The Rocks Off 200: DJ Baby Roo, Vegetarian Hip-Hop Veteran
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the original Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Photos by Marco Torres
DJ Baby Roo, who grew up mostly on Houston's Northside, introduces himself as "Ruben Jimenez, family man, sibling, corporate citizen and every so often, a DJ." He says he was surrounded by breakdancing, punk rock, New Wave and skateboarding, and although he couldn't breakdance himself, "I did always love the music everyone was breakin' to." Starting out with punk Baby Roo says he tastes began leaning towards hip-hop once he heard Eric B & Rakim's Follow the Leader.
"That album is what cemented my dedication if not intervention-worthy addiction to hip-hop," he admits. "I would go to sleep listening to that tape every night till it popped."
When his brother began spinning records as DJ Shawn Jay (formally DJ Lord Vishnu), he started to bring home lots of records. Through him he met Bilal 9, who Baby Roo describes as "the host of a militant radio show on KPFT." He says he asked Bilal why he always had two copies of every record, and through that met another DJ, Frosty Ice, who was the vinyl supplier.
"I knew it then, this DJ thing, I wanted that," he says.
"Then came time to choose a DJ name, and I couldn't think of one," Baby Roo continues. "My man Blue had the idea for me to use 'DJ Brother Roo,' and that worked for a bit. Then it got shortened to DJ Roo. Now DJ Baby Roo is what I have been billed as, so I just accept it and embrace the fact that I am the world's oldest baby."
Some of the people who helped him starting out included DJ/promoter Matt Sonzala, who gave Baby Roo his first job at the "Hip-Hop Coffee Shop" at Hoi Polloi on White Oak; The Legendary K-Otix; DJ Cipher, "who was and continues to be very nice to me"; Reko Trill; DJ Sun, "who helped me out by giving me a place to live"; ex-Soular Grooves co-host DJ Theory (now Jaekim); and Gracie Chavez, who "helped me get my start writing record reviews in the dying days of Public News [and] also led to me writing for Urban Beat."
Home Base: Baby Roo says he practices mainly at home, "in an odd little room attached to my bedroom that has a window that fits my setup perfectly." That's where he has been known to "get/force DJ Remix to practice eating vegetarian food." He says he'd like to practice more with Def Perception and Walter Mallone at Francisco's.
Baby Roo has also worked for law firms since 1998, currently at one across the street from MKT Bar. He is heavily involved at events surrounding the Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark, including the Sk8 & Rock concerts.
"I perform whereever Def Perception, Walter Mallone, Jawwaad Taylor (when rapping solo) or myself (as a DJ) are invited to do so, within reason," he adds. "Please feel free contact me about all four, as we are open for business."
Why Do You Stay In Houston?: "I love my city," Baby Roo says. "I love the hustle mentality that permeates throughout the community. There is also something very nice about being out and about town and running into people you know -- it makes the city feel smaller in a good way.
"Now we just need a place, as my man Blue says, where fans of hip-hop can go to buy reasonably priced pitchers of beer, grub and listen to good DJs play music, where new-school and old-school can congregate," he adds. "That's all that's missing."
Story continues on the next page.
Good War Story: "There are soooo many," Baby Roo says, like the time he and a friend were on Eminem's tour bus. "He was with Proof and we drank shots and Em played Chronic 2001 demos for us and explained how the session from Any Man [a 12-inch off the Soundbombing compilation on Rawkus] led to him creating the chorus for 'My Name Is.' DJ Johnny J was there too if I am not mistaken."
Or there was that time that DJ Witness and I were in Palm Springs for an industry convention and not allowed to go into a suite party. Snoop Dogg walks up with his entourage, and they were denied entrance too. It was the craziest thing, and Wit and I didn't feel so bad about not getting in after that.
One of the wildest nights involved Busta Rhymes in a club on South Main called the V.S.O.P.; Busta was on his promo tour for The Coming. It was about a month or so before the album's release and "Woo-Hah!!!" was all over the radio and video shows. The sound system was limited in its functional capacity.
Midway into Busta performing his first song, the amp overheats and the mike sounds like he is rapping through a memory-foam pillow. Like the true professional he is, he tries to do two more songs before going into "Woo-Hah!!!", then leaves in a blink.
Afterward, things got ugly. A fight broke out and the club erupted into a brawl. Chairs are flying, bottles are breaking and I decide it was time to be out, but I had four crates of records with me that night and I had to make two trips to carry two crates out at a time holding them above my shoulders during a full-blown tear-da-club-up fight!
I am surprised I was not hit with a bottle or three, or that my fingers weren't ripped of my hands from jogging with those crates. Ah, the good ol' days.
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Eric B & Rakim, Follow The Leader
- M.O.P., Warriorz
- Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Deluxe Edition)
- Gang Starr, Daily Operation
- Carole King, Carnegie Hall Concert: June 18, 1971 (MFSL Edition)
Music Scene Pet Peeve: The notorious "Pay to Play" model is Baby Roo's pick.
"I had an experience where there were a countless number of local opening acts for a national touring artist from the West Coast," he says. "The crowd was bored to tears as act after amateur act came onstage, [and] by the time any artist of decent talent or experience came on, the crowd was so tired they couldn't even enjoy the performances. No one wins with that setup, and the biggest losers are the audience."
Best Show Ever:
Performed: Raekwon at Fitzgerald's, September 2013: "Hector from Lunaface asked me to DJ and I was stoked," he says. "I made a mix featuring a slew of Rae's tracks as a tie-in for the show and it came out great. A few days before the show Hector called to tell me Rae's DJ wasn't showing up and asked if I would back Rae up for the performance.
"It was crazy," Baby Roo adds. "I constructed Raekwon's set list with his manager backstage at Fitz, emailed him a screen shot of the Serato crate for him to send to Rae for his approval for the show. He tells me if Rae don't like it yall are just gonna freestyle it. When they arrived at the venue his manager tells me the set list is approved."
This surprised him, Baby Roo recounts, because he had added "10 Bricks" to the list, a song Raekwon rarely performs. But, he says, he "knocked it out of the park" with the people he loves looking on.
"Easily the best night behind the turntables," Baby Roo says.
Attended: Craig Mack & Biggie Smalls, Cardi's off 59 & Bissonnet: "It wasn't the greatest show, but it was a sick show and the only time I saw Big perform, so that gets top listing for me," he says.
Baby Roo is a busy DJ. Besides working on DJ hardware improvements for both MKT Bar and Cactus music, he will be at Discovery Green for the Space City Grand Slam, a poetry slam sponsored by Meta-Four Houston as well as Fox Hollow's Renaissance Suite this Tuesday and the Skate & Rock summer concert series at Jamail Skate Park on June 21. He says he's also working with Heights tiki bar Lei Low ("only your cooler friends go, so catch up") on a weekly night alongside DJ Mr. Ish and DJ NoFun (aka John Baldwin of Wild Moccasins), to spin surf-rock, reggae, lo-fi, etc. He and NoFun will also spin at MKT Bar June 13.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
Rachel Bays, Filming Them Softly Punk-Rock "Newcomers" Screech of Death Erin Rodgers, the Keys to Glass the Sky Alex LaRotta, Crate-Digging Fistful of Soul Brother Alycia Miles, Triumphant Soul Singer DJ Piam, Poison Girl's Bacon-Fat Funk Specialist Mister Insane, Host of The Insane Show Jake Rawls -- Kemo For Emo Is Back Santos Pastrana, Sound Engineer and DJ Ninja Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez DJ Dayta, Keeper of That Good Good Matthew Davis Buehrer, Runaway Sun's Globally Thinking Bassist Fat Tony, Third Ward to "BKNY" Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
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