Before skinny jeans and Soundcloud streams forced their way into contemporary hip hop, DJ Twist and DJ Sonny Grimez, better known as Gold Blooded Deejays, were giving Edmontonians their necessary dose of old school sounds.
Named after the musical Renaissance when smooth, funky jazz paired with boisterous boom-bap style drums dominated the culture, the duo have taken the sound they grew up with and kept it alive through events like Golden Era and Hip Hop Karaoke.
“‘Juice’ was the movie that kicked it off for me,” says Twist, who has fond memories of digging through crates and getting down with the likes of Big L, KRS-One, and De La Soul. After moving through the ranks within Toronto’s hip hop scene, he headed west to make a name for himself in Edmonton.
During a Politic Live show for Adaptation at the Yellowhead Brewery, Twist crossed paths with Sonny Grimez, an Edmonton native who has had an affinity for hip hop ever since he heard ‘Crushin’ by The Fat Boys and ‘Tougher Than Leather’ by Run DMC at a young age. As he got older, Grimez looked to hip hop mainstays like DJ Jazzy Jeff and Jam Master Jay because of their technical abilities and began building his equipment and collection to become a DJ.
The two quickly hit it off and began working together. Twist was also promoting shows, the first of which in Edmonton was with Pete Rock, and would call upon Grimez to DJ. Throughout the years, their friendship has resulted in many memorable moments, some of which they’ve shared with us today.
99ten: How did it feel from going to doing house parties and other smaller events to clubs and larger shows?
Twist: I takes a lot from your end to put yourself out there. If you’re starting from the basement and there are promoters booking clubs and concerts, you can’t bank on them reaching out to you. Your goal as a DJ is to get into their circle. Back in the 90’s, mixtapes (not sets recorded on CD’s, but actual cassette tapes) were the big thing for DJs. I was trying to do as many mixtapes as possible. During one of my first gigs in Toronto, I met this guy through ICQ who told me he was DJing a club and was having an open audition.
Oddly enough, this does sound like “Juice” *laughs*
He heard my tape, messaged me back, and told me to play at the club. This was probably 2000-2001. From there, you figure out the movers and shakers and do as much networking as possible.
Sonny Grimez : At the time, I was working with Marlon Maverick of Poli Live at Athlete's World. We spent our days talking about hip hop, so we decided to do a hip hop radio show. But in order to have a show, you have to go through the process, part of which involves volunteering. During one of my shifts, I found out that one of my good friends from junior high, DJ Tanner, who is now an established DJ/producer based out of New York, had his own show. After we reconnected, he let me sit in on his shows.
Tanner got approached to do a night at The Black Dog in the basement. This was in 1999. He told me to come through with a crate and I came back every Tuesday after that. Eventually, we moved in together and we were able to merge our equipment. I learned how to DJ, mix, and cut in the basement of Black Dog, but I was so grimey back in those days. We didn’t have any monitors and had to mix everything using my headphones. I remember finally getting a monitor which was a game changer. *laughs* From doing that, we got approached to do a couple more nights and some bigger venues.
Twist: I think the DJ is similar to any artist. It’s a hustle to get in anywhere and you gotta put in your dues. Demos are to artists what mixtapes are to DJs. I had to go through the process twice because I did in Toronto and then once again in Edmonton. I went to the hip hop shows, handed out mixtapes and meet people who introduce you to their circles. That’s how you build credibility and become established.
Grimez: Your own talent and skill are important, but it’s also about the people you know. If they’re feeling you, they can put you on. And that’s how it is with everything.
99ten: You guys have been DJing for quite some time. Do you have any memorable stories worth mentioning?
Twist: The most interesting nights are the ones where you’re opening for your favourite acts. I’ve opened for practically every big act that’s come through the city, including The Wu Tang Clan, Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Slum Village, Pete Rock, Boot Camp, Masta Ace, Busta Rhymes, and Classified. I’ve also opened for Common, Talib Kweli, and The Roots, and that’s a hip hop fan’s dream to be on that bill.
Grimez: DJing for Raekwon was one of the best nights for me. His manager told me that he needed a DJ and the only thing they came with was a USB stick *laughs*. I spoke with Rae and he gave me the rundown of the set. It was dope because I was a Wu Tang fan from the jump and I knew all of the songs.
Twist: Back when I was doing promotions in Toronto, I was the driver for Jill Scott and her band. I’d take them to the hotel to the venue for soundcheck, setups, etc. I was waiting to meet up with them to take them to the venue and I remember seeing this SUV pull up. The driver comes out and notice Usher coming out of the lobby.
We exchanged head nods before he goes into the car. Usher and his driver get into a discussion and all of a sudden, Usher points to me and waves me over. He asks me if I’m here to pick up someone and I tell him I’m with Jill Scott. I told her she was playing at The Guvernment and then they drove off.
Later that night when Jill Scott finished her performance, I was backstage and I saw that she was talking with Usher. He saw me and told her that I was the one that told her about the show. I was the middleman between the two *laughs*
99ten: What can you tell us about Hip Hop Karaoke?
Twist: I first heard about Hip Hop Karaoke was in Vancouver and it was extremely popular. Every time we do it, it becomes bigger and bigger. We used to cap it at 8 performers but now we’ll do between 14-18. I don’t think it’s reached it’s potential yet.
Grimez: The crowd loves it and it’s a lot different than regular karaoke. These people performing at Hip Hop Karaoke spend a lot of time practicing and they take it seriously. They’ll come with the attitude, the props and routines.
99ten: If you guys were performing at Hip Hop Karaoke, what song would you perform?
Twist: We did “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest. There were 6 of us; I did Q-Tip’s verse and Grimez did Busta Rhymes’ part.
Grimez: The one I really want to do is “Shook Ones Pt. II” by Mobb Deep. I’ve wanted to do that since it dropped and I’ve memorized Prodigy’s since ‘95 *laughs*
Twist: I would pick either a Biggie song or A Tribe Called Quest song. One thing I appreciate about Hip Hop Karaoke is that there are a lot of girls getting involved. Hip hop has always been male dominated, but these ladies can hold their own against the guys. And they aren’t just doing Nicki Minaj. Lunacy, one of the past performers, did “Look At Me Now” by Chris Brown, including the Busta Rhymes verse. We also had another girl who killed it with a Childish Gambino track. My favourite part of the night is seeing a girl kill it on stage.
Grimez: I think we’ve seen enough guys rap *laughs*
99ten: Do you guys have any links for mixes that we could check out?
Twist: We’re doing a lot of DJing right now and doing a proper mix takes a lot of time. I’ve always wanted to put mixes out, but I like to plan it out. Make sure you check out our mixtape when it drops this summer!
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