The man: Rick Amezcua, better known as DJ RAGS
The music: Rags will play damn near anything his audience asks for. “The crowd pretty much dictates what I get into,” he says. “My skill is to be able to read crowds easily and adjust.” Mostly, the crowd asks for hip-hop and house, but Rags' influences range from obscure turntablists to Depeche Mode. “I'd like to think my musical knowledge goes way beyond what I play,” he adds.
The scene: A DJ in San Diego clubs since before he could legally enter a bar (he started when he was 15), Rags holds residencies at On Broadway Friday nights and Onyx / Thin every other Saturday.
The story: Thanks to an older brother in the music business, turntables and vinyl records were a big part of Rags' upbringing. He started by playing at weddings and other corporate events but eventually got good enough to hold his own in Downtown clubs.
“But, back then, there wasn't really a Gaslamp scene like there is now,” he says. “It was more like restaurants that converted into clubs at night.”
Rags spun records by night and sold them by day at his brother's shop, the now-closed ACMF Records in Chula Vista, and amassed a vinyl collection that took up three rooms in his house. He eventually made the switch to a digital Serato system and sold his entire collection, but he still digs the sentiment of vinyl.
After years in the club scene, Rags took his turntable skills to the radio waves and hosted a hip-hop and live-mix show on San Diego's Z90 from roughly 1993 to 2001. After a short stint as the music director at Blazin 98.9, he left radio, possibly for good.
“When hip-hop started commercializing and not being as creative, I kind of lost interest in radio,” he says.
These days, Rags is focusing on his weekly residencies and being a dad. In his spare time, he's been working on scoring the movie Geezers!, starring J.K. Simmons and Tim Allen, set for release in October.
As for the health of the local hip-hop scene, he says it's been good to him in the past, and it continues to support him. He says the people who complain about the scene are just being lazy and don't know where to look.
“I hate hearing mthrfckrs talk like there's no real hip hop in SD or like they're gonna bring it back,” Rags (@djrags01) tweeted on June 5. “It never left. Just cuz it's not on the radio. Go find it! Dudes like @IamCROS1, @DJARTISTIC, @Felt1ssc, @mrhek are keeping it alive and well!”
Who's CityBeat talking to next?: Mike “Mikeski” Degrassia