It’s opening night and two friends share headphones bumping to the same rhythm. “Yo this was ‘94!” one says walking toward his seat while the other follows, still in the zone. The crowd blended together, all for the love of hip-hop, at the theatrical premiere of Stretch and Bobbito: A Film About Radio That Changed Lives. Featuring art by Brooklyn-based calligraphy artist (and original listener) José Parlá, the film takes you back to the dial, after the static and before the news, on the most influential hip-hop radio show ever.
Before the spotlight hit your favorite MC’s, the “On Air” light from Columbia University’s WKCR 89.9 FM was what they saw. Hosted by New Yorkers Adrian Bartos aka Stretch Armstrong and Robert “Bobbito” Garcia, the show was a freestyle haven for then aspiring MC’s including Jay-Z, Big L, Nas, Eminem, Talib Kweli, KRS One, Q-Tip and Big Pun, to name a few. The show’s eight-year run captured classic music moments like the ’95 Big L vs. Jay-Z battle; Nas promoting Illmatic three years before its release; and the remarkable flow of 16-year-old Notorious B.I.G in 1991. The DJ’s changed the lives of everyone from the talent who walked in to the listeners who called to the inmates who wrote in.
Sitting back in the director’s chair since his wildly popular film Doin’ It In The Park, Bobbito’s still as hip hop as ever as he screams his gritty “What’s up New York?!” “People felt like they knew me because we were vulnerable on the air ourselves so people felt comfortable being vulnerable with us.” Stretch, now rocking salt-and-pepper waves, still has a love affair with hip-hop. “Me and Bobbito have both done work with other people, but making this film has been as much fun as doing the show in those first few years.”
‘LLERO was on the scene at Brooklyn Academy of Music for the premiere and took part of the conversation about how these two Latino hip hop heads not only shaped hip hop history but took control of their own legacy. Check out what Bobbito and Stretch had to share after the jump.