DJ Boogie Blind : Central Park (cnr W110th & 5th Sts, Harlem) : New York, USA
“I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought I would ever do. I don’t think I’m this rich guy, or whatever, but it’s not even about being rich. It’s about being able to maintain a solid foundation for you to keep working and keeping your mind stress-free and away from everybody else’s problems so you are still able to create and still able to be productive so people want to see you”
Back in the day it would have been too easy for Boogie to fall in with the wrong crowd. With many friends and extended family who were involved in the drug business at the time, the allure of all the rewards that come with that kind of risk are obvious and exciting for any adolescent and unfortunately the choice for many looking for bigger and better things. This was a guy who grew up as a kid in Harlem in the 80s; notoriously one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in one of the most dangerous cities of the time. But in the face of that, it saw rise to strong communities of people who understood the realities of the era and looked out for each other; raised each other’s kids with the implied understanding that parenting was a collective task taken on by all the adults in the community, holding all the children accountable for their actions. Politically-correct suicide these days; but it was tough, it was effective, and it inevitably produced some amazing people and incredible talent along the way with strong community values. Boogie Blind is one of them.
Fortunately for us, Boogie edged himself around the pitfalls many unfortunately fell into and found his fix with vinyl and faders. For as long as he can remember has been scratching and creating his own mixes; back when it wasn’t on the popular music radar but a creative vehicle for the undervalued and under appreciated of society to openly express themselves in their own kind of musically oriented medium.
“My uncle was a very prominent DJ and he went to college and I would visit him in college and he was still DJing and everything, but he wasn’t taking it serious. Back then, you think 80-81, everyone didn’t think rap was going to be…that just thought it was a fad or whatever, and I just took a liking to it. Instead of having Atari or ColecoVision or video games, I wanted to follow my uncle around and just fucking bug him to death to teach me how to DJ. I did a lot of DJ battles with DMCs and all that kind of stuff. I found it to be a stress relief, ‘cause i was always doing parties, but just the process of preparing for the battle…I kind of felt like that was the equivalent to be being on a team, and being that I stopped hooping and wasn’t in that team atmosphere, I felt like doing DJ battles was more of a mind over matter thing. I was very anti-social and it made me appreciate things”
This decision to make DJing his career wouldn’t come until the early 2000s. After winning the renowned Vestax DJ competition (regarded as the Olympics of scratching/DJing at the time) he was getting noticed by influential people, and found himself asked a life changing question by Grandmaster Roc Raider – a DMC Hall of Fame Inductee who DJd for acts including The X-Ecutioners and Busta Rhymes – that would change everything: “Do you want to keep scratching all day or do you want to come on the road and make some money?”. The choice was simple and soon after he’d be part of the crew with The X-Ecutioners (the only DJ group signed to a label at the time) and discovering a broader world of amazing opportunity offered to people of his skillset.
“I’d do the soundcheck, I’d make sure the sound guy was correct, I would set up their turntables, I would make sure they were on top of the interviews and this and that; not necessarily DJing. It was actual work. I felt like that was going to be my calling; i can manage someone, I can do this and that. As everything goes in the music industry, you’re up and then you’re down, they had a nice run and they took me all over the place then the group disbanded and I ended up going with Raider on the solo gigs – cause he was always with a booking agent and things like that – and it just pushed me to want to do it. I was like “I know I can do this””.
It was an experience that would shape the life and career of Boogie. Sadly, Grandmaster Roc Raider would pass in September of 2009 at the young age of 37, but the legacy he would leave with Boogie is a clear compass to his choices and motivation; unlocking the door to a world that Boogie admittedly never realised existed for a DJ, and leaving him with a career that Boogie openly contributes to Raider’s mentorship.
“I never really thought that I would see other parts of the world through DJing; I didn’t think that was possible, I didn’t know that was a way of life other than if you didn’t have a song on the radio or you didn’t have a video on MTV or whatever the case may be. I was very oblivious to that. And this is now my lifestyle; this is how I live. At least 2-3 times a month I’m in another country, whether it’s me DJing or I’m DJing for an artist on a tour or festival”
Additionally it’s only compounded the idea bred into him as a child so many years ago that relationships really are everything. And he’s taking that idea and passing it along by teaching others with the same passion, and working with countless other DJs sharing ideas and sounds across a raft of timezones. Continually broadening his network and engaging others to help educate and progress his craft and community alike.
“I was always like “I got to keep it real, real hip hop” but when you got to certain places and get exposed to certain things, (you realise) it’s not all about hip hop all the time. There’s so many genres of music, and so many groups of people it’s amazing. SO many people are fighting against the system “I don’t want Serato: I’m real. I just got all my vinyl and this and that”…if you’re happy with that, fine, but if you want to be a well rounded DJ you got to have what it takes. You might not like Katy Perry records, but you have to play them”
He’s a sponge to new trends and always looking to fresh ideas that help shift his thinking and grow him as a DJ and producer, embracing the change that has occurred and all the good and bad that come with it. And despite an educated and healthy cynicism of the success of particularly personalities in this web-driven world, he’s understanding of the changing audience expectation, the reality of celebrity and the knowledge that the industry and diversity of audience being large enough to handle it all.
“I feel that if it wasn’t for the internet, a lot of these people wouldn’t be DJing or whatever because they wasn’t carrying crates back then, lugging heavy-ass speakers and being drunk and knocking people over with amps and stuff; they didn’t do that. But at the same time, these guys and girls coming up now, they have so many ideas and they’re turning it into production and they’re making their own edits, and their own remixes; we really didn’t have access to that. So now it’s like you try to spend time mastering your craft but at the same time you still want to open your brain and learn things, so that’s where these software programs come in and all this stuff; you’re constantly learning. And if you’re not constantly learning then it’s just like you’re pretty much a big gimmick. Again, it really doesn’t matter, certain people pay for a name; certain people pay for a face. That’s just a reality.”
The unexpected existence his profession has offered has set the course for the next stage in Boogie’s life. He has concerns with New York and the US in general; and they’re understandable. Despite all the change he’s seen in the last 40 years, it’s clear that too much has not actually changed, and his exposure to other parts of the world and the alternate possibilities on offer has created a drive to get himself out of New York and live abroad. A rebirth of opportunity and a change of scenery to fundamentally reengage him and set him on a new course for the next stage of his life.
“Everybody’s saying, if you can make it in America you can make it anywhere but like America’s the worst place because 80% of the time you’re working 40-50 hour weeks and you rarely can afford your place. You know the average rent here is like $1500-2000 dollars, and that’s before paying for water, electricity, cable, your furniture…all that other stuff. Free health-care? We don’t have that here; when you get a chance to travel you see and appreciate things a little bit more”
Boogie’s invested in his neighbourhood, and this isn’t any clearer by the fact that he’s now living in the same housing “circle” he did as a child which currently provides a somewhat elegant symmetry to his life that’s clearly demonstrated in his perspective on the current situation. It’s certainly compounded when he walks the streets of Harlem; it feels like he knows everyone and everyone knows him. There’s a strength in that kind of community that’s incredible to witness and is absent in so many other parts of the world; particularly in a city where the drive of “self” and “success” can be so overwhelming. However the decision to leave all this behind is indicative of a curious and brave personality; someone that has a healthy understanding that there’s so much more to explore in the world than what you know or unconsciously appreciate on a daily basis. And how that will manifest creatively? The possibilities are endless, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Live footage of DJ Boogie Blind : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQeplFC5e5M