With a DJ name derived from Sumerian mythology, DJ Enki of the Oakland Faders is named for a deity, but worships at the temple of hip-hop. Since 1985, he's been a hip-hop aficionado, particularly drawn to the role DJs play in a group or MC setting. "They were the coolest members of the groups, and what they were doing was something totally new and fascinating to me," he says. After getting his first pair of turntables in 1994, he began the art of blending, scratching, and mixing the old school way. Today he's a prominent member of the Bay Area hip-hop DJ scene. We spoke with the Oakland Fader about moving to the West Coast, The 45 Sessions, and what's missing in the art of DJing. He and fellow crew member Platurn and will face off against the Triple Threat DJs this Saturday, March 15, at Brick and Mortar Music Hall.
Since you're originally from the East Coast, what attracted you move out here?
It was a different twist on things that I found appealing. It also was coming from a place I knew almost nothing about, so I wanted to hear more and learn about these places. On the NorCal side of things, Too $hort taught me about Oakland. Then I got big into Digital Underground, which schooled me on West Coast funk. Then Hieroglyphics came along and gave me a different perspective. When I started riding the AC Transit in Oakland, I bumped Del's "The Wacky World of Mass Transit" a lot! Then I learned about E-40 and saw how much he pioneered. By the time I was in college, the Bay Area indie stuff like Stones Throw and Solesides was heavy in my rotation. At a base level, the beats and rhymes were good, but I really took to the unique ways of expression. The Bay is home to some serious innovators in the rap game.
What made you move out to Oakland and not SF? Having been there for more than a decade, how have you seen the nightlife change?
Initially, it was a matter of necessity. I moved out here with my friend from high school, and he was getting his Ph.D at Cal, so he wanted to be close to campus. Hence, Oakland. But once I got out here and settled in, I took to Oakland right away and never really had much desire to leave it. I've been here since 1998, and I love it. The party scene in Oakland has had a renaissance over the past couple years, too, which has been amazing to see. There was a stretch when all the DJ action was in SF, and Oakland had pretty much nothing of note going on. But we've had some good venues open up and play host to some really good parties, so where the scene used to be all but dead, it's now vibrant and really popping.
Congrats on four years of The 45 sessions. What's one of your favorite memories of the party?
There are a million and one great memories, but for one of my more recent favorites, there was a 45 Session the night before my wedding last year. I planned on not playing that night, but once I was done with the rehearsal dinner and [after] all that day before the wedding stuff, I was still kind of wound up and antsy, so I grabbed a box of records and went over there to do a quick surprise set. I rolled in there, threw down what I'm told was a fantastic set, got a great response from the crowd, hoisted a glass, and bounced. It was on some "Who was that masked man?" style, and it was a great pressure release before the big day.
What's one of your most prized 45s?
That's a really tough call, but I'll say my Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud 45s. I'm a massive fan of their album Girls I Got 'Em Locked, and I have all the 45s off that album. They aren't something you see every day, and unlike a lot of rap 45s, they sound great!
What's something people would be surprised to learn about your Oakland Faders crew?
I think how deep in the game and how diverse we really are. Joe Quixx manned the world famous Wake-Up Show, Ammbush was down with a pre-fame Master P, and is now producing for DaVinci (among other artists, including himself), and DJ Spair's been going hard in the Vegas scene for a while now. We just bring a lot to the table. People generally know that, but they might not know just how deep it really runs.
As someone who has been DJing since 1994, what do you think about the new generation of DJs coming out?
One thing I've noticed more these days is specialization, which is interesting. I came up in an era where if you were calling yourself a "hip-hop DJ," that meant you could play a very wide variety of music -- not just rap, but rock, funk, breakbeats, disco, reggae, world music, whatever -- and present it in a hip-hop style. Nowadays, if you call yourself a blank DJ, you generally just go hard on whatever genre is filling in the blank.
What's something crucial you had to learn back then that is kind of bypassed now?
The biggest thing was having to learn all the basics. Before I did anything else, I learned how to mix and beat match. Nowadays, computers can do all that for you, and I think that's a shame -- you pick up so many good little tricks and develop a personal style learning how to do it yourself. I feel like the same sort of thing happens with digging. Building up your record collection is the greatest musical education there is, because you spend so much time learning about players and labels and such. But nowadays, you just download a bunch of stuff without much thought, and you're good to go. It's like you skip the entire learning process and go straight to the end, and I feel like you really shortchange yourself when you do that.
Are you coming out with any new mixes/remixes?
Oh, most definitely. 2014 is the Year of Putting Out Product for me! I've been working on a few remixes/re-edits that I'm going to trickle out over the course of the year, and I've got a few mixtape ideas I'm working on, including one for the good folks at Wing Wings. I'm doing a lot of production work, too, which will hopefully see the light of day this year.
This Saturday, you and Platurn will be playing versus the Triple Threat DJs. What kind of heat are you two going to bring?
Well, we're going to have to bring a lot because Shortkut and Vinroc don't mess around!