DJ Kase One on J Dilla and the Future of the Hip-Hop DJ

DJ Kase One.jpg
Photo by Jon Scorfina

Despite vinyl's outdated technology, it is an essential aspect of hip-hop culture. Considering this, up-and-comer DJ Kase One (a.k.a. Aaron Hinton) chooses to spin only vinyl at his regular gig Diggin In The Crates at Delmar Lounge, every second Saturday of the month at midnight. We met at his home in St. Ann to learn how he discovered underground hip-hop through skateboard videos and to discuss his collection of J Dilla records.

Last Collector Standing: When you DJ at the Delmar Lounge, you only spin records. What prompted you to do that?

DJ Kase One: I only use vinyl records. I don't use Serato. It really wasn't a conscious thing. That's what I do.

I always liked the feel of it, compared to the computer. There is something that goes into the process of going through your crates. Finding the records. Even when you're putting your selection together you're limited, so it causes you to put a lot more thought into what you're bringing to play that night versus a computer. You get so use to dumping the files in there. You've got 10,000 songs and an excess of crap. [Laughs]. It's just a personal preference.

Do you think an audience responds differently to a DJ spinning vinyl?

I didn't really think people would make a big deal out of it or really even pay attention to it. I'm always surprised how many people come up every night and make a comment on how cool they think it is actually seeing somebody use vinyl. Especially a hip-hop DJ, since that is such a fundamental aspect of the culture, a DJ on turntables, cutting records. You know, real records. I guess people really respect the vibe and how it fits into the culture.

When did you start collecting vinyl?

I'm not old enough to have grown up when vinyl was the actually medium of choice for music. Like everyone else I bought CDs. As I gradually got into hip-hop culture, I think I saw DJs on TV or in person at a show. I was like, "Man that's really cool. I want to do that." That got me interested in the vibe, because back then that was before Serato so people actually had records.

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Were there any DJs in particular that were an influence?

I would say popular DJs in St. Louis. DJ Needles, DJ K-Nine. I saw him early on. DJ Crucial. I saw him early on. They really inspired me, because during that period they were really big and had a lot of stuff going on out in the public eye. I got the idea in me that I'd like to [DJ]. I didn't take it too seriously. It was more an interest. I didn't see myself playing out. That wasn't the motivation, initially.

I was at Vintage Vinyl down in the Loop, and I picked up my first record. I didn't even have a turntable at that point. [Laughs] It wasn't even an old record. I've got it right over here. [Searches through shelves of records] It's lost in the mix...Here it is. It's Company Flow/Cannibal Ox double single [from] Def Jux. The cover art caught my eye.

How did you first get into hip-hop?

I always listened to it on the radio. It's pretty much everywhere you go nowadays. In St. Louis there is not a lot of real hip-hop on the radio. It's more of the pop stuff. Actually, since I was so young... the first way I actually heard a lot of early independent hip-hop was skateboard videos and video games. Right around the time the soundtracks to video games started using a lot of hip-hop songs. The 411 Video Magazine series always had good soundtracks. That exposed me. The label, at the time, that was big was Rawkus Records. They had the Soundbombing series... that's a collection of a lot of different people popular in hip-hop.


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