East3: Describe the moment you were introduced to Hip Hop and decided this is the lifestyle you wanted to be a part of and why?
Rhett: I remember when i was first introduced to Hip Hop…..I was in Junior High and during lunch time, I saw a circle forming with somebody sneaking in a boombox, playing Planet Rock (of course I didn’t know the song at that time). 3 kids were in the middle, and next thing I know, they were doing incredible robot-like dance moves with their body….I found out later on that day, that it was called Popping. Even before that, I remember hearing “Rapper’s Delight” over the radio….the groove track was very familiar to me because it was the same instrumentation as Chic’s “Good Times” (my parents were into Disco at that time as well), but with a weird way of singing….which later on I would find out to be called “Rapping”. Those moments were my significant introduction into Hip Hop and pretty much changed my life.
East3: Tell me about the ‘pre DJ’ involvement within the art forms? Who were your mentors for Poppin and being a Writer? Do you still get down with those elements today?
Rhett: Well, back then……you tend to do 2 or more of the elements of Hip Hop. I mean, it was cool whatever you can do, but of course, you would master one elements over the other ones at times. By that time, certain TV segments like an old school TV show called “That’s Incredible” would show a segment on “Breakdancing” and a particular crew called “The Floor Masters”, who would later on be known to the world as “The NYC Breakers”. There was also a local TV show called “Eye on LA” that featured dancers Michael Guzman & a few others, including a talented Popper by the name of Michael Chambers, also better known as “Boogaloo Shrimp”. KDAY was starting breakout of the LA Airwaves, and if you’re lucky, you would get a glimpse of some “Hip Hop” videos like “Buffalo Gals” playing on the local access show. The book “Hip Hop: The Illustrated History Of Breakdancing, Rap Music, & Graffiti” by Steven Hagar, was like my Bible to the culture of Hip Hop…..In terms of my mentors in Popping, I always looked up to a friend of mine by the name of Victor Sutherland (his Popping name was Tiny Poppet….and ironically, he also looked like Boogaloo Shrimp). As for Writing, I looked up to a local writing crew called The Bomb Squad. They were the only ones that were putting up actually burners around the city like I would see on the movie “Wild Style”. All of the writers were dope, but one of the most talented in the crew was this cat name “Shame One”…..later on, he would be known as “Rich One”, and The Bomb Squad would later on become “NASA” Crew. Do I still Write & Pop?? I would mess around at times with Popping at some clubs, if i reminescing with my friends. As for Writing, i can still tag and do throw up tags on people’s books, but i haven’t really drawn in a black book, or put a piece up in a long time….but if the guys were doing a wall for some exhibition, I would definitely would help out from time to time and help do fill-ins.
East3: Congratulations to you and your crew the World Famous Beat Junkies, Can you let us in on any future plans for the crew?
Rhett: Thank you brah, we’re totally blessed. Our future plans is basically taking the momentum we’ve made in 2012 and make a more bigger impact in 2013. Plus we’re planning to put out more musical projects and merchandise as a group & individually. We’re still here, we haven’t left…..and for some reason, it feels like we just really started.
East3: Is there a new generation of Beat Junkies on the rise? If so please fill us in.
Rhett: In all honesty, there’s none. It pretty much ends right here, unless J.Rocc decides to let anyone new into crew. Haaaaaa……And if there’s any future Beat Junkies members, that would probably be left to our kids. Babu, Melo-D, Shortkut, D-Styles, & Mr. Choc all have kids….and who knows, they might follow in their Fathers’ footsteps.
East3: Do you think Hip Hop is a Culture and why? Do you think that spirituality (based of any belief system) is needed within Hip Hop for it to be a culture and why?
Rhett: Hip Hop is a culture, because it has it’s own principles, music, language, codes & lifestyle that most people involved in Hip Hop aheards to. It has able to connect people from different countries and culture from all over the world for the common love of Hip Hop. Do I think spirituality is needed within Hip Hop? There’s always room for spirituality…..the basic rules of the Universal Zulu Nation is “Peace, Love, Unity, & Having Fun” thru the elements of Hip Hop. That in itself is a philosophy or belief that’s based upon some type of spirituality, in my humble opinion.
East3: What is your greatest moment within the culture that you have experienced?
Rhett: Honestly, I have too many……Just like asking the question, what’s your favorite record, that’s like answering “Who’s your favorite child?”. But I guess if I had to pick, I pick 2, and the my 2 greatest moment would be (1) the fact that The Beat Junkies are still around & still somewhat relevent, and on top of still being a crew and being good friends, that’s one….and (2) never in a million years that I would imagine that I would be acknowledge and be friends with all my Hip Hop Heroes that I grew up listening to….that blows me away still to this day.
East3: Where do you see Turntablism in the next 10yrs and how do you think the art form can advance from where it is now?
Rhett: In all honesty, I really don’t know…..times have changed and people’s attention span is getting shorter. All I know is that I’m part of a generation that will always be the best of both worlds…..still have one foot in tradition, but have the other foot in the future. As long as we stay true to our principles, the art will advanced one way or another.
East3: Do you think the future and advancement is incorporating technology like Traktor and why? Should it return to using Vinyl with no aid from programs like serato?
Rhett: Do I think that technology is helping advancing the culture? Yes & No. You have to remember, programs like Serato & Traktor are just tools. You still need to have all around skills to Dj. It’s good to have balance….learn how to adapt and advanced, yet still able to keep the essence of the culture. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to upkeep the culture, and in many ways, it’s our fault for not sharing & teaching the new generation. Alot of our generation is too busy complaining & pointing fingers and not making an effort on their own part. If you don’t like something, do something & make an effort instead of being on the sideline. We got stop blaming & pointing fingers at people and start pointing fingers at ourselves to make the change….I know, it’s cliche’, but it’s the truth.
East3: In your life’s experiences & research of Hip Hop what have you learned that future generations can learn from?
Rhett: What can they learn? It’s easy…..learn just to be yourself & make your own path, don’t follow nobody’s but your own. Not to sound like a cliche’ but do & be the best that you can be as a person.
East3: In your opinion, do you think the culture needs to preserve as well as expand into “new” elements in order for it to grow & progress? If so, can you share some thoughts/ideas?
Rhett: In my humble opinion, yes, we as a whole need to preserve our culture as well as “expand”……if this is truly our culture, then it’s up to us to preserve it and share the knowledge with people, as well as to keep learning more. We as people should never stop learning….that is what make us unique and to become better human beings. It’s no one’s responsibility except ours to uphold our culture……if it stops to flourish, it’s nobodies’ fault except ours.
East3: What are your current as well as future projects?
Rhett: Besides projects with the Beat Junkies, i’ll working on new music for the Cypress Junkies aka Bobo Meets Rhettmatic & J-Rawls, doing production work with/for Ras Kass, The Visionaries, & a possible project with Black Dynamite/Venice Dawn music producer Adrian Younge….and whatever comes my way, i’ll still be working & creating.
Been a student of Grandmaster Flash since 84