Lately I've been in the process- the long, arduous process- of digitizing my cassette collection. I figure that cassettes don't last forever, and I've been feeling a bit nostalgic I guess. So, don't expect any wild Rhythm Cartel mp3 posts here, but I have run across some very interesting stuff in the process.
Most of the tapes that I've been digitizing to CD (ok, Brandon in my office has been doing the dirty work for me but I've supervised it closely) are either my own old demos and beats or early works of groups or rappers that I've worked with. There is plenty of old Rhythm Cartel stuff (that is the name of the rap group I was in from '89-'93, I'll post the history here at some point) but there is also old Eminem demos, D12 stuff, Proof stuff, and various random and scattered Detroit material that never made it to the public.
What inspired this post though is the unlabeled b-side of a cassette that contained some random 1989 recordings from WJLB, FM 98. The recording from the radio includes a tragically brief portion of a mixshow segment from the best old-school DJ that Detroit has ever seen: The Wizard. The Wizard, a/k/a Jeff Mills, was a groundbreaking Detroit radio mainstay that amazed the city from the mid-eighties to the early nineties. This guy played a seamless blend of techno, house and hip-hop with amazing dexterity and ease. He would go from things like Cybertron to Kraftwerk to Afrika Bambaata to random audio snippets from children storybook records to LL Cool J within 3 minutes. Granted, The Wizard made liberal use of the turntables' pitch-control abilities but somehow his genre mashing style always seemed to work.
Detroit radio in the '80s was generally devoid of hip-hop with the exception of mixshow DJ's and a gentleman named The Electryifying Mojo (he's worthy of an entire separate entry so I'll save the details on Mojo for now). So, me being the rap-hungry youngster that I was, I would dutifully listen to The Wizard for new music as often as possible. I don't remember exactly, but I think The Wizard's show would be from 11pm-1am weekdays. That was too late for a kid in high-school, so at 11 right before I went to sleep my practice was to press record, turn the volume off, and see what I got on tape the next day on the way to school in my 1979 Chrysler Cordoba (super sweet). I wish I had all of those tapes from back then, but I don't know what happened to them. Often I would just record over them to get the latest mixes.
When doing some Google work, I stumbled across an article from Detroit's weekly rag The Metro Times from 2001 that describes The Wizard's history in more detail, which you can check out here http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=1314. There is another Metro Times article from this year that goes way more in depth at http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=10535. Also, I found a couple of downloadable mixes that give a good taste of what this man was capable of. You can check a mix from 1988 out here http://mixesdb.com/db/index.php/1988_-_Jeff_Mills_aka_The_Wizard_-_WJLB_Mixshow_Detroit. Any fan of good, old-school music will love this. Trust me its worth the time downloading (for promo-use only, of course).
I don't know what The Wizard is doing these days, although I do know that eventually he became much heavier in the house music scene than hip-hop. Anyway, if you get the chance read the articles and download the mix. Its really great stuff from a legend in my book.
P.S. If anyone has a lead on any old Wizard recordings, please leave a comment and tell us how we can get them. Thanks!