Mr. Arthur “Maniac” McCloud
In our Spotlight of the Month for the month of June 2013, we will be looking at the change in the music industry and how it has impacted our lives, especially in the African American community. There has been much discussion on this topic over many years. Our conversation will be with a distinguished gentleman who is a DJ and a DC legend in the entertainment and music industry. His name is Mr. Arthur “Maniac” McCloud, but he is best known as “Maniac McCloud.”
He has been an entertainer in the music industry for a very long time. We will find out what Mr. McCloud is doing now, but also about what he was doing “way back when,” and the changes he has witnessed in our music genre over the years. (Click on photos to enlarge them)
Destiny – Pride: Good morning Mr. McCloud.
Mr. McCloud: Good morning.
Destiny – Pride: Thank you for accepting our invitation to be our Spotlight of the Month for June 2013. I have known you for a long time as a colleague in the entertainment field and I, too, have witnessed a huge change in our music culture, which we will discuss. But before that, I would like for you to tell our visitors a little bit about yourself, beginning with where and to whom you were born and any other interesting facts about your early life.
Mr. McCloud: Well, I’m Arthur McCloud. I was born in Washington, DC to the parents of Mr. Arthur McCloud and Mrs. Louise McCloud; both of them are now deceased. I was raised as an only child in Northwest DC. I was born in Northeast DC, but I was raised in Northwest DC.
Destiny – Pride: What part of Northwest?
Mr. McCloud: The Brightwood area, right up there by Georgia Avenue; I lived on Marietta Place. That’s considered the Brightwood area.
Destiny – Pride: Then you moved to Northeast?
Mr. McCloud: No, when I was born I lived on Kenilworth Avenue.
Destiny – Pride: That’s right. You told me about that.
Mr. McCloud: And then we moved to Northwest DC, on 14th and Decatur. And then we moved to Marietta Place, which is where I was raised.
Destiny – Pride: So you were born in Parkside?
Mr. McCloud: Yes.
Destiny – Pride: Go ahead! I want to make that distinction because I also was born in Parkside. I didn’t find out that little tidbit until later on – that you were a resident of ours. And what people don’t know is that Parkside was one of the most distinguished early public housing developments and a lot of good people came out of Parkside.
Mr. McCloud: Like me and you.
Destiny – Pride: That’s what I’m talking about!
Destiny – Pride: Are there any higher education achievements you would like to mention?
Mr. McCloud: Well I did some college, but I stopped college because I would begin my DJ career and It was paying a lot of money – which I now consider a mistake. But still, after talking to me you’ll see that you can’t tell that I didn’t go all the way through college.
Destiny – Pride: Right. Which college did you attend?
Mr. McCloud: I went to Strayer College [DC] and Northern Virginia College.
Destiny – Pride: Are you married?
Mr. McCloud: Yes, I’m married and presently going through a separation. I’ve been married for 21 years and now have been separated for approximately 8 months, so I’m going through the preliminary stages of divorce.
Destiny – Pride: Do you have any children?
Mr. McCloud: Yes, I have two daughters. One is 29 and has just had a baby – a boy – on Valentine’s Day of this year.
Destiny – Pride: Oh, you’re a “grandpapa!”
Mr. McCloud: Yeah, I’m a grandpapa! And then my youngest daughter is 18.
Destiny – Pride: What are their names?
Mr. McCloud: The youngest one, 18, her name is Ernia.
Destiny – Pride: Ernia?
Mr. McCloud: Yeah. My wife’s name is Ernestine, so I named her “Ernia.”
Destiny – Pride: How do you spell that?
Mr. McCloud: E-R-N-I-A. We call my wife Ernie; so that’s “Erni” with an “a” – for “Arthur,” for me!
Destiny – Pride: What is the other daughter’s name?
Mr. McCloud: Her name is Dawn. Actually, she’s my stepdaughter; she was my wife’s daughter when I married her, but I don’t consider her a stepdaughter because once I married Ernie she became my child; so I don’t call her my stepdaughter.
Destiny – Pride: What faith are you and how has that impacted your decision-making?
Mr. McCloud: Well, I’m a Baptist. I’ve been a member of Berean Baptist Church for . . . I don’t really know how many years, but I’m going to say probably about 25-30 years.
Destiny – Pride: Berean? Where is that located?
Mr. McCloud: Right on 9th and Madison Streets – 924 Madison Street, NW. I’m going to say that actually it hasn’t impacted me that much because I read on all different types of religions. So basically, even though I’m a Baptist, I’m open to other religions. I take whatever I find that’s useful to me from each religion, and I think all religions have something wrong with them and all of them have a lot of things right. So I just try to take the right things from each religion and roll them all up into one and utilize it in that manner.
Destiny – Pride: Who would you say has made the greatest impact on you and the life choices you have made thus far?
Mr. McCloud: Well, actually, it’s 3 people – I’m going to say, my mother, my father and Muhammad Ali. My mother brought me up in a way where she taught me how to have a great deal of respect for women. She said, “The way you respect me, that’s the way you should respect all women in your life.” That has caused me to be real gracious and romantic with women.
My father taught me how to be strong, because I was an only child. He taught me how to not deal with negativity. When I was born I had cataracts. I have a “sleepy eye,” and the kids used to call me “cockeyed.” My father told me “Don’t worry about that.
That’s something that you’ll have to live with, but that’s going to make you stronger because you’re going to still do and have everything else that anybody else has – and do it better – because of that flaw. My father always told me to be strong and not to worry about adversities. He said, “You’re being raised as an only child, which means you can handle being alone longer than the average person. So when people bother you, just keep moving on until you find the right people to surround yourself with – positive people,” which is what I’ve done. Those people that I hang around with are positive and they accept me as I am, and there’s been no problem. And I’ve come up to be a strong – and handsome – young man!
Destiny – Pride: In spite of all of that.
Mr. McCloud: In spite. Yes, sir!
Destiny – Pride: Okay. The third one.
Mr. McCloud: Oh, Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali impacted me greatly. He was a black hero – we didn’t have that many black heroes to look up to back in the ‘60s. Muhammad Ali, when I saw him determined that he was not going to allow people to make him go to the war in Vietnam, and he lost millions and millions of dollars. He lost his fighting license and everything he wanted to do. But he did that because he said that if he turned his back on his people by going into the war, that meant that he supported it, and he had all of these black followers – just like me. I was a follower. He didn’t go to war because he didn’t want to promote it. That taught me to stand up for what I believe in, no matter what the cost is. In that way, I’ve come a long way. Sometimes that can hurt you, but for the most part, people still respect you because you stand for what you believe in. And, because of Muhammad Ali, I still do that to this very day. That’s been a big controlling factor in my life.
Destiny – Pride: What did you do before you got into the music industry? Walk me through that.
Okay, well actually, my father used to be a Federal Protective Officer at the Main Commerce Building – the Department of Commerce. That’s where the Patent Office was. He got me a part-time job at the Patent Office because he knew people there and they brought me in. I was still in school, so I was working there part-time. Once I got out of school, I switched to fulltime because I was only going to college partly during the day. My hours were 4:30pm to 1:00 in the morning, so that allowed me to go to college during the day. So I worked – as a matter of fact I’m still working – at the Patent Office. I started there from my last year in high school, which was part-time. It went fulltime after I got out of school, and I’ve been there for over 38 years – it’ll be 39 years in August.
Destiny – Pride: Oh, you’re still there?
Mr. McCloud: I’m still there. I can retire when I get ready.
Destiny – Pride: So you’re a civil servant.
Mr. McCloud: That’s right! You know how people say “Keep your day job.” Even though I had the talent of going into music, I still kept my day job throughout the career.
Destiny – Pride: Okay, I’m sure there are those who want to know the answer to my next question. How did you acquire the nickname “Maniac McCloud”?
Mr. McCloud: Well there were a couple of guys that I grew up with that called me that just because I was much more outgoing than the rest of them. I actually got the name after I went up on the stage at Carter Baron and danced with Millie Jackson. She was telling people to come up. My friends said, “Man, he’s actually crazy,” and so they started calling me “Maniac” after that. I was just a very outgoing person. They said that for somebody that didn’t smoke, drink or do any kind of drugs and who acted as crazy as I did, I must really be a maniac. That’s how they started calling me “Maniac.”
Destiny – Pride: I would have thought it had something to do with the way that you played your music, but . . .
Mr. McCloud: No, this was before that. When I started playing music – when I first started DJing at the Black Crystal – my friends, when they came to see me there, because that’s where we hung out, I didn’t have a “name.” They were just calling me “Brother McCloud,” but my friends would be out on the dance floor hollering “Play it, Maniac! Play it Maniac!” so everybody started chanting that with them: “PLAY IT, MANIAC!! PLAY IT, MANIAC!!! It stuck. After that, they started calling me “Maniac McCloud” instead of “Brother McCloud.”
Destiny – Pride: Well now we know. Let’s now talk more in detail about how you started your musical career. What year? How did you make that transition?
Mr. McCloud: Well, actually I started in 1976. I had some friends that I used to hang out with. We hung out at clubs. We would go to the Black Crystal – that was my favorite spot.
Destiny – Pride: Where was the Black Crystal?
Mr. McCloud: Right there at the Patent Office in Crystal City. It was where the Patent Office was located. My friends knew that I liked to play records all the time. Every time we went to parties, I played the music. I had a little record player and would play music on the porch outside. Everyone would come around the porch and dance. When they said they needed a reserve DJ at the Black Crystal, my friends told me to do it. They’d say, “Man, you need to sign up.” I said, “I’m not signing up.” I mean, I can do that around my friends, but I can’t do it publicly; I’m too afraid of that.” They said, “Naw, man, you do it all the time!”
So one of my friends signed me up and didn’t tell me. He knew all of my business, so he signed me up and one night when we were there, they said, “These are the new reserve DJs that we’re going to be trying out next week.” When they called my name, I was shocked! But I went up. I said, “Okay, well I’m going to go ahead and give it a shot.” I did, and management loved me. I went from being a reserve DJ to the star DJ at the club in less than 3 months because of my personality and the talent that I didn’t know I had.
Destiny – Pride: What happened after the Black Crystal?
Mr. McCloud: Well it started with this little guy named Tommy Hall – I know you’re familiar with him. He used to be the DJ at the Room [Night Club]. He saw me. He was the only DJ that was mixing in the straight clubs. There were two DJs mixing. There was a gay DJ mixing at the Club House on 13th and Upshur. Tommy was the only straight mixing DJ in DC.
Destiny – Pride: The Room Night Club was at 12th and . . .
Mr. McCloud: New York Avenue. 12th and New York Avenue, yes.
Destiny – Pride: It was run by Paul Cohn . . .
Mr. McCloud: : . . . and Larry Hillman, yes. So Tommy came out to the Black Crystal and said, “Man, you are really putting your music together, but you’re not mixing.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. I said, “Look man, these people are jumping up and down, going crazy on me.” Who is this little runt coming in here telling me what I’m not doing? He said, “Well come and see me.”
I went down to the Room. I took my girlfriend down there and we danced non-stop for about 2-1/2 hours. I had never done that in my life. All of the music was on beat and it sounded like one record was part of another record. We danced and danced. My girlfriend looked at me and said, “Gosh, he plays better than you!” That kind of hurt my feelings a little bit, but she was right. So I went home and tried the same thing that I heard Tommy doing. I didn’t know that I had this “mixing” talent. I tried it, and it worked. I said, “Okay, now I know how to do it.” So Tommy was inspirational in showing me about this God-gifted talent that I had. He didn’t teach me – I just saw him do it; went home that night; practiced it; and did it.
Destiny – Pride: Let me ask you this, because around the time you were starting was when we started seeing a shift in our music, and what I mean by that is that we were hardcore R&B [Rhythm & Blues]. About that time – the mid-‘70s and earlier – disco started coming in. The Room Night Club at that time, the Mark IV and all of the other clubs were basically R&B clubs. But then that change came. It was at that time that you were coming into the field, right?
Mr. McCloud: Yes.
Destiny – Pride: Then explain to our visitors what “sampling” and “mixing” are, because the times before, you played a record, people would rest and you’d play again. But like you said, with “mixing,” you had the capacity to keep them on the floor for . . .
Mr. McCloud: As long as you wanted to; as long as you’d keep the music going. It was like sliding the music up under the feet. You’re just dancing. The beat doesn’t change. The beat might start out at a slower level, but it gets higher and higher. It’s a buildup. You start out slow beats and then you just carry it up until it gets to higher beats. What that actually means is that you may start out with a song – well I never did beats per minute, but DJs showed me that later. I just had a natural talent for it. I would take a song like “Outstanding” by the Gap Band.
That’s kind of a mellow beat. Next thing you know I’m building up from that beat, starting out at a low tempo and then I’d get higher and higher. It’s like going up steps. But in the meantime the crowd is dancing. They don’t know that they are being taken to a higher level, and that’s the talent and the secret of “mixing.” You’re playing one record after another record. The beat continues on. You keep dancing, and keep dancing. The next thing you know, you’re dancing at a high rate of speed.
Destiny – Pride: Working them into a frenzy?
Mr. McCloud: Right. Exactly! It’s just like building to a climax. You’re slowly going up some steps, but you don’t realize it. That’s the talent of the DJ and mixing. Most DJs, when we first start, are just playing one record. When the record starts fading out, we fade in another song. But it’s not on beat. You either stop dancing or, if you like the next song, you keep dancing. If you like it, you have to stop and adjust yourself to the next song that’s coming on. But with mixing, you don’t have to make any adjustments whatsoever. If you are hand-dancing, you can hand dance straight through for as along as you want to without having to stop and adjust to the music.
Destiny – Pride: Music started making a dramatic change in the late ‘70s from R&B to disco. What were you doing at that time and what adjustments did you have to make to keep up? Let me also add that disco and what you were doing were different. The beat. Everything. Explain that to us.
Mr. McCloud: R&B had a multitude of beats because when you’re mixing, you go by beats. Disco just had one flat beat. It’s almost like house music but on a slower level.
Destiny – Pride: Like the song “Fly Robin Fly” [Silver Convention]?
Mr. McCloud: Yes, something like that. Songs had just one beat, all the way through the song. It was actually boring, but people loved it because it was in an era of acceptance. But with R&B, the beats are changing. You’ve got vocals. The tempo starts out low but it might go up a little higher in the actual song. I’ll just say that R&B music is much more busier than disco music. Disco music is just flat, boring, straight. Just like somebody talking in monotone without the voice going up or going down, like mine just did just now. It’s straight. It’s like “hello how you doing I’m fine let’s go to this meeting we’re going to do this and that.” But when you talk in non-monotone, you say “Hey! How you doing? What’s going on? How you “feeling” today? I’m feeling GREAT! How about YOU?!!! Disco music was straight monotone. R&B – much more busier and much more exciting.
Destiny – Pride: Talk on the fact that really, if you went to a disco, like the Mark IV [DC night club] became, they would no longer even play R&B?
Mr. McCloud: Well let me say that R&B became minimal. The disco era was taking over, just like – and I know we’re going to talk about it – “rap” kind of took over. Everything became rap.
Destiny – Pride: Right, we’re going to get to that a little later on.
Mr. McCloud: Yes, R&B music started slowly fading out and everything was just disco. Now, in my particular case, I wouldn’t let R&B go, and I think that was part of a talent that was appreciated because I found a way to mix this busy music with the boring disco music. That’s what made me a little more special than the average DJ – most DJs went to straight disco.
Destiny – Pride: That also hurt a lot of black artists. A lot of them just disappeared.
Mr. McCloud: I was just about to say that, too! It was the same thing with rap. Bands like the Ohio Players, Earth Wind and Fire, the Bar-Kays, all of them started fading right out, and those were the most “partying” types of music that we loved. But it just knocked them right out of the box when this disco started. And the thing that happened with groups like Earth Wind and Fire, they “crossed over.” So if you stuck with R&B, you would start to get “hungry.” If you went disco, you still had a chance to survive. Those bands that were R&B, and that’s all they knew, and they tried to keep it real and keep it the way it was, they got hungry and they started losing out.
Destiny – Pride: Help our visitors to understand what you mean when you say “cross over,” because a lot of people do not understand that there are two markets: It is your R&B market and then there’s what you call your “pop” market. A lot of black entertainers eventually make that shift to go into the white “pop” market. Explain to our visitors what that is.
Mr. McCloud: The best way I can explain it is by example. If you can remember, most people loved Earth Wind and Fire for their music of the early ‘70s when they were doing R&B, like “Mighty Mighty,” “Yearnin’ Learning,” “On Your Face,” and “Saturday Nite.” That was “funk” – R&B. But then when the disco era hit in the late ‘70s, they started doing things like “Boogie Wonderland,” which is totally uncharacteristic of Earth Wind and Fire. But that was disco being born and crossing over to pop.
Even James Brown – the “Godfather of Soul” – who did nothing but R&B and funk, even he crossed over and came out with the song “Living in America,” which was totally uncharacteristic of him. It was up tempo, but it was disco, and there was no “soul” or “funk” that he was known for in it. So those were two of our big artists. Even James Brown eventually lost it and stopped doing anything.
Another group was Kool and the Gang. Kool and the Gang was just hardcore funk and R&B. They were doing things like “Funky Stuff,” “Jungle Boogie,” and “Hollywood Swinging,” but then around the late ‘70s – the same era that we’re talking about – they started doing things like “Celebrate,” “Ladies Night,” which, again, was totally uncharacteristic of them. If you go back and listen to those songs, you’ll hear a complete change from the Kool and the Gang of the early ‘70s to the Kool and the Gang of the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s.
Destiny – Pride: So we saw a profound deterioration of our genre for the acceptance of white pop music.
Mr. McCloud: Exactly!
Destiny – Pride: Later on, I think one of the “rap” artists to come on the scene was the Sugar Hill Gang, which in 1979 recorded the first hip hop single to become a Top 40 hit. Tell us about that and what you had to do to now adjust to the world of rap and hip hop because it was in its infancy stage at that time.
Mr. McCloud: Well actually, when rap first came out, it sounded like it was going to be exciting. It was something different and something new, and it still related to the black culture. So most of the DJs bit right into it. It wasn’t even an adjustment. We felt “Okay, this is something new and exciting for us to start playing and promoting.” We had no idea it was going to last as long as it did – even up until today. So we just jumped right in and started playing it because we started getting flooded with it. It was something new and exciting, so all the DJs just jumped right onto it.
Destiny – Pride: Now that, again, hit the black music industry hard. It went through the disco era and a lot of our artists disappeared. Now on the heels of that, we’re going into rap.
Mr. McCloud: I think that, had we known that we were damaging our musical culture more so than helping it, we would have slowed down because, as I said, it was just something new and exciting. As a matter of fact, the disco era got hot, but rap came in and knocked out the disco era. Now, the people who were doing R&B are really left in the dust. Even the big groups that crossed over – like Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang and James Brown – they all started getting hungry. So what do you do? You can’t beat them, so you join them.
The next thing you know, if you listen to Earth Wind and Fire in the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s, they have rap artists on their music, which was totally, totally uncharacteristic of Earth Wind and Fire; and totally, totally uncharacteristic of James Brown. But James Brown even hooked up with Afrika, Bambaata and Full Force in order for them to help him get another hit. As a matter of fact, his last big hit was with Full Force. That’s when he did “I’m Real” and “Static.” It was Full Force, a rap group, that helped James to survive in the ‘90s. So if you can’t beat them, you join them. All of these groups started getting rap artists to rap, even in their live acts. Even Patti Labelle. Now who would think that?
Destiny – Pride: Patti Labelle didn’t have one!
Mr. McCloud: Yes she did! She had Big Daddy Kane on two of them. It was called “Feels Like Another One,” and “All Right Now.” Those were hits in the ‘90s, but she had Big Daddy Kane rapping on each one of those songs. Look at Chaka Khan. You remember she had the song by Prince, “I Feel for You.” She had Melle Mel rapping on that: “Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan.” So I’m just saying, if you can’t beat them . . .the next thing you know all of these artists are getting rap artists to help them to survive. So rap has totally taken over everything. We had no idea that we were damaging anything.
Destiny – Pride: So the first early rappers were the Sugar Hill Gang . . .
Mr. McCloud: And Grand Master Flash. Actually, Grand Master Flash was before Sugar Hill Gang. Sugar Hill just got the record deal and became popular first and then they brought Grand Master Flash in, but Grand Master Flash and Furious Five were even before Sugar Hill.
Destiny – Pride: All of those raps were more – for the lack of a better word – “pristine,” right?
Mr. McCloud: Yes, they were, and they fit right in. They were what you would consider “classy.” It had some dignity to it, which is why we were fine with it.
Destiny – Pride: So help me to understand how they jumped from “rapping” to what we have now – “gansta-rap,” where they started fighting each other, which later on became the “East Coast” battling the “West Coast” – Biggie [Smalls] and all of that.
Mr. McCloud: That was the terminology when they started calling it “hip hop.” It’s still “rap.”
Destiny – Pride: Okay, it went from “rap” to “hip hop.” Describe for our visitors the difference between hip hop and rap.
Mr. McCloud: Okay. Rap was actually like poetry put to music to sample songs. And guess what? They were sampling R&B songs; R&B songs that we really love, which was another facet.
Destiny – Pride: Tell our visitors what “sampling” is because artists might do some rap but then you’ll hear, for example, a James Brown underlay.
Mr. McCloud: Right. Sampling is when a person writes a poem and they hear a song that they’ve heard before – usually it’s an R&B song – that they like. What they will do is they’ll take that song and they’ll put their poetry on top of the old song and call it a rap. That’s exactly what it is. It’s a poem about something in society; a poem about a love affair; a poem about something. So it’s strictly poetry that they put to an old song. When they “sample” it, they take a part of a song that they really like – they may take a breakdown or a guitar. Sometimes they even sample vocals. Everybody used to love to hear James Brown say, “Oww, wait a minute” or whatever the case may be. They would sample him screaming because that added more flavor to the song that they’re doing, but all they’re doing is taking old songs, rapping on top of it and putting vocals in it from old R&B songs.
Now, the hip hop part. They call it “hip” because whatever you were doing, they considered it “hip.” We don’t consider it hip, but if you’re gang banging or fighting or something happens with you with the police that was negative, it didn’t matter, it was “hip.” That’s when it switched over to hip hop and they started saying, “Well this is hip. I robbed a store.” They considered that hip. “I’m smoking cigarettes,” “I’m smoking herbs,” “I’m shooting up.” They considered that hip. It’s like if you’re not doing it, you’re square. Most people who came from our time, we knew that wasn’t the case, but that’s what hip became. If you didn’t do it, then you weren’t hip. You were either “square,” or you were “hip.” And that’s how hip hop began to progress, and that’s when they started rapping about negative stuff. About shooting police, or gang banging . . .
Destiny – Pride: Or the degrading of women.
Mr. McCloud: Oh, yes, especially the degrading of women, because that’s what gangsters do. They weren’t really gangsters; they were like “wanna be” gangsters. Hip hop was a way for them to express themselves and make money at the same time because this rap thing took off so greatly that everybody and anybody that could get a piece of it was getting it, and they didn’t care what they were saying at that point. Rappers, when they first came on the scene, cared about what they were saying because they were trying to be cultural and they were trying to uphold R&B music. But later on, it didn’t matter. You did everything you could just to make money.
Destiny – Pride: At one point they used to criticize MC Hammer and his rap.
Mr. McCloud: Right, because MC Hammer was actually trying to stick to the old rap before it became hip hop. You’re now in a hip hop era and he’s still trying to do rap. It was just like an R&B band trying to stick to its R&B roots when everything had turned disco. It just wasn’t going to happen because the world was changing. MC Hammer was still trying to do the wholesome type of rap – still trying to rap about positive things and just dancing and having fun. But you also have to remember where he came from. He was out there in Oakland where the gangs were; where you had the Crips and the Bloods. That’s where the gangsta-rap actually originated – out in Oakland, California. They didn’t like him [MC Hammer] because they thought he was somewhat selling out; he was still trying to do the wholesome thing.
Destiny – Pride: Okay. Now gangsta-rap and hip hop are settling in, and it was the East Coast against the West Coast. Biggie Smalls was from . . .
Mr. McCloud: The East Coast. Tupac Shakur was from the West Coast. They were the biggest selling rappers at that time.
Destiny – Pride: So now it has taken on a life of its own and these groups are now beginning to live out this fantasy. But, as you said, none of them really was a bona fide “gangster.” Explain that.
Mr. McCloud: Well, actually, some of them were gangsters. You’ve got to understand, Biggie Smalls – that’s “The Notorious B.I.G.,” for your visitors – used to sell drugs, and he was making big money off of that until he got into trouble. He liked rap because he was from New York. While he was in jail, he started writing these raps and when he came out, that’s when he became popular; but being that he was a gangster, he actually did gangsta rap.
Now you have people like Ice T, who was on the West Coast and Tupac [Shakur], and Snoop Dog. They may not have been gangsters but they were living that gangster lifestyle to a certain degree. All of them had some type of affiliation with gangsters. That was the only life they knew, so that’s what they wrote their poems about. They just put it to any beat that they could and just made money off of it because they saw that rap was selling. They considered rap and hip hop as their way out of the ghetto and a means to make money.
Destiny – Pride: Okay, now explain something that’s perplexing to me. Why did it become so popular in the main stream?
Mr. McCloud: Now that, I don’t really know, but my philosophy on this is that the world has changed so much. You now have “babies” making babies. It appeals to the young generation that didn’t have the maturity that we had or the values that we had. We were brought up having values instilled in us. I guess we, the baby boomers, were brought up differently. With these babies making babies, the parents are just as immature as the children. So you’ve got your parents going to the clubs, and even though they have kids, they’re neglecting them. So when their kids grow up, they’re following and doing the same things their parents are doing. They just love rap music! Some of them don’t even listen to the lyrics. When we came up, we listened to the lyrics of the songs. They don’t listen to the lyrics.
Destiny – Pride: They’re just caught up into the beat of the songs?
Mr. McCloud: They’re just caught up into the beat of the songs. The radio starts playing the songs and people start learning them when they hear them over and over again. It doesn’t matter what the songs are saying. I have seen women dancing to songs with words saying, “All the “B’s” – I don’t like to use the word – “put their hands up.” And these attractive girls, they’re not “B’s,” but they’re putting their hands in the air; because they like the beat! They don’t care!
Destiny – Pride: Let’s go back to a point that you made and that greatly disturbed me when I was working at the Ibex [Night Club]. It was unconscionable for me to go out with my mother or my father to a night club. But at the Ibex, I would see young mothers there partying with their children. You amplified on that when you made the distinction between the baby boomers versus what is happening now. They are all integrating into the same arenas. The children may be 18, 19 years old; the mothers may be in their 30s or 40s. Talk a little more about that.
Mr. McCloud: That’s why I mentioned it because I’ve experienced the same thing that you just mentioned. I worked in clubs for almost 20 years – from 1976 to 1995; actually 19 years and 8 months – and I would see women who were pregnant coming into the club. In one instance, because I had been DJing so long, I saw a woman who had been pregnant and later saw that pregnant woman’s child in the club partying with her when I was still DJing. I said, “I am getting old.” I’ve seen this woman have a baby and now her child is 16, 17 years old in the club with her. She said, “This is my child. Remember when I was pregnant?” I said, “Yeah, I remember you! You looked like you were 8 or 9 months pregnant and you’re still partying in the club.” I didn’t understand that, but I guess it really wasn’t any of my business.
You also have to remember that clubs weren’t “carding” everybody. The clubs were trying to make their money and they were letting anybody in their doors.
Destiny – Pride: It never ceased to amaze me, again, when I was working at the Ibex. In one instance a person came up to me. He was a school teacher at Shaw [Middle School]. He said, “Rufus, man, I’ve got to get out of here!” I asked him why. He said, “I see 3 of my students from Shaw in here.” So we did begin to see this breakdown of parental responsibility. All of this was going on during this era.
For the most part, over our history, the many genres of music were looked at and classified as “entertainment.” However, when it came to the hip hop and rap genres, things changed, and they turned into what one would classify as a “movement.” Can you give some insight to me and our visitors as to how hip hop and rap moved from entertainment to a movement?
Mr. McCloud: Well, let me just say this. I went to see a hip hop show, I think it was back in ’88 or ’89. I liked to go to concerts and shows, and I saw that they had DJs playing music instead of a band on the stage. I said, “I paid my money to see somebody standing on stage talking over the records?” I’m used to seeing live performances with bands and performers singing. That was the last time I went to a hip hop concert.
It showed that not only did it affect the music genre, it affected the entertainment business because, even if you look at the award shows on TV – and that’s the only way I see a hip hop show now – they’re still doing the same thing. They are not performing with any type of band and that has knocked the bands out of business. So when you go to a show and you expect to see a band, and some vocals, and some people who may be dancing, and maybe some theatrics with lights and tricks, you’re out of luck. You now are only going to a show to see a DJ behind a turntable or somebody standing on stage spouting out poetry over music.
The “movement” is that we’ve moved from “pure” entertainment to “imitation” entertainment, which is what I like to call it.
Destiny – Pride: Well I hear some people who say – and I think that Russell Simmons has been on the forefront of this movement – this is not entertainment; this is cultural history. That perplexes me. We look at Tupac [Shakur], who appears to be greater in his death than in his existence. I think that you are nibbling at it, but I can’t understand it. A person who really comes to mind is Rev. Michael Eric Dyson, who has almost canonized Tupac. He talks about his lyrics to the degree that it is a “movement.” He even tries to equate Tupac to Gil Scott Heron, who was back then doing his poetry relating to the anti-war movement, the Vietnam War, the war against slavery. To me, that is like comparing night and day.
Mr. McCloud: Well just about everything Gil Scott-Heron did was to address some major social issue. I call him one of the greatest social conscious performers of all time. I equate him with Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, and other artists who did social conscious entertainment. Tupac did do some raps that dealt with social consciousness, but they were nowhere near what Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott-Heron, Sly Stone were doing. They were actually addressing politics. They were addressing issues. They were addressing things that were actually happening to and within the black culture. Even though he [Tupac] did it, he still put the playfulness in it. With Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, there was no playing; it was all serious. You can in no way equate Tupac to somebody that really, seriously addressed social consciousness.
Tupac did it, but he played with it. He did too much of the gangsta rap. He did too much about the derogatory addressing of women. Every now and then he would put out something about social consciousness. Whoop-de-do! The other guys did it all the time and they never did anything degrading.
Destiny – Pride: Where do you see the music industry going from here as it relates to the style and type of music we can expect to be exposed to over the coming years?
Mr. McCloud: Well, people are still making money off of hip hop and rap, but in my eyesight it’s not going anywhere; it’s not getting any better. All I do is have faith. I know that everything recycles itself. Everything goes around in a big circle and eventually I think we’re going to get back to R&B, although I don’t think it’s going to be in my lifetime. As I said, everything goes around in a circle and it will go back to some form of R&B, but I don’t think we’ll ever get back to the acoustic guitars without them running the electricity through them. Not the actual pianos and keyboards that really make music, but I think everything is going to have electricity running through it – electronically.
Destiny – Pride: Now explain that to our visitors, how they can make it sound like I can sing.
Mr. McCloud: That’s right. They can.
Destiny – Pride: Or they can make it seem like I’m one of the most proficient guitar players in the world.
Mr. McCloud: And you don’t even have to have a guitar. They’ve got keyboards and beat machines that can make all of those sounds: the horns, bass, guitar, with nothing but one instrument. I think it’s sad because you want to see an actual person playing those instruments. I figured that music was “soul” music, but this music doesn’t “touch” the soul because it’s not coming from a soul. It’s coming from a machine. You want the human touch. And we don’t get that anymore.
Destiny – Pride: And it is because of that that you can see a star here today but gone tomorrow.
Mr. McCloud: Exactly.
Destiny – Pride: These “stars” have no longevity.
Mr. McCloud: None.
Destiny – Pride: Shows like Star Search. These are “manufactured” individuals that do not have any customer base, and that’s the reason why you can look at these programs over the years and then ask somebody where are the last 10 winners of American Idol: Ruben Studdard; Fantasia. Where are they? They never really established a fan base because they were “manufactured” by TV.
Mr. McCloud: Exactly! Now Fantasia was among them. But she is still struggling because, again, she’s trying to bring that R&B “soul” to the forefront. And I’m going to say this. Even though you’ve got these R&B artists like Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, Neo – they call it “neo soul” now – that’s still not real, because you’ve still got the imitation music behind it. They’re still sampling music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and it’s still imitation music because you still don’t have the instrumentation that you normally would have. There’s electronics running through it and they’re still sampling all the old music from the ‘60s and the ‘70s and are singing on top of it. It’s still not as genuine and soulful as the real soul singers were during that period.
Destiny – Pride: What would you say has been a major accomplishment in your life?
Mr. McCloud: Well, my major accomplishment would be that I always wanted to be on the radio. Let me take that back. I wanted to be on the radio, but then when I went to a radio station called WOL – I know you remember that; it was an AM station – I saw how small the room was. I was DJing at the time. I said, “Wow, they have me in this tiny room,” but they had these big carts that looked like 8 tracks everywhere. I didn’t like being enclosed – I have a small case of claustrophobia, and don’t like to be enclosed. There were no windows in the studio. It was just you in there playing music. It was like not talking to anybody, and being a DJ, I’m an extrovert, and want to feel the vibes of the people. I didn’t see how I could do that being at a radio station. That’s why I never got into radio back then. But I always wanted to be a radio personality.
So my biggest accomplishment is that, even though I’m now in my 50s, I’ve been doing radio. I’ve been a volunteer at WPFW – 89.3 FM. I started doing my own show back in 2000 up until 2006. It was a volunteer position, but I was doing that mostly so that I could put it on my resume because usually when you go to a radio station that’s paying – a commercial radio station – you need to have at least 3 to 4 year of experience. I did it for 5 years because I was enjoying it. My biggest accomplishment is that I got the chance to fulfill my dream of doing my own radio show, even though I wasn’t getting paid for it. Now I have the dream to get paid for it!
I also work at WHUR [FM Radio]. I was the assistant producer for the Michael Baisden Show. I don’t know if that’s too current.
Destiny – Pride: No. Everybody knows about Michael Baisden.
Mr. McCloud: Michael Baisden recently lost his contract because they wanted to cut his pay and he didn’t want to accept that which, again, takes me back to Muhammed Ali and which gives me another appreciation for Baisden. He said, “If you want to cut my pay, I quit. I’m still giving you the same product that we agreed upon.”
A lot of people were wondering what happened with Basiden. Just for you visitors, Michael Baisden was making $1.2 million a year as a radio personality at a station in Miami. He was doing such a good job there that they said “We’d like to syndicate your show.” They said, “Everybody all over the country should be hearing some of this stuff that you’re doing here. Everybody needs to hear it.” So the radio station got his permission to syndicate his show, but they had to spend approximately $8 million to buy a satellite. You buy a satellite and send up a signal. The $8 million covers the maintenance and the coverage, and you can send the signal wherever you want; but the satellite belongs to the radio station.
They sent out memos or whatever to all of the urban stations that do his genre of music and told them “We’ve got Michael Baisden. Would you like to syndicate him?” All of the stations that wanted him said yes, and those stations paid maybe $100,000 a year to the originating radio station. Michael Baisden was getting maybe $20,000 or $30,000 from each station that syndicated his program, so he was getting his $1.2 million a year plus $30,000 for every station that you heard him on all over the country. In 2012, the station lost 3 radio stations from the syndication: One in New York; one in Philadelphia; and another one on the West Coast; so they told him “We want to cut your pay.”
Baisden’s contract was up for renewal on March the 1st of this year. They said, “We want to renew the contract.” He said, “Okay.” Michael Baisden’s ratings hadn’t changed. He was still the top afternoon drive jock in the country, but they told him, “We’ve lost 3 stations,” and they wanted to cut his pay. He said, “Well my pay has already been cut; I’ve lost $30,000 from each of the three stations. That’s already a cut in my pay. So why are you cutting it? I’m still giving you the same product that we agreed upon. You can’t cut my pay just because you’ve lost those stations. You’re the one that sent out the proposals to get them. And the stations didn’t drop me because of anything that I did or said; it was because of their economical concerns.” They said, “No, we’ve lost money on that, so we want to cut your pay.” He said, “Well, no, you’re not cutting my pay. I’m giving you the same thing that I gave you that we agreed upon. So if you want to cut my pay, I’m not doing it.”
Destiny – Pride: What would you consider your major disappointment?
Mr. McCloud: My major disappointment – and I’m going to say at this time and in the past – is the music industry. Part of the reason that I lost interest in DJing in cabarets and clubs is because of this thing that we’ve been talking about. I don’t like the music anymore. I was the type of DJ that felt my music, and people knew that I felt my music. When you saw me perform you could tell I was playing music from my heart, and this is what I like to do.
But when I stopped liking the music, DJing became a “job.” It wasn’t a job to me at first. When it started becoming a “job,” I started losing interest. I still do shows every now and then, but I’m not into DJing – I’m only into radio now. But when I do a show every blue moon, guess what I’m playing? Music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and sometimes the ‘80s. That’s even if you listen to the radio show that I’m on now. I’m co-hosting a show every Saturday from 10:00 – 12:00 on WPFW with James Funk. Sometimes he lets me program the show. He has the same sentiment that I have. We’re both playing music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. We call it “The House of Soul,” because we still know that people out there – the baby boomers – still love soul music and R&B. So that’s the type of music that we’re playing.
Destiny – Pride: What last thoughts would you like to share with our visitors?
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Mr. McCloud: Well, first of all, I’d like to thank Destiny – Pride for giving me this privilege to be here. I’m extremely honored because I’ve seen some of the other elite characters and their characteristics that are on this website, so I’m very appreciative to even be included in that circle. So I just want to take a moment to say “thank you” to Destiny – Pride for having me here today.
Destiny – Pride: We thank you, Mr. “Maniac” McCloud, for being our Spotlight for June 2013. Thank you especially for helping us to understand a little bit about the urban music industry and your insight about its impact on its listeners and on our community as a whole. We wish you much continued success as a DJ, an emcee, or whatever other position of entertainment in which you may become involved. Best wishes to you.
Mr. McCloud: Thank you so much and thank you for making me a part of Destiny – Pride. I appreciate it!