Thursday, November 12, 2009

The breakdown (that old familiar feeling...)

I love vinyl. That reason amongst all is the reason why I began deejaying. I love performing in front of people. That reason amongst all is why I continued deejaying. I'd always collected things and bought records from the earliest age I can remember. I remember that one Christmas. As I was right in the grip of the first wave of Hip Hop hysteria to hit New Iberia, Louisiana, I got a fingerless glove, the Chaka Khan "I feel for you" Lp single, some studded bracelets, and the Breakin' and Beat Street cassettes, and a shiny new Magnavox dual tape cassette "Jambox". I think it's fair to say Christmas 1984 treated me well.

Christmas 1985 was all about GI Joe. Christmas 1986 was my the Nintendo Christmas. And who could forget Christmas 1987 when I got my first skateboard. As my pre-occupation for "breakdancing", rapping, and graffiti faded out as my adolescent mind grew to discover new subcultures and technology. It wouldn't be long before puberty and High School would make it so that every decision I made had something to do with girls.

The one thing that remained constant was Hip Hop music. I loved it. Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Melle Mel, the Sugarhill Gang, the Beastie Boys, the Fat Boys, L.L. Cool J and the other artists of the time spoke to me in a way that Pop music or bands like AC/DC, Motley Crue, and Van Halen never could.

Once in Sixth grade Mr. Collins, our hip math/science/phys. ed teacher, singled out a Run DMC lyric in a lecture about the evils of this new rap music.

"I met this little girly/ Her hair was kind of curly/ Went to her house to bust her out/ I had to leave real early." he dryly recited the verse as if he were reading it from the Bible.

He then began to launch into a tirade about the adult themes contained in this music and why we should go to Church every Sunday. These were the days before the "Parental Advisory" stickers. While I'll admit the lyrics were adult themed, I didn't truly understand them. I didn't find this anymore objectionable than the slasher flicks or Ninja movies I was allowed to watch. It was fun music for the most fun time in my life, a time I would try the entire rest of my life to re-capture.

Fast forward to Junior Year. My sister threw a party, and with my swollen tape collection and hand full of CDs I deejayed the party. We had one of those all-in-one jobs with the turntable on the top. At that time I didn't have any records. I tricked one of my sister's classmates into thinking that I was scratching the tape, by slickly tapping or pressing pause while he watched my hand touch the empty turntable platter. Yeah, he totally believed it.

Then came my voyage of self exploration. I started discovering punk rock via skate videos. I finally got my own car and would expand my small world out into Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. It seems that my love for hip hop had begun to grow up, as I started to discover groups like Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, de la Soul, 3rd Bass, Digital Underground, and Del the Funkee Homosapien. Hip Hop had found a new companion in punk, but it was still there and always stuck with me.

I began going to these warehouse parties in New Orleans. I remember being pretty mystified by the deejay up there on stage and how he would have hundreds of kids completely absorbed in his music. I was already absorbed in the burgeoning psychedelic drug craze that had reached into my rural Louisiana town. So this was a new and fascinating aspect of this culture that would combine things that I'd already become acquainted. I was also conflicted by the fact that none of these deejays scratched. Growing up listening to Jam Master Jay, Grandmaster Flash, and Grandmixer DST I thought that scratching would have been Lesson One. I felt like these cats were getting over on me.

It was a party in New Orleans, and a trip to Tower Records that changed my life. On these frequent trips to the city while everyone would go to some "afterparty", I would hang out at Cafe du Monde. I would buy a magazine, drink coffee and eat beignets as I waited for Tower to open up. At this point, I stumbled upon a graffiti magazine called Subculture and inside there was an article with Rob Swift. It intrigued me, but I was more interested in the styles of the AWR/MSK expose' on Krush and Tyke.

As I went back to my apartment in Baton Rouge, I got back to my life. It was all about school, my part time job, and yes, GIRLS. I would buy records at the record store by Chimes and at Music Treasure Chest on Acadian Thruway. I was just a record collector then, just as I had been a comic book collector. Records were art. It wasn't until one Saturday morning when I had an early call at work and I had stayed up particularly late partying that it all came together. I accidentally left my 100+ CD book on top of my car as I drove away. Almost ten years of music collecting went down the drain in one thoughtless moment. This was the moment I went from record collector to deejay. Something inside me snapped, and I began to exclusively buy vinyl. I would go to thrift stores, flea markets, out of the way spots, garage sales basically anywhere I could dig. I bought a record bag and I would carry records out to every afterhours spot I would hit. My reasoning being that maybe one day one of the deejays would let me play if he were sick or someone didn't show up. Surprisingly it happened, and I did eventually get to play records in front of people occasionally.

These were the days before I owned turntables. These were the days when I became acquainted with my something completely new... depression. What I'm sure was a side effect of all of the random drugs I was ingesting at the time, I began to have severe battles with depression. This was when I first got on Paxil. Paxil worked for me. It returned my brain to a state of manageability. It stabilized my moods and allowed me to think clearly again. In these early days of anti-depressant medication there were no real rules. No one ever told me not to abruptly quit taking my medication. The weeks after I stopped taking my Paxil began a rollercoaster ride that lasted for the next five years. I reached some of the darkest places in my young life. It made it impossible for me to keep a steady job, concentrate on school, or make any personal spiritual progress.

I did eventually cure myself, to a greater or lesser degree. Completely off of meds, I began watching what I ate and started exercising. Things started looking up and I began to get completely absorbed in Turntablism. Scratching, beat juggling and eventually battling became my new passion. At this point I wasn't concerned about making a career as a deejay. I refused to play Top 40 music, and I most certainly wasn't going to pander to club owners for gigs. I just wanted to get better, smarter, and win battles. The gigs would come.

Since then, my integrity has remained intact. Deejaying well, had never been more than just a side gig for a little pocket money until I moved to New Orleans. Once in New Orleans, I met Ed Maximillion and Melissa Weber and I started to think that I might have a chance in this larger market, to really make it as a deejay. With myspace allowing me to really get my name out globally and develop a following, I had a new mission.

I started a business. Consequently, it was deejaying that allowed the business to remain open for the first 6-8 months before it got it on it's feet. I got a manager/booking agent. He not only was my biggest fan and supporter, but he handled the parts of the business that, frankly, I hated. He was getting me good solid paying gigs, and I was seemingly picking up steam. My music knowledge began blossoming in this music Mecca, and I began to further expand my record collection.

Then he died.

I was saddened, but like Jamie always said "keep it moving"...

Keep it moving I must. The show must go on.