3 DJ Stef Tributes of Past Week Honoring Late Bay Area Hip-Hop DJ Reinforced How Widely Beloved A Person She Was [Photo Version]

Posted by Billyjam, October 24, 2017 08:14pm | Post a Comment

This past week in the Bay Area there were three different hip-hop themed gatherings honoring the legacy of the late great Stephanie Gardner Ornelas, aka DJ Stef: Sunday afternoon at Fabric8 Luna Rienne Gallery, Saturday afternoon at Drake's Dealership in Oakland, and Tuesday last at the Elbo Room in San Francisco. At all three bittersweet events, which also acted like Bay Area hip-hop reunions, the common thread of conversations was the recurring tales shared about the kindness and generosity of spirit of the Bay Area hip-hop DJ who died suddenly October 1st (Amoeblog report). As noted in that report, since DJ Stef's passing three weeks ago there's been an unprecedented outpouring of grief and shock in response to the DJ/writer/hip-hop ambassador's unexpected passing from a heart attack.

At the sunny weekend afternoon gathering in downtown Oakland at the outdoor brewery/eatery Drake's Dealership, such close DJ friends of DJ Stef as Toph-One, DJ Black, and DJ Anna, spun upbeat music in her honor. Those DJs were also acting as fill-ins for DJ Stef because every fourth Saturday she normally would DJ at the venue. Exactly four weeks earlier the seemingly perfectly healthy DJ had been there smiling and having fun spinning vinyl as she did once a month. As usual she was scheduled to spin again last Saturday too (see flyer above all ready for that event which she never got to spin at). While in place of DJ Stef  a number of other DJ friends spun, dozens of other close friends of the widely beloved DJ mingled and marveled at their deceased friend's endless energy and lifetime of good deeds.

In addition to DJ Stef's prematurely widowed husband/best friend/fellow DJ Sergio Ornelas, also present Saturday were friends comprised of different generations of Bay Area hip-hop folk whose lives had been directly enhanced by this tireless ambassador of local artists (especially DJs). There were also many childhood and high school era friends of Stef’s who had gathered. Of those I talked to, they noted how just the day before Stef's sudden unexpected passing three weeks earlier that she had been busy organizing their school reunion party on September 30th: even taking on the responsibility of designing and making the T-shirts for the event.

According to J- Boogie Dubtronic and Karen Dere of Giant Peach, who attended the following day, Sunday Oct. 22nd, DJ Stef tribute event at the Mission district Luna Rienne Gallery (organized in part by Vinnie Esparza) where Sergio DJed (picture right care of Luna Rienne's Olivia Ongpin), there were also endless heartwarming tales of DJ Stef being shared by all in attendance. Similarly last Tuesday night at the big hip-hop concert tribute to DJ Stef at the Elbo Room in San Francisco, friends on stage, backstage and in the audience all shared touching tales of this widely beloved woman. Below, in addition to a description of that artist-packed concert, are lots of photos (c/o Tim Devlin for the Amoeblog) from that memorable night.

Running from 7pm until well after midnight the October 17th Elbo Room A Celebration of DJ Stef was one non-stop talent packed event with well over twenty different performers, including DJs, MCs, singers and dancers, doing their thing in honor of DJ Stef. These included such scheduled acts as Del The Funky Homosapien, Peanut Butter Wolf, Foreign Legion, Zion I, Eclipse 427, DJ Platurn, Sacred Hoop and Various Blends plus such last minute welcome additions as LA underground hip-hop icon 2Mex, R&B vocal powerhouse Melina Jones, pioneering Bay Area turntablist DJ Quest and super talented San Francisco emcee Z-Man.

Others in the house to honor Stef included DJ Trinity from KFJC, "Cool" Chris Veltri from Groove Merchant, Bay Area photographer Viviane Oh, East Bay veteran emcee Mic T, longtime South Bay based journalist Todd Inoue, battle turntablist, recording artist and member of the 89 Skratch Gangstaz DJ Pone, and Beni B of KALX radio and ABB Records fame - to name but a handful.

On-stage highlights included DJ Quest who killed it on the ones and twos, Foreign Legion’s (Prozack Turner, Marc Stretch and DJ Design) pitch perfect set, 2Mex and BAS-One’s freestyle dedication to DJ Stef, Peanut Butter Wolf’s closing DJ set, and Dan the Automator joining his Deltron 3030 partner Del onstage on the mic to sing along on "Virus" while the Hiero’s Domino was handling the beats and cuts on the DJ set up in the background. Beyond the amazing series of performances all night long, all lovingly personalized with tributes to Stef by each artist, the event was foremost a gathering of Bay Area hip-hop friends who had not seen each other for too long. Many commented on how DJ Stef, even in the afterlife, was masterminding this wonderful gathering of people from a community that she was a central part of for so many years. DJ Davoud later commented how Stef, whom he labeled “an amazing human being,” possessed an uncanny gift for always bringing people together.

At one point in the evening DJ Quest commented on how, for a split second, on a few occasions throughout the night that he mistakenly thought he had seen DJ Stef in the Valencia Street club, shaking his head at this momentary mind playing tricks on him, but adding how this was exactly the type of hip-hop show that Stef would have loved and would definitely been at and in the thick of it all.

Marc Stretch, who called the ever industrious and famously productive DJ Stef the “Queen,” praised his late friend for always been able to accomplish so much yet always “make it look so easy!” CA emcee Pismo talked about the importance of health and getting routine check-ups, something Stef had advised him to do a year earlier, and that helped him stay alive.  He advised others to similarly take care of their health and body.

Of the endless emotional memories about the life of DJ Stef, it was LA emcee 2Mex who had some of the night’s most touching words to share: which he did toward the beginning of the long night of performances  following his and BAS-One's inspired freestyle dedicated to the late DJ. In June of last year, as reported here on the Amoeblog, the Los Angeles artist born Alejandro Ocana Jr. was faced with some very serious, life-changing health and medical issues: ones that he miraculously bounced back from.  A  chronic sufferer of diabetes for some time, last year things came to a head for 2Mex when he had to have his right leg amputated from the knee down and get a prosthetic leg.

In addition to the combined physical and psychological traumatization of such an ordeal, 2Mex had to cope with ridiculously high medical costs and no medical insurance to cover them all. Fortunately he had some good friends to help him through that dark time in his life including fellow Visionaries member Key-Kool who set up a GoFundMe page to offset the hospital costs of +$100K. Another good friend was DJ Stef, as he related last Tuesday as he stood on stage on his prosthetic leg (after driving up from LA and before driving up to Sacramento immediately after his set for a show later that same night). 2Mex recalled how out of the blue she had phoned him up while he was laid up in his hospital bed and feeling really low. That phone call, to let him know that he was in her thoughts, meant an awful lot to the artist. Her positive words of encouragement helped him to stay strong and to carry on, he said. And that is a perfect example of the kind of selfless, generous spirit, one always there to boost others, that DJ Stef was. No wonder so many are so devastated by her passing!

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Dj Platurn (47), Dj Marz (7), Drake's Dealership (1), Elbo Room (6), Mic T (3), Beni B (2), Domino (7), Viviane Oh (1), Todd Inoue (1), Karen Dere (2), Tim Devlin (2), Marc Stretch (3), Timi D... (2), Dj Black (1), Dj Anna (2), Dan The Automator (12), Del The Funky Homosapien (13), Dj Anna (2), Peanut Butter Wolf (32), Olivia Ongpin (1), Toph One (5), Dj Stef (7), Foreign Legion (15), Vinyl Exchange (2), Luke Sick (5), Dj Quest (54)