I moved to Illinois in 1985 and for a short period of time I went to Highland Park High School. It was a different environment for me. I was used to living on Army Bases for most my whole life. In Highland Park, it was a situation where you had a lot of wealthy families and then a handful of "Army Brats" going to school there who were living on the nearby Ft Sheridan Army base. I'll give you one guess which of the two sides contributed to the Hip Hop growth in the community...
I rode the bus to school with the Ft Sheridan kids and immediately connected with a crew of cats on there who had shared interest in Hip Hop and Snapping on each other; Larry Bailey, Shabbona, Pete (graf artist), L.O.D (Lethal On Delivery!), Damen "T Boots" Crawford, Chuk G, and Mike (a.k.a SPO G), Dominique (a.k.a MC Zulu), Vince, "Hip Hop" Tommy, Charles James, Rick & Lamonte Phillips, Derek Irvin, Will Wright, Gary "GNU" Gray (Yes, that one...), and prob a few others. At the time, I think I was the only MC, but the rest of the crew were definitely hardcore Hip Hop fans.
It was SPO who put me up on WNUR 89.3 as a source to hear Hip Hop on the radio. He gave me a tape from the WNUR "All Rap Party", which I still have, with an early preview of LL Cool J's "Radio" album before it dropped, Mikey D & The Symbolic 3, and other great tracks.
Sometime in '89, SPO gave me a call and said he was rhyming now and wanted to know if I could hook up some beats. My immediate thought was he going to he coming with some funny stories and comedy, based on his comedic personality. However, when he came thru it was just the opposite...it was some serious, boom bap, hardcore Hip Hop.
We worked on a series of demos to get him started until I moved away to Atlanta, GA for a while. Then he connected with DJ Madd Maxx (from my crew Wildstyle) and did a demo that really started to show his potential as an artist. By the time '91 hit he was in full swing; rocking stages everywhere, knocking out solo demos, doing collaborations (T Fly a.k.a Troy Guy, Captain Skyy, etc...), and making his presence known across Chicago. He also built up his own crew, an extension from Rage Productions, called Rhythm Mafia which included; Thawfor, Detanator, Twice Born, L.O.D, Cueball, Rising Sun, etc... At the time, many people saw SPO as one of the most likely MCs to "Blow up" out of the city.
Not long after that, he crossed path with the newly formed Rubberoom and was asked to join the crew as the 6th member. He accepted and they proceeded to become one of the most fierce crews in Chicago and beyond. They were known for their dark and edgy Hip Hop that still maintained a Boom Bap vibe. After a few years of great music and amazing stage shows, SPO eventually went back to being solo and from that point he has never stopped working on music.
When I was in Chicago last year he gave me two CDs full of tracks that showcase his love and hunger for the Culture and lyricism. On that same visit, we sat down in legendary Gramaphone Records to talk about his history that we've broke down in this two part interview:
Part One: SPO talks about growing up in Texas, living in Germany, moving to Chicago, his early mentor (Rising Sun), his early demos, his first video, and his early crew (Rhythm Mafia and Hardcore Two with/ L.O.D a.k.a Lethal On Delivery):
Part Two: SPO talks about working with Troy Guy, Captain Skyy, Jesse De La Pena and other side projects. He breaks down his experience with Rubberoom and why he decided to go leave the group and return to being a soloist. Then builds on how he's stayed focused, active, inspired, remained true to the Culture, and Windy Wooosh Rec!:
Written By Kevin Beacham (a.k.a MC Coolie a.k.a AMC) of Rage Productions!
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