By The Bakersfield Californian
It'll be a sweaty night of block rockin' bye-byes for longtime Bakersfield vinyl aficionado Alex Rodriguez, hosting his final Beat Surrender dance night at Sandrini's on Friday.
After coming off a primo deejay set at this year's Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Rodriguez was offered a job as general manager at the Glass House concert hall and record store in Pomona last month.
"I met the venue owner once at a record convention in Orange County, and I gave him some discounts before I knew who he was. In return he offered me free concert tickets. From there we continued to help each other out," said Rodriguez, 33, who after five steady years commuting to various Southern California locations has made a name for himself among die-hard collectors and the indie music elite.
"I'm just really grateful to be involved in amazing things with amazing people. Years of hard work are paying off in a big way."
The monthly all-vinyl dance night, which made its debut six years ago at Sandrini's, has become a hot spot for the hipster crowd and those with indiscriminate dance moves. Onstage, Rodriguez, along with an occasional guest selector, would keep the dance floor going, pulling deeply funky grooves from the '60s and '70s onto two turntables. No emcees or small talk, just uninterrupted shimmy shakin' for hordes of loyal dancers, including myself.
"We've had probably around 50 Beat Surrender nights, although I've missed some due to illness or events I had to DJ or attend."
But Bakersfield won't be completely rid of Rodriguez just yet. You may start catching touring events in association with the Viva Pomona music festival and Bakersfield community radio station KSVG, where he also hosted his own afternoon mix show. On July 20, Rodriguez will be bringing his first all-ages show featuring the Lovely Bad Things, Kitten Forever, Wyatt Blair, and Love Lush to Narducci's Cafe.
"I plan on staying involved with the Bakersfield music scene. Thanks for the years of support. Without all of you, I would have given up a long time ago."
While he doesn't plan on having a long, emotional goodbye on Friday, he doesn't mind getting messages of support in the form of sweets.
"I just want it to be a normal Beat Surrender, but if people want to bring me cupcakes, I'm OK with that!"
Friday's downbeat is 9 p.m. Admission is free. Sandrini's is located at 1918 Eye St. Information: 322-8900.
XClan at B Ryder's
Remember running home from school to catch "Yo! MTV Raps" with hosts Dr. Dre and Ed Lover?
Just before the dawn of the gangster rap era of the '90s, a number of socially conscious groups "kickin' knowledge" and positivity were all the rage among young fans.
Acts such as Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest were introduced to viewers from all over the globe. Fans adopted their dress, speak, dance moves, and style as their own. Soon hip-hop was more than just a musical phenomenon; it became a movement.
One of the leaders of that era was Brooklyn's own XClan, who was unlike anything hip-hop and rap had ever seen. Dressed in flowing traditional African- and Egyptian-inspired designs, they all donned piercings, catching heat from conservatives while the kids ate it up. On record, their infectiously funky beats called people to the dance floor, offering lyrical messages of self-empowerment and Afrocentric militant activism.
"It was daring for one, because hip-hop parties were all of the hoods coming into one place, giving us expression," said original XClan rapper Jason Hunter, aka Brother J, on the artistic climate of '90s New York. "So you had to take a little risk. Sometimes these parties got shot up. It's an egotistical game and sometimes egos were clashing."
Formed in 1989, XClan rode a brief wave of success as one of the genre's most innovative groups. Predating the Wu Tang Clan's multi-member concept of characters banding together onstage to become one unifying force, XClan could be considered one of the first families of hip-hop. Hunter, whose group role was "Grand Verbalizer Funkin' Lesson Brother J," was complemented by members "Professor X the Overseer," "Paradise the Architect," and deejay "Sugar Shaft the Rhythm Provider." Also playing prominent roles were the group's female members: "Queen Mother Rage," "Isis" and "Traedonya."
There was no mistaking such big personalities in the boisterous sneaker-wearing, bubble-jacket rap scene of the time. XClan embraced the serious side of hip-hop with one foot in New York, the other in Africa.
"We were all raised in the movement and, in New York, having a different look was not far-fetched. We didn't use it as a costume. The climate at the time was young people wanting to learn something different. ... The older movements that used to protect the streets started opening their doors. We were a reflection of it to the fullest."
The group's debut, "To the East, Blackwards," won critical acclaim, anchored by the group's debut single, "Funkin' Lesson."
"What we spoke about on that album: protecting our city, the youth. We were like the black CNN, lyrically. Not making it to where it was preachy, but to where it was fun, and that's where 'Funkin' Lesson' came from. I was able to take serious topics -- people would be sweating and jamming, coming out of their clothes, and don't even realize what I'm kickin' until they get back to their house. We had a technique like that."
The group released a follow-up album, "Xodus," two years later, before going separate ways. Today, Hunter continues performing and recording under XClan with new members.
"The people are what help Brother J evolve. If what I was talking about fell on deaf ears, it would depress my rhythm. I try to give people a sense of purpose and inspiration."
On a side note, I was in the audience when XClan made their last Bakersfield appearance at the Masonic Temple in Bakersfield in 1990. Hunter recalls the rockiness of that first tour.
"We got branded radical a lot back then, so we used to get the short end of the stick a lot of times. What we did is, we embraced community radio, and that's what we still do today. That's how the new generation responds to me."
Humbled to be cited as an influence, Hunter embraces his position as one of the genre's most highly regarded lyricists.
"I feel great because I started out in this game to one day be like my elders. It's all about the power of words. I'm able to touch people and teach them on a higher scale."
XClan opens for Kottonmouth Kings at B Ryder's on Tuesday. The all-ages show kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Also appearing: Imperial Soundclash. B Ryder's is located at 7401 White Lane. Information: 397-7304 or numbskullshows.com.