Why Did You Decide To Become A DJ?

DJ

That’s the question I’m often asked the most from strangers. A short answer to that is quite simply the fact that music is all I’ve ever really known besides basketball, food, and video games.

When you’re 9 years old with a sunset curfew, you’re forced to find means of entertainment from inside the crib. For me, that entertainment came in the form of music and Nintendo. Back then I was pretty much fed whatever my older siblings listened to.

Freestyle music was in heavy rotation but I found myself listening to artists like Stevie Wonder, Michael & Janet Jackson, and New Edition. In fact, the first two albums I remember really obsessing over were Stevie Wonder’s “In Square Circle,” and Janet’s “Rhythm Nation 1814.” On any given day, you could find me in my bedroom blasting “Part Time Lover” while executing the “up up down down…” Contra cheat code. That was life. Ah the good old days…

My passion for every Nintendo game that came out at the time is what eventually led me to my current obsession of Hip Hop culture.

One day, I was watching MTV and a DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince video came on. The song was “I Think I Could Beat Mike Tyson.” Now everybody who was around at that time knew Tyson was the God, so that obviously had my attention.

The moment my life changed was a breakdown in the song where they actually sampled the music from Mike Tyson’s Punchout, a popular Nintendo game, at the time. Being the 9-year-old kid I was, that’s what I gravitated to more than any Fresh Prince lyric.

That same day, I begged my Mom to buy me that cassette single and from there, it was over. I played that single to death till it was out of style. Thus a Hip Hop Junkie was born.

“I was a fiend… before I became a teen” just like the God MC Rakim once stated. From then on I was watching MTV and BET every day after school. Rap City, Video Vibrations, and Yo! MTV Raps were the holy trinity.

I was soaking everything in. Vivid memories of Special Ed riding the streets in a hovercraft come to mind. Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” was embedded in my brain, although at the time, I didn’t understand what they were fighting for. Kwame was on stage with the polka dot shirts explaining “The Rhythm” and Slick Rick was telling Children’s stories.

To this day, I’m still thankful I was able to witness this as it would later be known as “The Golden Era” of Hip Hop. Back then, labels gave artists total creative freedom and all of the artists from that time were different and brought something new and fresh to the table.

The role of the DJ caught my attention instantly. I was always fascinated by how the DJ had such an integral role in the group and didn’t have to say a word.

You can go back and watch all of the early Gangstarr videos and you’d see Guru rhyming while DJ Premier would be walking beside him the entire time without even moving his lips.

The great part about that was even though Premier didn’t say a word, you knew he wasn’t to be tested. And I loved that.

For somebody quiet like myself, it was the perfect role. Quiet confidence. Not to mention to any young kid, it always looked like it was so much fun to scratch and mess with the turntables.

That’s probably why Casio would eventually come out with the Rapman keyboard with the fake turntable on the side that would make cheesy scratch sounds but that’s another story.

Casio Rapman
Casio Rapman

One of the greatest qualities about music is how it can bring people together. The fact that I knew just about every rap lyric that had a video got me easily accepted into any social circle I chose.

I was that kid who had a Walkman and a grip of cassettes in my backpack every day. The lucky kid on the bus that chose to sit with me was blessed with sharing one side of my of my Game Boy ear buds while Busta Rhymes was roaring like a dungeon dragon over the Scenario beat.

I was always the music guy. Playing music for anyone that would listen. To this day, that’s still one of my main driving forces as a DJ. To put somebody onto something they’ve never heard before and turn them into a fan. That’s what it’s all about. Spreading the joy and happiness that music gives to others. Making people happy. That’s it. People don’t forget that and they won’t forget you for it.

Years go by and I’m continuing on the Hip Hop path, only now I’m not just listening to music but reading about it as well. The Source and Rap Pages were my go to magazines at the time. On the back of these magazines, you’d sometimes see ads for music stores that would sell turntables and other DJ gear. I always thought to myself, “Man, if I could only get myself a pair of turntables.”

Coming from a military family, I couldn’t even fathom the thought of trying to ask my Dad for a pair of turntables that were 300 dollars each (These were Geminis I was eyeing at the time, not Technics 1200s). I probably would’ve got smacked into next week just for asking such a dumb question.

It wasn’t until I was in the 10th grade where I saw a real DJ setup with my own eyes. I had become cool with a friend from my Biology class named PJ. We’d always talk about music in class and he told me he had a setup. PJ actually gave me a copy of a mixtape he made which would be the first mixtape I’ve ever heard that wasn’t from DJ Clue?, Mister Cee, or Ron G.

Eventually, PJ would invite me over to hang out and that’s when I first saw a real Technics 1200 with my own eyes. PJ had one black Technics turntable, some other home stereo looking turntable, and a Gemini Scratchmaster mixer. I was hooked.

Technics 120 Turntable
Technics 1200 turntable (silver model)

I was watching PJ seamlessly mix Mad Lion, to Large Professor, to Mobb Deep, to Black Moon and so on and so on. PJ would later introduce me to his cousins Jeremy (DJ Delinger) and Derrick (DJ Kuya D). That’s when the real learning would begin.

By the time I was introduced to Kuya D, he was already a well-known DJ here in Virginia Beach. Kuya D was one of the early pioneers in the Filipino DJ scene in New York City along with another one of my mentors, DJ Roli Rho of 5th Platoon.

When his family moved from New York to Virginia, Kuya D pretty much helped sculpt the DJ scene here that still exists today. Jeremy, PJ, and myself all went to the same high school (Salem all day!) so often after school we’d hang out at Jeremy’s crib and mess around on Kuya D’s turntables while he wasn’t home.

Jeremy was already nice because he’d been rocking parties with his brother since the 7th grade. I’d sit back and watch him mix and learn everything he was doing while my other friends would freestyle and we’d record it onto cassettes.

Hanging with Kuya D and Delinger, my position would evolve into a glorified roadie. I have carried many a heavy crate, speaker, amp, you name it. the great part about it is that I would subconsciously learn how to hook up an entire setup and learn firsthand how to really control a crowd by watching these two.

To this day, I don’t think anybody in my crew ever got booed off a stage and we’ve been through some very hostile crowds over the years and always came out respected. Believe that.

Once I graduated high school and worked my first full-time job was when I was actually able to afford my first set of turntables. During high school, I was slanging Chick-Fil-A sandwiches for $4.75 an hour. That was just barely enough to go bowling on the weekends with the homies so that wasn’t cutting it.

My first set was a Numark “DJ In A Box” set that had two purple belt drive tables with a matching mixer. The torque on that turntable was so terrible but I didn’t care. It was enough for me to learn how to mix on my own and hone my skills.

All of my years of listening to music and endless amounts of mixtapes paid huge dividends when I was developing my skill. Basically, all I really had to learn was how to mix.Then I’d be well on my way to making my own tapes because I already knew how I wanted things to sound, and knew all of the music.

From there, I just put in the countless hours until I got comfortable with my style and started making tapes. I got comfortable enough and started rocking parties alongside Kuya D and Delinger which would eventually lead to Kuya D accepting me into the crew. From then on, it was history.

I love rocking parties but for me, mixtapes are my true passion. I’m just a seed of the 90’s NYC mixtape scene. That’s where I developed my style and that’s the school I was raised from.

All of my mentors are from NYC and that New York sound is still the common theme that stands out in my mixes. My main goal is just to create a large body of work I can stand by and be proud of. It was never about the money because if it was I wouldn’t have even lasted this long.

I’ve even tried my hand in Top 40 clubs in the past and while I wasn’t bad at it, it felt like torture because it wasn’t Hip Hop. I was miserable. So to sum this all up, I guess you can say I became a DJ because of my childhood addiction to music and I wanted to share that with others.

In the end, I don’t know where this journey will take me, but at least I know I’ll have a large body of work that I’m proud of and could show God I made use of the gifts he gave me.