One of the perks of doing a blog like this is when I'll occasionally get in touch with the artists featured here. Sometimes the artists lose their own material and it's always a treat to be able to give it back to them. I knew acrhiving ridiculous amounts of cassettes over the years would come in handy one day.
I recently got in contact with Ce-Style from the group Total Pack and took the opportunity to do an interview. You may have heard Total Pack on DJ Eclipse's 'Wild Pitch Blends" mixtape, Stretch Armstrong's Lessons 1&2 (where he was featured with The Korp), or perhaps you heard them from one of their many WBAU or WKCR guest appearances. Ce Style shed some light on what went down with Total Pack and the current projects he is working on under his new name, Corey Drumz.
DW: For those who don't know, can you tell us about Total Pack..
CD: Well, Total Package originally started as my crew of friends from Hollis Queens, NY in 1985. Around then I started taking rap seriously and also started making beats. I became known as CeStyle The Mic Murderer and became the MC of the crew. Every weekend we would go to parties and most of the time I would wind up in a rap battle, destroying all competition of course (lol).
I met Kamal B Wize around 1988-89 playing basketball in the local park (Jamaica Park, Hollis Queens, NY). After every game I was known to start an MC cipher and we all would rhyme over the newest beats I made. I heard Kamal freestyle off the top of the dome in one of those infamous park ciphers and I was impressed by his skill, especially because he was from Tennessee originally. We became friends and I made him my rap partner. I decided to use my original crew name in short form (Total Pack) as the name of the group since as a crew we already had lots of street credibility plus I just wanted to rep for the crew I came up with.
From there we started performing at local talent shows, showcases, etc. Kamal used to go to a lot of clubs back then, whereas I was still running the streets. Kamal met Bobbito in one of those clubs and he rhymed for him on the spot. After hearing him spit, Bobbito invited us to the Stretch Armstrong Show, and we became kind of regular guests.
Around that time we were being scouted by just about every major camp in NY (The Hit Squad, Serchlite Mob and others). We landed a deal on Columbia Records in 1992 through Sandy Griffin (Shuma Management), our manager at the time. From what I understand, we actually made history when we signed. We were the first rap act to sign a major contract without a demo (we went into the office and just rhymed live over beats), supposedly, only the second act of any genre to do that. We were on Columbia for 1 year and they didn't know what to do with us, and Kamal and I weren't seeing eye to eye creatively, so Columbia dropped us from the label in 1993. After that Kamal and I split ways as partners and I continued to do my thing solo keeping the name Total Pack. In 1995 I signed with Wild Pitch Records/EMI due to my ties with MC Serch (who was then the VP of the label and at one time manager of Total Pack).
DW: A lot of people are familiar with the Total Pack tracks featured on DJ Eclipse's 'Wild Pitch Blends' mix tape. What was the situation with Wild Pitch? How much material did you record on the label?
The deal on Wild Pitch was crazy because I had originally signed a single deal but I used the budget they gave me and produced/recorded an entire album. I have to admit, I was pissed off alot during the Wild Pitch deal because reports were the DJs from around the country, as well as the fans, wanted them to release my music, but Wild Pitch made me wait. They waited too long, lost their distribution with EMI and once again I was without a deal.
Total Pack - Battle Hymn
Total Pack - What's The Deal
DW: I remember Stretch & Bobbito were giving 'N.B.A.' a lot of spins and other tracks that weren't available on vinyl. How much material did Total Pack record that wasn't officially released? Do you still have joints from back then that people haven't heard?
CD: Kamal and I had recorded a lot of music together before signing with Columbia. I had a 4 track recorder in my house and a Roland S-10 sampling keyboard that we would make our demos with, strictly basement quality recordings. Those were OK for the hood but they weren't a good enough quality to shop to labels so we only used them as, basically, blue prints for what we wanted to do.
Most of that music is extinct like the dinosaurs, but from time to time i come across somebody that still has them in their archives. I personally don't have a lot of that early material, I wish I did though just for nostalgic purposes. Sometimes I just get a kick out of hearing how my voice, rhyme style, and cadence have evolved over the years. I do have some of it though available on my website and what I am able to track down I share on my site as well.
Total Pack - N.B.A. (No Biting Allowed)
Total Pack (featuring Eguan) - Park House Music
DW: Can you talk a little bit about your involvement with the Stretch Armstrong Show?
CD: Stretch and Bobbito gave us our first shot, beyond just being local, and I've always had the utmost respect towards them for that. They gave us an open door. We didn't need to call ahead or anything. If we wanted to go to the station all we had to do was show up and we were always added to whatever they happened to be doing that night.
Stretch also reached out to me after the Wild Pitch deal went south and offered me placement on his Stretch Armstrong Presents: L esson 1 and 2 CD's. Bobbito gave Total Pack an honorable mention in one of his articles during his tenure at Vibe Magazine, and he also introduced us to Wild Man Steve and DJ Riz of WBAU, where we had become weekly regulars. Long story short, Stretch and Bobbito were very instrumental in helping build an audience and fan base for me, Kamal and the Total Pack name as a whole.
DW: Do you still record with and/or keep in contact with the members of Total pack?
CD: Kamal and I still keep in touch but we don't do music together anymore. Kamal is doing other things in his life and career. My original crew are all in different places in life but we all try to stay in contact as much as we can and always know that Total Pack is a family so we're brothers for life and our kids and our kids kids are cousins. I continue to make music and founded the company Iron Kladd Entertainment Inc. (or I.K.E. as it is popularly known) in 2004. I also created a social network/blog-media website called IKESpace that hosts members from around the globe who all have various interests and backgrounds. With me this thing don't stop cuz it's in my blood. I come from a musical background, where both parents (Larry Banks and Jaibi) were involved in the music business, so I always knew this was what I was supposed to be doing. I figured out a long time ago that the only way for me to get my vision expressed the way I actually see it is to be the one putting it on the canvas and selling it. It had to be bigger than music.
DW: I see you've changed your name to Corey Drumz, what's going on with your latest projects?
CD: Well, there's alot going on with me. I have an album that I just released this past Dec. 15th on Famous Records/Universal entitled "It's Bigger Than Me" by I.K.E. that I recorded as a collective with Lee Boogz and Kirk Bananno. I've released various mixtapes and street LP's under the I.K.E. brand. I also have a solo project that I just released entitled "What Made Me," which is basically a musical narration of me from CeStyle of Total Pack (the life that I was living that drove my music and inspired it's emotion for all these ) to Corey Drumz, the branding power of I.K.E. and the building of Iron Kladd Entertainment.
DW: Last words, shouts...
CD: Shout to everybody that has supported my music for all these years and to those that have helped get it to the ears of the people. And definitely everybody who has been supporting me as Corey Drumz that weren't able to experience the era of Total Pack who are getting a glimpse inside of it right now by reading this interview.
Ce Style on Halftime 1999 (comes in late at 1:30)
It's been a minute since my last interview...
peace and thanks to Ce-Style
for taking the time to do this one.
Ce-Style 2009 Mixtape - War paint