If you step into my cubbyhole of a bedroom or spacious cubicle, you’re bound to see one constant. Milk crates teeming with black wax and the walls of my workspace are lined with album covers. Five years and over 300 pieces of vinyl later, my addiction to get my fingers dusty with a new dig has yet to get old. It starts with the weight. Acetated wax nestled in aged packaging tattooed with heart-felt liner notes on the reverse side. There is nothing instant about this process. Even the act of listening to albums on wax is a practice of calisthenics—get up, flip it, sit back down. It is an investment of money, space and time. In most cases, the truest of audiophiles understands that the perfect day is one spent with arms deep in the dollar bin—enter the DJ.
The progression of any great selector in no way differs from that of the Jedi. Each selection is an act of faith that is realized by the subtle head nod from a face in the crowd. There are no courses or instruction manual to help you methodically construct the framework of the flawless set. It is a grand exhibition of an intuitive set list coupled with a spark of improvisational genius. And after all of that has culminated into the silence of a room evacuated by sweaty partygoers, it is the DJ, in most cases, with hand out hoping to get paid.
This lifestyle is not for the meek. There are no scantly clad groupies waiting to help you load your vinyl and decks in the back of your tricked out ’89 Maxima. Unless you’re backing a superstar, corporate sponsored world tours are few and far between. In short, you’re a figure behind a larger figure. This fact may have deterred many of the fame seekers, but for the few who stayed and perfected the techniques shine with resilience.
My vote for master selector is J.Rocc. He may be the unknown dark horse in most circles, but he is one of the cleanest and succinct DJs there is. The first time I saw him was in spring of 2004 at B.B. King’s. The Manhattan crowd was amped to see the cavalcade of Stones Throw artists—Madlib, MF DOOM, J Dilla, Jaylib, Madvillain, Egon and Peanut Butter Wolf. J.Rocc’s name didn’t register with me at first. I had already played Madvillainly to smithereens and just came there to jam out to my favorite songs. Unassumingly, J.Rocc approached the stage to open the show and unleashed the best set of music I’ve ever heard leave a selector’s finger tips. Over an hour of everything from the most archaic post-funk to the deepest digs of soul and Tropicalia. I, a self-proclaimed savant, felt stupefied and dehydrated by the end of his set. I was amazed by the set, that I even emailed him to get the set list—he never responded and I respect that.
Since then, I’ve been following him from mixtape to podcast and have yet to be disappointed. He is not a sample-heavy selector, playing what is trendy to win over the crowd. The interwoven themes of each song play like a moving book—all parts connected by the minutia. It is a testament to understanding balance. Out of all the ticket stubs I’ve collected, that night’s opening sticks out the most to me. So much so that, wait, hold on…
Dear Future Fiancée,
I know we have yet to meet, but I have a favor to ask. The planning of the wedding is all on you. You can pick my outfit, groomsmen and best man. I’ll show up in whatever wild ass get up you want me to wear at any Church, Mosque, Temple or Government Hall to say, “I do”. I’ll jump the broom, break the glass, smash a plate or whatever you choose with one condition—J.Rocc spins at the 10-hour reception. Don’t worry about money. I’ll come out of my pocket and the college savings of our seven children.
Your Future Husband (pending response)