Q&A: DJ Rob Swift Looks Back On His Work With The Late Roc Raida

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Back in the early '90s, the DJs Rob Swift and Roc Raida would take the subway to each other's cribs and engage in seven-hour practice sessions. Raida's apartment, up in Harlem, was decorated with posters of rap acts Ice Cube, Kid 'N' Play and MC Lyte; Swift's bedroom in Queens showcased inspirational pictures of Jimi Hendrix and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As Swift says now, from his apartment in Jackson Heights, "Me and Raida had different tastes and influences but we bonded as DJs as soon as we met." Soon, the duo would terrorize the hip-hop battle scene as part of both the X-Men crew of super-DJs and then the X-Ecutioners.

But that bond was tragically cut in September 2009, when Roc Raida passed away after suffering a heart attack that stemmed from an accident that occurred while practicing martial arts a couple of weeks earlier. It's a loss his friend and DJ peer Rob Swift has chosen to commemorate by releasing Roc For Raida, a mix of Raida's best routines, productions, and poignant interview snippets; all proceeds from the project will go to Raida's family. Swift sat down and reminisced about how Raida's school of DJing thought differed from his fellow X-Men's, the day their crew faced off against Q-Bert and Mixmaster Mike's Invisibl Skratch Piklz, and how Raida's developing production work might have seen him collaborating with Jay-Z.

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Live: Tears, Mind-Blowing Routines, And Intense Unity At The Roc Raida Tribute

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DJ Scratch, doing the classics, to robust crowd approval. Pics by Puja Patel, more below.

Roc Raida Tribute
B.B. King's
Thurday, October 22

The line outside B.B. King's last night for the Roc Raida tribute--celebrating the beloved turntable king who died September 19--took up half an avenue block amid the glaring lights of the Times Square outlands. Some ticketholders waited almost an hour; those without did, too. "We couldn't buy tickets online," Shawn from Philadelphia told us. "So we just drove up to try our luck. Roc Raida was legendary, and this night looks insane." And it was.


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News Roundup: Kanye a No-Show at the BET Awards, Roc Raida Tribute Set for CMJ, Lightning Bolt Premiere "Flooded Chamber"

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-- Kanye West did not manage to appear at last night's BET Awards, despite being nominated for nine awards. Is this news? More so, apparently, than any of the awards themselves, which went to some people, who rap. Allegedly. Meanwhile, Hip Hop Wired comes through with the bold theory that Yeezy's in India, claiming that the rapper "is taking some time out now for a religious retreat to reassess his life at a Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, a small coastal town in South India." As always, true or not, this is man who is three joke-moves ahead of you at all times.

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Roc Raida's Memorial Service Is This Thursday

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On top of our own Puja Patel's thoughtful remembrance, we should recommend Hua Hsu's, which explains the weird and transitionally transcendent spot Roc Raida claimed in the DJ universe before his untimely death over the weekend. "Art redraws the boundaries of our imagination, but at a simpler level, it also reminds us of the value of careful, concentrated, for-love-of-craft diligence"--the vitality, in other words, that made this guy interesting even after his chosen medium, "turntablism," turned to ashes at the flame of the laptop and the mp3. Salute Roc Raida this Thursday, at his Harlem memorial:

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DJ Premiere and DJ Eclipse Are Holding A Benefit For Roc Raida's Family Tonight At APT

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If you're looking for something to do tonight, this'd be it. More on Roc Raida here; Puja is off the "RIP DJ" gig for good, god willing.

Roc Raida, R.I.P.

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Renowned turntablist Anthony Williams, better known as Roc Raida, died Saturday. An official cause of death has not been announced. Regarded as one of the best in the world by hip-hop fans and DJ nerds alike, he gained respect as a DMC Champion and original member of DJ collective the X-Ecutioners (a/k/a X-Men); he also served as Busta Rhymes' tour and Flipmode Squad DJ. It was Busta who announced his friend's death, via Twitter: "I am sorry 2 say that on this day at 2:05 Sept 19th we lost another incredible life...Dj Roc Raida died 2day my personal Dj is gone..."

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