All images courtesy of Dooley-O
The golden era of Hip-Hop spawned a myriad of great MCs, DJs, producers, and groups. Unfortunately, when the Hip-Hop scene exploded many talented artists never received the exposure they deserved. One such case and point is Hip-Hop veteran Dooley-O.
Dooley showed off his skills on countless projects as a DJ/MC/producer. Unfortunately, due to one reason or another, his projects such as Watch My Moves and The Meccanizm weren’t released in the heyday they were created. As these projects were released, it became baffling to many fans of the genre why such quality content took so long to see the light of day.
On top of his countless quality projects, Dooley-O’s roots run deep through the genre. Being one of the first, along with his friend Chris Lowe, to use the Skull Snaps breakbeats. The journey music took his life through is one of intrigue and what-ifs. However, Dooley is a man of few regrets who simply loves music and the culture of Hip-Hop.
Dive with us into our exclusive career-spanning interview of the underground legend.
What have you been up to the last year considering the current circumstances of the world?
Well, I digitally put out the graffiti TV series I was involved with from 1989 to 2000. GTV was a graffiti video series that I put together and started as a cable access show. Then I started putting episodes out on VHS and selling them almost worldwide. I tapped into that old footage and made an Instagram page for it. I started putting it back out. I started to remanufacture the series, starting with DVDs. Hopefully, I’ll have a catalog on USB or possibly a YouTube channel at some point. I’m just trying to figure out where to go with it right now.
I have also been playing with some music. I’m producing a little bit. Hooked up with my boy Chief Rhythm. We’re doing a new Meccanizm album. We had a group called The Meccanizm back in ’94. I had found a reel-to-reel sitting on the floor of the original album. I downloaded all the songs and they were really crisp and brand new. Straight out the recording studio in 1994. The Meccanizm, besides myself, consisted of Chief Rhythm, Doc Terror, Xtra, and Gbo. All local cats and we were working on an album. We never truly finished it. It was about nine songs. I recently put it out digitally. Then I hooked up with Chopped Herring Records. Chopped Herring was able to get the album out on vinyl for me. Hopefully, the new Meccanizm album will be out sometime in 2022. As I was saying, working on that with my boy Chief Rhythm. We just try to try to do a lot of beats right now. No gimmicks or anything like that. We pretty much trying to give you the raw Hip Hop beats and rhymes. Luckily, I was still working. I work at ACES, which is a charter school. I teach a graffiti class there. That’s the sum of last year
Chopped Herring releasing The Meccanizm on vinyl seems to have helped give the album some considerable visibility. It’s really a fantastic project and deserved any attention it is given. There isn’t much information on the group. Can you tell us the backstory behind the group and album? Where are all the members today? What was the impetus for the project to finally be released after all these years and how did you end up hooking up with Chopped Herring?
In 1988 I was going into the recording studio to see the development of Stezo’s [Dooley-O’s cousin] project. He got signed to Fresh Records and now we’re hanging in the recording studio with Paul C. I’m talking about just a small handful of us: me, Chris Lowe, Jim Slice, and Stezo. We were watching Paul C do some stuff in the studio. We would ask him, “Can you put this beat with that and that with this,” and he would do it. That was the development of how the Stezo album [Crazy Noise] went production-wise.
From there, I decided I want to branch off from Stezo and kind of do my own thing. I hooked up with my boy Shawn Rhythm [aka Chief Rhythm], and he knew Doc Terror. We kind of started forming this little clique. We were calling our group The KGB. The KGB consisted of a bunch of beatmakers and rappers. When ’94 came along, a handful of those individuals came to the table with some notable beats or rhymes.
Xtra, for example, was ahead of the time beat-wise. Xtra would have samples that, when you heard the new Tribe song, he had already used them some time ago. It was already in the file. He [Xtra] could do a dope beat and a dope rhyme. Then you had Doc Terror and Shawn Rhythm, who were insane lyricists. They were on that Kool G Rap style heavy. They all had different styles. Doc [Terror] was more aggressive. Shawn was more metaphorical. You also had Gbo, who would start normally, but he caught on so fast. His lyric game just kept running. I was the main producer.
The Wu-Tang thing was out and everyone was thinking the same thing. If we all pool together, we can do it ourselves. Everyone was doing their own thing and it just didn’t make any sense. All of us were already in the same room, producing and doing stuff since ’88. So, in ’94, we went into the studio and came up with The Meccanizm. We formed as one unit; Me, Doc [Terror], Shawn [Chief Rhythm], Xtra, and Gbo. The Meccanizm came from the idea that multiple components put together can make one machine. The crazy part about The Meccanizm album is that we did all those songs in one day. We had a six-hour time slot at Trod Nossel recording studio in Wallingford, Connecticut. We just went for it and fortunately, everybody was on point. We almost got a record deal with this company out in Jersey. We didn’t sign the contract because we disagreed with the label. The deal didn’t make sense. It could have come out, but we couldn’t find the right deal for the project.
We did a few shows and things didn’t work out right. It wasn’t a good vibe. Some dudes forgot their lyrics because they were high. Other dudes just decided they were out after that. They couldn’t deal with those other cats. I understood the whole situation. Either you deal with it and come up with something special or just don’t deal with it at all. So, that’s how that whole thing kind of played out back in the day. We decided to go our separate ways.
As far as today, Doc Terror actually went to jail for murder. Xtra, he’s in and out. Sometimes I catch up with him on the phone. Gbo is just kind of chillin’. Rhythm [Chief Rhythm] and I were the only ones that just kept working. We have stayed in touch. As I said, the two of us are working on a new Meccanizm album. By the time we were doing The Meccanizm, Stezo wasn’t involved. He was still around. We were still doing stuff with him but that was a different unrelated thing.
In 2020, I was sitting in the corner and looking at this reel-to-reel of The Meccanizm. Every day, I just kept looking at it. One day I decided, “Okay, you know what, let’s do something with this.” So, I got a dap machine from my boy, and I download the songs. I decided to put it out on Bandcamp and make a commercial for it. DJ Jazzy, saw it and said, “You should hook up with Chopped Herring Records.” I had never heard of them. I did my research. I saw that they have put out music by guys like The Last Emperor. I was impressed because a lot of people don’t know that guy. It looked like they were official, and they were. I officially hooked up with Chopped Herring after that. We did what we had to do to negotiate. The pay was upfront. It was all good. It was great because now The Meccanizm was finally out. It was a weight off my shoulders. I’m proud I kept everything from this project. In the past, I didn’t always keep my stuff. When I did the Watch My Moves album, I kept the single but I threw away the tape. The tape had a couple of other songs that never made their way onto the album. That made no sense to just toss it away. After that, I learned not to just go take your work lightly. That’s how that whole thing went.
I know you said you’re working on a new Meccanizm album. Is there anything else you can tell us about it?
We’re still in development. We’re trying to make sure we take it to a higher level than we did back. Now, we’re heavier with the lyrics. Heavy with the future aspects of how music going to be in twenty years. We’re keeping it real Hip-Hop-wise, but also just taking it to another level. We want that level to be raised artistically and visually. I’m trying to find the right sound. We got pretty good stuff. We still need to get the right sound that goes with what The Meccanizm is as a whole. We are trying to come up with this music style for that project. I’m not the only one that’s gonna be doing beats. I’m getting kind of tired of doing all the beats and the visuals. So, there’s gonna be other producers once I find who got that sound that we like. We’re trying to be patient. It’s hard to say when it will come out. I would say that we’re gonna have it later on this year or early next year.
Do you have any other future or past projects that might be dropping soon?
There are a few things older things. There’s a joint with me and Stezo, that I’m looking at to get put out there on a 45. There’s a song called “Funky and Willin’”, and a few reel-to-reels of other past materials. A few songs that might be good for its own little EP. Some lost studio tape stuff. After that, I would say about ten more quality songs in the stash. Ten more quality songs as far as 90s and early 2000s stuff.
There is a bunch of songs floating around from after that. I was working on an album with this guy named Quo. We did a song called “Culture Vulture,” and a whole bunch of other crazy songs. That album’s material is mostly from about ten years ago, but we should have released it last year. It would have fit in perfectly last year with all the riots and everything going on with the movement. I was trying to get it out around then, but it didn’t work out that way. I have to see what’s gonna happen with me and the producer, moving forward.
Watch My Moves 1990 is a dope project. Why was the album originally scrapped after being recorded in the early 90s? What enabled you to finally release it in 2003 and were there any barriers to its release?
In the 90s, after the falling out from the Stezo camp, business-wise I was venturing out to do my own thing. I went to Profile Records and had meetings. I went to Select Records and they said, “No.” Tommy Boy was a, “No.” All these labels would just say, “No.” I hooked up with this guy named Steve Manning. Steve Manning said he had a guy from out of Miami who had a lot of money. Steve said his guy was interested in finding the talent and putting them on his label, Tavdash Records. It’s the original record label that put out R. Kelly as well as K-Def and Larry-O, before the creation of Real Live. I hooked up with them. They flew me out to Florida to record. We did that whole album while I was there. Over time, things went stale. We went to the BRE in New Orleans and New York. I did, at least, get paid. I’m not gonna lie. I might have got twenty grand out of that deal over say five years. It was always here is $5,000 to keep you going. Here’s another $5,000 to keep you going on.
R.I.P. to David Hyatt, the owner of the label. There are a lot of crazy stories behind him. New York and Alpo are crazy. You know, 90s crack and drugs stuff. All due respect to Mr. Hyde though. He understood my dream and vision, but somehow, the album didn’t get released. It kind of just sat on the shelf. At least, I got paid to sit on the shelf. I jumped around a little bit trying to get different labels to release it but it didn’t happen. Looking back, I’m thinking maybe there was a chance it was me. I was a little cocky about my music when I was younger. I knew that if the music came out it would have changed my life. I don’t know, maybe I was arrogant.
There were a few times I ran into people that could have made a big difference for me. However, I never made enough effort to make that connection. For example, I ran into Premiere at a jewelry store and let him hear some of my music. He was like, “Oh, we got to hook up.” I saw him again a week later at the EPMD release party and he said the same thing. Premiere went to buy me a beer and then a fight broke out. I lost track of him after that. It’s one of those moments where you sit back and go, “Man, why didn’t I try to track this guy down?” I should have gotten his number. I wasn’t thinking like that back then. I was always thinking we all gonna be hanging out sooner or later. I don’t know why the labels and all of them didn’t like it back then. Maybe it was because I didn’t have that full package they were looking for. You know, the look and dance style. I could have just been talking to the wrong people. I felt like I tried all my options. I even went to Motown and Def America. I even moved out to California to try to get a record deal around there. I saw Organized Konfusion on Hollywood Basic and thought maybe Delicious Vinyl might sign me. I found out about the labels in California and I was just like, “Oh, maybe I’ll go out there and get on Delicious Vinyl. Just make a leap.” By the way, that was how I ended up being at the famous Good Life Café. Rapped there a bunch of times.
To push forward, I do a lot of graffiti, as I mentioned earlier. At one point, I was doing graffiti with my boy Egon. One day, he came into this Hip-Hop shop I was working at. Music was playing in the shop. He was like, “Oh, what kind of music is that?” I was like, “This is what you call a beat, you know, rhythms and grooves.” He wanted me to show him what it was. So, I gave him a breakbeat list. From there he took that list of records and went to the next level with it. Way past what I was doing. He didn’t just play the beat segment or a break of the record. He would play the whole record on the radio. It was crazy for me to realize people want to hear this stuff. He took that to Nashville and hooked up with Peanut Butter Wolf. He helped Wolf start Stones Throw. Then he started his own label while staying involved with Stones Throw.
I let Egon hear Watch My Moves. He came to my house. I had just moved back to California. I said, “Yo man, you got to check this album out.” I let him hear the album and he was like, “Wow, this is amazing, man. We should do something with this.” I was thinking to myself that time was ticking. I saw that Stones Throw was putting out rappers left and right. They promised me if I came to California, they would look out for me. All you got to do is come they said. You get there and nothing’s happening. I went to open, deejaying with breaking stuff, at this Funky 16 Corners show. It was in San Francisco. It was as a favor to the Stones Throw guys. I had the dance floor rocking. It was that type of night. They were impressed with my set. At the end of the show, I was like, “Wolf, what’s up. You gonna put my stuff out? What’s going on?” He said, “Dooley, you know you down with us.” I said, “I’m not down with you guys right now. You guys are gonna jump on a bus and go through like ten More cities. While I’m still here playing at the same bar. That’s not being down man.” He said, “What do you want me to do?” I said, “I want you to put my record out.” Wolf said, “Oh, Watch My Moves? Let’s put it out, Dooley.” I guess that was all I had to do, but it took me a move to San Francisco to make it happen.
The only thing that was wack about the whole situation is that only the single came out on Stones Throw. The album came out on Solid Records. If the album came out on Stones Throw, it would have made a different impact. Solid Records didn’t have the pull of Stones Throw. But Egon was trying to look out for his homeboy that was coming into the game. Solid Records just didn’t have the name that Stones Throw had already built. That’s why we didn’t really sell those records too well. I think it would have done better on Stones Throw. That’s basically how it came out. I had moved from Connecticut to San Francisco. Started a whole new life and ran into those dudes. Tell them to put me on the label and put my album out. Thanks to Peanut Butter Wolf. They did.
How does your approach differ as an MC when working on a solo effort as opposed to a group project like The Meccanizm?
Well, there is definitely a different approach. Dooley-O is a storyteller. Dooley-O was always a guy who talks about relationships. He talks about his life in general. The Meccanizm is something where I’m just gonna run off my mouth. Say some crazy shit that makes you go, “Dam, did you hear what he just said?” Where my mind is at lyrically is just thinking about something old and making it fresh. Making it new, you know. Using some comedy and having some fun with it. Say some funny and off-the-chain stuff. Not too vulgar though. I don’t like too much profanity. I did that once. I thought it was gonna take me somewhere, so I did it. I try to minimize all the crazy talk to a degree. In The Meccanizm, I’m not even Dooley-O. I’m Oxygen. It’s a totally different animal. A totally different style.
Some people like to declare, “Hip-Hop is dead.” How do you feel about that statement?
When the statement came out, I was really disappointed. I didn’t know why somebody would put that out there. I think the talk might have started back in the day after the Nas song came out. People took it the wrong way. He [Nas] was saying it was dead in a certain way. Nas wasn’t saying it’s dead, as in it’s over, and let’s move on. I think Hip-Hop is in the soul. I mean Hip-Hop is who you are as a person. It touches you right here [touches his chest] when you hear it. So, it’s never dead. Just us sitting here talking about Hip-Hop is proof it isn’t dead. I’m going to be listening to Ultramagnetic songs when I’m eighty-nine years old. That’s it. Hip-Hop is here to stay. You got to work a little more to find what you want nowadays. It’s work to see what everybody is doing.
I think the real problem was with some of the cats from the 90s. They were getting a lot of money doing it. Then that money stopped, because of the shift in the music industry. Changing of record and CD sales. The whole Napster thing. When all that money stopped, they didn’t know where to go. No one knew what to do, so they just stopped period. I’ve asked a few rappers recently when they were going to put out another album. They asked why they would. I would tell them you still got listeners and fans. Those people want to hear something new. They don’t want to keep playing this old shit all the time. Personally, as a DJ, I got tired of playing the same classic Hip-Hop stuff. It’s just getting burnt out. It’s time for some raw Hip-Hop. There’s a lot out there that I don’t know about. There’s a whole bunch of guys. I’m sure of it. There are so many options, you just have to find them. To each his own. Every listener has their preferred style.
I wouldn’t say Hip-Hop is dead. There is so much to the culture. People still buying fresh kicks, they have their pants hanging down a little bit and putting on dope shirts that say something crazy. We are all surrounded by stuff from the Hip-Hop genre and culture. One prime example is getting into beats. I remember my introduction to beats was DJ Chuck Chillout. Then after that, it was Q-Tip. He [Q-Tip] got me into Jazz. I wasn’t even messing with Jazz. I was only messing with Soul and Funk records, as far as beats go. I wasn’t looking at Coltrane or anything like that. Q-Tip without a doubt introduced me and a lot of others to Jazz. I’m sure those same discoveries are going on today. I’m still doing Hip-Hop. I’m still doing graffiti. I’m still doing beats. I’m still writing rhymes. Hip-Hop is not dead.
I know you were one of the first people in Hip-Hop to use the breakbeats on the Skull Snaps album. The album has now solidified itself in Hip-Hop history due to the number of times it has been sampled. What led you to discover the album and the breakbeats within? How did you create the beat you ended up using on “Watch My Moves”?
So, you got to understand this, we didn’t have a sampling machine back then. I’m talking about before Skull Snaps got on the Stezo record. It was just me and Chris Cosby AKA Chris Lowe. The two of us got to talking one day while we were listening to breakbeats. Some of the breakbeats didn’t have the full name of the record they were originally taken from. We started wondering if there was a list somewhere with all that information on it. We started thinking if we could get the album names maybe this same album might have more beats to use. After that got into our brains, Chris Lowe started looking around. He ended up getting a breakbeat list.
That research got us itching to discover new albums to take beats from. I found a place called Replay Records that I got from the yellow pages. Replay Records led us to discover other stuff we hadn’t heard before. I remember getting Melting Pot by Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The discoveries at Replay really set me off. The thing was, I couldn’t afford to keep buying tons of records. I decided to see if my aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, or whoever wanted to get rid of their records. At the time, records were going out of style with the average person. Most people had cassettes, and CDs were starting to become popular. My next-door neighbor, Miss Brown, heard that I was looking for records. I was always hanging out with her nephews and nieces. She told me she had a bunch of records for me. I went over to her place and started going through the records. One of the albums was the Skull Snaps record.
When me and Chris Lowe were working together, and at that point, he was the DJ. He was nice with the pause. He could pause it and let it go and pause it again. So, he looped up the Skull Snaps breakbeat. Then I told him to put the Ike and Tina Turner on top of that. And there you go. There it is. It was a joint collaboration. I can’t really say which one of us did what from there. But it was most definitely a joint collaboration. Then we went into Trod Nossel Studio and made “Watch My Moves.”
Then Stezo got his hands on it. He used it to make the song, “It’s My Turn.” There was a little tension about it. I just told him, “When you’re done with it, just remember I got plenty of other songs.” I wasn’t too worried about it because I was already ahead of the game. During that period of time, I would hear these songs come out on the radio and think, “We already did that.” Like De La Soul Soul’s “Buddy,” we looped it up just the way they looped it up. I’ll admit, they did it a little better. But they had Prince Paul and they had the tools. The same day we came out of the studio, we watched the world premiere of the “Buddy” video. I knew we were on the right track.
What was the Hip-Hop scene like in New Haven back in the 80s and 90s?
You had the founders like Mr. Magic and DJ Joey D. Mr. Magic was a rapper and entrepreneur. He [Mr. Magic] came out with Tri-State Records. He was putting out records by a guy named Pookey Blow. DJ Joey D, I would say, is probably the main guy though and he is still around doing it today. Those guys started the scene. They were the dudes that were happening to the Bronx and the rest of the New York guys. I mean, we are right next door to New York. We are only an hour and a half away. So, you know, we were getting everything. We had a rich scene, but we just didn’t have someone huge come out of it. Stezo was the right person to make it big and become huge. But the business aspect didn’t do him any good. He didn’t have the right management behind him. That could have taken him to the next level.
There are a lot of Connecticut Hip-Hop records, not just New Haven, that are pretty dope. There was A.C. Smooth. He did some producing for Bushwackass and I think he did a Nas cut. He [A.C. Smooth] had Aggravated Entertainment and he’s still doing it. A.C. Smooth is a real good friend of mine. He produced that Lonnie O record, “Mr. Dynamite” as well. I believe Stones Throw did a 45 of “Mr. Dynamite” at one point. There was DJ White Flash and Skinny Boys and their crew. They were all from Bridgeport. They were really doing it since way back. Way back like when I was a kid. There was a promoter named Reggie Reg at the time. He was important because he would book all these artists from New York to come down here and perform. We had a great scene. It was poppin’.
What were your musical origins? How did you get started with Hip-Hop and making beats?
I’ve just been around it since I was young. I saw it before it got on a record. Before “Rapper’s Delight.” I was back and forth to New York. My cousins lived in New York, and I would just come outside see people rapping in the park. Then I would come back home to Connecticut with it, and I started rapping everywhere that I went. The older dudes would be like, “Yo, do that again.” They were kind of hip to it a little bit. Then I saw my brother and his friends starting to take it to the next level. I remember one time they had a party, and they were cutting it up. I decided that I would go over there and try to DJ. They told me to go to my room. I went back to my room crying. I remember all that.
There were a lot of breakdancing battles. I tried to breakdance. I got good when everybody stopped. It was kind of wack. Then I stopped breakdancing. I went to rapping and graffiti. Beats came along by just trying to go in the studio and make a record. I just felt that it was something I could do. I can rap and make a beat. I can do all of this. It was just in my bones. Injected in my vein from day one. I’m happy. I had a pretty good journey. I wish I would have been a little more exposed to the public. But I don’t mind being the underdog and in the underground. What keeps me going is knowing that people still want to hear more.
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