Published in the Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight
Since 1996, DJ Kamikaze, aka Eric Pugh, has been a local player in various Hip-Hop scenes. He moved to Miami for a few years but came back when his life began spinning out of control. “When I was in Miami I was thugging. I was selling weed and shit. I was hustling trying to get money any way I could. That was when I was modeling, I was trying to get on the scene there. I was only 19,” said Kamikaze, now 27. He woke up after looking down the barrel of a loaded gun.
“I was being robbed and I was going to pull my trigger, but he already had his gun pulled on me. I thought I was going to lose my life. That made me quit selling.” At that point, Kamikaze’s brother, Logic One, stepped in to intervene. “I was out of control and he let me know I had to change or I would die. I had a messed up attitude back then. It was the Master P days and I thought I was ‘bout it.’”
Kamikaze’s older brother felt his scratching was out of control, like his life, at that point, and that’s where Eric Pugh got his stage name, Kamikaze. “My brother told me to channel all that attitude into my DJ-ing.” When Kamikaze returned from Miami, he got his own turntables and started amassing vinyl. “I pictured all the DJs I saw in Miami. I once saw DJ Kraze before he blew up as the big turntablist he is. He was at this club DJ-ing, he mostly was playing jungle and house, but he started scratching and it freaked me out. He was like the first person I saw doing advanced scratching live, and I had no idea that the technology had advanced to that point to allow us to do that with turntables. That inspired me.” Kamikaze worked to perfect his craft for two years before fate stepped in.
“This guy walks into the job I was working at in Minneapolis one day and he is wearing this DMC jacket and he had Techniques. I had been watching DMC video because I love the DJ battling and the advanced scratching. And I love to scratch—that is my thing—but at the same time I love to rock a party and mix and beat juggle. Well, the dude I ran into was the legendary IXL.”IXL became one of the most influential DJs in Kamikaze’s life.
“King IXL kinda mentored me. I got to give him credit for that. I thank him because he showed me the ropes. He came through and blew me away. He came to my crib and did all of his shit and I was so overwhelmed by his talent, it inspired me to work really hard to get to that level. DJ Abliities (Rhymesayers) was also someone I admired. He was always up at Fifth Element.”
The harder Kamikaze worked to perfect his craft, the more doors opened for him. “God has favored me so I have to respect it. I don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate life for what it is and I watch the signs. That is my motto. God puts signs into place for us to follow. If you see those signs and you read them correctly it is to help guide you through life. If you do good and follow those signs you will get your rewards, but you have to play the cards right. If you believe in God and stay positive, it is going to happen.”
Kamikaze successfully channeled all of his negative energy into his DJ-ing. He stopped running around with his friends “doing dirt,” and DJ-ing took over his life.
“After I started getting good I ran into some friends who were rappers. We would have freestyle sessions all the time and that started Wolf Pack One. We did shows all around the Twin Cities for two or three years. We opened for Trick Daddy, Trina, 112, Rob Base. After two years Wolf Pack One broke up and I hooked up with The C.O.R.E. because I also liked spoken word. That is when I met Toki Wright, and the next thing I knew they wanted me to DJ their parties. Then Chaka (I Self Devine) hooked me up with Beyond (Musab).”
Before he knew it, his career was in overdrive. “I started performing with Musab, I DJ-ed in Minneapolis for about five years total. I had done shows with Wolf Pack and after I met King IXL I started learning stuff with him and going to more local Hip-Hop shows.
I saw other DJs, DJ Stage One had an influence on me. I was in the GBA (Ghetto Basketball Association) and Stage One was the DJ.”
Kamikaze and Musab’s relationship grew due to their shared love for music. “Musab would come through, and the way we clicked was perfect. We vibed off each other perfect. He would come to my crib and we would go digging through all my records and he would pull shit—anything—even experimental stuff like my old jazz records. We just started experimenting in my basement. That was the first time I worked with an artist and we dissected music and put together a set with records. He utilized me better than any artist I have ever worked with.”Kamikaze and Musab started doing a lot of shows together.
“He would get me ready for these shows and I would have 10 to 15 record sets for him. Along with his music, we would mix it all together into 30-minute sets. He would let me shine at certain times and our vibe started clicking. Then we went on the God Loves Ugly Tour. After the tour was over, Stress calls Musab and says ‘do you want to open for Ludacris in Milwaukee?’ That was one of the best shows ever, and then I found out we were opening for 50 Cent immediately following that. This was right before he dropped Get Rich or Die Tryin.”
After opening for 50 Cent, Kamikaze’s distaste for Minneapolis reached a boiling point. “My brother graduated from art school and moved to New York. The house that we were living in started to get tough for me to live in alone. Everyone wanted to move in with me. But I was not trying to live with anyone, I was actually getting sick of Minneapolis.”
I asked Kamikaze earlier to comment on the local scene—he refused. As the interview went on, however, he began to nestle deeper into the lazy boy recliner and open up more, recollecting intricate details of his life. I sensed Kamikaze was getting ready to change his mind about not commenting on the Minneapolis Hip-Hop scene.
“You know, I got a lot of respect for the Hip-Hop scene here, but there’s something missing. I don’t know what it is and maybe it’s going to take a rapper to put Minneapolis on the map and that might change the way everybody is, but there is something that is limiting Minneapolis from blowing up. Almost every other city in the country has no respect for Twin Cities Hip-Hop.” Kamikaze clarified that he separates the commercial scene from the underground scene.
“The underground scene [nationwide] respects the Twin Cities because of Rhymesayers. Detroit didn’t get a lot of respect [on the national commercial rap scene] and it took someone like Eminem to put Detroit on the map. I bet that changed the whole city. I think that is what needs to happen for Minneapolis.”
Kamikaze went on to say that he knows many talented emcees in Minneapolis, “but no one has the real drive and determination to be the next best thing.”
While his DJ name now contradicts his now mature demeanor his tone readily turns reflective. We talked for a long time about Minneapolis Hip-Hop. Then he took the conversation a few levels deeper. “I feel like I’m right in the middle of rap versus Hip-Hop. Rap is mainstream Hip-Hop, which, as a DJ, I like a lot of rap because it bumps the club. I feel like I am a really good club DJ and I want to take those elements and put them into my arsenal. There’s a lot of different music I feel, from get crunk stuff to reggae to more up tempo music. When it comes to Hip-Hop, that’s when my turntablism comes into play. I got love for Hip-Hop too, and that’s where my scratching and beat juggling and turntablist techniques come into play. I’m right in the middle of both. There are a lot of DJs who are only one way, they are all about Hip-Hop and they are anti-mainstream. There are a lot of club DJs who can barely scratch and can’t mix and all they do is play the mainstream music over and over again.”
Kamikaze, who brags about being the very first customer through the door when Fifth Element opened, did eventually move to Los Angeles, and that was when his professional music life really started falling together. It seems there’s a small community of Twin Cities Hip-Hop transplants living in LA and Kamikaze found his niche there.
“I am friends with the Abstract Pack, and two of its members formed The Braille Method out in LA.” Having connections already in place in LA made life easier for Kamikaze. His luck got even better when a Scratch Academy, like the one in New York (founded by the late and great Jam Master Jay. R.I.P.) opened in Los Angeles. “I am an assistant at the Scratch Academy in Los Angeles,” proudly dotes Kamikaze. On Sundays Kamikaze got a DJ gig spinning Hip-Hop instrumentals for a church that belongs to Grammy Award winning Gospel producer Kirk Franklin.
Kamikaze didn’t realize the church was so special until Franklin himself walked up to Kamikaze on his first day of work. By being in his presence and hearing how he told his story, I can tell the storm that originally gave Kamikaze his name had passed. Kamikaze works closely with local Hip-Hop fashion label, Underground Music and Fashion, and you can find everything you’d like to know about Kamikaze at UMandF.com or by visiting djKamikaze.com .