“From the crib I spend months gone
Sat by the window with a clutched dome listenin’ to shorties cuss long
Young girls with weak minds, but they butt strong.”
On a frigid 54 degree California night, I stood outside the back gates of The Galaxy Theater waiting to get in and watch KRS-One perform from backstage. With my hands in my girl’s pockets, I stood dancing tightly in place, trying to get warm to the muffled music playing inside and listened with my friends to Zulu King DJ Mark Luv, as he sat on a rock waiting with us to get in, and told us tales of Hip-Hop history. The Zulu King’s huge stature, kind, experienced and passionate disposition, and sincere teddy bear-like face beneath a greyish beard make him a natural griot. At some point while standing in the cold for three hours, we begin to ask each other if anyone else remembered various members of the underground Hip Hop scene that we’ve known and can recall throughout the years. Names came to mind like Dotted Line the Club Elements Freestyle Battle Champion, or Self Jupiter of The Freestyle Fellowship, and Saafir – whom we hear is in bad health, understandably concerning everyone and served as a somber reminder that we’re getting old. As my buddy Isaac chain-smokes like the Newports will keep him warm inside his velour track suit, either Triune, another friend of mine and seasoned emcee, or I mention A.C. The Program Director. Immediately this breaks into a sharing of hilarious experiences with the man.
I remember standing on an art colony street corner in Downtown Pomona, CA and listening to Dvooa, the host of a local hip-hop open mic called “The Get Down”, loudly inquire why A.C. The Program Director was spinning. Normally, A.C. The Program Director playing records at a hip-hop spot in Pomona would not be strange, however no one invited him to spin that night. In fact, DJ Gabe Real was already spinning, while A.C. walked in the dark room filled with circles of b-boys and simply decided he wanted to throw down a set. So he removed whatever piece of vinyl Gabe was spinning and replaced it with his choice, which of course was probably something so obscure that none of the hip-hop elitists in the building even recognized it. Years later, A.C. explains the story this way,
“I never did that, but I like the story though and the meaning of it … I always asked before I got on the decks. Gabe hated me but would let me spin cuz if he didn’t it wasn’t a good look on his behalf.”
To know A.C., one must start at the fact that he is a stalwart Hip-Hop promoter and DJ, joining the LA Breakers the year of it’s establishment in 1982. Since then he’s been flexing his enormous wealth of obscure HipHop records collected since the age of 5, and currently hosts an internet radio show called Hip-Hop Philosophy, staying active in the underground HipHop scene so prevalent in LA during the days of the infamous Club UNITY. UNITY is arguably the greatest LA hip-hop club ever, at which Zulu King Marcus Mark Luv (*Pharcyde) was the resident DJ. Before starting the show, DJ Mark Luv would get on the mic and give this disclaimer to the crowd, “You will not hear any Too $hort, Snoop Doggy Dogg, nor Jay Z.”
In 1993, during UNITY’s heyday, A.C. The Program Director suffered a work-related car accident and sustained brain injuries. While confined to his bed, bravely recovering, A.C. spent a lot of time listening to music and became disgusted with the mass medias interpretation of Hip-Hop, prompting him to regularly call The Wake Up Show and verbally assault resident DJ’s Revolution and King Tech, letting them know they had become soft, and told them every time they played a record he deemed not-real-shit. Who can blame him when TLC made the cover of The Source, and artists like Hammer and Vanilla Ice were becoming the Media’s poster children of HipHop, and the masses went along with that.
And so, Adam Clayton Harper became A.C. The Program Director, because Sway and King Tech tried naming him AC The Critic, but AC earned instead the title Program Director by providing the obscure. But I like the way AC tells it better,
“My name is Adam Clayton Harper, and Sway and Tech TRIED hard to name me AC The Critic. I earned the name The Program Director because I find all of the great new music that the radio won’t play and share it with the world. I had to earn that name, they try to claim they gave it to me, but I actually earned that title by breaking records and not playing just singles like sucker Dj’s do, by finding and sharing all of the great records they can’t and won’t.”
Once A.C. healed, he pursued his career as a DJ and one of the greatest hip-hop fans of all time, with a renewed zeal and force, as many of us would after experiencing a long period of painful recovery.
A.C’s would grow to have a relationship with the Wake Up Show like many of us have experienced with significant others. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who totally berates you and doesn’t allow you to just be you? None of us like that, but we often need it.
A.C.’s calls to The Wake Up Show studios remained as frequent as they did when he was at home with a clutched dome, and his voice happened to reach them the night Jay Z was a guest. And A.C., being the constant agitator who keeps hip-hoppers honest, says to Jay Z, “Yo, Jay, some of what you do is dope, but why do you just rhyme on anything? DJ Mark Luv of UNITY doesn’t play your shit!” Hov responds with a very Hov-esque, “I’m tryin man.”, and immediately goes into what ever record he was about to play before A.C. told him about himself. As soon as the record plays and the mics are off-air, Jay turns to some person who works for him, and asks something like, “Who the fuck is Mark Luv, what is UNITY, and why haven’t I played there?”
At the very next UNITY, guess who blesses the stage? Of course, the Jigga Man himself.