What you have to understand is that to me, Bobbito Garcia is the true definition of a legend. The man has literally done it all. Although Bobbito aka DJ Cucumberslice personifies Hip Hop, any reader of his stuff knows that his musical passion goes way beyond Rap. As a Club DJ, crowds worldwide from Sweden to South Africa have celebrated his unique blend of Rare Funk, Latin, Afro-Beat, Soul, Classic Rock, House, and Ballads And then there are the countless awards for publishing, acting, coaching, writing, photographing and producing, for radio, television, film, fashion, and live performancelike I said: a legend.
HHDX: Mr. Garcia, thanks for your time, its a pleasure. I just have a couple of
You can just call me Bobbito.
And just like that, his first six words put me at ease. As we chopped it up, I began to appreciate the even, down-to-earth conversational style that made him a radio icon.
HHDX: Cool. Well Id like to start at the beginning. Your radio show with Stretch Armstrong during the early 90s really helped pioneer hip hop radio show programming for today, what are some of your best memories from WKCR?
Ahh.. well first of all, I dont think we pioneered it, I mean its not that I dont think, we didnt pioneer hip hop radio, a lot of people in our generation think we did but hip hop radio started 1980-1981 in New York and we took our lead from a lot of pioneers from the 80s. However, we did change the face and did change the idea of what a hip hop radio show could be in the 90s, which was helped along by the fact that we were able to showcase a lot of unsigned artists that later became like the biggest names in hip hop. I mean Nas, when he was Nasty Nas came up to our show in February of 1991, Big Pun when he was Big Dog the Punisher came up to our radio show with Fat Joe in 95, before he was signed. DMX when he was DMX The Great came up to our show in 1990, and 7-8 years later he had a album deal. Killa Cam (later became Camron) he came up to our show with Big L back in 1993 Jay-Z when he just had a 12-inch deal before his album got signed in 1995 came up with Big Daddy Kanelet me seewho else Poetable Prophets who later became Mobb Deep came up to our radio show in 92. Biggie Smalls when he was unsigned came up to our radio show in 1992 I mean on and on and on we just had so many artists that come up that really made a lot of noise. That was the special thing about the show, like you know, we had these people come on and we never knew where the careers were gonna take off afterwards. And there were just as many artists too, like Raggedy Man and Ghetto Communicator; a ton of artists who we thought were just as talented who never really made it. So that was the thing, you just didnt know what was gonna happen with anybody.
HHDX: How would you say hip hop or urban radio is different today then it was back then?
Umm, well I think theres a handful of records that come out every year that are really incredible and really sort of sustain the emotion of what hip hop can and could be, but I think that the overall the general amount of releases on the independent level as well the major label level are all just really sort of uninteresting and not really pushing the envelope of what the art form could be. And you know Im not being negative- Im just being honest. I retired from radio in 2002 for a very good reason: I was finding it hard to fill 4 hours of a radio show with good music. You know when Stretch and I and Lord Sear were doing the show in the mid 90s I mean there would be nights when wed look at our crates and be like 'Man look at all these records that we didnt even get to.' So there was an abundance of great records, you know, and thats ok, you know, thats ok.
HHDX: So today youre an accomplished journalist: Editor-In-Chief at Bounce: From the Playground, and of course theres the Vibe column (thats how I originally became familiar with Bobbito) youve also written for The Source, Rappages, Fader, Slam, the list goes on and on
HHDX: A lot of people credit you with being among the first to bring a real intellectual intelligent perspective to topics in hip hop culture. Im wondering if there are any challenges associated with intelligent, real journalism for consumers that can (at times) seem to embrace ignorance or even outright reject academic ideals.
Thats a great question. Well yeah I would say, in my early writing I didnt really face too many challenges because my first gigs were with The Source. And you know those dudes were responsible for creating intellectualism in hip hop media. So, you know my first article, my first big article with them was an article called Confessions of a Sneaker Addict, I wrote that in 1990 it got printed in 1991. That was break through article for them because that was the first article that ever dealt with the culture beyond just like artist interview or event write-up or album review and it was a landmark article for them and a landmark article for me as well. I felt great about being able to take what I learned at Wesleyan University as a sociology major and sort of use my analytical skills and critique what was going on with sneakers and sort of present that with my emotions and the grit of my New York upbringing. I think people immediately just sorta took to my writing, and thats how I got my other gigs: my Rappages gig, my Vibe gig, etc. And I never underestimate the hip hop head, people often, you know, particularly at radio stations in a lot of media they think were stupid, you know? But were really not. I mean just to be down with hip hop just at base, at the foundations, means youre a progressive, unique individual. I mean maybe not so much now because its become so accessible and people who dont really need to truly digest hip hop can claim that theyre a part of it, but you know in the beginning of it and through the majority of it and even today if youre really, really like super down or like on the inside of it, it takes a real open mind. So Ive always gotten a good reception to my writing.
HHDX: I gotta ask you, what do you make of The Sources recent troubles?
Ahh, I dont know anything about it, I dont really follow it. I think that one challenge with Vibe has been that Ive always come from an underground background of wanting to expose the unknown, and Vibe is sort of magazine that wants to expose the known. But I dont really find it challenging to regurgitate to the readers what they already know about, I wanna, you know my biggest reward is for the Vibe column is when people like are like Yo, I read about about this artist in your column, this song, and I went out and found it, and thanks so much. And I think thats what reporting should be about
HHDX: Many people probably know less about the professional sports side of your career. Youve done several sports related projects and ads, Nike, EA Sports, just to name a couple. How do you feel about the relationship between hip hop and professional sports?
HmmThe relationshipWell Im glad that you said relationship, because I really get sick when people are like: Yo, basketball is hip hop and Im like: No! isnt basketball existed decades before hip hop. But definitely basketball has influenced hip hop, I mean if you look at the sort of staple sneakers in hip hop the Air force Ones the shell toe Adidas, the Pumas and the Converse All Star the Chuck Taylors I mean those were all sneakers that were all for years, incredible basketball performance sneakers. I mean it was years later that it became sort of casual lifestyle shoes for hip hop heads. But I think the NBA, the whole merchandising explosion I think the whole video game explosion, I theyre very aware that that the street sort of predicates whats cool. I mean they werent aware of that before, but now they are, its no longer a secret. I think youre gonna see the street element creep up into a lot of mass media, mass market consumer products. My involvement with it has always been if I have creative control over what Im saying, and what Im doing, then Im cool with it. And thats been consistent whether Ive done Nike ads or EA Sports voice-overs or making appearances on basketball DVDs. As long as I can say what I wanna say Im cool with it.
HHDX: Would you say your real passion is ballin' or hip hop?
HHDX: I mean if you had to pick one?
Nah, I dont have to pick one, I can pick both. I mean, Im very passionate about music, and its not just hip hop its music, period. I used to play Beethoven compositions on piano as a kid, and my father was a Latin jazz artist whod have gigs at the house, and Im very much a deeply passionate music person, Im very much a deeply passionate basketball person. I play ball every single day, and I listen to music every single day. Thank God, Im decent at a couple of things in both of those areas that Im able to make money off both of them and live comfortably.
HHDX: Word. Well, with the acting, the producing, the writing, the styling, whats next for Bobbito?
In real terms I recently hosted a DVD called One Love Vol. 2. I recently put out my own basketball instructional DVD call Bobbitos Basics to Boogie. Im gonna be hosting a TV show this summer on ESPN called Its The Shoes, so obviously its about sneakers. My Book: Whered You Get Those? New York City Sneaker Culture 1960-1987, which came out in 2003 is in the development stages of being made into a documentary. I got like 80 things going on, as usual.