There are DJs who hit on the profession quite accidentally. They filled in for someone and decided it was for them, and so on. And what of DJ Rad, one of New York’s finest? His love for deejaying actually started with a classic movie. “I got started by watching Beat Street the movie as a child,” he recalls. “Ever since then, I was amazed at the scratching sounds and the way the dh’s mixed the music…From then on, I was hooked.”
Growing up in Jamaica Queens, New York—in the Laurelton section—the little boy who would grow up to be DJ Rad, watched and idolized such musical greats as Jam Master J from Run DMC. Oh, and it also helped that he didn’t have to go far to get his DJ groove on. “My father’s friend had a DJ set,” DJ Rad remembers. “I used to sneak and practice what I saw on TV and heard on the radio.”
With all that practice, it was only a matter of time before he got pretty deft at the craft. “I got really good at mixing,” he says, “but was amazed to see deejays battling and doing tricks, so I practiced and practiced for years—until my skills were good enough to battle other DJs I used to idolize.” Those turntable masters he refers to are Jazzy Jeff, DJ Cash Money, Stevie D and DJ Scratch. “I got a rep around my area,” he remembers. “I was into the battle thing heavy, and blending R&B records with hip-hop beats. From there it was on.”
Indeed, it was “on”—on as in working with major labels like Atlantic Records, Uptown-MCA records at live events and producing demos for such artists as 50 Cent. The DJ mogul has had his musical projects released in places like Switzerland, France, Japan, Germany, as well as Sweden. A track he produced—“A Tear for The Ghetto” on the independent label Freeze Records—was released in Europe and earned gold status.
As part of the producing-DJ team The Triple Beam Team, Rad produced “High All The Time” for 50 Cent on the classic rap album Get Rich or Die Tryin’. He’s also produced Infamous Mobb, Dark Lo from O.B.H., Riot Squad Member Cau2Gz, Jadakiss (“Blasting Off”), and NorthStarr. He’s made beats for Lakey The Kid—the protégée of rapper Nas—and was the main producer of the compilations Miami Hip Hop Uncensored Part 1 and Part 2, Welcome 2 Miami.
Kreyolicious: Is there a story behind how you chose your DJ name?
Its part of my real name—Conrad. My friends called me Rad for years, so I just stuck with it… I had a few names coming up DJ Maestro, DJ Nestle Qwick, and DJ Rad…aka Radnificent. I got that from DJ Jazzy Jeff. He was known as The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff. I just called myself Radnificent. I kept it for my DJ name and my producer name [which is] also DJ Rad.
Kreyolicious: What are some of your favorite records…the ones that you feel are indispensable for a successful event?
Some of my fave records are “The Show” By Dougie Fresh and Slick Rick, “Get At Me Dog” by DMX, “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G., “Made You Look” by Nas, and “Give it To Me” by Jay Z.
Right: DJ Rad hanging out with reggae star Elephant Man.
Kreyolicious: Say you’re hired for an event. How do you determine what you’ll play?
It all depends on the crowd the promoter is used to having at his or her venue. If it’s an older crowd, I know I have to have a good portion of late 80s, 90s and early 2000 songs with some dated music added in. If it’s a crowd that is mixed, then I know to have a little bit of everything to please the crowd…
Kreyolicious: What are your parent’s thought on your profession?
My father was always a supporter. He used to buy me all my records when I was young and first starting [out]. He bought me my DJ equipment. He is a big lover of music. My mother—also. They were skeptical at first, but when my father gave me a message one day saying this record company called and said, “Meet the artists at the airport. You’re going to Switzerland”—that’s when it hit them like…damn…okay—this is real.
Kreyolicious: Do they ever come to your shows?
No. They are not into the hip-hop shows. They like what they see on TV and hear on the radio. [Laughter] You know old school Haitian parents…twòp bidip bidip nan tèt mwen. [Laughter]
Kreyolicious: How do you stay linked to Haitian culture?
I stay linked to Haitian culture through family my cousins. I do my research and also go back and dig in the crates of my parents and other family members music and films and tv shows. but i follow a lot of outlets. I grew up watching [shows called] Languichatte, Les Gens D’ici and other shows. I listened to Tabou Combo, DP Express, Scorpio, Coupe Cloue, coupe cloue bossa combo ti mano all the way to Zin, Boukman Eksperyans, Djakout, Carimi…Sweet Mickey. I haven’t been to Haiti in a while, but it’s long overdue. I would like to go there and share my experiences of this hip-hop culture with the people in Haiti [since] I grew up around a lot of rappers, producers, actors, directors, record execs and singers in Queens. And also, [I’d like to] teach deejaying and music production…
Left: Chillaxin’ with rap scribe and music legend Nas.
Kreyolicious: That’s a great plan…What would you say has been the best moment of your deejaying life?
The best moment was when I was picked up to be the tour DJ and resident DJ for the rap group The Group Home from the Gang Starr Foundation. We traveled all over Asia and Europe…that was the first time I got to experience performing in front of thousands…
Kreyolicious: Wow…If an aspiring DJ was sitting across from you right now, and humbly asked you for advice on how to proceed with a career as a DJ, you would say…
[I’d say to] be original. Do a lot of research on the deejays that came before him…or her. Also, really study the art ’cause it’s an art form—whether you’re a battle party DJ or mixtape DJ. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn by watching—and incorporate it in your original routines. And most importantly, be original and keep an open mind to music. Listen and collect all genres of music…
Kreyolicious: Deejays can be unpredictable on the turntables. But they can be calculated when they’re not on them. What should we expect from you?
When I’m behind the turntables or beat machine in the studio, always expect good energy…’cause I’m like the wind. You can’t see me, but you sure can feel me.
[All images provided by subject.]