15.05.2019

Meet Bobbito Garcia, the radio host and DJ who first discovered Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas

Bobbito Garcia
By Augustus Welby

Bobbito Garcia is an old school slashie, best known for co-hosting The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show on New York’s WKCR radio. Garcia is also an author, filmmaker, streetball pioneer and sneaker culture historian who’s DJed in 43 countries across six continents.

“I’m constantly discovering new ways to story-tell,” says Garcia. “My next project is an album me and Stretch are recording for ten-time Grammy Award winner Eddie Palmieri’s new label, Uprising NYC. The narrative is not so much spoken as it would be in a book or film, but listening track to track will indeed be a journey as well as a learning experience for our fanbase and new followers.”

Garcia released a book about NYC sneaker culture in 2003, but in recent years he’s been devoted to filmmaking. He started with the street basketball documentary, Doin’ It In The Park in 2012 and followed it with the acclaimed Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives, which looks at the sweeping influence of the duo’s radio show, in 2015.

His latest film, Rock Rubber 45s, is an autobiography.

“I am a complex human being with multiple roles, statuses, life experiences, achievements, down times, and turning points,” he says. “I wanted audiences to watch a story that balanced delicate and sensitive moments side by side with the career highlights so that one could not only get a proper understanding of my ascension to being a freelance creative with global impact, but more importantly so they could see themselves on the screen.”

The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show launched in 1990 and is fabled for shining a spotlight on the likes of Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Eminem, and Cyprus Hill before they became big stars.

“Our goal was to have the best four hours possible,” says Garcia. “If that included signed artists, great, but at that time there were so many talents that just didn’t have another outlet to be heard. We became that hub. We couldn’t have predicted that all these unsigned teenagers would go on to change the world. It was really uplifting to witness.”

Garcia will make his Melbourne debut at Section 8’s Brooklyn Block Party during Good Beer Week. He remains closely associated with early ‘90s New York hip hop, but it’s not the limit of his DJ repertoire.

“I’ve always had an open mind and my goal as a DJ has been to expose people to music that’s unfamiliar but they’ll still dance to it,” he says. “I achieve that time and time again because I have faith that dancers need to be challenged. Spinning ’90s hip hop would be unchallenging for me as I already did that three decades ago.

“That’s not to say I don’t throw in some joints here and there from that era because there are young heads who weren’t around then that want to learn. Ultimately, I play what I would want to dance to that night myself. I’m actually very selfish.”

The party is presented in conjunction with the Brooklyn Brewery, and – like Garcia – is Brooklyn themed. Garcia lives in Brooklyn, attended high school there and has played streetball in the borough for decades. However, the sound and style of New York’s most populous borough isn’t easily condensed.

“Brooklyn is all over the place. I cross the street and there are Afro-Caribbeans as well as Hasidic Jewish people playing ball in the park. I walk to Bed-Stuy and there’s wonderful Senegalese, Ghanaian and Indian restaurants. I go two neighbourhoods north and it’s all Polish and Russian speakers. I come a little south and it’s the remaining Boricuas in Williamsburg who have fought against gentrification. So, my set has multiple influences. Brooklyn can’t be put inside a box. Nor can I, nor will I allow the Section 8 crowd to be, either.”

Bobbito Garcia will DJ at Section 8’s Brooklyn Block Party which goes down on Saturday May 18 from 1pm. Entry is free, more info via the Facebook event page.