Hooked on Sonics

Music, The Beat Junkies

Oliver Wang
August 22, 2002

Beat Junkies

The Beat Junkies

It’s dark, concrete surrounds, and there‘s a line of riot police wearing smiley faces. London’s Banksy has painted one of his signature ”weapons of mass distraction“ murals on the walls of this downtown industrial warehouse, into which a stream of young urban bohos slowly pours. Keyboardist Money Mark is scheduled to vamp it up later, but right now the Funky President is holding court — J Rocc of the Beat Junkies. With fellow Junkie Rhettmatic waiting in the wings, J Rocc makes it look ridiculously easy, mixing one-handed so he can smoke a cigarette. Like Banksy‘s blend of pop iconography splayed on the walls, J Rocc is a one-man soundclash, bringing together everything from obscure ’70s funk to exclusive hip-hop remixes, his body in perpetual motion as he fluidly adjusts pitch, volume and fidelity.

A 15-minute trip up the I-5 later, and J Rocc‘s still in the mix, only now he’s exchanged the murky warehouse for the brightly lit DJ booth at KPWR, a.k.a. Power 106. Jurassic 5, fresh off their triumphant Smokin‘ Grooves show at the Universal Amphitheater, are tossing freestyles back and forth as J Rocc coolly bounces beats off the station’s new digital CD turntables. It‘s Friday Night Flavas, and J is hosting as part of the Fantastik 4our, alongside DJs Truly Odd, C-Minus and host Mr. Choc, the latter yet another Beat Junkie. At the same moment, across town, Junkies Icey Ice and Curse are presenting Seditious Beats on KPFK, while back downtown, Rhettmatic has taken over the mix for Banksy’s after-party. The Junkies are anywhere, everywhere in Los Angeles tonight. They don‘t belong to the city. The city belongs to them.

There has never been a DJ crew in any American city as dominant as the Beat Junkies, who celebrate their 10th anniversary on August 17. Since forming in 1992, the Junkies have helped anchor L.A.’s hip-hop scene in the clubs, on the radio and in retail, not to mention broken ground as innovative scratch DJs. True, the Bay Area‘s defunct Invisbl Skratch Piklz had more international prestige, and New York’s X-ecutioners have achieved more commercial success. But to conceive of what the Junkies have done in the ‘90s, you’d have to imagine New York‘s DJ kings of the ’80s — Red Alert, Marley Marl, Frankie Knuckles, Grandmaster Flash, etc. — all coming from the same neighborhood, forming a crew and staying intact for the next 10 years. And even then the comparison might not be adequate, since, at the end of their first decade, the Junkies are only getting better.

The Junkies inherited the mantle formerly worn by pioneering L.A. hip-hop DJs like Uncle Jam‘s Army, Dr. Dre, Greg Mack, Alladin and Joe Cooley, otherwise known as the KDAY Mixmasters. Indeed, all of the Junkies cite AM 1580 — the nation’s first 24-hour rap station — as a common inspiration. ”They actually gave the DJs a break, and gave them some time,“ says J Rocc. The problem for the Junkies was that they weren‘t from L.A. proper, but grew up behind the Orange Curtain in Cerritos. ”Coming from O.C., you had to work 10 times as hard just to prove yourself,“ says Rhettmatic. J Rocc notes that while Orange County hip-hop strongholds like Santa Ana boasted luminaries such as Alladin, ”They didn’t have the same light as L.A.,“ even though ”they were on the same shit.“

Howard, Robin and Artie Pick "The Three Gayest Songs of All Time"

Howard Stern, Music

From a discussion on February 21, 2006


Wake Me Up before You Go Go – WHAM


One and One Makes Three – David Hasselhoff


Come on Eileen – Dexies Midnight Runners


Relax-Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Kajagoogoo “Too Shy”

Built This City – Starship

Break My Stride – Matthew Wilder

We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off – Jermaine Stewart

David Johansen is a Rock and Roll Player

Buster Poindexter, David Johansen, Rock and Roll, The Onion

by Michaelangelo Matos June 1, 2009

The shuffler: David Johansen, the New York rock legend who formed the New York Dolls in the early ’70s and paved the loud, unkempt, pop-savvy road that would eventually lead to punk. He’s released many solo albums, worked with groups such as the Harry Smiths (traditional Americana), and performed as the infamous tropical novelty act Buster Poindexter. Johansen talked to The A.V. Club from Los Angeles as the Dolls, reunited since 2005, revved up their new tour.

The Larks, “My Reverie”

David Johansen: It’s from Debussy, Claude Debussy. [Johansen’s partner Mara interjects.] No—Mara’s saying it’s “Deb-you-see.” I just say “Deh-bussy.”

The A.V. Club: Are you a Debussy fan as well?

DJ: I like the Larks and I like Deb-you-say. And here they are together.

AVC: Do you remember when you first heard it?

DJ: I have an older brother, and when I was a kid, he had a lot of doo-wop records; I imagine that’s when I heard it. He used to get a lot of records, and I used to covet them when I was 4 years old or whatever. I would play these records on a Victrola, endlessly. I used to sing along to these songs when I was a little kid. The Platters, you know; the ones with really good singers. The Diablos was another biggie.

AVC: When did you start buying your own records?

DJ: When I was 12 or something. There was a rock ’n’ roll record store not far from my house. It was called Du-Dels. I think the first single I bought was “Tail Dragger” by Howlin’ Wolf, and I think the first LP I bought was Lightnin’ Hopkins; I don’t remember what it was called.

AVC: You were a blues fan when you were 12?

DJ: Yeah. When I was 12, I don’t know if I knew it was blues or not, but I liked it. When I was a kid, they had this Hootenanny era. There was a radio station in New York—I can’t remember what it was called—but every night from 9 to 10, there was a pretty hip cat who would play folk music and blues, and the blues kind of got my ear.

AVC: A lot of songs on the new Dolls album have a pretty bluesy feel. Is that deliberate?

DJ: I think we as a band, as individuals, understand that all popular music stems from blues and jazz and even pop, but rock ’n’ roll especially comes from blues. What we’re trying to do is play rock ’n’ roll, but other people call it different things.

Charles Lloyd, “Beyond Darkness”

DJ: He’s a very hip cat. He made a double record a couple years ago called Lift Every Voice. It’s so great; I can’t recommend it enough.

AVC: How did you encounter it?

DJ: When I was a kid, I had some Charles Lloyd records. In the ’60s, when I was in high school, he was hip and happening—I wouldn’t say to the general public in my school, but maybe 10 of us considered ourselves connoisseurs. A lot of people in that group had Charles Lloyd records; that’s how I got onto it. I must have read about this particular record. I think music writers, most of them, aren’t very good, but sometimes someone is eloquent enough to put you onto something. I read about music—not just anything, but if I saw something about Charles Lloyd, I would read that. And if it was done well, I would finish reading it, instead of taking the newspaper and going “ACK!”