The highlight of getting my book out this year has been getting back in contact with The Rap Bandit, who was pleased as punch to get a mention in the Bonus Beats section at the end. As a result, I’m happy to be able to share this section from the long-lost, fabled Rap Bandit book from 1999 with Unkut readers:
I had all kinds of mediocre real jobs back in the day. One of my strangest stints was working at the front desk of a local Philadelphia Holiday Inn. As The Rap Bandit, I had numerous loyal fans, but it’s hard to feel like a star when the focal point of your job is people calling you to tell you that they need more towels. And it was a sickening feeling (at a pay rate of $8.25 per hour) to have to check-in some weary traveler and he’s all pissed off because his flight was delayed, his luggage was lost, he’s got two chins, and he’s a nobody on the grand scheme of things.
At the Holiday Inn, I mainly worked the graveyard shift (11pm-7am). This gave me plenty of time to work on my Bandit columns. Plus, I utilized from the job almost all of the supplies used to write this book, such as paper, photocopies, folders, jumbo paper clips, glue, pens, protractors, stencils, compasses, tripods, Tarnex, molten lava, and white out.
As I was creating hip hop gold, a myriad of rappers and other celeb types found themselves passing through my hotel lobby. It was surreal to check-in Chuck D of Public Enemy at the hotel front desk while at the same time having a joke about him in a popular magazine. But the first entertainer I ever came in contact with at the hotel was singer Kenny Whitehead of the group The Whitehead Brothers. I feel secure referring to him as an entertainer because his group’s one hit—the 1994 hip hop ballad “Your Love Is A .187”—was the bomb, and he appeared a mere six years later on a cut off the Major Figgas’ 2000 album “Figgas 4 Life.”
Kenny was the first person that received my “breakdown” dap. Arriving at the hotel just after midnight, he would get a key from me and be able to stay an extra night free (two nights for the price of one) because I would not enter his information and room number into the hotel computer until just before I left in the morning and the new business day had started. After test marketing this process on Kenny, I began arranging it with selected heads who could in turn break me down..
When Kenny’s hit single was out, he was getting’ more than his share. He would show up with different women on different nights. One night, he was in a room with a female and a call came to the hotel switchboard for him. Instinctively, I told the caller that “no, there is no Kenny Whitehead registered.”
I later told Kenny about it and he was mad appreciative. Soon though, this situation with incoming calls was happening all to frequently. It seemed that every woman in Philadelphia was looking for Kenny Whitehead. I began registering him as Kenny Hitehead – eliminating the “W” from his surname – so that hotel operators would not be able to locate the name in the computer.
Disaster struck soon after when a female with her rams on did get through and told Kenny in no uncertain terms that she was on her way up to start some shit. His quick departure saved the possibility of danger, but at three in the morning, everyone in the hotel at the time could have done without the deafening alarm triggered by his decision to leave through an emergency fire exit. Its incessant ringing caused panicked guests to evacuate their rooms and congregate in the hotel lobby.
In late ’95, rappers Greg Nice (of the group Nice & Smooth) and Blahzey Blahzey rolled through the Holiday Inn while in town for their show at a small Philly nightclub called New Alternatives. This scenario was bizarre because it also involved local radio station Power 99FM. I had worked there during my college days a few years earlier as low-paid morning show producer and unofficial on-air sidekick. At the hotel, I had gotten a page from the radio host of the station’s hip-hop show that I was cool with. “Call me as soon as Nice and Smooth get there,” he yelled. “They’re supposed to be on the air with me right now!”
As if on cue, they arrived a few minutes later, and I coordinated their swift arrival at the station. Later, I received a 5 a.m. call from Greg Nice’s room.
Me: Front desk, can I help you?
Greg Nice: Do y’all have any cots?
Me: Yes, they cost fifteen dollars.
Greg Nice: Okay, I’ll take one please.
Of course, I felt obligated to break the bad news.
Me: Um, the record company [Mercury] is paying for your room and tax charges, but not incidentals, such as phones, movies and meals. If you need a cot, you’ll have to come down and leave a cash deposit or imprint of your credit card.
Greg Nice: Phew.
All he said was “phew.” This sound of resignation made me nervous for some reason. I guess I felt like I had let the whole hip hop community down by trying to stick to the rules.
Me: I can rent it to you for ten bucks.
Greg Nice: Is this Pete?
Greg Nice: C’mon man, you can’t do nothing?
I felt obligated to help him because I had obviously been talked up, and also because Greg Nice’s speaking voice was so feeble and squeaky.
Me: All right, look, I’ll have housekeeping bring it up and I won’t charge you. Just don’t say anything about it when you’re checking out.
Greg Nice: Thanks, man.
That weekend’s strangest moment, though, was witnessing firsthand the most banal conversation related to show business that may have ever been spoken. The participant’s included Blahzey Blah’s talented DJ, PF Cuttin, and a random hanger-on who was attempting to rent a room from me at the front desk as all the post-concert partying, last-minute lobby discussions were coming to a close. After hearing me quote the hotel’s rate for the evening, the hanger-on dude looked at PF Cuttin and asked him, “Is that the rate you paid?”
“I don’t know,” shrugged PF with proud indifference. “The record company paid for my room.”
The sheepish grin on PF’s face brought me to the immediate conclusion that nothing this exciting had ever happened to him. The amazingly clueless hanger-on showed additional envy in asking, “and they’re paying for your transportation back to New York too?”
The smile on PF’s face was loud and proud.
A few days later, I received a “thank-you” package at the hotel from Greg Nice’s record company featuring some mediocre Mercury product (a redundancy if there ever was one).
I had actually received almost the same package weeks earlier from Mercury, though it was naturally addressed to The Rap Bandit at my published P.O. Box in Philly. Record companies were always sending me the newest shit trying to gain favor and not get dissed in my column. Receiving the same package at both ends of my occupational tree was a reminder that no matter the acclaim I was receiving as The Rap Bandit (GQ profiled me in a Summer 1993 issue), I was really a nobody schlub wearing a nametag and green, hotel-issued polyester blazer. This could skew wacky. In August of 1996, a local Philly newspaper sent me as a freelancer to cover a reggae show headlined by Shabba Ranks, Shaggy and Maxi Priest. I got all psyched and full of myself until I found out what hotel the tour was staying at. I’m probably the only concert reviewer in history to also have given the performers and roadies their wake-up calls.
After Bandit ended in 1997 I had nothing going on save for the occasional concert review for the newspaper. I began to put more attention into my Holiday Inn job and soon rose to the lofty position of Front Desk Supervisor. Wow Wee. Because I was growing increasingly bitter about my life, I became the typical snooty little snit you’d find running a hotel. But my holier-than-thou attitude was about to fly back in my face big-time. Naturally it was hip-hop that delivered the kick in the ass I needed.
Circa late 1998, the Sporty Thieves were staying at the hotel with rapper John Forte on some innocuous Ruffhouse nee RuffNation shit. At the time, the Sporty Thieves weren’t well known, though their cut “Cheapskate” was making a little noise. But nothing outrageously special was happening with them. Anyway, some foul-up involving a fax from Ruffhouse that the hotel was supposed to have received to guarantee payment of the rooms hadn’t arrived. Such an arrangement is typically supposed to be in place before a guest or guests is to check-in, and it appeared as if the group had intimidated the young front desk clerk at check-in the night before into giving them room keys before the necessary fax was in our possession. Now the group was trying to check-out, and the Ruffhouse employee responsible for sending the fax was not in the office to receive our call. I got overly suspicious and went on a little power surge to try and intimidate them into paying cash. “It’s a felony in Pennsylvania to not pay for lodging. You can’t leave here until we received payment for the rooms.”
To this day, I have no idea what possessed me to say that shit. The statement itself is (or was at the time) true, but me saying it, to rappers no less, makes about as much sense as a school crossing guard reading you your Miranda rights for not looking both ways. Anyway, the members of the group and their traveling crew went off. It wasn’t so much the cursing that got me, but some of their comments stung. One of their hangers-on said “So what. Look at you!! You gonna be doing this two dollar an hour job until your sixty.” They all started laughing. I wanted so bad to be like, “I’m the fucking Rap Bandit, asshole. More hip- hop fans know me then you.” But all that came out was a wise-ass retort directed at the “hanger-on” dude that played me out. “Well, maybe one day I’ll grow up to be a hip-hop flunkie like you.” Dude went nuts and threatened to throw his cellphone at me. Fortunately, he didn’t, and hotel security got me away from the desk area for my own safety.
Truthfully, I think he and I just struck each other’s chords. When I said that “flunkie” shit, he was like, “Motherfucker, you don’t know me. I graduated from Fordham.” Maybe, but nonetheless, you’re carrying bags for a rap group nobody even knows. Me, I definitely took an immediate lesson from the shit he said. I was in a piss-ant job. I was making shit money. And of course, within minutes, Ruffhouse sent over the proper fax needed for payment. I had egg on my face, no doubt. But even after the group left, I was still going around posturing, “Man, fuck the Sporty Thieves. Nobody’s ever gonna buy their shit. Fuckin’ no names.” A few months later, of course, TLC came out with “No Scrubs.” And soon after, the Sporty Thieves came out with their answer record “No Pigeons.” The video for “No Pigeons” received massive MTV airplay. And considering that Buck Wild, who replaced me at The Source, went on to co-host his own MTV show, it seems all one has to do get on MTV is become an adversary of mine.