E Da Boss: Local, International and All Good
By Tomas Palermo, WireTap
Posted on June 19, 2009, Printed on May 22, 2013
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E Da Boss
Meet a working-class American DJ: Part international touring mixmaster with fans in Finland, part homeboy from the block spinning in your local DJ bar on weeknights. Such is the life of San Francisco's Eric "E Da Boss" Cooke , a producer, DJ and innovator who has been playing records since the mid-'80s and crafting his own beats for the past decade. He's traveled the world as tour DJ with hip-hop duo Blackalicious, released singles on Stones Throw and Om Hip-Hop and he launched his own indie label, Slept On Records, in 2000.
The dichotomy between his large and small projects sums up this open-minded music enthusiast's philosophy: Dream big but keep your feet on the ground. It was this spirit that inspired Cooke, in the summer of 2008, to organize an outdoor block party that raised money for an elementary school music program.
This summer, Cooke will fly to Finland to finish an album with vocalist Myron Glasper and local retro-funk band, the Soul Investigators. The album is due out soon on Stones Throw Records, home to Madlib, Peanut Butter Wolf and J-Dilla. He's also busy recording DJ sets for Grown Kids Radio, an online radio show. Busy as ever, Cooke took a minute to talk to WireTap and broke down some of his influences and experiences.
WireTap: You organized an outdoor street party that was also a benefit for music in schools. Why did you decide to spearhead that event?
E Da Boss: The party was called "Live on the Lane" and featured the Mighty Underdogs, Mochipet, Maus Haus, Ghosts on Tape and a ton of DJs playing outdoors on Maiden Lane in downtown SF. Hip to Help, Brown Majic, Otis Bar and myself worked on this event. We thought it would be a really good idea to get all of our musician friends together to help raise money for the children of [Dr. George Washington] Carver Elementary School who were losing their music programs due to state budget cuts.
Why did you choose to do it as a block party?
We made it an outdoor event so the kids from Carver Elementary School could come and see the acts. If we would have done it in a bar or night club it would have excluded the people we were there to help.
In what way is your DJ or production work political?
I like to think of myself as political but politics is a strange beast to me. Sometimes in America you have to wonder if the whole political system is really for the people or for groups with enough money to influence the powers that be. It's like an artist who makes a bad album but has enough money to hire the best press and PR; for the right amount of money, someone will put a good spin on it.
Have you been able to use your DJ'ing or production skills to work with young people?
Yes, too many times to count. I recently DJ'd a function at The Myc in San Rafael. If anyone reading this article knows of children to young adults interested in art, music or video editing, I strongly recommend checking it out. This place is the best facility I have ever seen for youth in my entire life.
What song or music transformed you at a young age?
I would have to say the 1985 single "It's Yours" by T La Rock & Jazzy Jay. Even as a child, the first time I heard that song, I knew hip-hop lyrics had moved beyond the infancy stage.
What do you think needs to change to improve the working environment for DJs?
I think most venues are good. It's mainly promoters that need to step their game up. Just because you circulate a flyer on the web does not mean your party is going to be cracking. You need to get out and promote with well-designed flyers. And if you're not the type to get out and promote, most cities have street teams you can hire to do it for you.
What do you want audiences to get from your live sets?
If I see people dancing, my job is done. There's nothing like making a crowd of people move in unison together. It's one of the best feelings in the world!
San Francisco has a rep as a socially and politically liberal town. Have you experienced blatant racism or classism in San Francisco?
Yes. I live in a not so great part of town and I have had the police stop me thinking that I'm part of a group of undesirables who make trouble in my neighborhood.
What do you take away from experiences like that?
It's a double-sided experience. On one hand, you're pissed because being racially profiled is not fun. But if I had really been one of the bad seeds, it's nice to know the cops are on the job.
What gives you hope?
I'm hopeful every day I wake up that the day will be better than the last.
Outside of DJ'ing, what other interests or hobbies do you have?
I really like to travel. I have been a lot of places on planet Earth but there are so many more places I want to go!
Any last thoughts for the readers of WireTap?
More ars gratia artis!
E Da Boss -- WireTap Mix Track Listing
Intro: Brigadier Jerry-Live At Jack Ruby's 28th Anniversary 1986
Gift of Gab - Hold On (produced by Jake One - E Da Boss skipped out edit)
Spectac feat Phonte - Reasons (produced by 9th Wonder)
Spear of the Nation - Clap (produced by Aristotle the Great)
Declaime feat. Grand Agent & Lil Dap - Welcome 2 Reality (produced by Oh No)
The Roots - Act Too (Love of my Life)
Maspyke - Step
Stoney Rock a.k.a Black Spade - The New African
Nosaj Thing - 3rd Complex
Doom - Gazzillion Ear
Tomas Palermo is the managing editor of WireTap.
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View this story online at: http://www.wiretapmag.org/arts/44276/