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Rob Swift on his March 2012 release, Roc 4 Raida:
I met Roc Raida at the 1991 East Coast DMC qualifying round. It was the first competition I ever entered. As I walked up in there with my mentor Drew, better known as Dr. Butcher, I recall encountering the mighty X-Men for the first time. They all were there, Steve D, Johnny Cash, Diamond Jay, Sean C and Roc Raida [at the time he actually spelled it Rock Raider]. They [the X-Men] were loud and drawing attention to themselves. You’d hear them laughing and joking throughout the entire preliminary. But what I found interesting about Raida was he was the complete opposite of his crew. Raida was the quietest one of all. That really intrigued me and his silent temperament made him stand out even more than his rambunctious partners.
All of the X-men entered the competition so there was an air of intimidation affecting the competitors. But as much as we respected them, Drew and I were confident we trained hard enough to impress the judges (Clark Kent, DJ Word and Rose, who ran DMC NY at the time) and place somewhere in that top 8 slot.
I remember getting up on stage and hearing Drew tell Clark Kent “watch my boy Rob!” A I looked into the audience of DJs competing for the same exact thing I wanted, I noticed the X-men throwing up their X signs. Publicly displaying their brotherhood connection while putting fear into the hearts and minds of the other competitors. Once I dropped my first routine, “Eric B. For President”, the only people that existed though were Drew to my right and me on the turntables!
After the battle, Drew introduced me to Steve D who happened to be standing right next to Raida at the time. I shook hands with Steve and we exchanged a few words. I then turned to Raida and introduced myself. I don’t remember him saying much, LOL. But I do remember the head nod and grin he gave me, it was classic Raida. He was always a bit stand offish when you first met him. About 1 week later Steve asked Dr. Butcher and I if we’d get down with the X-men. I was honored because Steve opened the door to an exclusive click of DJs anyone would of been honored to be a part of. What’s more, my induction into the X-men set the path for Raida and I to form an unbreakable bond.
I remember going to Raida’s pad for the first time and thinking “there’s no way I’m gonna be able to practice and this dude’s set.” That’s because he had two belt driven turntables. Belt driven turntables are the worst, especially for DJs like like us who need strong, durable, direct drive turntables to take the physical abuse we unleash on them during a practice session. But nope, he had belt drives! See, Raida didn’t have it so good as a young kid. He was a product of Foster projects (Harlem, NYC). Consequently, it’s not like Raida grew up around the type of money needed to purchase direct drive turntables like Technic1200s. But that didn’t stop him. I’d watch Raida in his bedroom, on these horrible turntables and shitty mixer, defying all the odds. I’m sorry but no man is supposed to do what Raida did on those B-1s. If you turned away, you’d think he was using Technics.
That’s what impacted me most about Raida. He worked with what he had and made the best of it. It didn’t make a difference to him. It’s a true testament to how dedicated and focused he was because he accomplished a lot with very little! Raida loved being on turntables, whether they were belt or direct drive. In front of a crowd or in his bedroom, it didn’t matter. His passion for Djing, specifically battling, was contagious. Raida was one of those battle DJs who’s name will stand the test of time. People will always study him in their own pursuit of a DJ title.
Aside from turntable skills, the one thing I’ll always remember about Raida is he loved being around us. Especially on tour. For Raida, it wasn’t so much about being on stage or seeing other parts of the world. I think he was simply happy to be with us, sharing a tour bus, eating as a group, hanging out and laughing. He thrived off getting everyone together and watching movies on the bus. Raida truly appreciated the camaraderie we all developed from touring. That’s one of the things I feel I took for granted during the X-ecutioners days.
I was always the one who hated touring. I even had my moments during this week in Australia where I felt “Man, I just wanna be home”. But Raida would drop everything the minute he heard about a tour opportunity. He’d get all giddy. I think more so because he knew touring meant quality time with his crew. At the time I didn’t really understand it. I would be like “Oh man! Another tour? Fuck, alright, we gotta work, we gotta promote this album.” It was more of a drag for me. But for Raida, it was the exact opposite. He’d come ready with all his video camera and commence to taping every second of our lives on the road.
Where as I felt a tour was forcing me to leave home, maybe in Raida’s mind he was bringing home with him in a way. It’s as if he saw the road as an extension of home because he was around us and he saw us as family. That’s something that I’ve really come to understand and appreciate more after he passed away. Man, “…after he passed away” I still haven’t accepted it completely.
If you’ve been under a rock the past 2 1/2 years, Raida was a martial arts student at a school in Maryland where he resided with his wife Tyeasha and 3 children (Asia, Nyra and Tia). On the night of September 3rd, 2009 (a Thursday) Raida suffered a horrible accident during a sparring session with a classmate at his martial arts school. The classmate fell on top of Raida’s spinal cord (near his neck) causing sever misalignment. I’m not sure if the classmate fell on top of him to counter a move, slipped and fell, or if he fell after a take down by Raida. Raida didn’t remember the exact details of the incident. The accident caused the loss of feeling in his lower extremities. Raida was rushed to the hospital.
I remember receiving the news on my way to the 2009 World DMC Finals in London the following morning, Sept. 4th. Needless to say, I was a mess. That weekend doctors performed two surgeries on him. Raida the competitor battled through and he was moved to a rehab facility in Maryland about 1 1/2 weeks after the accident. I remember being on the road throughout the entire ordeal, getting hourly updates from his wife Tye. I was calling her from London, Seattle…
Fresh off the road, on September 18th (a Friday night), I drove down to visit with Raida and I brought some of the guys with me – Mista Sinista, DJ Precision, Dr. Butcher, and Gudtyme. After the 4 hour trek, it felt good to enter his rehab room and let Raida know, in person, we were all pulling for him. His spirits were up and although you could tell he wasn’t 100% himself we were still optimistic about Raida walking again. In a raspy voice, Raida said “look, I’m not sure why this happened, but I accept it. if anything I gotta figure out why, maybe there is a reason behind all this.” Makes you think twice about the every day problems you stress about right?
After 10 minutes or so of visiting with Raida we were back to our joking ways. The crew being together reminded me of occasions we’d be on the road, hanging out backstage or in one of our hotel rooms, shootin’ the shit about whatever. It’s like I forgot why we were there. It was like old times again It was beautiful!
Raida pretty much kicked us out cause it was approaching the end of visiting hours and we were getting louder and louder by the minute. Joking, laughing at fond memories we all shared. None of us were ready to leave but we knew he needed his rest. So we all gathered around Raida while Dr. Butcher led us in prayer. As we left, each of us gave Raida a big hug and said our goodbyes. I left thinking I’d see him again the following week but approximately 14 hours later (Saturday, September 19th) he suffered cardiac arrest and passed away. Getting the news was confusing. I couldn’t comprehend how Raida could go from “yo they’re gonna teach me how to get into my wheelchair and I’ll be able to cruise around the rehab facility on my own…” to physically leaving us hours later? The key word in my previous sentence is PHYSICALLY though. Let me explain.
When you think about it, Raida is still here. His presence surrounds me and you everyday. Each time I turn my 1200s on in my studio I’m reminded of the countless hours we spent practicing. Perfecting our skills! Hence, "Roc for Raida", my tribute to my partner, my best friend, my brother!
"Roc for Raida" is a collection of songs (some unreleased) and battle style routines that defined Roc Raida the artist. I also recorded original scratch/beat juggle compositions dedicated to Raida. In addition to the assortment of music, I included what I thought were lost interview archives (courtesy of John Carluccio) which take you, the listener, into the minds of X-men's Steve D, myself and of course the man of the hour, Roc Raida. I'm happy to say, Mista Sinista, Precision and Total Eclipse also make cameos paying tribute to some of our favorite Roc Raida battle sets.
In a day when DJs DJ for free bottle service at a club... In a technological age where DJs let a computer program do all the DJing for them... "Roc for Raida" is a reminder that Raida's accomplishments stemmed for a true love of DJing. Enjoy!
DJ Rob Swift
Tyeasha (Roc Raida's widow) on her thoughts about Rob Swift's "Roc for Raida" project
My life changed forever Sept. 19, 2009. Two years and some months later, I am still trying to pick up the pieces of my life. The DJ community lost a friend, a Grand Master and a Legend. I lost my husband, my best friend, and the father of my daughters. There has been a great amount of support for my family from that day forward, for which I am forever thankful. As days turn into weeks and weeks into years, I am happy that people haven't forgot about G.M. Roc Raida and his contribution to the art of DJing, Battling, and Turntablism. One day my phone rang and on the other end was a familiar voice (Rob Swift). As I listened to Rob tell me about this Roc Raida tribute project he had started working on, I could tell he was excited and filled with emotion about it's potential. As we spoke I realized Rob was concerned about helping us keep Raida's memory and legacy alive, and making sure our kids are taken care of. I appreciate you for that Rob.
One of the hardest things in this world for me is to hear my daughters cry for something I can never, ever give them, their Dad. My oldest daughter Asia still cries when she hears Raida's scratches or routines. My middle girl Nyra aka Ny-Raida is overly protective of anything that belonged to Raida and is possessed with learning his routines. My baby girl Tia, who is Raida's twin, likes to look at photos of Raida and tell stories of things that she remembers about him. All as I try to hold it together emotionally and financially. That being said, I want to thank all of you for your continued support.
"Roc for Raida" snippet tracklistings
1. "Raida speaks"
Raida was a man of few words but when he spoke, his words were concise and potent.
2. "Back to Back" featuring Saigon & Scram Jones
This joint appeared on the X-ecutioners' 3rd album Revolutions. I think it's Raida's best production work hands down.
3. "Parting Words"
Listening to Raida speak reminds me of a time when all we cared about was "helping each other out."
4. "Frequency" featuring MF Grimm
The homies MF Grimm and Doc Singe sum up History X. I miss my nigga Roc Raida! R.I.P. I'll always love you! (PAUSE - LOL)