There are DJs, and then there are legends. Joe Quixx is a legend. With Quixx's encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop and a record collection to match, his sets are often history lessons on the dance floor. When Joe's on the one and twos, you're liable to hear just about anything in the canon, from old-school classics to '90s sample-and-loop faves to the latest hyphy knocks.
Spend a few minutes with Joe Quixx, and you'll discover he's not only a man of the people, but a man of integrity. For many superstar DJs, it's all about the fame. With Quixx, it's all about the music. As the original DJ for The Wake Up Show, he helped to put KMEL on the hip-hop map two decades ago. Since then, he's been a mentor to many younger DJs in the Bay Area, sharing the wisdom learned in a lifetime of DJ-ing like a Yoda-esque Jedi (mix) master.
Quixx has lived in New York and Los Angeles, but he's clearly most comfortable by the bay, where he spins five nights a week. Recently, C2tE dropped by one of our favorite "red-light" bars, Radio in Oakland, and caught up with Mr. Quixx. Upon entrance, Joe was spinning Twilight 22's "Electric Kingdom," an electro-hop banger from the "Planet Rock" era. Like Quixx himself, the record has stood the test of time.
Quixx started DJ-ing in 1983 at age thirteen. He's self-taught, having learned from watching older guys and practicing on cheap turntables. Like most legends, there's an interesting story behind how he got his name. "When I first started coming up DJ-ing, I started learning how to cut real fast," he says. A retired breakdancer named Quick Six told Joe he could use the name, so initially he was DJ Quixx. "My real name is Sebastian," he says, "but in high school, people used to be like, your name's too long ... One day my homeboy was like, 'Dude, you look like your name should be Joe.' From that day on, no matter what happened, everybody just called me Joe. After that, I just combined them and became Joe Quixx."
In the early days of local hip-hop, Quixx remembers, the most prominent aspects of the culture were breakdancing and graffiti. "I think the graffiti had a lot to do with it becoming a huge culture out here," he says.
The first local rap artist he heard was Freddy B. "His tape was real slow and sounded like Oakland. After Freddy B, there was Too $hort and all of that stuff. It was kind of along the same lines."
But by 1988-89, he says, "people started really taking notice. More records started coming out. More artists started getting major labels to look at them."
Radio started noticing too, in particular KMEL, which at that time was primarily an R&B station. The station asked Quixx's high school friend King Tech to submit mixes; Tech phoned Joe, who'd gone to New York to study studio engineering, and asked if he was down.
In 1991, Quixx returned and the two started collaborating. At first, they would turn in tapes and reel-to-reel mixes. The station thought the mixes were hot, so Tech and Quixx decided to develop the idea a bit further. Inspired by New York DJ Red Alert, they proposed a hip-hop-themed show with live mixing. Hence The Wake Up Show, hosted by Tech and MC Sway, with Joe handling much of the on-air cutting and scratching duties.
Initially, KMEL's program director gave them a half-hour of airtime. "Within the first ten minutes, he was like, okay, you guys can go for an hour," Quixx reminisces. Eventually the show grew to the point where it was two to three hours. It soon developed a reputation in the music industry for breaking new records.
Compared to the pop-crossover efforts of Tone Loc and Young MC, "The Wake Up Show's sound was heavier and more underground. "That's why I think it made such an impact," Quixx says. "Bobbito and Funkmaster Flex and all those guys used to come out here and say, 'Wow, they let you guys play hip-hop on commercial radio?'"
The show revolutionized the urban radio format, but Quixx left after it became apparent that what was once about fun was becoming more of a business. By that time, the show was based in Los Angeles and syndicated nationally. "The money or the industry aspect of it really didn't mean anything to me, and it meant a lot to (Sway and Tech)," he says.
The DJ never stopped playing records, although he no longer spins vinyl, having converted to the popular Serato emulation software. That way, he no longer has to leave most of his 3,500-piece record collection behind when he plays out. "Now I have all my music with me at any given time. If someone wants to hear Spanish music, no problem," he says.
Joe Quixx can be heard Saturdays and Sundays at Radio, Tuesdays and Fridays at Easy Lounge, and Wednesdays at Kitty's. If you go, tell 'em Joe sent ya.
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