Today on WIB Meets, we sit down with DJ/producer/graff writer DJ JS-1. The man just released his lp It Is What It Isn’t, a 21 track boasting features from Erick sermon, KRS One,Esoteric, Soul Khan, Ill Bill amongst others. I need not say it’s something worth checking out. In the meantime, we managed to get him for a quick tete-a-tete regarding his deejaying adventures, extensive touring and much more
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Check it out.
For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in an underground bunker for the past few years…who on earth are you?
For all the doomsday preppers, I am DJ JS-1 a/k/a ‘Jerms’ — a deejay/producer/graff writer, member of the Rock Steady Crew, and the DJ for Rahzel. I am from Queens, New York City.
How did you get started in music, and what drives you to continue?
As a kid growing up in NYC in the late 70′ s and 80’s, Hip-Hop culture was flourishing. We all tried to break, do graff, or rap. We were collecting records and cassettes. I just happen to take it more serious than many of my peers and spent hours practicing deejaying and my graffiti styles. One particular moment that stands out, was seeing GrandMixer DST perform on TV with Herbie Hancock. That made me really want to become a DJ. He looked sooo cool. I remember watching that at my grandmother’s house. That was in the early ’80s I guess. I remember recording AJ Scratch off the radio and used to play that on repeat. I was in 3rd grade.
Do you remember the first beat you ever made? How did you go about it?
I was collecting records and we were rhyming over other people’s instrumentals in grade school. Eventually i got a cheap sampler with hardly any sample time and it was a one-shot deal. So i would mix a drum beat and a sample on my two turntables and have them sped up on 45 speed. I would sample a few seconds of that, slow it down, and that would be our beat. VERY primitive but it worked and it was fun for original loops. We made a bunch of songs like that in my broken tascam 4-track. Eventually I got an S-950 and started being more serious.
If a movie about your life in music was to be made, what interesting/strange moments and stories would you share to make the movie cool?
Well it might not be interesting to everyone, but to me, it’s surreal moments like when I went on the Regis n Kelly show and got to teach Regis Philbin how to scratch (view here). Hahahaha. That was strange. Or some of my personal conversations with KRS about other MC’ like LL Cool J, etc. That was pretty cool, being able to sit and chat w theBlastmaster on several occasions about religion, books, rappers, government. I remember the first time I went to Jazzy Jeff’s house with Spinbad. His turntables were packed away and he hadn’t used them in a long time. We pulled them out, set them up, went to Armand’s record store in Philly with him. He bought a bunch of new records, a new Vestax mixer and tape dubbing machine. Hanging with Jeff and helping inspire him was incredible to me. When I first started out in the very early ’90s, I was hanging with Style (Tone), T La Rock’s younger brother (around ’91). Eventually T La Rock would take me around to places and he brought me to The Fever in the Bronx with some friends. Being in a legendary Hip-Hop club in the Bronx with T La Rock was awesome. KRS later told me T La Rock was also the first person to bring him to the Fever. I did MTV with Skribble and Slynke on New Year’s Eve 1999 live in Times Square, NY. Millions of people watched live and we cut up Public Enemy, etc. Doing real turntablist stuff for such a large TV audience was also crazy to me. That never ever happens. And the times I DJ’d at the Graffiti Hall of Fame and did a piece there the same day. Not too many people can claim to have been able to do that.
Are there any other interesting facts about you that hardly anyone else knows?
I went to school to teach high school history. I’ve been on the cover of graffiti magazines before anyone knew me as a DJ in the early 90’s. My graffiti career as ‘Jerms’ surprises a lot of people. I drink way too many peach Snapples, hahaha. I was on the cover of a bowling magazine when I was six years old. Seriously. I listen to Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zep and Cold Play more than I listen to most Hip-Hop albums. I have a pug that sheds too much. Unfortunately, I almost never missed a Knicks game since 1984 or ’85. Myself and Rahzel have done over 1000 shows in over 47 countries and hundreds of cities, strictly doing turntablism and beatboxing. Not an easy act to follow. I would destroy most deejays if we were on jeopardy. And here’s an interesting Hip-Hop fact. To me there has only been a handful of epic REAL MC battles such as the Kool Moe Dee Vs. Busy Bee battle. Not setup battles like these websites do. Actual battles over a beat, heated exchanges between two MC’s that really don’t like each other. Some of the most legendary of all time were Supernatural Vs. Craig G at the new music seminar, Supernatural Vs. Craig G part two at Wetlands, and Supernatural Vs. Juice at the Wake Up Show Anniversary in Cali. Besides Supernatural, I am the only person alive to be front and center at all three of them.
What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
The greatest thing about the music industry is that it put me in a position to tour and see most of the world on other people’s money. I’ve been everywhere, stayed in nice hotels, had time to be a tourist and didn’t pay for any of it. In fact, I got paid to do it. That’s incredible. It’s also been nice that I’ve been lucky enough to work with most of my favorite MCs like KRS, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Pharoahe Monch, Common, Kool Keith, etc. I’ve recorded songs with a hundred different artists that I like and respect. That’s awesome to me. Being on tour with Red-n-Meth, DJ Premier, The X-ecutioners, MixMaster Mike, Jurassic 5, The Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, and sooo many others. That was just a bonus. Never expected any of it. If I could change the music industry I would want to do so many things different. hahaha. Where to start?. First, I would bring in people to run labels, clubs, and radio that have a clue about what good music and good deejays do. Although it’s always about profit, I would try to have things run where it’s not a scam just to trick or brainwash teens into buying crap and use the power of these companies to also promote artists who deserve it. Radio can find five minutes an hour to play some other artists. How you dope when you pay for your billboard spots? I would shut down these streaming sites who pay the artists a small percentage of a penny per play. Ever see a check from Pandora or Spotify? Millions of plays will get you a few hundred bucks if that. Incredible. There’s a million things i would do if I could, but I definitely can’t. I would give Def Jam back to the fans who helped support it when it put out Hip-Hop. That label has been disgusting in the past decade and a half. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Looking back, what have been the most important moments in your life so far?
Being born was pretty important. Meeting my wife and having my son. In music, the most important things for me was meeting up with Rahzel, and then touring with deejay icons like The X-men and Mixmaster Mike, going on stage after them and still having the crowd go nuts. That gave me the confidence to pursue this for real and to know I must have been doing something right. It validated my position, to me. Having the deejays I looked up to like Jam Master Jay, Red Alert, Riz, Scratch, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, MixMaster Mike, Qbert, Roc Raida, Rob Swift, all give me positive feedback was tremendous. One time I spun at a college gig after Run DMC had just performed. I asked JMJ if it was ok that I did a RUN DMC tribute. I went off cutting up RUN DMC records and he stayed on the side of the stage to watch. Mid way i glanced over and he was going nuts cheering me on. He came over and said “wow” to me after I got off stage. That was a big moment for me. And then Domingo hooking me up with KRS to put out my first ever vinyl single. That record, “Essentials,” did great for me and helped start separating me from just those dudes who scratch 800mph in their bedroom. That set the ball rolling for the tons of vinyl singles I did and my six full length albums. To this day, no deejay in Hip-Hop history has put out six of their own solo albums with no help, and with over 100 emcees.
What have been the biggest highlights?
In my career, my biggest highlights off the top of my head are: Being featured on the Return of the DJ Vol 2. LP (play here) and getting praise for my cuts around the world. Dave Paul hooked that up. That was in the mid 90’s. That inspired me to push on. Getting in Can Control Magazine for my graffiti in ’93, and being on the cover, with famous graff writers like COPE2 is awesome. I once got to rock a piece in Franklin K Lane in Queens with IZ THE WIZ!!! Then the Cold Cutz Remixes Mixtape I did with Spinbad sold a lot and got around. To this day it’s still better than most mixtapes and that was done in 95/96. Meeting MixMaster Mike on tour, then doing dozens of shows with him was probably my biggest DJ inspiration. Having him be a friend and help me, was more than any deejay could ask for. Seeing Afrika Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay, Grand Wizard Theodore, playing MY records was also great. You can’t beat that. Doing MTV on their first ever Hip-Hop week for the whole week, then the new years party in times square, then right to BET in the basement with Tigger for a week, and then doing Regis n Kelly years later were all key. It showed that a deejay could get on major television but still do it the right way, show skills and not have to do anything really corny.
Overall though, to me my biggest achievements is that as a turntablist/deejay i have put out more self-produced albums than any Hip-Hop DJ. i have put out six of my own solo albums. (Ground Original 1, Claimstake, Audio Technician, No Sell Out, No One Cares, It Is What It Isn’t) I have produced my own songs for more MCs than any of these other turntablists, I have also done dozens of skilled-concept mixes that will rival any DJs (www.djjs1.blogspot.com), released a few of the most popular battle breaks; Scratch Roulette 1 & 2, Rock Breaks 1 & 2, and have toured with KRS, Supernatural, and of course Rahzel, to me the three best in their fields of all time. At the same time, I’ve also done hundreds of graff pieces all over, including all the major hall of fames in NYC. Not an easy act to follow, especially for someone that most people have never heard of.
What has been your biggest challenge…and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge to me is being good because other’s want to keep you a secret so they don’t look bad. Staying true to myself because labels, promoters, and publicists try to make you who they want you to be, doing EVERYTHING myself because I don’t have a team of people, and finally my name being JS-1 and not some corny play-on-words or catchy “Hip-Hop name.” Many people have a hard time remembering the letters and numbers, dashes, etc. hahaha. I’m an S1W, sometimes, so I guess I danced for PE? I’m S1, the producer from Texas, I’m J Sone, lmao. I’m always everything except DJ JS-1. Those two J’s in a row mess people up. ha. To overcome it, I just stayed persistent, never wavered and was always true to myself. People who like what I do will eventually find it. The world’s a big place; there’s room for the cornballs who wanna follow trends and there’s room for me to just stay under the radar and do what I do, but still make a career out of it. I never did this for fame or to look cool, so i’m happy with what i’m doing, that’s the secret. It all depends on your expectations.
Who are your heroes? Why do they rock your world?
My biggest heroes are my parents for giving me the opportunities to pursue a career in deejyaing and turning a blind eye to my graff career when they knew what I was doing. They helped me tremendously. Of course, my wife. She is a large part of the reason I was able to travel and know everything at home was ok. She is the best! My close friends and fans who always support what i do and push me to keep going when i wan to retire from this business. Many times I wanted to just walk away from music, but they’re constantly there to tell me to keep going and how good I am at what I do. Musically, my heroes are people like DJ Premier and MixMaster Mike for having incredible careers and never compromising. They do what they love and don’t have to follow trends or bow down to outside pressure to be something they’re not. That’s what I look up to. Not deejays who started out trying to be Hip-Hop DJs and are now wearing funny outfits playing EDM music with a feather in their hat. No respect for those suckers.
Who have been the coolest, most memorable people you’ve met along the way, and how did they make an impact on your life?
Well, I kind of just mentioned it. The coolest person I met was Rahzel. He has helped me see the world doing what I love. We have a great stage show and get along well. We’ve shared sooo many awesome moments on and off stage. It’s been 15 years of good times. He is such an incredible talent and good person. MixMaster Mike and his wife have also been really good to me, when they didn’t have to be. They have also helped and inspired me. KRS-One, someone who I have now recorded several songs with and toured with briefly, is also another very cool person. Once he spoke to me and got to know me, he opened up and was always very supportive. One of the easiest people I ever worked with and obviously one of the greatest MCs ever. Common is also a very nice guy, family man, amazing talent and down to earth. The few times we needed him, he was there for us and ready to help in every way that he could. DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill is also super cool. For someone who sold almost 20 million records, he is really a regular dude. An awesome producer and great deejay, as well as a nice guy. He has given me advice and pushed me to pursue my career. DJ Premier is probably the most “real” and down to earth guy I’ve met. We have been neighbors for a long time, so I am fairly cool with him. For who he is, he does not have to take two seconds out of his day to help or be cool with anyone. He allows me to DJ on his radio show, he has helped me tracking down MCs, has mixed a song for me, always keeps me in mind when something is going down, calls to see how my son is doing, and most importantly, was there for me when my mother passed away. I’ll never forget that. He is truly a special kind of person if you are lucky enough to know him.
When you’re sitting on the porch age 97 what would you like to look back on and smile having achieved?
That I was a good father and raised my son right, that I was always true to myself, and that I was able to have a career doing what I love
without compromising my integrity or the integrity of the music. That I brought tons of art to the world through my graffiti walls and canvases. That I was able to carry on the tradition of Hip-Hop culture around the world and inspire younger kids to keep it going the right way, with turntables (not midi-controllers) and by practicing their skills, not worrying about which colorful sneakers match their colorful headphones. Hopefully, I am an example that you can follow your dreams and make it happen with hard work. I would want my friends to be proud of me, and my family to be satisfied knowing I always did my best for them.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
There has been several memorable moments. I can name a few. One that really stands out to me was a festival I did in Africa with Rahzel. It was in Western Africa and pretty far out there in a rural part. The festival was mainly traditional African groups and a few African jazz bands. There was not any Hip-Hop or Americans, and to be frank, there was almost zero white dudes there. The crowd was gigantic. I was never nervous going on stage no matter the size of the crowd, but this time, I was a lil hesitant. Not really because I was the only white guy in site, but more that I was the white American guy going on stage to “DJ” after all these wonderful African groups had performed some of their traditional music and songs. It was a weird feeling. Anyways.. I went up there and started cutting up RUN DMC. The crowd went absolutely crazy cheering for me. When we were done I went to shake hands with people and meet people in the crowd. The love they showed and genuine appreciation for what I did was very overwhelming. It was a special feeling. I’ll never forget the reaction and treatment those people gave me. Of course there has been other memorable moments, like opening for Parliament Funkadelic, or doing huge festivals for 30,000 people and just going off scratching on stage while all the other deejays were corny EDM guys. We’ve done gigs in Brazil opening for Linkin Park, to the first Coachella with Rage Against the Machine. The first time I spun for KRS-One and played South Bronx on stage.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Hmmmm. There’s been a few. Obviously teaching Regis Philbin how to scratch live on TV is pretty damn strange. We cut up Dean Martin’s “Volare.” Don’t get much more strange. We met Dustin Hoffman in an airport in England, and he told Rahzel he really liked his jacket. Hahaha. Our flight was once cancelled, LL Cool J was on line with us and asked us if we wanted to charter a private plane with him. We had some drinks with Tommy Lee and he told us tour stories. I once walked into a gig at the El Rey theatre with Carmen Electra on my arm. That’s called “winning…” We met Matt Groenig, The Simpson’s creator at the Video Game Awards we hosted and DJ’d at, and he came running over to say how excited he was. That was crazy! I was stopped from going in my own dressing room by 50 Cent’s police-officer security guards at UMass college. hahaha. He had sooo much security, I guess that Benzino guy had him scared or he was petrified of students coming from biology class? lol. Paul Simon once showed me his mini-fridge full of weed at a studio in LA. I was cutting up Led Zep guitar sounds at a concert in Mississippi, then that corny group Train performed and the singer said something about me DJ’ing on stage and said “now here’s real guitar” or something dumb and the crowd booed them for trying to talk shit about what I did. I went to see the Mona Lisa with a member of the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill, lol. Pretty strange day. Went to Steve Irwin’s zoo in Australia and watched Rahzel have the kangaroos and tasmanian devils buggin’ out because of sounds he was making. I was once sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Sweden. A guy asked me if I do music. I said yes. He told me that he did something I would know for sure but wouldn’t know who he was. He then told me he was the guy who played the keyboard solo on A-Ha’s “Take On Me”! We once went to a mansion that RZA was renting in South Beach. It was RZA, Ghost and Rae. Rae was messing around on a piano on a polar bear rug, and Ghost made Oodles ‘o Noodles and was wearing a bathrobe with a towel wrapped around his head. A strange day indeed. I sat w RZA, smoked a blunt, and talked about beats and DJ’ing for a while. Awesome… there has been A LOT. I once sat with Will Smith in a room and helped him write a song for his Willenium album. On MTV on new years 1999, Puffy was up there and on camera, behind his head I flashed ‘Wessssyde’ gang signs as a goof. hahaha.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Oh wow, that’s tough. Well let’s first say my mom. I would do anything to have 5 minutes with her again. Outside of that, I would have to say Jesus, Ben Franklin, Hendrix, John Lenon, Da Vinci, Jackie Gleason, Warren Buffet, and of course George Carlin. All for different reasons, but that would definitely be my list. I’d love to have them all over at the same time. Have Jesus n’ Carlin sit next to each other of course. I would serve them the greatest things on earth, Italian food (pizza), and Peach Snapples with some Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream for dessert.
What are the greatest songs, albums, books, movies, TV shows, websites you’ve ever come across?
Without putting too much thought….
- John Lennon – “Watching the Wheels“
- Pink Floyd – “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb“
- Public Enemy – “Welcome To the Terrordome“
- Run DMC – “Peter Piper“
- Led Zeppelin – “Stairway To Heaven“
- Jimi Hendrix – “If 6 Was 9“
- The Beatles – “Yesterday“
- Boogie Down Productions – “My Philosophy“
- Rakim – “Follow the Leader“
- Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
- Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
- ATCQ – Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders
- Cold Play – Rush of Blood to the Head and Parachutes
- The Beatles – Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Revolver
- Ultramagnetic MCs – Critical Beatdown
- Gangstarr – Daily Operation and Hard to Earn
- Michael Jackson – Off the Wall and Thriller
- James Brow – Live at the Apollo
- Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced and Electric Lady Land
- Nas – Illmatic
- Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded and By All Means Necessary
There’s too many…
The God Delusion by Dawkins. Brain Droppins/When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops/Napalm n Silly Putty by George Carlin.
Short History of Everything by Bill Bryson
Check The Technique 1 & 2/Rakim Told Me by Brian Coleman
Subway Art by Henry Chalfant.
Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. The Odyssey by Homer. The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman.
- Clockwork Orange
- Coming To America
- Dirty Dozen
- Pulp Fiction
- Resevoir Dogs
- Style Wars
- The Honeymooners
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- Family Guy
- Open Court NBA
- Mad Money
- Ten Things You Didnt Know
- First Take
- South Park
- badlipreading.tumblr.com *hilarious.
- etalonhiphopblog.com *has a lot of cool stuff
Name 5 songs (yours excluded) that we would expect to find on your iPod or Music Player
- Public Enemy – “Don’t Believe the Hype”
- We Never Change – Cold Play – “We Never Change”
- ATCQ – “We Got the Jazz”
- Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb”
- James Brown – “Down N Out in NY City”
What special-hero type skills are you blessed with?
Not sure if any of these are super-hero worthy but I am blessed with organizational skills, work ethic, artistic ability, rhythm, good memory, agility, and require very little sleep. Might not be worthy of a hero, but definitely what I need to maintain my career in music/deejaying and graffiti at a high level. Sooo many people are lazy and irresponsible, which in turn ruins them.
Where can everyone reading this interview keep up with your adventures?
Follow me on…
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/djjs1
- IG: http://instagram.com/djjs1
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DJJS1
- Website: http://djjs1.blogspot.com/
*For dozens of free concept mixes, go to www.DJJS1.Blogspot.com you will not be disappointed! There is sooo many free downloads.
Any final thoughts?
First, thanks for allowing me another avenue to promote what I do. Second, I’m sorry, I know I write a lot, I also talk a lot. hahaha. And finally, instead of complaining that Hip-Hop sucks now or that there is no one making good Hip-Hop, everyone should take the time to support the people who are still doing it. Instead of spending their time trying to post negative comments on Facebook, why not take the time to promote the people you like and support. It’s hard enough as it is with all the nonsense in the world, let’s just try to promote the better things and not fall into the trap of promoting bullshit, even if you are dissing it, it still promotes it. You are always only a few clicks away from something really good online. Never settle… Peace.
DJ JS-1 / JERMS… Rock Steady Crew