“From 1990 to 1998, Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia had the most influential hip hop radio program in the known universe. The duo reunited in February to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, I asked SF’s native son, DJ Sake One of the (((Local1200))) crew, to tell us what they meant as he was coming up in the pre-internet days of the “Golden Era.” Read. Listen to their 4 hour broadcast below. More goodies at the end of Sake’s words.
For tha mid-30s hip-hop set, Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia are a sort of urban demigod duo, anointed with tha sacred power to determine what’s fresh from what’s wack in a sea of cultural flotsam and jetsam.
These mysical powers were most definitely accrued over tha period of 1990-1998, when “The Stretch Armstrong Show featuring Bobbito Garcia” aired from 1-5am on Thursday night (or, if you a square, Friday morning) on Columbia University’s WKCR “89 Tek 9” FM in NYC, a radio show widely regarded as tha best underground hip-hop radio show of all time. But they gained a greater glow in tha 15 or so years since, when Stretch and Bob have left their hip-hop roots to travel divergent musical paths, paths that in many ways are polar opposites of one another.
If you were a baggy jean wearin, backback rockin, White Owl smokin, Sony Walkman listenin hip-hop head in tha early-mid 1990s you knew all about Stretch and Bobbito – even if you lived thousands of miles from NYC. More than likely, you had at least a handful of TDK, Maxell or BASF 120-minute cassette tapes with half-episodes of tha Stretch and Bobbito show; some of these tapes you cherished for rare or unreleased tracks from hip-hop royalty like Gang Starr, Showbiz & A.G. and Mobb Deep, others for live on-air freestyles from tha likes of Mad Skillz, Nas and Souls of Mischief. It didn’t matter that these episodes were weeks – sometimes months – old. This was before tha internet and tha age of hit songs with 2-week shelf lives. Some songs that Stretch masterfully mixed live on air were never released and still haven’t been – these were vinyl test pressings brought to Stretch personally by tha best independent rap labels – Big Beat, Wild Pitch, Tommy Boy – as well as tha majors who knew a Stretch and Bobbito cosign meant ghetto gold.
There was an underlying appeal of Stretch and Bobbito in tha 1990s: for a culture and music steeped in tha tradition and creative genius of Young Black America, a quality hip-hop radio show with a Jewish DJ and Nuyorican host signaled a broadening of tha palette of tha 1990s hip-hop fanbase. Puerto Ricans in New York, always an active and creative key in tha development and growth of hip-hop culture from tha 1970s and through tha 1980s, at last had a visible, vocal and FRESH spokesperson standing at tha creative edge of tha artform. Urban Jews, long fans of and participants in tha culture, had a DJ that knew his shit and had tha turntable skills to match; in many ways, tha explosion of skilled Jewish DJs in tha late 1990s and early 2000s (from DJ AM to Cosmo Baker to Max Glazer) can be directly traced back to tha visibility of tha lanky, slightly goofy Stretch Armstrong.
Similarly, if you are a serious music afficionado in 2013, there is no avoiding tha influence of Adrian “Stretch Armstrong” Bartos and Robert “Bobbito” Garcia on modern dance music. After tha show ended in 1998, Stretch and Bob both focused on boutique record labels – Stretch’s Dolo Records released some celebrated classics in late 90s underground hip-hop, and Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em and (later) Fruit Meat records released left-field rap and, ultimately, latin and disco sounds. Strech began focusing on progressive dance music and new disco, and in many ways became an early flag-bearer for the “hipster” music sound that fuzed hip-hop attitude and sensibilities with more current and edgy dance sounds. DJs like A-Trak, Diplo and Eli regard Stretch as a major influence; DJs all steeped in hip-hop history but focused on tha present tense and tha wide range of uptempo dance tracks that many hip-hop heads were afraid of. Bobbito has helmed world music, afrobeat and deep soul releases, DJed parties like tha legendary “Wonder-full” Stevie Wonder tribute parties (alongside DJ Spinna), and again reinvented his musical vision with a new label, Alala Records, which releases music only on 45RPM 7” singles, and boasts a diverse catalogue that ranges from salsa to UK Garage.
Stretch & Bob are beloved not just because of what they did in tha 90s, but who they are – which is defined by what they do in 2013. They are truly some of tha greatest icons in dance music of tha past 20 years, and 15 years after they ended their legendary run on WKCR FM, we raise our glasses and toast them!!”
-DJ Sake One.
Thank you Sake One!