The World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Hey! D.J.”: Just play that song and keep us dancing!

By on May 24, 2017

On September 3, 1988, Night Flight opened up the ol’ “Mega Video Vault”, where they found music videos spanning across the musical spectrum of the ’80s decade, including the memorable 1984 video for “Hey! D.J.” by the World’s Famous Supreme Team. Watch the full, original episode now on Night Flight Plus.

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The World’s Famous Supreme Team were essentially Larry Price and Ronald Larkins Jr., who originally went by the professional names See Devine the Mastermind and Just Allah the Superstar, respectively (and there of many spellings of both See and Devine, and we’re not even really sure which one is the most accurate, because, y’know… the internet lies).

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See Devine was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and in the early Sixties moved with his family to Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant/Clinton Hill neighborhood, living near Washington and Greene.

In the mid-’70s, Devine met up with his future partner Just Allah the Superstar when they were both hustling on the streets in Brooklyn, and soon they were creating a name for themselves as a couple of Brooklyn’s best rapping DJs, bringing their portable turntables and speakers with them to the parks in Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, and Fort Green neighborhoods, building up a local following by hosting and deejaying parties long before they were ever radio personalities.

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For several years, in fact, they would print up flyers that proclaimed that the “World’s Famous Supreme Team is coming!,” thumbtacking the flyers on the walls of barbershops and local supermarket noteboards.

They created such a fervor over what exactly the flyers actually meant that before long, people were stopping them in the street and asking them to explain who or what exactly was the World’s Famous Street Team and what was coming.

During this same time, they also began bringing their World’s Famous Supreme Team mixtapes to Mr. Magic for him to play on his radio show, hoping that they’d eventually be given their own radio show someday, which is exactly what happened, sometime around 1979.

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Mr. Magic’s show aired on WHBI, a New York public-access radio station broadcasting at 105.9 FM. Their studio was located at 80 Riverside Drive, on the west side of Manhattan, although they also maintained a studio address at 270 Henderson Street in Newark, New Jerseym in order to satisfy the license requirement.

We’ve previously written up a post about Mr. Magic which you can read here.

After Mr. Magic’s show would go off the air, sometime around 3 a.m. local east coast time, “The World’s Famous Supreme Team Show” would continue the late-night/early morning non-stop musical madness, for the next two hours.

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Mr. Magic’s was a more standard FM radio deejay who played the hits and talked in between the songs, but the World’s Famous Supreme Team had a different approach when they were on the air, taking the atmosphere they created at parties and club settings, and bringing that excitement to live radio.

The DJs would play the entire record of a break beat, which was unheard of at the time (even back-announcing who’d made the beats!).

They had live emceeing and guest appearances by DJs from the greater tri-state area, who dropped by to hang out in the studio.

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They did song dedications and would play entire rap shows and mixtapes for more than a half-hour’s worth of their show (usually around 4 a.m.), with voiced-over radio announcements that would drop-in, purposely interrupting the music so that you couldn’t pass off a tape of theirs that you’d taped off the radio as one of your own.

In July 1982, Mr. Magic became so popular that he outgrew WHBI and he was invited to make the move over to New York City’s WBLS-FM (107.5 FM), a larger, more mainstream station, with offices located on Second Ave. They became the first major station to play rap music.

Meanwhile, “The World’s Famous Supreme Team Show” gained so much attention that in 1982 See Devine the Mastermind and Just Allah the Superstar caught the ear of Malcolm McLaren.

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Malcolm McLaren with the World’s Famous Supreme Team, and a couple of models wearing items from designer Vivienne Westwood’s Buffalo collection, London, February 1983 (photo by Dave Hogan)

McLaren — the former manager of the Sex Pistols, Adam & the Ants and Bow Wow Wow — had heard their radio show and wanted to meet them, in order to discuss working on a project together.

At the time, McLaren was about $350,000 in debt to England’s Charisma Records, who had given him money to produce records for the label, but since McLaren had been busy on a tour, he hadn’t been able to produce anything new for them.

What he really wanted to do was release an album that would challenge everyone’s pre-determined ideas about hip-hop music while inspiring future innovation in both sound and hip-hop recording techniques.

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McLaren met with the duo at Park Meridian Hotel in Manhattan, and talked to them about working on the album, originally offering such a small amount of money for their talents that they were shocked and somewhat insulted.

Once they’d worked out the details for a much more decent paycheck, McLaren ended up flying them over to London, where they began work on some of the ideas he had for new recordings, including “Buffalo Gals,” a track that was produced and written by McLaren along with arranger/keyboardist Anne Dudley and producer/musician Trevor Horn.

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Horn had collected a great team comprised of musicians and studio techies for the sessions, including Dudley, studio engineer Gary Langan, and programmer and computer whiz J.J. Jeczalik, who came up with the rhythm sections.

During sessions for the album — which ultimately became Duck Rock — a creative camaraderie developed between Langan, Jeczalik and Dudley, which went on to become the core of the group Art of Noise.

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“Buffalo Gals” turned out to be a bizarre fusion of hip-hop and Appalachian square dancing, with its main melody and title purloined from a traditional square dance song, originally performed back in 1844 by a blackface minstrel singer named John “Cool White” Hodges.

The World’s Famous Supreme Team contributed drumbeats and scratching on the track; this was one of the first times that scratching had ever appeared on a pop mainstream release, although Grandmaster Flash’s 1981 single “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” got there first.

For the video for “Buffalo Gals,” McLaren was introduced to a music video director, Joe Butt, who knew another New Yorker tastemaker named Michael Holman.

Holman, incidentally, would go on to direct the short-lived TV show Graffiti Rock,” which aired on WPIX channel 11 in New York City and 88 additional markets around the country, to good Nielsen ratings, on June 29, 1984.

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Butt’s video for “Buffalo Gals” featured the Rock Steady Crew breakin’ and graffiti artist DONDI spray-paintin’, and also featured clips of Double Dutch jump-ropin’, which were all closely associated with New York-based hip hop culture (and still widely unknown elsewhere at the time).

Released in the winter of 1982, “Buffalo Gals” became a UK Top Ten single (#9 UK), selling 500,000 copies.

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Because of the single’s charting success, McLaren and his creative team made more recordings, including “World’s Famous,” “She’s Looking Like a Hobo,” “Hobo Scratch,” “D’ya Like Scratchin’?,” “Would’ya Like More Scratchin’?,” “Hey! D.J.” “Radio Man” and “City Life.”

The World’s Famous Supreme Team, meanwhile, also ended up offering up samples of their radio show’s commentary as in-between track transitions, which can be heard on the full-length album, released in 1983, called Duck Rock.

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In the liner notes for Duck Rock, McLaren wrote that the track “Buffalo Gals” was:

“…recorded with the World’s Famous Supreme Team and Zulu singers backing them up with the words ‘she’s looking like a hobo.’ The performance by the Supreme Team may require some explaining, but suffice to say they are DJs from New York City who have developed a technique using record players like instruments, replacing the power chord of the guitar with the needle of a gramophone, moving it manually backwards and forwards across the surface of a record. We call it scratching.”

As noted above, one of those recordings the team worked on — without McLaren, who nevertheless got himself a songwriting credit for the track anyway — was “Hey! D.J.,” which is the song we’re featuring the video for here in our “Mega Video Vault” episode.

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See Devine the Mastermind and Just Allah the Superstar — who continued to record radio shows while they were in England, shipping the tapes back to New York before they ultimately returned home — had come up with the idea for “Hey! D.J.” after being inspired by hearing the Frankie Beverly and Maze hit “Before I Let Go,” which had been issued as the second single from the band’s debut live album, Live in New Orleans, even though the track is a studio recording (it had peaked at #13 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1981).

Devine wrote the prominent bass line to “Hey! D.J.,” which he had a friend back in New York play first on the demo version, before ultimately getting the legendary Bunny Sigler — the pop and R&B songwriter and record producer who had done extensive work with the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and who was instrumental in creating the “Philly Sound” — to play on the master recording.

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A female singer named Ahyae can also be heard on the track, singing “Hey! D.J., just play that song and keep me dancing.”

The recording was released on London-based independent record label Charisma in the U.K., but at the time the label’s founder Tony Stratton Smith — he also had managed rock groups such as The Nice, Van der Graaf Generator and Genesis — was involved with selling his company to Virgin Records, who were making a major move towards becoming a much bigger label at the time.

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Unfortunately, and despite the talented people involved in the track, there didn’t seem to be too many American record companies who were interested in putting out the World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Hey! D.J.,” not at first, which is what led See Devine to bootlegging the Charisma single (as an import release, it just wasn’t showing up on record store shelves).

Devine took his bootleg copies in a plain white cover with no photo, just the words World’s Famous Supreme Team and “Hey! D.J.” written on it, and sold them to the stores himself.

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Produced by Stephen Hague, “Hey! D.J.” sky-rocketed to #1 in the major markets of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, which of course caught the attention of record labels, including Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, who ended up releasing it on a 12-inch single in 1984.

The single — promoted by a video directed by Joe Butt, and featuring both See Devine the Mastermind and Just Allah the Superstar, along with a troupe of dancers — charted at #10 on Billboard‘s pop charts, at #15 on the Billboard‘s Soul chart.

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See Devine the Mastermind’s and Just Allah the Superstar’s radio show on WHBI lasted for awhile longer, until it was replaced by a new radio show in the same time slot, called “Zulu Beats,” which was hosted by DJ Afrika Islam and Donald Dee.

The popular track was ultimately included in their debut album, Rappin’, produced by Bradshaw Leigh, which arrived in 1986 (it featured a few other charting hits, including “Planet E,” “Radio Man” and “City Life”).

The album was released on both Charisma/Virgin and Island Records.

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“Hey! D.J.” has also been sampled a number of times, including by Mariah Carey for her 1997 hit single, “Honey,” and Carey has stated many times that it was always one of her favorite songs.

The song was also sampled in the Beastie Boys song “Alright, Hear This,” which was included on their 1994 album Ill Communication, and that same year the rap duo A Lighter Shade of Brown recorded their own version of the song, which was later included in the film Mi Vida Loca, directed by Allison Anders.

This version peaked at #67 on the Soul chart and #43 on Billboard‘s Hot 100.

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It should be noted, we think, that See Devine and Just Allah are credited as the first hip-hop group to join the Five Percent Nation — an underground African-American Muslim sect of the Nation of Islam — which is centered on espousing the beliefs and philosophy of the Nation of Gods and Earths.

One of their beliefs is that the black man is God, and the white man is the Devil.

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Today, the dynamic duo are still together, and still calling themselves the World’s Famous Supreme Team, but they now go by the names Devine Price aka See Devine the Mastermind and Justice Williams goes by JazzyJust the Superstar.

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By the way, we’ve always thought it was a little odd that the artwork on the 12-inch single’s cover art has the exclamation point after the word “Hey!” and that DJ (the proper abbreviation for “deejay”) was abbreviated as “D.J.” — perhaps that’s because it was not really about a deejay but someone with the initials D.J.? — not to mention that their group name was The World’s Famous, and not The World Famous, without the apostrophy.

Ah, such are the mysteries of life.

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Check out Night Flight’s “Mega Video Vault” episode from 1988, which also features a selection of innovative, landmark ’80s music videos from Devo, Tony Powers, Will Powers, Elvis Costello, Grace Jones, Chaka Khan, Peter Wolf & David Lee Roth, among others. You can see it streaming over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.