The tape was the first medium in which the average person could access the means to record just about anything.  During the start of Hip Hop, cassettes was medium in which many of those park jam flavors were shared.  Skeme Richards knows this from being there first hand.  

His cassette archives include a few original recordings from that time period.  His involvement in Philly's early Hip Hop scene is what molded him to be one of the most respected DJ's in the world today.  Whether it's taking his successful soul party "Hot Peas & Butta" on the road or rocking breakbeats for thousands of B-boys...Skeme's signature style of true schoolism can't be duplicated... 

As a member of the world famous Rock Steady Crew, Skeme knows the importance of sharing Hip Hop's history.  It was only right that we connected with him to share a few words.

 (SC)  You've been participating in Hip Hop culture since the beginning...more specifically in the Philly scene.  Through your eyes, what role did the cassette play during those formative years?

The cassette played a major role because without that technology battles, parties and practice basement sessions would never had been preserved.  You would've had to have been in the place to actually witness what was going on and that time would only exist within your memories.  It's was also important in being able to hear what your competition as a DJ or MC was doing across town, not so that you could bite but to know where you needed to be skill wise.

(SC)  Can you tell us about some mix-tapes or cassette recordings that influenced your DJ style?

Oh man! Philly has some of the best DJ's in world hands down so having having early tapes by people like DJ Groove, Grandmaster Nell, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Cosmic Kev is what defined not only my style but every Hip Hop DJ worldwide and most have never even heard those tapes.  And as a younger cat at the time, hearing all their names and knowing they all had skills I knew that I had to come correct as well.


(SC)  During Hip Hop's earliest years....jams, freestyles, parties and radio shows were recorded on cassette.  I can imagine a culture of dubbing and trading tapes.  How hard was it to obtain copies of those?  

Hip Hop has always been about being something that someone else was not and having something that others don't so having copies of those tapes weren't easy to obtain because people wanted to be the only ones with them.  If you were cool with people then yeah you could get copies of certain stuff but alot of times you needed something to trade for.  But having certain things makes you special because people hold you in high regards as the dude that has xyz and he's the only one with it.  Still to this day I have mixes that the people who made them don't even have and I hold onto stuff like that because the minute it hits Youtube it's value has now decreased.  As a person who spent hours, days and weeks searching for mixes you value that time that you'll never get back so your not trying to give anything up too easy.  This younger generation doesn't place value on physical items as we did in the past, for them it's download this email that so they basically don't have a connection to it, it's more of a want at the time and then forget about it on their hard drive.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Michael Beon

(SC)  Do you think people use the word "Mixtape" a little too loosely these days?

Honestly it doesn't really bother me when people use the term out of context, ie mixtape actually being a CD.  But what does bother me is when people put up a digital download and call it a mixtape, NO!, it's a digital download, an MP3, a Wav it's not a mixtape, there is not physical media being used, bought or sold.  I think people have just become lazy to terminology, the same way everything is labeled as Hip Hop, the word mixtape has become a generic term for a DJ recording a mix.  Alot of older people will say did you hear so and so's record, even though it's not recorded on vinyl but it's the term that they grew up using.

(SC)  As the tape phased out, we've seen Hip Hop's sound become saturated and compromised.  How do you think MP3's have changed not only our listening experience but also how music sounds?

I don't think the cassette is the cause of Hip Hop's sound becoming saturated, I think it's the fact that too many people claim to do Hip Hop is the reason for it's saturation.  Back in 70's and 80's you had 10% of the people that were DJ's, MC's, BBoys and the other 90% was party people so things were regulated and the scene was tight.  When it became too easy for people to start claiming these titles without having to battle for the rights everyone claimed to do an element and less were party people.  MP3's have changed our listening experience only in the fact that you can have the one good song that an artist put out instead of his entire album.  It does however change how music sounds because in the past you perfected your shit, saved up your money, went to the studio and came out with quality product.  Now all these bedroom producers, MC's, DJ's record at home and litter the internet without having to go in public to battle or get boo'd so their style never gets perfected because people don't want to or don't want to waste time dissing them online.


(SC)  You are known as the "Nostalgia King" who collects everything from Vinyl to Blaxploitation memorabilia to arcade machines.  Could you tell us about how you feel when you see cassettes these days?  

Honestly I love cassettes but I love cassettes that I've collected over the years, the rare stuff like label promos that you acquired because you were on the list, battle tapes, radio broadcasts that you can't get just anywhere.  And these tapes only get played once in a blue moon because repairing popped tapes is a very tedious process.  But when it comes to seeing 90's Hip Hop tapes and stuff like that I don't get the sensation of oh I got to have that because I was buying all of it on vinyl anyway and making my own tapes.  Being a collector of many things I just don't have the space to dedicate to cassettes of that nature, but give me a classic Grand Master Flash tape circa 1970's then I'll make the room.  I still by sealed vintage blanks though when I see them, not to record on but just for the nostalgic factor.  At the end of the day we all have those songs in one way or another, cassette, vinyl or MP3 but it's the stuff rare stuff others don't have which separates the two classes.


(SC)  You've got rare tapes here which I'd like to coin as some of the Holy Grails of Hip Hop.  What's the story on some of these?  (KRS Exclusive, Bahamadia demo, Jazzy Jeff live at 52nd st)

Back in the early 90's I used to run with my man Money 1 aka Ramos who was a road manager for KRS, we used to be a D&D Studios while everyone was recording albums, so at the time KRS was recording Return of The Boom Bap album and that tape was one of the unmastered cassettes straight from the studio,  so I had that album way before a 12" even dropped. 

The Bahamadia tape is from her weekly radio show the B-Sides that she did with my man DJ Groove aka FredyBlast.  This was a promo with alot of gems on it that most people at that time weren't thinking about keeping, there's alot of underground stuff that never really got the light of day to the masses but are gems

The Jazzy Jeff mixtape is from I want to say around 1985 from when parties were being thrown at the YMCA.  There's a bunch of Philly history on that tape with a slew of DJ's and MC's that were incredible and just to hear the live recording transports you back to a different time.  I actually have a VHS somewhere of the video recording of that night as well.

The Lady B tape is really special to me because most people don't have recordings of her early 80's radio show.  Lady B was the first female MC to drop a 12" called To The Beat Ya'll in 1979, she had a radio show on A.M. until 1984 when she moved to Power 99 on FM with her show Street Beat (which I've got probably 50 tapes of those shows).

Now we all know the Transformer scratch was invented by Philly DJ's, most notably DJ Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money but the first person who did the scratch before it was perfected in the way we know it today was the original DJ Spinbad from Philly.  So this tape by Spinbad and his MC's Force Five Production Band definitely holds weight because not many people outside of Philly even know that history.

The 2Kannon Cassette is one of the originals used to press up a 12" in 1991 which commands around $100 dollars on eBay.

Get the flash player here:

(SC)  A few Hip Hop labels have gone back and revisited the cassette format.  In the last few years we've seen releases from Stones Throw, Redef Records and Nature Soundz that have now become collectibles.  Is it possible that we will see a Skeme Richards mix on cassette in the future?

I've actually been working on a physical mixtape which I want to release later this year but it will be something real limited, not more than 50 copies.  Those that are gonna want them will be people who really value and appreciate the format and those who really support what I do as a whole.  I've been a collector of things all my life so I'm not trying to do it for the cool factor, I want to give people something that I would want from an artist that I love.

(SC)  Any last shouts or comments to add?

I want to thank Strictly Cassette for taking this time out to talk about my little collection of tapes and for keeping tape culture relevant.  Shouts to FredyBlast a true Philly legend, Supreme La Rock, Maxell, TDK, Sony and Fuji for making such great blank tapes and to all the tape kings world wide that have held onto these mini reels for so long, this is history so preserve what we won't be able to retrieve again if lost!

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  1. Skeme. What up? Nice read fam!

  2. Man you got them sh***** 4real!! I'm talking them Philly joints I have been searching high and low for Lady B joints both the WHAT 1340 AM joints and the early days of Power 99FM when she played them dope mixes from Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money,Wax Spinner, etc. Would like to get a hold of them. I think that Philly YMCA 52nd Street joint was posted some where around I think I have that one. I also have a 83 Cosmic Kev vs Doctor DJ Thorpe at Wagners Ballroom. I was blessed with that a few years ago from one of my brothers over at This interview brought it back to me for a minute.LOL