￼Last Monday, I had an unparalleled evening of excitement at the Tavern Lounge in Queens, NY. I had seen a post on Instagram and it advertised an interview of the Bronx bred MC/DJ Grandmaster Caz, formerly of The Cold Crush Brothers. So, I definitely had to check this event out. I’ve always been fascinated by Caz’s contribution to the culture, from penning the rhymes of Big Bank Hank on rap’s first mainstream hit, “Rappers Delight,” to the unfortunate circumstance of him not only being uncredited for his work on the song, but also never receiving a single royalty.
Perhaps, one of raps most cautionary tales, and warns of the importance of understanding the music business regardless of your level of talent. Also, of interest, was his influence on many more well-known rappers such as Rakim, Will Smith, and even Jay-Z. The latter references him on his 2001 song “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” from The Blueprint album where he raps, “Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over / Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up / I’m overcharging n*ggas for what they did to the Cold Crush.” Jay-Z’s verse acknowledges how record labels took advantage of the Bronx artist’s lack of music business sense in the late 70s, before hip-hop became the thriving business opportunity that we know it as today.
The interview was for a popular, live comedy podcast called, The Ryan Show. Hosts, former sushi chef, Ryan Verneuille, Grammy-winning rapper, Mr. Cheeks, and well-renowned socialite, Hampton Dave, who’s known for his celebrity lifestyle. It was an unassuming place for such a wonderful event, taking place in a dive bar not far from the JFK airport. I’m not sure if there was a cost of admission, but I did hear the host say something about $30 a ticket, which sounds reasonable considering the value of the entire evening. Perhaps I was able to avoid the admission ticket because I arrived prematurely — practically the story of my life. Doors opened at 8pm and, after I arrived early, started drinking Coronas served by the attractive guest bartender named Amanda. The drinks were moderately priced for a venue that only accepts cash and has an ATM with a 5% transaction fee. The show kicked off appropriately by playing a snippet of Mr. Cheeks’ song, “Lights, Camera, Action,” which is a song that has aged remarkably well, by the way.
Ryan Verneuille started the show by announcing that he’s started a campaign to get Mr. Cheeks as a character in the next edition of NBA2K19, or at least on the soundtrack, which raises the question: “Why hasn’t Mr. Cheeks had any more hit songs?” But that’s another article in itself. Nevertheless, I don’t know how common podcasts at bars are, but it’s a perfect combination!! Entertainment of this type is mostly viewed online; and the similar types of events I’ve been to have been controlled by corporate entities that have managed to suck any ounce of realness out of the even, sometimes making it feel commercial and insincere. This type of event has none of those restraints. Speaking to the Host Ryan Vereneuille about it, he stated:
Hells yeah, it’s why I try to get people in there live. Podcast doesn’t do it justice; Truly a movement; All cultures, creeds races under a roof, partying hard, enjoying live entertainment; Different genres of music and comedy; It’s truly a natural unforced and unfiltered unity through art; A beautiful thing. I’m excited to see where this whole thing goes.
I couldn’t agree more with his sentiment. Hip-Hop often has the ability to bring different cultures together and an event like this is something special for a number of reasons. As a journalist, I’ve been fortunate to attend all the events I’ve wanted to for the last few years for free, but this was a truly special experience and ranks up their on my list of favorite hip-hop moments.
￼The Ryan Show is best described as high energy. Host Ryan Vereneuille is like the Dick Vitale of hip-hop when he interviews guests such as Talent Booker Shelby Westlake, who provides a number of the guests that have performed and/or interviewed on the show. Ryan keeps the questions flowing, while interjecting humor into the mix, creating a contrast of the usually more reserved personalities of the guests being interviewed. I’m sure some of the humor would be considered inappropriate in certain circles, like the time he made a joke about Shelby Westlake’s drink being drugged by Hampton Dave. You can’t deny his comedic timing, even if some of the jokes border on inappropriate. The show doesn’t seem to necessarily have a set order, and is somewhat chaotic, which is part of its appeal and the improvisation used by the hosts — like the time Ryan segued into an interview with a local Queens flower vendor who regularly pitches his bouquets throughout Southside Queens — makes the show unpredictable and exciting.
Music, ranging from hip-hop artists from Method Man to Tupac Shakur, is played by New York-based DJ K Bliss. Then, Freaky Kah, the son of Freaky Tah, is interviewed. He talks about the upcoming Lost Boyz’s Unsung episode on TV One and his new video “Get Right.” Later, a freestyle session takes place, featuring various rappers, freestyling over industry instrumentals — perhaps, the least impressive part of the evening; as several rappers freestyled, some were “off the dome,” and others were clearly written pieces. Nonetheless, it wasn’t exactly cringeworthy but fit in with the overall context of the evening. Then, there was an interview with a talented rapper, Bryan Richards, who hails all the way from Amsterdam. He spoke about coming to America and trying to find an audience, before giving a solid, live performance.
If you love hip-hop and don’t mind the marijuana aroma, this is the best place to spend a Monday evening. Later, Ryan interviews Fish N’ Grits Magazine publisher, Joe Fatal (best known for being featured on “Live with the Barbeque” with Nas), whose latest issue features an interview from the deceased rapper, Prodigy, as well as scantily clad photos of model/actress, Dream Doll, and some well-known adult performers. This was followed by an interview with a gypsy jazz band artist, Carolina, based out of the Hamptons. Ryan jokes about getting her to pose in the sleazy publication. Later, Mr. Cheeks joins the show before the start of the Grandmaster Caz interview with Bushwick Bullie, giving a rousing introduction before the main event, which was also the highlight of the evening — if you don’t count the strippers near the end of the show.
With Mr. Cheeks and Ryan’s teamwork, the interview touched on all areas I was interested in hearing about in reference to Grandmaster Caz’s career. I even found out that Caz does hip-hop tours around New York. On weekends, he does hip-hop workshops for kids at the Bronx Zoo, as part of Boogie Down In the Bronx, with special appearances by Grandmaster Melle Mel and The Sugarhill Gang.
All in all, it was an eclectic mix of interviews, but all of them were interesting, informative, and much better than spending the evening on YouTube watching VladTV. Afterwards, I asked Ryan about his influences and he stated, “I didn’t really listen to podcasts growing up. I listened to Howard Stern and older stand up comedians, guys like Carlin who had life experience. I still wanted to entertain people and I was working in restaurants getting tired of the whole 9 to 5.”
This show is a great nod to the overall culture of hip-hop, and in the past, has had notable guests, such as original Terror Squad member Cuban Link and Queens street legend Royal Flush. The show’s ￼audience is a reflection of how much of a melting pot the genre really is. When you can walk into a room and have different cultures and classes brought together under one roof because of the music, is a testament to not only the power of hip-hop, but also the genius of the podcast. The interesting part is that, because Ryan Vereneuille is from the Hamptons, the reality exists that some could perceive him as a “culture vulture,” especially as the show receives more success. Ryan acknowledges it in a humorous fashion during the podcast several times. When asked about it, he states:
I could care less about what I’m labeled. That’s one thing I knew going into this whole thing. I grew up in the Hamptons. I think the whole concept of it is hilarious. We’re a melting pot as a country, everyone takes from everybody.
While some may view him as an outsider to the culture because of his privileged upbringing in the Hamptons, his intentions appear noble as he uses his platform to “shine a light” on pioneers of the culture; like Grandmaster Caz, whose voice is often marginalized, and the media unfairly depicts old school artists of his era as bitter for criticizing a transformative art form. The variety of independent artists is also diversified as opposed to many shows that feature guests of similar backgrounds. The range of the show is very much connected and reminiscent to the roots of hip-hop, which would often have artists like Run DMC, Public Enemy, and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince performing on one tour. They all have distinct voices but are able to unite for the overall union of promotion which is an element that is missing often on mainstream radio and other media platforms. In addition, it’s interesting how the show is helping to bring some of the old school artists on his show into venues in the Hamptons because of the over saturated hip-hop show market that exists within New York city.
The uniqueness of the comedy podcast can’t be denied. What’s most impressive is the deference to the culture the show presents in a genre where artists, who are part of the “white-hot space,” receive the most attention for the most banal of activities, from DJ Khaled’s oral sex proclivities, to Cardi B’s pregnancy. It is refreshing to see a show that focuses on the opinions of well-respected old school rappers and their thoughts without creating dissension with a malevolent line of questioning designed to disparage newer artists. Furthermore, the inclusivity of a wide range of talents with no regard to race, and with a focus on talent and ambition, is something that makes this podcast one of the last uncorrupted temples of hip-hop.
So, if you’re a fan of the culture, and enjoy the uncorrupted artistic expression of creatives coming together for an evening of live entertainment sans being watered down by corporate policies, this is the place.
If for some reason, you are unable to attend because you don’t live near New York, you can check out the podcast online — but it fails to measure up to the actual experience of being in the present moment, and experiencing the outstanding qualities of this live event.
This is a show that has captured the spirit of hip-hop and is holding it captive on Monday evenings. And if you love hip-hop, that’s something you want to experience in person — especially as the weather warms up, and summer is quickly approaching, with more exciting guests possibilities from Redman to Method Man; this is definitely a show you will want to be checking for in the future. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope that no evil conglomerates get a hold of it and commercialize it the way they have Hip-Hop.