Whodini was a hip-hop pioneer in the 1980s, along with contemporaries like Run-DMC and the Fat Boys.
Its members stopped making records in the mid-'90s, but its songs have stayed a part of pop culture: 2Pac, Will Smith, Nas and others have sampled the hook-y “Friends,” and “Freaks Come Out at Night” appeared in a version of the “Grand Theft Auto” video game in 2007.
And though band members have been reclusive of late – as they have focused on raising their kids – Whodini tonight joins a lineup of hip-hop legends for the Fresh Fest Old School Reunion at Cricket Arena.
Founding member Jalil Hutchins recently spoke to the Observer about the importance of understanding hip-hop's roots and shared his favorite current rappers.
Q. Do you think it's hard for hip-hop artists to maintain career longevity?
Yeah. I feel a lot of the cats that are on the radio have limited knowledge of the game. Cats on these new stations don't have the same respect for the craft. … It's OK to want to make money for their craft. (But) when most of it is driven by money, you don't have no love. That's what we're seeing flare up in the hip-hop game. People who are playing the music on the radio have no love for it.
Q. Can you give an example of this?
Somebody on the big hip-hop station in Atlanta played Lauryn Hill's “Killing Me Softly” (the Fugees' version). The DJ made a remark that if Roberta Flack had a beat on her version, she would've had a hit, too. My fingers couldn't fly fast enough to get on the phone!
Q. Who do you blame for a lack of knowledge about hip-hop's history?
Some of the credit goes to the old hip-hop artists for not persisting. I also give some of the blame to black radio. They tend to forget their own. This is why we have generations of youth not knowing or caring about the Temptations, or Four Tops, or Chi-lites, or Sly and the Family Stone.
Q. What younger artists do you like?
There's this new cat, Kanye (laughs). 50 Cent. These cats are really seasoned.
Q. Do you try to introduce young kids to old-school at your shows?
We give out 150 tickets to the new school – young hip-hop radio (listeners) and (youth at local) churches – so they can see what's going down.
Q. Why do you think it's important for people to know their history?
You need to know the roots of it so you can better produce something for the youth coming up … . I grew up on Curtis Mayfield, Shaft, Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament, Prince, the Temptations and Four Tops. I saw the song structure. When you don't know none of that, you can't produce none of that.