African American Studies


INTERVIEWER: Claude Magnum

INTERVIEWEE: Danny Martinez (Interview Two)

SUMMARY BY: Andrew O’Connell

In his second interview with the Bronx African American History Project, Danny Martinez speaks with Dr. Claude Magnum and delves deeper into his intricate role as one of the forefathers of rap and hip-hop in the Bronx.

Martinez tells that he first became interested in deejaying when his cousin began the trade around 1970. About five or six years later around the age of 11, Danny Martinez stepped behind the turntables for what would be the first time in an illustrious career, spinning his records on the same turntables used by legends Kool Herc and Clark Kent in Cedar Park. Following his debut in the park, Martinez began to DJ at house parties, where hip hop in its early days first started to gain popularity. These house parties then turned into what Martinez described as “rent parties,” where DJ’s would find someone in need of a little help with rent that month, set up their turntables and charge a dollar or two at the door.

Speaking about the presence of gangs that pervaded the South Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s, Martinez says that many DJs tried to stay away from the gang life, instead indentifying themselves as members of crews. These crews, Martinez alleges were about doing positive things in life and having fun, not about violence or battles over turf, as gangs were.

Martinez’s popular career began to take off in the early 1980s, highlighted by Martinez’s most famous work when he collaborated with Biz Markie to make one of the most well known singles in hip-hop history, “You Got What I Need.”

During this time, Martinez also began to travel with break dancing crews as the popularity of Rock Steady increased demands for break dancers around the world. Martinez’s travels took him to Argentina, Colombia, and even Iraq.

As a collector of records, Martinez’s two largest contributions relate to his work with the Ultimate Breaks and Beats Project and Dusty Fingers. Both of these efforts involve Martinez’s passion for collecting and compiling vast record collections, collections that Martinez alleges reached numbers close to a half a million individual records at their highest.

In particular, Dusty Fingers involves the digitization of old records, transitioning a change in music to digital forms from older mediums like records and CDs.

In closing, Martinez claims that his work, specifically his work with the two projects previously mentioned, has gone vastly underappreciated by the hip hop community. Only Dr. Dre has ever given him credit, Martinez says, even though popular hip hop artists have been sampling his stuff for years.

Click below to download supplemental content.

Martinez, Danny Interview 2 Part 1.mp3 (13325 kB)
Martinez, Danny Interview 2 Part 2.mp3 (105045 kB)
Martinez, Danny Interview 2 Part 3.mp3 (16903 kB)