Interview with Ivan "Doc" Rodriguez ("DJ Doc")

Bronx Oral History Center
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Steven Payne: Welcome to the Bronx Latino History Project. My name is Steven Payne, librarian and archivist at the Bronx County Historical Society. Today is April 24th, 2022, and I'm really, really happy to be here on this bright day with DJ Doc, Ivan Rodriguez, and we're here in right around 82nd, 83rd Street in Riverside Park, and really honored to be here with DJ Doc because he's one of 00:00:30the most prolific and accomplished DJs, engineers, and producers in hip-hop history. He has his name credited with many of the top songs, singles, and albums throughout the history of hip-hop, and he is behind the sound and really the special flair of many more songs and albums that he's not credited for. And yeah, really looking forward to hearing his stories today. So DJ Doc, why don't 00:01:00you start off by telling us a little bit about your family's history and background and how you ended up in New York?

DJ Doc: My mother and father were born in Puerto Rico. Then my sister and I were also born in Puerto Rico. So we actually come from Puerto Rico. We weren't born in New York City. My sister was born first. I was born maybe a few years later, three, four years later. And my father decided to come to New York City for more 00:01:30opportunities. So we came to New York City, I want to say, '64-ish. And we came to the upper west side. My mother came to the upper west side. Not too long thereafter, my mother and father separated. So my sister and I were with my mother, my aunts. So I was raised mostly by women. So I'm very protective of women, because I was raised by women, my aunts and my mother and my sister. And 00:02:00my father migrated to 48th Street, which was Hell's Kitchen in the early '70s, late '60s. So I was raised in this area that we're in now. Nice area, quiet. Even from early, I was very curious about music, the instruments, the things I would hear. Of course, there was a lot of old classic salsa and ballads, Spanish ballads in my house, and my mother would always sing. And then I started to 00:02:30spend weekends in Hell's Kitchen, which was a lot more exciting. It's a lot of crime, but it just was more exciting than it was here. Here was more quiet, laid back. And little by little, I would kind of indicate to my mom that I wanted to spend more time down there. She was concerned, obviously, over safety. As a few years went by, my sister picked up and went. She went with my dad. I stood with my mom.

Steven Payne: How much older was your sister?

DJ Doc: Crystal? I mean, pardon, Carmen. Her name is Carmen. Pardon me. My daughter's name is Crystal. Carmen was, I think she's three, maybe four years 00:03:00old at the time. So she went to my dad's, and I stood here. And maybe another few years later, then I started to spend a little bit more time. Sometimes I would go to school from there, take the bus and go to school from there. And eventually, I just liked it so much that I would switch it around. I'd spend most of the time there and come see my mom on weekends. So that's where I really got an essence of music, because there was a lot more going on. There was music coming out of all the windows. You get a lot of congas and a lot of keyboards 00:03:30and people doing stuff out of their apartments. It was really exciting to me. And I'd get less of it up here. So I started to spend more time down there. I guess that's where I started to get my love of music together.

Steven Payne: Yeah. Do you remember the first song that kind of just completely consumed you?

DJ Doc: Kind of tough to say, because there were so many of them. And initially, when my sister would want to go to a house party-- and that was what was 00:04:00popular. It wasn't lounges; it wasn't clubs. It was a house party. Somebody did a house party in their apartment, and you would go, and you'd basically dance and congregate with other folks, and it was really nice. So I would have to go, because my dad would tell my sister, "If you want to go, you got to take him with you." So I was kind of forced to listen to a lot of '70s stuff. At the time, I wasn't too crazy about it. But as time went by, it had a big effect on me. So then I was listening to stuff like The Stylistics, Temptations, 00:04:30Chi-Lites, Joe Bataan, Eddie Palmieri, H├ęctor Lavoe. So it was a mixture of all of that. And as time went by, then I started to appreciate. So that was basically the groundwork for me to start to listen to music. And at the time, I loved the drums. I wanted to be a drummer, but we were too poor for me to take lessons. But that always stayed in me, which affected me when I got my hands on a drum machine, because I had the ideas and I was able to do with my hand. I just could not study it because we couldn't afford it at the time.


Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah. Did you ever play conga or anything like that?

DJ Doc: No, no. No, I played drums. And most of the time, I would take the quantization off so that I was playing live, which I did on a lot of KRS-1 stuff, things that had a certain rhythm that you could not syncopate. So that's where I kind of became like a live drummer on a programming drum machine. But a lot of that came from listening to that music, and that music I still love today.

Steven Payne: Absolutely. And the rhythm is like nothing else that you find there, so.


DJ Doc: Right. James Brown, of course. Back then there was an album that he released that had the letters Sex Machine across the front in red letters.

Steven Payne: Sure. Sure. Sure. I know that album.

DJ Doc: And I think it was also set live in Atlanta, Georgia. Well, that is considered the greatest uprock record. Uprock is a style of dancing that was popular in the '70s going on before break dance. Before all that stuff, there was uprock, which was a one-on-one thing, a lot of hand motion, some splits here and there, but there was no spinning around on the floor. And uprock, the big songs were James Brown - Give It Up or Turnit a Loose, Jimmy Caster - It's Just 00:06:00Begun, Kool and the Gang - Love the Life You Live. And there was a gospel group, Stovall Sisters. They did a song called Hang On In There.

Steven Payne: Stovall Sisters, okay. Okay. Okay.

DJ Doc: But the rhythm of it made it an uprock record. And Earth, Wind & Fire had a song called Moment of Truth, very funky. As long as the song was funky, it became an instant classic. So that was a lot of the stuff that gave me the idea for rhythm. And then The Stylistics and things like that gave me a lot of love for harmonies and chords and things that made the music sound lush. Those are 00:06:30the groups that did that for me. But all of that came through hanging out with my sister, going to these house parties, and a lot of outdoor parties, which they don't do anymore. There were a lot of block parties. You don't see that much anymore.

Steven Payne: Sure. Sure. Sure. You close the block down.

DJ Doc: The whole entire block would get closed. There'd be a little basketball court. They'd give out free sandwiches, but there would be somebody playing live music or a DJ. Or a record shop that was nearby would come out and play, and you would hear all the classic songs there. That was a big inspiration for me.


Steven Payne: Yeah. And there was a lot of that going on in Hell's Kitchen, I imagine.

DJ Doc: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Constantly. It was the same as probably El Barrio. In El Barrio, you constantly-- you still go there, and you still hear it coming from here and there.

Steven Payne: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some parts of the Bronx, you can still see that, too.

DJ Doc: Exactly. Exactly. You still get that feel of wow. You can feel something's going on there. That's how I was in Hell's Kitchen all the time, all the time.

Steven Payne: Okay. Wow, wow, wow. So going back to your mom and dad for a little bit, do you know much about either of their sides of the family, where 00:07:30they might-- because I think from what I remember, you were born in San Juan, is that right?

DJ Doc: Right.

Steven Payne: Okay. So do you know where they might have-- did they live in San Juan for multiple generations, or did they live elsewhere?

DJ Doc: Well, I know my dad was born in Calle. And I believe my mom was born in Santurce. Because again, since I was so little when we left, I didn't know much about their background. Trying to remember. My aunts talked to me a little bit about it. Because we all came, my aunts came, my uncle came, not with us, but we 00:08:00all came and eventually got together. And most of us spent the rest of our lives here, my dad, my mom. My two aunts passed away. And I still have an uncle that came here as well.

Steven Payne: Wow. All lived in--

DJ Doc: All came from Puerto Rico.

Steven Payne: Oh. And did they all live kind of in the same area of New York, or?

DJ Doc: Kind of in the same area, maybe a town away, but that was kind of the area they were from. But I know about my father. I knew because they always called him Calle. His Spanish buddies that would drink beers and stuff with him, they would say Calle, and that's because that's where he was from. He was born 00:08:30and raised there. And here, he never left Hell's Kitchen. And now he's in an assisted facility, but he's still sharp. He still remembers. And now and then he'll say something like, "You remember, I came up in Calle?" I'm like, "Yeah, papi, I know."[laughter] He'll bring out these things. But my dad was Calle. Mom, I believe was Santurce. And as far as their-- I never met my grandfather. If I did, I don't remember. And I never met my grandmother. That part I don't 00:09:00know about.

Steven Payne: Yeah. And when your aunts and uncles came to New York, did they live in Hell's Kitchen or close to 82nd, 83rd street?

DJ Doc: Well, when we came, my aunts came to my mother's house, which was 82nd. And then shortly thereafter, one of my two aunts - her name was Titi Lola - she went to 98th Street and Lexington. And she stood there. That's where she went from until she died. She lived on 98th and Lexington. And then my aunt 00:09:30gravitated to Hell's Kitchen as well. So my aunt and my father were both in Hell's Kitchen, and my mother was up here.

Steven Payne: Sure. But not in Brooklyn or the Bronx.

DJ Doc: No, they never left Manhattan. As time went by, I figured how lucky we were to be able to live in the city, in the core because it was difficult to find a place, and it was expensive. My father really lucked out because he got a job at the Spanish Daily News El Diario. And that was also very difficult. He didn't have an education here in the States. He's staying in New York. And he 00:10:00came from Puerto Rico, very little English. And he landed that job, and that was a great job. It was a great-- he did the, I think, type setting and some other things. And that was what he did. And my mom was basically taking care of us when we were there. And my aunt became a seamstress. And then my other aunt married, and basically was a housewife with a couple of kids, and her husband took care of everything from there on. But we're very disciplined. Whenever I visited either of my aunts, I couldn't speak English. Oh, no. No, even by 00:10:30accident, because if you said the same word twice, you'd get struck. [laughter] She'd smack me really hard. And then she'd say, "I'm really sorry." But I said, "Oh, I get it. I understand totally." That's how it was. And trouble was not allowed. Hell's Kitchen, my aunt told me, "You know very well, there's certain rules, and you got to follow them." On the occasion that I broke them, I'd pay for it. But it kept me out of trouble. I never got arrested, and I never got in jail. I never had a problem. And my fear was letting them down. I said, "If I 00:11:00make a mistake and I let them down, not only is it hurt, but I'm going to pay for it."

Steven Payne: Yeah. You're going to pay for it more, [laughter] [inaudible] most them.

DJ Doc: Now you can't do that. But it was very helpful to me, very beneficial.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And were there other women or just other adult figures in the neighborhood who kind of would also keep an eye out on you?

DJ Doc: Oh, no, the entire block. That's how we were in Hell's Kitchen. It's not in existence today. But if I crossed the street, I'd get grabbed by a neighbor by the ear and brought right back to my aunt and say, "Your nephew, he was 00:11:30crossing the street," and I paid for it, because they said, "I'm giving you some leeway. You can't break the rules." So no, everyone on the block was either your uncle, your cousin. You could not do things, break windows, anything, because immediately they'd pick up a phone, "Listen, your nephew, your son, whatever." That's how it was.

Steven Payne: Word would get back faster than--

DJ Doc: That's right. And if I did something here with my mom and I was punished for it, she'd call my aunt. So there was a part two. [laughter] So she would say, "Send him over. I want to talk to him." That was the only time I wouldn't 00:12:00want to go, but I had to go. You couldn't escape it. Because she would say, "If you don't show up, it's worse the next time." So then I would have to do that. But it was a good upbringing. It was a good upbringing. Women were actually the strongest people I knew, much stronger than men, much, much stronger. It was women. It was my aunts and my mom and my sister. And my aunts are also from Puerto Rico and old school Puerto Rico. Everything's cooked fresh, nothing 00:12:30frozen. You had to be polite, open the door. You just didn't cross your lines. You did not.

Steven Payne: Absolutely. Absolutely. And since you mentioned food, right now what are some of the favorite things you remember any of your family members cooking while you're growing up?

DJ Doc: Well, when you were sick, they did a thing called arroz con leche, which was a rice that sat in a bed of milk, and it made you feel better. So that was 00:13:00one. Of course, in the holidays, it was everything. It was chicken, fish, pork, which I don't eat. That was another battle. When I decided I don't want to eat anymore, my whole family went crazy, because they're like, "You have to." I said, "No, I choose not to." But that was big because they eat pork every holiday.

Steven Payne: Sure, sure, sure. Pasteles, I mean, unless you make it with beef--

DJ Doc: Unless you make it with beef or chicken, and that was tough. After a few years, they let it go, but they were on me. They thought something was wrong, 00:13:30"What's going on? Did you join some kind of cult?" [laughter] I said, "No, it's very salty. It's just not good for your body." So I stopped it long, long time ago. And yeah, they would do that. They would do fresh pies, cakes, tembleque, which is coconut pudding, of course, flan, bread pudding, rice, rice and beans, rice with gandules, which is the yellow rice with gandules. And all of it was always fresh. And they wouldn't get their product from Hell's Kitchen. They would go to El Barrio or the Bronx, because that's where the two places where 00:14:00you had fresh chicken, and everything you could get it right there. And in Hell's Kitchen, we had a few bakeries. But we didn't have a slaughterhouse or things like that. So they would go uptown to get it. But yeah, it was the basic, obviously, arroz con pollo rice and chicken. But the pasteles, when it came to that, yeah, that was really, really good. And yeah, none of that stuff exists no more. But that was one of the things they would do, yeah. The holidays were a lot of fun, a lot of music. That was a nice thing too. The music went on and on 00:14:30through midnight, 1 o'clock. It got to a point where I got too tired. [laughter] And they would just send me to bed, and they keep going.

Steven Payne: And they were still going, yeah.

DJ Doc: Yeah. And it was always peaceful, very peaceful, and very loving, very, very loving, very supportive. My aunts were extremely supportive. No matter what, they never turned their back on you. They would say, "Listen, this is a mistake. This is the reason its a mistake. And you don't want to do this again." And I learned from that a lot. And I try to share that with the kids I know and 00:15:00the people that grew up around me.

Steven Payne: Absolutely. Absolutely. So as far as the neighborhood, either Hell's Kitchen or 82nd Street, the neighborhoods were concerned, what kinds of people lived in the neighborhoods at the time?

DJ Doc: Well, up here, there was a good amount of Latinos, which was at the time. When I was a kid, it was Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Then the rest of the neighborhood was predominantly White with a little bit of African-American. 00:15:30Hell's Kitchen was Irish, African-American, and Puerto Ricans.

Steven Payne: Very mixed, I guess.

DJ Doc: Very and heavy, heavy. There was no such thing as racism. That was non-existent, non-existent. Color had nothing to do with anything. These were my family or my friends. And it's still like that today, the ones that are still here. As I grew and I saw all this racism stuff, it was actually mind-boggling to me, because I was like, "What is this about?" Because I grew up. My best friend is African-American. I have a friend that's Cuban. I have a friend that's 00:16:00Irish. And they're all just my friends. So that was tough for me to understand for many years. But yeah, Hell's Kitchen, I learned later when I got older, and I started reading books that the Westies, which I knew who they were-- I was a kid at the time. And they would always come by and pat us on the head, "Hey guys," or whatever. And then I read years later they were cutting people's heads off. And I said, "Wow. I know this guy."

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You had no idea.

DJ Doc: "And I know this guy." I said growing up, these guys would look over.

Steven Payne: They looked out for the neighborhood.

DJ Doc: They looked out for the neighborhood.

Steven Payne: If you're from out of the neighborhood--

DJ Doc: They looked over everyone. And then I remember there was some tracks in 00:16:30the back in 12th Avenue, 11th, and that's where they would find bodies. But as a kid, I didn't know any of it. I didn't know any of it. I just knew all these guys are from the neighborhood. And then I saw movies and I'm like, "Wait a minute. I know these guys." [laughter] And I was like, "Wow, these guys were the ones that were involved with mob stuff and all that." But we knew them. They were very nice to all of us. They protected us. That was another thing about the neighborhood. You could not go in that neighborhood and do something to one of us. Man, you could pay with your life. That's how serious it was. I've always 00:17:00learned to respect absolutely everyone, regardless of age, color, creed, because you don't know who you're dealing with. And I learned that in Hell's Kitchen. Sadly, I've seen people get murdered in front of me, right there in front of me. And I've been blessed that nothing ever happened to me or my family, but it's scary stuff because it's reality. So as years went by and music, and hip hop mostly where they talk about drive-bys and all this, I said, "Wow, where I grew up, there was no such thing. They came right up to you." If you were really 00:17:30young, your fathers would come out and settle it, my father and your father. When we got older, we settled it right there in the street. And when it was over, we shook hands, and it was over. Things now are much different. You get murdered from far away, things like that. But when we grew up, violence was very, very serious. And you tried your best to stay away from it. And you learned from what you saw. And I saw a lot, a lot, and I learned a lot of it.

Steven Payne: So we'll get into your some of the school experience in a little 00:18:00bit, but just so I have a reference as far as timeline, what years were you in high school?

DJ Doc: Early '80s, I believe.

Steven Payne: Early '80s?

DJ Doc: Yeah. I believe it was early '80s, been so long. And it was short, reason being that I went to Martin Luther King High School when it opened. There were two light-skinned people, me and a young Caucasian kid. He ate lunch in the principal's office. That's how serious it was. It was a predominantly Black school. I didn't see it as a problem because I grew up in a neighborhood with 00:18:30Blacks and everything. But I started having problems in the school. I started getting pushed into corners. And people started to try to threaten me, and I kept saying, "It's not a good idea. Where I come from, this is not a good idea." So it got to a point where I spoke to a few of my friends in the neighborhood that were older, and they came to the school.

Steven Payne: Okay. And they settled it.

DJ Doc: And they settled everything. They said, "You don't want to get near this guy." Once that happened, I think a few letters got back to my mom. And we 00:19:00started talking about it and she goes, "I don't want this problem. I don't want that problem." So I told her, "Let's make a deal." I said, "Let me leave the school, and I'll get my GED in six months." She let me leave. I got my GED in six months and moved on, and I went to college. I said, "This situation is a little different. It's going to [brew?] up at one point or other. I don't want that." And I go, "I give you my word. It'll be done in six months." And I did it in six months. And then I went to New York Tech. I went to play basketball there and to study. And I only lasted about a year because my music career took off. 00:19:30So I had a choice. I was playing basketball on the team, and I was studying computer technology. And I said, "Wow. I went from a DJ that would DJ weddings and birthdays to-- can you go on the road with me?" So I took that choice, and I never looked back. Yeah. That's the only reason I didn't finish. I enjoyed it, but.

Steven Payne: Sure. And I think from what I remember, the first time you went on the road was with Spyder, is that right?

DJ Doc: [crosstalk], that's right. Yes, it's really intense. And he called me at 00:20:00home. My mother said, "There's a guy on the phone." And he said, "Can you go on the road with me?" which, to me, was shocking because I didn't know what that meant.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. [laughter] No. How could you know?

DJ Doc: I did a lot of DJing, but I never left New York. And we were going to North Carolina and South Carolina, and then you go to small clubs or big stadiums. And before you know it, I'm on the road. And that was the end of weddings and things of that nature. But that's the reason I left college, otherwise-- and in between all that, I still took two trade schools and completed them. One was Center for Media Arts as an engineer. And the other one was PSI, which was Programming Systems Institute, all of our computers, which I 00:20:30finished as well. That's where I learned a lot about computer technology from the bottom, from binary numbers and how they created computers using metal donuts and winding them forward and backward so they could turn on and off. So it's well before Windows. Yeah. I did that as well.

Steven Payne: Wow. That's amazing. So yeah, before we get more into school and eventually a lot more into music, one of the things that we were talking about 00:21:00just a second before we started was gangs in the neighborhood. And I guess there were probably more if you've grown up maybe five, six years before that, at least at the timeline in Hell's Kitchen like it was in the Bronx. But I imagine even when you were a teenager, there were still some gangs around, is that right?

DJ Doc: There were. There were gangs maybe because of the relationship that people from Hell's Kitchen had with the city. We didn't have gang shootouts. 00:21:30There was no such thing. There was no accidentally struck by a bullet. That didn't happen. I remember seeing the [Black Space?] often. They were coming with their motorcycles, jackets. But they were kind to everyone, shake hands. If there was an event, they would bring things to the event. And then there was always that the number one and two guy in Hell's Kitchen, usually drug dealers, very powerful. And they would come and pay respect to that person. And never a 00:22:00problem, but I was aware of them. Now this ties into something really interesting that I've never discussed. We were still kids. I wasn't into the whole gang concept, but the fact that you could put together a group of people to do something was better than you by yourself. So I came up with-- there were like four or five guys. And I came up with something I called RCNY, which is in my early records. If you look at my credits, it says mixed or whatever by DJ Doc 00:22:30RCNY. So RCNY stood for Rap Committee of New York. But it wasn't hip hop rap. It was rap like we're doing here like, "Hey, let me rap to you." So initially, a few folks said, "Is this a gang?" I said, "No, no, no, no. We're about communities." We're trying to get to know people. So we rap with people, get to know them, basketball, whatever it has to do with anything, we want to do it.

DJ Doc: So RCNY was born in Hell's Kitchen, and I still have a jacket that says 00:23:00RCNY Midtown on the back. When I do events in Hell's Kitchen, I still use the moniker RCNY, and I have a lot of supporters because we grew up there. But it was one of the first, I guess, institutions that was peaceful and successful that went from there. And then I ended up touring and making records. But it started with a handful of guys, like five of us, and it had to do with music, sports, meeting girls, of course, because we would go do events. The girls would 00:23:30come up, and we'd get to meet them.

Steven Payne: Yeah. Sure. And rapping has a lot to do with meeting girls. [laughter]

DJ Doc: Right. But it was well before, well before hip hop or anything. The word rap meant, "Let me rap to you. Let me talk to you."

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah. Let me rap to you. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

DJ Doc: So that's what RCNY stood for. But that was my version of those gangs. And we would try to find an empty basement, paint it, make it our own little place, play music there, some people wrote poetry, whatever we'd had to do, but it was no violence. There was no crime, none of that. That's where RCNY was born, initially. Gosh!


Steven Payne: Do you remember around what time that was, or how old you were?

DJ Doc: Late '70s?

Steven Payne: Late '70s, yeah.

DJ Doc: After '77. Yeah. Probably somewhere mid to late '70s. And I kept it. And the only reason I dropped in on records because it started to take up a lot of room in the credits. And then I adjusted it because there's a friend of mine. He's like my brother. His name is Andrew Flores. His DJ name is A Flo, Andrew Flores. So he would come to my events. He was from the Bronx. I was from Hell's 00:24:30Kitchen. But we got together really, really well. I met him through his best friend. We would play basketball. I was huge on basketball. My two loves were basketball and music. So I met his friend. We played really, really hard against each other, and we had respect for each other. So then he came down and realized I play music, and then he brought him down because he wanted to be a DJ. He goes, "I'm going to show you what a DJ really does." So he brought him down. So during a few events, Andrew would tell me, "Your events always rock. They always 00:25:00rock." He said, "They never suck. They're never dead. There's always people." And he goes, "And you have this energy when you spin." And he goes, "So whenever you do an event, that event must rock." And that's where this came from, [laughter] must rock productions, which I got patented and everything. I registered it. Came from Andrew Flores. It was his invention. And for a while, 00:25:30it would say RCNY Must Rock Productions. My publishing name is Must Rock Productions. So I let the RCNY go even though I still support it. There were just so many letters. But the word Must Rock Productions came from him. And it makes total sense, because whether it was a record, I'm working on production, whatever I'm doing, it has to be done a certain way. That's just my way of working, my dedication. And he told me, "When you do stuff, it always rocks. It has to rock."

Steven Payne: Wow. That's where the word Must Rock came from.


DJ Doc: And he came up with it, Andrew Flores. And he uses Must Rock Mobile because he's still a DJ. He's in Florida right now, but wherever he goes, his logo is Must Rock Mobile. He handles the mobile division, which I used to do, but I got so busy I couldn't do this and that. I can't spin and then also produce and then also engineer. It's just too much. So I've started to come out recently. I did the Puerto Rican Day Parade before the COVID pandemic. And two summers in a row, I did just summer jams in Hell's Kitchen. And I like to do 00:26:30that in Hell's Kitchen because it brings everyone back together. That's a lot of fun, too. And I try my best to do that when I can.

Steven Payne: Absolutely. So let's take it back to elementary school for a little bit before we keep moving forward. Which elementary school [crosstalk]?

DJ Doc: I went to school right up here. I went to Public School 9, which is still there. It's on West 83rd Street and Columbus Avenue. I even have some pictures, I think, somewhere at home where I have the little button-down shirt 00:27:00and hair cut to the side. And my mother and my father would take turns bringing me there. I went there. Initially, that's where I went to school before I moved on to William J. O'Shea, which was known as I.S. 44, which is only six blocks away. And it was during that time that I left to Hell's Kitchen. And from Hell's Kitchen, I went to King. But yeah, Public School 9, PS9. Now it's one of these new schools where it breaks the school into different portions, and there's this 00:27:30one school here. But it's still there, PS9. Yeah, I went to PS9 on West 83rd Street. I remember it very well.

Steven Payne: And what was it like there, do you remember?

DJ Doc: It was nice, clean cut, a lot of singing. I learned something there. This is off-subject, but it still sticks with me today, because when you walk through the streets, sometimes you run into some people that are not so courteous. [laughter] So you're walking on the right side. Now, I remember in public school, you would hold hands with a little girl, and they would tell you, 00:28:00"Always walk on the right side." I believe the entire country is that way. So when persons are coming towards me, I'm like, "The left side is completely open." And then I said, "Maybe they didn't go to school here." But in New York City and any other state, I'm pretty sure in the country, they teach you to walk on the right side. And I would always remember they always told us to walk on the right side. Why do people have trouble walking on the right side?

Steven Payne: Yeah. I know, I know. I think that same thing.

DJ Doc: It's mind-boggling. I'm like, "I know you went to kindergarten." And it's always. They still do it today. You get the little kid, you hold hands, get 00:28:30on the right side. Don't block the left. So that always takes me back to PS9. I still remember my teacher. I can visualize her, very sweet lady. And one traumatic moment I had during that time was I had to get my tonsils removed, because I would catch a lot of colds. I had a lot of allergies. And I remember getting them removed. And I remember my dad bringing me to school. He carried me that time. And I was real sore and stuff. That always stood with me as well, the time they removed my tonsils. And my dad brought me to school when I recovered, 00:29:00that I remember too. Those are good times except traumatic, but having him carry me and all that, that was very reassuring. I remember that.

Steven Payne: And yeah, did you have any negative experiences in either elementary or intermediate school?

DJ Doc: Elementary, no. Elementary was fine. Intermediate, there was always that challenge. And by nature, I'm a very low profile person. I don't do a lot of 00:29:30interviews. I don't do a lot of-- if it seems like it's going to be something good and it helps out, I'll do it. But I'm not big on hype. That's a whole other subject that I learned over life, and I learned in Hell's Kitchen. Real is real. A lot of fake stuff out there. But I deal with reality. I don't deal with hype. And I was always comfortable being the guy in the back. When I was on stage, whatever I do, I'm okay in the back. I don't need the cameras. I don't need the lights.

Steven Payne: Because you know what you do, and it doesn't matter if anyone else does.

DJ Doc: That's it. That's all that matters. If you enjoy it, great if you don't. 00:30:00I enjoy doing it. So when I went to junior high, there were a lot of challenges. There's the bully, and then there's the real popular guy. And I was like, "Why do I have issues when I'm the quietest guy in here?" When I look now at those books, where they say most likely to this or that, there's no way that Ivan Rodriguez from that book became DJ Doc. No way. No way on earth, because that's not me. It kind of happened. I noticed that a lot of guys, they have a 00:30:30background. They have a T La Rock or a Grandmaster Caz or a Kurtis Blow, like Run-DMC. Run was Kurtis Blow's DJ before he became Run. So you had these-- I didn't have any influence.

Steven Payne: I know. You came literally from--

DJ Doc: It came. The whole Doc thing had nothing to do with music. It had to do with Dr. J, because I loved Julius Erving so much so that I named myself Doc because I loved him that much, and I still admire him immensely. But it had nothing to do with music. I didn't place it in the middle of my name. The music 00:31:00industry did. I believe one time one of my credits ended up instead of Ivan Rodriguez, it said Ivan Doc Rodriguez, and that stuck. Everyone that knows me calls me Doc. There was never the letters DJ in front of my name ever, ever, because to me they were just too much, to me. There's people that have the name grand master and this master, and it's not for me. To each his own. It's beautiful, to each his own. But for me, Doc was plenty. My name Doc is here on 00:31:30my arm. It was the only tattoo I have had in my life. And it was Doc, and then there's a pink panther, because growing up, I thought he was really slick. He was always cool and never got in trouble. I like this guy.

Steven Payne: Absolutely. I mean, the music too is [crosstalk]--

DJ Doc: Yes. I don't need the trouble. I like this guy. So that's the reason I had this. But I never had a tattoo after that. But it was always Doc. And if you run into anyone that knows me, you'll see them call out Doc. That's how you know they're my friends, close friends. If you hear them call me DJ Doc, they're more of a supporter that don't know me personally. Or once in a while, they'll say 00:32:00Ivan Doc Rodriguez. They know me from music. But all my close family and friends call me Doc. So that you would have never expected in intermediate school, because Ivan Rodriguez, I was the guy sitting in the corner in the back. And if you didn't see me, I was okay with that. So in intermediate school, getting back to that, there were some challenges. I was able to get past them. A lot of that had to do with Hell's Kitchen, being raised there. You knew when you needed to step up and when you could just ignore it. So yeah, there was a few challenges. 00:32:30Soon as I started getting to sports and music, I could feel those challenges kind of back off. And I didn't do anything to make them back away. They just kind of backed away, which I was thankful for.

Steven Payne: Sure. Is that when you started playing basketball, [crosstalk]?

DJ Doc: I started playing basketball, I want to say, 16. And I only started playing because I was dating a girl that was really good at basketball, and I sucked. I would dribble with two hands. And I would go support her and watch her 00:33:00play. I'm like, "That is so cool." And she goes, "Why don't you try to learn?" And I said, "You know what?" And this is how I am still till today. It's a gift. I'm thankful for it. But when I put my mind to something, if I like it, I'm going to learn it. You and I can talk about something, "I do this." I'm like, "I think I like that," and I'll learn that. So she told me, "You really should." And I just literally, two hands, one year later, I was playing in the PAL. And that season, I got most improved player. It's like, "Wow, this is kind of cool." 00:33:30I've never been taller than six feet. I'm six feet. But I remember the first time I dunked. And it was all about excitement and that surge of energy. And I remember I played for Hell's Kitchen. We were the Clinton Cougars. I think that year, we went 29 and 1. We were really, really doing well. One of our guys was all city. He played for King. And I remember getting a fast break. And one of the guys threw a bounce pass, and I just caught it at the right spot and I took off. When I took off, I just wanted to lay it up. But I noticed I was still up 00:34:00there. [laughter] And I can hear one of my guys go-- what was it he said? He said, "Dunk it," something like that. So I turned my hand opposite, and I actually dunked the ball in. And I said, "Oh my god. I can dunk." And it was all that energy of, "I'm going to get better at this." I ended up playing in college. I got drafted to Puerto Rico. And I took basketball very, very seriously, like I did music. And it was because of the love of it. And it all came from that girl telling me, "Why don't you try?" So that's always been that 00:34:30way, whatever it is, a job, a project. If I like the project, you win, you're good because I'm going to take care of it.

DJ Doc: If I don't like the project, I'll tell you. I've never taken money for something and said, "I'm not doing this. I don't want." I say, "Listen, I'm not too crazy about it. I don't see it. But if you still want me to do it, I'll give it 100%." That's another thing. Whenever I did Robert Sanchez, it was the same as Red Man or Method Man or Boogie [Down?], I do the same for everyone. No one's 00:35:00bigger or better or deserves more. I do the same for everyone. But I'll always tell you the truth. That's hard to take sometimes, the truth. But I will tell you the truth respectfully, but I'll tell you the truth. And I think that came from those little engagements in intermediate school, in King, sadly watching people die, knowing this could be different but it's not. And I took all of that, and I made the best I could of it. And I'm still here. I'm a cancer 00:35:30survivor. I've been through a lot. And I'm still here. And I do the best I can. But it all came, I could say. I wouldn't change a thing. Hell's Kitchen is in me. It is who I am. I grew up there, and you learned respect easily or you learned it the hard way, man or woman.

Steven Payne: Sure, sure, sure. You're going to learn it [crosstalk].

DJ Doc: That's right. You're going to learn it. When I hear people say, "I'm going to learn you," trust me, I know what that means, because I learned it in streets and from my family. Oh, yeah, I learned. I could say that more than 00:36:00likely what I went through, by today's standards, would have probably been abuse. I wouldn't change a thing, because if they didn't keep me on that line-- there's a handful of us left. A lot of my friends died of drug overdoses. They died of AIDS because of sharing needles. I mean, kids, I would see kids sticking needles in their arms. And these are my friends. So if my aunts did not do-- mostly my aunts, put me there and say, "This you don't do," I might have had a different outcome. But I don't have any complaints about man, my life. No, it 00:36:30was rough, but it was worth it.

Steven Payne: Made you who you are.

DJ Doc: Yeah. Absolutely. There's a scene I always tell folks that don't really know Hell's Kitchen. If you look at the original Exorcist, the movie, there's a scene where the priest goes to visit his mother. He walks into a block. It looks like it was hit by bombs. I was there. There's kids jumping on a car. Each one 00:37:00got $50 for doing an extra work on jumping on the car. Most of those kids are dead now. I was again being shy. I didn't want to do so. I was across the street. So I'm watching them jump on the car, but the thing is, when you look at that, you say, "People couldn't have lived here." I was living in the building in front of where those kids are jumping up and down. That was 420 West 48th Street.

Steven Payne: Wow. Yeah, I mean, it's just like when you see some pictures of parts of the Bronx from back in the '60s, I mean--

DJ Doc: Right. Burnt down, mattresses on the ground. And we would jump on those mattresses. But yeah, that's a perfect example of-- I wonder how it was like 00:37:30where Doc grew up. Watch The Exorcist. Watch when he walks down-- after he lives the train station, he talks to somebody, and then he walks. That's 48th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue. And when I look at it, we didn't have heat. So my father would sacrifice his stuff for me and my sister, and he would freeze.

Steven Payne: Wow. I've heard, in other instances, of people who lived in buildings like that. Everyone would go into the kitchen, they'd turn on the 00:38:00oven, and that's how you'd survive in the winter.

DJ Doc: Sure. Oh, when we moved there, there was no bathroom. The bathroom was outside. Our shower was next to the sink. So my sister would be cooking, and I'd be taking a shower in the kitchen. This is the reality. When you needed to use the bathroom, you looked out to see if the lock was off. If the lock was off, somebody's using it, somebody from next door. And then you would go in and close this little door and use the bathroom, and then they had the thing on the top with the thing you pulled. There was no bathroom in the apartment. Nope, nope. When there was no heat, there was nobody to call. There's no city number, no 00:38:30311. No, you froze or you did the stove thing. That's how it was. That's how it was. The winters were brutal. I remember them well, and yet I wouldn't change them.

Steven Payne: Yeah. What about your mom's place? Was that apartment better?

DJ Doc: My mom's place was better. Luckily up here, Upper West Side always got better treatment. There was very few times when there was a problem with heat or water or anything up here. There was always problems down. Whenever winter came, we knew. Or instead of the oven, they would boil water, the pans they would use 00:39:00for the holiday rice, which was huge. They'd make rice, and you'd fill that with water. And if you weren't feeling well, you'd put a teaspoon of Vicks inside the water, VapoRub, and turn it on, and the kitchen would warm up, and you would be able to breathe better, old school remedies. We did what we could. There was no assistance. There just wasn't. I still remember our initial block parties. They 00:39:30would bring a trash dumpster, sort of clean, fill it with pump water, and we would swim in there. We would swim in there. We didn't care. And then they had a program called Manpower. Manpower would have job opportunities throughout the city, but they would also come to neighborhoods with these little lunch packets with cheese, ham, a little piece of bread, and a jello, and give those out, and that was the best because that's all we could have. So all of that took me to 00:40:00the whole thing about hype. Decades later, it doesn't work. If you're not down to earth, we'll never gel. I can tell a hype person. And again, to each his own. I'm not judging, but I'm not about hype. It does nothing for me. If you ever see me perform, whether it's with a microphone-- I mean, excuse me, with a DJ set or in a studio, I don't touch microphones because I have nothing to say. Everything I do, I do with my hands. I don't need the hype. I don't need the microphone. I don't need all those special effects, "Wham, wham, wham," none of that. None of 00:40:30that exists in my set, because all of that is distractions, having to do with hype. If I can distract you, then what I do with two turntables is not important. I don't have to have a skill. All I need to do is distract you, and then put another record on. It's popular.

Steven Payne: Yeah. Play sound effects, bada-bing, bada-boom, yep.

DJ Doc: There you go. Or you let a record play, you put a digital delay on it, and then you let it delay out so there's no tempo. Then you put the next record. Do respect. To me, that's cheesy. There's no skill in that. I don't even know why they invented sync buttons on equipment. Why would you hit sync? The fun in 00:41:00doing it is doing it yourself. If you're going to hit sync buttons, a little kid could do it. There is no skill in that. But it is what it is.

Steven Payne: Absolutely. So since you're bringing all this up now, let's get back to your earliest experience with DJ equipment, because when we talked before all of this, I know you have some really interesting stories about all of that. The inventions that you-- you literally invented things.


DJ Doc: Yeah. No choice. No choice. We were broke. We were eating little ham sandwiches. There's something I do, and this is all in straight honesty. When I go eat in some restaurants, if I order white rice and the rice is a bit bland, I put ketchup in it. That came from being broke. I can afford it now. But somehow it's die hard. So I've had friends that go, "Ketchup?" I'm like, "You never struggled, did you?" [laughter] I said, "Did you ever eat bread with ketchup in it?" There was no hot dog, just ketchup. I said, "That's real." That's what they 00:42:00call real, when you don't have enough and you break it in half and you give half to your sister or to your friend. So I will still put ketchup at time because it takes me back. And I'm like, "Wow, this tastes good," [laughter] because that's all I had. So when it came to the DJ thing, one of those events where my sister had to go out-- and I feel kind of bad now because I used to pick on her, and you pick on your sister.

DJ Doc: And my father says, "He don't go, you don't go." So she took me-- so she 00:42:30took me to a place with her, and it was called the Ice Palace, gorgeous. I've never forgotten it. It was based inside an ice skating rink on, I think, 32nd or 33rd, and I want to say 11th or 10th Avenue. And it was a really weird building that's still there that goes up like a V, like an upside-down V. And at the top was a ice skating rink. They would temporarily build a dance floor in the middle of the rink and then two little sets of stairs. It was so cool. They had water 00:43:00beds on the balcony so that you could listen to music and just bounce around in the waterbed and look at the stars. It was so cool. And I was a young kid. So I got in with a fake ID, and I was excited but nervous because I said, "They're going to catch me." I'm like, "I don't even have a mustache." And I remember clearly, when we went in, everybody's looking at things, and I'd get caught on this bass, just heavy, heavy bass. I'm like, "Ooh." It kind of made my skin crawl. And I kept walking in, and I saw a window on the wall. And in the window, 00:43:30you could see a guy with headphones on. And I'm like, "He's probably the guy playing the music." My first time in a club, and he was playing MFSB - Love Is The Message. And I don't know.

DJ Doc: It just came over me and I told my sister, "I want to do what that guy's doing." And she goes, "What are you talking about?" She's there. She's having a good time. I said, "I want to do what that guy's doing." Whatever it is, I want to do it, like I said to you, if I like it. And the very next morning, I had a talk with my dad. I said, "Papi, there's this thing that uses two turntables," 00:44:00and we didn't have money like that. So when I wanted to do it, there were no mixers. You could not go to Best Buy or Guitar Center or Sam Ash or the mom-and-pop store and buy something with two volume controls. It didn't exist. So when people say, "Be thankful for the pioneers before you," including hip hop guys, rock and roll guys. Elvis, he owed a lot to people before him. Respect 00:44:30them. You may not agree with them. You may not even like them, but respect that they did it and it permitted you to do it. So when I did it, the battle was, A, I don't know what I'm doing. B, I can't afford it. C, if I could afford it, that doesn't exist. So I said, "Well, how can you go from one record to another and you don't have a source?" Two receivers, two independent receivers, which means you need four speakers. So there were two speakers on one, two speakers on the 00:45:00other. I got past that challenge. Now, the turntables, no pitch control. No, you can't buy a turntable with pitch control. They didn't exist. So I said, "There's only one way to do it. Drop the needle at a point where both rhythms are similar and at the right time." Years later, I understand that was called needle dropping. I was doing that as a 14-, 15-year-old kid. I didn't know what it was called. I just know it was the only way I can get the needles to work. And if I 00:45:30couldn't cue, I would bring my ear close to it and listen for the little sizzle. And I knew that was the high end snare. It wasn't the one; it was the two. So if something went [inaudible], I knew that was a snare, and that's where I would time it. It was excruciating hard.

Steven Payne: I'm sure. I'm sure.

DJ Doc: And once it was in the right place, I grabbed one volume on the receiver, start to bring it up, bring down the other one. And I said, "Wow, it worked." It was so cool. It worked. And that's how I started, no mixer, two sets 00:46:00of receivers, two sets of speakers, and then it came to a point where I wanted something a little better, but I couldn't afford it. So I made my own speaker. My friend Andrew Flores still talks about it today, because I was a kid. I didn't know anything about impedance, resistance, voltage, current. I knew nothing.

Steven Payne: You were what, 12, 13?

DJ Doc: 14, 15. And I said, "Well, I always like to mess with tools." So I've got five pieces of wood that I found in a lumber yard. There used to be a lot of 00:46:30lumber yards in Hell's Kitchen, and they would throw a bunch of wood away. So we'd go get the wood. On the way to get the wood, we would run over to the breading place and steal bread. [laughter] You could smell the bread for blocks. And as soon as they went back in to do something, we'd all grab a loaf and run. That's what we did. And I took the wood, cut it into five pieces. The box came up pretty darn good, and then the top was the catch. This is where the speakers are going to go. So I got together a bunch of car speakers that were thrown away 00:47:00or were very, very cheap at Canal Street or something, and I think I put like eight speakers in there. I had no clue that resistance, impedance was important. I just wired them. And that was late December. And I remember one of my friends was a super in a building next to ours, that she said, "Listen, this apartment is empty. The tenant left, and it's going to be empty for about a week. Want to do a party?" I said, "Can we do a New Year's party?" She said, "Yeah." So we went in there. I hung the speaker up. I put hooks in it. I hung it up. We 00:47:30couldn't afford lights, so I put an umbrella upside-down, and I put Christmas lights in it. Those are my disco lights. And we started at like 12:10. After we said happy New Year with the family, we went in there, and I played music till the next day till 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Yeah. And that was it. For me, it was amazing. And yet we're still with very primitive equipment, way before Newmark and Gemini made it accessible. But that was a big deal because that also 00:48:00taught me to do things that I did in studios and in other issues with music that I would have never thought of. I would have never thought of because everything came too simple. You buy stuff now and you hit a few buttons. But what happens if those buttons aren't there or if one of them goes bad?

Steven Payne: Absolutely. But you had to learn to do all the work.

DJ Doc: You had to learn to do it. And when it worked, you knew, "I'm good at this. I can do this." And I did a lot of that in studios as well. I came up with ways to make things sound a certain way when it seemed like you couldn't do it.


Steven Payne: Wow. So what are some of the kinds of records that you were spending at this time, if you remember?

DJ Doc: All 45s. No albums. If you ever listened to, I did an album with an artist by the name of Lord Shafiyq. It's called The Chosen Ones. There's a song on it called Robodoc. The lyrics are true. He talks about how I would walk into a record store with a really big coat on and walk out with 45s in my pockets, 00:49:00again, broke, and not proud of it, but it is what happened at the time. And I told him, "If you're going to say it, say the truth." So I would go into a record store and, if I could, I'd take a few 45s. And that was my source, 45s. There were no 12 inches. There was only albums and 45s. Albums were too expensive. So you would take a 45 and basically go back and forth with two 45s. So back then, wow, ATCO had a group called Sons of Robin Stone. They had a big record called God to Get You Back. That was one of the singles. A lot of Michael 00:49:30Jackson and the Jackson 5. Hum Along and Dance was a huge club song at the time. A lot of underground groups, Executive Suite, Main Ingredient towards the beginning, a lot of R&B soul, some uprock like Just BB Guns, but all 45s. A lot of disco music, and that's another huge thing that people know me for, hip hop. And I had nothing to do with hip hop. I didn't care about hip hop. My music was 00:50:00R&B soul, classic soul, and disco. That's what I came up on, and that's something I still enjoy when I want to listen to music. But when I did hip hop and I got a taste for what it did, I said, "I like this." So I put my mind to it, and I became very, very good at it.

Steven Payne: Do you remember what year you-- I mean, obviously, it wasn't even called hip hop for a long time. But what year you kind of first knew of this kind of music?

DJ Doc: I would say late, late '70s, I think '79, maybe '80 when Grandmaster Caz 00:50:30and groups like that would be on independent labels. And I would hear them. And they were okay. They were nice. Some of them will make me move my head because of the rhythm. I'm very rhythmic. If they didn't make my head move, I said, "It really doesn't matter to me who they are." If it doesn't make me move, I don't like it. And I remember those kind of songs. I remember when Fatback Band did a song, and they were like the first commercial record with rhyming on it. It's 00:51:00called King Tim III. There's a rhyme in the song. That was the first physical record I believe ever came out with rhyming, even though they weren't rappers. But they rhymed on it. And of course, in the '20s and '30s and all, there was their own version of rapping. But those were the ones I heard. I didn't play them too much, and I never wanted any live artists, hip hop artists to touch my microphone because they would destroy my set. They would be too loud. And I'm big on quality. So I would say, "That's the only reason," not because you're 00:51:30good or not good. It's because you're out of control. And that was another thing I learned to teach a lot of the artists I worked with when we were in the studio, "Keep a certain level of control. You don't have to scream unless it's required." So those all things came from the having to invent things coming up. But all 45s, I still have a really, really great collection of 45s in my studio and eventually albums, which was tough to buy two albums. That was tough because 00:52:00it was expensive. And then Imports came in, which made it even worse. Imports were like twice the price of an album. But it was 45s, a lot of disco, some R&B soul. I would play rock and roll. That was part of my set. I would play Bill Haley. I would play The Twist. I would play a little bit of Twist related Elvis, like Blue Suede Shoes or something. And they always loved it because it took certain people back. I enjoyed Frank Sinatra a lot. I still do. Ada James, I 00:52:30love all types of music. But if you told me hip hop, I would say, "Eh," which is odd, because I enjoyed it, and when I do it, I do it very, very well. But if they told me, "If you had to take music with you," it'd be classic soul.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what you came upon.

DJ Doc: If I had to go and there was only one choice, it would be classic soul. It would be classic soul all the way. I still take my daughter to the Beacon 00:53:00Theater for Valentine's day to see The Stylistics, the Phonics. So my daughter knows all the songs. And I tell her, "You can love what you love." I said, "But listen to these people. Look at what they do. Listen to the chords, the violins." Whenever they bring strings, I say, "Oh, this is going to be great." She goes, "Why?" I say, "They have strings." There's live strings. I said, "That's huge." That's what made Motown huge when they added strings. Before strings, it was, "Eh." When they added strings like, "Whoa."

Steven Payne: The sound just, yeah.

DJ Doc: It threw it up. Strings are big. So yeah, anything with beautiful strings, lush, oh, I love stuff like that. And that's what I tried to do with 00:53:30hip hop. I tried to make it lush. I used a lot of panning. I used doubling. I did things that didn't exist, not in hip hop. They existed in rock and soul and folk music, but they didn't exist in hip hop. Hip hop was kind of monotone. The audio never made you go, "Oh, what was that?" And I kind of invented that. And I said, "I'm going to make this exciting." So I like to make hip hop songs exciting, not only the artist, but the experience, especially when you put 00:54:00headphones on. Any records I do, listen to them in headphones and you go, "Wow. I didn't hear that in the car or here or there." And I remember when I met DJ Scratch, which, to me, is my favorite hip hop DJ of all time, I told him, "You're pretty amazing." I told him, "I'm going to make you more amazing." I said, "I'm going to do things to what you do that no one's ever done before, because you deserve it." And he and I have a great relationship. And it's always from the beginning, from when he very, very first started. And we did his cuts, 00:54:30and I said, "Okay. Now let me work on them." And when he would hear the mix, he's like, "Wow." I said, "Well, that's what you do, but now it stands out. It doesn't have to be in the back." And it doesn't overpower, but it has enough where you go, "Wow." The cut moved from there to there, here, there. And then I really enjoyed doing that for Scratch. I really did. I would do it for Cut master Cool V as well for [Biz?]. I would do that for Cool V, because I worked with them as well. But being a DJ, I guess, I lean towards making sure that 00:55:00people notice them, because over time, they got lost. DJs got lost. People didn't really understand how important they were.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, and I guess, like you said, as technology evolved and things became simpler, you didn't necessarily have to have someone with a whole lot of skill as a DJ sometimes.

DJ Doc: It's a totally different world. Expensive records are not a problem 00:55:30because you rip them off from the internet. Creating mixes doesn't matter because you hit a sync button.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So going back to records for a little bit, what are some of the stores that you would get the 45s from on a regular basis, if you remember?

DJ Doc: Colony Records was one that was on 49th Street and Broadway. As you walked west, Sam S-- I mean, Sam Goody was there. Many people don't remember. 00:56:00Erick Sermon mentioned Sam Goody in some of his rhymes. Sam Goody was there. I went into Sam Goody. Of course, I went to Rock and Soul, which is still around. A good friend of mine owned a record store in Park Place. His name was Frank Ramos, and then he moved uptown to the Midtown area. I went to his store. I went to the really famous store was Downstairs Records, which was in the train station on 42nd Street. And you go right down, and they had a lot of 45s 00:56:30accessible, because they were right there. Colony always had them behind a wall, so you'd have to ask for them. [laughter]

Steven Payne: A little more difficult.

DJ Doc: Yeah. A little more difficult. But Downstairs Records had them right in front. So it was Downstairs. There were a couple of mom-and-pop stores on 8th Avenue. There was Frank's store. There was Rock and Soul, which has moved a couple of times, but as I said, they're still there now. They're still doing it. And J&R Music World had great, great selection of music. They had a beautiful 00:57:00GLI system set up, and they would have a live DJ, very cool. Those were mostly the places I would shop. And then every now and then, when Columbia would have one of those sales where they go buy eight records for a dollar, you would do that, finish a commitment, quit, and then do it again. [laughter] I'm sure they were curious, "Why was he ordering the same record twice?" Because I needed two of them. So I would do that with albums with Columbia, yep. Anything, any hustle 00:57:30you could do to get the records, I was like, "I'll buy eight records for $1. I'll pay whatever you need, and I'll quit." After a while, they'd say, "Yeah. We don't need you anymore." But that's what I would do.

Steven Payne: Were there any other people in your neighborhood around your age who had a huge record collection as well that you remember?

DJ Doc: There was a guy, a much older gentleman that was a counselor. He would help us out. He owned two turntables, but he was very protective of them. He never permitted anyone to touch them. And I remember I was like a puppy looking at food, saying, "Damn, I'm hungry." But I was never-- I'm not a forward type of 00:58:00person, aggressive, so I wasn't going to ask. If he didn't tell me, "Would you like to?" I wouldn't. And he never did. And I always remembered, and I said, "I'll wait. I'll wait till it's my time." But he had two. They weren't 1200s or anything like that, but they were two turntables. And I would look at them and go, "Wow. I wonder what he does with them," because I don't think he did. And he had a few records, but I could say that when I started - and I took it very seriously - a lot of DJs emerged in Hell's Kitchen after that, which they openly 00:58:30admit, "Doc was the person that got me interested," and I think still today. Some of them do it as a hobby, but they do it. They do it. And it's nice to know that they could. Before me, there were no DJs in Hell's Kitchen. Hell's Kitchen, we had Lisa Lisa. She grew up with us. She's a good friend of ours. She's from the neighborhood. We had some boxers, some basketball players, a lot of musicians, a lot of Latin musicians. They would meet with guys from El Barrio 00:59:00and play salsa. The Chita was in my neighborhood, which was the most famous Latin place in the world.

DJ Doc: Then finally all starts played that. The Chita was on, I believe, 54th Street. But DJs, no. I was the first one to come. And then when they saw that you can actually do this, if Doc do it-- so there was a lot. A lot of them fell. They'd yell, "It's too much work." I remember this is a really funny story. And I try to help a guy out, but again, some people take things the wrong way. I was spinning outdoors in Hell's Kitchen. I always went to the shade, always to the 00:59:30shade. So one of my neighborhood guys, he was like-- a week later, he was a DJ. I was like, "Okay." He sets up across the street. I said, "You really shouldn't set up across the street." "What are you talking about? I know what I'm doing." I'm like, "You're under the sun. You don't want to be under the sun." "Why?" "Okay. I'll leave you alone." [laughter] 20 minutes later, his needle's wobbling like this. And he goes, "What the hell?" I said, "I told you you're under the sun. Your records are melting." "Oh, damn." I said, "It's not that easy, and it 01:00:00requires some common sense." I think after that, he quit. [laughter] But I told him, "Don't play under the sun. Come to the side I'm on." He said under the sun, he looked like hills, and it was just hilarious because I told him in advance. So you can't play vinyl under the sun. It will melt. And he learnt it the hard way. And that was it for him. He was one of the ones that said, "I'm not in this."

DJ Doc: And there's still a handful. One of them is in Florida. There's a couple in New York. But they came in after me, and they also came to a lot of my 01:00:30events. And then they went on their own and did their own thing. And it's pretty cool.

Steven Payne: Yeah. Very cool. So obviously, there were a lot of block parties in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood that you DJ'd at or attended. What about in other parts of New York? Did you go to many of the block parties or parties that were out in the parks in the Bronx?

DJ Doc: Oh, yeah, yeah, I went to the Bronx. I went to El Barrio. I went to some in Brooklyn. I mean, they were really nice. Violence wasn't a thing. You didn't 01:01:00concern yourself with violence. You went to hear-- there were guys that went to meet women. Guys like me went to hear records, "Let me see what this neighborhood's playing that maybe I don't know about," which is what you did in clubs, too. But in the block parties and in private parties, they would take a magic marker and black out the label so you could-- there was no Shazam. You would try to remember and hum it to the guy at the record store, "It goes like this." "Oh, I know what that is." And I met a guy at the time. His name is 01:01:30Albert Marrero. He's probably one of the greatest in New York City. He's still alive. He's still with us. And he worked at Rock and Soul and many other stores. And he was the source. All I'd have to do is call him, "Albert, it sounds like this." And I would hum, and he'd go, "That's The Dramatics. That's this. That's that." He's an amazing, amazing guy. He was one of my sources. But I would go to parties in the Bronx. The Bronx parties were always what they call spicy. They were always really good and a lot of energy. And that's where Andrew Flores is from. So he would love for me to go up there because he would kind of throw me 01:02:00in there, "Let my guy play for a little while." Yeah, yeah. And then he'd have that look on his face like, "Watch what happens when they hear him," because I did everything at another level. It was like very concentrated, and it had to be right. So he always got a kick out of that.

DJ Doc: Now, there's a thing in New York City that's been around, gosh, it's got to be at least 40 years. It's called the 9th Avenue International Food Festival. It hasn't happened in two years because of a pandemic, but it happens every summer in May. I believe this year is the 14th and the 15th, something like 01:02:30that. Well, I was there when it started, the very first one. So I would go on to 9th Avenue and whoever had an apartment with a fire escape that faced the Avenue, I would ask their, "Mother, can I set up here? Can I play music from here?" Oh my God, those experiences are amazing because when I would start playing, you couldn't get through the block. [laughter] So there was one entire block where you could not pass because everybody's dancing in there.


Steven Payne: Wow, so many people?

DJ Doc: And then the police there knew us. It wasn't like what they're trying to do now with policing and [inaudible]. We knew the cops. We knew all the cops from Hell's Kitchen, from the precinct. So they wouldn't get mad. They'd just look up at me and go, "Ivan," because they would call me Ivan, "People can't get through. Could you pause it?" They wouldn't say stop or take my equipment. But as I started in that festival, and I think I did it three years in a row before they started with the permits. And what we did the third year, when the police-- 01:03:30there were some new cops. They said, "You're going to have to shut it down." So I went from 50th and 9th-- we went around 49th Street, that's [printing?] high school. We opened up a pole, set up there, and half the block filled [laughter] [printing?] high school yard. And we just kept jamming there until about 8:00 at night. We decided the next year it was so good, "Let's do a tournament. Let's do music, a basketball tournament, a handball tournament, and a stickball tournament." And all the neighborhood, including the guys that would sell drugs, 01:04:00chipped in. We bought trophies. This is all us. This is like that RCNY thing. I said, "Let's do something that's exciting." And they would come, and then there was a hustle dance contest, and believe it or not, it was won by two guys, because one of the guys was a good leader, but he knew how to follow better than a woman. So they went and danced, and they made it to the final, and then they won. It was hilarious. It's like, "Look at this, how cool this is. These guys know how to dance so well they were able to beat a traditional couple." And then 01:04:30we had the three-on-three tournament. They won their trophies. And we did all of this just for fun.

Steven Payne: Wow. Yeah. So there's a lot you brought up just in that story that I am curious about. And since the last thing you mentioned was the hustle, were there some big hustle competition teams that were out of Hell's Kitchen?

DJ Doc: Hell's Kitchen had great dancers, individual dancers, but the Bronx.

Steven Payne: Yeah. The Bronx was it for--

DJ Doc: No, the Bronx was it, hands down. The Bronx, my friend Andy was from the 01:05:00Bronx. He hustled very well, and he introduced me to Eddie and Lourdes. Eddie and Lourdes, I think they were on Star Search. They were the best, the absolute best. I know Eddie way before that when he would come to a house party with Lourdes, and he would spin her, like he would do, and her hand would break a lamp, [laughter] and they just keep going.

Steven Payne: They just keep going.

DJ Doc: This is how far back I go with this stuff, where they go, "Did you know this?" I was there in the beginning. I saw Eddie and Lourdes doing these things. I knew Floyd, which sadly passed away recently, and Floyd was another pioneer in 01:05:30hustle music. Oh my gosh. So many of the greatest, absolute greatest were from the Bronx, so much flair, so much style. And I think in salsa, it's the same thing. The Bronx dancers are amazing, amazing, amazing. They call it [untwo?] dancers. But the Bronx, they led the way when it came to hustle dancing. And there's still hustle events in New York once in a while, and it's always the Bronx guys.

Steven Payne: Absolutely. Yeah. I think Willie's putting together 50th anniversary celebration.


DJ Doc: He does cruises. Yes. He mentioned it to me, but yeah, the Bronx guys, absolutely, and the women as well. I mean, they invented that whole thing of throwing the girl in the air and spinning her around [laughter] like a snake around the necks. Yeah?

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. One thing Willie told me about, in the early days as the hustle was coming about, he said one of the biggest places for them, of course, was the hooky parties. Were hooky parties a big thing in Hell's Kitchen?

DJ Doc: Well, not in Hell's Kitchen because we have a location, but I used to do 01:06:30them. I still have a flyer, and in order to kind of fool the police or the school, my flyer had a fish hook and then a key, a door key. [laughter] And it would say, "Today's hooky party." And we did them in a roller rink in the Bronx, always. We would go to the Bronx to do it. Yeah?

Steven Payne: Sure, sure, sure. Wait. Wait, which roller rink? Where was it, do you remember?


DJ Doc: Oh gosh. Name's on the tip of my tongue. It's on-- what's that highway that has overpass, that part of the Bronx?

Steven Payne: Was it the Major Deegan? Is that [crosstalk]?

DJ Doc: No, no.

Steven Payne: Oh, okay. The Bruckner?

DJ Doc: Bruckner.

Steven Payne: The Bruckner.

DJ Doc: Yes, the Bruckner, there was a rink. I forgot the name, but it's right on the Bruckner. That was the rink. The name's on the tip of my tongue, but that's where we would do it, and it was hook key. I'm sure I still have a few flyers. [laughter] And it was the way we would keep people from knowing what it-- the older folks, and it would get jam-packed. I think we charged like 5 bucks at the door. And you could roller skate - it was huge - and you could 01:07:30hustle. It was so cool. Yeah. We used to do hooky parties. Hooky parties were a huge deal, huge. And at the same time, no drugs, no violence, none of that. None of that. None of that existed. It was always nice, and people had a great time, and they always showed up for the next one. Yeah, hooky parties, big deal. Big deal, yep.

Steven Payne: Hooky parties, for sure. And you also mentioned handball. Was handball a big thing?

DJ Doc: Huge. And again, the Bronx, the Bronx. I used to go up there and watch 01:08:00this guy. He only had one arm. He's amazing. Anybody that plays handball in New York knows him. I don't know his name, but I used to go up there, Yankee Stadium. I'd go watch him in Yankee Stadium and the handball course out there. We had handball down in the village. The village was really popular for handball. In the other areas, we would do it for fun. I played it, but I wasn't-- that and paddle ball. But the real guys, Yankee Stadium.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They did away with most of the courts right now.


DJ Doc: Yeah. As a matter of fact, they got rid of-- I think it became a parking lot.

Steven Payne: Yeah. It did. Yeah. There's maybe one or two left.

DJ Doc: Yeah, yeah. Handball was huge, huge, huge. Yeah. And also Coney Island or the beach up there in the Bronx, Orchard Beach or any of those beaches, they had handball courts. That's where it was, that and basketball under the sun, thousand degrees. That's how you knew you were gung-ho.

Steven Payne: Yeah. And so you already mentioned you played basketball around 01:09:00the Bronx, too.

DJ Doc: I played ball in the Bronx. Yeah.

Steven Payne: I mean, everywhere, I'm sure.

DJ Doc: I played in Christ the King. My friend, Andrew Flores, brought me out there. I played out in the street park with him in New York City. I played all over here. And even after when I finished playing in school and all, I got a handful of guys together, and we joined the [7Up?] Hoop It Up, which was on TV, and we won that. We won the division in New York, and then we went to Philadelphia and won the whole thing, and got this little crappy trophy. But the memories were great. And we won it, yeah. We won it, me and my pal. And one of 01:09:30my guys playing was a guy from the studio that I met, because I played ball with artists as well. I played with EPMD, Ed O.G & Da Bulldogs because they start to talk crap. And I'm like, "Let's play a little basketball." I said, "I play a little. I might not be as tall as you." I said, "But I play a little bit." And of course, when we played, then it was a different story. [laughter] But yeah, I played with Erick and Parrish, and they're big. Erick and Parrish are big. I think Redman may have played. Bizz didn't play. Bizz wasn't really into athletic, but I think Cool V might have. Yeah. As a matter of fact, Cool V did 01:10:00play. We played in Hackensack, New Jersey. After I would work on the album, we would go to the park and play. Yes, yes, he did play. And a lot of hip hop guys, Ed O.G, with the guys came from Boston, we'd have a blast with them because they have that accent. So if we needed a record and he'd say, "It's in a car," I'm like, "I don't know what that is." [laughter]

Steven Payne: What are you talking about? Yeah.

DJ Doc: I don't know what that is. I'd say, "There's an R." So we would have that kind of fun, but I got along with all of them. We had a great-- most of the guys that I ever made records with or girls like Latifa, we're best of friends. 01:10:30Yeah. We're best of, because I treat them all with respect. That's it. But yeah, handball we played and basketball. Basketball for me was whoever, whenever. I'd get wake-- someone would come in my house in the morning and knock. My father would be like, "There's somebody at the door." "Doc, there's this guy. He's like 6'3"." I said, "I'll be right there." [laughter] And I'd brush my teeth, get dressed, and I'm going against whoever that guy is. That's how I was. They always came to my house, "There's this guy." I'll be right there, and I'd go and play, and we'd become friends. We'd become friends. I met a guy in a-- in the 01:11:00junior high school I went to, I used to go past there sometimes and play basketball. It's still there, the I.S. 44. They have a nice yard. And I went there with a friend of mine. We were walking by and I saw these guys playing. I said, "I feel like playing." And I went into play. Big tall brother, his name was Gerald Tapper. I didn't know him at the time.

DJ Doc: So we're playing. And I'm like, "I like the big guys," because I like to go against the bigger guys. So I start playing hard with him. And he's like, 01:11:30"Damn, you go hard." I'm like, "I love basketball." So we keep going, and one of the guys that was with me says, "Yo, Doc. We got to go to the studio." So he turns around. He goes, "Wait a minute. You're Doc from BDP?" I'm like, "Yeah." He goes, "Oh my god." This guy's one of my greatest friends. I just met him, and that very same weekend - he's from Philly - I took him to the spectrum on stage. And he was so excited that he-- I told him, "Listen, hold on to my back because I got to go on stage with KRS." And he swung his arms out of happiness and threw 01:12:00my back into the crowd. And I said, "Oh my god. Oh my god." Luckily, there was nothing important. But he'll tell you that that's how we were. If you were cool, I said, "Listen. You from Philly. You ever been to the spectrum?" "I go watch games." I said, "You ever been on stage? I'll bring you." And he thought I was lying. I brought him to the stage. Yeah, his name is Gerald Tapper. We call him Big Tap. And he was one of my guys in the [Hoopada?]. Yeah, and we just met on the street.

DJ Doc: And when he knew-- we were having a great time. But once he knew I was in music, he's like, "Oh my God. I know who you are." But many people didn't 01:12:30know that Doc was Puerto Rican, because I wasn't in videos. And they wouldn't have known me by seeing me because you didn't see me in a lot of things. I'm in a few videos, but not a lot. So once he heard the guy, he's like, "Oh my god. You're DJ Doc from BDP?" I'm like, "Yeah." And that's how we became friends. Yeah. And we're still friends today. And he lives in New York. And then I went to his house. I met his mother, his family when I was out there, and we became great friends. Yeah. I mean, for me, the music is a job like a policeman or a 01:13:00sanitation man or a plumber. It's a job. That's why the hype doesn't work. If you get too caught in the hype, that thing comes down on you, ooh! No, it's a job. It was a job. I love it. I had a lot of fun traveling. But it was no more than that, no more than that. I remember after the Philly thing, this is where, in a nutshell, the whole hype thing comes to me. I went to do a show with BDP. We were on the Dope Jam tour. That was the Rakim tour. Us, Kumodi, Doug E. 01:13:30Fresh, and depending on the town you went to, the local act would jump in. So if we went to LA, Ice-T get in. So we went to Virginia. I believe the place was called the Virginia Squire. One of the great things about KRS, he is 1,000% what you hear. There's no flashing bulbs, sound effects, stories. He had no gadgets, 01:14:00no gimmicks. Everyone had some nice visuals, which were great. We didn't have them. We were just raw. So he and I were talking in the dressing room, "What do you want to do?" We'd figure it out right before the show, no practice, because we already knew each other. I was his DJ. I was helping in producing and engineering. I was his roadie. Whatever he needed, I would do.

DJ Doc: So we went to do that show. And sometimes we'd start Criminal Minded, and I'd backspin it a few times and he'd pause his verse, whatever sounded cool. 01:14:30So we did the show. The show was good. It wasn't great, but it was good. When we got off the stage, one of the guys that was with-- what was the name of that group? Heavy D. One of the Heavy D's guys came up and he goes, "Doc, that show was ridiculous." And right there, it snapped. I said, "Oh my God. It's hype." Right there, it hit me, right there. It changed everything I saw going forward. And I was just in the beginning middle of my career. And I went, "Oh my God. 01:15:00It's so embedded that they believe it. I can see what you put out there, but you actually believe it." And that's when I knew a big chunk of this is all hype because the show was not bad in any sense. It didn't suck. It wasn't boring, but it wasn't great. I did nothing special. I did nothing that I went, "That was special." No, I did a solid show. It was tight. And he made it seem like I had two turns. It was floating in the air. And that point going forward, I always 01:15:30used Chuck D as an example, "Don't believe the hype," because the majority of it's hype, because I always had a way to determine it. I said, "If anyone ever thinks that they're not part of hype, try this. Take four guys, whatever they are, DJs, producers, put them behind a curtain. There's no mic. Nobody can hear the tone of your voice, nobody knows who you are. You do it for 20 minutes. You do it, you do it, you do it. I promise you all four will say no, because without 01:16:00the hype, they won't make an effect." Then it's necessary to scream and things exploding, because without that, the skill has to come into effect. So same thing with production. Production, once I learned about it and how it was made, I said, "Not that difficult."

DJ Doc: Creativity is important. But producing, not that difficult. And of course, people would take it and hype it to the levels where you thought you were dealing with Stevie Wonder. Now, that is a genius. That's a genius. A guy 01:16:30looping a song, not so much. That's just my opinion. I've done them pure. I've done them where I had looping. I've done all types. And if somebody told me, "This record you did, it didn't do this, but it did this," and it's true, I would say, "You're absolutely right. That's the truth." But I'm not going to tell you, "No, you're not hearing this." No, because that's hype. So when that guy, that one guy told me, "Man, that was fire," I went, "Not really." And 01:17:00that's when I went into the dressing room by myself and I went, "Wow." And I remember also another moment we were in Germany. We were on the Autobahn, Boogie Down Productions. So it's a long stretch limo, and it's doing 80, because you got to do a minimum. Now, the majority of the guys are in that corner of the limo and they're having a good time, "Yo," whatever, and I went to the corner, the other corner. There was no one there. And they're like, "You all right?" "I'm good." And I remember lowering the window, and I could see the moon. And I 01:17:30looked at the moon and I looked at them, and I'm like, "Wow. What am I doing here?" I'm a little punk kid from Hell's Kitchen, New York. I have nothing to do with hip hop. I didn't grow up in it. I grew up in salsa and R&B. I said, "This is a blessing." I was thankful, but you couldn't get me overly excited because that's hype. I'm not going to believe that I could fly out of this window. I'm thankful. I'm almost ashamed to be there. In a sense, I'm saying, "I work hard. 01:18:00But look at where I'm in Germany." Most people don't leave my neighborhood the corner. If you do a wedding, you're happy. I'm DJing stadiums, where if I move my hand a certain way, 25,000 people are waving around, and I remember I would get goosebumps out of that because I enjoyed it. And I was like, "Oh my God." Where you come, if you know where I come from, then you too can feel it. But if I had hype involved, I would have said, "Yeah. I deserve more."

Steven Payne: Of course. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

DJ Doc: No, I don't deserve more. Whatever they gave me, I'm thankful for 01:18:30because I worked for it, but I never got it easy. It was always difficult. It was difficult being Latino. It shouldn't have been, but it was. It was difficult that I didn't get high. I didn't partake in a lot of things that maybe a lot of guys did simply because I don't. So I wouldn't fit in. So it was triple the work to prove that I could do what was necessary, where if I just took part in a few things, I didn't have to work as hard. That doesn't exist for me. And it's mostly my ethics. It's just the way I'm built. I have to give 100% or I'll tell 01:19:00you, "I don't want to do it." It's simply pretty easy. I don't want it easy.

Steven Payne: Yeah. You want the challenge.

DJ Doc: I don't want free money, "I'll give you an extra this." I don't want an extra this. It's just me. It's just me. But when you hire me, you know you're getting 1,000% and no hype whatsoever. I don't want nothing to do with hype. I don't have anything in my personal equipment that goes, "Wah, wah, wah." [laughter] No, I don't. I have a couple of mics only because in the last few 01:19:30events, I talk about cancer. And even that's difficult for me because I don't like being up front. But I'll say, "Listen, everyone, especially gentlemen, men are afraid to check prostate cancer." I had prostate cancer. And I tell them, "It's a simple blood test. Just take a few minutes out. It can save your life. It saved mine." And I'll talk about it, and I'll tell them, "Listen, two years now. Two years ago, I could have lost my life. I remember when I did my first outdoor concert event for Hell's Kitchen the day before I found out I had 01:20:00cancer. So while I was at the concert, I wasn't there." My friends told me it was great. I'm like, "No, it wasn't." I said, "I wasn't focused."

DJ Doc: Nobody knew because I didn't say it. But in my mind, I was like, "I'm going to die. I'm going to die." It just kept circling. And then the next morning, while everyone was recovering from hanging out or going out, I was in the hospital getting needles stuck in me and all kinds of gadgets just to figure out what's going on, very tough journey. But I share that because I want people to-- why should you die if you don't need to? Simple. Little blood test. Listen 01:20:30to the doctor. Sometimes close your mouth, listen to your ears, and they'll help you. So I talk about that with my mics. But otherwise, no mics, no wham, wham, none of those effects. Everything is two hands. The CDs I gave you, you'll see all of that is live and you'll see how I combine something. That's all done with my hands and with the concept. That's the way I learned in the late '70s. And the drill was, I got from one song to another and you didn't realize how I did 01:21:00it. That's it. That's how you know you did it right. [laughter]

Steven Payne: That's how you know a really good DJ. Yeah.

DJ Doc: But just stopping it and playing another song, just put the radio on. That's what they do on the radio. That's what they do on the radio, "Oh, how you doing? Pull out the next song. Oh, how you doing? Next--" Oh, no. You don't need me for that. I'd rather not, no matter how great, it wouldn't have happened. It's the truth. And when you're dedicated to what you do, you got to make it work. You have to, because if you don't, you feel like you didn't accomplish your job. That's why a lot of engineers-- I mean, I'm sure it still happens 01:21:30today, but coming up when I came up, Patrick Adams, Elai Tubo, Norty Cotto, Yanni Papadopoulos, Rest in Peace, myself, Christopher Irish, there was so many in power play that I'm so proud to be a part of that group. And we knew when a person came in, I like his idea, he's so totally lost. And that's not an insult. That's just a reality. I don't play baseball. I remember trying to umpire a game. I got him to draw once with a fastball with kids. I said, "I will never 01:22:00play this game in my life," because I don't have the reflexes. It is my reality. I play softball, but I'm not touching a hardball. I don't know how baseball players can hit a curve. You need a skill to do that. So when we would see it-- Patrick Adams mentioned it recently in a piece of the documentary, which is hopefully to be released by Power Play. He explains, "If we didn't do what we did, you wouldn't know who they are," because if you let them-- and sometimes we would.


DJ Doc: Sometimes we'd say, "Well, you know what? There's enough energy and ego." There you go. Because I'm not your producer. I'm an engineer. I'm supposed to hit play and record when you tell me to. I'm supposed to punch you in when you tell me to. How you play keyboards and all, that's on you, not me. We couldn't do that because we knew the note was flat. For instance, if a person was playing flat and he'd go play some, I'm like, "Your keyboard's out of tune." 01:23:00"Are you sure? Do you have a tuner?" I said, "Pick up the telephone. It's 440 hertz." Listen to the telephone, hit the key. "Oh my God. You're right." I said, "Tune the key to the telephone, Tom." That's the cheapest way to tune anything because it's 440. If they understood you were trying to help them, now you're a team. If they felt you're trying to embarrass them, now you're not. I'm never there against you. If you hire me, I'm going to do absolutely everything to make 01:23:30you sound great. And if you're smart, you'll listen.

DJ Doc: I had an outstanding relationship with KRS, EPMD, Redman. Redman is outstanding. He doesn't get the credit he needs. Bizz, and why? Because they would listen. Now, if they go to an average person, that person's starstruck. When they do something, "Yo, that's so dope." And I'm like, "No, it's not. [laughter] No, we need to do that again." After a few times, then they realize. 01:24:00So when it's all done and their whole crowd is, "Oh, [inaudible]? Doc, where are we?" I said, "This is good. This needs to be done over." He'd say, "Yo, let's do it over," because you don't pay me every time I tell you to do it over. I'm telling you because my ears tell me no. And that sense I tell you that I get when something moves me, I'm like, "Ooh." When I first heard KRS-- I heard KRS, he was like a kid. And I went, "Ooh, this guy's-- he's special. This guy's special, different." He and KRS changed the whole game. And I was there with him 01:24:30with Scott, when Scott got murdered. I went through all of that with him. I was there from the beginning.

DJ Doc: I remember when they came in, not KRS per se but the whole B-Boy posse, I had to make a decision, "They're either going to step on me or I'm going to control the situation." The owner of the studio, Anthony Arfi, told me, "Doc, there's a posse of people coming from B-Boy records. Nobody knows who they are. I don't know who they are. Can you take them?" I said, "Sure, Tony, no problem." 01:25:00I'd wait for them. They'd come in, all this noise, ah, ah, ah, grabbing a crotch, all that. It wasn't Kris. But there was a bunch, [inaudible]. There was other groups, not just BDP. So they all come in the studio. So once they pile in, I walk in. There's coats on top of my console. So I said, "Fellas, all of this shit got to go. All this got to go. You got to take all of this out." And I didn't know who Kris was at the time. I said, "Whoever's first is here. The rest of you get out." I said, "I'll call you according to when we need you." It 01:25:30wasn't disrespectful, but I had to do that, because if not, it would have been a circus. From there, the few groups that tried kind of fell off, and BDP stood with us. And my impression was enough that I became a part of the group. I never asked, "Can I? Will I?" KRS asked me, "Can you do this?" I said, "I can do that." "Can you do this? This person's not here. Can you play that?" I said, "I can play that."

DJ Doc: Now, my growing up in Hell's Kitchen tells me, "I don't need to ask you to respect me." I don't need to ask you to give me my proper credit, because I'm 01:26:00treating you like my brother. So I'm going to give you what you asked because you asked for it. And I'm sure that when I am supposed to get mines in return, you're going to do your part as well because it's the right thing to do. That doesn't work like that, not in hip hop. Maybe in other genres as well, sometimes but not always, because the facts. Truth to be told, if that was a reality, I would have already received a lifetime achievement award. And again, I'm not 01:26:30about hype. I'm not a front man. But I've done an amazing amount of work. Outrageous amount of millions and millions of CDs, records and downloads around the entire globe have my name on them. But it is what it is. There was a point in my career where it really bothered me. You grow. It doesn't bother me as much now. If anything, I'm disappointed. But if I can speak and help, maybe, somebody else learn this or that-- but I went in there, and I treated all of them as if 01:27:00it was my friend from Hell's Kitchen or my cousin or my brother that I trust totally. And we had great times. But some of it wasn't-- you didn't get what you thought you would get. And I'm not talking about money. Money comes and goes.

Steven Payne: Sure. Sure. Recognition, right?

DJ Doc: Recognition, respect, because I respect Bruce Sweden. He died. I never met him, but I respect him immensely. I respect Patrick Adams. Wow, what a genius. I respect Norty Cotto. I respect all these fellas. I came up with Elai 01:27:30Tubo. There's competition from other studios. Whether they see it or not or knew it, I respect them. I had engineers, and forgive me for-- because there's so much that comes to me. I had engineers that would go out of their way to try to ruin a two-inch tape, knowing that it was coming to me. And I never, back then nor now, because if they knew me, they would have said, "I wouldn't give Doc a hard time. We are on the same team. You're going to have credit for one 01:28:00recording. But we're together." When I started EPMD, they were working with Charlie Marotta. I always had a great relationship, even from a distance, because he didn't do anything to hinder my work, and I'm taking his work to another level. I never said, "Listen, it's me. Erase his name." No, he was there. I would have engineers. When we would do what we did, we would synchronize tape machines. So we would have to lay either a FSK tone, F-S-K, frequency-shift keying, which is how the telephones work, and that would 01:28:30synchronize a device, but it would only synchronize it on the one. You couldn't pause in the middle of a tape and go. It lost. You can only do that with SIMTi when you do audio for video, whatever. So whether they would use SIMTi or FSK, they would take the signal, put it through a digital delay, and delay it by a certain amount of seconds, then print it to the tape. Then they would synchronize using that method, and when it came to me, the machine would synchronize late. It took me literally five seconds. My assistant [laughter] 01:29:00goes, "Something's wrong," and I laughed. And he goes, "What are you laughing at?" I'm like, "It's on purpose." He goes, "What do you mean?" I said, "Whatever that SIMTi is, put it through a delay. Bring it to 0.5." Boom, locks perfectly. He goes, "Why would they do that?" Or they would drop a low-end signal to tape and kill the low end. Why?

Steven Payne: I know.

DJ Doc: I would never send tapes. My tapes are coming to you in excellent condition because it's me. Why would I send you something, make you work twice 01:29:30as hard just to figure out how to make it play? I went through that. These are things that are not in newspapers or on TV-- or you hear a record. You don't know how hard it was to get past this, simply because you had some kind of opinion about my work or me or something, and I never had a disagreement with anyone in the hip hop community ever, ever. I was there to help. I remember when my daughter was little, my daughter Crystal, I'm very dedicated. So weekends were always Crystal's. And EPMD was on the road. Russell Simmons called me 01:30:00because I was signed to Rush Productions Management, RPM. Russell called me personally, "Doc, EPMD's on the road. You gots to chill, which I didn't do, the original mix." He said the echo is too loud, which it was. That's how you knew that the person was new, the engineer, because he would feed the delay, but the return was so loud it would peak. So it blows out speakers. Of course, it's distortion. So Russell goes to me, "We really need a remix, and we need it 01:30:30badly. And I know you're with Crystal. Bring her." I said, "Russell." He goes, "I know what it means to you, Doc, but this is an emergency." He sent the car for me. Me and Crystal went to the studio. I redid the whole thing, and the car brought me back. That's how I am. I didn't go, "No, it's Crystal, and that's it." I said, "Okay, I'll bring Crystal with me." I have pictures of Crystal in the studio since she was a little kid. She knew [LL?] and all of them before she knew-- they were just people because she was the little guy, and she always came with me. All of them know about Crystal, because I always brought her because I 01:31:00was dedicated to my time with her. But he called me for that, and I would do it. When I signed to RPM, he had Leo Cohen bring me in. And me and Leo had a talk, and Leo said to me, "I know you're the secret behind a lot of this." And I said, "What secret?" He goes, "I know. It gets to me. I know what you do and what you don't get credit for."

DJ Doc: And a lot I did, because I had to, because the record had to come out right. You could be hitting a drum machine for 20 minutes, and I'm like, "Can I ask you? Is this what you're trying to do?" "Yeah, that's it." Very famous 01:31:30statement in the studio, "I like that. Yeah, that's it." But that doesn't translate into co-production, additional production, any monetary-- no, it doesn't. It just translates into thank you. And even if you don't want to pay me, but you give me the credit, that means I'm going to get work somewhere else, not if you don't tell people it was me. It is what it is. Eventually people knew because you can hear my sound no matter what group I work on. You'd go, "That's Doc. I can hear it." And when he's gone, "That's not Doc." It just doesn't feel 01:32:00like it. So yeah, I went through that period. And I'm like, "I can't change that. I can't change people. I'm not going to waste my time suing people. This is not who I am." I'll continue to do what I do, and I'll enjoy it as best I can. Maybe one day somebody will get past that ego and say, "You know what? That was him. And that, that wasn't me. That was him." If you listen to early BDP, especially By All Means Necessary, when Kris rhymes, he talks to a guy with a 01:32:30little funny voice. That's me. That's my voice. I did that because he didn't have-- I said, "Kris, I'll do it."

Steven Payne: I'm going to have to go back and listen to that.

DJ Doc: Yeah. Just listen to it. When he talks, and also in I'm Still #1 remix, there's a guy. It sounds like a funny guy. That's me. I just went in and did it for him. When he did By All Means Necessary, a lot of the stuff you hear is me live, cutting it. I'm cutting the loop and not looping it. My Philosophy, all 01:33:00the stuff you hear in the beginning, yes, yes, "Because if you're a philosopher," that's all me. That's all me.

Steven Payne: That's amazing. I love that song.

DJ Doc: And then all you hear those horns, tu-du-dut-tu-dutu, that's a record that I'm cutting in, not a loop, all of that. And for Stop the Violence, from that same album, if you listen to it carefully, again, because you don't really know in the beginning, he says, "BDP is the freshest." And then you hear 01:33:30something going [inaudible] backgrounds. Or if you listen carefully, when the beat drops in, the song's going forward and backward. I did that by flipping the two-inch tape upside down and cutting into a reverse two-inch tape. And then I went into it, and then I faded my way out. And then when you flip it back around, it goes [inaudible]. And you hear it going [inaudible]. That's not a gimmick; that's me. But I had to flip the tape. If a loop was too long for a 01:34:00sampler, you could put the loop on a piece of half-inch tape, edit it together with tape and with a pencil, pull it away from the machine because it was too long, and it would loop. You would run that onto two tracks, and then you would have to synchronize live to that loop. If you listen to Dope Beat, "I got a dope beat. You got a dope beat?" Well, there's a tom-tom in there that goes, dun-ku-dum-pah-tah-na, dun-ku-dum. I'm playing those toms live on a Yamaha RX11.


Steven Payne: No way. I love that song too.

DJ Doc: And I played those on an RX11 because I used whatever was in the studio. We didn't have money like that. And in the very beginning, we didn't have sampling like that. I think in emulator, they sampled for like a second, which sucked. So I would come up with whatever I needed to come up with. So there was a lot of things I did on BDP By All Means Necessary. Were it to have been maybe rock, it would have been more recognized. The concept would have been like, "Wow." But not only were it being early hip hop, but not getting the credit I 01:35:00required, they didn't even know. But now you listen and you go, "Wow, now I can envision him flipping the tapes." But it was the two-inch tape flipped upside down, and then I cut into it. And I did a lot of work on Self Destruction. And Self Destruction, you weren't only dealing with a project; you were dealing with multiple egos. Some people didn't want anyone in the room when they rhymed. Some people wouldn't come into the studio if another person was there. It was just 01:35:30like, "Oh my God. Would you make it a record?" Yeah. It was a lot of challenges. There was a lot of challenges. It wasn't as simple as, "Man, that's the hottest record out." You don't know what I went to put record together.

Steven Payne: I know. Yeah. Not only all of the technological innovations that you had to come up with on the fly, the music, the playing of probably just a handful of instruments that you had to make come together, and dealing with personalities, all of that, all of that.


DJ Doc: All of that, especially the personalities. And when we needed a new snare, I would just take a piece of wood or a box, mic it, hit it, and that would be the snare on top of whatever snare I was using, and I would layer it. Another thing on the fly, I believe I mentioned to you over the phone, Scott LaRocque had been murdered. Our first concert is Madison Square Garden. I normally spin for Kris, but because Kris wanted to show respect to Scott, we all agreed that instead of me spinning, we would place a big picture of Scott on the 01:36:30turntables, and I would do the show to a reel-to-reel. So we did the show live in power play. I did it to tape. I made sure the levels were perfect because I knew we were going to the garden. I think it's a roadie or a bodyguard, one of them was carrying the reel. When we went into Madison Square Garden, he dropped it. [laughter] I didn't know until five minutes to show time, "Ladies and gentlemen, coming on stage, BDP." And Kris comes to me. He goes, "Doc, they 01:37:00dropped the reel-to-reel." I could have easily turned around and said, "I didn't drop it." I said, "Show me the reel. Where is it? Don't panic. Just show it to me." And we went. I flipped it over. One side was completely smashed. I mean, the take-up reel is no good. And I'm thinking, "What can we do to make it pull?" And I said, "Wait a minute. There's two cap stands. There's a pinch roller. Let me try something." So I held the pinch roller, the little thing that goes up with the tape, I held it with my finger, and I noticed that the reel moved. I'm 01:37:30like, "I got it. Go on stage." I said, "Just go." I said, "Follow everything the way we did it, disregard the [inaudible]." So when they went on stage, I had the reel come through. I had the tape here, and I had the cap stand here. And as soon as he nodded, I hit play. And everything ran to the floor, but it ran. So that first show--

Steven Payne: Wow. Unreal.

DJ Doc: Exactly. It happened because I figured it out on the spot. But if not, there would have been no show because I didn't bring records, because if we were 01:38:00going to do this and this is because somebody dropped the reel. I would have preferred to let me take it. But I didn't have control of the reel. But we got past the show, and then he thanked me. And I said, "Hopefully that doesn't happen again," because that could have really sucked, because first time in Madison Square Garden, and we can't even perform. So that was a real challenge. Again, you see that in a rock concert or something. It's like, "Oh my God." To me, it was like, "How do we do? What do we do? How do we fix this?" We fixed it. We moved on. We got rid of the reel-to-reel. I think, from that, whenever we 01:38:30needed a show that needed a tape, we would do it off a DAC, a portable DAC. And then I always brought records, always brought records, just in case.

Steven Payne: Yeah, just in case.

DJ Doc: Yeah. But we learned from that, and we got past that. That was one of those moments where it's like, "Oh my God." And deep down inside, you say, "Man, I hope they can really appreciate that if I'm here, no other group has me, just you." And at the end of the game, it just doesn't feel that way. It doesn't feel 01:39:00like that work ethic meant anything. I mean, I think it means more to the fans because they love the sound. So the fans that buy his records or anybody's records are like, "Wow, I really enjoyed this. Did you hear what he did here? Listen to this." And one of my greatest-- now, this is one of my greatest-- receiving one of my greatest compliments. Whenever I did records, especially for Jive, Jive hired Chris Gehringer as a mastering engineer. I never met him, but he did great work. So might've been Bunny Wailer. I did an album for Bunny 01:39:30Wailer, and Bunny said, "Not only do I want you to do this. I want you to go to mastering." I said, "I'm not the engineer." He goes, "No, I just want you there." I said, "Okay." So I go to the mastering lab. Chris happens to be the engineer, but I don't know him. He's a gentleman there. I come in. I say, "How you doing? Forgive me. I don't mean to interrupt. I was just asked by the audience if I could sit here. I'll be quiet. I give the respect that I want in return." So I give him a package. I go sit down. And he goes, "Well, thank you." He goes, "Don't worry about it." He goes, "It's not that difficult," or 01:40:00whatever. He opens the bag up, and when he pulls it out, he chuckles, and he goes, "Oh, this is nothing. It's a piece of cake."

DJ Doc: I said, "What do you mean?" He goes, "This is Doc Rodriguez." [laughter] That was huge for me because he didn't know me. So that's what I'm talking about. So he goes, "I do this guy constantly." He goes, "His levels are incredible." He goes, "I barely do anything." And I said, "That's me." [laughter] And he said, "Wow. It's a pleasure to meet you." I said, "You don't understand. You did something really big for me because you don't know me." Only two people have done that, him and Bobbito Garcia. Bobbito Garcia is very famous 01:40:30in this DJ, sneakers. He wrote an article in a magazine. He and I never met. And it was called Latinos and Hip Hop. And he said, "If you're going to show any respect for Latinos and Hip Hop, you must acknowledge Ivan Doc Rodriguez." And I met him in Florida at the How Can I Be Down Conference. We were both speakers. And I said, "Dude, I appreciate what you did." He goes, "I did what was right. It wasn't personal. I don't know you. It's a reality."

Steven Payne: Sure. Sure. Sure. It's a history.

DJ Doc: It's the history of what you've done. And I said, "I appreciate that 01:41:00more than a Grammy." Him and Chris are the only two that ever did something like that that came strictly for my work.

Steven Payne: Yeah. I mean, it's interesting just to think just from an archival perspective, because I come across histories all the time working with all different kinds of archival, whether it's documents or photographs or recordings, whatever it might be. And sometimes it's only 20, 30, 40 years after 01:41:30the fact that people start to piece together all of these. But you've left literal evidence of all of your-- so much evidence. I mean, it's there. And it's going to be pieced together completely at some point, even if it hasn't been as far as the recognition of things like that, because you can't destroy that evidence. It's there.

DJ Doc: No, that's true. That's true. And like I said, I enjoy a lot what I do. 01:42:00There are those points where you're like, "Wow, I've really worked hard on this, and it just doesn't seem like it makes a difference," but then you move on.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's so interesting to hear about all the different sampling techniques that you've developed over the years. And of course, one that I think is also something that you deserve a lot of credit for-- I don't remember which article it was that I was reading about this. But 01:42:30of course, you were talking about how remixes had been around for a long time, but really, you're the one responsible for the first mass sensation remix on the radio, right?

DJ Doc: Oh, yeah, yeah. KRS, I believe.

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. KRS and Philadelphia.

DJ Doc: [Steady B?]. Yeah. And those things used to happen in the simplest manners. Kris would call me. I was still here in 82nd. I still hadn't had my own crib yet. I was still spending time with mom and spending time at my dad's. And 01:43:00I had a little room in 81st which initially had two turntables, and I had a SP-1200 and just a little few pieces. And Kris would call me, "Hey, what's going on?" "Yo, Doc, this happened, and we need to do this." Now, here's the differences today and then. If Kris called me today, we finished the song tomorrow. By Wednesday, the song's on the radio. It didn't take months, none of that. So he said, "Doc, we're going to do this thing. And it's for Steady B." I 01:43:30think Anne Carlisle. Was it [inaudible]-- Anne Carlise asked him, "Can you guys do it?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Okay." I wasn't involved in the conversation, but I wa-- at the end of it, "Doc, can we do this?" I'm like, "Sure." So he called me. He said, "This is the song, whatever," because he had done the song already. I'm Serious, I believe, it's called. So I listened to it, and I normally let my mind kind of work around the song, "What do I feel? What works? What about the song don't I like?" And initially, I felt like a steady guitar 01:44:00riff, and I started thinking about Dr. John - Right Place, Wrong Time. So if you listen to it, when he's going, "This is a remix," it's going, dana-dana-dana-dana-da'ana-dana-dana. That's Dr. John. And at the time, we could use samples because there was no big deal. It was way before Biz Monkey. And the thing he had with - what was the name of that song? - Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan, that became a big problem. But that's a whole other story. 01:44:30But I did that.

DJ Doc: And then I said, "You know what? I want to use other elements." So I started putting together elements. So I would show up to the studio with a floppy disk or two, if it was too many samples. And then he came in, Steady came in, his DJ came in. I loaded it. I took the original tape. I synchronized the first two-inch tape to a second two-inch tape. And all I used from the first was the vocals. I muted all the channels. And then in the second two-inch tape, I threw the tracks [inaudible]. And then we remixed it like that. And then Kris 01:45:00went in, "This is a remix. Yo, Doc, break it down like this." Now, I started to notice, when there were songs where Kris would openly-- because I've never in my entire career told someone, "Can you say my name?" Never. That's all hype. I can't do that. If I deserve it, you'll do it. It took a little while. But once you start listening to By All Means Necessary, my name's in it quite a bit, different songs, different ways. And when he did I'm Still #1 and my name was 01:45:30the first lyric, I was like, "Wow, that's pretty big," because I didn't ask for it. And then of course the remix-- so he would find ways. Then we did another song where he goes, "DJ Doc's in the back on the 48 tracks. Yo, Doc, break it down like this." So these are things that he wrote on his own.

DJ Doc: Then Bizmarky, he did it. In one of his songs, what was it he said? He said something with word Doc, and then of course nice and smooth. Let's make it 01:46:00funky. The breakdown where it goes, "DJ Doc makes it funky," and then he'd talk about everyone else. So it started becoming a trend where, at least in that form, they would show appreciation. But in all of that, I've never, ever, ever, ever-- I've never asked. I think on one occasion, when we did By All Means Necessary, I did so much to that song, and I told Kris, "Can you ask Jive if they'll permit my hands in the video, my hands?" Because the beginning of the 01:46:30song says, "So you're a philosopher?" I said, "So I'm cutting it. Just show my hands." And the fact that my hands are like light will create a process where people, "Whoa. Who's that?" You don't have to show my face. They refused. They refused, yep.

DJ Doc: And then the only person that succeeded in doing something like that was Spyder because Spyder fought with profile records to let me be on a cover. So the label will always say, "He's not signed to us directly. We can't do it." So 01:47:00he kept fighting and fighting. And if you look at the 12-inch Spyder-D - How Ya Like Me Now, even though it's faded, I'm in the background. They did him in black and white, and they did me in a muddied color, but you can see me. And then it says featuring DJ Doc. Spyder was the one artist that always fought for me, always gave me the respect that I deserved and the credit, always, always, always.

Steven Payne: And he brought you into the whole [crosstalk].

DJ Doc: He brought. Without Spyder, I wouldn't exist. I wouldn't exist. If it wasn't for Spyder, I wouldn't be-- I would probably be doing weddings and sweet 01:47:3016s, and that's it.

Steven Payne: And he's the one who brought you to Power Play for the first time, too, right?

DJ Doc: My friend Speedy brought me to meet him. Yeah. Speedy was the one from my neighborhood that was a big-- he was big into rhyming, and he wanted badly to be a rapper and all this. And he kept nudging and nudging, "Please, please." And one day I said, "Okay, I'm going to go with you to the studio. And after this, don't bother me no more." And when he took me, that's when I first met Spyder. And Spyder was pretty popular at the time. He had placed in the beat, was out, and he was producing with Sparky D and a few other artists. And he was pretty 01:48:00popular. He was working for the Aleems. They had NIA Records. So he would work for them. He would do projects for them. And that's where I-- he had the engineer, which happened to be the owner of the studio, trying to program something, and he just couldn't get it. I'd never touch a drum machine, but I was a wannabe drummer from childhood.

DJ Doc: So when he went to take a break, I asked Spyder, "Can I try that? I don't know what it is. What are you hitting?" He said, "That's the kick. That's the snare. When you put these two together, you're going to hear a click. That's 01:48:30the tempo." I said, "Okay." And then I did the-- I told him, "Sing it to me, like humming." And he did the beat, and I did it in one take. And he went, "That's it. That's it right there." And I got a thrill out of it because I was a drummer for a few seconds. And I'm like, "Wow." And I immediately made up my mind, "One way or another, I got to buy this. I can't afford it, but I got to get this," which I did eventually. And that's how I met Spyder. And then I guess he picked up instantly, "He's got something." And I think it was a week later 01:49:00Spyder called me. He said, "Would you go on the road with me?" That's why it was so shocking. I just met this guy. [laughter] And I told my mother, "I'm about to go on the road on an airplane." And from that point, I kept working with Spyder whenever he needed me. And then when other opportunities came, he supported me. He never said, like some people do, "Oh, you're with me. You can't do this." He always said, "Do what you got to do and make sure you do it well."

DJ Doc: And then anything he needs, still till today, he calls me, I'm there. "A track, whatever you need, you tell me, I'll do it," that's the respect I give. 01:49:30But if it wasn't for Spyder-- initially, I mean, Speedy introduced me to him. But if Spyder did not say to me, "Can we go on the road?" I would not be-- no one would know who I am because I wouldn't care.

Steven Payne: Sure. And in all honesty, they're probably some of the best hip hop albums in the '80s and '90s that they came out.

DJ Doc: No. Exactly. Yeah. That's true. A lot of that would not have happened because I wouldn't have had the influence I had in it. When I first did the first EPMD project, when they came in, I set up two gobos which are for silence, 01:50:00and they were facing each other. I said, "Why are you facing each other?" These things are in front of you. He goes, "Well, when we record in Long Island, the microphone hangs from a steam pipe, and we're basically spitting each other's face." I said, "Well, okay. And you did well with that." I said, "But we go to a different level here." And then I had to get them not only to separate, but to kind of be able to flow without seeing each other. And they did it well. It took a little time, but they did it very well. And I did five albums with them. And I 01:50:30did K-Solo, Redman, so many other projects through them. But to me, the EPMD, the greatest duo, true duo of all time. It's a different level. Commercially run DMC are Kings because of Aerosmith and all, but when it comes to street, gritty, rhyming, EPMD, as a group. And that's not to take anything away from any other groups, but they are just--


Steven Payne: Sure, sure, sure. They work so well together.

DJ Doc: Oh my God. So what you're seeing is got to be one of the best hip hop singles in the world, ever. And 30-plus years later, play it and listen to the speakers, they still rumble, because I did a lot of stuff to that song to make sure it hit really hard. Very proud of that song. I saw them at Central Park a few years ago. And when it hit, I was like, "Wow, it's still hits hard this many years later compared to what's out." And it was the work I did to make sure that it sounded a certain way and to make sure that I fixed certain things that they thought might work that I said. And sometimes I would have to fix it without 01:51:30saying anything because the egos with certain people are very fragile. So I said, "I can fix it. I don't have to tell them, because as long as they feel it, the job is done." Because, "Oh, I changed that." "No, I didn't want that change. You didn't even know I changed it. It's the ego." So some things you leave alone. You just do it and leave it alone. And it worked.

Steven Payne: Sure, sure, sure. And actually, I was going to ask you if there were particular songs that stood out to you. That's clearly one of them that you've worked on over the years. What are some other songs that you've worked on?

DJ Doc: Oh, EPMD? Oh.


Steven Payne: Either EPMD or other groups.

DJ Doc: MC Lyte, I finally got production credit on Poor Georgie. I got assistant production on Cappuccino. I did the remix for Cappuccino. I did a remix for Cram To Understand You, and I did that on a four-track cassette DAC, a TASCAM four-track cassette, and then I mixed it through an SSL console. But it was coming off a cassette. And if you listen to it, because of the way I set it up and I EQed it - and I would split the tracks on the console to give them like three frequencies - it sounds like it came from a two-inch tape. I did a bunch 01:52:30of artists for-- Flavor Unit for Latifa. I worked on the first Fuji's album. I worked on the first Fuji's album. I worked with Naughty By Nature when they were called the New Style. Before they were Naughty By Nature, they were called the New Style. It's a pink album. If you ever see it, I did that. The DJ had a high-top fade, and it was the same three guys, Treach and the other guy. Wow, it's so many. I did records for Tough City. I did Spoonie G. The Godfather, I 01:53:00worked on that. I worked with a lot of the-- I lucked out because I worked a little bit with the rappers that used to go, "[Whoo?]," and all of that, throw your hands, all that, I started right around there into KRS and Rakim, because I worked on Paid in Full and By All Means Necessary. I worked on Criminal Minded. Criminal Minded, they didn't put my credit on it. And I don't think it had to do 01:53:30with Kris. I think it had to do with the record label. But I did all of Criminal Minded. I mean, not from scratch. There was some stuff recorded. But once I took Criminal Minded under my wing, I redid a lot of the kicks and snares. There were some parts that were out of time. I kept the part, but I pulled them back with a delay to try to get them in time because I'm big fanatic of timing. So I fixed a lot of that. I helped Scott a lot. Scott was a really good guy too. And it was only natural, therefore, By All Means Necessary, I kind of took care of all 01:54:00those duties, and it was pretty much me and Kris.

DJ Doc: Gosh, there's so many. Bunny Wailer, I did a full album for Bunny Wailer. I worked with The Main Ingredient, the R&B group Main Ingredient. I did stuff with Tommy Boy. I did stuff with-- there was a group called the Mystidious Misfitss, with Sony. I don't know what ever happened to them, but I did a full album for them. I did The Youngsters, which ended up being Young Zee, and Rah 01:54:30Digga, which-- when she went with-- what's his name? Oh gosh, Buster. When she went with Buster, she blew. I did their first album. They were kids. They were young kids. There was a really rugged group from Brooklyn called the Bushwhackers. Or sometimes they used to call themselves Bushwhackass, whatever they said. I did a full album for them. And I don't know what happened, but I did that album as well. I got the CD, and I have a lot of track sheets and stuff 01:55:00from all the sessions. Gosh, it's just-- Biz, I did Just a Friend. I did that record that unfortunately he got sued on. And it was a concern. We discussed it because it was a really long sample. And I kept mentioning to him, "This is a bit on the long side." But he said, "Burpedale, which was the accountant--" Burpedale was huge. He was the accountant for Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson. Nobody's bigger than Burpedale, I think, on the planet. He said, "Burpedale's taking care of it." So I said, "Okay." I mean, who's going to question 01:55:30Burpedale? Powerful man. And he ends up getting sued, big. The original CD got yanked from the shelves. They had to remove the song from it. Gilbert O'Sullivan said he didn't get permission. I personally didn't see what the big deal was because I think they were willing to pay him, but it might have been personal. Who knows? But he didn't like it. He clearly didn't like it. So he made a big deal out of it. And after that, sampling changed. After that, we lost him. Obviously KRS, I did Criminal Minded, By All Means Necessary. And I did portions 01:56:00of the third album, Ghetto Music. I did portions of Ghetto Music, of course, all the remixes. I did the five EPMD albums. I did two Redman albums. I did Redman and Method Man. It's just so many.

DJ Doc: I did a lot of singles. I did singles that you may not remember or even know. But there was a girl from Philly called [Event Money?]. I did her first single. There was some girls from Select Records. I did their singles. I mean, 01:56:30there was a point where I couldn't do but one room at a time, but three artists hired me at the same time. And I would run from one studio to the other to the other. And I said, "I'm not going to be able to give you 100%." He says, "I don't care as long as you're there." So I would tell the assistant, "Do this and do not do this." And I would go room to room to room. And all three records would be top billboard the same year. And it was just that because I love what I 01:57:00do. I said, "Yeah. I could do it. If I can't do it, I'll say no." And I remember doing those. I even did an early demo with Alicia Keys out of my personal studio, my private studio, because she came in with a gentleman that was a rapper. His name was El Muhammad. He was part of a management that was managing her. So he brought her to my studio. And I believe I might still have some sort of disc that has her vocals, whatever it was she did. She did some choruses and 01:57:30some other things for him. But I remember that. There was also that great sensation of doing something and then a week later hearing it on the radio. I remember when we did Just a Friend and it knocked Billy Joel off the charts, and [laughter] I was in utter shock. I'm like, "Dude, you knocked Billy Joel off the charts." That's big. That is really big. And I still hear these songs or I'll see kids bobbing their heads, and I'm like, "They would not believe if I told 01:58:00them, 'Yeah, that's my record.'" They'd be like, "No, it's not."

Steven Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if you told them everything that went into it, because yeah, people don't really have much of a sense. I mean, even people who work in recording studios now don't have much of a sense of what it took back then.

DJ Doc: No. No, I remember going to a studio not too long back in-- I think it was Electric Lady, which is big because Hendricks. And the assistant they gave me-- and I've always prided myself in treating them with respect because assistants don't get treated right. Everybody has to be an assistant. And I told 01:58:30the young kid, "Well, I have two projects. One of them is [Pro Tools?]; the other one's two-inch tape." And he was very honest. He said, "I can do the Pro Tools to help you, but I don't know what two-inch tape is." And I'm like, "That machine right there, this tape." He goes, "Okay, how do you reel it?" Yeah. And I said, "Well, you see there's a drawing." I told him, "Follow the drawing with the tape and then reel it here, and then it will lock." But it was shocking to me that he told me, "They didn't teach us that in school." They don't teach any analog background because it's really more about the money. Pro Tools, you click this, you click this, and to me, analog is more important because it's the 01:59:00basis. You go back. And I'm like, "If you understand how this works, this is going to come out better and you're going to create better." But he didn't know, which was unfortunate for him because he paid a lot of money to go to school. He didn't have any clue. I mean, if you told one of my guys, "They don't know how to reel up a tape," they would just fall on the floor laughing, because basically it's like putting a cassette in, but not for the kid. He told me, "No, I don't know how to do that." And I showed him, and it was fine. But it just told me the direction things were going. And manufacturers, they need to sell 01:59:30stuff. So they're going to do whatever's hot. Nobody gets together and says, "Listen, we need all to make money, but let's try to keep the culture right. Let's try to keep the technology, that all these hundreds of years or whatever, and teach it going forward." No, whatever's the quickest way to make a buck, put some effects in it-- I mean, you look at a DJ controller now. It looks like some laboratory. It's just outrageous, and it's all gimmicks. It's all gimmicks.


Steven Payne: I know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. How many of those things do you actually need out there?

DJ Doc: Exactly. Exactly. I have friends that buy Pro Tools or buy Serrano, and I'm like, "You do realize this thing can do just about all of this. How much do you use? How much of it do you use?" He goes, "Well, this." I say, "So you just paid all of this money. You're not going to use any of this." It's too complicated. But that's what they do, and it wasn't like that before. Before you had to go through the paces. For me, I was lucky I had Patrick Adams. So things that I couldn't really understand, he was kind enough to teach me. He would come in the studio and always, always kind and just a really good guy and super, 02:00:30super talented. Hip hop was nothing to this guy. He was an R&B disco guy. He wrote songs in the '70s that he probably still gets paid for today. I mean, I saw a news article where they called him the king of disco at the time. He had a group called Musique. He played with Black Ivory, and Black Ivory was one of those classic souls. They sang beautiful songs like The Stylistics did. He would write, perform them. When MIDI, which is Musical Digital-- Musical Instrument 02:01:00Digital Interface is a plug that permitted equipment to talk. When that came into power play, he's the only one that understood it. And then Yamaha at the time had a keyboard called a DX7. They created one of the world's first rack mounts that had seven of them or eight of them. I didn't want to look at that thing. He had that thing like one day. The next day you walk, and all these lights are blinking, and there's eight different instruments playing. I'm like, "Damn, Pat." He [goes?], "It's not that difficult." I was like, "They're for you." [laughter] Eventually I learned it, but he was-- and then the Publison 02:01:30Infernal Machine, which is a sampler which changed everything. There may be three people, four: Patrick, myself, Norty, and Elai. No one else knew how to run it. It was just too complicated. Patrick initially learned it, and he used it on a Paid in Full for Rakim. And then I got involved in recording of that album. And then from there, I learned it. And then I learned to use it in my way, tricks and things of that nature. But it was an incredible machine, and it 02:02:00was like $20,000. It was very expensive. And it was called the Publison Infernal Machine.

DJ Doc: 02:02:06.890 And it was the first device that could sample 20 seconds; if you bought more memory, 40 seconds, 3 minutes. We really only needed 10, 15 seconds to do the things we did. And it would permit you to time stretch so you could slow something down without affecting the key. So it wouldn't go flat, because that was another mistake a lot of rappers did. They'd loop stuff and then slow it down. And I'm like, "It's way out of key," and they wouldn't understand. "Oh, but I'm keeping it real." "No, you're keeping it flat. 02:02:30[laughter] It's flat. There's other ways." So it was a lot of that. But Patrick, I remember when I first met him, I was just giving him so much credit for what he did in R&B and disco. I didn't care about hip hop. I kept telling him, "You're Patrick Adams, like Black Ivory." He goes, "Yeah." I'm like, "Oh my God." I said, "That is just so amazing, the strings and things that rappers don't even know. What's a string at the time?" In time they started using them, 02:03:00and it was Patrick. And Patrick was just incredible. We were like kids under him. And he was kind enough to teach us, help us learn things in the studio that he could do that-- oh man. It's just amazing. And he's still with us, thank God. And he ended up doing music video games, I believe, and other things. And he's just super, super talented. He's like a one-man band. He can play instruments. He can write, produce, conduct, everything, everything. Yeah. He did Paid in 02:03:30Full, and that's an amazing album. It's an amazing album. And that was Patrick. That's Patrick all the way, beginning to end. He took something and took it to a whole other level. A lot of engineers did that and probably still do. And unfortunately, you don't get credited right or at least even maybe a bonus payment or something like that, "I really appreciate what you did for me. Here you go." You don't see that, unfortunately. But Patrick, man, I'll never forget 02:04:00Patrick. Amazing. That's an incredible, incredible artist. He was very helpful with Spyder.

DJ Doc: 02:04:07.730 There was a point where Spyder did a couple of songs where he sang. He helped him go through that and get it right. Very, very good guy. Very good guy. I think the majority of the time he spent at Power Play. Yeah, me, him, Norty. I remember when I got there, Julian Hirschfeld was the chief engineer, but eventually he left. I don't think that genre of music was really where he was going. So he moved on to something probably bigger and better. And 02:04:30then we stood there, and we kind of built it. We built it from the ground up, and eventually we got a second building with an SSL in it. Then we replaced a trident board with an SSL in the original building. And a lot of Rakim stuff and KRS was done in there and then mixed up the block.

Steven Payne: 02:04:51.676 Oh, okay, okay. Yeah. And I remember reading in some article or interview with him, I think it was the last one that came out, where you mentioned, "When BDP first came in, they actually didn't record on the SSL," right?


DJ Doc: 02:05:06.130 No. No, they recorded in the A room on an MCI. And it wasn't a bad console, but it wasn't an SSL. And everything was low budget. So initially, a lot of the two-inch tape that we were told to use was used. So we would have to erase it and use it again.

Steven Payne: 02:05:18.603 Oh, okay. Sure. It was like a cheaper rate that way, huh?

DJ Doc: 02:05:21.626 Yeah. Because it's used, they charge you less. I think a reel might've been 175. If you got a used, it might've been 90. And as a label owner, you may say, "I don't know what's going to come of this. I don't want to 02:05:30spend too much." But Criminal Minded as legendary and great as it sounds, quality wise, it doesn't touch By All Means Necessary. By All Means Necessary was tracked and mixed in an SSL.

Steven Payne: 02:05:43.835 I see. Yeah, yeah, yeah. On a new tape, right?

DJ Doc: 02:05:45.212 Brand new tape, top notch gear. And I was involved from the scratch from the beginning. So nothing got tracked wrong. Nothing was too low or too high. There was no--

Steven Payne: 02:05:53.185 Yeah. You can definitely tell the difference.

DJ Doc: 02:05:53.658 Yeah. There was no bleeding. Everything is top notch on By All Means Necessary, everything. The quality is just unbelievable. Whereas 02:06:00Criminal Minded, we did a good job, but it was also mixed in the A-room. And there were points where there's so many things needed to be punched out, we needed four hands. So I would hold these [laughter] buttons. I would tell Kris, "On the count of three, push them in and pull him out." SSL, I could do it by myself as I just program it, back up the tape, clip-clip, back up the tape, clip, and then run it, and it all happens. We couldn't do that in the A-room. No, the A-room didn't have that kind of recording technology or mixing 02:06:30technology. So we had to do it by hand.

Steven Payne: 02:06:32.641 Wow. So I know there's a whole lot more we could get into. But I want to be respectful of your time. And most people usually start getting a little tired around two hours, at the two-hour mark, which I think we're probably at right now. So I have a final question for you at least for now, which is, you can keep it to hip hop recordings or you can keep it to any 02:07:00aspect of your career or just broader life that you want, but what are some of the things that you're proudest of, either in your career, your life so far?

DJ Doc: 02:07:17.980 My career, my music career as an engineer and a producer, I'm mostly proud of the fact that I open the doors for a lot of future engineer producers, especially Latinos. They may not be aware of it, and that's fine. But 02:07:30prior to Ivan Doc Rodriguez, if you look back, you're going to find a lot of break dancers, some rappers, because Tito and then here, there. But you're not going to find any Latino in the studio that engineered, mixed, DJ-edited, did the whole thing. Mind you, I didn't even touch on the fact that I even rhymed on some records. Other than the thing for KRS, I also did a quick project where 02:08:00Spyder-D. He came in with a Christmas song and told me, "I have this great Christmas song." And I had a track and he had the lyrics. And he said, "But I can't record." I said, "Why not?" He goes, "Because I'm on [Propane?]. I can't do it for another label." And he said, "Why don't you do it?" And I'm saying, "I'm not a rapper." He goes, "You can do it." So I ended up rapping on a song. It was a joke. It was fun. That was years ago. Now that song is in a compilation of the greatest hip hop Christmas songs in history, figure that out. And it was because he told me to do it, and I did it. And they paid me and I'm like, "Wow. 02:08:30I'm not a rapper." But again, not that difficult, certain things. So that I also did. So again, as an artist, I was an artist with The Chosen One. So having done all of that and having been able to have the opportunity to change what hip hop sounds like, that's huge, something I'm very proud of. So that's big for me because I opened doors. I did it with dignity and respect. I didn't cut any corners.


Steven Payne: 02:09:03.781 You didn't tear anyone else down.

DJ Doc: 02:09:05.187 No. Absolutely not. I didn't step on anybody. I didn't defame anyone. I treated everyone with respect. And I enjoyed every moment of it, including the difficult ones, because I grew from them. So that would be in music. That would be that. As far as a DJ-- and this is something, maybe only my closest, closest friends have ever heard, because, again, I don't speak much about this. But I started as a DJ, and I took that very seriously. And I got to 02:09:30the point where I became so good at blending the music, selecting it, doing all of this with limited technology I was positive, absolutely positive, that I was the best in the city. And in that, I thought, "If I'm the best in the city, then right now I'm the best in the whole world because there's nobody better than New York." And I went to clubs, and there were great DJs and very popular for 02:10:00whatever they did. But I said humbly, "He can't touch me when it comes to creativity and blending," because what I do is insane. It's just my ideas are absolutely insane. And so for that moment of time, I said, "Nobody's better at this than me." But I kept it to myself, except the handful of people that maybe knew what I did and knew what level I did at that. So as far as a DJ-- and I went from being a DJ to becoming a producer and all these other things. So as a DJ, that was something I'm very proud of. To take my profession to a level with 02:10:30such limited resources was a very big thing for me because I couldn't afford to do what others could do. But I found a way to do it with less, and I did it better. So that was for that. My personal life, I pride myself in being a great father and a brother and a family person. I got that from my wonderful aunts and my mother. They were very loving to me. So I took in as much as I could of that. 02:11:00And I try to give that out. I try to be polite to everybody and treat people with respect and kindness. So I'm very proud of that part. And coming from Hell's Kitchen, where majority of my friends died-- I remember at 15, literally believing I wouldn't pass 20 because of what I saw. So I literally believed 02:11:30either a stray bullet, something crazy is going to happen. But to get out of here by 20, I don't know if I can do it. And with God's grace, I was able to get out. I was able to excel.

DJ Doc: 02:11:45.614 And since I do everything with a humble state of mind still till today, I didn't realize the impact I had. And every time I return to Hell's Kitchen to visit my friends and partake in things, they would show so much pride and like, "I saw you in this video, and I saw you [inaudible]." And I said, "Yeah, it was one of the jobs I had." Later on, I said, "Wow, I've done a lot 02:12:00that I don't even--" Unless my daughter happens to tell me, "Dad, don't you remember this? And you did this," or records playing on the radio, she goes, "Isn't that your song?" I don't give a thought. So sometimes it's good to dig back and go, "Wow. I made a big difference." So that means a lot to me. So coming, again, from Hell's Kitchen, like when I was in Germany looking up at the moon, I'm saying, "Wow. I'm here. I could have been in jail needle sticking out 02:12:30of my arm and things of this nature." And Gods blessed me with these opportunities, and I made the best of them. I didn't squander them. I said, "Let me make the best in whatever I do." Even if it doesn't work, "I'm going to give it my all." So I think that's the main point of everything. Everything I do, I give it my all. And if it doesn't work, I try my best.

Steven Payne: 02:12:49.241 Yeah. Just like your productions, Must Rock. Everything must rock.

DJ Doc: 02:12:53.687 That's it. It must. As best I can, that's what I'm going to do always. It's always going to be that way. This coming year, in a couple of 02:13:00months, I'll be doing a Puerto Rican Day Parade, and I'll do that to the best of my abilities. I'll be prepared, everything will be great, and there'll be another experience that likely would have never happened if I wouldn't have left 48th Street and met Spyder-D. [Tour phase?], none of that would have happened. None of it would have happened.

Steven Payne: 02:13:20.510 Wow. Well, Doc, is there anything else that you want to share at the moment?

DJ Doc: 02:13:28.187 Gosh, we could go on forever. There's so much, so much.


Steven Payne: 02:13:29.976 I know, I know. We could. I mean, you barely scraped the surface.

DJ Doc: 02:13:31.528 Yeah, yeah. There's just so many things with music and the sacrifices in not only music, but at the studio and all that. But I'm good.

Steven Payne: 02:13:45.319 Well, I really appreciate you taking all of this time. And I mean, these stories that you shared today are incredible and invaluable, too, for getting the history of, I mean, not only hip hop, but just 02:14:00music in general for the last 50 years, getting that history right.

DJ Doc: 02:14:07.063 Absolutely. And I think anybody involved in anything, music, acting, whatever it is, do your research, don't take shortcuts. You might make money quickly, but at the end of the day, when you're all by yourself, without the hype, you don't feel so good about it. When you give it your all, even if you don't make the money, you think you deserve it. You know it's you. You know it's your work. It's like cooking a great meal and no one knows it's you, and they taste it and they're like, "Wow, that's wonderful. Did your mother 02:14:30do it? Did your grandmother do it?" You don't need to take the credit. You just know, "I did my best." And anything they do, anybody does, music especially, don't take shortcuts.

Steven Payne: 02:14:41.995 For sure, because you can hear it. Absolutely.

DJ Doc: 02:14:43.597 Yeah. You can hear it, and other people can hear it, too.

Steven Payne: 02:14:45.312 And the problem is, when people start applauding and yelling, you lose track and you believe your own funk. No, put the hard work in, and years later-- here's the last point, great point. I started in '84 going into '85, my professional career. We're in 2022. My records are still on the 02:15:00radio. My records are still on the radio. They still sound outrageous. Think about that. When you go into any project, how is it going to sound 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now? Most of what you hear, you won't be able to compare it because it's not going to play 30 years from now. When you go in like that thinking, "This might be my last project. This might measure me as a person, as a producer, whatever," that's when you really give it your all. 02:15:30Give it your all. Don't shortcut. Don't shortcut. Give it your all. Take that extra hour or two to do what you got to do to make that record get to another level, and you'll notice your records just keep getting better and better. You take shortcuts, you're going to be okay for a minute. Then you're going to disappear. And that's not what you want. Yeah.

DJ Doc: 02:15:48.947 Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Doc.

Steven Payne: 02:15:51.698 My pleasure.

DJ Doc: 02:15:51.700 It's been a real pleasure.

Steven Payne: 02:15:52.713 Absolutely.