Rodney “Skip” Bryce, better known to hip-hop fans as DJ E-Z Rock, died on Sunday at the age of 46. Along with friend and collaborator Rob Base, Bryce was one of the architects of “It Takes Two,” one of hip-hop’s most enduring and celebrated songs. After the duo broke up in 1994, Bryce retreated from music as a result of a diabetes diagnosis that would eventually claim his life. Rob Base spoke to Rolling Stone about Bryce, the legacy of “It Takes Two” and the DJ’s debilitating health.
We linked up in the fourth grade. I had moved from the Bronx at the time and I didn’t really have any friends in the area. We sat next to each other and just started talking and went on from there. We played baseball together and became close friends very quickly. We were the comedians in the class; the class clowns that were loud and always joked around.
Where we lived at, there was a group called the Crash Crew and they used to always throw parties in the park. We used to watch them and looked up to them. We said to ourselves, “This is something that we want to do.” Seven of us put together a group; a lot of them didn’t take it seriously, but me and him did.
I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I was so into it that when new records came out, I would draw record labels with my name on it and put them on the records. I don’t think Skip was as serious. He loved chasing the women and I kind of forced him into it. [Laughs] But we were around each other so much that when we performed, I didn’t have to say anything. I would look at him and he would know what I mean and when to come in. It was weird, but we didn’t have to talk.
With “It Takes Two,” we were at a friend’s house and we were just going through a bunch of records. We had to go to the studio that night and we didn’t have anything prepared, but we found and liked the Lyn Collins sample that night and went to the studio. We didn’t think that it would cross over and be as big as it became. We thought it would be what was called back then a “Tri-state area” song.
The song got real big and other rappers would say, “You sold out.” At the time, we were really hurt by that, but 25 years later, it’s still going strong. It’s one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever made. That’s just a fact.
With the passing of my friend, now everyone is coming out and saying how much they love the song and what it meant to them. People say that was the song that got them to first like hip-hop. I’m like, wow. I didn’t know it had such an impact on people and I never realized how much people love the song like that.
We basically had to put the video together ourselves. The record company didn’t support it in the beginning, so we had to do it with our own money. When we did the video, there was nothing planned. We just went to 125th street in Harlem. We were in the middle of shooting and next thing you know, we see Biz Markie walking up the street. He wasn’t planning on being in it and we were just like, “Biz, Biz. Come on!” Next thing you know, Red Alert was walking by and we put him in. Skip’s dancing was him just clowning around and being the joker that he was and they filmed it. Everybody loved him.
He started getting sick in the Nineties sometime after our last album [1994’s Break of Dawn]. He had diabetes and that’s how he passed — from diabetes complications. One thing about Skip, he loved to eat [laughs]. He. Loved. To. Eat. When we’d be on the road, we’d stop at the truck stops and he would order two cheeseburgers, french fries, a cake and a Diet Coke [Laughs]. His health was pretty much up and down for years. In the beginning, he was taking pills and then he had to take shots. It escalated as time went.
The last time I spoke to him was right before he went into the hospital for the last time. He was telling me a lot of the things he was going through and I was telling him, “I want you to come back out on the road.” I was going through a situation myself where my wife had just passed away, so me and him were talking a lot and he was helping me get through my problems. He was coming out to the shows again, but he was really sick. He was talking about getting himself together so he could come back out and DJ again. That was last month. He was in the hospital for nearly two months before he passed. He went in and that was that.
Skip was a joker. He was a good DJ, but everybody just loved him for who he was; just a funny guy. He was always quick to make friends, no matter where he was. He was just that type of guy.