Neighborhood Legends: DJ Pill (Circa 1985) Part 1 of 2!

August 03, 2011 4 min read

The story of DJ Pill is one of my favorites and most important stories in my personal Hip Hop history. Of the few people who I consider mentors of mine, his impact was the most diverse. The lessons learned have been critical in many of my later steps on this journey called life…

My Mom was strict, but supportive of my musical passions. However, she might “still” give me a smack upside the head if she heard the opening to this story. However, it does perfectly illustrate how alluring Hip Hop was/is to me, even to the point of potential bad life decisions. Thankfully, this one worked out OK, perfectly even.

It’s a Summer afternoon in 1985 on the Fort Riley, KS Army Base and a 15 year old Kevin Beacham is riding to the gym to shoot some B-ball with my good friend, Warren a.k.a MC Capri who is also my rap partner in the 3D Crew, along with Eddy a.k.a MC TNT.

I can’t help but notice that the older gentleman, early 20s, sitting directly in front of me has the seat next to him occupied by a huge stack of records. I just keep leaning forward, peering down at them. With each quick glance, I spy recognizable Record Labels styles and colors; Sugarhill, Sugarsoop, Profile, Enjoy, etc... I suppose my continual lurking became too distracting to ignore, so he looked back and says, “Do you want to take a look at the records?” I’m fairly certain that the amount of excitement in my eyes at the prospect of being able to do so impressed him that someone so young was that intrigued by the music. I began to flip thru the stack and with nearly each one I was exclaiming newfound amazement at these records I had never heard of.

He explained to me that he was a DJ from North Carolina and had just arrived back from the East Coast picking up this new batch of records. He was enlisted in the Army and told me that he had a complete DJ set up in his barracks room; two turntables, mixer, and the ever-important Echo Chamber box! He talked about scratch techniques, most notably the “Turntable Talk”. Which he explained as a trick to manipulate sounds into words, the thought of that nearly caused my jaw to hit the bus floor.

It is a fair assessment to assume that there is no possible way to increase my level of excitement at this point. However, that is exactly what happened when he said, “You want to come check out my set up?” Before I can blurt out my obvious, YES...I get distracted by someone. Oh yeah, I had nearly forgotten, Capri is here with me. Honestly, I'm unsure what he did thru this whole exchange of ideas. I had completely blocked him out. He whispered in my ear about the teachings of our mothers, “Do NOT go with strangers”. I acknowledged that he was correct, but suggested that something of this magnitude sort of trumped that logic*. That’s something I’ve come to recognize as “Logic Of Convenience”…

Capri decided to play it safe, so I went off on my own to check out the world of DJ Pill. The other trick to all of this was that because I was a minor I was not allowed in the barracks, so that meant he had to have someone distract the security and sneak me by.

Later I returned with the rest of the 3D Crew and we made our first semi-professional tapes in that room**. What made this particularly amazing was, you always hear the stories of the older generation shunning the youth away and not letting them touch the equipment. Here, DJ Pill rocked the turntables for us while we rapped and hosted with the Echo Chamber. Then he even let us get on and try out scratching and mixing ourselves. While DJ Nate had previously instilled some DJ qualities in me thru observing him, DJ Pill provided my first time ever working two turntables!! To take it even a step further, he recognized our determination to constantly do music. With that in mind, a couple times he snuck us in his room and locked us in while he went to work and let us do our thing on our own. It was very empowering and encouraging.

I don’t remember how my parents found out about our connection with DJ Pill, but in being responsible parents, they were a little concerned with us being 15 and hanging out with these older Military men. Particularly, when there was this stigma that the GIs were often known for partying and getting a bit crazy. However, those guys always kept it pretty tame. If they were getting wild and drinking heavily, they certainly shielded it from us. In any event, my dad was also in the Army and my Mom worked on the base so I had to give them DJ Pill’s real name so they could do an investigation, and my parents were good at that…ha. In a convenient twist of fate, we discovered that DJ Pill actually worked in the same building as my dad and he knew who he was gave me clearance to continue my Hip Hop education...

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 to learn how he influenced me to build a crew, Do better Stage Shows, DJ live in public, and get addicted to Production via Drum Machines which lead to Sampling…How he rocked it live with his crew The House Rockers Nation at the Junction City Skating Rink... Plus some rare audio!!!

*Of course, I agree that this was a bit foolish and unsafe. Truth be told, I was NOT completely brain-dead reckless in my choice. My logic; we were on small, enclosed army base. The barracks was filled with 100s of rooms of people and always staffed with the Military Police so it seemed pretty safe to me. Although, I do completely endorse the “Don’t Go With Strangers” idea in general…

**I had been doing home freestyle tapes with my Sharp GF-575 double cassette deck and a “toy” microphone or my tape players internal mic since ’82, but this was the first time with live turntables, mixer and echo chamber((((((

Written By Kevin Beacham

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