#24 The failed hip hop DJ

A birthday card from IU, celebrating my 21st, and reminding me to act wisely.

The legal drinking age in Hong Kong is 18, so it felt quite strange that I was not allowed to drink when I came to the States at 19. It didn’t matter too much though, as I am not a heavy drinker anyways. But turning 21 was still a happy event, because I started going out a lot more to see live shows at different bars and venues. I was really into hip hop at the time, and I still remember seeing performances of DJ Mike Relm, Yuri Lane, and Del the Funky Homosapien. It sounds a bit “wrong”, but I took a class on hip hop offered by the anthropology department. I ended up writing my final paper about bboys in Bloomington.

Although rap might be the most direct link to hip hop for most people, it seemed so distant to me. Writing good Chinese was already tough, and I couldn’t imagine how would I ever be able to write cool lines and rhymes in English, let alone rapping with a flow. No talent in visual arts either, so grafitti was out too. Break dance was too physical. Dj-ing, on the other hand, was enticing: sampling is economic (create new music from the old) and efficient (picking out the coolest/catchiest/most groovy part of a record); beat juggling and scratching just sounded so cool; and a DJ must know a lot of songs (always in search of the most unique/obscure record and breaks that no one else have heard).

I can’t remember what year it was (2009?), but not knowing what to expect, I went to the DMC World DJ Championship in Chicago and saw C2C. I started making a few DJ friends, mostly moving records and equipment for them at parties. I quickly learned that being a DJ would be quite impossible too, because I could not afford the gear and the constant need of acquiring new records (most DJs probably don’t mix vinyls, but a vinyl DJ is still my ideal of a “real DJ” to this day). I still started buying records anyways, thinking they might become useful some day.

The coolest thing I learned from this period was The 45 King, who mixes 45s! And naturally so I started buying lots and lots of RnB 45s on ebay. As I seriously began my classical guitar studies, I put my DJ dream aside, and slowly forgot about these 45s…

Last year, a good friend of mine asked to see my 45 collection. She got into Djing, and started doing her own shows. She would like to see if there were any 45s she could borrow for one of her upcoming shows. We started digging through these forgotten discs, which included many Motown, soul, disco, and RnB tunes. But embbeded in the collection was a small stack of Ranchera records that I didn’t even realize were part of the collection. I must have not paid attention to them back then, since they were not something I could use for a hip hop set (or maybe I could have?). We put these records on, and they were just THE BEST MUSIC. I wish I understand Spanish to know the songs even better, but one can feel the passion and emotions even if you were listening to the expressions of the singers alone.

My purchase of 45s has since then been resumed, and mostly ranchera produced by Bego Records! (oh well, with some reggae and dancehall too) When things get back to normal, I hope to ask my Dj friend to spin these Ranchera records, maybe at a local Mexician restaurant, and maybe a benefit show of some sort?

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