For the past decade the Bay Area half-hour, hip-hop TV show Distortion 2 Static (D2S) has been diligently covering the wide world of hip-hop with an emphasis on both homegrown and national hip-hop, from each element of the genre and providing viewers with a steady stream of talent. Additionally, as its website states, it "offers an intimate perspective into a progressive Hip Hop culture by highlighting the current events within the community and profiling those who are committed to advancing its art forms. The D2S brand also extends itself into fashion, music, and nightlife entertainment." But this week, after one long decade, D2S will call it quits (ten years is "the perfect time to move on" they say) and rather than mourn will celebrate the departure of the show that began in 2001 with a big party on Friday night (Black Friday 11/25) at club Mighty, 199 Utah Street in San Francisco in a farewell party that they are dubbing All Black Everything: Celebrating 10 Years of D2S. that will include sets by DJ Neil Armstrong.
What I personally liked about D2S, which aired on the WB channel in SF, whenever I caught it, (and I watched it mainly in the first half of its decade run on TV and online in clips for the second half of its run) was its genuine love of hip-hop culture in all its elements from graffiti to b-boying and DJing and rapping: and how it lovingly covered so many areas from classic underground 1990's hip-hop videos to (then) new hyphy artists - and amazingly managed to squeeze it all into a half hour show with commercial breaks. The impressive list of artists who appeared on the show is so long that it might be easier to list those who did not grace the screen of D2S. Even more impressive to me was how, despite its budget restrictions, the hard working folks behind D2S did a super slick job on editing and graphics etc. etc. I have talked to many other fans of the show over the years who similarly thought highly of its commitment to hip-hop's legacy with many comparing it to Yo! MTV Raps back in its early days. Clearly the show was a labor of love with its makers going out of their way to make a quality show for little or no profit.
MURS on Distortion 2 Static (2009)
As with any television show that has been around for that long D2S, that aired on KOFY TV, went through several changes in format and personnel over its lifespan so to offer a fair look back at the show this week I talked to three involved in D2S during that lifespan: DJ ChickenSkratch, REL, and Aries Nuñez. I first asked Aries, aka Prince Aries, how he felt about the show in retrospect and what he feels it most accomplished? "I am very proud of what we have done with Distortion 2 Static. We provided to the scene on a real street level before the media industry became saturated with blogs. Everything about what we did was organic, from interviews to events; a real DIY crew doing everything from design, video production, copy writing to events and television broadcast," he replied. "We've accomplished every goal we've ever set for D2S and more and it's time for us to move on to the next thing. I don't consider this the end, rather, it's the birth of new beginnings. Thank you to everyone that has supported us through the years and will continue to support us on the next endeavor!"
Next I caught up with REL who is Aires' brother Ariel Nuñez who worked on the show as director/producer. I asked him looking back now what were some of the highlights of the past decade? "The memories that me and my friends share behind the scenes. I've always said that one day when I have grandkids, I'll have some pretty amazing stories to share with them," he said. "From scoring a random interview with Bushwick Bill at SXSW, to chillin with The Team during a recording session in East Oakland. From Speaking to Madlib about his relationship with J-Dilla, to Mac Mall paying tribute to Mac Dre in front of the mural in SF. I share countless stories with my good friends. And the lengths we went to get this content is a story in its own. All of that drive and determination in creating a quality product that we were proud to call our own. That shaped me into who I am today."
DJ Shadow on Distortion 2 Static (2006)
Knowing the somewhat cryptic farewell in video above and press releases about this being not so much an end but a new beginning I asked REL what was next on the horizon for him and the D2S crew? "We have a whole lot in store in our future! Haylow has already began production on the Roy Ayers Project. It's a documentary dedicated to preserving the legacy of Roy Ayers. But even further it's a collective of folks (myself included) dedicated to preserving and exposing the art and history of music and culture past present and future. You can check out more at RoyAyersProject.com or @haylow. Prince Aries will continue throwing events, and will be exploring other avenues in the arts. Which I shouldn't speak on too much cause I might get it wrong. Just follow him on Twitter@prince_aries. As for me I plan on creating something new with media. It will be focused on not only music but lifestyle. I've learned a long time ago not speak too much on future plans since goals always change. But one thing I can say is that it will be innovating, engaging, and will push the limits of modern media, follow me to stay up to date, @REL.We are all a part of each others projects. Just different people spearheading it."
DJ Neil Armstrong on Distortion 2 Static (2009)
Lastly I caught up with DJ ChickenSkratch who was a very key part of the show in its first half decade but unfortunately exited over irreconcilable differences. "For the four years I was there when we started, I booked almost every rapper, DJ, graff writer, b-boy, book authors, etc. on the show. I spearheaded their entire network, religiously worked on the tedious social networking/email campaigns, contracted all the sponsorships, organized a dozen DJ/MC battles and 3 college tours," recalled the talented turntablist of the endless hours he put into the show. While admittedly somewhat biased and still smarting over his premature exit from something he helped create, ChickenSkratch contends that the show could have and should have gone further, taken it beyond the Bay Area onto a national level. "The main guys just weren't ready for so much potential power," he said. "I don't think it ultimately represented as well as it should or could have. Ten years and the show never progressed beyond late night TV," said Chickenskratch who added that he, "Wished em the best, even after I left."
With this in mind I then asked REL how he reacted to the criticism that D2S didn't take it as far as it could have gone? "What could have been is unknown. There comes a time when every organization needs to re-evaluate its worth. Are we maximizing our full potential? Is producing a weekly TV show on a local station doing our own skills and knowledge justice? We are a team full of big dreamers. There is room to do so much more, but major changes have to be made," he replied, continuing that, "I don't want to look back and wonder 'damn, if I had more time I wonder if I could have done more.' It's important to know when to retire, but that doesn't need to be the end. Always finish on your terms. That way, instead of quietly fizzling out and being forgotten, your legacy will live on forever, the way you want it to. Hopefully over the years we have inspired others to go out and do something similar to what we've built. And hopefully, they can take it to where we didn't."
Big ups to Distortion 2 Static and to all of its contributors over the past decade both behind the scenes and in front of the camera and to all the guests and subjects it showcased including the many that otherwise would not have been reported on by anyone. The D2S farewell celebration All Black Everything: Celebrating 10 Years of D2S. happens on Black Friday (Nov 25th) from 9pm to 3am at Mighty in San Francisco. More details.
Kero One on Distortion 2 Static (2006)