Grandmaster Dee of Whodini Talks Fresh Fest and The Secret to His Band's Longevity



Over 25 years ago, the original "Fresh Fest" helped to push hip-hop beyond New York's borders and across the country. Artists such as Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow and the Fat Boys attracted crowds even in cities (like ours) where rap music wasn't getting much radio play. The success of the tour helped to establish rap as a commercially viable art form, opening the door for countless acts to follow.

Fresh Fest will be returning to St. Louis this Saturday, complete with Whodini, who are alums of the original tour. The Brooklyn trio scored several gold and platinum albums in the '80s, with the most popular one (arguably) being the 1984 classic, Escape. I was fortunate enough to speak with founding member Grandmaster Dee about the past, present, and future of Whodini's Hall-of-Fame career.

Calvin Cox: What was it like to take part in an event as ground-breaking as Fresh Fest '84? Grandmaster Dee: It was a great time in our lives. Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC -- we was all family on the road, because we were all managed by Russell [Simmons] at the time. It was a blessing how big the tour ended up.

Did you imagine back then that you would still be performing in front of fans in 2010? We knew in our minds and in our hearts we wanted it to last forever, [that] we wanted to keep going. We didn't know things was going to change like they have now, but I really believe we came out at the right time with the right music.

As far back as your history goes, Whodini has never split up. Is there a secret to the group's longevity? It has a lot to do with being close, and loving what you do. Of course, we've had ups and downs, and we argue. But no matter what, we just put it all back together and make it work. We was all fighting for the same thing and we all believed in it, and now we're blessed to still be doing what we do.

Whodini has been credited with the first platinum-selling rap album. You were honorees at Vh1's Hip Hop Honors in 2007. What accomplishment are you most proud of? Out of all that, the thing I'm most proud of is our originality. In the beginning, a lot of people would just take a drum beat and rap over it. We changed it up and came with original tracks.

How do you feel about the rap that's being played on the radio currently? I look at the scene like hip-hop is bigger than ever right now, but everybody's doing the same thing. There's not a lot of people being different. That's not knocking them; like I always say, they do what they do and we do what we do. But if you're not out here in fifteen years, still eating, then you know you done something wrong!

What are the group's plans for the future? We're going to come back out, we really feel we need to do another album. I don't want to leak too much out yet, but we're trying to put a single out at least by the summer. For now we're just sharing the road with Kane, Dougie, Slick and Salt-n-Pepa, doing what we do.

Fresh Fest featuring Salt-n-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick Whodini, Big Daddy Kane. Saturday Feb. 6, 8 p.m. at the Chaifetz Arena.

Whodini, "The Freaks Come Out At Night"

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