Interview: DJ BK-One

DJ BK-One (Minneapolis)
(Brother Ali's DJ)
By Kandis Knight

Where It all Started.

I’m from Milwaukee, but Minneapolis is home now. There’s something welcoming about this place. The people who have made the biggest impact on my life have been from here. I blossomed here. I fell in love here, I started DJing here I got associated with Rhymesayers here.

Minneapolis is definitely home. I’ve lived here since 1996. I’ve been collecting records for like thirteen years now. I’m counting how I used to go through my mom’s old Stevie Wonder records and stuff. I got my first set of turntables in 1996. I never really wanted to be a DJ, I’m not going to lie, it was always just about collecting good music for me. [Reknowned local rapper Brother] Ali and I were really good friends back then.

I was running the Beat Box on Radio K and that’s where we met. We began sneaking into Radio K late at night on weekends and making little bootleg songs. Aaron Money was one of my radio partners back then, he gets more credit because he really put in the shitty grunt work. I was new to producing and engineering and Ali was new to recording and rapping so we sucked but we became good friends, so when he was looking for a new DJ it just made sense.

When he started getting on stage and getting better I was like, “Oh my god I got to practice,” so being with him really made me step up. DJ Versus Turntablist? The difference between a DJ and a turntablist is that a DJ’s job is to rock the fucking party. It’s their job to know how to build an evening, how to bring everyone’s emotions up and down. A DJ focuses on making people enjoy music, by taking good music and putting it into context.

A DJ looks at turntables as a tool and a turntablist looks at turntables as instruments. A turntablist manipulates vinyl and needles and the 45, 33 buttons and the pitch adaptors in the way that a guitarist fucks with the strings or a pianist plays with keys. I have nothing but the highest respect for what people like Abilities are doing and are about to do. He’s going to blow people away, he’s on some Jimi Hendrix of the turntables type shit.

I think turntablism is going in an interesting direction.

On Touring

Every tour has been completely different and it takes a week or so to get into the tour groove and understand what it’s all about. The first tour I went on was with Atmosphere, Murs, Blueprint and Ali. That was my favorite tour, it was magic.

Blueprint and Murs were the comedy team. Slug and Jaybird were professional and paternal and Ali and I were like little kids. That tour was two and a half months but I think even on the last day Ali and I still had that look in our eyes like “Oh my God we’re on tour!” We played 70 shows on that tour and all but two were sold out, it was unbelievable. Our last tour was with Brand Nubian and that was really an honor.

We tapped into a different audience. Their audience is less white, less young, less suburban and less male. Which was refreshing. Not that there’s anything wrong with young white males from the suburbs. But it’s good to see a little diversity sometimes. It can be frustrating playing Hip-Hop and not seeing the core audience of what Hip-Hop was built on.

What’s really frustrating is that at some of the Brand Nubian shows, not all of them, but I really got the feeling that more people were there to see Ali and I. I think that’s fucking ridiculous. I’m not trying to put us down but [Brand Nubian] are like legends. A couple days into the tour Ali starting giving a speech to all these young white kids. He was like “Look I’m not mad at you if you don’t know who Brand Nubian are, but understand if you put Brand Nubian in a room with Sage Francis, Aesop Rock, Slug or any of ‘your’ Hip-Hop heroes they would pee themselves!

So pay fucking attention, these are your heroes, heroes.”It’s such an honor and such a blessing to be doing what I’m doing. Touring can be hard but I don’t have to work a nine to five, I’m paying my rent doing what I love. Hopefully I’m traveling to Sweden, Europe and Australia this year. I’ve been to every state in the country, I have close friends in Canada.

I can’t complain about my life. There are people who are just as talented as I am who are stuck washing dishes in Toledo. DJing feels like more of a job now but I never take it for granted.

On Producing

Ant is an amazing and completely underrated producer. The word producer we only associate with the person who makes the beat but Ant does so much more. If you look at the spectrum of who he has created music for and how diverse it is and how well it fits with what each artist is doing you get an understanding of who he really is.

Listen to an Atmosphere CD, then listen to a Brother Ali CD, then listen to a Musab CD then listen to the album I Self is about to drop and tell me [Ant] is not a fucking amazing producer.That dude knows how to bring out the best in people and he gives people the beats that cater best to the direction the artists should go in. [Ant] has a vision for the artists and he’s not afraid to demand it from them. These dudes who make a beat CD and shop it around and are like “$400 a beat,” those are beat men, not producers.

Ant is a producer and when you make an album with him, it’s a collaborative effort. He and Ali have something really special.When and if Ali and I work on something together it will definitely be a collaborative effort. I have the equipment to make beats and will do it soon. We’ve talked about working on something. We’ll probably do it just like the way we put our sets together. It’s a real joint effort. We build off of each other. Ali is also a good beat maker. With our ideas combined we’ll make something pretty good some day.

Future Projects

I’m working on a mix CD right now called Set In Motion to be released in December. It’s a mix CD with an identity crisis. There’s a lot of original music on it. It has been a labor of love, I’ve been working on it for a long time, like a year. I keep complaining to Ant about how long it’s taking. Ant is like my mix CD hero. Nobody makes better mix CDs than him. Ant is like “Brendan, every mix CD I have put out has been like five years in the making.”

So that makes me feel better. Basically, I’m trying to incorporate everything that I love about music into the album. I’m trying to tell a story through it, sort of an abstract story. I’m trying to do things that have never been done on a mix CD before, for better or for worse. I can’t guarantee that everyone is going to like it but I can guarantee that everyone who has listened to mix CDs before will agree that there’s shit going on with this one that hasn’t happened before. I feel like it’s diverse enough that everyone will find something they like.

It’s half Hip-Hop and the other half is a mixture of afro beat, bee bop, afro cuban, and funk. There’s a song on there that I produced and arranged featuring some extremely talented jazz musicians from around town called The Disruption Ensemble. Everyone will know them soon. Brother Ali, Ant, Slug, I Self Devine, MF Doom, Aesop Rock, and Eyedea are also featured on it.Upcoming PlansWe’re not doing anything big until spring. We’re going to do a Midwest tour in October and we’re going to do some shows promoting MF Doom, they have a new album coming out on Rhymesayers. Then I’m going to Brazil with my girlfriend, Julie.

Set In Motion will be in stores in December, in the mean time visit for more Brother Ali and BK-One shows and updates.