The Juice Crew was a hip hop collective of largely Queensbridge-based artists in the mid- to late-1980s. Founded by producer Marley Marl and radio DJ Mr. Magic and housed by Tyrone William's Cold Chillin' Records, the Juice Crew would introduce New School artists Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Roxanne Shanté and Kool G Rap. The crew produced many answer records and "beefs" - primarily with rival radio jock Kool DJ Red Alert and the South Bronx's Boogie Down Productions - as well as the "posse cut", The Symphony (song).
Marley Marl started his career as Mr. Magic's sidekick and DJ on the influential radio show Rapp Attack, the first exclusively-hip hop music program to be aired on a major radio station, New York's WBLS-FM; the show would be instrumental in spring-boarding the careers of the group's various artists. The crew derived its name from Mr. Magic's alias, "Sir Juice". Magic actually had a previous ("original") Juice Crew consisting of himself, record executive Sal Abbatiello, and artists Sweet Gee, DJ June Bug, and Kurtis Blow.
As a record producer, Marley Marl began the Juice Crew's long tradition of answer records with their first release - 1983's "Sucker DJs (I Will Survive)" by Marley's then-girlfriend Dimples D., a response to Run-D.M.C.'s "Sucker M.C.'s" - but this initial effort failed to provoke much of a reaction, and was a whimper compared to what was to come.
A chance encounter in 1984 between Mr. Magic, Marley Marl and manager Tyrone Williams and 15-year-old rapper Roxanne Shanté resulted in their breakout hit "Roxanne's Revenge". A scathing attack on UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne", the song became so popular it not only garnered a response from the original group (with the help of a young female rapper claiming to be The Real Roxanne) but inspired dozens of imitators in a series of records known as the Roxanne Wars.
Keeping his attentions to his Queensbridge public housing project, Marley's next artist was his cousin MC Shan. Shan's second single, 1986's "Beat Biter", went after local Queens superstar LL Cool J for allegedly stealing Marley's music. What was significant about the 12-inch release was not its intended single, however, but its B-side "The Bridge", which proved much more popular, finding not only considerable radio play but the ire of Boogie Down Productions. BDP, an upstart rap group from the South Bronx led by rapper KRS-One, took offense to a contested interpretation of MC Shan's lyrics: they understood Shan to be claiming Queens as the birthplace of hip hop, when it in fact originated largely in the Bronx. Adding to the beef was an ongoing feud between Mr. Magic and his arch-rival Kool DJ Red Alert, who played a similar role in supporting Boogie Down Productions' nascent career - Mr. Magic on the other hand derided their early efforts. BDP launched the first attack with "South Bronx", which was premiered live in concert after an MC Shan performance of "The Bridge". Shan and Marley responded with "Kill That Noise", released on MC Shan's 1987 debut Down By Law (the first full-length release from Tyrone Williams newly formed Cold Chillin' Records), calling out KRS-One's attention-grabbing methods. The battle was widely regarded as having been won however by KRS-One and the BDP Crew, with the diss track "The Bridge Is Over". Nonetheless, the so-called "Bridge Wars" would be drawn-out over a number of proxies.
The Juice Crew began to expand around this time, most notably with the inclusion of two high school friends from Brooklyn, rapper Big Daddy Kane and "human beatbox" Biz Markie. Biz had already collaborated with Shanté for 1986's "Def Fresh Crew" and found success with his Marley-produced debut "Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz", which also introduced Juice Crew singer TJ Swan. In February 1988, Biz's album Goin' Off was released by Cold Chillin', which had just signed a five-year distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records. By the following year, Biz would become a national celebrity with a hit single ("Just A Friend") in the US Top Ten. Big Daddy Kane went on to become not only one of the biggest selling but most respected and influential rappers of his time. Kool G Rap, together with musical partner DJ Polo, was met with similar critical acclaim, albeit less commercial success. The other artists added to the Juice Crew/Cold Chillin' roster were Masta Ace and Queensbridge up-and-comers Tragedy the Intelligent Hoodlum, Craig G and we can't forget Glamorous. She was featured on Pop Art records before joining the Juice Crew as a member of the "Glamour Girls". On the only single from them "Oh Veronica, Veronica" in 1985. Craig G did the beat box version.
To showcase both his expanding crew and evolving musical productions, Marley Marl released in 1988 the label-showcase In Control Volume 1. The Symphony (song), with its sparse drum sample, simple piano melody and back-to-back line-up of lyrical heavyweights (Masta Ace, Craig G, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane), made an indelible impression on hip hop, and is widely regarded as the quintessential "posse cut". The Juice Crew rode out the decade firmly at the top of hip-hop.
Marley Marl spent the early 1990s as a producer, including work with LL Cool J in 1990 on Mama Said Knock You Out. It would be the last year he would contribute to a Juice Crew member's album. 1991's In Control Volume II (For Your Steering Pleasure) featured appearances from LL Cool J and Chuck D but also featured little of the original crew and many unknowns who would never be heard from again. Cold Chillin' Records struggled in the early 1990s, and less successful acts like Masta Ace were dropped.
The Intelligent Hoodlum, later known as Tragedy Khadafi in the 1990s, played a personal role in shaping the lyrics and imagery of Capone-N-Noreaga (most notably on their The War Report album) and his younger cousin Havoc of Mobb Deep.
As Nas said in an interview in 1998:
Growing up in Queensbridge it was Marley Marl and The Juice Crew that gave rap niggas like myself hope that there was another life beyond our hood... He made us believe that although we came from those wild streets, we still had a chance to change our lives.
2000s Nas & Ill Will Records Presents QB's Finest sought to honor this heritage with "Da Bridge 2001", an all-star update of MC Shan and Marley Marl's classic, this time joined by Tragedy, Mobb Deep, Capone, and Nas.
In 2007, the feud between the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions was officially laid to rest when Marley Marl and KRS-One released the collaborative album, Hip Hop Lives - a quasi-sequel record to Nas' Hip Hop Is Dead.
The Vapors, a biopic about the Juice Crew directed by Furqaan Clover and starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as Marley Marl and Keke Palmer as Roxanne Shanté, began production in February 2008. Although, right now the movie is on hold due to cast issues.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license