Jan 11, 2023
The late 80s/early 90s was a time when many types of music fused to form new genres. During this time frame, rap music started joining forces with rock to create a new sound—a unique sound, one which had never been heard before. Many consider the merging of RUN-DMC with Aerosmith as the kick-off to it all, but little do people know, there was another band paving the way for this new sound in the early 90s and although they are lesser known, they truly are the OGs of Rap/Rock.
Stone Deep was formed in 1992 as a reincarnation of The Hard Corps in Music City USA (Nashville, Tennessee), the mecca of Country Music. The Hard Corps rose to national prominence in 1990/1991 with their debut release produced by RUN DMC’s very own, Jam Master Jay, and they even had the honor of sharing the stage with Ice-T and Body Count as part of their national tour in support of the album, “Body Count.” The group’s momentum died, though, after their booking agency, label, and management folded overnight and so, in late 1992, the group’s core members formed what was to become Nashville and later Stone Deep.
In 1993, the band began assembling their five-song demo, which was distributed to press outlets, venues, and labels. They also sold it at live performances to fans. With songs such as “Faces of Death,” “Finger to the 40,” “Running Man,” “Stop Squawkin’,” and my favorite, “Whoville,” they solidified their sound and proved they truly were innovators in the genre of Rap/Rock.
After many years of being on hiatus, Stone Deep has re-emerged as of 2022 and are looking to take back their crown as the OGs of the Rap/Rock game, and their sound proves to be unmistakable and full of flavor for your ears.
I recently reached out to them after discovering their music on Instagram, which if I haven’t said it before, is an excellent space to search for and discover new bands and artists. I had luck and made the acquaintance of guitarist Glen Cummings and vocalist Ronzo “The beast” Cartwright, which turned into an incredibly enjoyable chat and interview.
If you haven’t checked out Stone Deep’s music, it’s a must-do, right after you read this interview. I insist.
MaM: Let me just start this by saying that you guys have an incredible story—one that needs to be told, and thank God for Instagram because when I discovered your music, I was like, “Where has this band been all my life?”. You guys truly are the OGs of Rap/Rock.
RC: Right! We truly are, but that’s the thing: All the beginners in these genres sort of get pushed under, then the pop versions come out and usually get the recognition and all the attention.
MaM: Yes, I can agree with that. I am so impressed with everything you all have accomplished, and the fact that The Hard Corps were signed to Interscope just blew me away, not to mention you had Jam Master Jay producing your debut album, and that is iconic. I wanted to get a little bit of background on that. I want to know your story.
RC: Well, it’s a combination of stories, because the first band I was in, The Hard Corps, grew into Stone Deep after merging with Glen Cummings, who was in another band called Scatterbrain, which was a punk/thrash metal band [with] releases out in the U.S. and in Europe. In fact, they had a video out for the song, “Don’t Call Me Dude,” which was pretty big. It was combination of all those bands that begat Stone Deep.
MaM: Your debut album in 1993 was “Nashville,” correct? Tell me a little more about that and any subsequent releases, as well as what all was going on around that time.
RC: Well, first with the Hard Corps on Interscope in 1991, we were really building momentum, and [the] big story about that [is] we went out and had Jam Master Jay as our producer, and we actually co-headlined Ice-T’s “Body Count” tour. … We went out with some other bands such as Primus, Fishbone, and 24-7 Spyz, and we were one of the first hybrid bands wh[o] could play with 3rd Bass and the Geto Boys. [W]e actually opened up for the Geto Boys. I’d been honing my craft for quite some time and so we had that going, and the industry spent a good bit on us.
There is … a difference between a record budget and a record fund, which people don’t realize. You can get a record fund and they’ll spend all the money from the first record, and if they feel like they want to keep going, they’ll absorb the money from the second record, and if it don’t [sic] hit, they’ll just move on, but you end up spending the money for both of your records already. That’s what happened with Hard Corps. See, with The Hard Corps, Glen was coming down off Scatterbrain and they had been doing pretty good, but he heard about us in New York and came down after hearing a cassette of our music, which we sent him; he learned it in his car driving down from New York to Nashville. He played the first gig with us without practice. Glen is, literally, a genius.
[F]rom that time on, we gathered a couple of other people. Dave Howard is our drummer. He’s a progressive rock drummer, but it fits with us because he’s half Puerto Rican and can connect to the grooves and get heavy when we need to get heavy. Our bass player, Tim Brooks, [is] from a reggae band called Freedom of Expression. He has a lot of reggae chops, but what we all have in common is the rock part. I’ve grown up on rock, basically, since I was a kid and all other types of music. We all blend[ed] together and have been making music ever since.
In 1996, as Stone Deep, we [won] an award for one of the best unsigned bands in America by the NARAS foundation (i.e., the Grammys), and we were one of the only bands to beat a New York band for that in New York in anything. That was pretty massive there, then we [won] a Nashville music award here, too, for best unsigned band that year.
MaM: And why are you guys NOT famous?
RC: Exactly. And this is a ridiculous story, but there was a millionaire that lived here in Nashville [who] wanted some bands to play for some underprivileged kids. [H]e started asking all over and since he had money, people were telling him, ‘I’ll do it for $5,000,’ [just] to get money off him. [W]e were like, ‘It’s kids?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah,’ so I told him, ‘Bring the kids up to our studio, and we’ll play for them.” So, we played for them and modified our songs up to incorporate the kids, and I did a little freestyle and stuff. The guy was really appreciative, and he started asking questions about us, about our demo and stuff, and he felt like he needed to help us, so he gave us some money. At first, he was like, ‘I’ll give you $20,000 or something,’ and his best friend was there and [said], ‘No one builds anything off of $20,000. You’ve got a shit-ton of money. You’ve gotta do something.’ [S]o, long story short, he comes up with $100,000, no [real] strings [attached other than playing] for his kids once a year. No payback. Nothing. No publishing. Nothing … but guess what happened then?
MaM: What happened?
RC: The manager stole our money.
MaM: Wow, story of my life. You hear that stuff happening all the time.
RC: It’s the same music story of all time that happens all the time. You remember when people were doing the smaller versions of Bonnaroo? Well, he was trying to do one of those and stuck our money into that [to] flip it, and it tanked … and our money tanked with it. [H]e never asked permission to do it and then he just disappeared.
MaM: Wow, man. That sucks.
RC: That deflated everything for a while, so everyone just went about their business after that. [W]e’re brothers, so we always stayed, you know, connected. [A]nd then, just a little while back, I was talking to Glen and he said, ‘You know, I was listening to our music and what we were saying then needs to be said now, because kids these days don’t say anything.’ Like, the labels have got[sic] everyone to where they just encourage you to be only gangsta or weird, and you can’t really say anything.
MaM: Yeah, everything is prefabricated, and that’s what I hate about the music industry these days. That’s why I started this magazine with Keeley. We want to focus on the real talent out there.
RC: Nice. We started getting [our groove] back and putting some of [our music] back online, and we started finding people, like you, who are saying, ‘[H]ey! Where has this been? This is what we need right now.”
MaM: It’s true.
RC: It’s been great. Like, everything has its own time, and the universe works in a certain way, ya know? [E]ven though it might not have been your time then, it might be your time now. Lately, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to write down songs, because the energy being produced by me and us doing our songs has been inspirational. People think you can learn to be an artist, but it is a gift. You either have it or you don’t. You can prefabricate it in a studio, like you can have someone throw something together just to make you something, but artist “artists” are just energy driven from the universe.
MaM: I completely agree with that. As I’ve been listening to your music—and I’m sure you’ve gotten this comparison before--it reminds me of when Anthrax teamed up with Public Enemy, only better because that was only temporary; your music is not. You guys are the real deal … the true OGs of Rap/Rock.
RC: Yeah, if you put the time into everything, it really comes together. [S]ee, when we came out, there were no Limp Bizkits and there was no Kid Rock, but Kid Rock was around; he just wasn’t really doing what we were doing, and it’s not fused the way ours is. Ours is natural, organic. Like with me, I’m a rocker who raps; see what I’m saying?
MaM: I miss that type of rap and that type of flow, and I miss the lyrics that have meaning. Like, I listen to all types of music, but I’m big on lyrics and if you look in my music collection, you’ll see all the hip-hop and rap I have is from late 1980s to mid-90s, and then I stopped listening to it. I couldn’t listen to it anymore. I don’t want to listen to you talking about putting jewels in your watch; like, where’s the meaning in that? And to this day, and I listen to them daily, my fave hip-hop group is A Tribe Called Quest. I miss groups like that … and Instagram, to be honest, is the best way to discover new artists like that.
RC: Yeah, it really is. Instagram has been great and to be honest, our following has definitely grown because of it. People just checking out tidbits and that type of thing. We actually got [contacted by] a guy [who] does these weird videos. [H]e does [them] for Rob Zombie and he’s making these little shorts of some of our songs. Then we have this one Japanese guy who is making Japanese versions of our t-shirts, and it’s just a lot of stuff that people vibe with and are getting into it.
MaM: I saw that you guys have some re-mastered recordings of the albums you dropped in the 90s. You did that through a record store day release recently, right?
RC: We actually are connected to a lot of big mixing and studio guys, just by virtue. Shawn Franklin is one of them and he does stuff with Public Enemy. They just started mixing and started getting it up to date to put it out bigger and bolder, and we’ve been pretty blessed on that end.
MaM: If someone wants to purchase your music, is Bandcamp the only way, or is there another way?
RC: Right now, only on Bandcamp. We’re going to go through all the iterations of music, and we are going to put out CD’s and then more digital releases and then finally vinyl albums. It’s going to come out on all platforms. Right now, we’re trying to generate interest and we want to get a following of like-minded people, ‘cause [sic] there are millions of us and that’s the thing with Instagram and places like that: It connects a lot of countries together as opposed to your local neighborhood or a couple of states in America. You can get everybody involved. Everybody who likes what you do. We’re still looking for some good solid platforms to release on.
MaM: Well, I look forward to seeing everything you guys have coming out and I want to say that the animated videos on Instagram are awesome. Can you tell me a little more about how you hooked up with the guy behind those?
RC: Glen found him; he’s located in Hungary. His name is Balázs Gróf. He listened to our music and offered to do a couple of snippets. He’s an award-winning music videographer, cartoonist, and animator. He’s done stuff for Rob Zombie, Amon Amarth, Obituary, Testament, William Shatner, and Red Fang, and now us. We told him to do it your way, and we want people to express us as they hear us.
MaM: Ok, so I think I have one last question for you guys. Where do you see yourself headed in the future with the current trajectory?
RC: I see us doing independent releases, some strong indie releases, and doing some touring. I’m really interested in doing some European festivals and stuff, and we’re at a good position in our lives where we can pick and choose what we want to do, which is good, but I’m personally interested to see how many of “us” there are out there. Does that make sense? I want to reach the maximum amount of people that enjoy what we do and understand the messages that we put out.
To experience Stone Deep’s music and to show them some love, visit them online at:
YouTube: Stone Deep - YouTube
Questions or Comments? E-mail email@example.com.