Interviewing the legendary Hip-hop entrepreneur Bobbito the Barber was an
enlightening experience. He is the owner of a record label and two stores, the host
of a radio show, and a columnist for Vibe has hosted over 250 concerts in the past
ten years, has been featured in three major films including Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam
and plays basketball. He remains a dedicated advocate of “organic” Hip-Hop
and an important resource for independent artists
Bobbito’s internationally renowned radio show on WKCR has been running for nine years. It was for many years the “Stretch & Bobbito Show,”featuring Bobbito’s radio partner DJ Stretch
The show developed a large and dedicated following over the years and received
a lot of critical acclaim: “We were voted in Source Magazine as being the best Hip-Hop radio
show of all time…and we were voted by the Village Voice as the best Hip-Hop show in New
York.” After working together for eight years the duo split up last fall.
“The Split up represented a growing separation of my and Stretch’s interests, and I think it was a positive thing.”
Bobbito decided to leave Hot 97, and they agreed to alternate Thursdays on
WKCR. Bobbito teamed up with Lord sear, and created the “CM Famamlam Program* (89.9fm 1am-5am every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Thursday of the month.)
“Stretch and I continue our vision in supporting independent, organic Hip-Hop”
Between the fall of 1996 and the summer of 1997 Bobbito opened two stores called Bobbito’s Footwork. One store is located in New York (323 E. 9th Street) and the other on Philadelphia (13n. Third Street)
“The stores are very much in line with what I do with the radio show which is provide a resource for up and coming independent designers, as well as record labels…we also sell hard to find sneakers, and second-hand records”.
The store has also become a place where young aspiring MCS producers, and DJs go to drop off their demos.
In the winter of 1995 Bobbito started a record label called Fondle em’ Records: “[This] is
something I am very proud of…I have released almost 30 records over the last three years
independently, and when I say independently that means independent funding, and distribution. It’s a one man show.” Fondle em’ has been a launching pad for many artists including The Arsonists, Cage, and The Juggaknots all of whom have moved on to larger projects.
In 1995 he put out The Cenobites with God Father Don and Kool
Keith. “The Cenobites was his [Kool Keith’s] first release since he had split up with the
ultra-magnetic MCs.” Fondle em’ Records has also received a lot of critical acclaim: “Urb
Magazine had a readers poll and they voted me as having the best independent label, and in 97 Trace had an article that considered Fondle’ em as being the most important independent label.”
DJ Cucumber Slice:
As a DJ, Bobbito uses the name Cucumber Slice which has appeared on flyers for parties all
over the world. “I’ve Djayed in over 8 different countries, and 10 different states, I also DJ at
all the Rock Steady events.”
“I’m almost 33 and proud to say that I am still actively playing (basketball) quite often. This
summer I played in 5 different leagues. I played professionally in Puerto Rico in 1987. I
played college basketball division 3 at Wesleyan University. I’ve played in every
single major tournament in NY. . . I also coached High School Basketball in ’98 at El Puente High-School”
He has also worked on over 38 Nike commercials including radio voice overs, television appearances, andto this day he still works with Nike on Marketing, Design, and
Bobbito’s ‘Sound check column” in Vibe magazine has been one of the longest running columns in the magazine’s history. He also had a column in Rap Pages called
‘Confessions of a Sneaker Addict’
(Bobbito is also famous for his massive sneaker collection. )
This column originated in 1991 in Source magazine “It was the first article of it’s kind in a Hip-Hop publication, because it wasn’t based on music, it was based on fashion, and that set a stage for the Source in years to come.”
Bobbito still recognizes the struggle that many artists face “When you subscribe to the notion
of being down with Hip-Hop, and your trying to make a living off of it you have to be a scrambler. especially when doing non-commercial music. It’s a continual
struggle between art and commerce.
“With a mission to maintain Hip-Hop’s integrity, he creates a dichotomy between Rap and Hip-Hopand explains: “An artist goes into a studio and says, ‘I wanna flip this sample no one has ever used; I wanna flip this concept no one has ever thought to rhyme about. I’m
going to put these two words together, and create a new metaphor.’ He/ she has created a
Hip-Hop record. Why? Because he/she is being progressive. If an artist goes into a studio and says ‘shit I wanna sell so many records, I’m going to take this loop because I
know everyone knows it, and I wanna make this song as easy as possible so that the most amount of people can digest it.’ Then I think thatperson is a Rap artist.
For example Vanilla Ice? Not a Hip-Hop artist, a rap artist.”
Bobbito has manifested a multitude of threads that have held the fabric of one of the most inspiring communities. Despite the tyranny of Rap music, Bobbito feels that
“The independent record label scene right now is very, very strong
It’s going to continue to grow. The writing scene is very strong. The DJ scene is phenomenally strong. I love that there has been a lot of attention to beat boxing in the
past couple of years. The state of Hip-Hop is great right now, don’t
let anybody tell you different.”
This article original appeared in the first edition of YRB Magazine in 1999.