MOVIE: Bouncing Cats — The Sweat Of A Bboy Heals



It is the Wednesday of the NY2NZ Hip Hop History celebration week. We’re watching the documentary Bouncing Cats off a projector, shining onto a white bed sheet. This movie is about poverty and the relief Bboyin and Hip Hop provide for people struggling in the ghetto. But in Bouncing Cats we’re talking about real poverty — like no proper irrigation systems for the entire village type-hard. At least we have a projector. The sheet is funny though, hanging off the ceiling at the Wellington City Mission in Newtown, the inhabitants of this place during the day live life with a different kind of tough; it is a place for students who have been kicked out of mainstream schools (for varying reasons) to come and learn. As we celebrate Hip Hop History month with the Aotearoa chapter of the Universal Zulu Nation there’s a question that arises about pain; as an emotion caused by varying degrees and situations — Is pain still pain, and the same, regardless of what caused it?

In the movie, Somalian born and raised rapper now living in Canada, K’naan explains that though there are extreme degrees of poverty between Africa and western countries, there is still a universal feeling of struggle in Hip Hop music that transcends cultural and language barriers.

Rass Kant from Kissini Ghetto says in the doco: “You’ll end up finding that everyone in the ghetto is positive in mind, they think of going to school but they don’t have a way of going to school. They think of doing big business, but there is no capital, and no-one trusts them. Still we have kids who are growing in a good manner, not in the previous manner.’

Walking through Kissini Ghetto shocked and struggling to hide his offended senses is Crazy Legs, a legendary Bboy from New York’s South Bronx. Standing in a Red Bull singlet, in the middle of what he suggests is ‘hell’, he’s shocked as he passes starving kids playing with machetes amongst sewage. Older kids sniff glue and hang around. They’re in Gulu, North Uganda, an area highly affected by the LRA. Common, the doco’s narrator explains there is little opportunity and nothing for youth to do.

Main man and leader of Breakdance Project Uganda, Abramz says, “A lot of people didn’t choose to live in the Ghetto, you just find yourself being born here. Of course they got into criminal acts because he has to pay rent, he has to buy new shoes, he has to eat, he has to survive. Not because he wants it so much. You know so if they’re given something else to do, we believe they can live a better life”.

“Break dancing here in the ghetto, is one of the weapons that most of the youths want to use to speak out the truth, to speak out their point, to tell the people what is deep in their hearts,” says Rass Kant.

When he is first introduced to the documentary, Crazy Legs talks bout the commonality of his poverty with fellow Bboys and girls in Uganda. It was an initial gesture from Legs; a way to set some common-ground for two foreign parties who’d be spending a lot of time together. “The South Bronx at the time [Hip Hop began] could have been any third world country” he says sitting in a nice Ugandan garden.

‘You know, and that’s what we have in common is that we all come from shitty conditions, we’re born poor’.

By the end of the movie Legs is in tears over just how wrong he was. The poverty he was raised in and branded ‘third world’ reigns prince under Africa’s poverty, which would be king (If poverty was to be rated like this). Watching Bouncing Cats in NZ made me recognise that our poverty is non-existent. Imagine if we went to Uganda with our food grants and temporary additional supplements — and though we’re sitting in a City Mission for troubled kids, the walls are splashed with bright, bold graffiti. Well loved books line the walls on shelves, there is a boxing bag and gym gear behind the make-shift sheet-screen. There is a well stocked kitchen and a pool table in the front. Wellington City Mission has good character and is a warm, well-loved space to be in. Namnita is another single mother in here, a lyricist and a maker of amazing curry, she’s also a non-Zulu member, like me. Both our sons (11 and 8) sit and watch the part of the movie where kids have been stolen from their families and forced to be soldiers in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. There’s horrific shots and sad music in the background, this is where Xzavier, my son, disconnects and asks if he can have my phone to play Minion Rush. I say no, but understand he doesn’t feel the mother’s pain I feel or the empathy I have as a human being for these people, who are smiling and dancing despite what they go through everyday — sometimes there’s no food to buy, even if your fortunate enough to have the money. An intervieweee John, as a boy had had his hands mutilated vertically, as well as his lips and front-nose sliced off. Horror like rape as a weapon, murder, mass-killings, starvation or aids are not a reality Xzavier can fathom. This is fine, but as his mother I still make him watch in the hopes he soaks up something about empathy and understanding.

Well known Hip Hop personalities Common, K’naan,, Mos Def, Crazy Legs and more all feature in the movie which is well worth the watch. The work Abramz is doing with Breakdance Project Uganda allows their youth to gain a form of self-confidence in themselves, and it provides a release from the stress of living with no food and other human necessities.

“When I dance I do not think of the past, I think of the future…Being a Bboy makes me proud, ” says Atema Alfred, a 16-year-old Gulu boy who escaped the LRA.

K’naan expresses, “These are kids who had experiences they never should have had, who are now in a position where they must live with these experiences. And so, how do you live with something of that nature? I mean we don’t know the answers to this and so what it is, is it becomes person specific. I don’t think there is a therapeutic blanket that can wrap all these children and fix their personal scenarios. But I do think there are things they have in common, they’re young — they have that in common and there’s a certain art form in music and sound which they collectively like — that’s another connection.

Interview: Alphabethead- Genius Is A Terrible Word For Anyone Still Alive

Feature, Interview, Music

Photo from Melissa Cowan

David Alphabethead has a wealth of knowledge in general. But where New Zealand’s hip hop scene is blessed, is that he is a patron of the art form himself. ‘Had my tastes have been any different I could have gone down the Guns N’ Roses route’. Specializing in Djing and production, he is also a visual artist. But don’t call him a genius, as others have, because he doesn’t agree with it. ‘I know that if I make a piece of music that’s great, it’s because I’m standing on the shoulder of giants.’ While his character sets him apart from the average man, ‘genius’ seems to be a fitting word when no other words seems right — ‘I really hope to live up to it one day, but I think that’s terrible to say to anyone — while they’re still alive.’ Someone awesome, is what whendidyoufallinlovewithhiphop will say. As our conversation shifts and weaves through his musical beginnings; discovering hip hop from an older neighbor boy, to entering his first DJ competition and having local Wellington legend DJ Kerb kick his ass; opening for Scribe and being cheered off stage due to what can only be described as a massive shift in the hip hop market at the time; to now, where he teaches his beloved genre turntabilism with NZ legend DJ Raw. He suggests it is possible boys might have the upper hand over girls when it comes to turntable technique thanks to excessive use of video game controllers. But, ‘I digress, I digress’, he says as we swerve through subjects from Jay Z’s new album, ‘saccharine’ music and his personal struggle to accept sampled music as ‘authentic art’. ‘Because it’s made from components of something else. I used to give my music away free because I knew I was taking amazing music from the past, tweaking it slightly and passing it off as my own’. Citing Sir-Vere’s ‘Recognize’ show as references of early inspiration; the RESPECT exhibition at the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt, Skratchcon 2000 and other fundamental hip hop events in Wellington, New Zealand and overseas, Alphabethead is surely a new OG for this generation and the next in New Zealand hip hop.

HH: What are some of you earliest memories of music ?

A: Some of my earliest memories would definitely be the National Radio program. I grew up in a home that wasn’t particularly musical at all. My folks were school teachers and lecturers at uni and they listen to National Radio. So it was always spoken word stuff. But in doing so, eventually on National Radio I’d heard snippets of different types of music. So there was not any particular kind of band or group or genre I liked; I was just immersed in everything through the National Radio program. I hadn’t even dabbled in music until nine or 10. Mum thought it would be a good idea to learn the piano because she came from a very poor background and was never able to do a musical instrument. She was like, ‘I’m going to give my kids the chance to learn’, so she started paying for me to visit a lady every week; that continued for about seven or eight years.

HH: When did you start finding your own music?

A: Funnily enough I lived in a really rich neighborhood of kids my age. I was so lucky that all my friends lived in my neighborhood. There was a big kid up the road called Shane Metric. One day my folks got this amazing stereo, it was a Sony stereo with a CD player. I had no CD’s so my friend was like, ‘look, you’ve got this awesome CD player, I’ll lend you some CD’s, and he gave me a pile of CD’s — it was Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction, Cypress Hill’s ‘Black Sunday’, De La Soul – Three Feet High and Rising. Queen- Greatest Hits One and Two. It was this big pile. Nirvana. And I just was blown away by the shininess of the discs; the way you put them on a tray. And I listened to all the CD’s — the ones that gripped me were the hip hop ones. Three Feet High and Rising and the Cypress Hill album; they were the first two albums I heard. From then on, I knew, I want to rekindle the joy I felt when I listened to those artists and I started getting into hip hop, so that was the doorway, this guy just handing me all these CD’s.

HH: So what he gave you was what you got?

A: If my tastes had been any different I could have gone down the Guns N’ Roses route; everything he gave me was amazing. There may have been Smashing Pumpkins as well, but it was the hip hop ones…Oh and I completely forgot there was NWA, their greatest hits comp. Those three just blew me away. I don’t know what it was about them.

HH: From there where did you go?

A: From there I was just like, ‘Shane. These ones. This hip hop stuff. I love it.’ From there on he gave me more Cypress Hill, more De la. Then I went on my own fact finding missions. Shortly after that I discovered the magazine, The Source and I’d always turn to the back and whatever albums got a four or five mic review, I’d buy it.

HH: So where did you grow up?

A: Johnsonville, I went to Onlsow College.

“I think turntabilism was always kind of associated with the backpacking style of hip hop you know?”

HH: Back then was it hard to find hip hop?

A: This is an amazing time. This is mid 90’s. Just before the internet boom. I finished high school in the year 2000, so I must have started in 95′. The internet was around but we were still dealing with 56k modems so the internet could be used for fact-finding but it wasn’t as fleshed out and as dense in knowledge as what it is today — if I wanted to download one song, I’d set it going and in the morning, I slept through the night, and in the morning, fingers crossed it was successful. Funnily enough, I was still buying music. I was mowing lawns and then going down to Tandy’s in J’Ville mall. I would buy my music there on cassette most of the time.

HH: How did you become more involved with hip hop?

A: As I continued meeting people at college; we all knew very little about hip hop; but through primitive internet and through The Wednesday Night Jam on Active we were exposed to heaps of different hip hop acts. All of us would buy different albums and we would all trade and do different cassette dubs. My friend John was really into Mobb Deep and Raekwon. I got the Ghostface Killah and the De la Soul albums. Patrick, he was into the real hard stuff like Scarface and the Doc on NWA. So we all had our different angles. I had this other mate, he was really into Hieroglyphics Crew like Del The Funky Homosapien and then one other guy was into the Boot Camp Clik kinda. So this is the mid 90’s, we all traded. I did do graph back in the day, and I actually got caught [doing] graffiti and had to do — it wasn’t community service because I was under age — but I had to go and paint fences and go back to school in the school holidays. Me and Patrick, we got busted; so I tried the tagging and the graffiti and the break dancing. We had a little cypher thing going and even freestyling. Then the other thing I should have said, do you know how I said we were dubbing cassettes? It was always me who dubbed the cassettes. I was the guy who had the two tape decks and I got really good at pausing tapes and recording songs off the radio; so I always think that was the gateway into DJ’ing. Being the controller and the compiler of mixtapes. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a DJ when I was doing the pause tapes. I was just making the tapes and putting all my favourite songs on them. From the tapes it eventually became my favourite segments. So from sampling a three-minute song I’d just sample 10 seconds or 20 seconds. I started making mixtapes with the record and the pause button. I made a really dense one called ‘My New Particle People’ and it was the idea of the particles of sound in the air being cut really thinly so it was probably 100 different sources. I lent it to my friend, and his big brother wanted to make a dub; I just thought that was so awesome — positive reinforcement. So I did a dub and then he did a dub and so maybe there was about, eventually, 10 copies in circulation and it really gave me a good buzz that someone else was appreciating my handy work; the way I chopped the mixtape together. I think little thumbs up from people you admire is probably what made me pursue the DJ path and want to do that more and more.

HH: Looking back at it now, how did it occur to you to take little particles of songs? Because now, it’s a part of the art of it, but back then you said you had no idea?

A: There was one thing I forgot to mention and that was a group called ‘Art Of Noise’. I heard [a song of theirs called Peter Gun] when I was a kid on National Radio [which] I recorded and played over and over again — they were sampling — a primitive sampling band. Not hip hop. But a producer of that band, Trevor Horn, is quite well-known for producing other bands. He used the sampling keyboard very earlier on; he’d sample a key note and then pitch it up; heaps of their songs were made in that way. Their song, ‘Beatbox’ is a bit of a bboy classic. I think the fact that on National Radio, I used to listen to Monty Python skits and Goon Show skits, these are all absurd comedy that would chop and change. And then of course there was turntablism on the radio — Wednesday Night Jam on Radio Active, and listening to that, that was quite frantic in the way it jumped from one to another. I really liked that. That ADHD style of changing lanes.

HH: So after sharing tapes what happened?

A: Then, I discovered the ‘Recognize’ show. There was a music channel, I don’t know if it was called C4. Maybe it was. This is late 90’s now. There was a show hosted by Sir-Vere and DLT and this is around the time that my love for hip hop had just reached its peak. It was on every Monday night and it gave an insight into everything that was happening in America. They even played IAM from France one time and they played UK hip hop. But Sir-Vere was really into the DJ battle scene and he used to run the ITF’s. I knew none of this but he mentioned them in the Recognize show; they showed little excerpts of battles. They had a special on The X-Ecutioners and then I thought, ‘Oh my god, there’s not just rappers, there’s not just DJ’s, there could be DJ crews’ and there’s a whole art form in this. Then, there was a place called DJ Culture, a store in Auckland, and I called them up and just asked them lots of questions about equipment; and they sent me this pamphlet, it was a big fold out of everything they sold and it just boggled the mind because everything was so expensive. I had this pamphlet; I’ve still got it somewhere, it’s really dog-eared. And I’d go through it, gaze at the different devices and just thought, ‘one day I’d really like to get this’, so I just started mowing lawns — continued to mow lawns and save up pocket-money and it took me about three years to save up enough money. But while I was doing that I was still making the pause tapes and everything. When I finished high school at the very end in 2000, I had enough money and I bought the turntables.

HH: What kind were they?

A: They were Technics. And before that I did have one Nu Mark belt drive actually. So I did start a bit earlier than that, and that one was a cheap DJ In A Box turntable, like a $200 one, which still would have bankrupted a little 16-year-old boy. Once I had them I was just immersed in them. I practiced before and after school and sometimes I’d even jump the fence at lunch break and go home and practice.

“Radio Active on the Wednesday night jam… listening to that, that was quite frantic in the way it jumped from one to another. And I really liked that. That ADHD style of changing lanes.”

HH: You never wagged school to do practice?

A: Oh this was by sixth and seventh form and because my parents were both teachers, they’d instilled in me that sort of work ethic. So school was never really too hard in terms of balancing. They just were strict, ‘you do your homework, soon as you get home, then from six onwards you can jam all night.’ And I did. Otherwise, they’d smack me.

HH: So was it then that you began entering competitions?

A: Yeah well, [sighs with a smile], it’s ridiculous to think how little I knew about DJing as the big picture. I knew about hip hop and scratching back then. I didn’t know there was a place called Courtenay Place and night clubs. When I read your interview with Raw and his gateway; starting off DJ’ing clubs and cutting his teeth there, well, I didn’t know about the subset of club DJ’s. I just knew about turntabilism and using the turntables as an instrument — that was always my angle. And yeah the gateway. How can people see you? It was the ITF battles, the Vestax battles and the DMC that were the best ways to get your name out. Also maybe when I was about 17 I managed to sneak into a couple of those DJ battles that Sir-Vere put on. At one of them, the international guest was Total Eclipse and another one was Kraze. It just blew my mind. These competitions were mind-blowing and I went home and I just practiced and practiced. There was a local record store called Flipside and as luck would have it there was a flyer calling for all up-coming turntabilists to enter. I saw the flyer, took it home, filled out all the details, paid the $10 registration and that was it. I got a phone call and [the audition] wasn’t in front of an audience. There were so many people back in the day who entered these battles, they’d have a preliminary screening, as it were, that happened up at the old Radio Active in a back room. I’d been practicing over and over; a little three-minute set which I hoped would encapsulate the very primitive skills I had. I managed to make it through to the main event — that was my first time performing in front of an audience. This is the year 2000, the ITF Southern Regionals. In those days it would pack out, Indigo, which is now San Francisco Bathhouse would just pack out with people just loving turntabilism.


Photo from Melissa Cowan Photography

HH: Then what happened?

A: Well then the battle. My hands shook, the needles skipped — I totally got smoked. I think I battled a guy called Kerb who went on to become a friend of mine the following year, so I was stoked to make it through. I didn’t do very well in that at all, however, there was a little scratch I did that elicited a bit of a crowd response and even though I did badly, it was enough of a buzz. It was an amazing buzz. I probably couldn’t get to sleep that night to keep me doing it; and luckily back then there was about three or four battles a year. There was another one in six months and I set my sights on it and thought, ‘I really want to do it’. I’m so glad I wasn’t beaten up by not doing very well. Because I had another friend who went into that same battle and we were both newbies; we’d been in the game six months and he challenged DJ Raw, and he got absolutely smoked. Embarrassingly smoked. He never went in battles again after that. It was just too much of a pound to his ego and I really felt for him man. It’s an amazing thing, I mean I’m really competitive in my life and I was quite competitive in the battles — taking a loss in the right way is really important. I think that might have been one of his first losses in his life and it knocked him back and he’s actually not the only one like that… Eventually I started winning the Wellington battles. At this stage when I started winning I had just finished high school and I was up at uni studying physics and computer science; and uni, once you get your work done, you’ve got heaps of spare time; I still lived at home with my folks so I could practice for long hours. I went in all the comps in 2000 and then eventually in 2001, I won the Wellington round of ITFs then the DMC. But then I went up to the hip hop summit for the New Zealand finals, I lost there. P-Money won it that year. Oh yeah, that was the year when P-Money was the DJ God. He was on Recognize, he dropped ‘Big Things’ after winning the NZ championship for the second time, so it was perfect timing. He was the [ITF] champ from 1999 to 2001. And he was definitely the guy I looked up to…There was definitely a lot of competition in the DJ scene between Wellington and Auckland and I remember Raw and Rhys, they always wanted me to take out Auckland, that was the main goal, and Auckland wanted to do the same. That was the Auckland era for ITF and I was happy to be able to bring the title back to Wellington. Rhys B especially was always like, ‘Aw Dave you’ve got to bring the title back to Wellington’.

“In those days it would pack out. Indigo, which is now San Francisco Bathhouse would just pack out with people just loving turntabilism.”

HH: Okay, when you did that, what was the feeling like?

A: That was awesome! It wasn’t just the one battle and then win. There was a road to it — all these battles. There was the Welly battle — the ITF. And it just got me honing all my routines and then it all headed towards September which was the NZ final in 2002. It was probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had. I would have been, I think I was 18, and it was probably the greatest day of my life at the time. I’d never actually left the country so I had to rush to get my passport because when I won they said ‘get your passport because in 10 days you’ll be off to London’, and that was amazing fun. And I went over with Raw – he’d been in the year 2000 so he knew a lot about getting around in London and just wanted to look after me. It was so awesome for them to send us with a chaperone like that.

HH: You know how you said in 2000 the DJ’ing scene and turntablism was huge? Drag it to now, when it isn’t as popular. Is it just that the trends have changed or technology has made it different?

A: I do think that everything does go in cycles. You know how thinking back over the history of music there was the garage rock and psychedelic era and then prog rock came and then prog rock dove tailed into punk and to post punk. I’ve always said in interviews that I think turntabilsim peaked in the year 2000. It was gestating between 1990 and 1994. Then by 1995 and 1996 the battles were happening, but then they had the avenues and the streams to get the videos circulating around the world. Then once the internet came in, we could all keep up ‘with the jones’ so to speak and learn the new techniques; and then in the year 2000 the movie Scratch came out and then Skratchcon 2000 happened, a big convention for turntabilism. The world finals were at a really huge place called the Millennium Dome in London; it was huge and people were like ‘turntabilism is a viable art form’ and is here to stay — and how wrong we were, because all the turn out for those events started dwindling. This is around the time that Final Scratch was coming in, but I reckon there was just a paradigm shift in the way DJ’s played. In my day it was all about chopping records and manipulating them with your hand. If you teleport through the last 10 years to now, the club style of DJ’ing, it’s very — dancing is the most important thing, and rocking the crowd. This was a small part in time where the art form, people would stand and watch. But once you’ve seen it once or twice there’s not really the incentive to keep going back. It’s like turntabilism — been there, done that. I don’t know about when you were at high school, but there was a roller-blading phase right, and rolling blading was the real sweet thing for a while after skate boarding at my school. It was like, try it, have heaps of fun, and then one student out of 50 – it might resonate with them and they might become a pro. But then everyone else fades away and moves on to something else. I do think it happened with turntabilism. It’s unsure why. Do you know how there was the sample based hip hop era in the late 90’s? And then in the early 2000’s that’s where Timbaland’s beats and Neptunes and Swizz Beats were doing really well. The sound of hip hop was changing as well, and I think turntabilism was always kind of associated with the backpacking style of hip hop you know? Where people would hang onto the message in the music and be really aware of the subtleties in a DJ set. I think it became the jiggy beats kind of thing and that was the new thing. And some of them, P-Money was really good at using the current music. He was playing Jay Z beats and he played some Neptunes in his sets. So he was always on the cusp, I was always a bit behind the trends [laughs].

HH: Yeah, but something happened in that period for me, and I still can’t put my finger on it. Because I mean I still like to watch turntabilism, and the skill in the art form of all the sub genres like breakin and stuff, but then when things got really sponsored it just felt different. Did you find that?

A: It’s so funny because it was changing and I could see it changing around me and I could see at certain gigs, the attendance dwindling and then at other gigs becoming really big and the type of people that were going changing from the heads to just a more younger, dare I say more ‘poppy’ audience. Like I remember, it’s probably cheeky to say, Scribe blew up and this must have been round the time of battling and I got to support him. I practiced and practiced and at that gig, people just chanted over the top of me, ‘BRING ON SCRIBE, BRING ON SCRIBE!’ demanded him. And the audience, to look around, it wasn’t really hip hop heads. It was more pop music listeners and then all the other support acts, except Scribe were not appreciated. So it wasn’t the love of the culture of hip hop, it was the love of this face they’ve seen on the box and yeah, it requires some deep thought to think what else was happening around the time. Because what did happen, and we could say the 90’s era hip hop fans were all aging and all having babies… but maybe we shouldn’t say that, because it’s not the case.

HH: Because I was 16 at the time, so it was the time when I really wanted to find something awesome, and it was like quick sand in my hand…I was trying to grip onto something solid and it kept slipping away. And yeah, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

A: That’s a great term to describe it. I really felt for some of the turntabilists who came up after me cause it was when the attendance at the events was dwindling. It was just like that. There once was this huge scene, I do think that losing Sir-Vere, who is super ambitious and moves on to great things — and I think he’d done his time with ITF — losing him was a major blow because he was so amazing at coordinating all those events.

HH: It’s funny how it works.

A: But then again, the baton was handed to production which is pretty sweet. When the magazine Scratch came out — in fact there was a magazine called Scratch— Ah this is digressing, but it was done by The Allies which was dedicated to Turntabilism; that died out in 2003/2004. Then another magazine dedicated to production came out and that’s when we started to pay attention to who was making the beats. So I think that’s where everything shifted. When I think about all the up and coming producers back in the day, they would have been turntabilists had it been 10 years ago. Cause you know how I said it was so hard to find out about turntabilism, and I got little bits of knowledge from the radio, tiny bits from the net but as for production, I knew nothing. I knew there was a thing called the MPC but I had no idea how it worked and through getting into DJing and collecting records I found out the idea of sampling and piecing things together.

HH: So then what?

A: I should say, I battled for three years — And I don’t know if I regret it, but retrospectively — I don’t know if it was the right decision — in my last year of uni, I was doing really full on electronic stuff trying to develop an electronic nose for use of minds; that year I just decided not to defend my title and not to go in the DJ battles again. I went and tried to do my research project and I started to play in a band called the Village Of The Idiots which was a big jazz ensemble. There was a few people in the band, like a guy called Anthony Donelson who was in his 40’s. He had been around for years and he sort of took me under his wing. Up until then, I was on a steady dose of hip hop and turntabilism and he expanded my musical horizons. He showed me ethnic music. Frank Zappa. Prog rock. He showed me crout rock and of course he got me into jazz and so that was a jazz band. I was playing the turntables, just one turntable in the jazz band. In the beginning I had very minor parts. I was doing little scratches here and there to accentuate the rhythm section. That band went on for two years. We formed the Flower Orphans and we used to have a residency at Tupelo and we played every week on a Thursday. It just allowed me to develop other ways to use the turntable aside from the hip hop methods. So I guess once I got into turntabilism I just wanted to learn a much as I could about the turntables as an instrument. I think that’s where a lot of turntabilists move into the club style of DJing; that’s because they want to do more and get more out of it. I didn’t move into the club stuff, I went down the turntabilism, instrument part.

Photo From Melissa Cowan

Photo From Melissa Cowan

HH: The instrument part is bigger now…

A: Yeah no, there’s not many bands… [cracks up] remember there was that little era with Linkin Park and it was called ‘new metal’ and it kind of gave turntabilism in bands a bad name because it was always really cheesy.

HH: And you’d already been doing it when Linkin Park did it…

A: Yeah, I know. To be honest I knew a few of their songs, and I liked them, but I was never a fan. All the bands I was into were more psychedelic and sort of jazz rather than rocky. Eventually I developed my own way of [playing turntables with the jazz band]. I would go through reverb pedals and I’d do a lot of tonal scratching, which is where you take one sound and play a melody with it. But once I got into that side of turntablism I did a bit of research and there’s a lot going on outside of hip hop and turntabilism. There’s a guy called Philip Jeck and Otomo Yoshihide from Japan and Christian Marclay who are all really progressive, actually, I’d just say they’re straight up avant garde. They’re so noisy. They put symbols on the turntables and smash the turntables with chains, put that through overdrive, and they make roars of noise just from turntables. Phillip Jeck is into sampling, he plays with multiple turntables and makes little loops and I guess the aesthetic is so different. They would consider themselves ‘sonic artists’ rather than sort of boom bap hip hop makers.

I’m really competitive in my life and I was quite competitive in the battles — taking a loss in the right way is really important.”

HH: What do you reckon about labels in hip hop?

A: I, funnily enough, I have a big record collection and I do group them. I think the only benefit of grouping music is so that you can discuss music and share the knowledge. Like, if you like this, you may like this. It’s an affective way to put music for discussion, and I reckon it is journalists who come up with most of that, and it’s just to aid in discussion. So from that point of view I think it’s really amazing. But from that point of view, it’s been blown right open now. Like did you hear that new El-P and Killer Mike?

HH: [NO]

A: Oh it’s got that really aggressive sort of Bomb Squad style beats and heavy synths and some of it sounds almost post punky, 80’s stuff.

HH: I think watching what the kids are doing in hip hop now, punk’s kind of coming back into it perhaps?

A: Not in all the new stuff, but in some of it. I definitely think there’s a lot of that punk aesthetic, like remember when Tyler The Creator came out; not so much in the sonics of the song but more in the attitude. Did you hear those songs at the start of the Yeezus album? That’s kind of really harsh, industrial post-punk. When I heard those, I was like man, this is going to be a game changer, but then it dwindled. It was only like the first few, but I was like, ‘man this is pretty brave’. But then again El-P and Cannibal Ox have already done that sort of thing really effectively.

HH: Is it almost like someone like Kanye would take someone like Cannibal Ox and bring his style to the mainstream?

A: Yeah that’s exactly what I think about his new album. He’s thrown money at all these talented producers like Lunice and Hudson Mohawke and Daft Punk and just tried to pull them all together. And I really like a rapper called Pusha T — He took a Pusha T song and just kind of took it as his own on his album, so yeah, he’s taking things that are already awesome and re-packaging them as his own.

HH: Which is what he’s always done. He did that with College Dropout except with soul/oldschool R n’ B samples…Do you like Kanye?

A: Some of the songs. I had to listen to the album because everyone was talking about it. When I heard the first few tracks, ‘New Slaves’ there’s a performance on one of those late night shows in America, I can’t remember which one, and it blew me away. But the album, it was, it really disappointed me and it did feel like he’d just thrown money at a lot of different talented producers. It didn’t really mesh as a whole. Now I really like new sounds and new progressions in hip hop, like he auto tuned Nina Simone [laughs] and then bringing Hudson Mohawke in underneath; like that’s pretty progressive. Trying it, but I don’t think it actually worked musically. And then keeping the loop from that song going over another banging track that’s already amazing in its own right, then rapping over the top of that. And we’re not even getting into some of the lyrical content as well….So I’ve probably only listened to it about four or five times quite intensely.

HH: Have you heard Magna Carta?

A: Funnily enough I was listening to a few songs last night [laughs] and I have to admit he’s also trying to keep up with the new school kids. Some of the flows he adapts and some of the production’s awesome. But I think, my personal taste is so different, like you know how the album starts with Justin Timberlake singing for about a minute and a half and I think it’s saccharin. That means sickly sweet, like in a bad way. Like I’ve eaten too many lollies. I feel that. Then when the beat comes in, it’s pretty hard, then there’s the sample of Nirvana and again, what I said about Kanye, awesome idea but the execution, it didn’t work. I think those guys are getting too rich and they just throw money at everyone and they’re lyrical contents now….

HH: Do you know, oh man, I turned it off when he said he’s the new Basquiat. You know, you just can’t say that.

A: [laughs] That’s a crazy thing to say. You see where do we get started with that one. Because Basquiat died when he was so young and he never really got to achieve his full potential.

HH: So I guess for someone that’s followed hip hop for so long. Do you think the market’s just changing, so now they can get away with saying ludicrous things?

A: Definitely. It could be us. Because I remember loving and going through the back pack era and loving the message in De la Soul’s music and then remember even De la moved to the more clubby stuff like ‘Baby Phat’. So when I was listening to some new random hip hop, just clicking on it last night and yeah just the focus on partying it’s just, it’s, just hedonism really. Just partying and drinking. There used to be a label called Rawkus, and this was when I must have been 19, 20. At the beginning I loved everything they did and they put out some Mos Def and some Eminem, they put out the Soundbombing comps and Company Flow, who I love. I love Wu Tang, Gravediggaz, The Boot Camp Click stuff. I used to love Heltah Skeltah and then Biggie. Oh see! I just sound like an old schooler now. Nas, Biggie I really like. I’m just trying to think of more modern albums… I really liked Jay Z’s ‘The Black Album’ when it came out. I loved that. Good Kid M.A.A.D City, the Kendrick Lamar album. I’ve been listening to Habits and Contradictions – Schoolboy Q. I love it. But the problem with me now is I’m older than the rappers, and some of his subject matter, I’m over that period of my life, but that’s probably one of the redeeming qualities — he reminds me. Like he talks about OPP quite a bit. Cheating on people. It’s quite fun but he does have socially aware kind of songs.


HH: When did you fall in love with hip hop?

A: Yeah that would have been when I heard the De La album. Just that music. I just kept going back to that album, probably listened to it like 50 times. Same with ‘Black Sunday’ by Cypress. I’ve still got 36 Chambers in the car to this day and in the beginning it was everything to do with hip hop, I loved. Of course music was the entry, but then there was the RESPECT festival out by The Dowse gallery that exposed me to graph and breaking. DJ Raw did a little set that was really influential in my development. That was what I did. Hip hop from 13 to 19, [I was] always graphing on bits of paper, even writing primitive raps and djing. And then I moved into other genres through hip hop. It was through the idea of — What can I pillage and sample? What can I put in my DJ sets? Just to develop my own voice. So I was a huge fan of hip hop and I still am. But after all the competitions and being in bands I guess [I was like] I want to find a unique voice as a turntable artist.

HH: So as you’ve ventured on to that path, did you leave hip hop behind a bit?

A: No. I’ve always made hip hop beats at home — Oh I haven’t stopped scratching. Never did I ever stop doing turntabilism. It’s always been in my sets and I still consider my live sets as Alphabethead, hip hop. But now it’s just drawing from modern electronic music, even dubstep and drum n bass are in there. Even a bit of trap at the moment and classic rock, Deep Purple and Led Zepplin found their way in. In the last couple of years more punky stuff and more krautrocky stuff also now taking from the whole back catalogue of music; the whole recorded history and filtering that through the hip hop aesthetic of manipulation; like one of the genres I collect is just library records of ethnomusicology, so someone goes to Indonesia and records the gamelan music and there’s a few record labels like Akira and the Nonesuch Explorer Series. I always look out for them cause there’d always be new sounds. They’ve even done one in Tibet — Temple chanting from Tibet. They’ve done Greek Bouzouki sort of music, fast pluck [on the guitar].

More audio from this interview will be able in the coming days

Interview: NZ Hip Hop History with Spell-Part 1

Feature, Interview, Music

spell many

Spell’s story begins where this interview ends. He explains his hip hop career to date, ‘Took 10 years and I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight…I’m just finishing off laying the foundation for the rest of my career and yeah it’s all part of the plan.”

Raised in Hamilton where he dropped out of high school to pursue DJ’ing, he knew back then that he’d have to be patient. “I was like, I’m dropping out of high school to do this, and now I’m doing it.” During fried rice, dumplings, juice crushes and two hours and forty minutes of record time we talk about hip hop. Whether he was DJ’ing, graffiti writing or breakin’, he explains that for him, when something catches his attention he has this thing happen where he locks on and consumes whatever it is. ‘Like right now, what we’re doing. I’m doing it. I’m trying to give you everything.’

Thoroughly focussed on his art, the one theme that remains throughout his obsessions, from wrestling or film making, is hip hop. It was seeing the breakin’ in the Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins, It’s Like That video that did it. He says, ‘That just blew my mind’ and he fell in love with the culture then. Speaking to him is like a first-hand account of some of NZ’s legendary Hip Hop moments; from Auckland’s Hip Hop summit in 2001, to 4 Corners, to DJ’ing for Bboy battles and recently opening for KRS-One. Despite 10 years past and some pretty cool titles earned- that would make other people rest on their laurels, he simply notes, he is on the right track and looks to successes yet to come:

HH: How did you come up with the name Spell?

S: Well actually I started writing graffiti in 2001, I saw a video called King Destroy The Cope2 Video and I was third form and after that I was like yeah I’m gonna start writing graffiti. I came up with a whole bunch of names and there were heaps of really shitty names- I had been tagging since primary in 1993 or something. My first name was ‘Shorty’- I was always the shortest kid in school. I started writing ‘Spec’ and I had that name for maybe a year. One night I went out bombing and did this big bubble letter Spec with a character and that was that. Eventually word got around, like at church, and came back to my parents. My mum had found out and she was mad, like disappointed. So I was like yeah I’ll just change my name a little bit and then no one will know it was me. So I just dropped the C and put an L on it. But everyone knew it was me of course.

HH: But Not Mum?

S: Nah she knew it was me but by then they’d eased up. My parents were actually pretty supportive after that… mad supportive. They saw that I was passionate about it. They were really worried about me like roaming the streets by myself late at night and getting jumped or something like that.

HH: Where are you from?

S: This all happened in West Hamilton, H-Town. It’s cool, small. People say there’s nothing to do there, but for me it was the perfect place to grow as an artist. We had a nice little hip hop scene, everybody knows each other and that’s when I really got into hip hop.

HH: So by the time one year rolled around were you with a crew?

S: I had friends that I would talk into coming with me. I’d be sitting on MSN like, bro come help me, go bombing. Yeah so my friends would come and help me like my friend Lamar Tenwold. We’d meet up at The Point and I’d tell him what the spot was and we’d go there. He’s taller so I’d get on his shoulders and then that would get more height. There was a bunch of dudes, I was always the youngest in the group.

HH: How did that come to be?

S: They just kind of saw me as like a little brother. As well through church. The guys that really showed me how to do this [hip hop] shit were all the older guys. My friend Leal really helped me out, he was a couple of years older and I looked up to him like big time.

HH: Are these guys still in the scene?

S: Nah. But for me it was like this is gonna be what I do forever. For everyone else it was like just something that everybody did. Everybody listened to rap and like everyone was breakin’ back then so it was all just a trend and the cool thing that everybody did and the older kids did. And I wanted to be like the older kids.

HH: How did you come to the decision that hip hop would be forever for you?

S: Those early years. I was just so influenced by it right off the bat, I fell in love with it and I didn’t think about anything else. Actually you need to go back to 1998 that’s when I saw Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins, just the video on TV. In that video there’s breakin’ in it and that was the first time I had seen breakin’. I was 10 going on 11. And that’s, really, when it all changed.

HH: So breakin’ came before graph?

S: Yeah I started breakin’. I heard on Radio Tainui that Time Bandits were going to be teaching some Bboy workshops, we were driving in the car, me and my mum. Mum asked about what it was, I asked if I could go and she was like break dancing? You don’t dance, but she said, yeah I’ll take you down. I was at Kura Kaupapa going to Rakaumanga, actually no I wasn’t I had gone to public school for one year. I wanted to see what it was like.

HH: Did you like public school?

S: Yeah I loved it I went from being like, the fucken… the white kid at kura kaupapa, the like stupid white Māori kid to like being the cool Māori kid at public school [laughs]. It was pretty buzzy. So it was a real big change for me and it was mean. I was like the popular kid at school and all the girls liked me …I got into wrestling big time, when that came out and that was my life. Then I started breakin’. The Time Bandits like, Brendan Chase taught me how to six step and that was the real start of this hip hop shit…They’d go away on these trips like to Auckland and I remember them coming back with mad stories and I’d be bummed out cause I couldn’t go. I was too young.

…And then in 1999 I went back to Rakaumanga and a DJ called Freeman came to my school and he was with a rap group. I have a feeling it was a group called Iwi. Freeman was from the H. I saw him DJ’ing live at my school, he was scratching and cuttin and my mind exploded….It was a rap show with the emcees; Freeman was DJ’ing and cuttin then maybe some kids started breakin’ and when I saw that it was like this all belongs to the same thing.

HH: Then what?

S: So then I was like I want to be a DJ.

HH: How’d you go about that?

S: I tried to convince my parents to buy me turntables. Someone at school brought a ripped page out of The Source and it had like the ads for DJ packages, like DJ In A Box. So I took that home and was like can you’s buy me some turntables.

“I didn’t know what turntables were for but I knew you could do scratching with them and that DJ’s did scratching… That’s kind of what I thought djing was all about …just scratching and that was 1999.”

…In 1997 I played rugby league and I was so shit man. I was nine…I was real bad and um I was just trying to fit in like everyone. The school I went to was just a rugby league school. So I was like fuck, I want to play rugby league. Anyways I did and I was real bad but one day after training I went back to my friend Punakai’s house and his dad was a DJ. We jumped on the couch and he was like bro check this out, and he was a little fulla as well, so we like climbed up the couch and the big stereo system seemed like it was real high and there was a turntable on top and he was like ‘yo, zigga, zigga, zigga’ you know and that was the first time I saw scratching, this was in 1997.

HH: So you’d seen it before?

S: I’d seen it, yeah but I didn’t know what was going on until 1999 when I saw Freeman.

HH: Have you ever been able to bump back into him?

S: Mmhmm. Yeah the last time I saw Freeman was in 2005.

HH: Did you get to tell him the influence he had on you?

S: Nah I didn’t tell him. But he was mad cool…I don’t even really know if he knows who I am or anything.

HH: Okay so 1999 did you get decks?

S: Nah. In 2001, third form, one of my friends from school-his dad brought him some turntables…A Gemini, DJ In A Box and with two really shitty turntables I think they were even belt driven and a really bad mixer but aw man it was off the hook cause now I had access to some turntables.

…So we’d all go to Leal’s house that was like the centre for our group of friends and we’d set up the turntables and it came with an instructional, how to dj video. We’d watch that and then yeah we’d all have a go doing these cuts…They knew me for being like the hard out kid like I was always determined to really get it sussed and so I’d just end up hogging the turntables. When everyone would go to sleep I’d still be up trying to practice.

HH: Were you always determined like that. Is that just your personality?

S: Everything I do is extreme it’s a… I have an obsessive personality… when I have something stuck in my head I just follow through with it I don’t make goals or nothing like that it’s just I have an idea and I do it. Yeah so I think the turntables would end up at my house a couple of times and my friends would all DJ. They would DJ on CD mixers like church dancers and high school dancers in H-Town. They’d hire out these CD mixers and I’d try and have a go, that’s kind of where I learnt how to beat mix, blend songs.

HH: So the DJ In a box was CD’s?

S: Nah it was vinyl.

HH: So you had a hand in being able to play with both, did you find that helpful?

S: Yip, very helpful, extremely helpful. It’s like all dj’s should learn on vinyl with records it just helps, it’s just a different feeling, feeling the vinyl. Kids these days can just learn how to mix with an iPhone. And so I am real lucky that got the tail end of that [era]. I came into it right in the middle when vinyl was just going out, CDJ’s were big and Serato hadn’t come out yet. So I got to learn how to cut on vinyl and I learned how to mix on CDJ’s-cd players and vinyl. I didn’t get Serato until 2009.

HH: You’d be self-taught then?

S: Yeah, everything was trial and error. We had no one to teach us so we were just teaching ourselves there was nothing, like there was no YouTube back then, no internet. So yeah it was all just trial and error.

HH: If your friends weren’t so into Dj’ing is it possible that it might have passed you by?

S: Yip. It definitely had something to do with the kids I was hanging out with… But I’m sure I would have found it, I would have found some way to meet up with people that were into hip hop.

HH: Okay so you are third/fourth form learning to DJ…then what?

S: My friend Leal DJ’d a school dance at Church College, I helped him, I think that was the first time the kids at school saw me as like… ‘aw that’s the DJ guy’. So after that I was the DJ guy, also I was breakin’ at school and everyone kind of knew me as like the popping guy, the tagger, now I was the DJ guy. [At the time] everyone was listening to rap, rap was huge, you know all that early 2000 rap. In 2001/2002 there were still a lot of people breakin’ but it had died down quite a lot compared to like 98/99/2000 it was really huge. But by then it had died down and it was just like the real dedicated ones still there.

HH: So now you’re the DJ guy…

S: There’s so much. 2002 was a big year for me. That was fourth form. Sneaking out at night bombing. Going out bombing…with the same guys. Leal, the older kid, he always had a car and I was always in the passenger seat with him. We had another friend Kahukura he used to write Coke, he was a big influence on me as far as graffiti goes…And then my group of friends, like the older kids I was hanging out with, they got less and less into hip hop so… and then some of them even started getting into trouble. And I didn’t wanna fuck with that.

HH: You always knew that you weren’t going to go down that road?

S: Yeah, all I cared about was wrestling, writing graffiti, scratching and breakin’. It was all I cared about. All my friends that hung out with, it wasn’t cool to drink, smoke weed, so I was around those guys and that was the older kids that I was looking up to so I thought like fuck that shit. It just never made sense to me. It was never attractive to me.

…So yeah my friends started doing that and I just slowly started drifting away from them and then I like found my other friend Kurv and we were like the hip hop guys. He came down from Manurewa to Church College in fourth form, 2002, and yeah he was a bit of a cool fulla. Anyways I started hanging out with him all the time and we were like the hip hop guys cause there was no one really anymore by like 2003.

By this time there’d been a bunch of big events that’d happened. Like Raw Styles in 2000 at the Town Hall in Auckland. That was huge. I saw P-Money for the first time. And I remember walking in and he was playing Super Brooklyn by the Cocoa Brovaz and then the following year after that there was Battle Of The Year at St James in Auckland and that was huge and then 2002 there was another battle of the year. These are Bboys events. My parents were always supportive like getting me to Auckland they’d usually drive me and a bunch of us up, paid for our tickets, drop us off and then come back you know five hours later. Yeah my parents are super supportive man, I was real lucky to have them.

HH: You know how you said when you focus on things you go full ball. Did you focus on anything else? How was your school?

S: Nah, I didn’t do school…But I went to school, I loved school but I didn’t do any work. No work at all. I just went there and just had fun, so much fun. High school was like…aw man I loved school.

HH: How did you get away with doing no work?

S: I don’t know, I have no idea. But like by 2003 because I just didn’t do any work my teachers were like, and it’s not that I can’t do the work, I was like nah fuck the work but by 2003 I had been put into all the shitty classes like bridging and shit like where all the dumb kids were in and I was in those classes and it was off the hook. It was like wholly shit, you know they’re teaching us like year six maths and shit like 1+1. They treated us like retards and to me it was just so funny. Because it was like man I come to school and have fun and I don’t need to do any work. But I loved it, I never wagged or bunked school I was at school every day, nobody wanted to miss school cause it was like, you’d miss something.

…So ok, in 2003 the Hip Hop Summit I saw Jazzy Jeff at the Auckland Town Hall and that blew my mind and after that I was like this, I’m definitely doing this, 100%.

HH: So did your parents buy you turntables then?

S: Nah, not yet they just saw that I was determined. I had a summer job at the Warehouse. I saved my money and spent it on getting down to Body Rock in Wellington in January 2003. That was incredible, big time incredible; it was like the first time I had left the city by myself and shit. Also my dad took me to Auckland and we went to the Civic and watched a movie called Scratch as part of the film festival going on at that time. I thought this is the coolest shit I’ve ever seen I wanna be like that. Pretty much. Then somehow I conned my parents into buying me some CDJ’s… I conned my dad.

HH: You conned him?

S: I was like I need these. I’m dropping out of school and I need these cause I’m dropping out of high school to be a DJ, pretty much.

HH: Did he say ok?

S: Sort of, I remember I was like give me 700 or 800 dollars so I could put a deposit on them. They were about a grand each. So it was a lot of money and man I must have just caught my dad on a really good day because he gave me the money, I went to Auckland and stayed with some friends. I had a girlfriend at the time her name was Miriam her brother was in a Bboy crew called Breakemon from Mt Roskill and I must have gone up to see her at the same time I was hanging out with the GBAKers, before they were GBAK who were two different crews, AK and GB and we’d go write graffiti…

…So yeah I went to DMC and was like I want to buy two CDJ-800’s please, I have my deposit, here’s all the money. And the guy was like you have five weeks to pay it or we keep all the money and I was like fuck, okay. So I went back to Hamilton and was like okay you need to give me all the money now otherwise we’re going to lose the money, so that’s how that happened… I had two CDJ’s and that they became my life.

HH: For how long?

S: For the next 13 years, ever since.

HH: Have you still got them?

S: I ended up swapping my flat mates for turntables so yeah, nah not anymore that was the actual beginning of my DJ career. I dropped out of high school at sixth form. All the teachers were mad nice to me they worked around me being so difficult and saying fuck school it’s so gay. So they gave me like three music classes and two PE’s… I stayed for one term and then the second term I didn’t go at all. In the end I told my mum to go in and sort it out and that was the end of my high school. Because it was heaps of fun but I was like I’m not gaining anything and I felt like I needed to do something. [I thought] I really want to be a DJ so that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna drop out and practice in my room every day.

HH: At that time, did you or your parents know there would eventually be a way for you to get paid doing it?

S: In my mind I was like, yeah, I’m going to be Sir-Vere. He’s on TV, he has his own TV show, he must be rich. That’s what I thought and I was like yeah if P-Money and Sir-Vere can do it. I can do it. But yeah I didn’t know anything man, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into…So yeah my parents let me stay at home in my room.

HH: Did you watch wrestling at this point or had you left it behind?

S: Nah I had stop watching wrestling by now and yeah this hip hop shit just consumed my brain.

HH: Then what?

S: I got put down in a crew 4 Corners which is a legendary H-Town hip hop crew, an all elements crew. I was writing graffiti with Swarm and I was good friends with Are-K and Delight the two Bboys… I got put down in the crew and Omega B really saw that I had some potential. They put me down as a graffiti writer they didn’t know that I was a DJ yet. I think they had heard.

HH: Were you recording mixes?

S: Yip I was making mixtapes and selling them at school for $5. At the time I was listening to a lot of funk and soul, a lot of Bboy breaks. It just came with the whole breakin’ culture all that kind of music just came with it and I became really obsessed with finding these songs I would hear at these events I would be at. But in 1998, 1999, 2000 we were breakin’ to a lot of electro. Like Planet Rock. That’s all we were dancing to there was no funk breaks we didn’t know what breaks were, we just knew this is the music we were supposed to be dancing to. It was just left over from the whole bop era, the bop generation from the 80’s, that bled into the 90’s and then when we picked it up in 1998 it was still the music that everyone was breakin’ to. Like Soul Sonic Force, Twilight 22, Cybertron.

HH: Okay so Omega B…

S: Yeah Omega B saw potential in me and he was like oh yeah let’s put him in the crew or I don’t know how the
conversation went but yeah he really liked me because I was real hard out into hip hop and was like, ‘hip hop for life’ and I didn’t drink or smoke or do all these bad things that everyone else did so he was like this kids really onto it. At least that’s what I think…And 2004 I was doing graff heavily and popping and I was djing in my room. I played my first party in 2004 by myself in Nawton and my friend Blane Rakena put that party on… and he didn’t pay me. I remember that. [laughs].

HH: So you walked away not paid, but were you like man that was cool?

S: Yeah I was like yeah I’m actually probably good at this. I was just playing like commercial top 40 stuff, you know, that’s what I was listening to, a lot of Luda and T.I just what everyone else was listening to. But at the same time I was listening to a lot of funk and soul and I was getting good at playing that kind of music. I’d take my turntables up to Youth Zone twice a week Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and DJ for the Bboys to jam and practice because we were sick of listening to the same breakin’ mixtapes that we got from Body Rocks’… Element tapes… So that’s where I got good at playing breaks and it was like a job to me. I had to show up because the Bboys were depending on me to play some music.

To be continued….