8 Million Stories, a series of short video portraits of New Yorkers. Enjoy!
Joseph Mpa was in the 7th grade when he was given a new perspective on life. Through extracurricular reading he became aware of the Black Panthers and the struggle to obtain racial equality. Once enlightened Joseph joined the local Black Panthers chapter right around the corner from where he lived with his parents in the South Bronx. There he recieved political education and also helped in a breakfast program for kids every morning before attending his high school.
Through a partly illegal program called Cointelpro, the FBI infiltrated the Black Panthers, and along with imprisonment of its leaders and a shift in attitude towards political activism in the American society this would eventually lead to their demise. Change doesn’t happen overnight but the Black Panthers were successful in setting a political agenda that was unheard of at the time. After some soul searching Joseph got involved with a community organization named United Bronx Parents under the leadership of Dr. Evelina Antonetty. That was in mid-70 and since then Joseph has kept doing his part to improve the living conditions in the South Bronx through different types of community work.
Through a class Joseph taught at United Bronx Parents he came into contact with the Cold Crush Brothers and eventually became their first manager. This was at a time before hardly anybody could make a living from rappin’ on the mic especially not when the money coming in was split between Joseph and the six members of the group, Easy A.D.,Dj Tony Tone, Almighty Kay Gee, DJ Charlie Chase, JDL and Grandmaster Caz.
Despite the success of the Brothers, musical styles where changing fast, and Joseph decided it was time to focus on married life and quit his job with the group. Even though the Brothers never really achieved the success as recording artists matching some of their peers, their legacy lives on through taped performances from the height of their career. Luckily for future generations, the Cold Crush Brothers also had their own photographer, Joe Conzo Jr., with an all access pass to document their doings.
Besides the Cold Crush Brothers, Joseph Mpa also worked with Sugar Hill’s and Honey Hush Records’ Mean Machine, usually credited for being the first bilingual Hip Hop group whom he also met at United Bronx Parents.
The Cold Crush Brothers are still performing so go check them out if you get the chance:coldcrushbrothers.com
You can see more on Joe Conzo’s photography here: joeconzo.com
Special thanks to Sureshot La Rock.