Wednesday, September 23, 2009

R.I.P. Grandmaster Roc Raida 1972-2009

I'll never forget the first time I ever saw the X-Men in concert. It was back in 1997 at the sorely missed Tramps in New York City, where the DJ quartet of Grandmaster Roc Raida, Total Eclipse, Rob Swift and Mista Sinista shared a bill with Rahzel and Common. Watching their gravity defying skills run its collective course across four pairs of turntables as each man juggled beats, busted out Temptations-style dance moves and rejiggering popular hip-hop songs of the day beyond recognition were fantastic feats of uncanny musicianship I will never soon forget. I was lucky enough to see the X-Men, who had to rename themselves the X-Ecutioners thanks to those meddling Marvel lawyers, several times thereafter, including a show staged between the Twin Towers three months before 9/11 went down, and they blew my mind every time.

Roc Raida was the Jimi Hendrix of the 1s and 2s. He was not only the leader of the X-Ecutioners, but also the only DJ in many a year to earn the handle of "Grandmaster" since the days of Kaz and Flash. His skills helped usher in a new, innovative era for DJs in the 1990s along with his X-Men crew members and the Invisbl Skratch Piklz holding it down on the West Coast. If you ever saw any of these guys do their thing on stage, you know you had to pick the pieces of your mind up off the club floor after the show.

News of his death this past weekend sent shockwaves across both the hip-hop and DJ communities.

"I am sorry 2 say that on this day at 2:05 Sept 19th we lost another incredible life...Dj Roc Raida died 2day my personal Dj is gone...," stated Busta Rhymes via Twitter in regards to his friend, who had been touring with the former Leader of the New School in recent years.

In a year loaded with tragic losses, it's sad to witness another great artist disappear from our world.

RIP, Grandmaster. You will be missed. -Ed.

Here is the official statement in reference to Roc Raida's passing from his publicity firm, Tools of War, along with funeral information:

Anthony "Grand Master Roc Raida" Williams was born in Harlem, New York on May 17th, 1972.

He passed away on Saturday, September 19th, 2009 from a cardiac arrest resulting from injuries he suffered in an accident while training in Krav Maga, a type self defense system that he had been studying weekly for the last two years. He was proud that his 15-year-old daughter, Asia, shared his passion for Krav Maga and was the only girl in their class.

Anthony Williams was both African-American and Puerto Rican. He lived most of his life in Harlem but after marrying his soul mate, Tyeasha on June 26, 1997, they moved to the Bronx. Several years ago, they realized their dream of owning a home and relocated their family to Maryland. He encouraged and shared in his wife's dream of one day opening up her own beauty salon.

He began DJing at the age of 12, spinning at local parties around Harlem. In 1991, he won the AS 1 DJ Battle. By 1995, Roc Raida represented the United States at the DMC World DJ Championships and won! He was the first DJ from NYC to hold this title and was automatically inducted into the DMC/Technics DJ Hall of Fame. Throughout his life, he lived his passion - being a professional Hip Hop DJ. He was blessed to tour the world as his day job. Williams was honored to have worked with artists including Showbiz & AG, Lord Finesse, Kool G Rap and most recently, he toured exclusively with Busta Rhymes.

Although his family called him "Ant" (short for Anthony), he became known worldwide as legendary DJ Roc Raida. In 1999, Grand Master status was bestowed upon him by a group of pioneering Hip Hop DJs, during a conference at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.

Before he passed, he asked his 10 yr. old daughter, Nyra, who was the most interested, of his children, in DJing to take over for him as a DJ. She agreed - so look out for Nyra!

With a very aggressive swagger on the turntables, those who knew Roc Raida were floored by his humbleness. His wife, Tyeasha said, "His notoriety amazed him every day!" He never took that for granted. Williams was also known to be very quiet, private and easy going. His self-control was admirable but if pushed to his limit - he would roar. In fact, Lord Finesse called his friend "the quiet lion" for this very reason. Those closest to him also have the pleasure of remembering him as a hilarious comedian who loved to joke and laugh.

Through battles, performances, recordings, documentaries, videos, dvds and even a Pepsi commercial, Roc Raida influenced thousands of DJs, both to partyrock as well as to battle. He took several aspiring DJs under his wing to mentor them personally. As a member of legendary turntablist crews, The X-Men and later, The X-ecutioners, he along with his brothers-in-vinyl took the world by storm, innovating, influencing and inspiring at every turn. In 2006, to progress and contribute to the Hip Hop DJ battle scene, he founded Roc Raida's Gong DJ Battle, a national DJ battle that occurs annually, combining head to head turntablist dexterity with comedy and drama.

Not only was he a World Champion DJ, he was a dedicated father and husband as well as a loyal friend. Rest in Peace Roc Raida we are really going to miss you!

Funeral Arrangements and Viewing will take place on Thursday, September 24, 2009

The viewing for Anthony Williams will be held from 10am to 12 noon, immediately followed by the funeral beginning at 12noon at:

Mount Neboh Baptist Church
1883 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (W.114th St. & 7th Ave)
New York NY, 10026
Phone: 212.866.7880

For those intending to send flowers, please kindly have them delivered to the church on September 24th, 2009 only between 9am - 10am.

The family requests that no filming or photography take place within the church at all.

Directions: 2 or 3 train to W. 116th St. Walk West on 116th St towards Lenox Ave. or take the M11 bus to W 116th St and Adam C Powell Blvd. Try for more directions.

All accurate information, official tributes and fundraisers (approved by the family) will be posted at:

Grandmaster Roc Raida at the 1996 DMC World Championships:

Raida at the '94 DMCs:

Raida teaching kids how to beat juggle circa 2007:

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