BROOKLYN, NY – As one of the first MCs on wax, Jimmy Spicer is a bona fide Hip Hop pioneer. In the early ’80s, the Brooklyn native released several singles under the guidance of Rush Management, including “Adventures of Super Rhyme” and “Money (Dollar Bill Y’all).”
Established by a young Russell Simmons, Rush Management had three artists at the time: Kurtis Blow, Orange Krush and, of course, Spicer.
But almost as soon as Spicer started getting his name out there, he retreated from the spotlight and essentially quit rapping altogether to take care of his family.
“During the time I was at Rush Productions, I was an administrative director,” he explains. “From that point, I retired. I got married, moved to New Jersey, opened a studio, went through a whole bunch of trials and tribulations, left Jersey, got divorced, came back to New York and was getting royalties from samples of my music.
“Then I opened a beauty supply store. The Koreans boxed me out of that and ran me out of business and here I sit now, having had to work a regular job for I don’t know how long.”
Over the years, his music has been sampled by numerous Hip Hop greats. Wu-Tang Clan used snippets of “Money (Dollar Bill Y’all)” for their classic cut “C.R.E.A.M.” and Montell Jordan lifted bits of the same track for his massive hit “This Is How We Do It.” Other artists such as Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, De La Soul and Kaytranada have all benefited from Spicer’s contributions to the culture.
Here’s the problem — Spicer says Simmons still owes him royalties from “Money (Dollar Bill Y’all).” Last month, Spicer was diagnosed with advanced brain and lung cancer. Subsequently, he was forced to set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for his treatment. As money started trickling in, the 60-year-old noticed Simmons had donated $2,500. In normal circumstances, that would be an incredibly generous offer.
But in this case, Spicer doesn’t see it that way.
“Russell Simmons actually finally gave up something toward my GoFundMe,” Spicer tells HipHopDX. “For a rich ass cat, he’s as cheap as they come. He gave me $2,500. Whoop-de-doo. He still owes me royalties for ‘Dollar Bill.’ I figured that he could have come up with more than $2,500. That’s some cheap chintzy shit.”
Spicer admits he had a chance to confront the Def Jam Recordings co-founder about five years ago but nothing materialized from their conversation.
“I ran into him and I asked him, ‘What’s up with the royalties of ‘Dollar Bill’?’” Spicer recalls. “He said, ‘Man, after 30 years, you still on that shit?’ And I quote that. He’s not proper in certain situations. He’s not even in the United States right now. He’s facing a whole lot of shit. He needs some challenges in his life.”
Now that Spicer is sick, he still has a 1-year-old daughter to worry about but he’s not allowed to work at the moment.
“I’m not making music right now,” he says. “I was working as a porter, regular job just to support my family and now I can’t even do that. I applied for Social Security Disability and I don’t know if that’s gonna be accepted or rejected.”
But Spicer isn’t done discussing Simmons. Despite Simmons’ public support for Spicer’s current circumstance, he’s upset the Phat Farm founder left out a key detail.
“Let me tell you how disgusted Russell’s made me,” he says. “He posted about my situation on his Instagram page, but he posted it as me being one of the world’s first MCs, which is true. But I was one of his first artists. When he had three artists in the world, it was Kurtis Blow, Orange Krush and Jimmy Spicer. He didn’t even acknowledge it.
“I guess he forgot where he came from when Def Jam was offered to be purchased by CBS for $100 million. That’s when his head blew up like, ‘I don’t need none of these niggas no more. I’m gonna start my own Phat Farm company. And you know what gets me? Where he got the name Phat from? Yours truly, Jimmy Spicer.”
Spicer is adamant Simmons got the idea for Phat Farm — the 90s/00s Hip Hop clothing brand — from him.
“The word ‘phat’ is an original slang word from North Carolina,” he says. “I was down there doing shows and hanging out with my cousins, and I brought the word back with me. I said, ‘Yo, man, look at that ass, it’s phat.’ He thought I was calling her fat because she was completely shapely.
“I told him, ‘No, man, that’s a North Carolina word.’ He said, ‘What the fuck it mean?’ I said, ‘Well, you spell it P-H-A-T and it stands for Pretty Hips Ass Titties. That’s what phat stands for.”
Spicer claims Simmons could “throw him $100,000 for a lot of different things” while taking credit for discovering Eric B. and Rakim.
“I brought Eric B. and Rakim to him,” he says. “While I was with Rush Productions, I told him, ‘You oughta get Eric B. and Rakim. They’re gonna be hot. I just heard this new shit today. They’re gonna blow the fuck up. He said, ‘OK. Eric B. is supposed to be in the city this week.’ So, they were there and me and Russell went together. The rest is history.”
Although his issues with Simmons are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, Spicer knows he has to focus on his health. He’s adopted an alkaline diet and is hopeful he’ll be able to get holistic treatment.
“There’s a few holistic doctors here in New York but they don’t take insurance,” he says. “They take cash and carry, and my financial situation put me in the position where I had to start a GoFundMe. I’ve spoken to a few friends who have been cancer-free for 10 years and never took chemotherapy. They just did a regular diet and radiation therapy.”
With the help of fellow Hip Hop pioneers such as Van Silk and Kurtis Blow and the Hip Hop community, he’s hoping he’ll be able to get the care he needs. He makes one promise before hanging up the phone. If he goes into remission, he’ll make music again. After all, he hasn’t put anything out since 2010’s “$ Can’t Buy U Love.”