By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
The Kiss obsession goes back to childhood, when the McLeer brothers dressed up as that band whenever they could. In their new remake of Ace Frehley's glam-disco bleacher-beat smash "New York Groove," Kaves demands that Kiss be put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He hopes it'll get played at Mets games. But if Kiss were superheroes, it was graffiti that made himfeel like a superhero. In Bay Ridge in the late '70s, the rocker kids started tagging first, and before long Kaves was making a name for himself by climbing down his fire escape to bomb the BMT line. "As long as we weren't out robbing cars it was OK with our mom," he says; car theft, climbing the Verrazano while stoned, and drag racing his '67 Novajust like his dad had raced the '55 Chevy that Kaves was conceived indidn't come till later. A graf arrest eventually led Kaves and ADM to concentrate more on breakdancingthey made it into the Roxy and a Chaka Khan videoand, ultimately, rapping.
Race wasn't an issue, at least till they returned to Bay Ridge, where older teenagers told them not to tag since they weren't in Harlem, and where they watched black kids get chased back to Fort Hamilton Army Base. The late '80s were a time of white violence on young blacks in Howard Beach and Bensonhurst, and nearby Bay Ridge "is looked at as a racist neighborhood," Kaves acknowledges.
So imagine this scene: In 1988, Kaves is helping book a club at 95th and Fourth called Ernie Barry's, and he recommends this new group he'd heard called Public Enemy. He liked them because "Rebel Without a Pause" felt like Led Zeppelinhe wanted hip-hop that was "drink fight and fuck" music, and "this was a rumble." So he gets Professor Griff's number, makes arrangements, and drives a van to Long Island to pick them up, wearing his three-finger ring and Verrazano Boys leather jacket. After a long wait for a drug-delayed Flavor Flav, he brings them back to a club full of impatient rowdies, all white. But the show went on, S1W goons and all.
It was the Public Enemy camp who urged Kaves and Adam to come up with a concept, and gave them an opportunity to record demos. Sampling Italian NYC tough guys Dion and the Belmonts, they initially presented themselves as graf-obsessed transit bandits before deciding to play up the Italian stuff and rap about bada-bing bada-boom. When Family finally came out, one prescient track was "American Made," an almost countrified choogle about real men drinking Bud and driving domestic and getting drafted and never crossing picket lines; three years later, Kid Rock, who hadn't previously been known for patriotic hick-hopping in a Run-D.M.C. Godfather hat, took a curiously similar sound and shtick to the multiplatinum bank. But the Lordz of Brooklyn, signed to the short-lived Venture imprint of Rick Rubin's American Recordings, saw their debut fall through the cracks. Since then, say the notes to 2003's self-released odds-and-sods disc Graffiti Roc, "The rollercoaster ride through the music industry has been a dizzy one full of empty promises." And now they're just the Lordz.
The shortened name, Kaves says, was Perfect Game label coach Howie Abrams's idea; it puts their hard-luck past and unrealized early hype behind them, and brands the group as more rock than rapa rock band with a rhythm section from upstate and a hefty Bay Ridge guitarist known as Tommy Salami and two McLeers on the microphone, a rock band that brings its own p.a. to the Warped Tour. Basically, Kaves says, "It gives our music a fighting chance." Back in the Brooklyn groove, they might still be contenders.
The Lordz play B.B. King's Blues Club with Rancid Saturday night.