This year marks my 20th year of digging in the crates and #findingflavor as a DJ. I bought my first pair of turntables in 1996 from a wedding DJ that was happy to get rid of his Technic 1200’s because CD’s became the popular format of choice at the time. I was 18 but would have purchased them sooner if I could. I grew up as a Hip Hop kid and dove head first into the culture and each of its four different elements (Deejaying, Rapping, Graffiti, and Break dancing).
Growing up in Buffalo NY at that time there was a place to go out dancing just about every night of the week. Going out to these venues I began to appreciate other genres of the DJ culture that were emerging in the scene and these different variations began to filter through these clubs. I began to build an appreciation for House music. I loved dancing and that’s the main reason I went out. House had a particular style of dancing that wasn’t as rigid as break dancing is. There was more fluidity to the movement that I really enjoyed and people could really push their individuality and style. I realized how unifying the format was. You didn’t have to know a language to “get it”, the beat is universal, it has the power to speak to people in a very primal part of their souls. The dance floor was diverse, people had unique styles of dancing and would vibe off of one another. I was hooked. It Cultivate’s Wholistic Nourishment in this way for me.
My friends and I would have DJ sessions at house parties and clubs in which we would each take turns playing a couple records each so we could express our style of mixing and try to impress one another with our track selection. Hunting the perfect beat was an ongoing endeavor. In Buffalo, NYC definitely had an impact on our style but we would often take trips up to Toronto which was only a couple hours away and enjoy the massive underground parties and incredible record stores it had.
Around 1995-96, I spent about 8 months in Charlotte, NC which was probably at the height of the “rave” scene in the US. I was part of a fun, fresh and exciting scene there. People were open minded and hungry for experiencing something new. I found myself spending much of my time spinning records in bars/venues of the NoDa district such as Fat City (There is still a sign on the building where it once stood). After a club owner was arrested at the bar I was going to manage, it kind of put a damper on things but made me realize I wanted to go back to school. I headed back home soon after this incident and started a deep house night with my partner in crime DJ Zuk called Deep Soul Plug at a place called the Rendezvous. It was a Sunday night gig because that’s what the owner would allow me. I was amped-up, and made the best out of it. I was a cook at the bar. After making gumbo ya-ya and slinging po’ boys I’d go in the back and move the tables out of the way to make room for my tables. It was successful. I was always impressed with the numbers of people we were able to get to come down. This became my “church” and spiritual outlet. It’s not just about picking a good song, its reading the crowd, dimming the lights, lighting a candle, or maybe burning some incense to allow people the opportunity to get to where you want them to go with you. We weren’t DJ’s, I called us atmosphere technicians.
As I became enthralled with house music my heart was pulling me to the West Coast. I wound up in San Francisco. I brought my tables with me and tried to pick up the vibe from that town. This was 2001, right after the dot-com crash and 9/11 just happened when I was there so the economy was a bit of a mess. The homeless population was insane which weighed heavy on my constitution. Getting a job in my field at that time was challenging for me. I interned at OM records for a bit and worked at People’s cafe on Haight st. slinging espresso to all the crazies. The vibe i felt and what was portrayed on the music I collected at the time which was kind of filtered, fragmented, dark, dubby, bass heavy and deep. Sort of a techno-deep house kind of vibe. After SF, I wound up in Queens, NY for about 6 years. In this time I pursued my passions to become a Culinary professional (Chef Ryan). Learning about different foods, and cultures while being submerged in them is what I coined the “Bodega Boogaloo” era for me. It was more of a multi-cultural sound that was mixed in with the disco dub and DFA record label sound that became big at the time. I felt more at home and more grounded here, I think I’m more of an east coast kind of guy. Once the city got too hot, it was off to St. Croix, USVI, limin’ on the reggae and Caribbean sounds of the island. The last 6 years, I’ve been residing in North Carolina trying to put down what I’ve been feeling here.
Now this brings me to a point where I should explain how I define the art of the mix. In my opinion, a good DJ mix will take people on a journey, there should be waves to keep people hanging on as you take them along for the ride. It’s the DJ’s story, a portrayal of their flavor and what they’re feeling or where they’re from. It’s what move’s them. It’s hoping the listener can get on board and enjoy it just as much or more.
Please check out and enjoy these links to mixes I’ve recorded….Common Roots Sound System