Finally mustering up the strength to write this. Jesus. I'm still in denial...
On Sept. 19, 2009, the world lost one of the most influential, inspiring and magical turntablists to ever grace the earth. In the VHS era, everyone scrambled to get a glimpse or copy of a DMC or ITF Battle tape to see what he was all about. Fortunately, I was one of the many thousands around the world to own a copy. This was my first look into the world of Turntablism and seeing Grandmaster Roc Raida in his prime...
Back in 1997, my brother bought a pair of SL-1200s and got a bootleg VHS tape of the 1994 DMC US Finals from our mutual friend Larry J. (never got a chance to say thanks for lending; here it is). As a 10 year old, I didn't have much to do but play outside, video games and homework. I can't recall the exact details of how I felt when I first watched that battle. However, I do remember numerous times where I'm eating breakfast, lunch or dinner by myself, I always popped in that videotape. It was my youth addiction and a monumental turning point in my life. I'll say it again, he was magical. I had a childhood obsession between Michael Jordan and Roc Raida. "Come Fly With Me" along with the "'94 DMC US Finals" were on heavy rotation almost every single day. At the time, they were completely the same in my eyes with just basketball and music being the differ. I'd compare Jordan's 87/88 dunk contest to Raida's body trick wizardry. They made the impossible, possible. Here are both of the sets:
Over the years to come, that videotape along with the 98 US Finals became the blueprint for my DJ foundation. I remember regrettably not being able attend the 99 DMC Washington DC which Roc Raida was judging and showcasing at. I think I might've been too young to get into the venue. I was so saddened and disappointed because I remember my older brother was able to go see our idol live. Either way, for a good 4 to 5 years I'd mimic the techniques he'd do in attempts to just one day, juggle or just even complete a pattern like he did. I couldn't...
Fast forward a couple years. After attending my first DMC in '01 and competing the following year, 2003 would be the time that I'd FINALLY get to meet my idol. A-Trak, Roc Raida & Total Eclipse were the headliners for the DMC Washington DC heat and this was my 2nd ever DMC in which I was terrified to say the least. Scared to the point where I had little bits of vomit I could feel coming up my mouth. I was never afraid of the crowd, more so because of such a legendary judging panel.
In the end, I felt a sense relief that I pulled my set off clean but truthfully, I was a bit angry that I didn't place higher (lol). Despite all that, I was ecstatic to finally see the "Grandmaster" perform in the flesh and it was definitely an event that I'll never forget. Seeing both Roc Raida & Total Eclipse on a tag-team set was a technique that could never duplicated by anyone else other than the remaining members of the "X". If you've ever been to an X-Ecutioner show, you'd know that this was their signature trademark and to me, engraved the crew as "uncanny" just like the comic book heroes themselves. I can't even number how many people I've met who became DJs strictly off the amazing visuals that Raida and the X-Men showcased.
However, it wasn't until 2006 that I finally met and got to know "Anthony". A loving family man, jokester and most importantly, one of the humblest people I've ever encountered. We became really close after the Gong Battle and was quick to reach out to me to provide me with opportunities to help further my DJ career. Everything from booking agents, an album through his label, publicity, the list goes on. I couldn't believe it. He was never arrogant, always hospitable. He was always on-call to share his guidance and wise insight about building longevity in this grimey biz. I still didn't know why he did all these gestures but I've come to learn that his love for Turntablism and the next-generation of turntablists/DJs was a deep part of him. Imagine your hero picking up the phone and calling YOU. I was always starstruck, still to this day. When someone inspires you an such an enormous level, especially from adolescence, the feelings never change.
I remember one of the first trips he brought me on was to London back in 2006 with Lord Sear. Myself and Raida got there first but Sear was stuck in Customs for like 5 hours. Raida and I felt bad for the dude but I remember us laughing about seeing Sear's facial expression when they finally let him go. Here's this big dude with a little ass backpack with a big ol' frown on his face. Sorry Sear, lol.
Although we had a close phone relationship, I was always more enthusiastic when we'd see each other in L.A. every year as well as the couple times I drove up to his place in Maryland. Hanging with Raida was always a full of laughter, every second of it. I'll never forget the first time I debuted my impersonation of him; the smirk was priceless. I went down the list at that point of all the people I could impersonate and overtime, he'd ask me to e-mail him different voices for various skits he was working on.
In conclusion, I felt it was necessary to incorporate my own personal dj time line, experiences and history into this eulogy. The man opened my eyes and moved me to do something that loved wholeheartedly so fucking much. I never got suspended from school thanks to DJ-ing. I never got arrested thanks to DJ-ing. I never committed suicide thanks to DJ-ing. I never got addicted to drugs thanks to DJ-ing. This was just one story but can you imagine the thousands of others that Roc Raida created? Thats what his legacy means to me. After proofreading this and just looking at the paragraphs above, I STILL CANNOT BELIEVE IT.
It was good to see so many honor Raida at his funeral: The whole X (Rob, Total, Sinista, Diamond J, Steve D, P, Blind), Grandwizard Theordore, Grandmaster Caz, DJ Premier, Fatman Scoop, Rahzel, JS-1, DJ Riz, DJ Enuff, DJ Camillo, Fatfingaz, DV One, Crazy Legs, DJ Cash Money, Busta Rhymes, Sean C, Rhettmatic, Babu, Mickey Factz, Large Professor, Fat Joe, Henley Halem, Christie-Z Pabon, Fabel Pabon, *Marilyn*, Sally (from DMC), Spictakular, Alex Aquino, Kid Capri, J-Smoke, Neil Armstrong, Kuttin Kandi, Daddy Dog, Roli Rho, Vlad, Tony Touch, Bobbito, Chela, DJ Scratch, Unknown, Sadat X, Lord Sear, Marcus, Shiftee, DP One, Cutfucious, Esquire, Dave-1 (of Chromeo), Grandmaster Supreme, Sugarcuts and whoever else I might've forgotten. May you all be safe and like Rob said be "happy" because thats what Raida would've wanted.
To Raida's mother Brenda, loving wife Tyeasha and his beautiful daughters Asia, Nyra and Tia. I can't thank you enough for the enormous unselfish gift you bestowed upon the thousands of people Raida showed his talents to. At the funeral, it killed me seeing the girls mourn the lost of their father at such a tender young age. In due time, I hope you find peace and comfort in reading that he changes lives beyond the walls of music. Ultimately, he lived to provide and give you all the best life that he possibly could.... that was cut short. The phone stops ringing, people forget over time, but I won't. The thing I loved about Raida is that he was a family man first and foremost. I was raised by a single mother so I know how difficult it'll be to take on such a task Tyeasha. However, It is our responsibility as a community to help maintain his legacy on an annual basis to help provide relief in whatever way we can to continue on that better life Raida consistently strived to give you.
The words above can never truly express how I really feel. I'm disappointed I couldn't give you more but this is the best I could do. I'm sorry Anthony. I'm still in pain. I never cried so much in my entire life. I will always be thankful for opportunities you've given me Anthony. Your eternal inspiration will continue to shine through the thousands of lives you changed; especially mine. I love and miss your friendship so much.