Growing up in Sacramento and its music scene has left me with a great deal of respect for the craft of the DJ. I have studied dance for over twenty years and as I grew into adulthood I have attended many events where the skills of a DJ could keep me dancing all night long or sadly not. It’s only right that I give to you, CapCitySoul readers, the one and only djriffraff
Djriffraff’s deep knowledge in music, his chill vibe on the tables, that never ending collection of records that keeps my heart racing with every joint that he plays and not only that, ladies he is a true gentleman. Being a good friend of mine for quite sometime this man not only loves music he lives it. Being a proud member of the North Star Zulu Chapter, a well respected member of the 12’s crew, ½ of Slugworth Chocolate and doing weekly gigs here in our city if you don’t know him by now, well Sacramento music fans you’re missing out on an incredible turntable master. Consistently bringing flavor in yo ear, djriffraff is someone to respect and give due daps for being one Sacramento’s finest dj’s.
Q: When did your love for music develop?
When I moved to Sacramento in 1979, I was 3 years old. On highway 99 north before the first Fruitridge exit, there was no wall if you look to the right. You could see some graffiti pieces along the wall across an empty lot, and some others on around the overpass walkway. While looking at those pieces I remember hearing Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express”. The song was eerie and dark. Seeing the graffiti, that must have run until the early 1990’s, and listening to that song left a heavy stain on my brain. It was the first time I was exposed to an element of hip hop too. This is the first time I met music that I can remember.
While growing up in a household of ten kids, there was always music playing somewhere around the house just stepping into my living space you could hear several different types of music. One of my sister’s preferred European New Wave music, while one of my older brothers’ would be playing Loose Ends “Hangin’ on a Sting” getting ready to hit the club. Music was always around me. My love for music is correlated with family. So I’d have to say at a very early age. Music has always been a therapeutic “escape.”
Q: What brought you to the turntables? Was is something you witnessed in person, through a movie etc….?
Hearing Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” did it for me. Seeing the video was a bug out. For some people they don’t need to see how a scratch is made, they just know how that sound is created by what they did on their mom’s record player, instinctively. Like a child that wants to touch the record when it’s playing, just to touch it or stop it. Cause they can. And then they do it more and more, because it’s fun. Children will use a bucket for war helmet, because their imagination will tell them too. Same with scratch, hearing the scratching on “Rockit” filled in a puzzle piece. What brought me to the tables was seeing Jam Master Jay on the King of Rock video. He looked like soldier ready to go to war…super tough. Seeing that; made me want to dj.
Q: Why the name djriffraff?
I was always a misfit as a kid and as a dj I needed a name. So I looked in my dad’s slang dictionary and Riff Raff or/a Riff Raff was described as someone who is a social outcast. So I just ran with it. But as of lately, I have been using my government name. (Benjamin Andres) I like using aliases. They represent the different styles, thoughts, genres etc. The name djriffraff has put me in a box, where people only think I play rap music…also DJ Riff Raff is a highly common name. If you search it on the internet you get a lot of different DJ Riff Raff’s. I spell it “djriffraff” so when people search that on the internet, they’ll find me and not the 100 other DJ Riff Raffs.
Q: Hooking up with 12’s what was your goal as a dj?
12’s was an idea that Nino Machado conjured up during our time in college. Myself and DJ Psol where asked to come along and be partners in the Record/Clothing store. My goal as a dj was to cultivate a part of Sacramento through music. Its not everyday that people can go to Berkeley, Los Angeles or New York to find out what’s going on musically. Twelve’s Wax Emporium was one way to bring a piece of those cities to our city.
Q: Your thoughts on the Sacramento music scene; when you first started doing shows, parties, opening for acts, etc…
The first show I played was at Bo Jangles, (previously called “The Cattle Club” and currently called “Bisla’s.”) for n album release party for Haze One in 1995. Hosted by Sacramento Zulu (Pre-North Star) Alien Chapter. Looking back, I thought it was a big deal. Now there’s just a bigger picture.
Q: When you book an event or weekly gig what do you feel you look for as far as venue, scene and/or overall vibe?
I think with everyone involved there has to have a common vision of what is taking place, and the music being played. I don’t want to go into a venue asked to play 90’s hip hop, techno, or dubstep, when the crowd there is used to hearing top 40. As a dj who is an artist, music is the colors. There are certain colors that I don’t paint with. People think just because you’re a dj with a computer that you’re a juke box. It isn’t like that. Music is reflective of the person playing it. So when booking I prefer to book where the crowd is familiar with the genres I go into, or have the knowledge to go into. Being able to express my art is the most important factor above anything else, without question from a bar owner, promoter, or anyone else.
Q: What is your favorite genre’s of music?
I think that changes from time to time. Back in the day it was all about rap music. But now I just listen to what is well composed. As I’ve gotten older my tastes in music have broadened. Underground music is my favorite genre, really. I can’t place a finger on just one genre. Favorites come into time and place. Jazz, Techno, Rap, Dub, Jungle, Neo-Soul, Broken Beat, Downtempo, Trip Hop, IDM, Minimal, House, Disco…Just to name a few. I like whatever sounds good and has soul.
Q: What were your musical influences growing up?
Growing up I was fortunate enough to be exposed to several genres of music at an early age. My first exposures to music were very electronic and soulful. Africa Bambaataa, Kraftwerk, New Order, Depeche Mode, T La Rock, Mantronix, Chaka Khan, Loose Ends. Those bands and other bands that have influenced me still continue to influence me today.
Q: You have lived in Berkeley, CA, had a radio show as well as one here in Sacramento, What do you feel Sacramento lacks vs. Berkeley?
Berkeley is next to an international city. There are people from all over the world coming there. So there is melding of ideas that go through that city on a daily basis. People are always coming and going.
Berkeley is next to a concrete jungle, a University, and Oakland. All of which have had protests and riots. Historical events are of which are factors that influence people who have been around it as well as their kids. Being that the city is bigger, there are more people. More people, bigger scenes. I don’t think Sacramento lacks anything in comparison to Berkeley…Sacramento is its own city as is Berkeley. Berkeley is a college town with people coming and going. Sacramento is a one big suburb with a few grimey parts with artist wanting to leave.
Q: What are your goals, as a dj, for the next year?
To play somewhere overseas, preferably Spain or England. I’m also working on an album, which is a collection of instrumental tracks that should be done by the end of the year.
Q: In one word, what does music mean to you?
Sacramento, give a hand clap one time for djriffraff. Check him out at local venues in Sacramento and San Francisco for you will never be disappointed with his cutting edge styles keeping you moving till the sun comes up. Much respect to you always Riff!