Celebrating DJs of the Past and Present during Black History Month
Dr. Dre spent his early years in the Los Angeles nightclub, Eve After Dark, and eventually worked his way onto the stage and behind the turntables. It was there he built his presence and stage name, "Dr. Dre the Master of Mixology."
His first big business break came after combining forces to hit the scene as N.W.A. with Ice Cube, Arabian Prince, and Eazy-E. Controversy inevitably trumped the group's future and launched Dre into a solo career. Success with the collaborations followed the artist and he eventually broke out on his own.
Dre is credited for the rise of West Coast G-funk, "a style of rap music characterized as synthesizer-based with slow, heavy beats."
A master of the music business, Dre has headed up two labels and is currently the CEO of Aftermath Entertainment, known for signing rappers like Eminem and 50 Cent. Dre created the online music streaming service Beats Music which he then sold to Apple for $3 billion in 2014. Dr. Dre is said to be worth of $800 million, making him one of our most successful artists (monetarily speaking) on the list.
Spinderella joined forces with Salt-N-Pepa to jumpstart her career and successfully spun a string of hits selling more than 12 million records. The records earned the trio a Grammy in 1995 for Best Rap Performance by a duo or trio. This solidified the threesome as trailblazers for women working it in hip-hop.
After the shot clock ran out on Salt-N-Pepa, Spinderella moved on to hosting spots on the radio, eventually landing herself a nationally syndicated show, The Backspin. She also holds down the international title as the “Universe’s #1 Female DJ.”
Jam Master Jay's high school friends, Joseph “Run" Simmons, Russell Simmons, and Darryl “D.M.C” McDaniels brought Jam Master Jay aboard the Run-D.M.C ship and the group departed into a sea of success. They were the first rap group with a music video played on MTV, the first hip-hop group to land the cover of Rolling Stone, and first non-athletes to be the faces of Adidas.
These are only a few of the honors the group gathered in conjunction with hits like “Walk this Way” and the album Raising Hell. Jam Master Jay met a tragic end at the young age of 37-years-old when two unidentified men broke into his studio in Queens, shooting and killing him. The case remains unsolved.
Beverly Bond started out as a model but transformed into a DJ by way of vinyl. She quickly made moves in the scene and expanded her popularity by eventually becoming one of the most popular DJs in NYC. She launched the non-profit, Black Girls Rock!, a place for youth empowerment and mentoring for young ladies of color. The non-profit joined forces with BET to create a yearly awards ceremony recognizing the achievements of women in music that has been active for over ten years.
Mister Cee has had a career spanning over three decades with abundant success on the radio airwaves of New York's WGHT Hot 97 for 21 years. After several sex-related arrests, he joined Radio 103.9 and during the transition spoke openly about his sexuality within an industry historically known for shaming the LBGTQ community.
Mister Cee was the infamous DJ behind Big Daddy Kane in the late 80s and early 90s. However, the industry owes him the biggest share of gratitude for the discovery of The Notorious B.I.G and playing a huge part in accelerating Biggie's career. Along with his contribution to the success of many big name artists like Biggie and Jay-Z, his dedication to preserving the memory and achievements of hip-hop artists is unduplicatable.
DJ Jazzy Jeff went from scratching in the club while the headlining DJs were on a break to winning the first hip-hop Grammy in 1988.
Jazz had a recurring role on the hit show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air alongside Will Smith. However, Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince separated their music industry relationship but continued to dominate apart in their own rights. Now DJ Jazzy Jeff owns his own production company, A Touch of Jazz, and also developed the Gemini 2200, a mixer for DJs that scratch records.
Roc Raida hit the scene with the help of his father at ten-years-old to develop a world champion status career as a competitive DJ. His originality and acrobatic moves behind the turntable separated him from his competition and guaranteed his staying power and recognition in the scene. Roc "won the 1995 DMC World DJ Championship and was inducted into the DMC Hall of Fame four years later." Tragically, Roc passed away at 37-years-old after an apparent drug overdose.
DJ Premier’s early career was spent as one-half of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr. He was responsible for producing all of the group's songs throughout their career. That success led him to be recognized as one of the top producers in the business working with artists like The Notorious B.I.G, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, D’Angelo and Christina Aguilera.
“I never want to be just attached to hip-hop. I want to be attached to music – country, rap, soul, jazz, blues, it doesn’t matter, gospel music—I come from all of that,” Premier told Life + Times in 2014.
DJ Jazzy Joyce's career consisted of DJing in clubs around the U.S. and internationally throughout countries like Copenhagen and Tokyo. DJ Jazzy Joyce has earned a place among the greats in the world of hip-hop. Credited to Joyce's career is her success as a competitive DJ. As one of the only female competitors, she has paved the path for future endeavors by female artists.
DJ Jubilee is a gem hailing from the deep south of New Orleans. He was discovered while working as a special education teacher for a high school by area producers. He is now considered the "godfather of New Orleans hip-hop" and credited as a key player in the bounce music scene. His style continues to make its mark on popular dances like “Teach Me How to Dougie.”
DJ Kool Herc is known as "The Father of the Underground Sound" and is credited for originating hip-hop in New York during the early 1970s. His claim to fame was perfecting the art of the break or breakbeat.
Kool would seek out identical records, set them up on two separate tables and play only the break of the song while going back and forth between the tables. Breakbeat unbiasedly incorporates song breaks from all genres of music because it only uses a small part of the song. DJ Kool's most celebrated track was “Let Me Clear My Throat” in 1996.
Grandmaster Flash worked with the Furious Five, made up of Melle Mel, Cowboy, Kid Creole, Scorpio, and Rahlem, to innovate hip-hop by creating techniques like back-spinning, punch phrasing, and scratching. All of these techniques are still used by DJs today.
The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 for their achievements. Flash went on to own a clothing line, released a memoir in 2008, and is still a huge part of the hip-hop community
Afrika Bambaataa, AKA the “Master of Records,” turned his passion for buying records which into a successful career of making music. He founded the crew Zulu Nation which started out as a break dancing crew and transformed into a large group of dancers, rappers, graffiti artists, and deejays. Bambaataa's long list of success includes being booked on the first European hip-hop tour, earning the title of the "Father of Electro Funk," and being featured in the hip-hop culture documentary, The Show.
Funkmaster Flex was playing hip-hop sets in the early 90s in Vito Bruno’s nightclubs. Unable to deny Flex's talent, Bruno contacted and convinced the regional vice president of Hot 97 to check out one of Flex's nightclub shows. The set impressed the executive and transpired into a career change that helped to gain Funkmaster Flex his own, and the first of its kind, rap program on the radio airwaves, Where Hip Hop Lives.