“Whiz Kid will always be the Godfather of Northwest hip-hop,” wrote Glen Boyd in The Rocket magazine in 1987. With such high praise, it’s surprising how little anyone seems to know about the music of Harold McGuire and his contributions to the earliest days of Tacoma and Seattle hip-hop.
Whiz Kid was a native New Yorker. In 1981, his notorious quick cutting and scratching won him the very first DJ “Battle For World Supremacy,” organized by Afrika Bambaataa. The attention landed him a European tour with Phase II, a record deal with Tommy Boy, and a spot in the orbit of Soulsonic Force. His first solo record, 1983’s Play That Beat Mr. DJ, featured MC G.L.O.B.E. His swift cutting and scratching debut sold more than 250,000 copies, making it an early massive rap hit.
While Play That Beat was racing up the charts, Whiz Kid’s military wife Betty was posted to Fort Lewis, and the McGuire family relocated to Tacoma.
In 1983, Whiz Kid was a big-deal hip-hop star living in our midst. He quickly became active in our flourishing early NW scene, organizing Tacoma’s first Battle of The DJs (at Fort Lewis) with locals Galaxy, G-Man, Roots I, and Roots II. He headlined The Rocket’s 50th Issue Bash in November ’83 and performed at numerous other events throughout the region.
Whiz Kid’s second Tommy Boy release was 1985’s He’s Got The Beat. On the cover, it features his son wearing a Seahawks tracksuit, no doubt a nod to his time in the Northwest. The song is an ode to breakdancing and DJ culture, praising hi-top sneakers and b-boys from the street. Vocals from singer Sabrina are set against a beatbox backdrop with plenty of scratching and mixing trickery. There’s both a vocal and instrumental version. It debuted on the front cover of Billboard, describing Whiz as a “breakmaster and DJ supreme.” Spin magazine similarly praised the song’s “sinister cutting.”
By 1987, Whiz Kid was back in the Bronx, battling DJ Jazzy Jeff. Not long after, Seattle rap label NastyMix signed Whiz Kid to a two-record deal, releasing his follow-up singles Cut It Up Whiz (1989) and Let’s Get It On! (1990).