Reggae and Dancehall have always been two of my favorite genres of music. I was a dancer, some would say I still am, and the smooth and seductive vibes that come from reggae always made it easy to vibe to. When I wanted to really switch it up and go from body rockin to club hoppin, dancehall was my go-to. Surprisingly in an area known for a phenomenal music festival by the name of Coachella, I really didn’t have any outlet for either.
When I first heard of this new event, Stronghold, I was immediately down. Who turns down a complete night of Reggae and Dancehall? For over a year, it became a monthly ritual for my friends and I. It was amazing to see people go from dating stages to full blown relationships, with Stronghold being the event where their love shined brightly. Because Reggae and Dancehall have that effect on people, right? When you think of both forms of music, you think of love or lust or both. The dance moves that come along with both genres are ridiculously intimate, placing couples in an environment that flourishes off of emotional connection. It’s intensely beautiful and, not surprisingly, well received.
It was at Stronghold that I was introduced to a man by the name of DJ Dash Eye (because of my respect for musicians and their art, I prefer to call artists by their alias and not their government names). It was a casual introduction, which ended with me receiving four VIP passes to an event in North Park (San Diego) called Uptown Top Ranking. As his set began, I knew he was different. The rhythms blended together effortlessly, and as he spun the energy in the room expanded to the point of combustion. He blended reggae and dancehall as if he were blending hip-hop or dubstep. It was insane! I had never heard anything like it, and I knew I needed to get out to San Diego. That was my introduction to Dash Eye, the individual DJ. My introduction to DJ Dash Eye as part of Tribe of Kings was similar, but way more intense.
San Diego is his home, and San Diego receives him well. There has not been a night that I have attended any Uptown Top Ranking that Office Bar has not been packed full of people DANCING. Not standing around, not trying to look cool, but 100% entranced by the music. The energy is limitless! With a team of Selectah’s like Tribe of Kings, who have a very established name in San Diego and beyond for their talents, one would expect just a HINT of pride. Yet, every time I have encountered Dash Eye, he remains one of the most honest and centered individuals that I have ever met. There is a peaceful energy surrounding him that is undeniable, and his mixes speak to your spirit. Well respected in San Diego, I did not want to approach him for an interview unless I was coming correct. I hit that Google search button I don’t know how many times, and none of it prepared me for what I was about to hear.
We sat down in between his set at another location of residency for Tribe of Kings, Harney Sushi (Old Town San Diego). It helped that I was able to have some amazing food and wine before bombarding this dude with all of the questions that I had been dying to ask for at least a year. We, of course, started off with his history. Born and raised in Oceanside, CA, he was brought up by his mother. With a history as a young teen in the 70s, she was open to expression and encouraged Dash Eye to explore the arts. While attending school at Oceanside High, he developed a love for Underground Hip-Hop and grew into a talented B-Boy. His love for music compelled him to collect cassettes and vinyl in the masses. I asked him, “What made you make the leap from being a B-Boy to being a Reggae DJ?” and his response shocked me. I was expecting some crazy story, being that he was previously into Hip-Hop and the difference between the two genres is great. Instead, he calmly stated, “I didn’t want to be a DJ. I never wanted to be a DJ. I just fell into it.” One of the best DJs that I have ever come across never even wanted to do it!
In 1994, he began reading the Bible and educating himself on Ras Tafari, and began to take hold of the lifestyle. When he discovered that Reggae music was really artists singing of Ras Tafari, he began buying records. As a true fan of music, he couldn’t see himself purchasing CDs, so he started crate digging for any and all Reggae 45s that caught his eye. Bob Marley, Luciano, Sizzla, Anthony B. and others were some of his early favorites. As his collection grew, he began to get recruited to go play gigs with fellow Tribe of Kings DJs Rashi and Peril. It was more of an invitation to bring his records, but Dash Eye began to spin as well. Tribe of Kings solidified themselves as a Sound System in 1997, and had their first “real” gig at Bar Dynamite in 1998. The rest of their story as a group is San Diego history.
At the same time that young Dash Eye was making his musical transitions, he was working in the drafting field. He went to tech school and even worked for Boeing. When Boeing laid him off, he took the opportunity to leave the office lifestyle and go back to school. After graduating from Mira Costa College, he transferred to San Diego State University where he double majored in History and Religion. I would like you to take that in for a second. Throw away whatever stigma you have regarding DJs and their lifestyles, and just take a moment to let your mind circle the fact that this Reggae and Dancehall Selectah has a double Bachelor’s in History and Religion. He laughed as he told me that his college professors would tell him “Well, it looks like your DJ thing is going pretty good. Why don’t you just stick to that?” But he had a strong interest in both subjects. He described looking at the reading lists for his class assignments and realizing that he had already read at least one book on each list almost every time. What struck me most during our conversation was how laid back Dash Eye is. One of my goals of our sit down was to gain some insight into what makes him THAT person. And the more we talked, the clearer that became. A question that I was dying to ask was “How do you handle living the Ras Tafari lifestyle and working in club settings?” His answer was inspiring. He has a sense of self and an understanding that the world is full of billions of people with different beliefs, and if he wants people to respect his beliefs and practices then he needs to respect the beliefs and practices of others. He uses his skills to promote oneness to those listening to his sets. If you have had the honor of listening and watching Dash Eye perform live, you would know that he will replay a part of a track and yell at you to “Listen to the words! Listen to the words!” His passion compliments each rhythm he spins. I know that he has traveled the world and has had the opportunity to DJ in Jamaica, Mexico, and Israel. When I asked what his best memory was, he had quite a few stories. All were told in a relaxed and simple fashion, so I listened carefully and jotted notes. Then I heard “I actually baptized myself in the River of Jordan. My friend was supposed to do it, but couldn’t because of my culture. So since I felt like the faith was there, I baptized myself.”
I can’t describe to you the calmness of his tone, or the feeling of amazement that I had at that moment. I can only say that in that moment, I knew that I was dealing with a star. Not a star in a “celebrity” sense, but a ball of indestructible energy. A force. And at that moment everything made sense. There was a reason why I had been drawn to his art like so many others. He was a light, and we are all moths. I have lived a full life and have met many people, but in my experience I have met very few that have this type of distinct energy. It is the type of energy that can change lives. After that statement, my objective became to gain the strongest advice that I could to pass to any aspiring DJs that lack good mentorship. Influenced by David Rodigan, various Hip-Hop DJs, and his fellow Selectah’s from Tribe of Kings, Dash Eye has always stayed true to himself. The best advice that he chose to pass on is “DJ’s shouldn’t bend to what they THINK the crowds will like. They shouldn’t be afraid to play what they like. It is the DJs responsibility to introduce the crowd to new music.” And it is those words of advice that solidify my opinions of Dash Eye as a person, a DJ, and as an energy. If you would like to experience the force that is DJ Dash Eye, please check out the links below: