LU: What was the experience of coming to New York like?
RF: It was a mixed emotion for me because my mother came to the States [when I was three] and my father died when I was five, and I was always told I was coming to the States, so I spent my entire youth thinking that I’m coming to America. I never really focused on what was going on in Jamaica because I was like, I’m not gonna be here. Then, year after year, I’m still finding myself in Jamaica. All my siblings were here [in the US]. I was the only one left. I gave up hope to come here anymore, so I started thinking about becoming a jockey. I was five feet, 80 pounds. The trainers loved me because I was a high school graduate—they wanted somebody like me to school. Then when the papers came through for me to come here, I was unsure because I felt like I was left behind in Jamaica. But I came. In Jamaica, you’re almost told there’s gold lining the streets of America. You come with this idea of this lavish place…
LU: But you’re coming to Brooklyn in the 80s!
RF: When I got to Brooklyn and I saw the building that I’m going to on Nostrand Avenue, I wasn’t so impressed. I was really miserable for, like, two years. It took me two years to start liking America. The name Red Fox was really popular in St. Catherine High School, I’m used to all these girls, this entourage around me—I had a whole crew back home called Arrows Posse—so I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to fit in.
It took me six months to even figure out how to talk to a girl because all these Italian girls [at New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst] came with all these diamonds, flossed out. They looked expensive. I had a bushy, red fro, and I wasn’t getting any attention until I got a high-top fade, and bought myself some clothes because I got a job. I came back to school that Monday morning and started getting girls. Eventually I met up with the rest of the Jamaican guys that were going to New Utrecht, and they happened to be LP International, the sound system. I was actually booked to sing on a sound called Magnum and I was gonna clash LP. So we went to the clash and, you know, it was interesting. I came in and mashed up di place on the sound that I was on, but the other guys didn’t want to give me back the mic. LP saw the opportunity to grab me and say come over to our sound. I said, fuck it, and started singing for them and clashing against the sound that I came to help.
LU: Whoa. How did you link with the rest of the Ruff Entry Crew?
RF: I met Screechy Dan first, at Club Callaloo on Eastern Parkway. When I just came to Brooklyn somebody took me to Starlight Ballroom, and Screechy was hot in Brooklyn. He reminded me of Professor Nuts. But the first person I started to hang with tight was Shaggy. Shaggy’s the type of dude that finds who [he] need[s] to hang with to get somewhere. I had “Come Boogie Down,” a hit record at the time, and “Down in Jamaica,” and I started taking him around to shows. Sting and I started the Signet label with Ben Sokolov, and I brought Shaggy there and then Screechy, and Screechy brought Nikey Fungus and Baja Jedd. Ben Sokolov came to do a compilation album at HC&F studio and I liked the way Ben went about doing the business and I wanted to have my own label where I do all my work. I called Ben and said I would like to work with your label— Sting [International] and I, so he said sure, and Sting started his production then.
LU: How did you start to make inroads into hip-hop?
RF: Sting and I started to experiment and we did a track, Naturalee and I, called “Lets Chill.” We did over the song that Guy did. Red Alert started to push that song on Kiss FM at the time, really hard. We started to experiment with some more hip-hop/reggae-type stuff and, performing at the [Greenwich Villlage club] Underground, Brian Nubian used to check me out. A lot of hip-hop artists used to come to the shows to check me out—even Mike Tyson sometimes. I used to really, really, pack it, and a lot of celebrities used to come but I had no knowledge of it. These girls told me, Lord Jamar from Brand Nubian is looking for you to do a record. And we did one called “Black Starliner” on their In God We Trust album. The guy who was managing me, Erskine Isaac, booked hip-hop acts, so whatever show those guys are doing, he would put me on. He started to link me with all the hip-hop producers like [DJ] Premier and all dem, trying to get me in the hip-hop market.
LU: Was that something you were into at the time?
RF: In the studio, if you have a hip-hop track, if you have a reggae track, it doesn’t matter to me. You could have a country and western track, if I feel like I could come up with a song, I’m gonna come up with a song, that’s just what I like to do. Whatever sounds good, I’m with it, so it’s not something I thought about, it’s just something that happened.