A Hip Hop Labor of Love
“The first time I ever saw a DJ scratching records was on a TV screen at burger king when I was eleven years old. Much Music was playing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back and it blew my mind that this DJ was using records in a way that we we never did at my house.”
Fascinated by scratch, that was the day Shane Erickson, better known as DJ Seith, decided without a shadow of a doubt he wanted to become a DJ.
Mixing music is Seith’s calling. Since his early years of high school, in the time of Napster, he had filled a hard drive of MP3s. He would travel to his friend’s houses to set up and mix music for their house parties. By his second year of college in the summer of 2002, Seith had found and saved up for his very first set of turntables, records, and mixer for sale at an old skate shop. Impressed by how quickly Seith saved up the money for the turntables “I ate nothing but mac and cheese and ramen noodles for a whole summer”, he recalls the owner knocked the cost down a significant amount. He began practicing immediately, planting himself in his bedroom and getting right to the creative process of making hip-hop music.
“I was very amateur at the time but I look back on the memories very fondly.”
Through handmade flyers, the whole world was invited to Seith’s gigs. He would post his flyers all over the city encouraging people to see him play. It took Seith quite some time to figure out how to bring people together. His very first shows were a bit of a bust as an unknown hip-hop artist playing in a small Northern Ontario community, but by 2007 Seith would begin to find his success. He had heard about a new record shop and cafe that was in the process of opening downtown, and he offered his time and energy to helping them set up shop and get the ball rolling.
“In exchange for labor, the shop owners allowed me to play shows in their cafe, but I knew I couldn’t do what I did before. I had to approach this differently so instead of putting up flyers for my own solo show, I reached out to other urban artists… rappers, dancers, singers and DJs.
I would call up people I knew and ask them if they knew anyone who preformed in town. I remember bbeing given a number for a guy named Mike, better known as Mic Swiff, and calling him out of the blue, saying: “Hi you don’t know me but I’m a DJ in town and I’d like to start a hip-hop show and have you come preform at it.” It all snowballed from there, next thing you know word is spredding, and it became a monthly thing that we did.”
For two years Seith ran the show at the local cafe until he moved north. The shop had closed down by the time he returned but the community he managed to build was something that could not dissipate. The scene that was created through the whole experience gave participating artists a foot in the door, lending legitimacy to their craft in the eyes of not only the performers themselves but show-bookers and fans as well.
In 2013 Seith felt he had to find a way to keep the momentum for the hip-hop community going. His next big idea was not to run monthly shows but instead to create an online catalog that artists, fans, venue-bookers, and creatives could access to see who was involved in the hip-hop scene in Sault Ste. Marie, as well as a way to keep in touch with one another and collaborate. Soo York City Urban Arts Collective was created, starting out as a list of local rappers and DJs, with included contact info and eventually including dancers, graphic artists, photographers, videographers, and venue owners and operators as a labor of love for the hip-hop scene in Northern Ontario.
” I wanted the Arts Collective to have its own legs so that unlike the cafe gigs, it would survive even if I wasn’t running it. Rap artist CONiKA now holds the torch of the Arts Collective.
This whole thing was created in the spirit of building a hip-hop community but more importantly, we are still part of a bigger community.”
Seith has done a lot to bring people together so it is no surprise the love he receives here in the Sault. He has released seven albums, six of which were his popular mixtapes. The first mix Seith made was called Blind Tacktiks Volume 1, a goofy, underground mix featuring silly skits by him and his friends. He then created a two-part mix called The Mackan Mix and The Montanini Mix both for friends who “asked him nicely to make mixes for them”. Seith released Moonlight Mix, his third album in 2005 as a Halloween mixtape that featured songs such as Thiller and Ghostbusters as well as spooky underground hip-hop songs.
In early 2010 Seith created a tribute to Paul Muncaster of the Rad Zone, this was the fourth mix he created and it was titled The Monk Mix. He then spent the next four years working on The Motor Mix. Seith had a vision of it being a “soundtrack to travel of all kinds”, with songs that were not cut from the typical “road trip” playlist. He hired a comic book artist for cover art and put on a release party for it. He was thrilled when the mix really took off.
Sixth was his Strawberry Short-Mix, an all-vinyl mix put together in one weekend, celebrating Go Skate Day 2016. This mix was made while looking out of his window at friends who were building a skate ramp in his backyard.
The mixtapes were a passion of Seith’s, he loved the idea of introducing songs to friends and fans.
His most recent album, Action Figures is a combination of Seith’s original beats. The beats on this new project were largely conceived over a one-month period which saw Seith posting one beat a day as a personal challenge.
“I had to swallow my pride and keep working. Some of the beats I made were terrible, others I was much happier with. I held myself to putting out one beat a day for the entire month of November 2018. After the month was over I felt really good about finishing. I picked my favourites from the bunch, and arranged them into a flow that sounded nice to me. I then reached out to (graffiti artist) Bored to do the backside of my download code card and Darren Emond (lead artist for The Motor Mix) to do my cover art. Oh Zee from ‘Music Over Everything’ handled the mixing and mastering on the project.
I am thirty-seven years old and I still get the feeling of finding the lost pieces of me through music. The great thing about hip-hop is that it can expose you to other music you never realized was out there. There is always a connection to be found.
I love digging in record stores and I like to take chances on music based on a gut feeling. I like to search, find and discover. There is nothing that makes you feel more like a child than to discover. Nothing makes me feel more connected with my young self… going into a record store is never, not going to make me happy.”