Sept. 8 2010 03:25 PM

Back in the days, people had to figure things out for themselves

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DJ Charlie Rock
Photo by Paul Bakan
The Man: DJ Charlie Rock

The Music:
Jazz is No. 1 on Rock’s list. He throws in funk and hip-hop and sneaks the jazz in by playing its funkier, more club-friendly cousin, acid jazz.

The Scene: Rock just scored a new night at El Dorado. It’s called Soul Flexin, and he and DJ Grandmasta Rats take over El D the fourth Friday of every month. “Soul Flexin is a night for the people that respect the art of moving butts,” Rock says.

The Story: Sitting down to talk with Rock is like sitting down with an unofficial hip-hop historian. The dancer and DJ has been at it since 1976, and he remembers a time when it was all about figuring things out for yourself.

“In the beginning,” he says, “I didn’t even know it was DJing. When I first heard a mix on a tape, I was like, ‘How did they do that?’ Me and my friend used to just grab our boom-boxes, and I would put it on pause and I’d switch to a different radio station. Then I’d record some Spanish or something. Then I’d push pause, and I’d find the Art of Noise beat-boxing show on the radio, and I’d record some of that. So, throughout the whole tape, I’d record bits and pieces of stuff, and then me and my friend would share and kind of battle, like, who had the better tape.”

Rock eventually figured out that he needed turntables and a mixer to blend together different sounds, but even then, it took him some time to figure out how to scratch.

“I remember getting a little microphone, plugging it into the side of my boombox and rubbing it against my pants, and I was, like, ‘That kind of sounds like scratching,’” Rock laughs. “You know, I was a little kid trying to figure all this out. So, I just stuck with it and was really interested in it and curious how it was done. I figured it out and was eventually, like, ‘I get it now.’” Rock certainly does “get it.” A competition-winning dancer and a well-known DJ these days, he says most of his sets are geared toward introducing the crowd to at least one song they’ve never heard before. “I give people what they deserve,” Rock says. “They deserve to hear more than mainstream because there is more.”

Who’s CityBeat talking to next?: DJ Styles