It began after a party I attended in grade seven with my older sister, Christine, who had to take me (reluctantly). It was a high school house party (remember those?) and although I had listened to, and collected vinyl records, I had never seen a DJ mix and scratch in real life. His name was Carlos & he was cutting up LL Cool J’s first release, “Rock The Bells”. Carlos, although teen adolescent, took me under his spanish wings and showed me the ropes. He was rocking the party in a townhouse somewhere in the west end; everyone was dancing, screaming, shouting with their hands in the air, tune after tune! It was then I knew I wanted a piece of the action. I was all about it.
I was a dancer. My dream at that young time in life was to be a choreographer. I was introduced into the world at a time that rap music was underground. Grand Master Flash was pushing me to the edge, and the grimey NYC sound was quickly invading my soul. I was a natural dancer like my parents, so it was only natural that I tried my hand at break dancing. I was a west end kid, Keele & Finch was my hood, and the kids in the neighbourhood would travel blocks with freshly pressed brown cardboard boxes which they’d dig up from the recycling bins & bust a move with their crew. It was time.
One sunny weekend afternoon, I walked out of my Four Winds Drive townhouse with a tape full of rap music & hailed up one of the crew members. He quickly pushed eject on the ghetto blaster, pulled out a black cassette tape, and switched it with the high-bias chrome tape I gave him. I told him he’d probably never heard what I had… fresh new rap music and freestyle. The song was Tour De France and the beat erupted the woofers on the system… and so began the uprock.
It was my in. Andrew, the half breed kid with light skin and nappy hair, was the first to enter the circle of B-Boys. He busted the wave then went into a pop n’ lock routine that he’d been practising after watching Breakin’. When his routine was up, he wrapped up with a crowd clapping and screaming, “Hooo!!!… the kid was dangerous.
Nobody entered the circle because he did so much damage – it was hard to top. At that point my cassette and music selection were on point, I was the young kid that did good so I decided to take the risk of showing the crew what I could do.
I began an uprock of my own, the attention slowly started in my direction. I was a floor master, & when Tour De France broke down I kicked one leg up in the air, swished the next leg over and around it and landed my palms on the ground – it was time for my own ground work. From the floor schematics I broke directly into a back spin, after a few ferocious spins I popped from the back spin into a head spin – those same, “Hooo!’s” we’re now directed at me – uprocked out, and it was then I was part of the crew… the Jane Finch Rock Steady Crew. We were dope ass kids and got a manager that repped us in Toronto, putting us in talent showcases, ultimately making the Toronto Sun’s front page posing with our chins up and arms tucked across our chests. We were hip hop.
Carlos was my Ginzu Master. He meshed my dancing to DJ’ing. I met him that one night and have never seen him since… to this day, but those few hours watching him – him showing me how – and allowing me to mix a song or two changed my life forever.
My father didn’t understand why I wanted a mixer. In fact he hadn’t a clue what it did or why I needed it, but for my birthday we strolled into Radio Shack and walked out with one… a $100 mixer at that. In those days a bag of chips was .25 cents; my father’s love and support surpassed words.
The Chevy Impala’s door whipped open and out to the trunk I bolted to grab the stereo mixer – ran into the house and for the first time was perplexed at the set up, but finally I got it working. Channel 1 was the turntable and Channel 2 the tape deck. I was a natural. My previous years of piano lessons, dancing, and vinyl collecting moulded me into a basement DJ.
And so it began. In grade nine my family purchased a beautiful five floor back split detached home in Scarborough, and I converted the basement into a music room. I was a loner for the first few weeks of high school. I was from the west end and knew nobody from the east… that was until I met a fellow music man named Cory.
The dudes in The Pit at Pope John Paul Secondary were DJs. None at clubs, more at weddings and house parties. I tried to fit in on conversation but wasn’t taken too seriously; after all I was the new kid on the block. Cory taunted me. He said, “oh yeah you’re a DJ? Why don’t we spin a few tracks back to back?”. Although somewhat sarcastic, I decide to oblige – talk is cheap.
That afternoon we left school and headed to his basement. It was on. Track for track we were jamming. To his surprise I was doing things with the Technic 1200 turntables he’d not witnessed, and he kept saying, “guy your mixes are so clean and tight, how do you drop it on the one with a flip of your wrist like that?!”. I knew I proved my case, and the next day when I got to school The Pit full of DJs were getting an earful from Cory on my skills. No longer was I the new kid on the block, I was DJ Tricky from the west side, but now the east.
Cory was a good kid that did bad things but for the love of music. We decided to start our own DJ Team, “Tricky &Tin Tin”. Cory broke into old abandoned warehouses, we got George from Shakedown to put a wall of sound & lighting in there, and we invited the whole crew down. After word got out it seemed like the entire Scarborough and surrounding area high schools showed up, gangs and all, in harmony… literally. We were the sh*t, mixing, cutting, and scratching while the dance floors had no mercy on us.
A month into it, Cory got the call from a new club downtown that wanted to start an all ages night and they heard about us from the buzz kids were pressing on the streets. It was official, we were the main room DJs at Klub Maxx spinning house music.
Thousands of clubs later from coast to coast, country to country, over eight awards later and even more nominations including a JUNO Nomination from the Canadian Academy Of Recording Arts & Sciences and I’m still standing with my head held high, music spinning on the turntables, and producing music that moves me… thanks to Carlos, who wasn’t too cool for the young kid at the high school party.
The road travelled was unexpected, sometimes thought of as a short-term hobby, which led me somewhere… here sharing my passions with all of you.