Back in 2008, I set out on a quest when it became clear that the NAMM Oral History program did not yet include many DJ equipment manufacturers. I contacted several NAMM member companies, including Gemini Sound. Each call resulted in basically the same response - "We would be proud to share our story with you, but you must start with the pioneering DJs who made our products and market possible!"
I had never heard such a reply before, and I understood their words intended to show pure respect for those early DJs. As it was those early DJs who not only produced great beats (ushering in Hip Hop) but who often created the very same equipment they used well before the gear was available commercially. I soon sought the help of Christie Z, a strong advocate for the art form, and the talented turntable performers who ushered in Hip Hop.
Since meeting Christie, we have captured dozens of interviews with DJs, beginning with that first-generation, including Imperial JayCee.
JayCee first played records in the parks back in 1974. The world of Disco had created a career for DJ Kool Herc, a hero in JayCee's Bronx neighborhood, which inspired him to take out records in the local park to entertain people. In 1977, he officially joined Herc's crew of DJs just as the world of Hip Hop was forming.
Like so many of those early DJs, JayCee used whatever he could find and/or make to play his music. He re-purposed an old record console discarded on the street corner and created a speaker from an old car stereo, which he mounted to a soapbox. His ability to create his own gear allowed him to focus on making music that moved people, music that inspired dancing and singing! During those early days, he latched onto a song that has since been tied to his musical performances, "Good Times!"
Click here for a segment from his 2017 NAMM Oral History interview.
JayCee passed away on February 6, 2022, in Yonkers, New York, at just 60 years old. Although his life was too short, his inspiration and talents are continually present in the groove and the feel of Hip Hop.
Long live the Imperial!
Dan Del Fiorentino