DJ Stage One (Minneapolis)
By Kandis Knight
As told by the legendary Dj himself.
When I was in Junior High I moved to Minneapolis from Dayton, Ohio. I’ve been back to Ohio, but basically I’ve been living here, Northside! I was first inspired to DJ because my mom and dad had this huge record collection back in the ’70s that I inherited. I grew up listening to everything—funk, jazz, rock—everything.
One day I was watching Beat Street on the late night tip. I was heavy into graffiti at the time (my tag name was Stage One) and I saw my man playing some records and all that so I was like, I could do that. Back in the day everyone had turntables in the house you know? I started grabbing old stuff and putting it together. I did it for the neighborhood back then and it blossomed into gigs.
I was in the clubs DJing when I was 18 even though you were supposed to be 21.A lot of things that have helped me nurture Hip-Hop here although it was hard to obtain certain things. Coming up I remember it being hard. Like you want to see certain Hip-Hop concerts but they wouldn't come here, so all you had was the record. Sometimes you'd have records that didn't have covers so you had to imagine it. It’s hard here for Hip-Hop artists in Minnesota.
Living out here in Minnesota we had to build our own set of standards and rules. I’m proud of the fact that Hip-Hop here started from nothing and now it’s a big thing. We didn't have videos and there was nothing to derive the culture from. It had to be built from scratch, like any other middle America city in the early ’80s.
Back in 1984, the one thing we had was the Hip-Hop Shop with Travitron, Freddie Fresh and DJ Dev Tronic on KMOJ and I got tapes from New York. I'd listen to tapes from radio shows like WBLS and 98.7 KISS with DJ Red Alert and Chuck Chillout. I did some work on the radio with Smoke and Delite and we had a show called “Strictly Butter” on KFAI back in 1995-1998 or something like that.
Those were formative years because a lot of artists were coming through at a time when the underground scene we now know was just starting to come about. The Rhymesayers were just getting started, they were called the Headshots, and they would come through and get on, Common Sense came through, Def Squad came through, a lot of artists came through. I feel I helped the local Hip-Hop scene.Some of the old school crews I miss, IRM, Truth Maze aka B Fresh, Kel-C, Curt, TLC, I miss all my old grafitti crews, Wild Style Crew, EB, Viper, the Juxtaposition Crew, I miss all of the crews even the ones we didn't get along with because there isn't a Hip-Hop machine like that anymore.
Now it’s a little more Millennium-driven as far as the technology. People are making an album in a day with Protools and people don't need to do graffiti when they can do art on their computers. I miss the old state of mind but I’m not trying to go back. It was more pure and raw because it was harder to get information, now we got the internet and things are easier. I don't want to sound like I’m a purest because I’m not. I’m for change and all of that but you have to admit that the whole way Hip-Hop is perceived now is different than what it was then. Look at fashion, fashion is driving it now it seems.
You don't even got to like Hip-Hop music but you can dress like a b-boy or b-girl. You know instant Hip-Hop, just add water or add the video. All you got to do is watch one video and you got a little game. The other thing that has changed is the fact that the DJ does not get represented in the new era. We got to do it ourselves and we got to be a soloist. Like CB4 when they broke up and it was just a dude by himself, it's corny. It's cool in a sense, it’s just that rap music and DJing are spreading thin between themselves right now versus the ’80s style when it was Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and Cash Money and Marvelous.
I got love for everybody here because they show me love. I deal with a lot of record labels, I get records and I’m trying to break records here, locally. The community wants to hear the music but there are not many DJs here supplying what they should be supplying. You hear people saying things like, “I got the new DJ Clue mix tape” or, “I got the new Sickamore” but they don't got the new Micheal Mack, or Disco T, Stage One, or Brother Jules. We are not really nurturing our own homegrown talent as far as the DJing thing.
I’m trying my best to expose people to as much new music as possible instead of only playing the top 40 hits that the radio is playing. I try to be an ambassador to the game when I play music. I try to let labels know that there is a community out here. They know about Atmosphere but they don't know about the others or that there is a fan base for their music. Like Saturday there was a show for an artist named Approach.
I was hip to him months ago, his label sent me the CD and the wax. So I just figured that the underground community knew about him, but no one came. We need to promote a little more and stretch our arms out and network to people in other cities and let people know that we have a community here that would like to hear your music. Something that does bother me is the fact that a lot of record stores are prejudiced against Hip-Hop.
They will stop selling records, or move the records around their stores, or they hire employees who do not know about the music so they are ordering hundreds of Lil' John CDs that never fly off the shelves and then they want to stop selling Hip-Hop all together. We need to strengthen this whole community and everyone needs to do a little more research.I feel like my career is growing, I‘m getting a little busier and making a little more money. It never started out being about the money, but one day someone handed me some money after a gig and then I was just like "I got to get that." It’s nice, I can make money doing what I love.
Being a DJ in Minneapolis is interesting. It’s always something new, it’s never the same atmosphere and that’s what’s fun about it. It’s a challenge every time, going through the crates getting ready for a show. I don't just have a set crate, I can't do a crate and leave it here and come back next Saturday and use the same crate. I’m always in a different mood and it’s fun to go off of who is going to be at a show performing. I'll build my crate off an artist’s character or the type of crowd they draw. I'll just start building. I may bring James Brown one night, then Portishead, sometimes rock, alternative, whatever. I like playing off people's emotions in a club. Sometimes they dance, sometimes they lounge. I can still put people into a state of mind.
Compared to a big city where they want the music now, they want to hear their song, and, if not, they are ready to rush the DJ. Here people know what to expect from you. I dig that.In my free time I’m also interested in activism. I’m trying to help fathers get more rights when it comes to child support and I want to help former prison inmates get their lives back together.
If Hip-Hop didn't influence me to be the person I am I wouldn't be into activism or as sentimental as I am. A lot of people I have dealt with have had a positive effect [on ther personal values] from Hip-Hop. I want to urge DJs to stop playing so much new stuff and start playing more classics because we are forgetting. There is a generation gap starting in 1988 and the story needs to be told. Hip-Hop here emerged in North Minneapolis.
Now it seems like Hip-Hop in Minneapolis is more of an entertainment thing—MTV versus a lifestyle. I urge people to come out and kick it. Everyone is in their own little worlds and their own little chamber. And for the record, I use a Stanton Mixer but I like Vestax Mixers and I’m using the Technique 1200 for life. I check in with http://www.allhiphop.com/ everyday. Also, Freddie Fresh has a book that everyone needs to cop. You can catch up with DJ Stage One at the Dinkytowner every Saturday and at Soul City Supper Club on Wednesdays and at The Red Sea on Thursdays. You can also e-mail Stage One at firstname.lastname@example.org.