Shawn Dub

I was raised in Long Beach, Southern California. Growing up I was a hip hop nerd, and would rush home immediately after school to watch rap videos on television like MTV, Rap City on BET, or DMC battles on VHS.

Soon I found myself frequenting The Wherehouse and Tower Records, building a growing collection of tapes, CDs, and vinyl records. By senior year of high school I was going to friends’ house parties where I was seeing DJs “in action” for the first time. Also, I’d occasionally check out open mic sessions at local record stores. Even though I have never thought of DJing as a professional career path, I felt music becoming something more serious to me.

I can almost divide my story into two chapters. While all these new experiences were unfolding, my Godmother Bonita gifted me with the records from her personal collection. This was around 1999. I bought a set of 1200 Technics turntables and an American DJ mixer with my first tax return and began learning how to scratch. I was 20 years old. My friend Steven Goliday, who works in film now, bought a Vestax PMC-06 Pro industry standard scratch mixer, and we would go to each other’s houses and play around with the gear. 

Around this time, my brother Jonathan worked at a bookstore in Long Beach, so I often hung out with him there, using the stereo set up outside the store to play music. It was during this period that I started going to b-boy events and hip hop shows, immersing myself in the local scene. Eventually, I got a break at a few clubs in LA and landed my first DJ gigs.

With this newfound exposure, I began to expand my record collection, initially focusing on tracks I used to hear on the radio. As I gained more experience and confidence, I broadened my musical horizons by exploring new genres, reading about albums in magazines, and diving deep into music research.

One of my first DJ gigs was at M Bar in Downtown Long Beach. It was a poetry night and live performance. This guy, Cody Chesnutt walked in and it was like a scene straight out of a movie. He brought in two dancers with him. Now, we know Cody Chesnutt from the hip hop group, The Roots.

I eventually met the members of the rap group Due Process, who were originally from Colorado. I started DJing with them and decided to leave Long Beach, relocating to Pasadena in the Silver Lake area. Due Process was promoting DJs, and thanks to our connection, I gained access to more club gigs. 

As my network expanded, I decided to branch out on my own. I started getting booked at various venues like Zen Sushi, Grand Star, Temple Bar, Little Temple, and Congo Room, among others. 

After my time in LA, I moved to San Francisco in 2006, then Oakland in 2008, and eventually to Washington, DC, in 2010. I took a job at Whole Foods and I was getting gigs a lot more often. My stay in DC was short—less than a year—but the experience of being away from the West Coast was eye-opening. It wasn’t exactly great, but it wasn’t terrible either. It was a different vibe, and  I learned the hard way that you need to be relevant in whatever you choose to do or be. Until you make connections, it doesn’t matter how great you are if there are no opportunities to show your skill set.

In 2011, I moved to New York City and four years later I started working at Human Head Records in Brooklyn. I connected with them when I was selling some of my own records. 

This year marks my tenth anniversary at this store, and that’s because working there is anything but mundane – which is also a reflection of what you might hear me play musically. My daily objective is consistent: making sure the store is well kept, assessing inventory, and making decisions on price points and whether the records go in the shop or on our online page. I say everyday is different because there is a variety of scenarios that could happen. We have customers that come in from all over the world – which open up a door for possibilities. I deal primarily with 12 inch/DJ collections – so therefore when I am dealing with buying or pricing these collections – I see a lot of what comes through the store. When doing this I am able to find things for myself to play out. The artist, label, song title, or even cover art will attract my eye and ear – and I will put it on the turntable beside me to listen to while I continue pricing. I tend to look for records that are intellectually interesting, one’s that I am emotionally connected to, or records that have sounds that are appealing where I think I might be able to mix in different ways.

When it comes to collections every buy is different. Sometimes you are just going through piles and piles of junk. Sometimes within that junk you could find one record that changes your entire outlook on the whole thing, Sometimes you’re buying a touring DJ’s collection. Sometimes you’re buying a collection from a legend that has passed away. No matter what the collection is – it comes with a story. Through these stories from music lovers, meeting idols of mine, meeting new DJ’s whose careers I’ve watched grown within the ten years of working at the store, and processing these collections I acquire so much knowledge each and every day – and then pair it with my own life happenings and transfer it over to my own DJing. 

You can find out more about Shawn at // @shawndub

Photos: Anita Goes 


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