Whodini Digital Biography
Whodini is a hip hop group formed in the 1980s, made up of Jalil (Jalil Hutchins), Ecstasy (John Fletcher) and Grandmaster Dee (Drew Carter).
Along with Run-DMC and The Fat Boys, Whodini were among the first rap groups to cultivate a high-profile national following for hip-hop music, and made significant inroads on Urban radio. The Brooklyn, New York-based trio consisted of vocalist/chief lyricist Jalil Hutchens, (one of the few rappers to go by his real name), co-vocalist John Fletcher, aka Ecstasy (so-named before the drug trend), who tended to wear a Zorro-style hat as his trademark; and DJ Drew Carter, aka Grandmaster Dee. Contemporaries of Run DMC, they were managed by Russell Simmons, brother of Joey “Run” Simmons. Signed to NY-based indie Jive Records in 1982, they enjoyed a string of hits, mostly charting on Urban/R&B stations. The bulk of production on their releases was done by Larry Smith, a bass player who also handled much of Run DMC’s early work. In keeping with 80’s trends, Whodini’s cuts tended to be synthesizer driven with a heavy electronic drumbeat. The sampling technology that became identified with rap hadn’t really become prominent during Whodini’s early days, and their works were thoroughly original compositions.
“Haunted House of Rock” was their first single, a whimsical Halloween-themed number. Synth-pop pioneer Thomas Dolby produced another of their early singles, “Magic’s Wand”. Speaking with Songfacts about “Magic’s Wand” in a 2011 interview, Dolbyexplained that he hooked up with Whodini after sending his demo tape to the music publisher Zomba, who had launched the label Jive Records. Whodini was one of the acts on the label, and Zomba put Dolby together with the New York rap trio.
The group culled a female audience with such relationship-themed cut as “Friends” and “One Love”. Backstage partying was extolled in the mildly controversial “I’m a Ho”. “Fugitive” was guitar-driven funk. From 1982 - 1986 was the band’s heyday, touring with Run DMC, LL Cool J, the Fat Boys, and other prominent R&B and funk outfits of the 80’s.
Their albums Whodini (1983), Escape (1984), and Back in Black (1986; no relation to AC/DC) were all well-received by rap fans and youthful R&B enthusiasts. The ‘Fresh Fest’ tours were the first arena-sized tours to feature all hip-hop lineups, but full-fledged crossover fame seemed to elude them, however. The group had earned their share of gold singles and albums by 1987, when the hits started to slump. Open Sesame, their release that year, failed to produce any hits. After that point, the band eked out their tenure on Jive by occasionally releasing singles, including “Anyway I Gotta Swing it” for the Nightmare on Elm Street 5 movie soundtrack. Following 1987's Open Sesame, Whodini went on hiatus due to problems with their record company, as well as to concentrate on new families.
The group attempted a comeback in 1991 with Bag-a-Trix without much success, despite receiving their due as rap innovators. Five years later, Whodini returned with their sixth album, appropriately titled Six. The album disappeared shortly after its release. Since the Six album, the group has not released any new music, but its older songs have been featured in many various old school compilations and three greatest-hits collections have been released: The Jive Collection, Vol. 1 in 1995, Rap Attack in 2003, and Funky Beat: The Best of Whodini in 2006, which featured the seven-minute "Whodini Mega Mix", which was a medley of some of the biggest hits.
In recent years, Whodini still tours occasionally, and its old records still surface on pop and R&B radio, especially during old-school mix shows. The group's records have now become sample sources for contemporary emcees such as Nas, Master P, Prodigy, and MF Doom.
In October 2007, Whodini was an honoree at the 4th Vh1 Hip Hop Honors.