Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Conversation with Kevin Beacham

I am very excited to be announcing the next edition of EXTRA LARGE with my special guest DJ Kevin Beacham. Some of you may know him as DJ Nikoless, or as the host of Redefinition Radio on The Current, or even as "that guy who DJed every Friday night at Azia." Either way, Kevin has definitely made a lasting impression on the music scene in Minneapolis and beyond with his dedication to keeping music-lovers entertained and also well-informed. EXTRA LARGE on March 11th promises to be nothing short of a blast as we take you on a journey through funk, classic hip hop, disco, soul, reggae, and beyond. First up, read the conversation I had with Kevin...

Your superhero-related t-shirt game is incredible. I remember asking you about it almost a year ago and you told me it had been over one year or so since you had NOT worn a superhero shirt, even underneath suits. How many days in a row have you been wearing different superhero shirts? What are your favorite three?

I've been a comic book fan for a long time. Particularly 70s/80s Marvel Comics. Thru out my life I've had a few comic shirts here and there. I'm not really into reading the new comic books too much, but I'm still intrigued by that classic artwork so I started buying more shirts a few years ago. I think it's been like 3 years now that I've been pretty much wearing comic book shirts exclusively. In the days that I didn't wear a comic shirt because I had to dress nicer for a wedding, dinner or something, I either had a comic shirt underneath or I wore a Marvel Comic Button on the tie or something like that...ha. Yeah, I nerd out to the extreme. I have close to 100 Comic Shirts now and it's nearly impossible to pick favorites but here's a pretty good start:

2)Yellow Marvel
3)Adam Warlock

How long have you been hosting your Redefinition Radio show on The Current? How did the show come to happen and what are some of your favorite episodes?

I started the show in The Current on March 19th, 2005. The show ends at Midnight and my B-day is March 20th so I considered that first show my b-day present from the world....ha. Actually, when moving here one of the things that made me question leaving Chicago was giving up my radio show, Time Travel, out there on WNUR 89.3. It was my baby and I loved that show so it was hard to give up. With that in mind, I was definitely interested in finding a new radio show here. In Jan '05 I got a email from my friend, Mandy, saying there was a new station starting and looking for a Hip Hop show.  She wanted to know if I would submit a demo. I asked her what the station was going to be and when she said 89.3, the same dial number as my show in Chicago, I figured it was destiny so I submitted the demo and here I am about to go my 6 year anniversary this month. 

As far as favorite episodes, that's super hard for me. In general, I really love when I do the themed shows. Just all the time, research and ultimately, new knowledge that goes into it and then putting it together like a puzzle is fun for me. A definite favorite would have to the "Tribute To Hip Hop Radio" series I did in March/April of '07 with assistance from Plain Ole Bill. I paid tribute to some of the most classic Hip Hop radio shows (Mr Magic's Rap Attack, Zulu Beats, World Famous Supreme Team, Stretch Armstrong Show, Red Alert Goes Beserk, Chuck Chillout, Latin Rascals, Etc...) and even went to the extreme of re-creating certain show elements and their on air mixes. I even incorporated some elements of the original tapes in my reinterpretations. I think it was one the more innovative things I've done on radio and I never heard of anything like that when I initially did it.

Can you talk a bit about your old Chicago radio show, "Time Travel?" Who are some of the artists you worked with / featured on the show?

Time Travel started on 4/20/95 and it was a educational/theme Hip Hop Radio show. It didn't start that way. Initially my goal was to "Play all these songs and artists that I never heard on the radio". Then after a few months I decided to do a dedication show to LL Cool J, who was about to release his MR Smith album. Once I did that it occurred to me that I could focus on these theme shows covering MCs careers, something that radio wasn't doing a lot, particularly as extensive as I was. Then that evolved to do Producers, Eras of Hip Hop, and even use the music to discuss certain subjects; Love, Death, etc... I learned you can use the music to discuss anything, by just researching the right tracks.

Thru the years we had a lot of artists come down. A lot of them were Chicago cats who people outside the city never heard of, but were ill.  There were a good amount of bigger or noticeable names that did freestyles and/or interviews with us live on air;  Jaz O & Jay Z, Juice, Rhymefest, Special Ed, Bushwick Bill, The Nonce, Mele Mel & Scorpio, Rubberoom, King Just, The Luniz w/DJ Fuze, Visionaries, Percee P, MC Ren, Darryl C of Crash Crew, Crucial Conflict, All Natural, Atmosphere, Dynospectrum, Jel, Moleen, Dilated Peoples, Stedy Serv, Sage Francis, Adeem, Dose One, Illogic, Atoms Family, Cannibal OX, EL P, Blueprint, Eyedea, Buck 65, I Self Devine, Murs, Mystik Journeymen, ED O.G., Akbar, Arsonists, E.C. and a gazillion more peoples...

Speaking of time travel, if you could travel back in time and sit in on the studio recording of any classic hip hop song, what would it be?

You know, I never really thought about that and honestly I don't know if I that matters so much to me. It might sound "ego-based" but I'd like to go back in time to my personal studio sessions and my crews studio sessions. I would like go back to all of them and get the masters!! It bothers me all the time to this day that we left those masters behind. I have tapes of all the recordings for the most part but I wish I had those reels!

Alot of people might recognize you as the host of the MC battles at Scribble Jam. Can you tell us about your involvement in the festival?

Scribble Jam was something that I literally "fell into" right before its inception so I was a part of it from the beginning. Mainly starting off as the Host of the MC Battles. Which that evolved into the head organizer of all the battles to eventually being one of the key organizers and face(s) for the event overall. It was really all about us throwing a show that we would want to go to and was unique overall and particularly to the Midwest. We booked people we were down with and who grew with us as an event, plus a lot of the artists that we really liked and respected. It was never completely about the money because I honestly probably spent more money than I made on the event over the years. I think we had an amazing 13 year run and will go down in history as a very key and influential Hip Hop event. Unfortunately, it came to an end for several reasons and I don't really see it likely that we would ever revive it....

How about the rappers in the Scribble battles who used your name as part of their punchlines? Like in the 2005 battle when Justice told Thesaurus his face looked like "Kevin Beacham's nether regions?" Like, what are you, Kevin Beacham, the impartial moderator of the battle, supposed to really do with that?

First off, it doesn't bother me. Secondly, it's interesting to be integrated into the history of Battle MCing in that way. People always ask me how I feel about that stuff and this is how I feel; I started in Hip Hop as an MC. To me, back then, proving your skills was being the best in a battle. My early career was based on challenging everyone that I could to be recognized as the best. Face to face with the opponent there are no rules, nothing off limits. Sure there are things that we could do without or are really pushing the moral limits, but my belief is that needs to be a personal filter and that whatever that MC feel he needs to be said is on them. Besides people just being wack or using recycled lines or relying on shock value with no skill, I've only ever heard one line in a battle that I recall where I felt like "whoa...maybe you shouldn't have said that". It was at Scribble '96 and I think it was a total slip where someone said "your style is your pops"... To his opponent,  who's father had recently passed. It was kind of bugged, but his opponent just gave a look like "Wow! You really went there?!?" and proceed to come at him on the mic.... They were actually friends and I think it just happened in the midst of the moment on accident...that's about where I would draw the line.

You have been working with Rhymesayers and the Fifth Element shop for several years now. What kinds of projects have you been working on with them lately?

I recently moved from working for Rhymesayers to being full time at Fifth Element. It's long been a goal of mine to work at a Record Shop. It had been discussed for years here as  a possibility for me to do that because of my knowledge of the music, connections within the scene and so forth. The final piece was the launching of the Fifth Element blog. I'm the editor/manager of the blog and I get to express a lot of my Hip Hop History knowledge there as well as focus on another passion which is writing. Right now I'm the Music Buyer, Event Coordinator, and Blog Manager for the store. Some of the things I'm doing on the blog with the Hip Hop History I'm looking to expand into something bigger in the future. It's still in development so I don't want to get to deep into, but basically creating a expansive and detailed home for the History of Hip Hop is the goal.

I love watching you DJ because you seem to only play songs you truly love. What are some of your favorite songs we can expect to hear you spin at Extra Large?

To me that is what it is all about. Of course, you have to be aware of the audience you are playing for. However, I think to be a great DJ, you have to have an open-mind and diverse taste, which I like to think I do....ha.  I'm able to play for different crowds and pull out songs that I love that fit that crowd. I don't think I ever* play songs that I don't truly like and mostly love. 

I don't know any specific songs I'll play, but I suspect I'll be diving into the catalogs of; Rose Royce, Johnny Guitar Watson, Crash Crew, King T, Low Profile, Tuff Crew, Teena Marie, Success N Effect, Millie Jackson, Rock La Flow, Threat, Queen Mother Rage, etc.... That's who I've really been listening to lately...

*OK, except for a couple weddings I did for people and they gave me some stuff that they wanted me to play outside of my norm. Which is why I seldom do weddings anymore...

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Download an EXCLUSIVE mix from Kevin!
DJ Nikoless: The High School Jams
I never released this anywhere. I actually did it to play at my 20 Year High School Reunion because they hadn't booked a DJ yet. They eventually booked our Lake County DJ Legend, Capt 2 Fresh so my services were not needed and I'd rather listen to him play live anyway. In any event, it's  a simple mix of cuts that were big in the North Chicago High School Days ('86-'88)

...and then don't miss out on EXTRA LARGE next Friday, March 11th!