New Brunswick DJ-producer Derrick Braxton is pictured on top of his crib, where’s organized several dozen community barbecues this summer. Braxton also is one of the organizers of the fifth annual Hub City Sounds: ROCK New Brunswick festival taking place on Sept. 8 in Boyd Park. PHOTO BY ANTHONY
New Brunswick scenester Derrick Braxton shares his love of his hometown, whose music will be celebrated on Sept. 8 in Boyd Park with the fifth annual Hub City Sounds: ROCK New Brunswick, an event he has helped to organize, along with an after party, where’ll spin at Fatto Americano.
Here’s a chat with native New Brunswick DJ-producer Derrick Braxton, who’s worked with such rappers as Lupe Fiasco in hot spots, like Chicago and L.A., and spins some righteous jams ‘n’ grooves as DJ DRKBXT. A few years ago, he moved back home to be closer to his family, much to the benefit of the local music scene.
In addition to a festival he has helped to organize, the fifth annual Hub City Sounds: ROCK New Brunswick, Braxton chats about his DJ collective, Neighborhood Watch; frequent popular barbecues; home away from home in Jersey City and its creative collective Sound in Color; close association with NJ Skate Shop, and, of course, his love of his hometown and its music scene.
You are a native and longtime resident of New Brunswick. How has the city changed since you first started performing and how has that impacted your music and the music scene?
New Brunswick has changed a lot, but the soul of this place remains the same. Years ago, I would go to Sound Express or Cheap Trills to buy vinyl, and now I frequent Spina Records. Different car, same engine. Different bands, same basements. It says a lot about the identity of the Hub City. There will always be great music to come out of this place.
What do you think of Hub City Sounds: ROCK New Brunswick and what impact do you think it has?
Hub City Sounds: ROCK New Brunswick is an important piece in building awareness for local artists of all genres and mediums. Tracey O’Reggio has assembled a great team of people devoted to creating an outlet to our talented local musicians. It’s only going to get better!
How and why are you involved in ROCK New Brunswick as both a performer and an organizer?
A mentor of mine, Ras Ujima, introduced me to Tracey at New Brunswick Cultural Center and all wonderful folks who make this event happen. It’s been a great time putting all the pieces together, and I hope to be involved for many years to come.
DJ DRKBXT, right, and DJ Kojak spin at a city event in New Brunswick. They also will spin at the ROCK New Brunswick after party on Sept. 8 at Fatto Americano. PHOTO BY KEITH JONES
Tell me about the after party at Fatto Americano? What can folks expect at that?
This after party is going to be dope! DJ Kojak and myself (DRKBXT) will be spinning rock, funk and soul all night long! Going to do an all-vinyl set. Also, Fatto Americano is known for its incredible brick oven pizza, so be sure to bring an appetite.
Besides performing at it, what are you looking forward to most about ROCK New Brunswick?
It’s all about the music. This year’s lineup crosses genres, while keeping the essence of the festival intact. The word ‘rock’ means so much more than rock ‘n’ roll now. It's exciting to be a part of something that is so inclusive.
If you could, how would you solidify and strengthen the New Brunswick music scene?
Strengthening the New Brunswick music scene is a group effort. It’s bigger than any one band or person. Bringing everyone together is always the first step in making the scene stronger. We do need more venues to provide a platform for our artist to strive. The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center is a step in the right direction as more and more local businesses are opening their doors to include this city’s artists and performers.
Why have you hosted more than 40 barbecues this summer at your crib? Have they served that purpose, and did they accomplish anything that you weren’t expecting?
The barbecues are a way to get all creatives NB in the same place. Zax Buzz used to throw them at his place for years and came up with the idea to do them at mine. Most of the time, while everyone is enjoying themselves outside, someone is recording inside. Many people have showed up to these BBQs, and they will continue throughout the summer.
Some of the members of the Jersey City-based music and art experience Sound in Color are pictured from left to right at the Pet Shop Bar: Silent Knight, Jerome, Ziggy the Zombie and Derrick Braxton. PHOTO BY Dominic Zimmerman
Besides New Brunswick, you’ve also gravitated to the Jersey City music scene. How have you been able to make inroads there and why, what is it about the Jersey City scene that makes you want to be involved in it?
Jersey City has become a second home mostly because of Sound in Color and its fellow co-founders Lateef Dameer and Emilio Guarino. Sound in Color is a genre-bending musical experience built by a collective of songwriters, producers, and poets. Lateef, Emilio, and I have been doing Sound in Color events for the past year, and it has been an amazing ride. Be sure to stay in the loop on our upcoming events at @soundincolor_ on Instagram.
Where do you most like to spin in New Brunswick and Jersey City and why?
NB and JC have a lot in common. Both are cities of major influence that still have that small town feel. Both have deeply rooted music scenes. Most importantly, both cities are alive and vibrant. In New Brunswick, I would have to say Destination Dogs. In Jersey City, my favorite at the moment is a venue called Pet Shop.
Will you also build more of an audience in Asbury Park, Trenton, Philly and Brooklyn?
Absolutely! Been doing a bunch of shows in Brooklyn. Omar and the In Plain Sight collective have been introducing us to some amazing folks out there. Tab Jones is another DJ I’ve had the pleasure of playing with in BK. Philly and South Jersey are also without question places you will see us in the very near future.
How do the membership and audience of the Neighborhood Watch DJ collective represent cultural diversity and why is that important?
Neighborhood Watch is alive and well. We (Bella Sehringer , Aman Arora, Meesh Fradkin and myself) have had to scale back on the number of events we were doing with everyone’s schedules being so hectic. Providing an outlet for electronic live performers in New Brunswick is vital to the survival of all genres. Since we kicked it off last year, we have seen a lot more mixed music bills around town. Nothing could make me happier.
You often work with NJ Skate Shop and its Board for Bros youth mentorship nonprofit. Why and how are those relationships important to you?
NJ Skate Shop is family. Chris, Steve, and Torres have been vital in providing a venue for New Brunswick’s art community to express themselves. This town certainly would not be the same without them. Jake McNichol from Boards for Bros is also someone I try to work with as much as possible. They do amazing work over there.
Besides ROCK New Brunswick, when and where will you be spinning and what will make those events special?
So there are a bunch coming up, but here are a few to remember: Sept. 4, Sound in Color at Pet Shop, Jersey City; Sept. 8, ROCK NB After Party, Fatto Americano; Sept. 13, Sound in Color, FM Bar, Jersey City, and Sept. 15 with Loosing Control at Pino’s in Highland Park.
They are always posted on my Instagram: @drkbxt.
As a producer, which project are you most proud of and why?
Lupe Fiasco’s ‘The Cool,’ if I had to choose one. It was during the production of this project that I began to understand that local beginnings have worldwide reach. As far as DIY goes, that is one of the most valuable lessons one can learn.
Will you be producing any acts in the near future?
Oh yes! Ziggy the Zombie, Priyya, Jared Pinckney, Supreme Keyy, Deanna DiLandro,Tone Liv, Silent Knight, Daknow Diadem, KNWLDG, and Red Giant locally. Eryn Martin out of Canada. Ken Cardo out of Chicago. Mohna out of Germany. Just to name a few.
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.