This week we lost one of the greatest DJ’s this world has ever known. Grand Master Roc Raida (real name: Anthony Williams) of the X-Ecutioners passed away on Saturday due to complications from a mixed-martial-arts accident. His sudden passing shocked the world (the hip-hop community in particular) as messages of sorrow and condolence came flooding in.
My personal experience with Roc Raida is very limited. I used to hunt down Roc Raida mixtapes as well as VHS tapes of his DJ performances. I played his music often on my radio show and I was lucky enough to see him perform with the X-Ecutioners (at that time they were called the X-Men) at a small club in Providence, RI in the late 90′s. His performances were enthralling and inspiring. I never became much of a DJ, but Roc Raida did the kind of things that would make you think, “Yeah…if I dedicated all of my time to a craft I want to be able to freak it like that.” And of course, very few will ever be able to do it the way Roc Raida did.
Buck 65 has already posted a personal story about Roc Raida on his blog section here at www.StrangeFamous.com but an honorary member of the SFR crew named DJ Jester wanted to share his experience as well so here’s his story:
“I found out about Roc Raida’s death the same way I’ve been hearing most bad news lately…through Twitter. I’m following DJ Spinderella, the DJ for Salt-N-Pepa, and that’s where I got the news. I was up early on Saturday, September 19th, 2009, on a road trip and this was the surprise I got during breakfast. I got into Marfa, Texas, a tiny west Texas art town a day early before for a gig Saturday. It made me think..Dang, here I am in the middle of nowhere about to DJ and, honestly, I probably wouldn’t even be doing this if it weren’t for Raida. And it’s not like my style is anything like his. I do think he was an influence, though. I can’t beat juggle to save my life but I do know I wanted to start a body trick crew because of him.
There weren’t as many celebrity tweets about Roc Raida’s passing as there were for DJ AM, but I can understand why. It was a different scene. Like other DJs around my age (early thirtysomething), I distinctly remember me in the late 90′s being a fan of this scratch DJ thing more than I paid attention to school or girls. Scratch DJ videos probably got me more in debt back then than anything else. It was a culture I felt part of. Like those friends you have who watch a lot of wrestling. I immersed myself in it, mostly by way of being the arts editor for my college newspaper. Every show scratch DJ related I’d try to score tickets to. I was invited to both Q-Bert’s “Wave Twisters” CD release in San Francisco AND his Skratchcon 2000 event, not as a DJ but as a journalist. On one of those trips, the first video I probably bought was a self-released Skratch Piklz video. Coming from San Antonio, where that stuff didn’t really hit yet I couldn’t believe there was such amazing talent coming from these other towns. Ten years ago DJ’s had their own voices and personalities. Like, when you saw them or heard them you knew it was THEIR voice. DJ Swamp, Kid Koala, Mr. Dibbs, the X-Men, Piklz, and Beat Junkies. Those were pretty much my heroes. Skratch DJing was still considered experimental getting love from the Wire and magazines like that. Anyway, those Piklz videos led to me buying the Invisibl Skratch Piklz vs. the X-Men video. That’s probably the first time I saw Raida perform in a group routine. That made me hungry for more so I bought the 1995 World DMC Finals video. I would constantly rewind the part where he is spinning with his back to the turntables and would try (mostly jokingly) to imitate that during practice. When he defended his title in the 1996 World DMCs, it was like he grew more musical in a year.
Anyway, Roc Raida RIP. I felt like I knew you. Thank you for being you and for your contributions to hip-hop culture.
-DJ Jester the Filipino Fist”