FILIPINO DJS OF THE BAY AREA
[Why Are They So Successful?]
By Dave 'Davey D' Cook
portions of this article first appeared in Rap Dot Com Magazine in July '94.
reprinted and re-edited in October '95
Back in 1993 during the New Music Seminar's DJ Battle For World Supremacy, a packed house erupted as Ceaser Aldea wrecked shop and shocked the hip hop world by taking the championship title and belt. Aldea, whose dj name is 8 Ball delivered his crushing blow during the final rounds when he went up against Mr Sinister and through some adroit scratching he skillfully manipulated a recorded tone to sound like the now famous introductary riff to 'Dr Dre's 'Nuthin' But A G Thang'. 8 Ball's move made the crowd go wild and when all was said and done he left those of us who observe hip hop from a journalistic standpoint with lots of questions. Its been a full year a many stellar performances later that 8 Ball, who happens to be a judge for this year's NMS DJ Battle, dropped the 4-1-1 on himself.
For starters, 8 Ball explained that he's been committed to mastering the art of turntable trickery for the past 3-4 years. His main influences were not the masterful djs of past who hailed from the East..ie Cash Money, Tad Money, Jazzy Jeff etc. Instead 8 Ball was influenced by DJ Q-Bert another SF Bay Area native who has one the dj world championships on a couple of occassions. ≥There are some people try to label me a 'Q-biter', but thats never been the case' he explained. 8 Ball broke it down by noting that Q-Bert has laid down certain foundations that him and many others have built upon. A good example is 8 ball's manipulation of the pitch control to have a tone sound like 'Nuthin' But A G Thang'.... The first time I heard anyone make a song out of record was Q-Bert when he played 'Mary Had A Little Lamb'. I wanted to take it a step further≤. Nowadays 8 Ball is working on keeping 'real hip hop' by trying to manipulate tones to sound like classic hip hop joints.
8 Ball's current success has put him the company of not only his fellow San Fransican natives, DJ Q-Bert and Mixmaster Mike, but the fact that he his Filipino has left many a folks wondering how and why this ethnic group has emerged to become a dominant force in the once predominant African American world of hip hop djs. For folks who aren't familiar with the make up of Northern Cali, they must bear in mind that back around '84-'88 hip hop was starting to grow in the Bay Area. Many of the brothers gravitated toward the rap and production end of things. Most were following the economic success of Too Short, who was at that time the Bay Area's premier rapper. At the same time within the very large Bay Area Filipino community [the largest outside of Manila], the djaying scene was booming. There were more than a few Filipino young men who came together, pooled their money and purchased the best equipment that money could buy. In addition, they spent hours honing their skills as mix masters.. During that time the music of choice was the then dominant frestyle and Latino uptempo dance music..ie Nocera , Nancy Martinez, Cover Girls etc.. And while hip hop wasn't the mainstay, the attitude these djs had was definitely similar to the one that hip hoppers had back in its early days.. Djaying for the Bay Area Filipinos was not spurned on because of its money making potential, although lots of money could be made but instead was driven by a desire to receive 'props' and have bragging rights... 'Who could get the newest jams first?' 'Who had the best sound system?' Who had the fanciest lights?' etc.. This type of attitude sounds remarkably similar to the ones held by early hip hop brethren..
Back in the mid 80s there were huge almost legendary DJ Showcases that featured sometimes up to 15 dj groups were attended and dominated by Filipinos...Promoters like AA and Imagine immediately come to mind.. Clubs like City Nights and Club Mirage were the hot spots...DJ groups like Unlimited Sounds, Style Beyond Compare, Dynamic Sounds, Ultimate Creations, and Ladda Sounds were among those who ran the Filipino dj scene.. Folks who were around during the early days of NY's hip hop back in the late 70s may recall the colorful and comic book like flyers that told of upcoming dances and sported the names of all the big rap groups...ie Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, Cold Crush Brothers etc..Well here in Northern Cali there were similar flyers that circulated around the high schools.. It was real bizarre sitting in 8 Ball's room and looking at the old AA flyers he had collected throughout the years..Interestingly enough 8 Ball had never attended one of these huge functions...A little too young I guess, but nevertheless a product of what once was a dominant and vibrant scene...
It wouldn't be too far fetched to state that Bay Area Filipinos locked down the dj aspect of hip hop in these parts. This is not to say that there weren't other players...Digital Underground's DJ Fuze was hitting, CJ Flash, LA Sounds, DJ G, Prince Ice, JCutt were other groundbreakers..And no one can forget the grandfathers of them all Dr K of the Palladium which was the Bay Area's premier hip hop night club and Cameron Paul of Studio West and later Club 412, which were the Bay Area's premier dance club spots. However it was among the Filipino clique djaying was taking to another level because of the showcases. Many of the djs in attempt to get ahead and seperate themselves from the rest of the pack...would incorporate aspects of hip hop turntable trickery into their repitoire...Hence back in '87, '88 there were a whole lot of Filipino djs perfecting the art of transforming and the LA fast scratch...8-Ball explained that Bay Area djs weren't exposed to a whole lot of east coast styles, hence they were left to develop their own styles..He attributes this lack of 'guidance' as the reason he has been successful...'When folks like Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike or myself brought our styles back east, it was something new that they hadn't seen before'. Hence folks were suprised and awestruck by djs like 8-Ball...As hip hop continues to emerge, folks may want to keep a close ey out for the 8-Balls of the Bay Area...while he is talented and will undoubtly continue to improve and perfect his skills, there's a few others in the wings waiting to drop bombs.. Among them as 8 Ball pointed out are DJ Kut Throat who was two years ago the reigning Bay Area dj champ, DJ Disc and Apollo who rolls with Q-Bert and Mixmaster Mike as one of the Shadow DJs.
Go Back to Davey D's Hip Hop Corner