I discovered DJ Geo Roc through Tapemasta’s Pushin’ Tapes and Big Chew and Dimez’s Rapmullet websites. I would like to personally thank them for opening my ears to countless tapes that have had a profound influence on me.
I first posted something about DJ Geo Roc on my blog in February of 2008. The post consisted of a download link for hismix tape To the Death Vol. 4: The Return. It ended up being one of my most commented on posts of all-time. All of my 90’s mix tape posts seemed to get a great response, so I decided to post a download link to his Queens Get theMoney tape in April of 2009. Once again, the response was tremendous. Lamenting the fact that I couldn’t find anything about him on the Internet, I wrote, “If anyone knows anything about him, or, better yet, Geo Roc, if you see this, hit me up! I'd love to write something of substance to go with this tape.”
Not long after, Geo Roc did hit me up. During my interview with Geo I learned about mix tape distribution in the late 90’s, his work with the Cold Cutz Crew, and some unbelievable behind the scenes stories. Read on as DJ Geo Roc takes you back to the late 90’s in my third installment of ‘Til My Tape Pop.
Downloads for Queens Get the Money and To the Death Vol. 4 are included at the bottom of the post.
DJ Geo Roc: I was still in high school; I want to say it was ‘92 or ‘93. I was listening to Gang Starr, Kool G Rap, MC Shan, EPMD, Redman, and KRS One. I never had direct drive turntables and I didn’t come from a lot of money. I remember one day my father was working an overnight at a venue. The DJ that night left a handful of records and my father came home with them. I think it was DJ Casanova, who was big at the time. I had one of those belt drive turntables with an 8-track underneath. I put a record on there and started cutting with the volume as my fader. I’d turn it up a little and shut it all the way off to cut out the sound.
A year later I got to mess around with real turntables. One of my best friends was a DJ and I used to go to his house. I remember one day he had doubles of Run DMC’s "Peter Piper" on the turntables. He went to take a shower and I started cutting up, “You all know how the story goes”, slashing back and forth. He came back into the room like, “That was you? Oh shit.” It took off from there.
I remember listening to DJs like Scratch from EPMD cutting choruses on songs. I remember DJ Evil Dee cutting up, “How many MCs must get dissed?” I would sit in my homeroom class in ‘93, my senior year, and I’d have a piece of paper on the table. I’d be cutting and making little scratch sounds. I’d wonder if vinyl would make the same sound that I was making with the loose leaf paper. In ’94, my freshmen year of college, I bought one turntable and a mixer. A couple of months later I bought another turntable.
Then, around ’95, I really started doing my thing. I don’t remember how, but I linked up with Dirty Harry and his cousin Cage, and Cage became my manager. He was my manager for two or three years, right up until I dropped Queens Get the Money. He was managing me when I did To the Death and he did right by me. He put my stuff out across the country. They were selling my stuff in England, Germany, and Japan, but I wasn’t making as much money off of them as I wanted to. Then we kind of drifted apart. I linked up with this other kid who did my distribution for Queens Get the Money and we did really well on that.
DJ Sorce-1: Were you from Queens originally?
DJ Geo Roc: I live in Queens in a town called Middle Village. My wife grew up here and we bought a house in her neighborhood. I was born in New York and lived here until I was two. We moved to Delaware and then in ‘86, when I was 10 years old, we moved back to New York. We lived in Astoria for a year and then moved to Woodside in Queens. I went to Bryant High School in Astoria and lived in Woodside. I’m Greek and Astoria back then was all Greek. All of my friends, cousins, and relatives were in Astoria. Then we kind of migrated east to Whitestone, Bayside, and Long Island.
DJ Sorce-1: How many units did you move of Queens Get the Money?
DJ Geo Roc: There was no real way to track. We sold them two different ways. You could do it on consignment or you could sell your master to certain people. I would sell my master to someone for $400 or $500. They could press up a few thousand tapes and make as much money off of it as they could. Or you could do it on consignment with the mom and pop stores and give them 100 tapes at a time. Tapes sold for $10 back then, so they would keep $5 and we would keep $5. The tapes were selling across the country and across the world. Just to put it in perspective, in one record store in Corona, Queens I must have sold 3,000 tapes in one month. To this day when I go into Numbers Records & Tapes, the owner will say, “Hey, I just had a customer come in and ask when you’re dropping another mix tape.” (Laughs)
DJ Sorce-1: People like you, Spinbad, and the 1200 Hobos did some amazing things by utilizing 4-tracks to record complex and layered tapes. Can you explain the process of recording with a 4-track?
DJ Geo Roc: When you used a 4-track it was recording to tape. I used to use those metal tapes because they sounded a little bit better. Say you dropped the instrumental to Track 1. You’d let it ride for a minute, then you’d have to rewind it and record you’re a cappella or cut to Track 2. Then you could rewind it and record something to Track 3. With the constant rewinding you would lose quality and there would be a hiss.
The intros were the hardest. Let’s say on Track 1 I’d record someone saying, “I’m from”. On Track 2 I’d cut in, “Queens”. On Track 4 I’d already have the instrumental, so that left me with Track 3 to cut something else in. You had to bounce tracks to make it work. It was hard man. A lot of it was in my head already, but sometimes I’d have to look through hundreds of records for the right phrase. I literally had a notebook of phrases and another separate notebook with different a cappellas that worked with different instrumentals.
When I was done, I would take my tape to a friend’s studio and put the output from my 4-track through their board until it sounded decent. You’d have to mix it down to a master tape and then duplicate it from there. Everything was mixing down live; you couldn’t stop it. He’d start recording and I’d hit play. Then I had in my head, “Here I recorded an instrumental and it’s a little loud, so I have to turn Track 4 down at this point. After this instrumental goes out, put Track 4 back up. On Track 1 I have a drop of Lil’ Kim saying, ‘Yo this is Lil’ Kim chillin’ with Geo Roc’ and it came in low, so I have to remember to bring it up.” It was all mental.
DJ Sorce-1: You were doing the mixing and mastering through trial and error.
DJ Geo Roc: Yeah. As far as technology and recording, no one really showed me much. But style wise, I used to practice with Spinbad, Slynkee, and all those kids. So cutting and scratching came from those guys. When I made the earlier tapes like To the Death, I hadn’t even been DJing for a year. I listen to it now and kind of giggle. Years later I was on a whole other level. I always wanted to do something to showcase my skills now. I picked up shit quick man.
DJ Sorce-1: Your mix tapes had drops from big time Queens rappers like Capone-N-Noreaga and Royal Flush. How did you get in touch with those guys?
DJ Geo Roc: Capone-N-Noreaga used to do autograph signings and in-store events. Before they dropped an album, they promoted the hell out of it. They would go to a big store and just sit there and sign autographs. I would be there with two turntables playing hip-hop and I’d mostly play their shit. I did a lot of autograph singing, open mic competitions, and freestyle battles. All of those guys would be judges and people like KRS-One would also be judging.
(Via If I Haven't)
DJ Sorce-1: Do you have any crazy stories from the time you were meeting different Queens rappers and hanging out with them?
DJ Geo Roc: Do you remember ACD? They did a song called “Street Life” with Mobb Deep. They were nice. One of the kids from ACD free styled on Side A of Queens Get the Money with Royal Flush. I had the Infamous Mobb and someone else on Side B. I was already done with Side A and I’d started the intro for Side B. I used to chill with Foxy Brown’s brother, the head A & R for The Trackmasters, and his name was Anton. He used to roll with this kid Footy who was one of their main promotional dudes. He loved my mix tapes. Back then, it was all about hustling. If you put out mix tapes or showed them your flyers for big clubs, they would hit you off with free vinyl. I would go up there once a week, maybe more, and became pretty tight with Anton.
One day he was like, “Geo, I know you’re doing Queens Get the Money. I got this kid who’s out the lobby right now. He’s form Queens and he’s dope. Let him get on your mix tape.” I was like, “Who is he?” He said, “He goes by 50 Cent.” I went out there and talked to him and gave him a pound. I told him, “Maybe on the next mix tape. I already have all of my freestyles.” Two months later I heard “How to Rob” and I was like, “Oh, shit!” He just blew up after that. (Laughs) That was my one chance. I also went to the studio with Nature one time right before he blew up. I was trying to get something from him. I always liked Nature. Over time I kind of lost touch with those guys.
(Via Music Stack)
DJ Sorce-1: It seems like you made your mark quickly and then you left the mix tape game during its peak. Why did you decide to quit?
DJ Geo Roc: I think it was in ’98. I don’t know why. I dropped To the Death chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4. I did Queens Get the Money. Then I started on another mix tape and I finished side one. It was going to be called Show Me the Honeys because Jerry McGuire was big at the time. I was gonna do an all R & B tape aimed at the females. It sounded real dope; I wish I still had that master. I finished side one and never got to continue with it. My parents would move us apartment to apartment back then and it got hard. I’m still DJing, I just never finished it. And that’s the end. I always wanted to put out another mix tape. I’ve done a lot of mix tapes with remixes but I’ve never put them out. I just did ‘em for myself and I’ll rock the remixes in the club. I always feel like my mix tapes were a work of art in a way. I put a lot of work into them.
DJ Sorce-1: Earlier you talked about learning from the other members of The Cold Cutz Crew. They were highly respected and a lot of the members are still doing it. What was it like being a member?
DJ Geo Roc: I linked up with Spinbad, JS-1, Slynkee, and some other cats and became the Cold Cutz Crew. We did some stuff on each other’s mix tapes and they helped me with some of my outros. We battled together in ‘97 in the ITF. It was me, Spinbad, and JS-1. Craze jumped on with us. I don’t want to say we didn’t get along with the X-Men, but they were judging, and we knew we weren’t going to win because they were judging. He jumped on with us during JS-1’s set and started cutting just to show that he was down with us. We didn’t plan it that way, he just got on. The 5th Platoon beat us. Craze wasn’t Craze yet. He was blowing up at the time, but after that he really blew up.
(Via DJ JS-1's Instagram)
DJ Sorce-1: What was your relationship with Spinbad and JS-1 like?
DJ Geo Roc: Me, Spinbad, and JS-1 would practice a lot. That’s when I was really into it, during my college years. I used to go practice with Spinbad and JS-1 at JS-1’s house and we’d have six turntables set up. Someone would cut up a beat and someone cut a phrase. I would go home after and be like, “Damn, Spinbad did this fucking cut.” I would just practice it and get it. And cutting, scratching, and DJing started going to a whole other level with turntablism stuff.
A little while after we did the ITF we started to fade apart and do our own thing. Around this time I did a party out in Waco, Texas. After the club shut down I was driving to the after party with the promoters in their Mercedes Jeep and all of sudden people are shooting at us. The promoters didn’t let these kids into the club that night, so they followed us. Here I am sitting in the back of the jeep with my turntables, and they shot through the back window. To this day I have little fragments of shattered glass in some of my record sleeves. The day after we got shot at they found a bullet in head rest of the jeep. I was like, “Oh shit man. I can’t do this.”
For me, it was a wakeup call. I was starting to get older. I had played soccer at Hofstra, broke both of my legs, and kind of dropped out. I thought, “Where am I going in life?” I wanted to keep DJing on the side, but I didn’t think it was going to be a career or a money maker. That’s when I went back to school and got a job in television. I work for CBS Sports now. We produce the NFL today show. I work with Marino, Boomer and all of those guys. I stuck with DJing on the side but I DJ less now. I would love to have time, the way Spinbad and JS-1 made it a career. Spinbad is all over the radio and JS-1 travels with Rahzel and does a lot of other shit.
(JS-1, Jazzy Jeff, and Spinbad Via DJ JS-1's Instagram)
DJ Sorce-1: What’s the biggest adrenaline rush you’ve ever had during a live performance?
DJ Geo Roc: I was doing an after prom party at the Roxy in Manhattan. The place holds thousands of people. I think Mobb Deep had just dropped "Shook Ones" so it must have been 95. There must have been 20 high schools from all over Queens. I dropped the "Shook Ones" a cappella over the "Mad Izm" instrumental. The place just went bananas. I can’t explain it. Four thousand people just going, “Oh shit!!” The feeling was crazy.
DJ Sorce-1: Looking back, do you regret your decision to not go further with DJing?
DJ Geo Roc: I’m upset at myself for not putting out any more mix tapes. I could never find time. I got married 10 years ago, I have two kids now, and it’s like, “Where am I going to find time to do this?”After I dropped Queens Get the Money, I was going across the country. I was booked from the Hamptons to all the biggest clubs in Manhattan. I’d be booked Monday nights here, Wednesday nights there, and Thursday nights at Cheetah. Diddy used to be there every freaking Thursday and there were celebs everywhere. I was doing good, but it slowly started to become just a side thing for me. I couldn’t DJ that often anymore, but in a way, I left something unfinished.
You can hear more DJ Geo Roc on his SoundCloud page. Also make sure to like him on Facebook.
(Editors Note: If you have To The Death Vol. 1, 2, or 3, or the ITF footage Geo spoke of, please hit me up on Twitter.) Download Queens Get the Money by clicking here. Download To the Death Vol. 4: The Return by clicking here.