By Esther Sanchez
Joe Rubio, AKA Jae Rawkwell is a DJ and producer who is well known within the desert’s music scene. In addition to being one of a handful of guys who seem to be among the last generation of DJs who possess turn-table skills, he is also a black-belt carrying martial arts instructor, promoter and generally nice dude. One of the reasons he is respected for being good at what he does is due to the fact that he has been at it for some time. As far as being a DJ is concerned, the Indio High School graduate is the kind of guy who started doing what he does with the clear intention of becoming the best at his craft that he can be. Also, as cliche as it may seem, he does it for the love of music.
Rubio: “From a very young age I have always been fascinated by how music moves and affects people. I have these great memories from childhood of my mom that definitely influenced those feelings. On the weekends, my siblings and I would wake up to the sounds of my mom blasting Art Laboe on this huge boom-box that my dad had bought from Radio Shack or someplace like that. She would be doing stuff like cooking breakfast and cleaning……you know, the kind of stuff that generally sucks to do. But it seemed as though she loved it because of the music. My mom would be singing and dancing while scrubbing the stove or whatever and you would think that she was having the time of her life. It was as if she was cutting the rug that she was actually vacuuming. That was sort of my introduction to the concept of music being a force that moves people.”
Having a mom that, albeit unknowingly at the time, instilled a deep appreciation for the power that music has over the human psyche may have been a spark, but it was when hip hop entered his life that he became motivated to somehow, some way, be a part of it.
Rubio: “I guess I initially started the DJ thing when I was a freshman in High School. I was always drawn to Hip Hop culture in general and started out popping and locking…….you know, trying the B-boy thing.” Rubio chuckles: “I just wasn’t very good at it. Gravity was not my friend. I even tried rapping a bit, and although I occasionally dabble here and there, it wasn’t my calling. It was always DJing that was what really drew my attention. I remember back in those days being so inspired while watching DJs like Kid Cudi tear the tables up with skill and charisma. Locally, there were groups like INL Crew and Undiscovered Poets who, although I was younger, I had opportunities to experience. Not only did they inspire me, they showed me what was possible in this field and they motivated me to keep getting better.”
The opportunities that Rubio had during his adolescence to witness prime examples of Hip Hop DJing as a craft became motivating factors that drove him to create local events for the purpose of showcasing local DJs on a competition platform that pushes participants to pull out their big guns and prove to their peers, spectators and competition what they’ve got. Rubio: “Next October, I will be hosting the 4th annual, Mix-Off Massacre at The Date Shed. I picked the name because when I first conceived the idea it was near Halloween. The good people at The Date Shed liked it well enough so we went with it. It really came about because up until that point in time, other than something a local radio station had done there had not to my knowledge been any real DJ battles out here. There have been MC battles that feature DJs but nothing for us to be able to showcase our skills and compete with one another.”
Rubio continues: “It is an event that I wanted to throw as a DJ for DJs. Of course there is the downside that I can’t enter it due to a clear conflict of interests, but it’s all good. Basically, it is a freestyle battle, reminiscent of competitions we have seen sponsored by Red Bull. Each competitor gets 15 minutes to do their thing featuring a minimum of three genres of music. All skill-levels are welcome. DJ Aim Lo won the first year and my boy Smoke 1 won the second and third battles. If he wins again he will be officially retired with that title.”
Being the ambitious and motivated individual that he is, it is probably not a stretch to theorize that much of that drive could stem from Rubio’s involvement in martial arts. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began studying the Kapu style of fighting at the age of 4, became a black-belt and instructor. Rubio: “My involvement in the world of Kapu martial arts has been extremely significant in molding me into the man that I am today. I come from Polynesian heritage on my father’s side. Participating in tournaments and events over the years has connected me with other Polynesian people whom I have formed family-like bonds with and I would not trade that for anything.”
Rubio continues: “Last April, along with my family, I opened up Kapu Martial Arts in Indio. It had been a dream of ours for a long time so I finally took the initiative and, with my dad’s support and blessings we have been going strong. I have definitely had to back off of DJing for a while to focus on this business, but make no mistake that rocking crowds and making people dance is something I really love and is a motivating force for me so I am not quitting anytime soon.”
Jae Rawkwell is a member of a fantastic band called Exact Opposites. Keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue of CV Weekly.