EDITOR’S INTRO: Mike Williams, better known as Keyboard Money Mike, is an old school hip-hop legend who you may have heard shouted out on records by BDP and Ultramagnetic M.C.’s without ever really knowing who he was. That’s all about to change as Jesal ‘Jay Soul’ Padania sat down one-on-one with this pioneer to talk about his past, the present and what he has in store for the future!

Jay Soul: Ok ladies and gents, welcome to RapReviews.com! This is Jay Soul here today with one of the true legends and pioneers of the hip-hop game, Keyboard Money Mike, representing the Bronx.
Money Mike: South Bronx!

JS: South South Bronx! So I’ll be asking the questions, and believe he has a LOT of knowledge to drop. So first of all, please tell us about yourself Money, just about how you got started in the game and some of your early achievements.
KMM: I am a true music lover, first and foremost. When I was 4 years old, I was the first black kid on Sesame Street – I was actually a child prodigy, starting in the acting field, moving into the music field. I started playing violin, but I couldn’t take that around the block, because they would call me a sissy, you know? But on the opposite side, they called me the ‘Black Mozart’ – so it was a contrast that I had to adapt to at an early age. So that is who I became – a music lover, who can now play THIRTEEN different instruments, percussion, woodwind, strings, all those families.

JS: So when did you start to get into the hip-hop game good and proper?
KMM: Well, in 1979, I decided to break out of the classical game – because I was doing R&B. And I was starting to DJ, around my block in the South Bronx, holding down the Battle MC’s. From there, 7 years later in 1986, I founded, put together and created… ULTRA… MAGNETIC… MC’s!!

JS: If you could roll off a list of their achievements at the height of their success.
KMM: The height of their success was the first single, when we were working at the whole thing for a year and a half. The last four months it all came together, when I produced the track “Ego Trippin”. The sound that I used in that song is in EVERY keyboard today – I created that sound, it is in all the keyboards today. Same with another song I did for KRS-One… So not only am I known for my legacy with artists, but also creating sounds too. Most people don’t know that – artists resurface these sounds we created in their music today.

“I can say I’m the founder of KRS-One because I surfaced on the scene with him through B-Boy Records.”

JS: So moving away from Ultramagnetic, what other artists did you discover or were you led to work with? You mentioned KRS-One…
KMM: Yeah, I can say I’m the founder of KRS-One because I surfaced on the scene with him through B-Boy Records. But of course KRS-One was brought to me because I was looking for artists, and Tony Miller, Seb G’s brother, brought him to me. And that’s where KRS brought Scott LaRock, who worked with him at a shelter where KRS was living – he said that this guy was off the hook. So we got together, and that’s where Boogie Down Productions was born.

JS: So what other artists did you produce for, moving along into the 1990’s?
KMM: I did music for Sparky D, Coco Chanel, Kings of Swing, Lords of the Underground… I did LL Cool J too! Fat Joe, Big Pun, Big L too… Lord Finesse – I mean, I could go on and on!

JS: And what were some of your biggest successes, on a personal level?
KMM: Well when I was on MTV, when I was doing Tim Dog – and Ed Lover called me, in 1991, the “Legendary” Keyboard Money Mike. And he recognised the work that I had put in the game – I didn’t know what a legend was at the time. I didn’t think a hip-hop guy could be one, I only thought someone like John Wayne could be a legend! So it meant a lot to me then.

“I discovered this guy called Fat Joe. […] Loud Records called me up to ask what was up with him – and I hooked them up.”

JS: Taking it back again, what were some of your TV and radio experiences?
KMM: I used to have a TV show called “The Keyboard Money Mike Show”, a lot of people came through that show – I was like the music video box. Through there, I discovered this guy called Fat Joe. He called me up and was like, “Yo you got all these black brothers coming through your show, but what’s up with the Latinos man??” So I went over, checked him out, and he got like FIFTY Latino niggaz coming out of their cars – I was like GOD DAMN! So when I interviewed him, Loud Records called me up to ask what was up with him – and I hooked them up, that is how I discovered him, through my show. On the radio, I had a late night show – we used to have legends come through like Audio 2, Special K, Apache, Spider Dee, Daddy K… I was always in the mix, you heard of me one way or another.

JS: What about the last decade? What have you been up to?
KMM: The last decade, I went back to school, to New York University – and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Film Making. I did a couple of short films, HBO picked up one called “The Date” and showed it in 2002. The Lifetime channel showed another one called “No One Will Ever Know”, and “Making A Change” came out on Showtime. As a director, my credibility is rising – I mean, it is not on the level of my music though, because I am a true hip-hop legend.

JS: So that has covered many parts of your career up recent memory – now if you could let the readers know what you’re up to right now, and what your influence is on this present location.
KMM: What I didn’t mention was that I was the President and co-founder of B-Boy Records, and I ran a label for more than 12 years. So now the YOUTH is on the rise – you got people like KAMGISHA and VICIOUS who form the A-Boyz, which is the reason I’m on location at this video shoot for their hot new single, “Rider”. And you got other dudes like Cobra and Warpath coming up. What I’m trying to say is that today, the competition is greater – because everyone is doing what you’re doing, and you have got to be certified by America to be a bonafide rapper, right now. BUT, there will come a time when YOUR country, as I was telling my man Jay Soul, the UK will have to eventually certify you as a rapper, and all the other countries will take care of their own. The culture is leading to its own identity – right now, it is the USA because that is where the money starts, but gradually, individual cultures will form. I mean, I was on MTV Cribs, part of the whole ‘bling bling’ culture – but I grew up and moved on. Now, the message I kick to the youth is this: believe in yourself, and others will believe in you.

JS: One of my opinions is that hip-hop is targeted at the youth so much, that if you’re over the age of 30 you are thrown on the pile labelled ‘OLD’ – whereas in other genres, such as Rock, people revere the legends such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones… Do you think that the youth don’t want to hear wisdom from legends such as yourself, or are they brainwashed into thinking that?
KMM: The market is controlled by the “Upper Power” – and normally, if you look at the history of black people, or minority people worldwide, we have never controlled our own invention. When you see TV, you see Rock music on all levels – you see old school AND new school. When you see hip-hop on TV, you only see youth, on a limited level. Old school, you walking with a cane – it is played out… But the true hip-hop lovers know. In fifteen years time, I’m a be beatboxing – they’ll be like, Old Man stop that, you look stupid… In the old people’s home, I’ll be like “I started that shit, that’s the motherfucking thanks I get??” {*laughter*}

JS: If I can just interject, looking at rappers like Nas, Common, Jay-Z… Jigga is releasing multi-platinum albums at the age of 38, Nas and Common have been around since 1992. Do you think that there is now a viable market for more mature hip-hop, and is it something perhaps you could handle?
KMM: I’d have to say they are E.T.T.R’s – Exceptions To The Rule. When you start a dynasty, or a path that shows greatness or success, you can do it at 45. Jay-Z still speaks in youth lingo, which puts him in power of the concept – if he still sells, there could be a Jay-Z at 50. Everything starts from the way you are taught – your Momma, your Poppa, they are called TV! No one else taught you to be hip-hop like TV. The ones who watch the bling bling rappers are ALSO the ones who BUY them, so they indirectly have a say in the direction. Now it is the marketers who adjust how rappers are seen, because it is their job to sell records. We used to come from the hood, now they come from mansions and yachts. I’m from the TDC – the Trillion Dollar Circle… Hip hop has grossed over $1 trillion – and we look at who is IN that ring, cats like Nas, LL, all them dudes. Youth has got to get a piece of that TDC – they have been brainwashed, just to be like them. What drives the game today? MONEY!

“Dr. Dre and 2Pac […] I did that track before they did it.”

JS: If I could just ask you a couple of fun questions… What are your favourite songs, on a personal level?
KMM: Hmmm… Dr. Dre and 2Pac, “California Love”. Because I did that track before they did it, with Ultramagnetic MC’s – but the way Dre and Pac did it was crazy. I mean, I met 2 Pac, I talked with him – he was a real brother. He showed me that he could speak from within, and they still respected who he was regardless.

JS: And for all the tech heads out there, could you very quickly run through your favourite production tools over the years?
KMM: Juno 106, VX7, S950, S3000, MPC-2000, Kurzweil, Cubase… Now we got Pro Tools, and I’m using a Korg M3. They got MY sounds up in that shit!

JS: OK, last question. Why have you decided to impart some of your wisdom to the youth TODAY? Why is now the right time?
KMM: Let me bless you with the concept first, then give you the answer. A lot of people don’t know what they are here for, until they come to a crossroads. I came to one – I used to have Monopoly money… Then I hit rock bottom. You ever heard of a company called the IRS?

JS: Yes sir, that is the Inland Revenue for all the UK people!
KMM: Yeah, so Tax Evasion and all that. When you up there, you don’t realise who your friends are until you come down – I’ve been there, MC Hammer props to you. But when I was down, but not out, that is where I find my inner soul. Power is NOT money, power is YOU! I realised I wanted to educate the youth, help them in the game. Knowledge is self – if you do it to impress the fans, you’re going to lose. If you do it for what lies within, you will succeed – that is where hip-hop is from, having to express what is within. They will respect you then. The negative part is that artists suffer – you don’t need to know algebra to figure that out. People take your money, jerk you around, play you. We are brainwashed into wanting to be rich stars. Focus on how to be you, and how to take it back to your community, back to your motherland. I’m about to say PEACE!

JS: Thank you very much Keyboard Money Mike – if you’ve got anyone to shout out.
KMM: Shout out to all who are stars WITHIN themselves, not to others. I thank God for letting you recognise my talent – that’s how it goes. Peace to the A-Boyz, plus thank you Jay Soul and RapReviews!