In 1984, anybody that wanted to be somebody in the wild world of hip-hop hung out at Disco Fever. It really was the place where stars were born and myths were made. And it was there where Kurtis Blow was enjoying the second half of his career. The first rapper signed to a major label was becoming the first rap-star-turned-producer. After pumping out a string of hits for the Fat Boys and Fever legends Sweet G and Lovebug Starski, Kurt turned his attention toward two guys he knew named Kool Kyle and Billy Bill.
If Kurtis Blow was the first rap star, then his best friend William Waring, better known as Billy Bill, was the first rap songwriter. As kids in Harlem, Billy and Kurt had been A1 b-boys. Between 1980 and 1984, Waring penned the classics “Hard Times,” “Basketball,” “You Gotta Believe,” and “Games People Play,” and cowrote much of the Fat Boys’ first album. He was such a hot commodity that Sylvia Robinson reportedly offered him fifty thousand dollars to write for Sugar Hill Records. But he passed on it, knowing he had a better thing going with Kurt.
Like Kurt and Billy, Kyle Brinson had been an A1 b-boy as well and went back to the earliest days of the culture. Observant subway riders in 1971 taking note of the usual cast of New York characters—bums, hookers, outlaws, and creeps with overcoats—may have noticed the name Spec One spray-painted on the outside of the train. That was Kyle. By the time the first b-boys started transitioning into DJs and MCs, Brinson was ahead of the pack; he rechristened himself Kool Kyle the Starchild. Kyle earned his rep in the legendary Bronx hip-hop club the T Connection and was also a part of Black Door Productions (the original BDP), which managed and promoted Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
In the early ’80s, while Kurt was burning up the charts as an artist on Mercury Records, Kool Kyle was scrambling in the clubs and studios, striking deals with Enjoy Records to release “Do You Like that Funky Beat?” and later “It’s Rockin’ Time,” in ’81, as well as “Getting Over” in ’82 on Frills Records to very little success.
And so it was that one night in the Fever, Kurt’s buddies Kool Kyle and Billy Bill decided to join forces for one record to show the world what they could do. “Trouble” is a socially conscious song that has familiar ’80s keyboards. The second cut, “The Old School,” is a funky LinnDrum banger where both MCs had a chance to shine.
Like Kurt, Kool Kyle may have sat at the front of the class at the DJ Hollywood and Melle Mel School of Rap.
“I’m not a fantasy, pure reality / I’m the real Starchild not a photocopy.”
Billy’s voice wasn’t as robust as Kyle’s, but he had a fighter’s spirit.
“Like the fish must swim and the birds must fly / We’re breakin’ MCs down and we’ll tell ya why…”
It was “The Old School” that cemented the legacy of Kool Kyle, the track that would bang out of JVC and Sony boom boxes from coast to coast.
Kurt’s former producer, J. B. Moore, once remarked of Waring, “When I met him, he said his name was Billy Bill, never worked, never will.” Waring disputes that, replying that he’s been working for twenty-five years and proudly still collects checks from “Hard Times” and “Basketball.”