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Hip Hop

Hip-hop group The Fat Boys was recently inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) at its newly opened museum location in Stony Brook on Aug. 6. Kool Rock-Ski (Damon Wimbley), the last surviving member of The Fat Boys, accepted the induction in person from hip-hop legend and LIMEHOF inductee Erick Sermon of EPMD. Public Enemy’s DJ Johnny Juice (also a LIMEHOF inductee) was also on hand to show support and speak about the group. 

“It’s definitely an honor on behalf of the group, two members who are no longer here,” Kool Rock-Ski said. “To accept this on their behalf is huge, because they brought so much to the culture. Their legacy lives on with an award like this. We got to the pinnacle of our success—and we got there the hard way, by doing a lot of hard work.”

The Fat Boys rose to fame in the 1980s, where they pioneered their influential beatbox style of hip-hop music. The group was from East New York in Brooklyn and included “Prince Markie Dee” (Mark Morales), “Kool Rock-Ski” (Damon Wimbley), and “Buff Love” (Darin Robinson). They would heavily influence hip-hop culture through beatbox, comedic charisma, and rhymes. The trio released seven studio albums, four of which went gold by RIAA. In addition to their music, they went on to star in three feature films: Krush Groove, Knights of the City, and Disorderlies.  

The Fat Boys had several successful singles which included “Stick ‘Em,” “Can You Feel It,” “The Fat Boys Are Back,” “Wipe Out,” “Fat Boys,” and “Jail House Rap,” to name a few. Throughout their career, they participated in several tours, one of which was Fresh Fest. And despite having eventually broken up as a group, each of the three members maintained a strong brotherhood. The Fat Boys is credited as having had a strong influence on the development and growing popularity of hip-hop. 

“The Fat Boys introduced the beatbox, to the world and the song they made was funky to me,” said EPMD’s Erick Sermon, himself a LIMEHOF inductee, when he officially inducted The Fat Boys on stage. “I’m honored to do this because my memories of my kitchen on that ledge was playing The Fat Boys album.” 

Kurtis Blow, another LIMEHOF inductee, has a personal connection to The Fat Boys, as he produced their first two albums. 

“The Fat Boys being inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame is so well deserved,” Blow said in a written statement which congratulated the group on this honor. “These young men were talented and passionate about their craft at a very young age. Producing The Fat Boys was one the highlights of my career. Rest in peace, Buffy (the Human Beatbox Master) and Prince Markie Dee (Mark Morales). I will never forget you, and you are greatly missed. Continue to carry the torch, Kool Rock-Ski!”

LIMEHOF has long recognized the unique talent and contributions that Long Island artists brought to the hip-hop genre. Notable hip-hop inductees include LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kurtis Blow, Whodini, Salt-N-Pepa, and EPMD. Earlier this year, LIMEHOF held an event to honor the 50th anniversary of hip-hop which had a strong participation and turn out from Long Island artists.

“This historic induction—coupled with our recent 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop Concert—cements Long Island’s legacy as one of the most important regions in the country for contributing to hip-hop’s long-term success,” said Ernie Canadeo, LIMEHOF Chairman.  

“Inducting The Fat Boys into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame is a tribute to their enduring influence—recognizing their role in shaping the genre and inspiring generations,” said Tom Needham, LIMEHOF Vice Chairman and longtime host of the “Sounds of Film” radio show, and who organized the induction event.

At the induction ceremony, Kool Rock-Ski announced that he is working on a documentary film about The Fat Boys and intends to hold the premiere at LIMEHOF when it’s released. 

For more information about events and future inductions, visit www.limusichalloffame.org/museum/. 

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Many who visited the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in Stony Brook Sunday, June 11, may have thought they stumbled upon a family reunion. In a way they did, as Long Island hip-hop artists were on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the genre at an event hosted by the museum and venue.

The Sunday afternoon event started with a “knock out” presentation as the museum unveiled a statue of LL Cool J, born James Todd Smith in Bay Shore. The actor, rapper, songwriter and music producer’s successes include the hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” (1990) and his role on “NCIS: Los Angeles.”

The statue, known as The G.O.A.T. Monument, is officially titled “Going Back to The Meadows, A Tribute to LL COOL J and Performance at FMCP” and was created in 2021 by artist Sherwin Banfield. During the unveiling ceremony, Banfield pointed out different accents he included on the 8 1/2-feet tall, 600-pound statue, including a boom box with a cassette tape of the rapper’s debut album “Radio” (1985). Banfield also played homage on the piece to what he called “the determination pin.” The rapper’s right arm was paralyzed when he was younger, and his mother would pin his right sleeve to the mattress to inspire movement.

Composed of bronze, stainless steel, steel, winter stone, resin, cement and wood, the statue was displayed in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for a year. It includes a solar panel that powers an audio system.

Blasts from the past

Visitors were treated to performances as well as a Q&A panel where the artists shared stories from the early days of their careers, many of them knowing each other since they were younger.

Before the performances featuring DJ Jazzy Jay (John Bayas), DJ Johnny Juice Rosado, AJ Rok (AJ Woodson) of JVC Force, MC Glamorous (Chaplain Jamillah), Dinco D (James Jackson) of Leaders of the New School and the group Son of Bazerk, the artists participated in the Q&A panel along with Keith Shocklee of the producing team The Bomb Squad and an original member of Public Enemy as well as video jockey and director Ralph McDaniels. The panel members were happy to share the history of hip-hop on Long Island stories with attendees.

Shocklee, who was born in Roosevelt, said he, along with his brother and friends, started DJing by playing in his family’s basement in the 1970s. They then began to play at local youth centers around the Island and throw parties in friends’ basements and backyards. Soon they were DJing at the local parks. While others would go to Centennial Park in Roosevelt to play basketball, other young people would go to play music, Shocklee said.

“It’s something we did to stay off the streets of Long Island,” he said. “It wasn’t as dangerous as the Bronx or Brooklyn, but you had your stick-up kids.”

MC Glamorous, originally from Freeport, said events such as Roosevelt Day, Freeport Day and Wyandanch Day gave the communities something to look forward to and the artists a chance to perform.

“It brought people together, and we got a day to shine also with those jams,” she said.

Shocklee said Long Island hip-hop artists in the 1970s were aware the Bronx was the epicenter of hip-hop, where he said the DJ technique scratch, MCs, hip-hop culture and breakdancing were born and developed.

McDaniels said the hip-hop culture on Long Island was different from what was happening in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and parts of New Jersey. He said when he hosted “Video Music Box” he was able to compare music scenes.

“There was something going on in Long Island that was different,” he said. “When I heard Public Enemy, when I heard EPMD [from Brentwood], I was like, ‘This is different.’ This is not what the rest of the city or the rest of the country sounds like, and I think that’s what makes Long Island its own — or Strong Island — its own unique sound, because we weren’t as thirsty. We had homes. Some of us had parents. Some of us went to college. We were relaxed.”

McDaniels reference to “Strong Island” was a song recorded in 1988 by JVC Force sampling a phrase that Public Enemy’s Chuck D used while working as a DJ at Adelphi University’s radio station, WBAU.

Woodson, who spent several of his younger years in Central Islip, said the reason the group recorded the song “Strong Island” was because “you literally had to be from the five boroughs to get respect.”

Bayas, who was part of the development of Def Jam Recordings, remembered when he would come down from the Bronx to play in Amityville, and the first time he said, “We’re going out to the country.”

During those visits to the Island, he said he met hip-hop artists Biz Markie, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith — the latter two from EPMD — when they were children. Bayas said before hip-hop, if someone didn’t know how to play an instrument, they weren’t considered a musician. For that reason, he learned to play the drums and, as a DJ, he said he and others were always searching for the rare group to play at the parties.

“Hip-hop allowed us to be musicians because we have something to offer, because we know what music to play,” Bayas said.

The LIMEHOF received a surprise visit toward the end of the event from rapper Keith Murray who grew up in Central Islip. The venue had to postpone its induction of The Fat Boys, from Brooklyn, as surviving member Kool Rock-Ski (Damon Wimbley) was unable to attend at the last minute.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Walking into the dance studio at the Huntington YMCA feels like walking into a family gathering full of distant relatives you’ve never met before. But the vibe is one of comfort and inclusion, especially if you’ve got a penchant for impromptu group renditions of Taylor Swift songs.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

The friendly atmosphere inside the studio is natural, according to dance instructor Pam Christy-Allen, after students, teachers and parents have worked together for as long as they have.

“I have the same kids every year, so I build relationships with them,” Christy-Allen said in a recent interview. “As their sweet sixteens have come we’ve been invited to them and they include you like their family. It’s very rewarding.”

Last month, the YMCA’s dance program turned two decades old, a milestone that staff there celebrated. But there’s no resting on laurels — program leaders say they plan to stay on their toes.

In a recent visit to the program, students showed appreciation for their instructors. Thirteen-year-old hip hop, acro and ballet student Samantha Sluka began taking YMCA dance classes at age 3 and said that Debbie Smith, her ballet teacher, has kept her interested in dancing through the years. Sluka said YMCA classes have improved her self-confidence in addition to technical dance skills, and that in the future she “would love to dance on Broadway”.

Mary Dejana, a 17-year-old tap and jazz student, said that she likes lyrical and contemporary dance styles best because they help her express her feelings. She said that the YMCA program has taught her teamwork.

“Under the tutelage of my ballet, modern and pointe teacher Jo-Ann Hertzman and with the many opportunities the YMCA provided, I have come to understand not only more about dance but more about myself and the world around me,” wrote former student Mariah Anton in a letter to the staff at the YMCA. With plans to continue dancing at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Anton wrote that her “experiences at the YMCA have directed [her] to invest back into others through teaching, encouraging, and opening the world to the next generation in the same way that the YMCA invested in [her].”

Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Citing the Huntington YMCA as a “second home … during [her] childhood and early adulthood,” former student Melanie Carminati, now physical therapist and Pilates instructor in East Northport, called the dance program “a safe haven for artistic growth and creativity” in a written statement. She attributed the environment to the guidance of Edie Cafiero, cultural arts director.

Cafiero stressed the importance of allowing dancers to express their creativity from a young age. “We start with 3-year-olds,” he said. “We make it fun while still using terminology and introducing steps. We let them explore themselves at that age.” She said that classes become more serious as students age and advance, but that they have the option to either hone in on certain dance styles or further expand their horizons and learn new styles.

Among some of the less conventional dance classes offered at the YMCA are Irish step, hip hop, acro, lyrical, contemporary, modern and adult ballet.

When asked what factors have contributed most significantly to the success of the Huntington YMCA dance program, Cafiero pointed to the variety of classes offered and the welcome-all attitude of the staff.

She said she walked into a famous ballet school at age 15 “and they told me I was over the hill before seeing me dance. I never wanted a kid to feel like that. We don’t turn anyone away. If they have the passion to dance we want to nurture it.”

Anyone interested in the Huntington YMCA cultural and performing arts program is invited to contact Cafiero at 631-421-4242, ext. 132.