I’ve mentioned before how my dad was a radio deejay in the eighties. So growing up, I never had to buy music, just pick through the freebies. I was usually first to get new music, sometimes months before it ever hit the airwaves.
Another benefit was tagging along with dad for his gigs. On the weekends, I'd help him set up and sometimes join him as he spun the tunes at wedding receptions, reunions, middle school dances, and a little bit of everything else.
On one particular Saturday I joined Dad for a little youth group dance at a church over in the really nice part of town. We pulled in the parking lot, Dad's big old radio van screaming for attention as we drove around to the basement of First Presbyterian church, just down the road from the country club.
I knew the drill well, and as Dad hauled out the equipment I lugged in the tapes, cd’s, and the big old crates full of records. Even entering my teenage years I still looked up to my dad, and I always liked being his trusty sidekick.
We got all set up and things got under way. This was the late eighties, so the big names—U2, Whitney Houston, INXS—were going strong. The kids were around my age and doing what all kids do at dances—drinking soda and avoiding the dance floor until that first brave soul ventured into no man's land. Usually a group of girls would wade out, then the boys would follow and do something stupid. As a seasoned roadie, I’d seen it all before.
I found my seat behind Dad as things got humming along, and once the dancing got going, he cued up a cd, then turned to me to take over for a spell. He’d only recently let me man the controls for a song or two so that he could step away for a smoke or to hit the bathroom. I nodded earnestly, ready to step in. Taylor Dayne was blaring and he motioned to the other cd player to let me know the next song was ready to go.
I took my place at the controls, peeking over the knobs and buttons and feeling all big-time behind the ones and twos. DJ Pete was in the building! I checked what Dad had on deck and frowned. Something lame like Tiffany or Richard Marx. Not on my watch. A quick look over my shoulder.
I knew what that party needed.
At thirteen, I was really into rap music. Okay, from eight until about right now I’ve really been into rap music. And in 1988 (or today for that matter), there was no better rapper than Big Daddy Kane.
Taylor Dayne was wrapping up. Kids were hopping around, laughing and giggling and having a grand old youth group time. With a push of the button I slipped in a worn cassette tape and grinned.
Now, if you’ve never heard a Taylor Dayne song blend into Big Daddy Kane, well, then I suppose you just haven’t lived. Tell it To My Heart screeched to a halt as I hit play, slid the cross-fader to the right, then cranked up the volume. R-A-W ripped through the speakers like a fire alarm.
Keep in mind that this was nearly thirty years ago, and rap music wasn't nearly as mainstream as it is today. And most rap back then was pretty lyrical, so Kane was saying a lot. I nodded along, as he tore through the track, feeling the bass rumbling my seat. Now we’ve got ourselves a party, I thought. While I’m not from the streets or anything, I’m certainly not from the country club either, and Big Daddy Kane was what was in every Walkman and boom box from the bus stop to the basketball court at the park, so I was just playing what people wanted to hear.
But when I looked up I saw a wall of blank faces. No dancing. Everyone stood there, arms crossed, gawking at me like Marty Mcfly after he went all Eddie Van Halen on the guitar. Meanwhile Big Daddy Kane was still going hard in the church basement.
Dad rushed in and righted the ship. He tossed in something tame. I don’t remember, Bryan Adams maybe. Demoted, I ripped off my headphones in defeat and skulked back to the shadows. Eventually things got back on track. Kids danced, parents breathed, the giggling resumed. Dad turned back to me and shook his head and laughed.