The hip-hop community was diminished three weeks ago when grandmaster DJ Roc Raida (a.k.a. Anthony Williams) suffered cardiac arrest after injuries incurred during Krav Maga martial-arts training. Two pillars of the Pittsburgh hip-hop scene -- Brian Brick, of the Time Bomb Spot clothing boutique, and DJ Selecta (a.k.a Jim Scoglietti) -- wasted no time in organizing a tribute to their hero.
Raida, along with his pioneering turntablist supergroup X-ecutioners, had some history in Pittsburgh. He first appeared at a rave in 1996, and the group -- with co-founders Rob Swift, Total Eclipse and Mista Sinista -- made three appearances here. At a Carnegie Mellon gig in the late '90s, I watched Raida (via onstage video monitors) undertake a series of acrobatic maneuvers such as behind-the-back and under-the leg scratching.
"When I moved from being a party DJ and attempted to be a turntablist, he was someone I looked up to," recalls Selecta, who presented Raida last November at a packed Shadow Lounge party. "He brought a whole visual element into the DJ battle circuit, being into mixed martial arts." Brick met Raida a few times, and recalls the DJ as laid-back and humble, letting his craft do the talking and innovating mash-ups a decade before Girl Talk.
On Sat., Oct. 17, the Raida tribute at the Shadow Lounge will feature fellow X-ecutioner Swift. "Rob's known for his rhythmic scratching and the genre variety he mixed into the X-ecutioners' sets," explains Selecta. After Swift's expenses, proceeds will go to Raida' wife and four children.
"He was the essence of hip hop," adds Brick, "so it's only right that me and Jim, who came from the inner city of Pittsburgh, give some love back to his family." The show, hosted by Knowledge and Gene Stovall, also includes a performance by rapper BZE and DJs Hank D, SMI and Selecta. For details, call 412-363-8277 or visit www.shadowlounge.net.
On a lighter note, I witnessed a mind-blower on Tue., Sept. 29, when superstar actor Russell Crowe strode into the 31st Street Pub, for a show featuring U.K. anthemic post-punk legends New Model Army. In town to shoot The Next Three Days, Crowe and his four-person entourage watched the show; he later retreated to the back, ordered a vodka cranberry and purchased six 31st Street Pub work shirts.
The utter surrealism of the evening was complete when Crowe glanced up at the bar's TV and happened to catch the tail end of the South Park episode in which he was parodied. Needless to say, he left in short order.