Caz was the frontman of the hip hop pioneers The Cold Crush Brothers and is probably best (un-)known for rhymes he didn’t even perform – the verses that Big Bank Hank ‘borrowed’ for Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 single “Rapper’s Delight.” The Cold Crush Brothers’ first manager was Joseph Mpa, who back in 1971 (then as a representative of the Black Panther Party) approached Benjamin Melendez to discuss gang violence and, according to Melendez, “planted the seed” that led to the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting.
Photographer Joe Conzo became friends with the Cold Crush Brothers while attending high school. As their official photographer, he documented the early days of hip hop. His collection can be found in the Cornell Hip Hop Collection. Conzo was also an early supporter of the graphic novel, offering his photographs of the South Bronx as inspiration for the illustrations, giving the book a very realistic feeling. Another connection is Joe’s grandmother Evelina Antonetty, the founder of the United Bronx Parents, who gave Benjamin Melendez his first job.
Original Joe Conzo photograph and illustration by Claudia Ahlering.