Boston Hip Hop History: Magnus Carta
Not long ago, I posted a link to some info at WZBC about early hip hop shows (see the bottom of the page) with legendary Boston DJ/Artist Magnus. This generated a conversation with Brian Coleman (another WZBC DJ) about when Magnus started playing hip hop in Boston. We decided to e-mail Magnus for some clarification. Here's a great bit of Boston Hip Hop History from a true pioneer (pictured here with his paintings from a photo at Art Net.)
pace- although i've been to a number of blog sites - grime fr' instance- to cull info & ting - i've never blogged myself or ever been to a chat room - not much of a chit chat type - so i'm sending you this in email - you can post it if you like -
in the summer of 85 i had been filling in once a week almost every week on wmbr's nightly black music show "the ghetto". All the other dj's - like ray antoine - who i think is still at wmbr - were playing stuff like the gap band, prince & morris day's the time - i didn't like that shit but i was mad for the emerging hip hop - it got so that by the end of the summer i would get on, not even say anything, play 3 raps in a row & the phones would start ringing - "keep it going magnus! i remember in august i played a new song twice by popular request - the only time before or since- it was "la di da di" by doug e fresh & slick rick- i was having a very good time.
at the same time my regular reggae show- "reggae mukasa" had hit a doldrum- the new music coming out was getting increasingly lame & my enthusiasm was flagging so i decided to give it up. my buddy at wmbr & mit- thomas uebel- alias "thomas alien" a german by way of england student who i had originally produced to start the first african show in the country- "aliens' corner"-(note the placement of the apostrophe) didn't wanna see me give up radio & suggested that since i was so keen on the new digital rythym music- not just rap but other stuff i was into- that i propose a new show to the wmbr program board- he even invented the name- "lecco's lemma". i did & it was accepted & given the 4-6 saturday afternoon spot in september.
as soon as i started though the kids found me & the requests started jamming the phones- all for rap. it got so that as soon as every show started all 3 phone lines would light up- & stay that way- as soon as you'd answer it & put it back down- it would light back up- the energy was incredible & there were no other rap shows anywhere- dj red alert had a late night 1 hour show in nyc- but that was about it.
in fact there was a real antipathy for rap music in the older black audience- mattapan music fr' instance- who were sponsoring my show- took out an ad at the time on WILD- boston's "black" radio that they self produced that included a snippet of rap on it. the owner of the station- joe johnson- a trinidadian- heard it & was furious- called the station & had them yank it. i remember particularly a letter from a black parent & teacher to wmbr accusing the show of promoting regressive language that featured later as a bit of evidence in the show's cancellation at wmbr - many of my fellow (white) dj's couldn't believe that i listened to that music at home- said that i was just doing it to be different & that it wouldn't last -
meanwhile i was soliciting homemade tapes that i was then playing- & then some rappers came down to rap live on the show - this was not such an innovation for me- i had had many jamaican rappers "toast" live over rythyms on my reggae show - but the floodgates soon opened-
before i knew it the studios were inundated with gaggles of aspiring rappers eager to get on live- one saturday i showed up it was standing room only inside-in fact the overflow was packed outside the studios at walker memorial building- some kids had mimeographed flyers announcing a "battle" & invited everybody down.
the powers that be at wmbr however, were becoming concerned that things were getting out of control - & they were not entirely wrong as regards the unintended obscenities getting aout over the air-no matter how much some rappers were asked to obliterate the expletives inevitably the enthusiasms would overwhelm & bad words would happen -
by may of 86 mbr had had enough & canned the show- i was going to leave it at that but the kids wouldn't have it- so i called andrew herman- the pd at wzbc- & he gave me a spot- sunday night at first- then saturday- with the stipulation of no guests- which held to some extent- & also zbc was harder to get to-
by the way pace- i noticed in yr top ten- (ed note: actually a link to someone else's top 10) no grime? no mia no dizzie rascal et al? no reggaeton? no tego calderon no mickey perfecto et al? what' up with that? ok i'm done m
Ed note: Despite his claim to be "done", his show The Matrix can be heard on WERU in Blue Hill, ME. For the sake of music, thank god