But one won’t do for the Bridgeport, Connecticut, native. “I started DJing as soon as I heard ‘Rockit,’ ” J. recalls, echoing the words of nearly every leading second-generation turntablist, evident in a scene from Doug Pray’s 2001 Scratch documentary in which a litany of DJs cite Herbie Hancock’s seminal 1983 recording as inspiration for their careers. “As soon as I heard ‘Rockit,’ and as soon as I saw the back of Malcolm McLaren’s D’ya Like Scratchin’ album, I was trying to scratch. We were trying when ‘Planet Rock’ was out. We used to think it was like rubbing two cartridges together…we didn’t know what the hell scratching was.”
When it comes to records, J’s story begins with hip-hop. Pops would take the young Beat Junkie to warehouses and outlets like Music Plus to scour the bins for 45s and anything Parliament-Funkadelic related. “I went to those spots so much that I knew the days when the shipments would come in,” he explains, in true vinyl-nerd fashion. Once old enough to drive, and now living in Orange County, California, he hit the streets of Los Angeles to dig at stores like Rage Records, which was hyped on 1580 KDAY-AM. KDAY’s Mix Masters were a major influence, along with DJs at KACE and Uncle Jamm’s Army of DJs, which included Chris Taylor, Egyptian Lover, and Battlecat.
Today, J.Rocc is one of many in-house DJs at Stones Throw Records, where he is finishing a solo album and traveling the globe, playing as much James Brown as crowds will tolerate. It would have been interesting to hear him wax poetic on just one LP, or even expound to the lengths of Rhettmatic’s sixteen, but for a man who speaks best with his hands, these ten gems are more than enough to satisfy.
M.C. Mitchski “The Rappin’ Comedian” and M.B. “The Human Radio” “Brooklyn Blew Up the Bridge”
(Ski Records Co.) 1987
This is, like, a five-track EP of what I used to hear on my tapes of The Red Alert Show. Of course, “Red Alert Is a Great Man,” they used to play that all the time. And “Brooklyn Blew Up the Bridge” was during the Queensbridge and the Bronx battle, trying to cash in on the KRS-One song. This is one of my favorite joints from that time. It’s a record that never came out here to the West Coast, but is definitely one of my top joints ever. I finally found it in Japan.
Divine Force “Holy War (Live)” b/w “Somethin Different”
I think this is on that Ego Trip comp that came out a while ago. It’s definitely one of those classic New York joints. I don’t even know what year—’87 probably. This is another one I used to hear all the time on my Red Alert tapes. Those were the tapes that made me want to get more hip-hop records. I was so stuck on West Coast [hip-hop] and faster beats that when I would hear this stuff, it was a new thing. “Holy War” is definitely one of those joints. I was hooked on it.
Jack Bruce Things We Like
This is jazz-rock. It’s got some classic loops, like Showbiz and A.G.’s “Represent.” I had heard about the album and was like, “Oh word!?” It’s one of those albums that I had been looking for. Of course, I couldn’t find it in a record store by my house, but every once in a while, I would hit the college stations where I used to live and do a radio show. They would leave me alone after my set, and I would go through the records. I just happened to go on a college-station jacking spree, and they had it there.
James Brown In the Jungle Groove
This is, like, my joint. Period. I can take this anywhere with me, and I’ll be all right. I can be DJing somewhere, and give me doubles of this, and I can go for hours. It’s definitely one of my joint albums. I could pick a million James Brown albums, because he’s got a lot of them, but this right here is the one I’ve got to have. It’s just a DJ record, and it’s got everything: double vinyl, loud pressing, “Funky Drummer,” “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose,” “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin’.” It’s one of the records I’ve got at least four copies of. Everywhere I see it—the reissue or the original—I buy them all.
Slum Village “I Don’t Know”
(Sudden Impact) 1996
This was my first time really hearing Slum Village. I was hip—kind of—to it, because C-Minus had the Fantastic Vol. 1 joint on cassette, and then Rhett came back from Japan with this. It was so new, no one was really trippin’ on Jay Dee yet, so they were like, “Here’s twenty test pressings and a couple of copies of the real thing…try and get the word out.” Rhett sat on them for a good month before he even let anybody have it, because—and I hate to say it—I don’t even think he was trippin’ on it. It was just so different at that time. I remember bumping the tape, and Rhett heard that song and was like, “Man, I got that 12-inch.” I was like, “12-inch for what?” Sure enough, he came over the next day with doubles for me, and I was like, “Dude, you been sleeping on this the whole time!?” He was like, “I didn’t know.” And ever since then, we were killing that song. We were the only ones that had it out here too? We killed that song in L.A.
Atmosfear En Trance
This is a British soul group from the ’80s, and “Dancing in Outer Space” is this classic track that was played in all the house clubs and all that. It’s a more R&B/boogie/funk type of album, and not even “funk” funk, but ’80s funk. Peanut Butter Wolf and Madlib put me up on it, and this group right here opened up doors for me to try and find out more about the British funk scene. There’s still a lot I don’t know about it, so every once in a while when I go out there, I find a couple of discs here and there of some shit I’ve never heard of. There’s something from this one group, Funkapolitan, that I’m still trying to find, called “As Time Goes By.” It’s another one of those British jams that Wolf put me up on.
“Pretty” Tony “Get Some”
(Music Specialists) 1985
I got to have a little electro on my list. I could go all day with electro joints. This is just one of those Miami joints from ’85. It’s one record that stands out to me that didn’t sound like everything else that was coming out around that time. He was doing “Jam the Box,” and Freestyle, and stuff with Debbie Deb and Trinere. That was the highlight of his career right there, around ’85 and ’86, when he was coming out with hits left and right on the electro house party scene. When I finally found this, I was like, “Doubles!” This is a popular joint with me, and it’s one of those random hip-hop joints, because it’s not something that everyone’s yapping about.
Tim Maia Racional Vol. 1
This is from when I first went to Brazil. It’s the one that brings back the memories. There’s a track called “You Don’t Know What I Know,” and it’s only, like, thirty-four seconds, but it’s this a cappella song that’s just him singing about silly stuff. We would sing this song all day—me, B+, Madlib, Egon, Cut [Chemist], everybody. B+ already had it, because he had gone out there before and come up on, like, four boxes of records and made CDs of all the stuff he found. I think this came from an outdoor swap meet where they had volume one and volume two hanging up. I was like, “Tim Maia! I’m actually doing some damage now. I’m stepping my game up!” It’s not just a Sergio Mendes album, because I had all that.
We cleaned up out there. I know the prices aren’t the same because of us. We went out there and acted a fool. Records will do that to you.
Latin Rascals Big Apple Production Vol. II
(J&T Records) 1984
This is a representation of what I was listening to growing up. It’s just one big mix. I love edits, but sometimes it’s dope when it’s mixed, and, at the same time, this has all the hits from that day. Some of them I’m not too fond of, but this is actually one of the records the dudes on KACE would play. They would do their own crazy little mix, then throw in one of the songs that ended that mix, but it was really this record they were playing. I’d be thinking, “These guys are killing it tonight…they’re getting busy!” But it was definitely a record. I knew that probably, like, three years later when I finally got my own decks. This was a record that made me want to DJ. Whatever those guys were doing, I wanted to do.