with Grandmixer DXT
formerly D.ST .....by JayQuan
Owwwww This stuff is really freshhhh…..to
some that means nothing at all , to some it’s the vocorder ending of
Fab 5 Freddys classic "Change The Beat". To Djs all over the
world that accapella piece is an instrument. From 1984 till the late 80s
every other Hip Hop song had a piece of this phrase scratched in it in
some form. From Roxanne to Rappin’ Duke to Paid In Full and literally
hundreds of others – that is the standard scratch sound. So much so
that every keyboard or musical toy that has a scratch sound has emulated
this record. But the first cat to ever utilize this and make it his
trademark is the Grandmixer D.ST. His performance on "Rock It"
made Herbie Hancock relevant to a new generation , gave us Dj cats a new
sound to cut up , and im sure pushed Fab 5s single past the platinum
mark. To some that was all that D.ST. ever did , but it is my honor to
Your name was originally D.ST. , and you changed it to DXT ; how long ago was that , and why the change?
I changed it in 1989. D.ST. stood for D Street which is what we called Delancey St. where I used to hang out . People already called me D anyway because my name begins with D. I went through some changes , and the X just represented change , and that’s a real long story.
What year did you start Djing , and who influenced you , to make you say – this is what I wanna do?
I started spinning records in the early 70s maybe ’75. Im actually a drummer and I decided around ’75 that I wanted to spin rcords , and the person who influenced me was Kool Dj Herc.
What kind of set up , as far as equipment were you working with in ’75 ?
I didn’t have any equipment for quite some time. A lot of Djs never owned any equipment .My desire to spin started then , but I didn’t have accsess to equipment till like ’76. My desire to play music was even earlier than that , I was a musician since I was a little kid.
I always hear about Herc , Bam & Flash running their respective parts of the Bronx in the early days , where do you fit in at that time ?
Those 3 guys were the Premiere Hip Hop Djs on the planet , and each one of them had an attribute that we all were inspired by. Even though there were other Djs spinning at that time , those 3 were the most influential. I was at the shows , and I had friends who had Dj set ups and I did mostly house parties. Most cats that didn’t have equipment that they could play outside did house parties. In all fairness I was taking my notes from each one of them , and each one offered me a different aspect of the Hip Hop culture ; that I built on once I over and understood it.
I always ask Emcees & Djs who inspired them , and who the first person was that they heard/saw Emcee or Dj. It’s interesting that when I asked D.L.B from Fearless 4 who the first person was that he heard rhyme , he said you. He says that he had a cousin in Mt Vernon who had a tape of you Emceeing , and that you were the first cat that he heard go beyond the nursery style. He goes as far as to say that he uses his initials on the strength of what you did before him. Did you rhyme back in the day too?
Well im a B Boy so I did it all. He has told me that also , and I have heard him say it publicly. Im a Hip Hop head. A B Boy is a guy that is just into Hip Hop totally. I dance , rhyme & spin.
Was your first record deal with Celluloid for "Grandmixer Cuts It Up" ? And how did that come about?
Yes it was. I became Dj at the Roxy , and we started a no skate night on the weekend and it became an international affair. It became the place to be and all of the New York City actors & entertainers & A list of entertainment , this is where they went to hang out. I was the guy spinning and people approached from all over , and people approached from Paris and I had a few meetings with them , they were talking about a tour , and it included working with a record company. We went out on the road and did the first ever Hip Hop tour and when I came back I met this guy Jean Karakos and he offered me a record deal.
Who else was on this tour that you’re speaking of ?
We went to Paris , London with the first real tour of Hip Hop artists traveling. It was me , Rock Steady Crew , Afrika Bambaataa , Futura 2000 , Dondi , Fab 5 Freddy , Infinity 4 Emcees , Double Dutch Girls , Phase 2 . It was a pretty deep tour.
Infinity 4 Emcees is your crew right – Infinity Rappers? Tell me how you hooked up with them , not many people are familiar with Infinity. I think Rahiem of Furious 5 mentioned being affiliated at one time.
Rahiem was actually supposed to be part of the Infinity 4. Shahiem who was the main Emcee in Infinity hooked him up with Breakout , and that’s how he got down with Funky 4. I met all them in High School . I was already doin’ my thing with my lil’ crew – the Infinity Squad , and I was in and out of it ; because even then I didn’t have a system so I couldn’t put together a crew and do rehearsals and stuff. Me & Shahiem met in High school , and I already had Baby T & Baby Ace(females) as my Emcees. We had a crew called the Baby Herculords after Herc’s crew. It was Dj Rob , City Boy , Bingo Rock myself , Baby T & Baby Ace. I always had my Infinity concept , but no equipment yet. When I got my equipment I met Shahiem and he & I put together a group with 3 more Mcs and it went from there. Dj Rob is related to Dj Smokey , one of the original Hip Hop Djs. I was surprised , when I was going through Robs records a lot of them had Smokes name on them.
In states outside of New York we bought records back in the days based on what label it was on , what the previous group had released in the past and the record cover , if it had a picture on it. I remember being 12 years old and seeing the cover for your first single "D.ST Cuts It Up". You were on the front with some turntables in the background , and the song title added to that made me snatch it up with the quickness. I loved the record but how come theres no cutting ? Was it record label politics?
I never understood why they released that song that way. It was a mistake that they never corrected. There was a version with me cutting on it , and they screwed up at mastering. There was a version with cutting , and one without. It was so early that they didn’t
Even understand what a cut was. They had no idea and they screwed it up. I was in Paris and by the time I saw it , it was too late.
That seemed to be a very musical record for the time with synthesizers and the whole 9. Did you play all those instruments?
I played everything.
Ok how did you get selected to do cuts for "Rock It" with Herbie Hancock ?
The Roxy again. Roxy led me to Jean Karakos and he lead me to Bill Laswell (producer with Material). Bill lead me to Herbie Hancock. I became part of Material , and one of the first projects we did was me involved was Herbie’s record (Future Shock). We did quite a few , but that project proved to be very interesting. As history shows it did a lot of damage.
Was Herbie already aware of Hip Hop culture , how did he get around to seeing what it is that you do?
Bill brought him to the Roxy to show him what I do. They explained to him that they wanted to make a record displaying some of what I do.
Did Herbie have his nose up at first like it was too radical , or was he with it from the start?
It appeared that he was with it from the start. I didn’t actually meet Herbie until after I did it. We did everything in Brooklyn , then we added Herbie.
I thought it was fly how you cut up Fab 5s record for that. You were the first one that I ever heard cut that up.
Yes , I also helped produced that record as part of Material. We did all of the Celluloid catalog except for "Escapades Of Futura 2000" , The Clash did that one.
For the first mega mix you used a lot from the Future Shock Lp. Was this a label thing?
It was for Herbie , and we wanted to promote the Lp and do a mega mix of the Lp and use some classic stuff ,and we came up with the concept for a mega mix which was another first. I just sat there and started spinning , and figuring what goes well with what. That’s how it came out , it was very organic ; I just went with it.
I was watching the live concert of you with the Rock It band recently , and it seems like they gave you equal time onstage to do your thing. It wasn’t like "ok when Rock It comes on do your thing then leave". You actually cut on some songs that originally didn’t have cuts , and you did "Crazy Cuts" and some mixing as well. Did the band pretty much treat you as an equal ?
Yeah , for a few reasons – one being im one of the guys who wrote the songs.Also I wasn’t Djing I was PLAYING the turntable. When they first heard that they were like what the hell is he talkin’ about , then once they saw what I did they respected it , because they saw that my approach was totally from a musical foundation. Not just being a Dj , ‘cus I never played a record on stage. I played the turntable , or as I called it the "turn fiddle" . That was my concept from day one , once I started doin’ those sounds. I created them thinking about Ella Fitzgerald – scats . So it’s the "turn fiddle".
The 2nd Mega Mix "Why Is It Fresh" seemed to be more from the Celluloid catalog – Shango , TimeZone etc.
I wanted to do something with that catalog and I took the same approach and I got Herbie to come in and say some stuff that I could use , and got Infinity 4 to come in ,and we had a party. It’s unfortunate that videos weren’t around too much back then because people only heard me do Rock It. But there are so many more sounds and approaches that I used. But that’s what hit records do , they stigmatize artists.
What are you 3 favorite break beats of all time?
Ummm Apache,……Yellow Sunshine….I have too many I don’t have 3.
(Laughs)…well just name some of your faves.
Scorpio , Son Of Scorpio …..it’s too many…it’s endless…we would be here all day !!!
How do you feel about the breakbeat compilations that were released in the mid 80s. Do you think they hurt the Dj culture?
In all honesty man it was the worst thing that could happen to the Hip Hop Dj. The quest for beats was no longer a quest. This quest played a major role in the development of the culture and the peeson acquiring knowledge of music. You had to acquire knowledge to find these artists & musicians , which percussion players played funkier beats than others , through research you discovered these things. The breakbeat records eliminated that whole process. Also , it was a rites of passage thing , by finding records and contributing to what I consider the sacred crates of Hip Hop. Now you no longer had to do that , and anybody could appear to be a Hip Hop Dj without doing any research , or contributing any records to those crates. So there is a sacred inner circle of Hip Hop Djs and all of them have contributed something to the sacred crates and those are the real Hip Hop Djs.It’s incredible that a small group of people have changed the whole planet !! I try to talk to some of these brothers , because they are bitter. I try to tell them how powerful they are. When I wake up on my worst days , I know that I can cut on the tv and see something that I created , right before my mother told me to take out the garbage. There is no amount of money you can offer me to replace what I recognize my impact on culture today. I would not trade it for any amount of money. That’s a lifetime.
What’s up with the Mean Machine record with the Last Poets , how did that materialize?
I brought the Last Poets to Celluloids’ attention. Hustlers Convention was a classic Hip Hop record. Im a fan of Jalal who is Lightin’ Rod (artist who recorded Hustlers Convention). I convinced him to let me do one of his pieces over , and have him do it with me and he said lets do it. Im an honorary member of the Last Poets which is a great thing.
I noticed that you were at the very end of Wild Style.
Yeah , I was tryin’ not to be. And I told them not to film me ‘cus I just wasn’t interested. Even Beat Street , I don’t know if you realize , but if you study the character , the whole Roxy scene , that was me. His out fits , his apartment the whole shit. If you look at the original poster it’s a sillouette of the "Cuts It Up" album cover. I read for the character and everything , but I was touring and didn’t wanna do it. I told Charlie Ahearn to film only my hands , and that’s how it turned out. I haven’t even seen Wild Style. Only a few clips , but never the whole movie.
What year did you get your first 1200s , I noticed in Steven Hagers book (Hip Hop : The Illustrated Guide…) that you didn’t have 1200s.
Those were SL 210s. The original Hip Hop Dj turntables out side of the 1100A’s. Only Kool Herc had the 1100A’s. I got my first 1200s during the Roxy era.
What made you make a record about The Bronx in 1985. Especially proclaiming that Hip Hop started there. You beat Just – Ice & KRS by a few years.
We saw it moving in a direction that was not showing respect to the origins of the information. It was like people were no longer paying homage to the ones that gave them culture. I find that very strange , then again I don’t because we have been here before with Rock , Jazz , Blues & even Classical , but history – the way it’s comin’ to us we don’t realize these things. I see it happening once again with Hip Hop. It’s a very dangerous thing when you give culture to the world and the world doesn’t respect the people who give culture to the world ! It’s apparent to me that those who steal & plagerize culture will never stop , so that’s why we made that song.
Of your releases on Celluloid excluding anything with Herbie , what was your highest selling release?
That I will never know because of how that label operated. I cant tell you right now , but I plan to find out soon. I was young and they set out to rip me off from the start , but probably "Crazy Cuts" is my highest selling – probably close to platinum now. I had to take really drastic measures to get my royalties and monies from them.
Lastly im gonna name some Djs & I want you to rate them on a scale of 1 – 10 10 being highest.
GM Flash – 8
Bambaataa – 8
Cash Money – 8
Jazzy Jeff – 9
Jam Master J – 5
Jazzy Jay – 9
Davy DMX ( only on the wheels , no guitar or instruments) – 4
Dj AJ – 5
Mix Master Ice – 6
Qbert – 5…because im rating overall…Qbert can tear sh*t up , but put him in a club & its over.
Theodore – 9
DJ Cheese – 7
Red Alert – 7
X- Ecutioners – 7 a piece
Scratchpicklz – 7
Is there anyone that I didn’t name that you think is nice ?
Ask me about Grandmixer DXT !
Aight DXT ?
9 , ‘cus no one is perfect !
As told to JayQuan 1/11/04
©2004 JayQuan Dot Com