A. 172nd Street Bet. Ft. Washington & Broadway
Q. Describe for our readers the Washington Heights of your youth.
A. The Washington Heights of my youth was a safe and fun place for a kid to grow up. You never heard of violence aside from the minor scraps kids had in the park or schoolyard. Kids could walk home alone from school without consequence. We could stay out late at night playing stickball or skellies in the streets without worrying about cars with loud assed systems mowing you over. That was in the 70’s. The 80’s were a different story. Back in the 70’s there was one pot dealer for the whole hood. The Fat Bros or The Aversa Bros. In the 80’s there were hundreds of Crack, Dope, Coke, Pot or any kind of dealer you can find. Those were the beginnings of the rough days for the Heights. When in an instant the neighborhood went from Multi Cultural (Irish, Jewish, Italian, African American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican etc) to predominantly Dominican. A huge migration from DR occurred in the 70’s through the eighties and present. It changed the makeup of the hood. I guess it all depends on how you look at it. I’m not making any judgement towards the beautiful Dominican people. Some of which are my best friends. I almost married one. LOL. The point I’m trying to make is the DRUGS messed up the Heights in the 80’s. Drugs messed up a lot of hoods in America. The Heights was no exception
Q. One of the things about growing up in places like Wash Heights is that you learn to do more with less. What are some of the ways that you did that?
A. This is true. Take for example a game like skellies. All you needed was a soda bottle glass top or a wax filled checker and some chalk to map out the skellie board on the street. Stickball, A form of Ghetto baseball where all you needed was the street and a Spalding rubber ball and a broom stick with some tape for a bat. That is what I call doing more for less.
Q. What part did music play in your upbringing?
A. It played no part at all in my upbringing…Just kidding. LOL! Considering my chosen profession I’d say it played the biggest part in my upbringing. I give the credit to my family. Music was constantly played at My Grandmother’s and my home. We had the pleasure of listening to everything from Motown, Disco, Rock, Soul, Latin, Jazz, Pop and many others.
Q. When did you know that music would be your profession?
A. I never knew Music could be a profession until I actually got my first paying gig. I know we had parties in the bridge apartments and Hollyrood church where we’d charge a slight fee but somehow or another we were robbed or our expenses exceeded our take in. Who knows what happened? I never made a dime at those events. Truth be told I loved every minute of it and did it for the love! The money didn’t matter. Once I started to get gigs outside of The Heights, that’s when I knew I could actually make a living at being a DJ.
Q. How has Uptown changed since you were coming up?
A. I think it’s changed in a good way and bad. Lot’s of great restaurants and shops have opened up and it seems The Heights is becoming more diverse like it was in the 70’s. Not sure if that’s a good thing though in one respect. Rents are becoming more unaffordable for the hard working people. Gentrification is hitting The Heights. Skyrocketing rents are forcing downtown residents to move uptown. Many locals will no longer be able to afford the rents here. That is alarming.
Q. What do you love about Uptown?
A. I love that Uptown is still a neighborhood. It still feels like The New York of old. All different types of people. Downtown is very banker, lawyer and yuppie oriented. No culture. No vibe. No soul! It’s just straight up boring! That was the main reason why I left my Chelsea condo and got the fuck up out of dodge and moved south for a few years!
Q. How does it feel to possess a Grammy?
A. I’ve had it packed up in storage for a few years and just recently took it out. I had a bunch of friends over recently and they were pretty impressed with it which made me feel pretty special to have earned one. Kind of makes it real when someone else is admiring it.
Q. All time favorite song? (by you or anyone else)
A. Impossible to answer. So many to choose from. I can tell you who my favorite singer is. That would be Mr. Sam Cooke.
Q. How did it feel to rock once again at the Riverside Jam 25th Anniversary?
A. Coming back after 25 years to spin at home again felt like a re-birth. I felt my career come back full circle. Where it was pure. No drama. No flights to catch. No sleeping in strange hotels. No dealing with unfamiliar people. No dealing with shady promoters, club owners. No chasing people down for money. Just pure musical bliss! Pure love for the music we were playing. Genuine appreciation for laying down the “soundtrack to peoples lives” Thanks for that Milton. I’m overcome with emotion right now just thinking about it. It’s almost as if I want to wait another 25 years before I do it again! LOL! I don’t know if I can do that. Maybe next year Julio and I will rent a boat for a few hundred take it Uptown and park it right in front of the old location and party like that!
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