Thanks to everyone that contributed a story last month. Check out Zimbabwe Legit at the top of Music Think Tank. The Zimbabwe Legit story is below.
I grew up listening to hip hop in Zimbabwe, Africa in the mid to late 80s. We didn’t have direct access to the music in stores or to videos or magazines but occassionally things would trickle in through friends and relatives overseas. Through those channels, we got our hands on a copy of a fledgling hip hop publication called the Source. A guy named Dave “Funken-Klein” Klein (RIP) wrote a montly column called Gangsta Limpin’ that chronicled various hip hop news and info. At the end of the article he’s ask readers to send in news and included his mailing address.
At the time hip-hop was in its Afrocentric phase with everyone sporting beads and medallions and dashikis. Funken-Klein was working at Red Alert Productions which had him working with Afrocentric artists including native tongue members the Jungle Brothers, an up and coming arist Q-Tip from a Tribe Called Quest, and the Black Sheep.
Being aspiring hip hop artists that had some rudimentary tracks recorded and with the focus on Africa, I crafted a letter to Dave letting him know that there was some brothers from the motherland in Africa listening but also rapping and I touted our skills, lyrical prowess and relevance. To this day that is the most important letter I have probably written in my life. To our surprise he responded to the letter sending an awsome package of Jungle Brothers,Queen Latifah and assorted promos.But the most valuable thing he sent was an invitation to look him up if we ever came to the US. He briefly mentioned that he was in the process of starting up a new rap label.
I promptly let him know that within a few months (circa 1990) my brother and I would be coming to the US and we eager to take him up on his offer. Long story short, we called him from upstate new york sometime after we arrived, set up a meeting in the summer of 1990 and rolled into the offices of Red Alert Productions on W. 29th Street in full African hip-hop regalia with our rough demos in hand. We had a meeting, listened to the material and had a very positive discussion. He was impressed enough with what he heard that the same day he ended up bringing us over to Mercury Records to meet with the Black Sheep and informally discussing getting the group’s beat maker, Mr.Lawnge to produce a more refined demo.
Some months later we recorded some professional demos at the fame Calliope Studios in New York and eventually signed to Dave Funken-Klein’s label Hollywood Basic records which was actually a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company under the arm of Hollywood Records. The group was Zimbabwe Legit.