Rock-It-Rod: A True Tampa Legend
May 23, 2004
Remember the park jams at Riverfront park? 3000+ people rockin’ to the sounds of Dj Rock-It-Rod on a Sunday afternoon. What about those tapes? Does Bird Street mean anything to you? I know you’ve seen the big white truck rolling down the block with “Rock-It-Rod D.J. Services” on it. Well Kramtronix and Sandman sat down with Rock-It-Rod….Heres what he had to say:
KRAM: Alright, Rock-It-Rod, tell us when you started doin’ your thing.
ROD: I started selling a lot of tapes in about ’92. You know, that’s when I began putting out a lot of slowed down and specialty tapes. And that’s when we opened up the record shop over on Bird St.
KRAM: Well, when I was in junior high in South Tampa, which would have been ’86 or so, when people talked about block parties and jams, the name Rock-it-Rod was always thrown around.
ROD: Ah man, you’re gonna make me tell my age! Well, I actually started DJing in 1979, and then I moved to Tampa in 1981 from the Virgin Islands. When I started spinning here in Tampa, what really put me on was doing Riverfront Park every Sunday back in the mid-80′s. We’d have two to three thousand people out there every week. That was the main thing that got me started here, and it expanded from there. And we did that until ’89 or so.
KRAM: Now, you ran in to some legal trouble with the mix CDs you were pushin’ out of the record shop in back in the late 90′s. Why did you shut the doors? You could have kept the record shop and car audio garage open.
ROD: Ah, well… You know, I guess we was gettin’ too big, and they decided they wanted to come in and try to shut us down. I wanna do things within the law, so I just let it go. But, I’m still here and now I’ve just been concentrating on DJing, doing shows and concerts, so I’m still doin’ my thing.
KRAM: Word.. Actually, what clubs are you currently involved with as far as sound goes?
ROD: We’re pretty much exclusive here at XS. We also do 112. What people don’t realize is that I do shows all over central Florida. If I’m not in Tampa, I’m out in Avon Park, Sebring, Winter Haven…
By-Stander: Polk County!
ROD: [Laughter]… Yeah, Polk County, Sarasota… You know, I’m all over doin’ shows. Mostly what I do now is concerts. We do a lot of big acts, and all of the WTMP jams.
KRAM: Now, is it just you, or do you have a crew?
ROD: No, I got about 6 or 7 guys that work with me.
By-Stander: Check this out, man. I know the man’s bein’ modest, but this is the realest DJ in all across America, the Europe, on down to Paris, Australia… Go on take it back to Polk County, Tampa… We’re doin’ it live… DJ Rock-It-Rod and the whole posse! Book him!
KRAM: [Laughter]… Bet! Now, you put out a few records back in the day as well.
ROD: Okay, the first record I put out was The Truck Stop Krew “We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” That was around the time everyone was doin’ all the slam-dancing and all that. Then we put out the second Truck Stop Krew 12″ called “Nuthin’ But a Bass Thang.” It had the same beat as Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But a G Thang,” and Pandisc picked that record up and put it out.
SANDMAN: Who all was in the Truck Stop Krew?
ROD: Basically, it was my homeboy John and Krazy did all the scratches and stuff.
KRAM: Now, I actually heard that Krazy wrote the lyrics to M.C. Nas-D & Freaky Fred’s joint, “It’s My Cadillac.” Is that true?
ROD: Uh, I don’t know. That’s possible because they used to all come over to my house. After I took him down to Miami and he got picked up by Merlwether, we worked on his whole album at my house.
KRAM: Edward Merlwether?
ROD: Yeah, Merlwether, which was Sun Town Records.
KRAM: What other records did you executive produce after Nas-D got signed?
ROD: Tampa Tony, “Count Dat Choo Choo”… The Choo Choo song… I put that out too. We almost got that single picked up by Tony Mercedes out of Atlanta. But around that time a lot of people were using Barry White samples, and they wanted a lot of money to clear it. No one was willing to put up the money to get the sample clearance, so we were unable to get the deal. And without the sample…
KRAM: Alright, I’m gonna move on to a sensitive issue for people in Texas… slowed down tapes! Now, a lot of people unknowingly credit DJ Screw for starting the slow down tape craze, but see I know that’s a bunch of bullshit. Sandman and myself did a lot of research on DJ Screw before the launch of TampaHipHop.com, and we couldn’t find a “Screwed Down” tape that was older than 1991. Now, I’m not dissing DJ Screw (R.I.P.). I’m just saying he didn’t invent slowed down tapes. And I know this because I heard my first slowed down mixtape in 1985 at the Ernest E. Just 6th Grade Center in West Tampa. And in 1987, this kid from Central Park named Jerry asked me to make him a tape with two songs… “It’s Yours” by T La Rock and “Super Bass” by Smokey D & DXJ… And he wanted them slowed down!
ROD: Yeah… You’re quite correct. That slowed down stuff started right here in the south. There used to be a guy, Money B., who used to put out slowed down tapes in Tampa. He was putting them out before me, and we started in ’89 or ’90. And for a while there, Money B. was the only person you could get those slow tapes from. But then, when we started makin’ them, that’s when it really took off. See, now, when you come to Tampa, you see a CD stand here and you see a CD stand there. But when I was doin’ it, there was none of that. There was only one place to come and get it, ya know? Everything was regulated, and the thing that put us above the rest was that we put out quality. We used to put all good songs on the tapes. Some guys would put two good songs, and then a bullshit track. And then, our quality was better than everybody else’s. Our quality of recordings was beyond what everybody else was puttin’ out. But yeah, it didn’t start in Texas. It started here and in Miami.
KRAM: Just to touch on slowed down tapes in Miami, let me tell about what Slic Vic from Jam Pony Express told me back in 2001. Keeping in mind that JPE was based out of Ft. Lauderdale, he told me that he never heard of slowed down tapes until he came to Tampa in 1989 to sell some JPE tapes to the music shop at the Anderson Flea Market. He said he though it was wack then, and that he still does. This coming from someone who was all over the Broward County and Metro Dade area in the 80′s and 90′s.
ROD: Well, if he’s saying that, then it definitely started right here and got big when I jumped on it.
SANDMAN: How many mixtapes do you think you’ve sold? I know that’s a tough question.
ROD: [Laughter]…Oh man, I’mma tell you like this. We definitely had some tapes and CDs that went platinum. We had some CDs that we couldn’t even make enough of them. I don’t know, but I was movin’ about 12,000 tapes a week at the shop.
KRAM: As a lot of people know, you used to do car stereo installations at the shop too. I remember being in the record shop one day back in ’95 and one of your guys was doing an install on a box Chevy. When he was finished, he turned that shit up and it was hittin’ so hard that the wooden record shelf that was mounted to the wall above the record bins fell off of the wall and damn near broke my neck.
ROD: [Laughter]… Yeah man, we were in tune with the street. We knew how they liked it, and we hooked it up. And we actually designed a black van that we took to one of the big competitions back in the day. We actually placed in the top 100 in the country as far as the SBL/dB readings on it. We actually purchased a SBL meter so we could test it out before went up there. We had Art and Nate there. When you go out on the streets and ask about car stereos… real ghetto-style car stereos, Art and Nate we the ones.
KRAM: And this was that ghetto-style bass, and not that bullshit they do over at Circuit City in their “Road Shop.”
ROD: Yeah, we put the EVs and Bumpers. That’s what we used to use.
KRAM: Remember when people used to put the Radio Shack horns across the back seats of their rides?
ROD: They used to do that before the whole EV thing started in ’89 or so, and the slowed down craze kind of kicked that off because you wanted people to hear the vocals and hear you come “draggin’” by.
KRAM: Where are Art and nate now?
ROD: Well, Nate is at the studio right now. I haven’t given up the building on Bird St. yet. After I closed the shop, I gave them the equipment and told them to just run the studio.
KRAM: What’s the name of the studio and what’s the phone number?
ROD: Hit After Hit. The number is (813) 391-3190.
KRAM: Fresh is the word!