Harlem-Based DJ Boogie Blind has made a name globally as a turnablist over the last decade for his advanced skill at blending house, drum & bass, hip-hop, funk and dub step into party-perfect mixes. He keeps his skills sharp by deejaying year round for Coachella, SXSW, Redbull, and MTV as well as touring as the resident DJ for Pharoahe Monch and Lord Finesse. But before all that, he was a fan. Music was inbred in him since a young age under the influence of his Deejay uncle. From his family he received a vast appreciation for many genres including house and pop. And while he questioned his uncle’s street cred at the time for playing anything other than Hip-Hop in the late 80’s, it has undoubtedly helped shape him as one of the most diverse DJs in the circuit. That and a chance meeting of Roc Raida and the rest as they say is history. On the heels of the 2011 Annual Roc Raida Tribute at Brooklyn Bowl I caught up with DJ Boogie Blind to learn more about his early days. Check out what he had to say on how Roc Raida changed his career, what he learned from the X-Ecutioners and how to stay relevant in the game without a web presence.
Roc Raida (RIP) played an important role in helping your career as a DJ. Can you talk about that and the relationship you guys had?
When I met Raida it was more so a little brother situation. I was already djing at an early age because I grew up doing that inside my household. Then Raida moved into my neighborhood. When I met Raida I had just come home from school [college], both my grandparents had just passed and I was working two dead end jobs. I started re-establishing my interest in djing because it was something that had escaped from the world sort of speak. We didn’t have the internet yet, like ‘97/98. At that time Raida and them were on their second record deal. I’m still doing parties and such but I never really had my own decks. But I always bought records. Long story short, I bought some 1200s off of Raida and I really started getting interested in the turntablist style of DJing. And it was all because Raida was taking me places and opening my eyes to a whole other world. It was more so him being a mentor to me and an older brother.
What did you learn from Raida?
Raida introduced me to the business. He made me look at everything from a business standpoint. It’s cool to be sociable and be cool with people but at the end of the day it’s still business.
How did you get down with legendary The X-Ecutioners? What does it mean to be down with a crew like that?
I started competing in the DMC battles in like 98/99. I didn’t even place in my first four battles. Then I finally placed in the DMCs, I got into the top 10. That’s when I met an off spring of the The X-Ecutioners from the Queens side, which was Total Eclipse and Rob Swift and Mista Sinista and DJ Precision. He had a friend of his named Bernard and the name of our turntablist crew was the Low Lives. All this is tied into Raida because I bought the decks off of him and really started going hard with scratching and beat juggling at that point. I met up with Confucius and Precision and we would practice with guys that are really established. That was the thing, Raida and those guys were already in business. At this time they had just got signed to Loud Records. So now, not only am I practicing with DJs that are better than me, I am practicing with DJs that I have to compete against at the same time. It was that level of practice and dedication that got me to where I am today.
So you won the 2001 Vestax battle and then what happened?
I won the Vestax DJ World Championship Battle in 2001 and Raida asked me what I wanted to do – did I want to keep battling or come with them. So I chose them. And the first five or six years I was just in the background, I was just a liaison within the crew. I would be a soundman one day , road manager the next, DJ another. At the same time I was able to make different connections , Phaoroahe Monch being one of them. I have been Deejaying for him for a long time now. Through the course of Deejaying for Phaorahe I’ve done shows with Jim Jones, I’ve done stuff for Jean Grae, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, Lord Finesse, Large Professor, the list goes on and on.
What have you learned from The X-Ecutioners?
Being down with them was kind of like a fraternity. It started with a whole array of things and a lot of different people. At that time I was still Raida’s friend and I was very young. Back then when they would come around and practice – this is when Fat Man Scoop was rapping and Raida was djing for him – they would bring us all around. It was a business, they all had obligations to fulfill. No one just hung out and smoked weed and hollered at girls. You had to have something to offer. So, from them I learned you still got to be hungry, you still got to be on point, you can’t eff around with it. Also, I learned that practice was key. You would practice all year round for that one day at DMC. I did a lot in a short period of time because of The X-Ecutioners.
How do you stay afloat in such a saturated market now where even celebrities can claim they are DJs?
Deejaying has always been a part of my life, but now it’s about expressing I know different types of music. There are so many DJs out now so you have to figure out how you are going to be different from everybody else. And for the people that have been doing this for a while, you have to maintain a certain demand – even if it’s just to spin 45’s, at least you are in demand for that. If it’s to spin house music, you in demand, or spin dub step, you in demand. But if you can do all stuff together and have a good branding behind you, it’s wonderful because you get to do different themes of music and interact with so many different people. That’s what I am trying to accomplish, as well as expanding into production. For example, when I was at Halftime [Show] I played the “Casebasket” joint I did for Jean Grae just to let people know I am not just DJing, I do production as well. But this is a good question, how do I stay relevant in a saturated market because I do not have a website or even a blog. I just have a lot of good relationships.
You were spinning at Halftime Show recently, and I heard a lot of different influences in your music. How can you best put your sound and your style in words?
I would say I always like to sound clean. It doesn’t matter if I can pull the scratch off or if I backspin or juggle or whatever it is – I just want to be clean and make sure there’s a transition and there’s a flow. It’s kind of like a sequence, like you are making a beat. I don’t just try to slam records together and talk on the mic – I can do that too but at the end of the day it just sounds better if you don’t.
How do you feel about the current state of the DJ, how technology is a double edged sword?
You can go to a spot these days and tell if somebody just got $2000 available and they jacked somebody’s hard drive and this is how it sounds. You can hear when someone doesn’t know what they are doing. In the era of Serato and Tractor and so on, the computer can’t DJ for you. And you hear when someone can’t DJ. Whether you have Midi controllers or not, there’s still a certain level of creativity that goes into it. But I’ve also seen people do amazing things with midi controllers and foot petals and all that kind of stuff. There is so much you can do but be creative. At the end of the day, you just get in where you fit in and don’t really worry about what other people are doing.
What’s the next phase for the DJ?
The next phase is just to become more business minded. We are in an age now where you have to brand yourself. No one cares if you are technical, no one cares if you are actually good. It’s all about branding. It’s not even about being a DJ, if you have a personality that helps even more and then you have a business mind or strategies – that’s the way to go. Like I said, I don’t know how I’ve been getting along without a website or blog but that’s the next thing I am working on.
Fave digging moment?
I would have to say most recently I went digging with Nu-Mark [DJ Nu-Mark] and he was like yo man, they got Rob Base It Takes Two the original cut over there for like a buck. So, I was like ok I’ll get it. It was the original pressing – the copy you can spin back and cut forever, not the reissue. Another moment I just thought of happened recently with my man Indo. I caught a copy of Drop the Science on 45 which is really dope.
I know you DJ for Pharoahe Monch, what else are you doing these days?
I am heading to Utah November 11. I got the Pharoahe Monch European Carhartt War Mix Tape on soundcloud. I have the Pharoahe Monch and Clinton Sparks Mix Tape out [The Awakening]. I also did something for my home girl Ms. Cherokee out of London, be on the lookout for that. There’s always some type of movement. Otherwise I’m working on more production. I’m also working on some border issues with Canada so I can tour there. I have never been on tour in Canada so that’s next on my list in the New Year.
Where can people find you online?
You can get at me for bookings at email@example.com. Also you can hit Sandra@premierartist group.com and firstname.lastname@example.org for serious inquiries. You can get at me personally on facebook.com/boogieblind and Twitter: @boogieblind.