TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Intelligent hoodlum, pt. 1

in Arts & Culture by
The Intelligent Hoodlum relates to the streets
Cause the past stays on my back to remind me
Intelligence is what you gain when you find me…
          —Intelligent Hoodlum (aka Tragedy Khadafi), Intelligent Hoodlum (1990)


Me and my man Charles decided to go the Tunnel early this particularly Friday night.

The legendary Manhattan nightclub, which in 1989, was known for DJs playing the jumpy, fast-paced sounds called house music on Friday nights. Yet, in order to attract party goers who love house music and hip-hop, the Tunnel would promote “Hip-House Night.”

Sound Factory nightclub. Photo Credit: Sound Factory Blog

Young Black & Latino men and women from the city, the outer boroughs, Long Island and New Jersey, would make weekly treks to the Tunnel, or to the neighboring Sound Factory, which was located just up the block on West 27th Street. But what separated The Tunnel from the Sound Factory, was that they played hip-hop; and for many for us, though house music was the new dance music craze, we were still hip-hop junkies.

It was a little after 10 pm when me and the homie were walking down West 27th Street towards the corner of 12th Avenue near the Tunnel. We thought were going to be the first ones on line, but a couple of dudes beat us to the punch and arrived minutes before we did.

The club had not opened yet, and the bouncers began setting up the velvet rope for general admission and the guest list line. Me and Charles went on the guest list line because Flatbush, Brooklyn rapper, Special Ed was slated to perform that night, and we were invited by Ed’s bodyguard, who was our homie Big Ray from around the way.

As we entered the line for the guest list, there were about three or four brothers ahead of us. When the shorter brother of group turned around towards our direction, I instantly recognized him. The brother saw the Black Power medallion hanging from a leather-vined rope that I was rocking over my long-sleeved, multicolored Izod Polo and small button of Malcolm X pinned on the left side of my sweater. The brother said: “Peace to the gods…I’m Keith E.E., the Guru…”

I replied, “Peace god, you’re a part of Gangstarr, and I think “Words That I Manifest” joint is dope brother!

Guru replied with thanks, and then introduced me to his crew; Tommy Hill, Gusmo, and I think Black (who was one of the main characters for the video, “Just To Get A Rep;” also known as DJ Vic Black), was with them too — who are known to most hip-hop aficionados from interviews, video appearances and album covers, as members of the “Gangstarr Foundation,” a collective of rappers led by the group, Gangstarr.

I introduced Guru and the brothers to my man Chuck, and then we began to build for 5 to 10 minutes; mostly about rap music and the state of Black people. What I remember about our build was though Guru and the small crew was screamed Brooklyn in demeanor and apparel, comprising of BK neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and East New York, Guru was extremely intellectual and humble. An intelligent hoodlum.

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