Kevin Beacham: 5 Questions with the Rhymesayers enigma

If you have been to any kind of Hip-Hop event over the last ten years, pretty great odds you have seen Kevin Beacham.

Easily recognizable with his long dreads flirting over his shoulders he could be the Scott Seekins of the hip-hop community with his appearance. He usually rocks a comic book t-shirt (of which he owns around 100) overlapped by a simple hoodie, and must have a Quincy Jones or Smokey Robinson gene in him somewhere, as he also does not look his age. The man is a mister everything.

A marketing specialist for Rhymesayers Entertainment and Fifth Element, Beacham rocks one of the more popular shows on 89.3 The Current, Redefinition Radio, and he also teaches classes about his trade at IPR in downtown Minneapolis. He has hosted the famous Scribble Jam in Cincinnati, and has released a couple classic mix albums. His Facebook posts are usually short but entertaining history lessons or rants about match.com and glitchy video games; it's a must-subscribe.

The Stephen Hawking of hip-hop history and knowledge, he's easily the most interesting man you will ever meet, but without the disgusting bottle of Dos Equis sitting on the table. I bet he could tell you what color shoelaces the Kangol Kid was wearing at the The Palladium in '85 and he would have a resource to back his claim. But not like you need resources or fact checking with Beacham, he's one of the most respected cats in our city. And we hear he's a pretty good DJ -- one of the few DJs left to spin actual records in the club. So we sat down with the busy Kevin Beacham (aka DJ Nikoless) and asked five questions:  


How did you get the reputation as being the last DJ to spin records? 


 Vinyl is just working fine for me. I'm not against technology, I just believe in not upgrading till I have to. I bought Serato a few years ago and the only reason was because of a Soundset afterparty two years ago. I went there and the DJ table was set up so that my vinyl wouldn't play and it occurred to me that "I'm the guy with vinyl and I am the problem?" I kind of felt outdated, like the dinosaur of the bunch. So I thought, all right, I'm going to need this for the future and bought it.

Just recently though, I took the summer off of DJing and I did a random guest appearance and I didn't want to bring my $1,000 dollar computer to a bar and risk it getting spilled on for a half hour DJ set so I just grabbed a handful of records and I spun records that night. And I noticed a handful of key DJs were like so shocked! Like it was soooo long ago that we used vinyl. Heads were whispering like that dude is using vinyl, that guy is crazy. It's nostalgic to use vinyl already? So I just made it a point when I do a small set to just use records. I'd rather risk some drinks getting splashed on my vinyl than getting my laptop messed with, which has my whole life on it. But now it's become almost a statement that I use vinyl. I like it. I mean the other good thing about playing with vinyl out in the clubs is when someone comes up with a request; I'm like, "All I got is this" and point to the crate of records. Can't you just download it? I'm using these old things *** blows the dust off *** and the requester would be bummed like..."Oh, vinyl, you're one of those guys."


 ....and the reputation about the 45s? 


 When I was moving from Chicago I discovered an old soul & funk collection from my dad and I just "acquired" it and brought it with me to Minneapolis. So when I first moved here, the first couple sets I did in town were at the Loring Pasta Bar and I was just playing 45s. I was just listening to them at the time and didn't even think about it in any particular way, but everyone was so mystified. 

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 We haven't seen you out and about much, seems like your winding down your gigs? 


 Lately, I feel like I don't want to DJ anymore and it's fine. Not like it's getting bad, I recently had some great experiences. I just spun a house party, that was so awesome, and I did a Muddy Waters brunch. So I'm only doing stuff like that, you might catch me more at Muddy Waters spinning for families at brunch or something. But I like it, I'm playing me, I get to be me and I get a great response. The songs that people are real impressed with are the songs that really mean a lot to me, like some obscure 82 rap song. And that's the thing I want to do, when people are listening and asking "Wow, what's he playing?" and I tell them Crash Crew and they write it down on a napkin, like when someone writes down Crash Crew, I feel like I completed my life. I can retire now because some old lady was digging in her purse for a pen. So I want to do things like that, where people care about the music and not necessarily the hits. 


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Do you think DJs are more style and attitude now, than actual talent and selection? 


 I mean, DJing is definitely taking a hit right now as a culture to me. I just recently wrote a piece about that on my blog. That I imagine would have been offensive to some DJs, and I didn't call anyone by name, it wasn't a couple artists or anything like that. But it's so across the board, I kind of had to call everyone out. It's a problem in Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop used to be the influencer, now it's the influenced. Like now, I remember a time when the DJ, club or radio, was how you discovered new music. For example, DJs come to Fifth Element and buy what they heard on the radio or what they saw on the Internet. They are making their decisions based on something else, they are not picking the hits...they are following the hits. 


 ....kind of like the digging is out of it now? 


 To a certain extent yeah, I feel like it is. But it's so easy to pick the popular, it's like push the limits. Be diverse as a DJ, like Jimmy and Bill they do Get Cryphy and that's their night, but if you see Plain Ole Bill out somewhere else spinning, he's not playing the same thing. He's diverse. Be diverse. That's why I think he's one of the best DJs in town and beyond, because he's so diverse. I mean I don't care if DJs play Top 40; I like some Top 40 shit. My motto has been while DJing at the club or radio, is that if I feel someone else is playing it, then I don't need to play it. I want to expose the crowd to new music. That's my personal goal as a DJ. But that's not everyone's goal and that's fine.


With the decline of CDs and records and with everything going digital, do you think that's positive in general for music?


I was just reading a report that music sales saw an increase for the first time in a long time; it was only like 2 percent. When people realized it was a problem, then artists focused on putting out quality product. Not just talking about quality of music, but product, the whole package. For example Rhymesayers is not beyond feeling there is a shift in people buying music, we feel it too, but I think we feel it a lot less than other labels because of the packaging. You know the music is already quality and then you have these cool packaging and pre-orders. And if you are a label or an artist who tours, fans want to buy it from you. We still sell many CDs because we sell them on the road. I think artists and labels got to think about how to make the product valuable. People are always going to want music, and labels and the artists can dictate how they want it. We can make it appealing enough and people will buy that CD.


You think CDs are going to be like records and always be around? Like 8 tracks and cassettes are gone for good.


Until there is an apocalypse, that's when tapes will come back because they are more manageable. But yeah, I think so. I think the real question is, which would be the mind blowing thing, is if a new medium is invented. Unless that happens, I can see the CD having the same staying power, if not more than vinyl. People care about music so much and are such fans of it that it has a mystique to it that they want to experience it in other ways. I mean Target and Wal-Mart carry record players; you can go to the mall and buy a turntable now. If some head figure wanted to make CDs cool again, with a major push it can happen. People will follow whatever is cool if it's presented in the right way. It's whatever. Some people think it will go away one hundred percent, I don't believe that but I have been wrong before.

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​ 

Being a known comic fan, are you excited about the new Avengers movie?


The Avengers is my all time favorite comic book. I have more Avenger comic books than anything. Like all my favorite characters are all involved, I have a fascination with the Avengers. I know they are not going to use my favorite characters...once again even in comic books, this is my mind state, my favorites are always the oddball non-mainstream ones. Like I love Spiderman, Captain America and Thor but my favorite ones are like Vision or like the Black Panther, the ones they are not going to use in the movie, but I'm still excited about it, the preview looks pretty awesome. The Marvel franchise is strong right now, it's a dream come true. Maybe I can go work for Marvel one day...

 

 You can catch Kevin Beacham on the radio at 89.3 The Current with Redefinition Radio every Saturday 11PM-2AM. You can read his blog at Fifth Element Online and maybe catch him live in action at random gigs if you're lucky...



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