Rozzano Davids or REAL Rozzano as he is known [on twitter] is a vinyl playing dj of epic proportions. Anything from Hip Hop, Chicago House, Disco, Funk and more…if it’s quality, he’s got it in his box.
For The Record is very pleased to have had a chat with him.
Hi Rozzano…how are things with you this week?
I’m lekka tired, been going to bed late as I’m digitising my records, can only do it when the family goes to bed and its quiet time…plus work/hustling during the day is tough, there’s so much to do!
Can you give us a summarised version of who you are, where you’re from and what your journey through music has been like, please? [Yes, summarised hehehe]
Due to being branded as a Hip Hop DJ playing this new but “kak” music as club owners and fellow DJs called it, I would not get any work in any mainstream clubs, although I was a versatile DJ I was marginalised and kept off programs. Due to this I had to focus on other skills in the industry, so My hats I have been wearing: BBOY (Break-dancer) DJ or QMS, Dancefloor Scientist, Event Organisor, Music Promoter, Journalist, Semi Graphic Designer, Human Activist, Sound Engineer, Record Collector aka cultural anthropologist and Artist Manager.
My Musical journey started in our house in District Six, my mom and dad loved Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, etc, we had a Rambler car with an 8 track tape in it, my dad had the soulful tapes such as The Main Ingredient, Marvin Gaye, Nat King Cole, etc. Later my dad worked in a pub in Mowbray and started coming home with vinyl he would get from “docks manne” ie: docks labourers stole them from the containers. I will never forget this period ‘cause he came home with George Benson – Give me the Night, Bob James – Touchdown, BeeGees and Earl Klugh, and because I was the youngest of three boys I couldn’t go out much so I stayed home playing these records over and over! Things changed drastically when we were forced to move to Mitchells Plain, I was now almost a teenager, my two brothers would come home with cassette recordings from Route 66, Club Fantasy, Club Galaxy and the Casablanca, I would listen to these tapes when they were out partying, also exchanging tapes & LP’S with kids in the hood was big!
My first dj experience was at our home when my parents and their friends came home from lang-arm parties. I would become their DJ, playing more popular records which the lang-arm bands didn’t play; I started dee-jaying with LPs and cassettes on our family hi-fi, so playing a song on the turntable while using the small cassette radio to cue my songs on cassettes. There was obviously no mixing involved just switching from “phono” to “tape” and keeping my party crowd happy, gaining valuable experience in reading crowds.
So, when I could enter the clubs, especially when I got my break at Club T-Zers which was at the bottom of Harrington Street in the mid 80’s, I had to be different and push the envelope in the club industry!
I always say I’m not a DJ but a QMS which means Quality Music Selector, since I started DJ’ing in the 80’s I would never follow trends or other DJs, I always did my own thang. As a result [of my attitude, vision and goals], people thought I was an asshole, because I wanted to do what I wanted to do and I was not into playing Kylie Minoque or Jason Donovan. Electronic music was just about coming into stores back then and I was out to promote this new and fresh sound! Also what ever Top Ten records was out at the time I would only select two or three of those records to play in my set, ‘cause normally not all the tunes in DJs’ top ten were good so I picked the best of the ten and mostly because I couldn’t afford a lot of records, so choosing that timeless tune was crucial.
My first real taste of what Rozzano is about was about a year ago at a Vinyl Digz, where you tore the roof off Waiting Room, dropping some of the finest Hip Hop joints ever! You’ve clearly got a knack for how to woo a crowd. What’s your view on pre-planning a set versus going in there and feeling your way around?
During 1985 I started DJ’ing for free at Club T-Zers, playing a hip hop set for only 15 minutes, those days music genres were played in various sets: jazz, funk, disco/dance & the ballad set, every time I had to play after the main DJ, the floor would clear and only break-dancers/hip hoppas would dance to my music so I begged the resident DJ to let me mix/blend 120bpm electro hip hop songs into the house/dance music, for example: I would mix Planet Rock into House Nation flawlessly just to keep the dancefloor rocking and got the non-hip hop crowd into it, I soon realised that mixing was a science & art, and worked out my set and tried to squeeze in as many tunes as possible, as my set time was limited!
Only when DJ’ing at festivals, do I program my sets according to theme of event, good example was at this year’s CTEMF, because normally I freestyle all the time, I just pack in the bomb records, read the crowd and make it work! [BUT] one must practice at home, check which songs fit nicely together. One of my favourite alias is “The Dancefloor Scientist” cause during the 80’s the challenges of making Hip Hop music work or “break them in” on a dancefloor was very difficult, top club DJs were ignoring this new hip hop music because it was hard and distortive, compared to the soul, funk and jazzfunk tunes out at that time! So timing and perfect mixing/change-overs was crucial, especially since during the 80’s, if you cleared the dancefloor you got fired, which meant you had to work hard at it. Also this music was difficult to break in, as only your fellow BBoys and BGirls really appreciated the music.
When we spoke at Tableism, where you also ripped it up proper [mind you], you mentioned you grew up in Lentegeur. An area where Hip Hop was prominent, resulting in a few of South Africa’s biggest groups coming from that area of Mitchell’s Plein. Can you tell us a bit more please?
Due to the Group Areas Act, we were forced to move to the Plein in 1980, and like most townships it was dangerous and my parents kept me indoors. My dad bought a video machine and I started recording music videos from TV and caught the Michael Jackson – Billie Jean video, Malcolm Maclaren video of Buffalo Gals which featured NYC Breakers and the World’s Famous Supreme Team DJs. Here we saw breaking, dancing and scratching for the first time. Before getting into breakdancing I was doing MJ and also won a few MJ comps. Shortly after that I had a good few music videos with a few new dancing moves in it. I started practicing these dance moves, showed these moves to my two friends in my class (Ready D and Gogga), which was during a period when everybody was still trying to do the moonwalk. I am credited for been the first person to do the moonwalk in SA! The two main streets in Lentegeur where hip hop was born were Agapanthus Street where I lived and Viooltjie Street where Gogga and Ready D lived. Youth from all over Mitchells Plain and surrounding areas traveled to the Plein for Hip Hop Education. At my parent’s house, we used to watch the rare funk and hip hop videos, which I had managed to capture from TV and we started practicing our dance moves. Opposite Ready D’s house was a huge cement patch where we would practice. Gogga would bring his family hi-fi to the “pitch” and the community’s kids would come and watch us practice from the time school ended until late at night. As break-dancers we got our big break when we danced at a “Michael Jackson” competition as “The City Kids” in the Town Centre. We freaked people out, especially when we did the moonwalk properly, something all the contestants couldn’t do properly! Here Mitchells Plain residents got the first taste of B’Boying, almost a year before the big breakdancing explosion happened due to movies like “Breakin 1 & 2” plus “Beat Street.” Later we discovered a movie called “Wild Style” which had a huge influence on us. Thanks to DJ Dr Spook, the resident DJ at Club Fantasy in M/Plein Town Centre who saw us dancing in that competition. You could hear a pin drop in the busy Town Centre square when we danced, because nobody had ever seen this dance before. That very day we became resident dancers at Club Fantasy. Another thing to mention is that as fourteen year olds we danced 6 nights a week at the club and got NO pay for it but this gig blew us up and we became M/Pleins’ first ghetto superstars in 1984 appearing in newspapers and magazines.
Why @realROZZANO? Is there someone trying [in vain] to imitate you?
hahaha, besides our hip hop constitution of being original, real and true to self, one of my ultimate records of all time is “John Rocca – I want to be real” so during high school, I became Sir Real, later Rozzano X. I believe in evolving that’s why I keep changing my name, I have various names: Geto Soldaat [Ghetto Soldier], DJ Distortion cause “I distort in the mainstream club scene” I also like the term DJ ROOTS cause you will find me proudly in the Dirty Underground Black Soil. I have given birth to all modern hip hop DJs in RSA, many new DJs are receiving much attention in the sun on the huge hip hop family tree!
You are a resident at the famous MoFunk nights, have dropped some Chicago House [heat] at Vinyl Digz and can play Dancehall & Reggae too. So you’re pretty comfortable with most genres. Which genre do you enjoy playing most, though?
Technically the easiest genre to spin is house music, because of beat matching aka mixing but mixing house music can be very difficult. I find that even top house DJs play good tunes, but don’t necessarily mix them well. There is an “Art or Science to Mixing” that I notice most don’t “overstand” DJs think their records beats match yet the songs/frequencies don’t mix well together, it’s hard work to get this right!
Playing/Mixing Hip Hop is extremely difficult, as we have NO long intros for mixing, plus various tempos and moods and one has to know your records very well to keep the pace and vibe going. Also, these songs are very short and you must think two to three songs ahead of time. When playing funk records, you’re playing real musicians not drum machines, so mixing these records are a huge challenge. Also hip hop jocks like to juggle the “breaks” of funk tunes which could be 5 seconds or 15 seconds long, so you have to be physical & mentally fit. You have to mark those records, know when the breaks are starting and ending, sometimes we only play the break and not the rest of the song, so studying your records is crucial and hard work putting them together! I don’t use Serato or Traktor. These software programs definitely help a DJ to cue and mark tracks better but playing them from vinyl is no joke, but lot’s of fun and can be embarrassing when you fuck up a mix.
How important is it to “send a message” and “tell a story” with the music you play? I ask this, especially since I’ve noticed you are very passionate about political injustices and fighting the system.
Artists are normally the “voice” of the voiceless, hence I have always been vocal and active in my community, plus I have always been spinning “socially conscious” records especially hip hop, reggae & funk. I have early house tunes from the mid 80’s that had a strong message! Another thing is that reading helps build/develop our most important muscle in our bodies: “the brain” when you read and feed your brain computer, you will be able to calculate the visual images or messages your brain is receiving and find solutions to problems! With all the distracting noise of modern social media these days, people are not reading enough and seem to be very confused.
Besides spinning records, what else makes you really happy?
Dancing/partying, reading, family life, watching documentaries and good movies, swimming, braai’ing and cooking [making a veggie potjie] and spreading/sharing information.
If anyone knows the Cape Town scene, you do! I’m of the opinion, that things are still far too segregated for us to call ourselves a ‘true scene’…Your thoughts on this, and how do we rectify this?
EGO’s and the love of fame, fortune and p…y is our problem.
On Saturday at a hip hop event in Langa I did a DJ workshop and left the kids with this quote: “during apartheid years we had FREEDOM cause we had: Hip Hop and currently in our so-called new “democrazy” we have Apartheid in Hip Hop! During the 80’s we had one common enemy: the SA Government, so with political rallies at our schools and conscious hip hop/reggae music coming out, I became conscious of my surroundings and political situation and Music became a uniting factor amongst us youth. Club T-Zers and The Base was multi-racial clubs that united all races under one roof and we were raided by the PoPo [Police] on a regular basis!
In 1994 we became the rainbow nation, I’m only “overstanding” this concept now, I always called myself black or brown and never coloured, BUT today myself & everybody is coloured in the rainbow nation! People’s lack of overstanding our history and how we got here and their laziness to do research and to READ is the problem and let’s not forget “paper(money) & pussy chasing” I believe the “Fox in the chicken’s den” is money, big corporations have been throwing money at us and this causes much confusion and dis-unity. During the 80’s we just did the elements of hip hop to stay out of gangs and drugs, today cats are doing it to get paid/career move!
For the amount of talent and skill you have, you’re exceptionally humble. I recall after your set at Vinyl Digz [Waiting Room], I complimented you on your mastery and you showed great humility, when it was easier to take it all in. These days DJs get ahead of themselves quite easily, even when they’re half as skilled as you are. Is there a certain amount of arrogance that is needed in this industry or is that just something you don’t subscribe to?
“Ek hou my PLAT!” I believe in being down to earth, be in touch with your roots, plus the higher you are, the harder you FALL when you mess up or when the industry doesn’t want your services anymore! So staying humble is crucial. There is always somebody standing in line to take your job if you mess up with management or piss people off! Be nice, follow protocol, keep studying/reading and develop some integrity! Another thing is “real bad boys move in silence” and the big talkers are normally empty vessels making the most noise, those with EGOS don’t learn anything new because they believe they “know it all” when you’ll be surprised at the educated crowds or DJs out there!
I have contributed lots to the South African DJ scene and haven’t been credited for it, but it’s ok, people can talk about those things when I’m gone one-day.
I know you work on a few other projects, like management of artists etc. Care to share some of that with us please?
I started DJ’ing in the 80’s when we had a few clubs and only one DJ would work in a club so getting in was so difficult, and thanks to Hip Hop’s mandate of ORIGINALITY I developed my own identity and didn’t wanna be a sheep and follow the top DJ of the moment. At that time Superfly/Russel/Dr Beat were the three main DJs in Cape Town, if these guys played a song, all smaller clubs and mobile DJs had to have that song. I was not gonna be doing that, I was playing hip hop records at Club T-Zers, became famous nationally over the years but the top clubs didn’t want us underground cats in their clubs, I was marginalised by other DJs and clubs, I didn’t let that get me down and started thinking about the other aspects in the industry: event organising, graphic design, marketing, artist or venue management and basically started our own underground hip hop & house movement which people still talk about today!
Finally, where can we catch you playing the black wax?
Most times you have to bring you own decks to parties, but you can find me at Vinyl Digz, Future Nostalgia and various clubs and pubs around the city and suburbs basically whoever wants my services!
Thank you very much Rozzano, mad respect!