The music: JABAonespins hiphop, jazz, soul and reggae. When he's at a gig, he plays whatthe crowd wants. When he's at home, blending and scratching together amixtape, he plays exactly what he wants. Taking the Low Road, one of his recent mixtape releases, starts with A Tribe Called Quest and ends with Rocky Rivera.
The Scene: Every first Thursday of the month, JABAone spins at Bar Dynamite. Most of his time is spent as the voice behind Magic 92.5's Slow Jams radio show, which airs weekdays from 7 p.m. to midnight. He's also affiliated with several hip-hop collectives, including Homegrown Blends, Dojo Soundz, First Division and Armory Massive, the promotional arm of Armory Survival Gear, a Downtown hip-hop shop.
The Story: He's a National City boy, having lived there since he was a baby and— aside from a stint in Hawaii to open a now-defunct second Armory Survival Gear location,and some time spent in the Bay Area—he's lived in the same 'hood formost of his life. Growing up, he idolized guys like King Arthur and DJ SoundFX. “I was always around hip-hop,” JABAone says. “And hip-hop was always around me.”
Graffiti and freestyle breakdancing were his first loves. In his early years, he danced with a crew named DBX alongside San Diego promoter and hip-hop icon Kutfather.
“I was kind of blessed to be around him at an early stage in hip-hop for me,” JABAone says of Kutfather.
He later joined up with World Peace, another hip-hop dance crew, and continued improving his graffiti skills.
Sittingat a Starbucks in National City, it's easy to see traces of the youngdancer and artist in JABAone, but he's more of a turntablist now. Andeven though he's been spinning for more than a decade, he says hehasn't earned the “DJ” title yet.
“Idon't feel like it's been that long,” he says. “There's a lot of theOGs who we looked up to who've been doing it since the '80s.”
JABAone still does live gigs, but his main focus lately has been on making mixtapes. He recently released Can you Dig it?, which is No. 11 in his mixtape arsenal.
Hespent a year in law school, and while he thinks copyright law and itsrelationship to using songs for his mixtapes is interesting, he says hethinks sampling falls into fair use. “I was at the center of an FBIinvestigation for a quick minute,” he laughs.
He'ssince been cleared. “It was called ‘Operation Websnare.'” He's a littlemore careful with his mixtapes now, but he says he'll continue makingthem.
“It's a promotional tool,” he says.
“Ipersonally feel like the nice thing about mixtapes is that even on thenights you're not gigging, someone somewhere is listening to you.”
Who's CityBeat talking to next?: DJ Charlie Rock