South Africa’s been your home for a few years now. How does this country differ from the others you’ve previously lived in, and what’s your take on the local Hip Hop scene?
In a lot of ways South Africa doesn’t differ much from where I came from which made the transition so easy. In terms of Hip Hop, I would compare it to pressing fast forward on a video. Since there was no real industry just a couple years ago, things have been moving forward at a torrid pace. I think that’s one of the best things about Hip Hop in SA now, more people are starting to make a living off of it. Musically, I think a lot of artists are doing very unique things and at the same time a lot of artists are chasing international commercial norms.
You’re one third of Cape rap crew Ill-Literate-Skill aka Ill Skillz, how did this union come about and what can fans expect in terms of forthcoming material?
Back in 2008 I was on the come up with Kool Out Lounge and ILL Skillz had just lost their DJ, Nick Knuckles. They actually approached me at a Kool Out event and I remember being blown away.
Although we’ve released two online albums since “Off The Radar”, its been a while since the effort has gone into producing another LP. The fellas have gone back into studio recently so I’m excited to hear the type of sound that will come out. We’re all four years older now so musically and lyrically things have changed.
DJ ID is a name that many will associate primarily with Hip Hop and eclectic turntable skills. When did you first encounter Hip Hop, and was there ever a precise moment when you knew that you wanted to somehow be a part of it?
I’m a pretty old school guy so the first time I really remember Hip Hop was when I heard Run DMC’s “Walk This Way”. After that I remember LL Cool J started jumping off. The first time it was within my personal space was when my brother had the Doug E Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew album and he played it over and over on a family trip to New York. I’ll never forget the lyrics to the original version of Lodi Dodi (nope, Snoop’s wasn’t the original). It wasn’t really until I finished my university degree that I thought it might be fun to make a hobby out of something I loved. I was living in Japan at the time and had some money in my pocket for the first time, so I decided to buy a turntable and a mixer. I managed to convince my roommate at the time to buy another turntable and that’s how my career began.
You’re quite well traveled, from your early years in Japan to your time spent in the States, through to your stints in the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Spain; it’s safe to say that you’ve been around. What bearing has all of this nomadic cultural maneuvering had on the way you perceive the world at large?
Having lived in so many different places two things have really become apparent for me. The first is the universality of Hip Hop. I’ve seen Hip Hop shows in Japan, Thailand, Romania, and beyond. It’s such a unique genre that has touched people from every race and culture. The other thing I’ve learned is that nationality means nothing. I’ve had the pleasure of liking and disliking just about every type of person regardless of where they are from. Patriotism is great for sports and what not, but beyond that, people are people.
In addition to your musical ventures you’re also known for your philanthropic work with various community projects, such as your appointment in 2010 as goodwill ambassador for the Step-Up 4 Life NPO. What, to you, is Hip Hop’s role in invoking social change in this country, and do you think it’s in any way close to reaching its potential in this regard?
To me and a lot of the older generation, Hip Hop was a positive tool. I still believe that it is, but the powers that be, only focus on playing a lot of the superficial stuff in order to make money off the genre. Since I was young it’s always acted as positive influence in my life helping me understand myself as well as to hear about social issues the media doesn’t report on. One of the things I love about Cape Town is that there is still that understanding from the first generation guys, that Hip Hop should be used to uplift the community. I think they are doing a great job, but what happens when these guys get too old? Will the torch be passed? I hope so.
If you were given a chance to DJ alongside two of your favorite DJ’s, one of them local the other international, who would they be and why?
Locally, I’m lucky enough to spin on a regular basis with my favourite DJ and business partner Raiko. Internationally, I always wanted to play alongside DJ Premier. He was here in SA actually and ILL Skillz was booked to perform, but unfortunately I had to leave the country during that time. I hope there may be another opportunity.
Catch DJ ID at the PowerPlay Griffin Sessions this week-end!
INTERVIEW: Jayson Geland