Saturday Nite Fresh : An Interview With Uncle Jamm’s Army

Rap Pages
December 1994
By Jeff “DJ Zen” Chang and Mike Nardone

+ Download a PDF of the Original

In tribute to the great Rodger “Uncle Jamm” Clayton, we’re proud to bring back this feature that another legendary LA hip-hop DJ Mike Nardone and I were blessed to be asked to do by Sheena Lester for Rap Pages. Rodger Clayton, Egyptian Lover, and Iceberg were in the house.

We did the interview on June 28, 1994. I remember we met in a studio on the westside. I have lost my notes from the interview so I can’t remember the specifics of it all.

The real deal is that I had misplaced the tapes for years and, when I found them, I had only transcribed parts of the entire interview to use for Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. When Dave Tompkins was writing How To Wreck A Nice Beach, he asked about the tapes knowing of the Army’s vocoderistics and I lent them to him. Dave transcribed the whole shebang. (Thanks Dave!)

What follows are lengthy excerpts from those tapes. Some of it made it into the RP article, some of it didn’t. (There’s stuff in the RP article that isn’t below, either. So collect them all!)

Last note: Oliver Wang was fact-checking a piece the other day and started us on a convo about how Rodger spelled his name. The upshot is that we learned he spelled it both “Uncle Jam” and “Uncle Jamm”. The former was the name of one of George Clinton’s labels back during the era when Clinton was running game Wu-Tang style by recording under all kinds of aliases (and pissing off lots of execs because of that)–and P-Funk was Clayton’s influence. He seems to have added the extra “m” a little later as the crew became more widely known.

We want to dedicate this to the whole Army and to the Clayton family. Enjoy.


U: Uncle Jamm
E: Egyptian Lover
I: Iceberg

Uncle Jam/Egyptian Lover
Transcript
6/28/94

E: It all started with house parties.

U: First house party was right after I got out the ninth grade. I set up in my garage. I had a trip light. Remember the trip lights?

E: That’s all you needed.

U: I named my party Industrial Shop. I had the color organ. I had a speaker hanging in the corner. I had a little record player and ran the speaker into that and we were jammin’ Dr John, “Right Place, Wrong Time.” That was the first dance I did, that was in my garage. My graduation party after ninth grade. That was ’73. 1873!

ZEN: Reconstruction—after the Civil War.

U: I did that house party in high school. Charged like 50 cents. Made good lunch money. Good ass lunch money in 11th and 12th grade. Then I got outta high school and I was working at a factory six to six. And I gave a dance at the Sojourner Truth Mansion down on Crenshaw, across the street from the Kappa house. It was two dances going on. I had more people at my dance. Somebody from the Kappa House snuck across the street , found the electrical outlet switch and cut off all the power at my dance. Everybody left my dance and went across the street. I ‘ll never forget that. That was some fucked up shit man. Then my buddies Gabe Martin, who went to school with me–they had rented Alpine Village. They called me to DJ it and I DJed it and they had only 150 people. Said, “Let’s do this right.” Went back to Alpine—this was when we were called Unique Dreams. Egypt used to come and dance.

E: I was a big time dancer.

U: We gave our first dance. Had some posters. Even brought some radio—we brought KDAY. KDAY had little ten second spots where they used say it in ten seconds: “Uncle Jamm’s Army”. Used to sell ten second spots for like twenty dollars.

E: And they worked.

U: We used to buy ten second spots and we did that dance, our first dance at Alpines, called “Bustin Out.” Because “Bustin Out” was out by Rick James. We got like 500 people, man. After that we did “Bustin Loose” because Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers was out.

E: Whatever the hottest song was out—they’d name the party after.

U: Back then, man, the music was incredible. It was just like funk, man. And the massive sound system we were renting from these white boys was awesome. Disco sound systems. What’s the name of that damn sound company in North Hollywood? Sound Champion. This is right after the disco era, when they had the Bozack mixers, without cross faders, when we’d just hold it down like that. Nobody was really cuttin’ like that. The only thing we was playin was funk and Sugar Hill. Because whatever came out on Sugar Hill was happening too. The West Street Mob, Ferrari, Grandmaster Flash.

E: When “Freedom” came out that was a whole new thing.

U: That’s when Egypt would be in the front, and we say, “What city you from?” And Egypt and his brother say, “We from Egypt, Cairo!” And they used to jump up and down. That’s when they used to wear the doctor suits. They was dressed like doctors. Remember when people used to dress like doctors?

E: Gynecologists.

(Laughter)

ZEN: So these parties were all ages?

U: Whoever paid money.

E: There wasn’t no alcohol. I was mad young.

U: There was some older guys there too in their early 20s looking for some younger girls.
Always.

E: Some twelve and thirteen year old girls was in there that looked older.

U: Sneaking out the house. Because their mommas come looking for them. And we get on the microphone, “Such and such, your momma at the door. She got a belt.”

E: Momma at the door with curlers in her hair and belt in her hand. One of them came to the DJ booth and saw her daughter freakin’ on this dude –and her daughter must’ve been twelve , thirteen years old—whooped her ass all the way to the front door.
It was at the Playpen. It was real dark. And the carpet got pulled up off the floor –we was gonna change it to a wooden floor or whatever.

U: It was leaking. And it was mud.

E: And there was mud and stuff on the floor and she was all on the floor freakin’ the dude in the mud.

U: In the mud.

E: Soon as the doors open they were freakin on the floor all the way to the last song. No other dance. Just The Freak!

U: Mini-skirts had just came out. Lotta girls used to be in there with no panties on and just mini-skirts.

E: Just dance and reach orgasm and keep dancing. Fast slow songs all night long—just grindin on each other all night long..

U: That’s when all the electronic shit was happening too. The Planet Rock stuff, Scorpio, Survival, Electric Kingdom—all that electronic stuff. We did the hotel dances, down Long Beach State, the colleges, high schools.

E: Then Shrine Auditorium, California Center—Convention Center.

U: The pioneering man of all the dances was a guy named JC T, used to do the Proud Bird. The Proud Bird used to have 3000 people. That’s when I used to go when I was seventeen years old. I said I’m gonna do this one day. Because I was giving my little house parties and I used to go there and he used to have—that’s when Lakeside used to play.

Then LSD came up and they did the Bonaventure, they had 3 or 4000 people. After LSD was—I really wanted to start DJing-because me and Lonzo started doing a lot of parties together. So I finally DJed for LSD, and finally got to DJ for them. They wrote me a $25 check and the motherfucker stopped payment on my check. And I couldn’t catch ‘em, they wouldn’t answer my phone calls.

ZEN: $25?

U: $25! So I went to one of their dances and said, “When y’all gonna give me my money? They had security there and it was me by myself. I said that’s alright. I said, “I’m gonna get my own organization and I’m gonna put you motherfuckers out of business”. They laughed. After that we changed the name from Unique Dreams to Uncle Jamm’s Army.

I was doing a lot of promotional work for George Clinton back then. He had the album out, “Uncle Jam Wants You”. One of my buddies was working with George and George was like, “I don’t care if yall use (the name).” So that’s when we broke out with Uncle Jamm’s Army, we used to wear the fatigues. Camouflage. It was basically my neighborhood that I grew up in off of Hoover between Imperial and 111th. All the guys that was in my hood.

Back then as we was coming up against LSD we had poster wars. One time about seven guys from LSD jumped out on me and it was in Steve’s front yard and Steve was in the doorway with a gun. LSD jumped out and one of them was trying to jump on me in the yard, I’ll never forget that. Poster wars used to be a motherfucker man.

E: LSD became conceited at that time.

U: LSD had gotten to point where we’re number one and they were complacent. They got to the point where they were packing people in hotel rooms with a nasty sound system and little lights.

E: While I was a dancer I used to go to LSD dances and that’s how I found out about Uncle Jamm’s Army because they used to talk about Uncle Jamm’s Army on the mic, “Yeah you see that dance with all the fine girls? Uncle Jamm ain’t got nothing like them.“ And they didn’t do nothing but promote them. Because when they told me Uncle Jamm, I said okay LSD ain’t doing nothing this week well what’s Uncle Jamm? Let’s check em out.

Uncle Jamm’s Army had better women, unconceited women. They’d say yeah when you asked them to dance. LSD had them uppity people. So Uncle Jamm became a better organization with the dancers so it was more packed. LSD’s started going down and Uncle Jamm’s reputation started going up.

U: We could play stuff at our dances as long as it was good and in the pocket, it would work. It didn’t have to be on the radio. Then a lot of record companies and acts started coming at us because we started getting bigger and bigger.

ZEN: What kinds of groups?

U: Lakeside, Midnight Star. George started coming to the dances.

IceBerg: That happened at Veteran’s. They came and that really solidified the group as Uncle Jamm’s Army because George Clinton was there. One of the largest pieces of the dance side of it—because I came in 82—I came from the East Coast. My style of mixing was the blend. See California style was some Wham-wham-wham. Through some mutual friends I met Rodger. Then I started DJing and then it really became Egyptian Lover and Ice Berg’s show and then there was Rodger. We kind of built it that way and it grew bigger and bigger and bigger. Summer of 82, we’d put 3(smack),4,5,6,7 thousand people in one place. I’m talking 40 people on security, all the people on the payroll. We got so big at that time , all them had beepers, we had poster patrols. It was a full scale DJ organization.

U: Not to mention the groupies. You be out passing out flyers and motherfuckers give you a flyer. “Yeah I’m down with Uncle Jamm’s Army. I know Rodger.” It’d be people passing out flyers, selling T shirts, buttons, posters. Catch people taking down posters and putting them in their room.

’80 was our first dance and then ’81 was when we changed names from Unique Dreams to Uncle Jamm Army. First we did those dances at the LA Convention Center, at the concert. We had like 4000 people and 500 outside trying to tear the doors down. Off the hinges. That’s when we broke out with our new speakers. We had 32 Cerwin-Vegas.

Ice Berg: We stack ‘em in pyramids on the side. That’s when Egypt was gigantic at that time. They were so large –you couldn’t square ‘em anyway. They’d fall over on people. It made it look like it was Egyptian Lover, Uncle Jamm’s Army, Iceberg Slim because they had this big pyramid of speakers on each side. One looked like a glacier.

U: I used to wear all them crazy ass costumes.

Iceberg: He’d have on something Egyptian and I’d have on surgeon’s suit with a white glove.

ZEN: I’m pulling on the hinges, I’m pulling the door down, I’m running in—what am I going to see?

E: Whole bunch of speakers. A DJ lifted up on some kind of stage. Mixing. And you can see his upper body and his arms. Music is loud as hell. Lights, a little bit of fog.

U: Flash paper and my gunpowder (starts laughing), Here’s what I’d do. I had my watch on and a stick of incense, like this, on my hand and a little flash paper like this. I come out with my costume on and shit and you get flash paper and they think you’re throwing fire. Smokeless powder, you put it in a ash tray and when you light it–it go hissssssss. Same shit they use at concerts now. That was my homemade way. I used to wear Egyptian robes and King Tut outfits.

E: It burn up in your hand. You had a big mask on your head. The turbans. It was different than a turban, it was like one of those snake charmer things. What was your nickname?

U: Ace of Dreams. I was all on George and them because that’s when they used to wear crazy stuff. I used to wear all that stuff.

E: That was way before me. After I saw them do the dances, me and some of my buddies from the valley started doing dances. I used to get Prince records and extend them to a very long time—shit I learned from watching Dr Rock. I started doing that. I learned how to do it quicker because at home I had a sorry Sony turntable and I had to be real delicate and stuff on the scratch.

And one day I was in the mall with Snake Puppy and we was just kicking it and Rodger came by passing out flyers. So Snake said Hey y’all are the best dance music organization in LA and this is the best DJ in LA, y’all should get together.
That was Fox Hills. And Rodger said I’m on my way to do a commercial right now for the Long Beach thing, I’ll let you get on the commercial and do something. I was like Really? All these years, I’d been lying, telling these girls I was in Uncle Jamm’s Army, just to get and they was giving it up.

ZEN: So how many people did you have in the crew at this time?

U: The only DJs really was us and then there was the young Bobcat, sitting on the stairs watching.

E: A whole bunch of people. Mixx from 2 Live Crew was watching. Bobcat was watching. Dre.

U: Dr Dre and Yella, they’d be at our club and we didn’t even know they were there. And then we had posters, security, the flyer team, –at least 12, 15. Another twenty
We had a lot of fights.

E: We had a lot of people taking up for us just because we’re Uncle Jamm’s Army.
It was a household name.

Nardone: When did you get on the radio?

U: Greg Mack came in town from San Antonio. KDAY hired him and he immediately got on our dick. He heard our commercials and said, “I wanna hook up with these guys.” That was right when the electronic shit really started to take off. Because The Freak started at Ventures Auditorium before the Playpen opened. Things started going crazy. Miniskirts came out. When electronic thing happened all the sudden they start dancing like that. They started going crazy.

IceBerg: We used to have contests, the Freakiest Girl or Freakiest Guy. Oh my goodness!

ZEN: How did you guys end up at the Sports Arena?

E: It was getting packed, packed, packed.

U: We went to the Sports Arena and decided to try it.

E: And triple the promotion.

U: Yeah. Instead of 500 posters we got 2000 posters.

U: We had mailing lists too. That’s when we used to wear spikes, leather.

ZEN: When was the first time you guys did the sports arena?

U: It Easter of 82, April 82. It might’ve been June 83. It was the end of school.

E: I’d never play a Michael Jackson song at a dance. The Rollin’ 60s would shoot up every fucking body. Pow pow pow. Can’t play Michael Jackson. Sorry Mike. Sorry Mike.
We could play all the Prince shit, even if it don’t sound good.

U: Greg talked KDAY into letting us do a mix show and it was called Saturday Nite Fresh.

U: That was September of 82. Then we did another Sports Arena. Russell Simmons called me. Our dance was that weekend. They asked me to put RUN DMC on the show. And RUN and them came and RUN and them were nineteen with sideburns, the Godfathers, the leather coats. They came in, Russell was with them. Russell was their road manager back then.

We gave them 750 dollars. I basically did it as a favor. They came and they saw all these people and they had never seen that many people in their life and they were scared. “It’s Like That”—we had started playing it.

We sped it up to make it like “Planet Rock.” I said we playing the record and they said can we be on the show for $750.00 and I said fine. They was terrified because they heard of LA Crips. While they was performing a fight broke out and crowd took off. The crowd was running like a motherfucker.

E: I actually taught Jam Master Jay how to do that Run-Run-Run! The next dance at Pasadena I said I’m gonna help you DJ. I thought RUN DMC—gotta be big. So he was mixing just the beat and I was going Run-Run-Run so I was trying to rock the jump. He got all that shit from me. He said thanks man. When he came back out he said check this out I learned this. He started doing this and doing that, y’know, what he learned from me, I was like that’s cool.

ZEN: How did you guys get into making the records because you guys started doing records in ’83 right?

E: (Afrika) Islam came out and said he knew how they did “Planet Rock.” My first question was How they get the drums like that? Said they use a drum machine. A what? A machine I can program myself? Said yeah. He took us to the Guitar Center and showed us the drum machine and he programmed Planet Rock. Took him a long time but he got it. I memorized the numbers he pushed. I went home begged my mom for the money, went back up there and bought that motherfucker. Called Roger immediately said, “Man we got the drum machine.” Then Rodg went out and bought the keyboard. SH 101. Radio Shack. Lets bring that shit to the dances.

U: We used to trigger the SH101 on the accent.

E: We did “Dial a Freek” and “Yes, Yes, Yes” and I saved my money up and said, ‘Okay I’m gonna do a solo record.” One day we went out to Oxnard to our buddy named HT It was during a big dance. As soon as we came in there he was playing “Tour de France”—it was a record that JUST came out. When I heard that heavy breathing with that “Planet Rock” beat in there—that shit was bad. I was going to the studio the next day. I memorized that shit as close as I could and went to the studio and did “Egypt Egypt.” It sound just like it. I played it for Rodg , and he was like, “This shit is bad but we can’t put this shit out right now because Dial a Freek was out. It would kill it.” So I held that back six or seven months, just held back on “Egypt, Egypt.”

U: “Dial A Freek” was the first record out on Macola.

E: I drew up the label and colored the thing. All that shit.

U: Like Egypt said I love that funk. I played that bassline. I used Rich Cason and he came in and did the strings on Yes, Yes, Yes.

E: I played the record backwards and we heard the keyboards backwards and played that.

U: It was an old Maurice Starr record “Computer Rock Control”. Egypt didn’t like basslines I said man I want to put a bassline on here. Came out good on “Dial a Freek.” That was an old Korg, analog Korg that Rich Cason keyboard.

E: The original beat that I played at Sports Arena, I had an 808–after I programmed a song in the 808, I erased all my beats thinking 808 was going to save the song. All my beats were erased. So the “Yes Yes Yes” we did on the record wasn’t the same as the one we did at the dance. I could never repeat that in my life.

After I saw how easy it was to do a record I told Roger and that’s when we did “Dial a Freek.” Started playing them at dances, people started wanting it and requesting it, Greg Mack started playing it for us on the KDAY and then I came out with “Egypt Egypt.” Greg Mack immediately got on that.

U: There was a concert coming to town. We had a dance at the Sports Arena. And there was a concert coming to down with New Edition, Grandmaster Flash, Fatback Band, like seven groups. They had like 500 people. We did our dance. We had 5000. Our dance whooped their concert’s ass. Just DJing.

E: We were the acts. We had characters. It’s not like DJs today where it’s just a name. DJ Jazzy Jeff is just a name now he’s a actor. He’s no character. He’s just himself. I was like the Egyptian Lover—he must be from Egypt blah-blah-blah. We had Mr Prinze. It was characters. Uncle Jamm. They wanted to see that shit.

E: We had six turntables. I had a mix record already mixed right. And I put that sucker on and stood up on –I put my foot on the turntable and I did like this. And they thought I was scratching.

U: You used to do your elbow scratch. Remember I used to scratch with my chin. It got to the point where we were the baddest shit. We was showin off. We was up on the level where we do anything then.

E: Started going to high school dances showing off. This girl come up to me, “I know a DJ he bad. He don’t make no mistakes. He bad just like you.” I went down there and it was Dr. Dre. He was getting down. He made up his own shit too. That’s the first time I ever seen a DJ not do all my shit. Now that’s cool. I give him respect.

E: After Sports Arena, the dances slowed down a little bit.

U: Gang activity. It wasn’t no more someone have a .22 in there. It was Uzis.

ZEN: Did you guys still do Uncle Jamm’s Army parties through those years?

U: Egypt was on the road. That’s when Pooh came in. Bobcat was still there. But we didn’t do that many dances. That’s when I got deep in my promotions. I promoted the infamous Raising Hell show in Long Beach. But see what happened was RUN and them got big as fuck and that’s when the white boys came in and started promoting them. They didn’t know how the fuck to promote rap so they called me. We did Sports Arena on May 30 and did real good. I remember that day it was a Friday night, during prom season. The CIAA track meet was going on that same night. They got 14,000 people into LA Sports Arena. All that shit was going on.

Friday night in May it was unheard of doing promotions. When we did dances we’d never do a Friday night in May because of proms. That’s the one night you might have four, five high school proms going on and that takes most of your crowd. We did the Raising Hell Tour. It was Timex Social Club, Beastie Boys, Whodini, LL and RUN DMC.

What has never came to light with that motherfucking Raising Hell show—it wasn’t gangs in Long Beach. It was a race riot. Let me tell you what happened. The Long Beach Insanes had stole a Mexican girl’s purse and some Mexican dudes went upstairs, broke in the broom closet and went down and hit up the Long Beach Insanes. Hit ‘em with brooms and mops and sticks with sharp edges on ‘em. Then all the black gangs got together, that was out there and they just start whupping every Mexican boy, every white boy, throwing em off the second level, whooping they ass and everything. The news never brought that to light. I was right there on the stage trying to calm the crowd down like I always did.

They had 100 T-shirted security guards. End of the night you supposed to turn your T-shirt in. End of the night there was only about 30 of them left. They had took off and left and ran. That was a fucking race riot. It wasn’t even about gangs. All the black gangs had combined and started whooping ass. For one time. That was the first time they ever did that. The Bloods, the Crips, everybody. You should really put that in the article. I promoted the fucking show and I know.

What had happened also too was at the Fresh Fest, before Raising Hell. The Fresh Fest, they made it a general admission. The floor was open so it was packs of gangs going through the floor snatching gold chains, taking money, Long Beach Insanes. Whenever we used to dances in Long Beach, we had fights. When we was Uncle Jamm’s Army we used to have to fight the Long Beach Insanes. Long Beach State. Long Beach Holiday Inn. Big ass fight.

Reggie hit this dude with a phone and it rang. Snatched the phone off the wall and the middle of the (riiiinnng!) and it rang. I said “That’s one call that motherfucker won’t answer.”

ZEN: Did it seem like it was harder and harder to do dances?

E: We never went back to Long Beach.

U: What happened was as time went on they didn’t want kids coming in. The buildings became like this. We still could do the Sports Arena if we wanted to but it was too much. That’s when LA was going crazy. Jackings on Crenshaw. Kidnappings. The dope game. It was just crazy.

E: Venice Beach wasn’t Venice Beach no more. They got gangs up there. After ’84, ’85 doing everything live I didn’t DJ again until ’89 when I started doing track shows in Louisiana and all of the south and Miami.

ZEN: I wanted you to talk how ’85, ’86. What happened during those years? How did Uncle Jamm’s Army change?

U: DJ Pooh had grown up in my cousin’s neighborhood and they had a crew called the FBI Crew. Pooh used to be one of those DJs that would come watch Egypt at the Sports Arena. So Pooh was locked down, went to jail, got out of jail and didn’t have a job so he hooked up with me and I was at this record store. I recorded “Naughty Boy” right around that time. So Pooh came in and we were doing Skateland. We were doing Skateland more than anything . I brought EPMD out here. Queen Latifah. I had Biz there when “The Vapors” first broke. So we were doing Skateland. There were only a couple of places you could stuff at. Skateland, World on Wheels, We did UTFO there. I was promoting Anita Baker and Luther’s infamous tour. Prince. When Celebrity Theater opened I was doing a lot of their stuff too.

ZEN: Did you guys ever get to a point where you said we’re not gonna do Uncle Jamm anymore?

U: It got the point where I started doing a lot of things for myself. Started consulting for labels, doing my promotions, doing concert promotions, but always in the back of my mind, even to this day, because Egypt got a new record coming out and I’m getting ready to go in the studio and do some shit too. It’s always at the point where I’m still in my mind and in my heart—that’s when we did the reunion.

The whole west coast has evolved, even with the Ice Cube situation, because Ice Cube came from Lonzo. Me and Lonzo used to work together. It’s almost like a family tree. A big fucking family tree and it went like that. Ice T, Dre, Cube goes back to right there. Because me and Lonzo first worked together and then he did the Wreckin Cru and then we had a rivalry. We did dances together. The only reason we really stopped doing dances man was because LA got too crazy like it is now.

Every rap show that came in LA I was a part of. Every rap show. I had been around them. I knew how to hold the crowds, control the crowds, the marketing of them and the security and after that big fiasco, the Ice Cube-Too Short, after that Anaheim banned rap shows so basically there hasn’t been any rap shows with the exception of an underground show here. There’s never really been no more rap shows per se. Except for the golden boy stuff that that goes on at the Palace—something that they don’t advertise as black. That’s what happened. The whole city, the whole thing changed man. The whole structure of LA became—LA just got fucked up in a nutshell.

ZEN: Do you think there could be another group like Uncle Jamm’s Army in LA?

U: Not in LA. Back then man it was so much fun growing up. People could go to dances. Your momma could take you and drop you off. Have some fun. Once in a while there’d be a fight or someone would shoot a 22 in the air, but now, shit. Nobody owns a damn 22. Nobody. If you have a little gun in your purse it’s gonna be a 25 mack. At least that. But we broke a lot of acts.

When we do this movie it’ll show the whole stages. It won’t be this fake-ass Krush-Groove shit. It’ll have the Rolling 60s, the experiences, the shit we went through. When we were Unique Dreams, we did a dance. There was place near Fox Hills Mall , used to have a vacant bowling alley there. It rained on my two dances, I got strep throat, I got laid off my job and found out I was expecting my first child around the same time. This shit happened to me in two days man. I put up what little money I had on the dance, got laid off my job, had a bad case of strep throat, found out my girlfriend at the time was pregnant with my son. Never forget that. 1980. Unique Dreams really started—even before Uncle Jamm—me and the Unknown DJ, we had a little Japanese man invested some money for us and we did a dance at Consolidated Plaza and that’s when LA had the fucking mud slides. This was in 78. LA had the worst rains they ever had–we lost it.


RIP Uncle Jamm



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