Too White Crew - Chicago's All Live Hip Hop Tribute Band

Behind the Music — C-note looks back on ten years of TWC

(Our 10 year anniversary show is at Joe’s on Weed St. this Saturday, January 5th)

I can’t believe it has been ten years! It seems like yesterday when I got together with my drummer Woodsy Fresh and said, “Hey man, I got this idea.” 700 shows and an ocean of Colt 45 later, here we are — still the only band anywhere doin’ what we do. Can’t help but get a little nostalgic and look back on this wild ride that is the Too White Crew.

“You can’t do it.”
I’ll never forget bouncing the idea off people. Most people thought I was bananas, which, with all due respect to myself, I might be. But I wanted to play the music that took me to my happy place — old school hip hop, and I wanted to do it completely live. No prerecorded tracks, no loops, no click track. I knew it also had to sound legit. I quickly found out it had never been done by anyone, including the original artists that I wanted to cover, so I was going into some musically uncharted waters. In retrospect, it’s now obvious to me why it had never been done. It’s damn hard. Way harder than playing rock covers like I was previously doing.

Among other things, I knew that the only way to sound legit would be to use electronic drums and a digital mixing console, which, in 2003 was completely unheard of in a live situation. Without getting too technical, let’s just say SUUUUUCKED. There was simply no one who could help us figure it out. Literally NO ONE ON EARTH had done what we were trying to do. Our sound checks weren’t a matter of minutes. They were all day. We were introducing new species of sonic cancer and the strains continued to evolve faster than our antidotes. In fact, the first year was such a hot mess that I remember one of my band members at the time, pulled me aside as a friend and said, “Are you going to call it quits soon?”

So my plan to perform just once a month at Joe’s on Weed St. wasn’t working. We needed to perform a lot more if we were going to lick our wounds, repair what’s broken and make this thing what it’s capable of being. So we spread our wings, started playing some college campuses and told Joe’s “We’ll be back.”

Things weren’t getting any easier
Just because we were playing more didn’t mean that everything was fixed. We had to get ourselves on auto-pilot so that we could actually PERFORM. We needed to put on a show. We needed to ditch some of the songs that weren’t working. (Random fact: our very first song was Naughty by Nature’s Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” which we eventually shelved; Public Enemy’s Fight the Power also got its walking papers.) We realized that just because a song is great, doesn’t mean it belongs in our set list. Songs that were too heavy, too obscure, too raunchy…didn’t always work and had to get deep sixed. We also needed to cut out doing all the verses of all the songs — a lesson from the DJ culture…stick and move.

Finding or creating all the sounds turned out to be another challenge. I was so OCD about the accuracy of the sounds that my life revolved around tweaking them. To give you an idea of my neuroses, let’s take one of the samples in Wreckx N Effect’s Rump Shaker. It sounds just like a car trying to start and it repeats throughout the song. Figured I’d just go online, search for “enginestart.wav”, grab a sample and move on. Not so easy. Sounddogs.com alone had over 3000 different samples of various engines starting (they now have over 5000). I listened to every damn one. Not one sounded good enough. So I took my Archos 6000 mp3 player and headphones over to Milito’s Auto Shop on Fullerton to have the mechanics there listen and tell me what’s what. “Eeeet’s not a car maaan, eeeit’s a diesel truck.” So back to sounddogs.com I went…to review the FIVE HUNDRED diesel engine noises. I eventually morphed a couple samples together and got something that let me sleep at night. This is how mental I was about authenticity.

Bring on the party
Somewhere around 2004 things started looking up. The show started getting better, crowds were getting bigger, song selection was getting better and the buzz started. By 2005, we were running on all cylinders and big things were poppin’. In 2005 we rocked the Playboy Mansion, in 2006 we hit Vegas and then we started piling on the cred, opening for old school artists like Digital Underground, Vanilla Ice, Tone Loc, Naughty by Nature, Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock…as well as new school artists like Lil Jon, Jason Derulo, the New Boyz and Big Sean.

TWC after 10
So what’s next? The festival and club shows are great, but we now find ourselves doing a lot of private shows all over the country (baller birthday parties…even weddings) and giant corporate shows (Google, Microsoft, various pharmaceutical companies), so we may not be hittin’ the local clubs as often. We’ve had amazing offers from all over the world but 10+ flights and backline for this mess-of-a-band ain’t cheap, which means that Chinese or European tour will stay on indefinite hold.

S’all good thought cuz we’re as busy as we wanna be. We’ll keep learning more tunes (Missy Elliott mix what what!) and keep having fun. With the endless sea of dope old school jams we haven’t even touched yet (we STILL haven’t even covered Tupac yet but that’s comin’ in 2013) there’s no end to what we can cover. So long as we’ve got people that wanna see and hear what we do, it doesn’t look like we’re goin’ away anytime soon.

Pourin’ one out
There are so many people who helped us get to where we are: Original starting lineup including DJ Pheatha, Reverend Spoony, Professor Milk, QueLyte — the pinch hitters Mail-in Rebate, Jeremonious Funk, Yo Bass!, Pocket Change and our ultimate switch hitter (from Fly Girl to band member) M80; all the Fly Girls who popped they booties on stage wit us: Lunchbox, Elicious, Honeycomb, Bubble Yumm and JakPoT; our technical wizards — Dustinguished who took us from point A to B, Ethanized who took us from B to C and most recently Johnny G, whose talents began at the mixing console and scattered into so many directions they were almost impossible to contain. You all helped paved the way!

Then there are those who continue to hold a different torch with us: The DJ’s (Strike, McFly, Mattches, Kasper, Gusto, Shellacious), Sam on the board, PATRICK ON THE BATTERIES, The MC’s (Big D and P-Tugz), the Bra$$ Funkeez, the bboys and bgirls from various crews, the photographers and the sponsors (Colt 45 and Adidas).

Most importantly, and I’ve said this from the beginning, there’s Ed — the owner of Joe’s on Weed St. Without Ed and his believing in the concept, Too White Crew would have never happened. He gave Too White Crew a place to call home before there was even a lineup or a single rehearsal. So Ed, thank you. Hopefully our fans will keep thanking you for coming to our shows at Joe’s.

Which brings us to our current lineup — the people who were in decade one and move us into decade two: Woodsy Fresh, DJ Shor T, Cornbread, (Miggida)3 Matt and Pop Tart…and the Fly Girls: Tasty K, D-train, Juicebox, Hot Wheelz, Vitamin V, Lemon Drop and Coco Puffs. Love this fam.

It has been an unbelievable ride and I can’t wait to celebrate with everyone Saturday at Joes on Weed!

with Vanilla Ice

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