I had crazy, crazy times growing up – drinking and walking down the street with a gun in my pocket,” says Beastie Boys DJ-turned-solo rapper Wendell Fite, aka Hurricane. “If you don’t have a father to raise you, you find yourself doing some wild shit. If someone told me I’d be busting a solo album in ’95, I’d be like ‘That’s bullshit, motherfucker!’ “
Good thing Hurricane managed to beat his own odds and realize his dreams of a solo career. The Hurra, his debut on the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal label, features the Beasties’ trademark blend of ill rhymes, freaky funk and old-school scratching – courtesy of longtime Beasties producer and engineer Mario Caldato – plus guest shots from hip-hop luminaries like Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog, MC Breed and the Boys themselves.
Despite the heavy competition, ‘Cane holds his own. He flavors the proceedings with his self-described mackaframa lyrical style, kicking it over grooves filled out with blaxploitation-era wah-wah and jazzy stand-up bass. He extols the virtues of getting high in “Get Blind” and depicts violent street scenarios in tracks like “Pass Me the Gun.” Just don’t imply he’s a wanna-be thug cashing in on the latest hip-hop trend. “The word gangsta doesn’t come out of my mouth once on the album,” he says. “It’s hardcore on its own terms with its own style. When I write raps, I like to visualize like a movie. Like you may see Al Pacino playing Scarface – he ain’t really Scarface, he ain’t selling no drugs.”
Growing up in the same Hollis, N.Y., neighborhood that spawned his childhood homies Run-D.M.C., Hurricane, 30, first started rapping at the tender age of 11. It was when his friends took him on as a bodyguard for their infamous 1986 Raising Hell tour – with the Beastie Boys as opening act – that ‘Cane truly stepped into the hip-hop arena. When the Beasties lost their original DJ – Doctor Dre of Yo! MTV Raps fame – midway through the tour, Hurricane took over the turntables and has manned them ever since. “They were the first white rap group,” he says, “so I was like ‘Damn, white guys want to rap a little bit!’ ”
In 1990, during the hiatus following Paul’s Boutique, Hurricane formed his own group, the ahead-of-their-time, ’70s-influenced Afros. Yet when that group was dropped by its label, ‘Cane decided to go back to those who’d stuck by him. “I’ve always wanted to do a solo album,” he says, “and now it’s on the Beasties’ label. I’m not going to leave them out in the cold because I have a hit or any shit like that. Ain’t no sense going halfway – we’ve been down too long.”
Surprisingly, behind Hurricane’s ruff-neck lyrical persona and imposing presence lies a hip-hop-style family man. “There’s a little Hurricane running around, so when I get old and can’t rap more, I can make beats for him,” he says. “He’s not even 2, but I’m gonna get him some little turntables.” Talk of his son turns to how far ‘Cane has come since his turbulent youth. “I definitely went the right way, because seeing your closest friends get killed – it just makes you want to do better.”
This story is from the June 15th, 1995 issue of Rolling Stone.