always address me as a legend, and I always rejected the title and let him know that it was he, not I that deserved legendary status. Time waits for no man and life gets in the way. Red & I planned on making music together, I've interviewed him but we never finished. "Jay I haven't told anyone the whole story yet. Im saving that for you. Your work helped me get back on track, just let me know when you're ready". Shit.....we always think that we have time, but we clearly aren't in control totally. I talked to Red about 2 months ago,he sounded
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like he was in good spirits, and we had a good conversation. He had acquired all of his equipment back piece by piece. He was getting a few write ups in magazines,he received endorsements by Stanton (DJ equipment company), was the opening act for legendary funk band Instant Funk. He also opened for DJ Premier and Public Enemy in recent years, as well as appearing on TV One's UnSung. Red survived a really bad automobile accident about a decade ago, that no human being was supposed to walk away from alive. Things were looking up for my brother. This wasn't supposed to happen to a person like Red. He was a deeply spiritual and  religious man, and I can hear him now saying "Jay it's not for us to question the good Lord's timing, he calls us when he sees fit". I know Red, but still.

PS: Red was always apologetic in what he saw as his role in rap music's content going where it did. "Jay, we weren't thugs at all. We all came from good 2 parent households, and we were all good students. We were far from trouble makers, we just needed a way to get into the music industry. Life started to imitate our art, and we had to tote guns to our shows because our music was attracting real criminals and thugs".

Rest In Power D.J. Ready Red

https://www.discogs.com/artist/181066-DJ-Ready-Red

8 comments:

  1. When I was thinking of Red, the "Gentle Giant" came across my mind. I located a 1990 Spin Magazine article on the Geto Boys Def American work and sent it to him back in 2014. We shared a phone call afterwards and he expressed hope that he would go out w/ PE on the road. Most of us only are only familiar with the side of the artist they chose to show. Red was transparent and showed the world 360 degrees of the man. Great eulogy. Through your words you helped resurrect him years ago. Its only fitting you came full circle to delivery his online eulogy. Peace.

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  2. Great write up on DJ Ready Red.

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  3. Incredible. RIP DJ Ready Red. Loved your words Jay.

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  4. He was a gentle giant. Red was A great dude... And I love you 4 this write up... Love u 2 death..

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