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DJ Enki

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

DJ Enki of the renowned local favorite Oakland Faders got into DJing through a love and affinity for hip-hop in 1985. Looking up to DJs like DJ Premier in Gang Starr and Aladdin in Low Profile, he always paid attention to the prominent role they have in backing MCs. Although it took him awhile to get his money together to buy turntables and records, he now plays a crucial role in the Bay Area hip-hop scene. Be sure to check him out DJing the Love and Hate art show at Lower Haters on February 11th.

SF Station (SFS): You're originally from the East Coast. How did you end up here?

DJ Enki (E): It was music that brought me out here, cliché as that may sound. I moved here right after I graduated college, which is the perfect time to pick up and go somewhere new and start that next stage of your life. I had spent my whole life to that point on the East Coast, and while I love the East Coast to death, I was kind of over living there at that point and was looking for something new.

The records I was listening to coming from the Bay and the stories I would hear from DJ friends about what the Bay scene was like made me want to come out here and be a part of it. So I was able to make it happen to get out here — though it was rough going at first, I came out here just in time for the bursting of the dot-com bubble — and get involved in the scene. I took to the Bay right away, and 12 years later, I have no intention of leaving.

SFS: Since you live in Oakland, what’s one of the differences between there and SF in the DJ sphere?

E: Well, Oakland's nightlife was nearly nonexistent for a while, but recently, it's starting to come around again. New venues are opening up and giving people some real options for going out to dance and hear music, which is great. All that time lying dormant has left Oakland with a lot of catching up to do with regards to SF, but it is heartening to see that some effort is being made.

If I had to compare the two, I'd say that SF definitely has the edge when it comes to variety. If there's a particular kind of experience you're trying to have, you can most likely find it in SF. In Oakland, it seems like venues are trying to carve out more distinct identities and stick with them rather than trying to cater to too many different crowds.

SFS: How did you connect with the Oakland Faders?

E: I ended up playing some gigs with original Faders, DJ Spair and DJ Platurn, back in the early 2000s, and I could tell right away that we had a similar sensibility, a similar outlook on hip-hop, music, and what a hip-hop DJ should be. So that was an easy connection — like minds and all that. And as it turned out, Platurn lived pretty close to me, so we started hanging out, going digging, working on music together, all that good stuff. Eventually, I got made an official Oakland Fader. I wave the banner proudly.

SFS: What’s the best part about playing with them?

E: We work together really well because we know each other's strengths and can play to them, like "I'll cover this part of the night, you cover that part of the night." And I like the friendly one-upsmanship that particularly comes out at parties like the 45 Sessions, that "Oh, you've got that record, but what do you know about this record?" mentality that keeps us all on our toes.

Plus, the Oakland Faders name really stands for something. We pride ourselves on our versatility in both music and presentation, and I feel like being able to claim the Oakland Faders name gives me license to stretch out, to go off the beaten path a bit to try something different, because that's what people expect from us. That's a great situation for a DJ to be in.

SFS: The 45 sessions is a pretty dope party. Give us a rundown of what a typical party is like there.

E: The 45 Sessions are my favorite parties to play these days, hands down. They remind me of everything fun about DJing, and I love the challenge they present: You've got to have a good collection of 45s for starters, and you also have to be able to really DJ with them — mix, cut up doubles, scratch, all of that. It definitely separates the men from the boys, and in this Serato age, it's very gratifying to get back to the basics of two turntables and vinyl.

SFS: I heard you're coming out with a mix just in time for Valentine's Day. What's the inspiration behind it?

E: Well, the mix is tied to the opening of the Love and Hate art show at Lower Haters on February 11th. I'm DJing at the opening party, but then this idea came up of doing a Love and Hate mix to go with the whole art package.

I've never done a Valentine's Day mix because it's already been done to death as a concept, but the idea of doing Love and Hate was intriguing, and it presented an interesting challenge on both sides: For the Love part, picking songs that haven't been used on these mixes a million times, and for the Hate part, finding good hate songs. For example, not whiny, pseudo-angsty "I hate you, dad!" songs, of which there are tons.

One thing I like about these theme mixes is that it plays into the idea that you can pull from all sorts of different genres. The central notion is a non-musical theme rather than "this is a disco mix" or "this is a rap mix" or what have you, so you can go all over the place with it. The "Bacon the Funk" mix I did last year — a mix all about bacon, ham, and pork — is a good example. It had hip-hop, funk, soul, alt rock, and even Broadway all thrown in the mix. So this is along those lines: multiple genres coalescing around a theme.