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Smoking Sessions with Bobbito Garcia

Photo By Rayon Richards

Words by Drew Ricketts

Bobbito Garcia, as my ex-girlfriend once described him in a WKCR interview, is hip-hop incarnate. Even through her shy questions about the magnitude of his career, which began at WKCR on the Stretch and Bobbito Show, one could tell it was no presumptuous label. The phrase 'real recognize real' comes to mind when bearing witness to the man who has produced groundbreaking records, devastated basketball courts and created the handbook for sneaker-heads (Where'd You Get Those? Testify Books, 2005). I talked with him on a smoky morning in June and his insights were as casual as they were boundless. This is the finite account of how a culture diffused itself through the veins of an uptown NuYorican and his ability to transmit it across regions and social strata.

The Smoking Section> Lebron or Kobe?

Bobbito Garcia> That's hard to say. I don't follow NBA Basketball like that but the regular-season MVP was Kobe. Lebron did some strong things in the playoffs but Kobe had a great year.

TSS> Favorite track off Reasonable Doubt?

BG> The 22 two's joint. I like that one.

Hip-Hop Triumvarate - Bambataa, Bobbito and Red Alert 2.22.06

Photo By Stanley Lumax

TSS> What were your favorite albums in high school?

BG> When I was in high school -- from 1980 to 1984 -- that was a dry period for albums. The format of the complete album didn't really take off until 1986 through maybe '89. The album that was popular in the 'hood was Run DMC's first joint, Sucka MC's. Most of the time we were looking for singles and they weren't necessarily on the radio. Groups would put out singles and you'd have to get the record.

TSS> Any singles that you could remember defining that time?

BG> Well, it depends on what you mean by 'define'...I loved Trecherous 3 because they were the group to come out as all fierce emcees. Everyone was lyrical and Kool Moe Dee was killin' on every track using vocabulary. He had real skills. Apart from that, I remember coming out to "Body Rock" at the Holcombe Rucker Memorial games that summer.

TSS> What kind of music do you listen to now?

BG> My musical tastes, at this age, are highly cultivated...I can tell within the first few minutes of listening to a record whether I'm going to like the artist or not. I like to listen to music that sounds good or what might be called "soulful music."

Stretch and Bobbito circa '95

TSS> If you could make a hip hop group of any artists, who would be in it?

BG> Like a group?

TSS> I mean, using Rae and Ghost as an example or duos that worked well.

BG> The thing about that is, the reason why some dudes come off in a group is because they are partnered with someone who understands their style. Rae and Ghost have chemistry because they did so many songs together.

TSS> So the chemistry originates off the record you're saying?

BG> Yeah, I mean Nas killed it on "Live at the BBQ" and he sounds good with that group of guys. I always thought maybe Nas and Rakim could do something together but I never assume it can work out. There's a lot of factors that make a good group.

TSS> You spent some time producing records with the Fondle Em record label. What happened to it?

BG> I deaded it in 2001. We made a lot of good records only on vinyl in the [six years] it was going. I did the "Farewell Fondle Em" record with Def Jux and that was the last project we did. I started Fruitmeat Records and that lasted until recently but I haven't put out any records of late.

TSS> Can you think of some of the prized records you put out during that time?

BG> A lot of the cats that's considered 'big' in the underground now, we were fortunate enough to find and introduce to the public. The MF Doom record (Operation Doomsday) made a splash; we did the Arsonists' first joint and Clear Blue Skies for the Jugganots, which is still a classic and rare record to find. We also put out Cage's first record and the Cenubites LP with Kool Keith. I liked Vinia Mojica's project because that's her only solo; she's usually been featured on others' albums like The Roots and Common. But, there's a lot.

TSS> Are there any groups or artists who are under the radar that you look out for?

BG> There's meritocracy in rap music -- or in music period. I don't consider artists to be bad if they don't sell records or good if they do. There are a lot of talented emcees who just don't make it so I don't focus on if they are well-known. There's never been a time when lyricists were appreciated by mass media.

TSS> What's your wildest moment in the studio?

BG> Actually, Rich Medina and I are working on a record of Eddie Palmieri remixes. We were in the studio a couple weeks ago just buggin' out. It's fun because we boys too but we're also music-lovers. It's always great to get together with someone who knows good music. Rich is a genius and we'll be putting out that on 12-inch in the near future.

TSS> What's your current kicks rotation?

BG> I don't share that information with the public.

TSS> How did the idea of custom sneakers come about for the ESPN series "It's the Shoes"?

BG> The producers, David and Kevin, both play ball and they're both sneaker-heads. They created the show and ESPN brass gave it the green light. The good thing about that show is that I can contribute and give the okay to certain ideas as Creative Producer. They had the idea about making sneakers for every guest and it's ended up being one of the trademarks of the show...the viewers enjoy that part the most.

TSS> Are you interested in the film production aspect of hip-hop?

BG> I was in Prison Song which most people know me for. I did Basics 2 Boogie for ballers to have an instructional basketball video but people never connect the different aspects of my life. They either know me as Bobbito from music or Bobbito from basketball or (now) "It's The Shoes" I want to do a DVD documenting the things I've done in my life. As for a feature films, I'm not really interested in doing that.

Nuyorican...PR Day Parade, NYC '06

Photo By Joe Conzo

TSS> What do you aspire to do at this point?

BG> Frankly, I could die in five seconds and be happy. I've accomplished enough in these arenas to be content with the roads I've taken. If anything really presses me right now, it's family. I want to be a family man and focus on those things.

TSS> What's the latest news?

BG> I'll be hosting a program on the MSG network called "Summerball" which will be like Bounce magazine except on T.V. We're gonna follow playground legends and basketball players and tournaments all over the country. The soft-cover version of Where'd You Get Those?: New York City Sneaker Culter 1960-87 is coming out later this year as well.

SS> Our signature question - What would you say to the first chick you broke up with?

BG> I wouldn't say nothin'. I don't have anything to say to her.

TSS> So the cold shoulder?

BG> Yeah...something like that.

TSS> Aiight my good man, thanks for taking the time with us.

BG> No doubt. I enjoyed.

For updates on what Bobbito's got up next, check the following....

Words By Drew Ricketts

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