WHO IS THE FACE BEHIND THIS MASK?
Unfortunately for Curtis Hogart, better known to the world as Amplafire, this is not a mask. This is the harsh reality that he has been forced to live with everyday since he was a child. "Growing up was kind of difficult because I was always treated as an outcast. Not only were the kids in school always teasing me, but everywhere I went people were constantly staring and laughing at me."
Knowing how cruel kids can be and seeing how distraught he was, Amp's mother sought music as a means of therapy for him. "I remember when I got my first record player, my moms bought me my first 3 records; Earth, Wind & Fire, Boy George & the Culture Club, and Michael Jackson's Off The Wall album".
It wasn't long before a young Amplafire started exploring the world of Hip Hop. Heavily influenced by the culture, Amplafire started writing lyrics just for fun. During his high school years Amp started taking writing seriously when long time friends Kaotick and H2O (back then Dyvyus) formed the group Sleepwalkaz and asked him to join.
By this time Amplafire was going by the name of "Lil Amp" when Sleepwalkaz recorded their first demo at Ready Or Not studios in Harlem NY. "Money Can Make Things Happen" produced by Kaotick's brother Pucci was the first song that the Sleepwalkaz recorded as a group. Amp's verse in this song was the first verse he ever wrote when he started taking writing seriously. Ironically, Lil Amp being a loud person, was shy when it came time to record that song. As time progressed, Lil Amp overcame his fear when Sleepwalkaz started lacing freestyles for DJ Crazy Ed's mixtapes and a song for DJ Ron G.
"We was wildin' when we heard that my man Pucci let Harlem's Finest Big L (R.I.P.) and Murda Mase hear our demo and they was feeling it. We even got word that Mase was starting a new label (All Out Entertainment) and he was inquiring about us. But by then it was too late because we had just landed a record deal."
By mid '97 the Sleepwalkaz inked a deal with Chuck Chillout's record label C-Ya entertainment. During their brief time with C-Ya, Chuck managed to get them a demo budget with Penalty Records. Recording at M.A.W. (Masters At Work) Studios was the first and last time that they got a chance to record in a major studio. They also got a chance to see Chuck host a video show called Video Zone for Fox that got cancelled. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only thing that got cancelled. Due to creative differences, the Sleepwalkaz team walked away from the label and separated from each other. The only plus that came from signing with C-Ya is that they got to meet with the producer of the future, Bronze.
By the end of '97, every weekend Amplafire would catch the bus to New Jersey to record tracks with Bronze and the locals in the area.
"Through Bronze I met my man Fisco, Montana, Servedio, Agents Of Man and a lot of other people. We even did a track called Days of the Last with El da Sensei from Artifacts."
By mid '98, Bronze, Servedio, Montana and Fisco formed a company called Rushmore Entertainment. During Rushmore's brief history, Fisco met a kid at work that was from Compton, California named Papa Do-Low.
"It was crazy how everybody just vibed with each other. We were recording with this dude who was from a place that we had always heard about but had never been to."
It wasn't long before Amplafire, Bronze and Fisco started taking flights to Cali to do shows with Papa Do-Low. The first show they did was at the Reseda Country Club where they opened up for Suga Free and Mausberg (R.I.P.). They also performed at the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and on New Years 2001 they opened for Ludacris at The All Sports Center in Las Vegas. Hip Hop wasn't the only genre in which Amplafire was doing shows.
Since Bronze was also the drummer for a rock band, Amplafire got a chance to explore something new. The song "Force Fed", recorded by the rock band, Agents Of Man and Amplafire, was featured on Mr. Len's Pity the Fool album on Matador Records. The song was also performed at Club Chrome in Sayreville, N.J. and the Continental in N.Y.
Amplafire's song "War" was featured on Chuck D's Suitcase Radio on Bringthenoise.com.
DJ Premier is currently spinning "Hold Me Down" on Future Flavaz on New York's Power 105.1.
Amplafire is also featured on DJ Premier's Australia/New Zealand mixtape tour 2004